Tuesday, June 30, 2009

I forgot my favorite one

Momi Boutique Clothing

I am completely loving this new line from Momi.

I just added most of the collection last night. The whimsical way they put fabrics together inspires me.

Take a look for yourself under outfits or new items. You can actually have them custom made with your child's measurements, or apply standard sizing.

Too cute.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Toot Toot Tuesday: Cara's Creations diaper bags

When my son Bryce was born, I received a beautiful, personalized Thallie Bag. I love that bag.
After a year of carrying it, I did the unthinkable.

I was bleaching spots on a few onesies, and accidentally spilled bleach on the bag. I was so bummed.I searched and searched for a new one. I wanted designer fabric, lots of pockets, and most importantly a really cute shape.

Enter: The Perfect Bag. Cara's Creations has come up with The Kenzie Ray. A flirty shape coupled with tons of pockets and a magnetic closure.

They have the most adorable print choices, and it retails at a very reasonable $53.00.

Mega Heart Monday: Resa Design

Meet the Company: Resa Design
If you have been around long, you know I adore Resa Design. I simply love the way they marry beautiful fabrics with classic clothing/baby items. From changing pads to sleep sets to signature tees, every piece they manufacture is brilliantly designed and beautiful to look at.

What you might not know is that Resa is passionate about Operation Shower, which delivers baby gifts to military families.
Countless times over the past year, she has donated items for military families separated from their husbands. Many of her items are offered at super discounted prices, with free shipping, for Operation Shower*. It is evident she has a heart for our serviceman, and has invested time and money into making sure they receive great baby gear.
*Julian and Co. and the Wet Happened? wet bags are also offered at reduced rates for purchase and inclusion in the gift boxes.
I finally got the change to meet Resa in person last week. We had a great lunch and I felt like I have known her forever.

Please take a minute to check out Operation Shower and support our military families.

8 questions to ask a manufacturer

It is the question I am asked most often by new business owners.

How do I find a manufacturer? Today I will focus on finding a domestic US manufacturer.

I think a great place to start is SEAMS.ORG the National Association for the Sewn Products Industry. Pages and Pages of Contract Seamstresses are listed all in one place.

8 questions to ask:

1. Price per piece. I have had people quote me $13.24 to sew the wet happened? bag. I can sew one in less than 15 minutes. It retails for $17.95. Obviously price is one of the first things that needs to be discussed, but it is not the only important question to ask.

2. What is included in the price? Some manufacturers do not include cutting or thread. Some require a professional pattern. It is necessary to know the TOTAL cost per piece.

3. What is their average lead time? If you are thinking 2 weeks, and they cannot fit you into production until November, that's an issue.

4. What is their loss percentage and how do they rectify unsellable goods? Do they issue a credit, do they need to be sent back? Will they pay the return shipping?

5. How is payment expected? Do they want 50% down and 50% when goods arrive, all of it before they ship, Net 30?

6. How many days do you get to sort through merchandise to make sure it is sellable?

7. Is there any way to get price breaks for larger manufacturing runs?

8. How many pieces can they produce each week? If you need 2000 pcs, and they only have one part time seamstress...it could be a problem. I also like to ask what types of sewing machines they use, since I need one seam serged. You would assume that all seamstresses listed have a serger, but that is not the case.

Even though it can be tough to find a manufacturer, being prepared and asking the right questions could prevent a bad working relationship down the road.

Is there anything else you would like to add? Any questions I missed?

Finding a Manufacturer

I started sewing the Wet Happened? bag two years ago. Bag after bag, I sewed on my trusty Husqvarna. And by sew, I mean thread strewn about, remnants all over the floor, zippers up to my eyeballs for 70 hours a week. I was just so happy they were selling, I did not mind the piles of fabric.

I thought I might eventually like to sleep again, so I started thinking about manufacturing. A scary prospect, indeed. I was going to send my hard earned money to someone else, based on ONE sample they provided me as a basis of their work?

Manufacturer Number One, Stealer from San Jose
I searched for someone that would make the minimum amount of bags-around 300- and lugged my box of goods to UPS. 10 bolts of fabric and $100 later, the raw goods were on the way. With any luck, in two weeks they would return as wet bags.

I anxiously listened for the UPS guy on day 17, when they were supposed to arrive. I watched that unmistakable brown truck fire up the diesel as he headed down the street.

He circled around and passed right by my house.

“I am right here!”, I thought, and figured he must be turning around.

Back down the street, he exited without dropping off any packages.

Day after day, this was my norm. Rushing to the window, watching him drive by, longing for him to stop, disappointed. My three year old even bought a small UPS truck off ebay. I talked about it so much.

I called and called the seamstress, only to hear “They are on the way”. If they were on the way, really, where were they?

