Charting Your Course

In continuation of my latest blog topic, start-up business essentials, the focus of this post is on the all-important business plan.. I hear a lot about business plans in daily life, but due to most start-ups’ understandable need for confidentiality, I rarely get to read other people’s business plans. So, when I started doing researching and organizing our business plan, I only had two examples and they were very different from one another.

Example 1: Undergraduate Senior Project

At my alma mater, the Business program is seen as the second most academically demanding course of study behind Pre-Med. This was primarily because of one class: Business Ethics, Strategy and Policy. The class was one of two capstone courses that all business majors were required to take senior year, and it was the single most demanding business class at Pepperdine. For the last six weeks or more of the course, teams worked together to write and pitch a business plan to a panel of professors and alumni. Armed with Red Bull and coffee, my partner and I were in charge of researching and composing the 20-plus-page section describing the internal operations of our desired start-up. In total, the business plan was over 250 pages with about 10 pages of footnotes. It was massive and the Power Point that we created to go along with it was equally massive. We were all exhausted after the final presentation, but it was an amazing experience.

The problem, I found out later on, with this type of business plan is that it is not necessarily “realistic.” Yes, all business plans need research and footnotes, but since there were about 10 of us, we really dug into the details, methodology and references. We got so involved in the details that at times I had to keep reminding myself of the goal and the purpose of our proposed start-up business. More and more it felt as though I was writing a paper to defend the operations and logistics and less about just laying out the flow of the goods from ideation to consumer.

Example 2: Ariel Investments

After my sophomore year of college, I came home to intern in marketing at Ariel Investments. Ariel is a large mutual fund management firm that manages money for individual as well as institutional retirement funds. I loved observing how and why Ariel’s investment gurus selected the stocks they did to invest in and I enjoyed seeing how the funds were then pitched and sold by the Marketing team. It was a great learning experience and an internship like no other. The funny thing is they kept pictures of the Ariel business plan on site.  The founder of the company wrote the business plan on a McDonalds napkin while he was eating lunch there. There were no fancy flowcharts, SWOT Analyses or Venn Diagrams, simply pen ink and a greasy piece of paper.  

This business plan, although sufficient for Ariel since it became an incredible success, may not be enough for your start-up which may need significant outside investment and funding.

I wanted to highlight these two examples because they framed my perspective on business plan styles. Simply put, those starting their own ventures should try to find a middle ground between these two examples that works for them. Don’t get so bogged down in the details that you delay your launch; yet don’t be so casual about planning that you spend valuable time later on having to iron out the details. Find that perfect balance for you so that you can know exactly where you are going, why and how you will get there.

I have copied below a quick and dirty business plan outline I share with a high school business class I mentor. It recaps the nuts and bolts and seems to be a good framework. I’d be interested in your thoughts. Feel free to leave a comment and let me know what you think might be missing or what you found helpful in creating your business plan. Thanks as always for following along and have a great day.

Hallway

Planning and looking ahead in life is essential. It is hard to view in this photo but there is a (for my standards) HUGE spider in the middle of this hallway. It is very hard to see. If I had not looked up and taken a second to see where I was going, I would have run face first right into it.  

 

 

“Many are the plans in the mind of man, but it is the purpose of the Lord that will stand.” – Proverbs 19:21

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People 2 People

If you’ve been reading my blogs, you know that networking and I don’t get along. For me, it’s the equivalent of asking Stephen Curry to dunk more instead of shoot. It just doesn’t come naturally.

Nonetheless, networking has incredible value, so it’s necessary even for introverts such as myself. That is why I am very selective about when and how I network. I usually only choose conferences or industry-specific events where I know I will be able to meet vendors or potential future customers, find out something new about the industry, or gain some inspiration from hearing other people’s stories.  And I must confess, industry conferences and trade shows have been pivotal in my short stint as an apparel industry entrepreneur. So much so, that I want to encourage other entrepreneurs to branch out and do the same, even if it is something that makes them uncomfortable.

First off, let’s start with some context. I wasn’t always fearful of industry conferences. The truth is some of my fondest memories of my young career are from conferences and tradeshows. In my prior career in the hair care industry, I loved going to tradeshows. Yes! You read correctly. I enjoyed tradeshows. Why? When I attended those shows I was a part of an established brand with an expansive, decorated booth and I got to talk with customers and vendors with whom I was already familiar. I had the leverage of sales and market share on my side. Therefore, there was very little awkward robotic small talk about the weather. I was there to play a role and I knew whom I was going to interact with so it was just a matter of getting down to business. Lastly, they also represented an opportunity to get out of the office and the daily routine.

