Categorized | Shoestring Startup

Suitable Pajama DREAMS on a SHOESTRING

Dream Development: The Early Years

Call it DNA: my grandmother was a fashionista and trained me to be one too. From the time I was little, she took me shopping and led me through fashion magazines, page after page, taking pains to point out that season’s trends. When she predicted which styles would stay–she almost aways hit it. TV, stores, the street . . . life was her visual aid; she used anything and everything, teaching me to recognize fabrics and love style. By my teens I’d gather my Vogue and Bazzar magazines, pine over the clothes, then interpret them for myself. Articles about fashion and design schools in NY and in Paris made me want to leave to my small town for either or both cities, and to one day see my name on the back of designer jeans.

In my early 20’s I was floundering in college–unsure what I even wanted to do–when an opportunity came to move to NYC. And a six-month “discovery tour” turned into an eight-year love affair with all things NY. Oh, and with a fashion degree. My dreams were waking me up too.

Dreams Sidetracked

Computers and software careers surfaced about the time I was completing my fashion degrees. And a friend from college recommended me for a job in fashion-industry software. I took the job, and even as I worked and learned, and I continued to read and study anything about starting my own business. Those dreams drifted to the background, to be sure, but they never left. I determined to stay corporate just long enough to learn the fashion business and computers for my own needs. Yet 10 years passed and the big company still owned me. I was still a corporate rat. To be clear, my restlessness was not the company’s fault . . . then I got pregnant: time to jump.

The Plan to pursue the dream–finally

With a big fat savings account and home full time with a sweet fat baby, I drew plans for my apparel business. As an eight-pound cherub turned my world on its ear, my entrepreneur’s savings helped underwrite the time we needed to know and enjoy each other with limited work interrupts. Babies get older, as it happens, and my time was coming. In January 2009, I completed the plan, formed a small advisory board (when people are watching, you’re more likely to follow through!). By October 2009 (two months late), my product officially launched. The reason I was late? Only the best reason: pregnant again. Given my age and the odds, the news made us giddy–as launch dates and product releases were reassigned.

Dreams on a shoestring

Now here I was pregnant with number two and heavily invested: financially (12,000 US), emotionally, personally. Oh, and the country had entered the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression. Former “necessities” had become luxuries. Pedicures: out. Dining: we’d stay in. I could cut my own hair. Thank goodness for free services like Google Voice. About this time, a fellow entrepreneur inspired me to form an advisory panel, an invaluable source of free advice–on the pay-it-forward notion that good deeds have a way of multiplying. In that good-advice column, my debts piled up. To start to pay, I created and co-founded The Think Tank Society ™ where entrepreneurs and entrepreneur hopefuls come together to share ideas, and to experience and encourage one another, again at no fee. There also are many great websites with free information.

I worked as if I had no capital. Anything I could do on my own, even with a learning curve, drove my strategy. I quickly became, as Entrepreneur magazine called it, the Chief of Everything Officer . I wrote my business plan, designed the pajamas/loungewear, sewed the first prototype ( and a few other WIP prototypes), designed the logo (friends gave input and voted), built (with templates) my website, presented and sold the product to a couple of boutiques, wrote my copy and blog entries, sent my PR queries, created my hangtags and labels, wrote my own patent and applied for my trademark—to name a few. Pattern-making, marking, grading, and sample production are all outsourced within the US.

I employed a legal services website to help build my LLC. In hindsight I would take less expensive route on that as well.

What I wish I’d known and do my best now to learn is how to reach my target market. My business plan turned out to be thin on marketing. I’d intended to play up social media. While I’ve drawn fans to my business on Facebook, I can do a better job on targeting my niche market.

Yes, I’m still in the red; all things considered, however, business is good. Just lately I’ve gotten good feedback on some of my pitches. With considerable practice, it’s coming together. All those stories about the 30-second elevator pitch are true: editors want it brief. So do the end customer, stores and, eventually, a money source. Shoestrings only last so long.

In the fashion/apparel business, you’ll hear that it’s impossible to compete. Larger firms cut costs on custom fabric as they place large orders. A little outfit like must buy stocked fabric–a rarity now that wholesales shy from knowing which fabrics to buy in quantity. My business is in that awkward stage: not small enough (I sew product myself) and not yet big enough. And every day I wake up to dream the impossible dream . . . on a shoestring.

Suitable Pajamas by Anna Brindley
www.annabrindley.com
http://blog.annabrindley.com
http://www.facebook.com/pages/The-Suitable-Pajama-Company/57463329481?ref=ts
http://twitter.com/agbrindley

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  1. [...] route on that as well. I’ve learned loads of lessons on this journey. Check out the full article for the rest of the story (still unfolding as I write [...]


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