Finally on day 37 they arrived.

By now, a few customers had been waiting 20 days. I pride myself on quick shipping, great customer service, and this shifting timeline did not represent what I stand for.

With sweaty palms, I slipped my scissors in between the flaps and gingerly opened the box to behold my treasure. 300 bags, beautifully sewn, ready for sale. I took a few out, unzipped the top, and noticed something strange. Long strings that had not been clipped peeked out from inside the bag. As I sifted through them, not one was in condition for sale. I sat up for hours with my scissors cleaning them up, packaged them, and called the manufacturer the next day to discuss.

“Oh, yes. That is just the way we sew them. We clip strings as best as possible.” Hmph.

Business was good, the bags sold out almost immediately. I sent more fabric, but this time was ready for the situation. I told my customers 30 days, and waited.

6 weeks later the bags arrived.

Strings hanging everywhere, longer than before. Although that should have raised flags, I was so new to manufacturing, I figured that was just the way it worked. I looked at my yields (how many were projected per yard) and was short 60 bags.

“This is just the way we cut it. We cut differently than you do at home. We waste nothing,” was her reply.

Looking back, I see how stupid I was. I just did not want to admit it since it has been so hard to find someone.

The Final Straw: I needed more bags. I was pregnant and sewing again since demand exceeded supply. My son was due, and I needed more bags.
It took ten weeks, when she gave me a lead of two weeks.

I have told my customers for 5 weeks that they are coming anyday. Strings are worse than before, seams are ripping apart on 10% of the bags, and I could not even open zippers. I am spending more time fixing the bags than it would take to just make them myself. And now, the stealing is rampant. 3 yards from one particular print, 15 yards from another. By the way, when I say 15 yards, what happened is she stole 15 of 30 yards. Half the fabric was missing. I fired her and had to work with the BBB to get my money back for the missing bolts of fabric.

Enter: New manufacturer, Inexperienced from TX

After sending out and receiving back 20+ samples from various places, I have learned my lesson. I am a smarter manufacturer.

With great joy, I find one sample that looks perfect. Not one to trust initially anymore, I ask for a test run.

100 bags come back perfect, then 200. Absolutely perfect, I would describe these manufacturing runs. I sent $10,000 worth of raw goods.

The first 400 bags arrive with a fundamental change in the design. One of the biggest things about a wet bag is that that it should hold the wetness in. Seems pretty simple.

I placed a wet swimsuit in the bag to test it out, only to have it leak all over the kitchen counter. Back to the manufacturer they went. Little did I realize that the seamstress that did my initial run was told she needed to fix them for free, which is when she officially quit.

None of this was mentioned to me; I was told that they were in the process of being made and that the 400 bags would be fixed.

5 weeks later, and I was still waiting on the reconstructed bags. It is now harder and harder to get in contact with this person I trusted and sent thousands of dollars of fabrics to.

At around the 7 week mark, I become frantic. I started googling where they live, her husband's business. I am a woman on a mission: find out where my goods are. Visions of them burning my goods run through my mind, my entire business ruined.

I finally get ahold of them, and she tells me that the finished wet bags will arrive to my house on Monday.

Monday comes, and nothing arrives. The week passes, with no box in sight. I did get a peculiar phone call, though.

"Hello, my name is Jennifer and I found your phone number on your website. I hope it is okay that I am calling you."

Jennifer sews for "Inexperienced in TX". She tells me that they are paying her pennies to sew each bag. That she thought she could do it, but since she had never sewn before, they are harder than she initially thought.

Huh? Never sewn before? I could not believe it.

I called up Inexperienced in TX, and she desperately tries to keep me as a customer. Tells me the whole story of the first seamstress quitting, and how she had spent eight weeks trying to find someone else.

My heart sinks, as she has ZERO bags made. I make the decision to cut ties, as I could no longer trust her.

Three days of going back and forth with her commense, calling lawyers and trying to book a ticket to TX to pick up my goods, and she finally says she will release the materials.

UPS picked them up, at a cost of over $1000, and shipped them to manufacturer #3, who I will call my God Send.

She is timely, listens, does beautiful work, and is a HUGE asset in this industry.

So, when I am asked for my manufacturer's name, you can see why I am not so quick to give it out. Carrie Clothing gives it to Marsha bags, and I have just given my competitor one of my largest advantages.

Continued in next post.

Friday, June 26, 2009

The amount of Jordans.

Drumroll, please.

There are 23 different versions of the Air Jordan, and Joshy Bird currently has 35 pairs. The Black colorway of the Fours are widely recognized as the "Holy Grail" of Jordans, although his personal favorite is the Nines.

There. Everything you never realized you wanted to know about Nike Air Jordans.

Winner is Angie Dykema with the guess of 34 pairs.

Send me your preference and your addy.