The main reason why conferences are now intimidating is that I know virtually no one within the apparel industry. Therefore, almost every time I go to a tradeshow, every face is a new one and that can be scary. I have no fancy booth to hide behind and no consistent sales track to leverage my introductions. I have to form and establish relationships from the ground up. Despite the hardships and the awkward pauses in conversations, the conferences and tradeshows are totally worth it and I encourage all entrepreneurs to attend them when possible.

We, as entrepreneurs, have a tendency to be like ostriches with our heads in the sand most days. We have our to-do lists and we dive so deeply into them that we get hyper-focused on what it is we need to get done. We can lose sight of the ebb and flow taking place around us. These tradeshows helped me take a step back and look at what we are doing, and to learn more about the apparel industry and the different layers. In addition, each time I attend a show I get a sense of affirmation and positive reinforcement from at least a few people I talk with,  who really get excited about what we are doing.. Even if it’s only a person or two, it really helps to give me some additional motivation, energy and guidance to move forward.

I have listed below some of the conferences, tradeshows and business coalitions that I have either attended, plan to attend or have participated in at some point. I encourage you to check these out and get involved if they are relevant to what you are going. If not, please feel free to find a few events on your own and then go spread your networking wings and fly. Once you get the hard part out of the way early on in your journey, you can step back and focus on doing what you do best. Although I wish that involved draining 3’s like Stephen Curry, for me that looks more like writing, planning, emailing, developing spreadsheets, and researching/finding vendors.

Tell me about conferences or trade shows that you found beneficial in the comments below. Or just tell me what you’ve done to strengthen areas of improvement in your fledging business. Thank you, as always, for reading and following along. I hope that you have a great week.

 

Conferences, Trade Shows and Business Coalitions

1.        Magic Las Vegas – All around apparel conference mayhem with a focus on brands reaching out to retail customers. The panel discussion below took place at Magic and was, specifically, focused on sustainable fashion.

Magic Panel Discussion

2. Kingpins New York – Denim focused with a heavy emphasis on fabric sourcing. The view from the event’s venue was amazing since it was right on the East River.

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3. Social Enterprise Alliance – Great organization for socially oriented businesses in many different cities. I attended an event in Chicago centered in the ethical fashion industry in conjunction with Fair Trade Chicago. They provided a lot of great information including the wall size fact sheet pictured below.

Purchasing Power From SEA Event

4. Beyond The Label LA – Another great organization in the LA area that looks to bring together apparel brands that want to think and act differently so their businesses can run sustainably and effectively. Below is a picture of one of their events in Downtown LA (or as they abbreviate here…DTLA).

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5. South Loop Business Exchange – The South Loop is the burgeoning neighborhood in Chicago (see picture below) where Genesis is headquartered and the Business Council was just started within the past year or so there. I plan on joining when I am back in Chicago permanently, because a neighborhood group is a great way to find out about local resources, businesses and vendors. Often, you don’t have to look too far for what you need. In addition, supporting local businesses when possible only helps to make your neighborhood or community stronger.

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“When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth, for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come.” – John 16:13

Finding The Directory

When I was in junior high and high school, I always hated being sick because of all of the work that I would have to make up afterwards. Yes, it was at times fun to sit on the couch and rest all day while catching up on re-runs and movies, but I always knew that the wave of homework was coming. In order to find out what I had missed in class and what the homework assignments were, I would look through our school’s Student Directory, which gave the contact information for (almost) every student. I would only use the directory sparingly but it was vital whenever I needed it.

Fast forward fifteen years later (it’s scary to say that) and “the directory” is still vital for helping me conduct my work in developing men’s denim. On a weekly basis, I have to find a new vendor or contact in order to provide a sample of a fabric, zipper or for a type of service (legal, accounting etc.). This is the hardest part of starting a new business within a new industry. I have worked and studied for a decade, but knowing whom to call and when can slow down the process quite a bit.

I wanted to share with you some of my “directories” that I have used in order to help you save some time when starting up your own business. Enjoy the list and please let me know in the comments if you have any others to add which may be useful for the group.

