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Laboratory Style Initiative: Lab Coats for Fashion Aficionadas

Laboratory Style Initiative: Lab Coats for Fashion Aficionadas Name of your company and URL?

Laboratory Style Initiative

http://labstylein.com

What is your product or service?

Laboratory Style Initiative is a boutique lab coat company, specializing in high-end designer lab coats for women. Our intricate construction is what sets our lab coats apart. We feature exquisite detailing and a modern, flattering fit that instantly indentifies the wearer as a professional.

How was it financed ?

The company was bootstrapped with personal savings. This made me extremely careful about what money was spent on. It forced me to thoroughly research and personally handle as many aspects of the business as possible. There was a steep learning curve and a few costly mistakes. However, in the end, my cautiousness was a positive because over time it helped me to better screen new contractors, since I learned firsthand about the intricacies involved in completing certain tasks. It also strengthened my resourcefulness and resilience, two things that are in constant need when running your own business.

What free online or offline tools do you use?

Though not all completely free, there were several ways I was able to save on contractor costs using tools and software available to most people who own a computer.

After trying out a couple local professional photographers and not quite getting the results I was looking for, I ended up taking my own photos for the company website and marketing materials. My previous experience in photography had only been with a point and shoot camera, so I purchased a DSLR camera and a couple umbrella lights from eBay. I took most of the photos in my own home and touched them up and changed the backgrounds using Gimp and Lightbox – two programs you can download free from the internet to adjust photos. Granted, Gimp took some time to learn, however, it saved me a lot of money in the long run, as now I have the flexibility to take whatever and as many photographs as I need for the future.

I saved on logo and website design costs by using PowerPoint. Since I wanted a simple logo, I was able to use the drawing tools in PowerPoint to create what I was envisioning, then saved the image as a JPEG file. From there, I could export it to Gimp to remove the background, resize it as needed, etc. Not wanting to use a pre-made template, I also designed my own website by creating a mock up of how I wanted the pages to look using PowerPoint, then hired someone to configure it into a real website, rather than having to contract out both tasks. I used a combination of Gimp and PowerPoint to mock up the layout for postcards to be used in marketing, which the print shop could easily convert into a usable format for printing.

I also use a few of the programs that most small businesses are aware of, such as Excel to keep track of everything from inventory and expenses and Google Analytics to track website traffic and keywords.

Do you use Social Media tools like Facebook, twitter, LinkedIn or ? Provide exact URL of each

Facebook page: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Laboratory-Style-Initiative/286038428086003

Twitter: http://twitter.com/LabStyleIn

Pinterest: http://pinterest.com/labstylein/

Blog: http://blog.labstylein.com/

What almost killed your business in the start?

My total and complete lack of knowledge about garment manufacturing, much less the apparel industry, lead me to make some expensive mistakes while trying to translate my lab coat designs into viable products for sale. Prior to starting Laboratory Style Initiative, I was a cardiovascular research scientist for over 10 years, and my only experience with clothes was wearing them. I thought a contractor who promised to take me from design sketch to production sounded like a great idea and it was months before I realized his delays were because he wasn’t sure what he was doing either. Another contractor was extremely skilled and produced beautiful samples, but little did I know that they would be a fortune to mass produce. I finally found someone who could balance my vision with the realities of manufacturing, but every time I started over it was a significant expense. The expense and pure frustration of trying to get things right almost derailed me several times.

What is the one thing that you did right?

After going through this process, as cliché as it is, I believe that willpower is the strongest determinant of success. Also being able to maintain a good attitude so that you can turn missteps into learning experiences (and not repeating them) is extremely important. The more I talked to other small business owners, the more I saw that my experiences and stumbling blocks were not so unusual. Of course, there are some instances where it might actually be more prudent to quit after a certain point. However, don’t let the inability to recognize and overcome rectifiable setbacks kill your dreams.

Laboratory Style Initiative: Lab Coats for Fashion Aficionadas What would make your business more “Successful”?

More publicity would be fantastic. Friends of mine who do marketing for multi-million dollar companies, in the spirit of encouragement, have told me to keep plugging away because even for large companies, exposure on orders of magnitude greater than what I am currently capable of is needed to get even a marginal response. The plan is to eventually exhibit at conferences and advertise on well known websites and trade journals. We hear over and over again ‘These are beautiful’, ‘I’ve never seen lab coats this nice,’ ‘I love how it fits’, so at least we know that the people who’ve tried on our lab coats think they are great! In addition, a portion of our proceeds go to support charities that provide healthcare to those in need, so it would be wonderful if we could donate more to them with increased sales.

What type of marketing or advertising do you do?

My main marketing efforts are through the Laboratory Style Initiative website, blog, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Facebook Ads, mailers and word of mouth. I started to learn about SEO after setting up my website which was unfortunate, but once I became knowledgeable about it, I was able to appreciate and take advantage of some of the built in SEO features of the eCommerce software (Big Commerce) that I use. I have also sent out press releases through PRWeb, which has been great because of its wide distribution. Sending out a press release also gives it a permanent presence on the internet while paying a one-time fee.

The mailers I’ve sent out mainly consist of 5×7 postcards that I had made at a local print shop. I created my own mail list by browsing physician directories on the internet, targeting certain specialties that were more involved with patient consultation and/or were more image conscious. I also looked for businesses that might be interested in bulk orders, and professionals who wore lab coats but weren’t necessarily in the medical field. I had to be selective since even sending out mere postcards can really add up, and there are thousands of potential customers out there. I’ve also contacted bloggers and given out a few free lab coats to local professionals to increase word of mouth referrals. I also keep my eye out for pertinent local events that are seeking sponsors or product donations.

Would you want to be acquired by a bigger company, run it yourself or sell in a couple of years?

Once my first lot of lab coats was produced and the website was up, it felt like I had climbed a huge mountain. Of course there’s still plenty of work to be done, but I am enjoying the autonomy of running Laboratory Style Initiative for now. However, I already have my eye on new ventures and would be very open to selling the company in the future. The artistic side of me would love to continue to design for the new owner while ramping up my next project.

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