Shirts will be next friday. Thanks for playing along:-)

Guessing Game Friday: How many shoes does my husband own?

I was going to have a "guess how many t-shirts my husband has", but I did not have time to count them this evening. That contest will have to be saved for another day.

Instead, I am having a "guess the number of Jordan Shoes my husband currently owns contest". Keep in mind that these are JUST the Jordans, not the entire shoe collection.

To be fair I have included pictures.

Winner to receive your choice of Jack or Jill Stripe.

Leave a comment here, on facebook, or twitter @minimebabygear.

Oh, and I did not forget about Wet Bag Wednesday. I just did not get to it this week! Will resume next Wednesday.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Thanks AGAIN, Babble

for reviewing the Cuddlebug.

Saying NO to a new product

Q: Why would you say no to a new product?

A: There are two things that will automatically limit me from selling your product, and I do not even have to view it to respond. Lately, there have been a slew of children’s manufacturer’s contacting me with retail vs. wholesale price issues.

For example, someone that manufactured minky blankets had a MSRP* of $70.00 with a wholesale price of $65.00. Shipping on that item was $12.95.

*MSRP is manufacturer’s suggested retail price.

Selling this item for those margins will never work. I'll explain why.

Most online stores give some sort of discount to loyal customers. The percentage is irrelevant; with only a 9% mark-up, there is hardly any wiggle room in there for even a 5% discount.

Take into account the fees generally associated with credit card processing, running and hosting a website, any type of office staff and you can see quickly why the wholesale vs. retail price is unattractive.

The shipping- $12.95. Three workers rotate at our post office, and all three of them know my husband very well. We bought them Christmas gifts. I know shipping. I also know it is not $12.95 to ship a blanket.

Shipping is sort of pesky for an online store. Especially when items are shipped directly from a manufacturer (DROP SHIP). For example, an item I sell will send their item directly to my customer for $6 shipping. Well, add that $6 shipping to this blanket ($12.95). There is not a customer in the world that wants to pay $18.95 for shipping two items.

So what happens? Usually, I just eat that difference and take less of a profit on the item. When the shipping amount is high, and then coupled with the small margin, you can easily see why this item would receive an automatic NO. It is a wonderful, innovative item, but if I lose money on each sale, it is not worth it to carry it.

If you intend to drop ship, I would suggest looking at those two things before presenting your items to online stores. Keeping shipping and discounts reasonable will automatically make your item more attractive for me to resell.

Never thought I would see the day

My husband plays slow-pitch softball on Tuesday nights. My brothers are on the team along with a slew of family friends, so I often go to watch them.

As I was walking back to the car with my mom, I spotted someone doing something I have done a million times. I peered as a woman in the back driver's side seat of her car folded up and shoved it into the black diaper bag on the floor. The print was caribbean, but I was not certain it was for sure a wet bag as I only caught a glimpse.
I hesitated and looked at my mom. "Should I go ask her if it is a Wet Happened? bag?," I asked.
My mom, who is ever the constant supporter, replied "Sure, I would if I were you."

In this time the woman's husband had stood up next to the passenger car door. I had not originally seen him, but as we approached he asked politely if I needed something.

So, I asked.

Sure enough! It was one of my wet bags. I was so glad I stopped to talk to them, as they were the nicest people ever.
They told me they used their Wet Happened? bag all the time. Mentioned it was a gift from her sister, who was also at the game. She was called over, and also had a Wet Happened? bag on the top of her stroller.

I guess a few years back I remarked to my mom: "I would love to be out in public and see a complete stranger carrying something of mine."

Who would have guessed it would be at a softball game, walking to my car and not even thinking about work. What a small world.

I have been so blessed by my customers, and their devotion for this product. The late nights spent working, when I feel completely tapped out, stretched in every direction--these kind of moments make it all worth while.
I just wish I had my camera!

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Thank you Babble

Thanks be to Babble for the great write up on the Ribbon Nursery Mobile.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Mega Heart Monday:Hazel May

Meet the company: I discovered this company purely by accident and was so impressed by the passion behind their charity.

The Charity: For every little knot hat purchased, one will go to the hospital where her daughter was born.

Meet the owner: Christina
Why she has Mega Heart
In her words:
"I do the buy one give one at the hospital where I delivered my daughter. I spent 7 extra days in the hospital because I developed severe post partum depression after my daughter was delivered via cesarean section. The nurses and doctors in the hospital facility helped me SO much more then I could ever explain. They went above and beyond their certified duties to help me through my emotional, nursing, and pain problems post birth. I just feel like I have to give back after all they have done for me.

Plus there's so many little ones out there who deserve nice things, and their parents can't afford to give them those things. I can make them something nice for free."

A generous spirit indeed.