 

1.       Makersrow.com – Makers Row is an online community of mainly U.S. based apparel companies. On Makers Row, you can find anyone from 3rd party sewing companies to help you sew your items, to fabric suppliers and even product development consultants. Beware, because not everyone on Makers Row is as serious and customer service oriented as others, but that is to be expected. Make sure to take some time to really get to know a company and speaking with them at length before agreeing to utilize their product or services. If you can, go visit the company as well. Overall, it’s been an essential resource for me.

2.       Business Coach(es) – Having a business coach or supportive mentor can really help put you in touch with people who can help objectively evaluate your approach and strategy for your business. The key is to find people who really know you and your true goals because, otherwise, those coaches may be offering advice that isn’t in your best interest. Take the time to really get to know your mentors and/or coaches before engaging them.

3.       Utilize The Network – Great people tend to do business with other like-minded, great companies. So, once you use Makers Row or whatever other useful vendor(s), ask them if they can recommend sources for other products and services you are looking for. Once I started getting in touch with really great vendors, I found that they were familiar with some of the other potential businesses I had been researching. They offered great advice and help by putting me in touch with other people who conduct business professionally and courteously.

4.       Attend a Trade Show – As you all know, I attended the Kingpins Show in New York, which was full of denim fabric suppliers. The show was perfect in helping us nail down the ideal fabric for our product. I only found out about the Kingpins show because I attended another tradeshow called Magic. Someone at the Magic Show told me about Kingpins and said that it was worth my while and it was. Sometimes, branching out and communing with others in a new industry can be scary for introverts like myself, but it is also very helpful. Try to force yourself to go to a tradeshow or two and really make the most of the experience. If you are an extrovert,  great. Utilize your strengths and have fun doing what you love:  being with and getting to know others.

Color Swatches 2

Recently, we worked with a local fabric dyeing company to conduct a color match on some of our fabric. We didn’t have an official Pantone Color Book, so we just went to a local home painting goods store and found a few paint chip cards. Sometimes, a little quick thinking and ingenuity can help you push through a new assignment or obstacle using the resources readily available to you.

 

 

“Let each of you look not only to his [or her] own interests, but also to the interests of others.” – Philippians 2:4

 

Finding Home

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I was speaking about my blog with one of my business coaches the other day when I realized I haven’t kept my original promise or purpose for this blog. One of my initial goals was to provide support and guidance to other apparel industry entrepreneurs so they can better navigate the industry. As a result, I wanted to spend a few weeks discussing more of the “how” in what we are doing. I hope that, for some of you, this will provide some much needed guidance and motivation to begin your own journey. For the first discussion in this series, I wanted to talk about finding a home for your work.

As you all may know, Jeanesis is currently a home-based business. For many entrepreneurs, this is the case since working from home is very inexpensive and convenient if you have to attend to family matters throughout the day (kids, dogs, etc.). I have spent the last year and a half working from my home office and various cafés around our home in Chicago as well as in California.

This worked well for me for a long time until I began longing for more. I felt as though the café and living room were great but not providing me with the ideal environment to be as productive as I could be. So, I began reading online about inexpensive office spaces here in California and I came upon several co-working spaces. For those of you who don’t know, a co-working space is a shared office space not unlike a library for studying. Several employees, entrepreneurs and freelancers can work within an open working space while sharing costs and resources in order to make it more cost effective. The downside is you don’t have a dedicated “office” of your own with your own desk and file cabinet but you have a very collaborative environment where you can work and can bounce ideas off of others if you feel so inclined.

I wanted to share this recent development because having my co-working space has made a huge impact on my productivity as well as my joy as an entrepreneur. Prior to joining, I felt stymied in my ability to work effectively and I felt frustrated by not always achieving my daily/weekly tasks. The co-working space brought me back to my comfort zone in college when I used to go to the library incessantly. Being back in a library-like environment has helped me channel that same energy, enthusiasm and confidence in my work that I had back then. In addition, being around other independent workers helps me to not only feel and be more productive but it also provides for an opportunity to get feedback from others who are also running their own businesses.

For me, the co-working space has been incredible and it is cost effective. The point of my sharing this point, however, is to encourage other entrepreneurs to find your business “home” early and really be honest with yourself about where and how you work best. Ultimately, the environment you are in can greatly impact your business so make sure that you are comfortable where you will be everyday for several hours. For some, the living room works and others may need a private secluded office with peace and quiet. Wherever you are comfortable, invest your time and money in a “home” so that you can work and feel great about your work.

Feel free to let me know in the comments below where you best work. I have heard of people working in restaurants, outdoors in the park, and everywhere in between. Have an incredibly productive and wonderful week and I will speak with you all again soon.

