Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Hundreds of Thousands. That is how many manufacturers will be affected by the new CPSIA lead testing law. I realize I am beating a dead horse here, but the fact is that MOST of the vendors here at MiniMe BabyGear will be out of business.

I have a eight month old. I do not want him to put lead in his mouth, but almost everything he puts in his mouth (magazines, cables attaching the DVD player, holiday tins) is exempt from testing. The things that are mandated to be tested--ie. ANYTHING that is manufactured for babies, most of which never contained led in the first place, will have to be. COST per item: around $4,000. Some of them retail for $8.50. So, they will have to sell 1000 to just break even for the testing, nevermind other supplies. Talk about the price of children's products going up. It will have to.

Now, I do not know about you, but it makes a lot more sense to me to have ONE test for lead, and if the product contains lead naturally be required for further testing. But, our government does not work like that. They put ridiculous laws in place that require people that handmake felt food used by 7 year olds (can you just imagine a small pea from a felt food set with a giant label on it? CUTE.) to spend $4000 for ONE test for that ONE item. No wonder our economy is in the tank. With these people running it and making the law for the land, we are all in trouble.

Here is how you can help: let's get this changed. Lead testing is important. I am not even opposed to having the materials tested. However, the way this law is read, that every batch and every size will have to be tested is too far reaching. SO many people will be affected- the manufacturers themselves, the stores that sell them, the high schools that use craft shows to raise money, the people that supply fabrics for the items, the companies that supply office supplies to mail the items, the employees that help these moms and small is never ending.

Isn't it a SAD day when making a handmade doll carries a HARSHER punishment than supplying CRACK COCAINE to a child?


Please see post below for how you can help.

CPSIA, What can you do?

I have had a number of people ask if they could sign a petition, or write their congressman, or if there was any way to help with this new CPSIA legislation. I thought it would be important to repost some of the various ways you could help. Thank you for helping. I just fear that by the time this is all sorted out, many of us will be out of business!

Here's what you can do to help.
1. Start by telling everyone you know…discuss at school and playgroup.
2. Vote for amending the law on With enough votes it will be presented to President Obama in January!
3. Find your congress person and senators and write a letter like the sample here.
4. Sign this petition, to be submitted to the CPSC.
5. Check out these additional resources: Facebook -Help Save Handmade Toys from the CPSIA and Handmade Toy Alliance

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Thank you!

As this year draws to a close, I could not be happier. God is good.

This year ushered my sweet little guy, Bryce Xavier, into the Bird household (April 2008). Content to sit and watch his big brother, he has brought so much joy to our family. Along with every other mother, I was concerned that there was no way I could possibly love him as much as Kayden... but I do! Suffice to say, I am completely in love with both of them.

Highlights of the year in business:
  • Going into 330 Target stores, and having the Wet Happened? bag exceed expectations. Some days I still cannot believe I am actually a Target vendor. Wild.

  • The December Pregnancy and Newborn article.

  • Finding a reliable manufacturer (this one makes me more thankful than you could ever know!)

  • Adding some really great new products. Most of the vendors at MiniMe BabyGear I count as friends as well, and I love talking with them and finding ways to help each other grow. It is one of the best parts of my job, honestly.

One of the things I feel passionate about is giving back to the community in which you live, and I am so grateful that this year, I was able to give so many Princess robes to Devos Children's hospital. I am sure some little girl is delighted to be prancing around in her new boa robe.
Thank you from the bottom of my heart for making this such a great year and all your support. I am fortunate that I get to work from home and be a part of my kids lives. Thank you for allowing me to do what I love!
Jamie Bird :-)

Monday, December 22, 2008

From Basement Sewing to Big Box Selling

I wrote this article for StartUpPrincess:

Last September, I was sewing in my basement, which also served as my office, warehouse, shipping center, and business storage space. I was just grabbing my thread to start sewing a new batch of wet bags for next day shipment when my phone started ringing. This was my personal number, not the business line, so I did not answer but listened to the message being left. It was a big box store, calling because they wanted to test the Wet happened? wet bag. They wanted me to fly out to corporate headquarters and find out more information about the process.

At first I thought it was a joke, at the very least a scam. I mean, what small business gets a phone call from such a large corporation? Feeling very overwhelmed, I immediately called my good friend Marina Westerdahl. She told me I would be crazy not to go; a week later I was on a plane. I will never forget the feeling of dread upon landing. My stomach hurt, and as I was trying to hold back the tears threatening to spill any minute I thought, “What in the world am I doing?” I was still sewing out of my basement. My first professional manufacturing run was in the process, but I did not have the first clue about outsourcing the labor of my wet bags, never mind dealing with large quantities or electronic ordering. The samples I brought with me were handmade and lacked the sleek packaging of many of the other brands out there. Yet, they still committed to trying it out.