Monday, June 22, 2009

I love cookies

...and I love Cookie, the magazine.

Especially when they give a shout out to Resa Design, and mention the Wet Happened? wet bag.

I could not be more excited because I am actually meeting Resa in real life tomorrow. I have worked with her for the past few years, and always admired her classic children's line. One of my favorite quotes from her site is " Seriously, does your baby know that the burp cloth you’re catching their gross spit-up with matches your outfit better than theirs? I doubt it."
She also wrote an awesome article that I will post later this week.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Oh, those sweet babylegs.

The saying goes in Michigan that if you hate the weather, wait two minutes. It will most certainly change.

Yesterday it went from sunny and muggy to raining buckets. All in the span of an hour.

That is why I adore babylegs. Easy on, easy off...and so cute. Which styles are your favorite? I am loving the orange and blue right now, but have my eyes on leapfrog.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Featured Designer: Ribbies Clippies

UPDATE: Kim from Ribbies Clippies was passing through, so we just got the chance to visit and talk shop. Yup, she is just as sweet as I remembered.

Date: August 2007

Place: Minneapolis , MN

Target Headquarters

Reason: New Parent Inventors Meeting

I was a small fish in a gigantic pond. The owners of huge companies like Hooter Hider, Baby Legs, Moby Wrap all gathered together to share their goods. Sleek packaging, impressive sales numbers....and me sitting there with a Wet Happened? bag I had made the night before in my basement.

Talk about fear.

Thankfully, I met the owners of Ribbies Clippies. They just look nice, don't they?

Although they, too, had a great product with beautiful packaging, I immediately connected to their story. Two moms that had set out to make their baby’s face stand out more than the hair accessory.

As I have grown to know this company, I am more and more impressed with just how great this little clip is. They have hundreds of designs, and are adding new innovative products all the time. Each offering has the same things in common- classic style, esthetically stunning. Modern and just....so not the plastic hair clips I used to wear.

They are taking a short break to relocate their offices to Texas (can I come?), but will be shipping all new orders out in August. Worth the wait!

Thursday, June 18, 2009

New Feature: Q and A

I frequently get e-mails from new business owners. Instead of responding to questions asked multiple times, I will now post them here.

If you have a question, please send it to minimebabygear (at) gmail (dot) com. If you are looking for tax advice, I probably am not your go-to girl. If you are a children's manufacturer, I might be able to help.

There are only two questions I won't answer, and I will tell you why during the next few posts. They are:

1) Who is my manufacturer?
2) How to sew a wet bag/cloth diaper.

So, if you have a question other than this, please send me an e-mail.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

It's That Time Again...

Wet Bag Wednesday.

First 6 people to send an e-mail with your link to minimebabygear@gmail.com will get a free wet bag.

See here for details.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Toot Tuesdays: DabbaWalla Bags

I am not sure the last time I was so excited about a product.
I mean, really. How cute are these?

The Backpack is constructed entirely out of durable neoprene, the great material that wetsuits are made with. Unlike conventional kid's back packs which are often stiff and over sized, Dabbawalla backpacks are soft and sized for comfort.

· Perfect for carrying lunch and gear to school, daily excursions and overnight outings

· Convenient dual function -- grab and go on the run or wear as a comfortable backpack

· Cushioned, flexible straps that adjust from the inside can be pulled tight when not in use - no dangling straps to trip over or drag

· Sturdy grip handle on top

So many styles to choose from. I also heard that their new line is coming soon, so please check back!

Monday, June 15, 2009

Craigs List...

I was going through the free items this evening, looking for free firewood. Most free ads were about garden shrubs, old TVs, unloved chairs or sofas. One in partidular caught my eye::

FREE: Ten boxes of Hamburger Helper
I have 10 boxes of Hamburger Helper to give away. There are 5 boxes of sloppy Joe and 5 boxes of Salisbury. Please let me know when you would be able to pick these up. the Trash man goes on Tuesday.

Somehow the randomness of this particular free item cracks me up.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Mega Heart Monday

Meet the company: Hair Clips Galore, and a lot of heart.

After three exciting years of trucks, trains, planes, dirt and anything blue, Lil Sugarplum owner, Monique, had a daughter. "I began to see shades of pink; I fixated on pretty and dainty girly things and began enjoying all things feminine." May of 2006 was the beginning of all things hair. Clips, holders, headbands; you name it, Lil' Sugarplum makes it.

Why does Monique have Mega Heart? Both of her babies were born prematurely, so Monique choose the March of Dimes to benefit from her sales. 2% of each and every Lil Sugarplum sale goes right back to the March of Dimes. In her own words, "I want to do as much as I can to support research on ways to help this wonderful charity."

Thanks for having Mega Heart, Monique. Be sure to check out the Lil' Sugarplum line here.