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Here are a few photos of my co-working space. I love the outdoor view as well as the bright pop of orange on the walls.

 

 

 

“He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will abide in the shadow of the Almighty. I will say to the Lord, ‘My refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.'” – Psalm 91:1-2

 

 

 

 

Who goes there?

Your name is more than just a word. Your name is an embodiment of a sentiment or remembrance of those who gave you that name. Our names are markers of our character and of the characters of our ancestral past. We carry them with us wherever we go.

The name of a brand is no different. The goal of a good brand name is to help evoke an emotion as much as to identify a specific identity for the product or service. As you all may have noticed, we have had a name change of our own recently. After four long months of waiting, our trademark application received preliminary approval from the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. We can now go by our brand name of “Jeanesis.”

We thought that this clever play-on-words helped us communicate and express what we are trying to achieve. We will use our sales of responsibly sourced jeans to begin our own entrepreneurial journey and help bring positive growth to the apparel industry as well as to those in need. Jeanesis, the combination of “Jean” and “Genesis,” helps us show that we are a socially-oriented enterprise using the sale jeans to achieve our goal. We hope that Jeasesis will be a part of a broader positive movement within apparel and the Business world beyond.

What do you think of our new name? Do you think that it helps to say who we are in one word? Obviously, the name is a key part of our brand and identity so we hope that you enjoy it. Continue to look out for our name as we develop our brand and our identity further. Until then, have a wonderful week and keep embodying the spirit of your name and the spirit of those who came before you.

pancake-house

On the surface, this just looks like another breakfast place. It is much more than that to me, however. There is an Original Pancake House in the neighborhood where I grew up. Almost every weekend my parents would treat my brother and I to a breakfast there and those breakfasts produced some of my fondest memories as a child. When I saw that name and brand logo here in California, my eyes lit up and it evoked several emotions. All of them were positive and all of them brought me back to the good times that were had in the big, cushy 1970’s style booths surrounded by pillow like pancakes and waffles. Needless to say, I had to eat there!

 

 

“The nations shall see your righteousness, and all the kings your glory, and you shall be called by a new name that the mouth of the Lord will give.” – Isaiah 62:2

Delicate Dissent

Teacher: “Kyle, tell us what business books you have been reading while starting your business.”

This was a request made to me recently in front of a high school class I visited for the school’s Career Day. I nervously froze; trying to remember the name of the last business book I had received as a gift. A book I had, admittedly, not yet started.

The honest truth is I don’t like reading most books on business and markets. As an entrepreneur, I know I should be seeking information and I always visit the business section at Barnes & Noble. However, I rarely find a new book there in which I want to invest a lot of time and energy. It’s been my experience both as an undergraduate business student and as a business professional that most of business books are not very inspiring or enlightening, and in some cases they’re just plain boring.

What does inspire me are stories of people’s lives, their needs, and their problems. The role of business after all should be to meet unmet needs and solve problems. And that’s particularly true for the type of business we at Genesis Goods are trying to develop. As a result, I prefer reading books that expose me to other people’s perspectives, because they help me think about and view our world and its unsolved problems in new ways.

Recently, I read Trevor Noah’s book, Born A Crime. My in-laws purchased it for me as a Christmas present and I have never read a book so quickly. I won’t give away the best parts of the story, but as the title suggests, the book’s primary theme is Trevor Noah’s experience growing up as a mixed child in South Africa during Apartheid. At that time, it was illegal for people of different ethnic backgrounds to marry and procreate. Simply put, his very existence was a form of rebellion. He grew accustomed to the fact that he represented a subtle yet direct dissidence to the powers-that-be, despite his desire to be a normal kid. Over time, it seems he embraced his symbol of rebellion rooted in love, and learned to navigate the complex world where he was anything but the status quo.

His story resonated with me so much because I am currently finding my own voice and calling in the world, as we start our business. Genesis Goods seeks to conduct business in a way where profit exists but takes a back seat to ethics, responsibility, and consumer value. While this may seem like a “given” to some, sadly, our simple existence is a calm and subtle form of dissidence to the old guard of mainstream business education. As I progress on this journey, I too have had to become comfortable with the fact that what we represent may be different and controversial to others. I have had to be okay with knowing not everyone may agree with our stance all of the time.