Each step of the way has been a stumbling block. I had no experience dealing with EDI, import brokers, warehousing goods, etc. It may sound cliché, but remembering to take one small step at a time has helped me get through this process. To look at the whole picture almost gave me panic attacks (and still does). Only now can I look back at how I transformed my business from sewing in my basement to dealing on a larger scale and national platform.

A few terms of interest:
EDI- stands for “Electronic Data Interchange”. It is the electronic system of communication between businesses. Purchase orders, confirmation that the POs were received, and invoicing are just a few of the things done through EDI.
Pick and Pack-the warehouse picking out the products that will be shipped
Distribution Center- big box stores move product into a distribution center before shipping it to the actual store
Import Broker- if you are manufacturing overseas, it is the person responsible for clearing your goods through customs and getting them shipped to your warehouse
Insurance-some require certain insurance protection, between $2 and $5 million is standard.

When I heard 200 stores, it seemed easy since I already sold to 50. I mean, how hard could it be to add a few more? Little did I realize that big box is completely different than dealing with boutiques or online e-tailers. For example: if I am out of a certain stock position, I backorder and ship when it becomes available. Big Box lacks that flexibility. Shipping timelines are tight and orders need to be filled on time and be complete. I never realized this before, but big box retailers actually charge you back in those circumstances. I have a good friend that shipped an entire line of calendars three days late. She was charged more for the error than she made on the item.

Manufacturing was my first big challenge. How do I find a reliable company to produce the goods? I asked friends and other businesswomen and had samples made at seven various places. Each one did not work for some reason- either the cost of the item was higher than I wanted to pay, or the sample was poor quality. After many prayers, I feel blessed that I ended up finding a sourcing company in the States that works with a manufacturer in Hong Kong. They guided me through the entire process of manufacturing to create an item that is shelf worthy.

Next was the product packaging. How could I grab the attention of customers with so many other great products on the shelf? They need to know what my item is and what it is used for immediately. I believe the time I was quoted was three seconds. I hired a graphic designer and she came up with a beautiful new design that I feel represents the product and explains what it is. This, too, had “inexperience bumps”. Testing out how large the band should be to fit securely around my product, what colors to use, where the various nuggets of information should be placed presented more challenges. Paying a designer by the hour, each change I made cost more money.

Fulfilling out of my basement was no longer a workable solution. Finding a warehouse that would deal with a small to medium size company without my getting lost in the shuffle was important to me. I needed someone that would help me understand the process and also keep me informed without having to track them down constantly. I simply do not have the time to micromanage. Finding a great warehouse took a lot of time and energy, but I am so grateful I found a reliable one with great customer service. It makes a difference.

The goods are made, the warehouse is set up. How do I get them from China? I needed an import broker. Long story short, I needed a small amount of Wet Happened? bags sent to me via airfreight very quickly so I needed to choose one. Clearing customs in one to two days was crucial to making my ship date. A good import broker will not only help clear customs, but also find the best percentage paid in terms of duties. Many import brokers I talked to were so vague about fees, bundling them up so they were hard to compare. Once I found someone that listed the fees upfront, and was willing to explain each charge and timeline, I knew I was dealing with a reputable agent.

As a recap, this is the process thus far:
Finalizing the product, what I want it to look like
PO for manufacturing the Wet Happened? wet bags initiated by me
Manufacturer makes the goods
Import Broker gets goods into the states and overnights them to my warehouse
PO sent to me from big box via EDI
Warehouse receives packing lists from EDI and sends RTS (ready to ship) notice that my goods are ready for pick up
Goods are picked up from the warehouse
Advanced shipping notices are sent that the goods are on the way
Goods arrive at distribution centers, and then they are shipped out to each individual store
I have not even mentioned trademarking my name, coming up with the funding for 9000 pieces, buying barcodes, forming an LLC, setting up with an EDI provider, and getting business insurance. I always viewed (and still do!) myself as a mom working from the basement, so I never did the things I should have done initially to protect myself. Scrambling to get this all accomplished made the costs and stress level a bit higher that business owners that already have this in place. Where to begin was sometimes the hardest part. Not even knowing what to ask for, or where to go, presented a unique challenge many days. Just when all hope was lost, I would usually find someone that knew something about the situation at hand. Ask enough people, and someone eventually will know.

Finally, the inner struggle. One of my retailers made a really great point when I was approached to do this. For my retailers, this is not a win-win situation. Once a product goes into big box, many times it loses marketability for online boutiques. I really struggled with what would happen to all the retailers with whom I had a relationship. After all, they helped me grow my business. I still am not really sure if it will hurt sales, but it is safe to say it was a big concern for me going forward with this.

