High Expectations

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Apparently, I need to write and share my wife’s artwork more often, because last week was record breaking for my blog’s readership stats. Thank you to all who shared Genesis of a Dream’s last post and thank you to my two new followers. Welcome to the family!  I hope that we can all continue to engage one another and learn from one another going forward.

Admittedly, for the first time this week I was hesitant and even afraid to write the next blog post. After the way in which my last post was received, I felt that I had to follow up this week with an even better post in order to maintain or even increase my readership. That opened the door for a terrible mix of writer’s block and procrastination.  I sat in the courtyard of my local Starbucks staring at a blank Word Document page for about a half-hour with the cursor blinking like a metronome, demanding me to commence my writing with every second that passed.  My head was full of caffeine-induced anxiety about why I hadn’t yet completed my task, all while I searched for that perfect topic and that perfect opening line.  Suddenly, a rare Southern California thunderstorm rolled in from the Pacific and I used the combination of my bulky metal laptop and the ensuing lightning as an excuse to change venues, therefore, procrastinating even more.  While on the go, I was thinking in the back of my mind that no matter where I went at that moment, whatever I wrote wouldn’t be “good enough” compared to last week’s post.  Having high expectations and success is such an incredible gift, but it can also at times paralyze us because we become too afraid to make mistakes.

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I recently completed a very productive and insightful 10 sessions of business coaching with the husband and wife team, Overflow, in Chicago’s South Loop (you can check out their WordPress blog at overflowyourpossibility.com). One of the first assignments they gave me was to speak with five people who have started apparel companies somewhat similar to the one that I am starting, to ask them about how they started their businesses and whether they had advice for newcomers.  The first person that I contacted was a gentleman who started a fair trade bag company a few years back.  We started off by me telling him a little bit about Genesis and where we were in our start-up process before I asked him to share his story and any advice that he was willing to share. His advice shocked me, but was some of the best advice I have received. He told me to make sure that we “fail fast.”  I thought to myself, “did he just use the business world’s version of the F word?”  That’s a forbidden word.  We don’t use that word.  He explained to me that when he started, he made tons of “crappy” test run bags and that he hated, but he continued making them and handing them out to trusted family and friends so that he could see what needed to be changed.  He said that over a period of time, the bags started slowly getting better until, eventually, he had something that they all loved and he felt that he could market.

This advice was crucial for me, because it humanized and humbled the process. Even he, an established entrepreneur in this business, had several mini failures; but, he set his high expectations aside in order to continue making, failing and repeating in order to achieve his long-term goal.  This week is no different for Genesis, both from a blog standpoint and from a product development standpoint.  I am continuing to write in hopes that you all like this post as much as the one with my wife’s pretty paintings.  Then, by the end of this week, Genesis will have our first fitting session with a new sewing partner. So, in a few weeks I will be wearing a pair of our jeans that may not have the final fabric, buttons, zipper and hangtag (etc.) but will be a product of our hard work and effort, nonetheless.

Having high expectations can be a great way for us to push ourselves throughout life’s many challenges and to help us achieve our goals in an even better fashion than we thought that we could.  We just have to make sure that we also don’t give those goals so much weight that they sink us.  We can never allow our expectations to keep us from setting out to do what we dreamt of doing in the first place. It is a delicate balancing act, instead, and I encourage you to help feel your way through the process along with me. Keep working, keep expecting and, most importantly, never stop believing in yourself.

aliso-creek

Here are few nice photos that I took yesterday of rare Southern California storm here. The expectations for Southern California’s weather are, of course, very high. Most of the time it is about 70s and sunny here. Yesterday’s rain, although maybe a let down for some, brought much needed rain and filled this creek (Aliso Creek) which had been dry for weeks. More proof that sometimes our mistakes and let downs can bring growth and prosperity in the long run.

 

 

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.” – Proverbs 3:5-6

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Duty Calls

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I hope that you all enjoyed Rom’s blog post from last week. He really enjoyed sharing with you guys and I hope that you all got a chance to meet him via the digital world. Rom talked more about where we are in our process and some of the roadblocks faced in our start-up.  I wanted take a quick break from e-venting and, instead, discuss a little more about my inner psychology as it relates to my career in hopes that it strikes a chord with some of you.

More specifically, I wanted to speak this week about the sense of duty and vocation as it relates to my as well as everyone’s personal career journey. Most of the time when we think of duty and service, we think of firemen, police officers or military personnel but not the men and women of industry. The reality is that we all, regardless of our profession, are living out a duty and service to our fellow mankind every day and our careers should be treated as such.