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Usually, the best way to conquer a challenge is to face it head on. Thus, this past weekend I walked with my wife in the Women’s March on Washington in Santa Ana, California. Rather than keeping my thoughts and desires for a more just society to myself, I decided to march with those who shared my vision. I stood at the beginning of the march and was incredibly moved seeing the thousands of Orange County residents in the streets. They were from all walks of life and were united in a message of love, compassion and hope for an even better society than we have come to know. It was incredible and I am proud my wife and I risked standing out to speak up and ask for more.

womens-march-1

I have generally tried to steer away from politics but I hope, whatever your political views are, you can respect the common cause of making our society and economy as just and as wonderful as it can be. The only way we can do that is by listening to one another and trying as hard as we can to walk in each other’s shoes.

womens-march-3

Keep reading, keep dreaming and keep striving to find ways and solutions in which we can all help each other be better. Enjoy your week!

 

 

 

“For the whole law is fulfilled in one word: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.'” – Galatians 5:14

 

“Stand therefore, having fastened on the belt of truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and, as shoes for your feet, having put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace.” – Ephesians 6:14-15

Stepping Out Into The Cold

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Hello everyone. I hope you had a wonderful New Year and you are enjoying the first weeks of 2017.

A few weeks ago, I wrote a blog about goal setting for 2017. Then I read through other blogs and information sites and was bombarded by the “Predictions of 2017” and “Best of 2016”. So I discarded it and started over. In the spirit of trying to be different, I decided to start the New Year with a more personal and passionate topic for me.

As 2017 begins, let me share the progress we have made in inching closer to our goal of bringing to market our awesome jeans.

Last week I took my innately introverted self out of its comfort zone and I visited a local denim specialty store in Chicago, The Denim Lounge. I chose to visit on a Tuesday, thinking the owner or manager would most likely be there then. As I slowly made my way to the north side of Chicago, the heavy traffic allowed me to reflect on what I was going to say, if anything, when I arrived.

To both my delight and dismay, I walked in and was the only customer in the store. I introduced myself to a gentleman who turned out to be the owner and we actually had an incredible conversation. I quickly purchased two pairs of jeans, not only because they were unique competitive offerings, but also to predispose the owner to opening up to me. As it turned out, that wasn’t necessary. We had a productive and frank chat. Essentially, I explained what we were working on, described our denim prototypes, and briefly shared our initial marketing ideas. He gave me some great feedback. It was all and more that I was hoping to get out of an initial retailer contact. And I think he might be a great prospect for a future customer relationship.

Some of you might be shaking your heads, wondering why this was such a big deal for me.  You see, it was my first in-person meeting with a potential customer: someone active in our industry and particularly in our target market. I don’t want to overstate the conversation – it was short and sweet. But, it was a huge step forward for me in coming out of my shell and progressing toward being a more well-versed, confident entrepreneur. Moreover, I received valuable feedback and insights on how to make our brand better.

As you move forward in the New Year, I encourage all of you to also take a step out of your comfort zone and make yourself more vulnerable. While scary, the vulnerability can bring about immense growth. I have committed myself to take more of these trips in 2017 and push myself even further. I hope you too will push yourself towards whatever goal(s) you have for this year.

Last but not least, if you live in the Chicago area please visit The Denim Lounge at 2039 W. Roscoe St. It was named the #1 denim retailer in Chicago by Time Out magazine.

Have a great rest of your week. I look forward to speaking with you again soon.

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One thing that I did, recently, was take a little weekend Ski road-trip right after returning here to California. Prior to our arrival, there was a snowstorm of historic proportions (see the first photo for the remnants of the storm) and, although, it made the mountain look and feel a little more intimidating, the scenery was beautiful once the sun came back out. Just another example of the rewards that we can get from starting our year off outside of our comfort zones.

 

 

“You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name, he may give it to you.” – John 15:16

A Christmas Gift from NPR

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Hello again everyone. I hope that you all had a restful and beautiful holiday weekend with your friends and family.

Last week, I was driving to the airport here in Chicago to pick up my Aunt and Grandmother, who were flying in from Ohio. On my way there, I was reflecting on our business and, as usual, focusing on what I need to do more of or what I need to do better in 2017. I was asking myself questions such as: “How can we take our jeans to the next level and not make them just another pair?”; “How can I be better in 2017?”; “Do I have the right vendors selected?”; “How can I make sure that I achieve my goals in 2017?”; and “How can I get more people excited about what we are doing?” While sitting in my car aimlessly inching forward while reflecting in traffic on I-55, I was given an incredible Christmas gift from National Public Radio (NPR) and I wanted to share it with you.