It is hard to touch on everything involved, so this is just a brief overview of the journey I took. It seems like every step of the way got more involved and more complicated. Ultimately, it is easier to sell high volumes in this capacity, but it does take some work to get it all set up.
While mine is certainly not the only way to experience this process, know that if I can do it so can you! One step at a time will help get you through the maze of trying to set your business up to sell big box.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Just discounted...

In the spirit of "out with the old, in with the new", I have discounted a few items. They are very limited quantities, so get them while they last!

Fleece Animal Blanket, $22.99

Fluffies, $14.99

Hair Bows, 50% off

Just added....

Two new colors for the tie onesies.
Brown with Blue and orange stripe and Blue with Blue stripe, both $20. I love these paired with baby legs, they are just so adorable on and make changes a breeze.

Friday, December 12, 2008

News 3 Feature

I had the honor of having News Channel 3 come to discuss the new lead testing laws. Please click this link:

So, what can you do?

E-mail your rep. The entire form is filled out, all you have to do is enter your name and where you are from.

Can you even image life without all the delicious children's finds? I think of the cuddlebug carried here, the Cara's Creation diaper bag that I love and get complimetns on everywhere I go, the adorable handmade truck chiseled for my son that I bought at a craft fair last year, the beautiful clothing handcrafted by is just a shame.

Thanks to Channel 3 for coming and allowing my story to be told.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Problems and Solutions

They say the best entrepreneurs are people that found a way to solve an existing problem and found a solution to it.

I guess under that theory, I wanted to make the diaper bag clean of wet messes.

I digress.

Anyway, it got me thinking. What are the things that I think need better solutions?

Annoyance #1

I go to the grocery store every week. Nare a week goes by that I do not get overcharged.

Sure, it might be a dollar here, or a dollar there...over the year, it has to be hundreds of dollars.
There has to be a way to set up some sort of business were I can enter the receipt number and get my money directly back to me without waiting in line. Not that I minded "the line" before kids, but now with the seventeen people in front of me, two kids (that have already spent two hours at the grocery store and are now full of pink sticky frosting), and one lone customer service agent trying to fill out a Western Union Money gets a little long.

My point is that most of the time I decide it is not worth the extra few dollars and make my way home. Or rather, shall I say, load two screaming kids into the car while trying to hang onto my shopping cart in negative ten degree weather?

I would love a way to do this from my trust computer, at home, when the boys are in bed.

Just a thought!

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Well, our government has done it again. Let me explain.

When I was in seventh grade, I had this young (read: recently graduated) always-frazzled-from-head-to-toe woman who taught Science. Ill prepared for the job; I think she meant well, but she had very little control over our class.

Each day was spent trying to recapture frogs that had been free'd, sopping up chemicals from experiments that when awry, and yelling at us. Being that we were in seventh grade-- the more frazzled she got, the funnier we all thought it was.

One afternoon, I remember having to go out to the football field to set off a rocket. I cannot even recall what the science lesson was, but I do remember two boys rough housing and one of them breaking his arm.

What followed in the coming weeks always consisted of the same: start class with yelling, load on the homework, yell a little more, make sure NONE of us were enjoying learning at all, yelling, and dismissal. No lie, one of my classmates got arrested because he hated her so much he pulled out a knife on her. It was a mess. Obviously, I am remembering this through seventh grade goggles, but still.

Punish ALL for the sins of a few.

I have a point, I promise.

Enter: CPSIA

Our government, with all it's efficiency, has decided that EVERY children's product manufacturer needs to have testing done for lead. Diaper bags, hats, car seats, changing pad covers, furniture, shoes....the law is so far reaching that basically anything manufactured for children under 12 is subject.

Now, I completely understand the importance of testing for things that, oh, actually go into the child's mouth or that naturally are known to contain lead. However, trying to test each and every item, especially when it is like a wet bag. Seriously? Are you going to let your child suck on anything that normally contains dirty diapers? Sigh.

Oh, but wait. That is not all, friends. Just to make sure none of us even think of keeping our jobs, the government has decided that in addition to expensive independent testing, each size and SKU needs to be tested. So, if I have 22 styles, and 2 of each guessed it. All 44 products need testing. And the fabric that cleared for lead in the wet bags would not clear for the breastfeeding buddys, so that would have to be tested again. 12 additional tests to pay for. We are already up to over 60 tests. Let's say something does not got it, more testing. I am sure all the people actually needing their products tested for lead are large enough that they will find some way to bypass this, leaving a huge burden on those of us with small businesses/families to support.

The punishment for non-compliance? Huge fines, even jail time.

As with most things, our government makes no sense whatsoever. In a fledgling economy, let's take away HUGE amounts of jobs created by children's manufacturing.

If you get a minute and would not mind signing this petition, please go here:

It only takes a moment, and would be so helpful to let congress know they need to sharpen the focus of this law.