"What’s your plan? What are you gonna do when you get there? I don’t know" I thought while trying to hold myself accountable. It was late December and I was planning on going to New York to visit some tradeshows and go to a fashion biz workshop. I was just in New York in November. I visited a few boutiques that the industry favored and was feeling like "yes, I should do this. I should make my mens line, expanding it past the buzz method of making a popular t shirt design into the full fledge traditional wholesale business model with a new line each season. But how? Why now?
I came from the school of Johnny Cupcakes and Linty Fresh. Clothing companies like these believed in a more exclusive business model of not selling trade shows and wholesale but building a relationship directly with the consumer and maintaining absolute control over the perception of the brand by not accepting if at all few wholesale orders. This works great to build a cult following if you can build the buzz and keep up with the traction. If you see the Johnny Cupcakes story you’ll see that exactly what he managed to do, answering to no one and controlling distribution. This is one good way to run a clothing line but not the only successful. The traditional method of selling wholesale to boutiques can also be a viable one. I forgot this by thinking the way of the future was to solely sell directly to your customer. The flaw in this is that you may not have the popularity or exposure required to generate sales for your product. When you consider 1000 true fans you can build them one by one yourself or in our case using the avenue of retailers. Though you may not enjoy 100% of the profit as you would selling directly to one customer you would enjoy the notoriety and exposure that would garner more attention that would usually transform into more sales than selling one at a time yourself. Don’t get me wrong. I love what Johnny Cupcakes and others have been able to do almost by themselves but to be frank I have not yet built that following and I DO NOT plan on folding my cards. That is why I have chosen to adapt a hybrid wholesale method.
It can be frustrating to finally start building something from scratch that friends and family told you they’d support you 200% with to then find out that they were not really behind you with. “Im going to buy like, everything you make twice!” and then the same person always has a “bill due” or “couldn’t you have made it in this color” or my favorite, “You know Im going to promote this for you so let me get it for free.” Ive gone through all of this and by the grace of God have managed through my day job and other blessing and encouragement to stay afloat. This is just a bit of the sour part of building a biz. Now I do know that there are many good willed people who do mean to support you but your product/services and their finances don’t align right now. Those people I still love and so should you. However love doesn’t pay the bills or make way to produce a better product. How will I build a business without losing love? I have to do some wholesale. I heard it said “its better to have half of something than all of nothing” or something like that. Its true. The same people who may not be ready to buy from you now will only walk into a clothing (or whatever type product) store when they are ready to buy. This makes wholesale a viable method. The people your product gets in front of are truly potential customers. The retailer or store buyer is not going to order something from you that they don’t think is a product that will sell. They won’t try to appease you like the do good friends and family. Anything thy order from you they have to believe they can sell. This is good because over time you learn what kind of things really sell and are not blinded by just your art. Now of course there will be times when the retailer is wrong on not picking up something from you that can be a hit but thats at least for me is part of the hybrid method. You can hold that bit back and try to sell it your self. After breaking even selling to the stores. Now instead of you being your only salesperson you have people who have to keep a store running. They will hopefully be your biggest promoter. When someone enters the store they’ll ask “Have you heard about this new fresh…? You have to buy some!”
Of course, this is me thinking hypothetically. I plan to do this this year with Mikhail McLean. Late November of last year(2013) I was getting ready to go back to Florida. A cousin of mine told me that I should come back in January and check out the trade shows. I almost dismissed it thinking “Im here right now. How can I go back to Florida to turn around and come back to NY again. Thes tickets aren’t the price of flying on the Concorde but they’re not exactly paying just to ride the subway either. I thought about it some more. All the usual mantras of a risk taking, you-only-live-once, entrepreneur came to my mind. If you don’t do it now you may never do it. If it scares you then you should try it. If your dreams don’t scare you then they’re not big enough. I also concluded that since I plan on moving out and finding uncertain employment there might not be an opportunity in the near future for me to visit a tradeshow. I believe in learning to lay brick from the bricklayers. Im going to New York. Again. Decision made whilst still in New York.
I may have forgotten to mention that even though I kinda like New York, have many good friends and family there, and was even born in a snow storm early Januar of 1988 at Albert Einstein Hospital BX NY I am NOT a fan of cold weather! Hence my affinity to Miami and the beach. The last time I came to New York in the winter was the record breaking snow storm in 2011. I got sick Really sick. Im a plant based diet dude that prides himself on his healthiness so this was not fun. I verbally vowed to everyone I knew in NY and Fl that I would never come back to NY during the winter accept for 2 occassions. I rich (and could therefore afford the warmest travel and stay accmodations with shuffled pavement and heated sidewalks in Manhattan;) or a funeral. Never say never. Fortunately I heard about Carol Davis’ Sportwear before she closed and was able to order the ultimate thermal underwear. Through and through New Yorkers were looking like tourists beside me in the difference in their bundling up to my dress. Bless her. She had to close the company down due to being diagnosed with Parkinson’s.
Ok. So Im physically ready to go to NY but back to the opening. Whats my game plan? Mark Twain said it best. “I have never have let my schooling interfere with my education.” Im going to NY to learn. I can get into these trade shows and learn from the mouth of people who are doing exactly what I want to do! I have to make this worth my money. I can’t go there, tap a wealth of knowledge, only to forget it or not document it all. Im buying a voice recorder. You’d be surprised what you catch when you play back an interview you’ve recorded or what you write down. Treat this with some legitimacy! I signed up to a practical fashion biz workshop. I am glad to say I have learned so much and will be applying what I learned. In my next post I will upload the first interview I conducted. I hope you will learn a lot as I have.