NPR was interviewing Sara Blakely who founded Spanx. The interview and the conversation were so incredibly refreshing and well-timed for what I was thinking about. Allow me to share a few of the takeaways here. I would encourage you to find it online and listen to it if you get a chance before beginning your New Year.

Lesson 1: Keeping your guard up.

Sara said that she didn’t talk about starting Spanx for a year once she had committed herself to starting the business. The reason was she wanted to be able to keep her head down and march towards her goal without the pressure and stress of other people’s expectations. She said that once she did begin telling people she received the usual responses. “If it were such a great idea, then why wouldn’t the big companies have already done it?” “How are you going to support yourself and pay for this business?” The responses were generally negative and discouraging, but she acknowledged that her friends and family were just expressing their concerns for her best interest.

This was a great reminder. As entrepreneurs, we have to walk a delicate line in order to stay on the right course. That is the line between being receptive to opportunities and feedback that would grow the business, and being willing to block out certain outside noises that threaten real progress.

Lesson 2: Embracing our failures.

Sara mentioned that one of the most influential people in her life was her father. More specifically, she said there was one particular routine he started which heavily influenced her decision to start her business. Every week her father would ask her, “What did you fail at this week?”

She said that as a child she thought it was a rather odd question, but looking back it meant a great deal to her success. From an early age she was encouraged to try new things while being told to not acknowledge the innate fear of failure that plagues many of us. She said this was pivotal to her growth both personally and professionally.

Lesson 3: Don’t ask for permission. Ask for forgiveness.

Sara told a story about when she was first given some shelf space at seven Neiman Marcus stores. She spent a day at each store with a small folding table, telling consumers about her products and how they were different from what was currently on the market. The NPR anchor conducting the interview asked how did Neiman Marcus allow you to do that and Sara said they didn’t tell her she could, but they didn’t tell her that she couldn’t. So, she just showed up with her table, anticipating at some point they make ask her to leave. Luckily, not one store asked her to leave.

She mentioned that, for small businesses, the answer you will receive will always be “No.” Many times, start-up brands are put on the back burners in the minds of vendors and customers because they aren’t well established. However, you still have to be able to promote, sell and produce your product with the same capabilities and vigor as the big guys. Instead of asking permission to do this, Sara says to just do what you have to do as the steward of your brand until people tell you that you can’t. There is nothing more important for a brand than getting your name and point of difference across to as many people as possible. So do what you must even if it means annoying your vendors and distributors a bit in the beginning. They will forgive you once your brand begins to sell and helps their businesses grow.

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I think that all of these lessons and points were great and I hope you find them both useful and inspiring going into the New Year. I love hearing advice from people who have walked the walk and talked the talk. Have a Happy New Year and a wonderful rest of your week.

 

“More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.” – Romans 5:3-5

Holiday Time = Family Time

I am sitting on a chair outside in 68 degree weather, yet, I can’t wait to get back home despite the fact that there is a Polar Vortex on its way. Why you may ask? Yes, I love the Holidays, but it’s really because I will get to see all of my family members. I will get to catch up on quality time with my family because they have been so helpful and supportive through everything, especially my entrepreneurial journey. My grandparents have been especially helpful and inspiring for my business.

My maternal grandmother and my aunt, who both live in Cleveland, are my editors for these blog posts. My grandmother, an English/Math double major, was a middle school teacher before a progressive 30-year career in special education that culminated in a leadership role, Director of Instruction.  She knows a thing or two about proper grammar and punctuation. My aunt is in PR and Advertising, so she volunteers her time to help edit my blogs when she is not managing advertising plans, media campaigns, or editing press releases and advertising copy/layouts for her clients.  Every week they eagerly and diligently edit and review my writing but, more importantly, they help reinforce the importance of family and the support it provides. Prior to having them review my blogs, I was the writer, editor and website and I felt like I had to do all of this on my own because it was my duty and responsibility. Then, they volunteered to help me and it has been such a blessing because it frees up more of my time throughout the week to do other work. This simple act taught me that I am not Superman and that it is okay to lean on your loved ones, when need be. I appreciate them both very much.