This topic came up recently during a dinner conversation between my wife and me.  As I mentioned in a previous post, my wife is a professional artist and graduate student in painting. My wife, jokingly (of course), asked me what I would think if she kept every piece that she painted at our home and never sold or displayed anything publicly. Being the wise veteran husband (four years next month) that I am, I smiled and replied with the default husband answer for almost everything, “whatever makes you happy, makes me happy.” She could tell by my smile that I had more to say so she asked me to explain further. I told her, “You have been blessed with a gift that few people possess but many wish to have. So, hiding your gift from the world is almost like a slap in the face to everyone like me, who is artistically challenged and wishes that they could paint and draw.  If I could paint like you I would want to paint every day.”

As I continued with my explanation I brought it back to our journey with Genesis Goods. I told her that I not only am pursuing this entrepreneurial journey because I want to create great clothing that does great things for those around us, but I also feel that it is my duty and my calling. How many other people have this opportunity that I have been blessed with? Not many. Therefore, I feel the need to cherish it, nurture it and give it my all because I know that there are thousands of others (if not more) who wish that they had this same opportunity. I feel that I owe it to them to make the most of this opportunity.

I think that too often we don’t celebrate the talents, skills, knowledge bases and dedication levels of every day working people. The truth is that we all, no matter what our professions or our vocations are, have duties and callings to help us provide the most value to those around us.  There are always others out there who wish that they had the opportunities that we have. In economics, this concept is called “marginal benefit.” Our goal, as a community, is to put everyone in a position where they can provide the highest marginal benefit to society so that we can reach our peak value or output. So, if your passion and your skill sets are calling you to be a teacher, strive to be the best teacher that you can be for all of us who could never stand up in front of a class every day and help mold the next generation in society. If your passion and skill sets call you to be a janitor, take pride in your work in providing all of us with a pleasant and sanitary environment for the health and safety for all of those who occupy your work space. More importantly, let this be a reminder and an opportunity for us to applaud and appreciate everyone’s unique gifts, talents and duties around us.

The fact is that we should all seek to find what our duty and calling is in life so that we can not only make ourselves as happy as possible, but also to help those around us the best that we can. If you are doing this right now, that is awesome and I applaud you. I would also challenge you to encourage those around you to do the same. If you do not feel as though you are there yet, please do not get discouraged. Think about five simple things that you can do daily in order to put yourself on that path so that you can find yourself at that place within the future. Write those five things down and track yourself weekly to make sure that you are slowly progressing onward to your dream and goal. Keep the hope alive and know that we are all with you, encouraging you along the way.

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My wife recently painted this “color study” style portrait of me to get some practice. I think it makes me look a lot cooler than I am so I thanked her for that.

 

“For as in one body we have many members, and the members do not all have the same function, so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another. Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them: if prophecy, in proportion to our faith; if service, in our serving; the one who teaches, in his teaching; the one who exhorts, in his exhortation; the one who contributes, in generosity; the one who leads, with zeal; the one who does acts of mercy, with cheerfulness.” – Romans 12:4-8

“For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.” – Jeremiah 29:11

New Acquaintances

Hi World!

As you’ve heard in Kyle’s weekly blog I’m the mysterious other entity to this startup known as Genesis. Kyle and I have known each other for almost ten years and now we have embarked on this journey. It has been a great experience so far as we have hit miniature peaks and valleys in the process but we’ve definitely been learning throughout.

The saying “Good things come to those that wait” is really true but is a hard mantra to follow, especially in the age we’re in. You can Google any question you have and get answers in seconds.  For those out there who barely scrape the millennial generation (yours truly), you’ll recall the days when to find the answer to something you had to go through your Britannica collection or had to check out a book from a library. That process seems so distant to where we are now!

When Kyle and I decided the fit and the material we wanted for our jeans I honestly thought it would probably take a month to make our prototype but boy was I wrong. We had to go through multiple iterations and dissect every part that comes into the construction of one pair of jeans. When you do exercises like this it really changes your perspective and you see the beauty that goes into constructing our day-to-day objects. If I can think about one of the main things I’ve learnt from this experience, it would be patience.