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My paternal grandparents have inspired me to continue my journey and given me the courage to see my dream through. My grandfather was an Assistant Principal at a Chicago Public Elementary School.  With four kids, he was looking for a part-time job to add to his income. So, he found out about a hair care product company which needed more part-time salesmen for its products. He began selling the products to salons along 47th Street after the school day was over. Soon after he began, the salon owners began giving him feedback and suggestions for how the products could be different and he started making his own products in his kitchen to meet their needs. Eventually, he and my grandmother began selling their own products and started their own business. The business grew and grew until they quit their day jobs in order to work full time as hair care product manufacturers and entrepreneurs. They had no formal business training or experience in the industry. They just had the will, energy, several pots and pans for making products and a station wagon to sell them out of. Sometimes the best business ideas don’t grow out of business plans and crowd-funding campaigns. The best ideas, rather, just grow organically from a need and, more importantly, the ability for someone to stop and hear those needs.

poppy-and-granna

 

As we approach the holidays, I hope that you too can reflect on those in your life who have helped you and I hope that you have the opportunity to tell them, “thank you” for all that they do and have done. Please let me know below who you are thankful for this holiday season in the comments, if you are willing to share. As always, have a great week.

 

“Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it.” – Proverbs 22:6

Trial and Error

We have been working diligently to continue our seemingly never-ending product development process. However, our marketing is slowly beginning to take shape as well. One of the main initiatives as we put the finishing touches on our marketing plans is to have a “trial run, allowing us to really see what the world (and especially all of you) think of our product and brand.

As we embark on this marketing phase, I can’t help but reflect on the principles of Marketing 101, the 4 P’s. These guiding principles have actually been quite useful at this stage, and might be helpful to others looking to start a business. Many of you might be familiar with this already; they are certainly one of the main concepts that have stayed with me from college marketing classes. So allow me to review the 4 P’s here, as well as two other P’s I’ve added from my experience:

  1. Product – This is a pretty obvious one. What are you making and how is it different from other products currently on the market?
  2. Price – What price do you plan on charging for your product? Price can play a big role in establishing your brand identity. Are you a premium brand or a value brand? How will you insure the price through your supply chain with its influences (stores, distributors, price increases on your inputs etc.)?
  3. Place – Where do you plan on selling your products? Online sales have been booming for apparel start-ups, but some brands prefer to have their products retailed in stores or even in their own stores (Banana Republic, Abercrombie, etc.). In other words, where do you want people to be able to find you?
  4. Promotion – How are you going to get the word out about your brand? You can advertise your products in magazines, on the web, on billboards or even on television. Social media has certainly become a major platform for awareness and interest generation. You can also use price discounts, coupons or good old-fashioned samples to help people try out what it is you want to sell.

Kyle’s Two Bonus P’s:

  1. People – To whom are you trying to sell? Selling a product to Millennials is a lot different than selling to Baby Boomers, so your target consumer affects all the elements above. In addition, many products and services are sold business to business (accounting services, Xerox machines, shipping and freight) which requires a completely different marketing mix than selling to consumers.
  2. Process- How do you go about conducting your business and what set of values is your business centered around? This element has come into the forefront within the past few years. I find that more and more customers want to know how and why we do the things that we do. That story as well as those principles can be a great differentiating factor in the eyes of consumers.

Essentially, we have been working diligently on the product phase and now we want to move towards the promotion phase. In order to do this we’d like to send 50+ pairs of jeans to engaged consumers so we can 1) hear what they think about our product so far and 2) begin to have some trial of our product. To that end, we need your help in finding willing and able individuals to wear our jeans and provide us with some much-needed feedback. We plan on distributing them towards March or April of 2017. Ladies, unfortunately we make what we know, which is men’s pants for guys around our age range, but feel free to talk to your husbands, boyfriends and/or brothers to see if they want to participate. If you know of anyone who is interested in participating in our test, you can email us their name, age and email address (genesisofadream@genr2k.com) and we will take it from there.

We are trying to get our list started now so we can be ready to go as soon as samples become available. Thank you in advance for your interest and I hope you appreciated the introduction or refresher about marketing. Take care and thank you, from the bottom of our hearts, for being a part of our journey and story.

eco-prk-garden

This is a picture of our sewing and denim treatment vendor’s garden. They water the garden using the recycled water from their garment washing, which is cleaned and recycled after every use. They can wash and treat a pair of jeans with less than one cup of water. Very impressive. This garden makes for a great “break room” for the employees.

 

” ‘Behold, the former things have come to pass, and new things I now declare; before they spring forth I tell you of them.’ ” – Isaiah 42:19