Try looking at some of the objects you use everyday such as your phone, car, water bottle, and see all the intricacies that go into play. Kyle and I have been, and still are, analyzing every aspect of our jeans to ensure that everything is in line with our vision and is appealing to the consumer. This is where for me it’s a real test of patience; first because you want to see the completed product soon and see how the consumers react,  but through all this I’ve realized that,  the reality is that there is no end game.  As a business, we must always be creating, developing and then creating again. I’m definitely at a place where I’m enjoying the journey. At the end, our product will reflect all the passion and work we put behind it.

There is an art and beauty into what we are doing and a deeper purpose as we strive to be a socially conscious and an eco-friendly brand. It is important to have a patient state of mind and enjoy every aspect of business.

As Kyle discussed last week, our current “patience test” we are going through is the selection of our denim fabric. The fabric is the DNA of our product; it dictates the feel, fit, and also the color. With our initial manufacturer we chose a fabric which we thought would have a slightly stretchy feel. Once we got them to use this fabric for construction I put them on and finally knew what leotards probably feel like, also the color we selected had a brightening effect so the dark green we wanted turned into a neon green. Looks like I have the bottom half for my ninja turtle Halloween costume! So back to square one…

At this point we’ve done more research and now have some pretty good contenders. The challenge is finding a fabric that is eco-friendly, has a good feel and fit, provides low enough quotas for a startup order, good price, goes well with our dyes, and another factor I will find out about when Kyle calls me tomorrow J. This is all part  of facing the challenges of our new business. I’ll end this with a quote from Saadi which states “Have patience. All things are difficult before they become easy”.

Sun Peaks Through the Rocks

Getting Back Our “MOQsie”

Have you ever felt like you have everything figured out but then had a wrench thrown in your plan machine? These past few weeks, we have been working hard to figure out how to get a wrench out of our start-up machine. I think that we all go into big projects and life changes knowing that there will be wrenches and bumps but they still hit you just as hard and hurt just as much even when you are bracing for them.

I will describe our current predicament without getting too technical or boring. Recently, we found a new product development and sewing vendor to help us along on our journey and help take us to the next level. Awesome! Also, just before we changed vendors we found a really great denim fabric for our jeans that we loved! So, we thought that we had this denim start-up game all figured out and our ducks were slowly falling into a row until recently.

Within the past few weeks, the start-up economics have begun to come into play. More specifically, we began to look at the MOQ (minimum order quantity) for the fabric that we chose and now it seems like we may have to go back to the drawing board. The fabric that we chose has a minimum order quantity of 5,000 yards. That is 50 football fields worth of fabric for a start-up that will be lucky to sell a few hundred pairs within the first year. That is a lot of money and a ton of inventory. That is just not feasible for us right now.

This is a pretty big problem but we aren’t letting it get us down and we are marching forward. We have been working with the vendor of the fabric that we like to see if we can exhaust all of our options to work around the minimum order, while also making calls and emails for new fabric samples in case we need to find a new source. The funny thing is that we are learning that this is a pretty common problem, not only with apparel start-ups but with start-ups in general. How do you develop a competitive product while conserving your precious start-up capital?

The funny thing is that I am, strangely, kind of excited to solve this problem. In my past life as a purchasing manager for a mid-size hair care products manufacturer, all I did was purchase packaging and blended products for our new product launches. So, I have danced to this tune many times before and so I, oddly, enjoy these challenges. The difference is, however, that when you are purchasing for a new brand within an established mid-size company, vendors give you more leeway and flexibility compared to new start-ups. I have been on the phone with some people recently and you can almost hear their eyes falling into the back of their heads when you tell them that you are a start-up. The general assumptions seem to be that start-ups either have very limited money and cannot pay vendors back or that their businesses just fizzle out over time and never re-order. Nonetheless, we will march on and we will work through this problem using our hard work, strength, experience and prayers.

As with every problem in life, the most important thing is to draw the positive lessons out of the experience so that we can grow and strengthen ourselves for the future. Beginning to face this problem head on at a time when we felt that we had already solved it, has made us even more committed to what we are doing and has forced us to keep our eyes focused on the light ahead and not on the clouds that hang over our us. We will rise and we will overcome in due time. As with everything in life, “if it were easy, everyone would do it.” Stay tuned and stay positive.

 

make-your-own-luck-mural

I saw this mural one day while I was riding my bike around the South Loop of Chicago and I had to take a picture. It’s an incredible piece of art and has a great message to it.

 

“Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines, though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food, though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will be joyful in God my savior. The Sovereign Lord is my strength; he makes my feet like the feet of a deer, he enables me to go on the heights.” – Habakkuk 3:17-19