There was a young woman who lived in her shoes. She had so many pairs, she didn’t know what to do. That is the story of many of our closets. Shoes have gone from being a necessity to a statement. They depict our personality. Maybe you’re outgoing and spontaneous so your shoes are yellow, orange or bright red. Perhaps you’re more reserved and your shoes are black and navy blue. Either way, our clothes and shoes tell others a little about who we are. They also tell you about the people who made them. Designers put their heart and souls into their designs. The pieces they create tell stories about who they are and where they’re going. There are two stories in a shoe, shirt, hat or any other article of clothing we wear. The story of those who choose to wear them and the story of the people who created them.
My story starts on the island of St. Thomas in the U.S. Virgin Islands. As a kid, I loved shoes. They are my accessory of choice. I never thought I had one shoe too many. However, shoes designed for children just weren’t as exciting as shoes designed for adults. I wanted to wear shoes like my mom. Shoes that were stylish not strapped with velcro. That is why it is my mission to create shoes for children that make them feel stylish. Shoes that bring out their personality. My portfolio ranges from the sporty kid to the trendy one. Kids should feel confident from head to toe and my focus is the toes. You can find samples from my portfolio at Designs By Alexandria Corneiro – slideshow
A friend of mine recently launched his own line. I had the privilege of speaking to him about what his journey has been like. MAS (Movers and Shakers) Apparel was founded and created by A. R. Paterson. Like me, he is from St. Thomas the United States Virgin Island. He was raised in a single parent home and at an early age he learned the value of independence and hard work. He worked all through high school. After graduating high school, A.R. Paterson joined the military. He served 7 years to include an 18 month tour in Korea and a deployment to Operation Iraqi Freedom. After the military, he was invited by a friend to travel to Las Vegas, Nevada and Hollywood, California where several friends were showcasing their own clothing lines. Paterson spent the week indulging in the world of fashion. He was inspired by their business prowess and style. Then and there he conceptualized the name for his brand. He called it “Movers and Shakers”.
Being a business owner is adventurous, scary and exciting all at the same time. It is definitely not for everyone. The time I decided to start this clothing line and the time I actually started it was less than a month. Once I made my mind to do it, I just mustered up the courage to do just that. Before I knew it, I was drawing up designs on sketch pads and creating ideas for t-shirts. The most difficult part of starting an apparel company was learning the jargon and keeping up with the new trends as well as learning the old ones. Another obstacle I had to quickly overcome was …myself. By nature I am usually not one to go out of my way and strike up conversations with strangers. As a business owner, networking is God. The people you know, meet, and affiliate with can either make or break your business. My advice to anyone thinking about starting a business is to keep in mind that when the business is yours, it’s always personal. Passion is great to have but do not let emotions force you to make bad business decisions. Also expect setbacks to happen but take the lesson and not the lost. In other words, learn from your good and bad mistakes. It will only better your business knowledge. Finally, learn your field. Become a sponge of knowledge and research research research.
A.R. also loves writing and creating music in his spare time. He invested in building a studio in his home. A place he refers to as his sanctuary. There he records and produces music. His driven personality has been an inspiration to me and other up and coming designers. He is a creator with many layers all of which he expresses in the stitch of every hem or the fold in every pocket. He notes Marc Ecko “Ecoko UNLTD“, Thomas R. Gillett-Spio “Ugly Duklyn” and Shanticleer Graham “Gaudy Apparel” as his inspiration. I look forward to hearing where A.R.’s journey takes him. “Movers and Shakers” is currently working on creating a website so stay tuned for information on it.
I went on a tour of the NY Times last week. During our walk through, our guide mentioned that annually he unsubscribes to everything he’s subscribed to and starts fresh. I thought this was a truly interesting concept. It’s a great way to empty your brain, dust off the cob webs and start new. Typically, we tend to get stuck in our routines. We gather information from the same sources which can act as a creative roadblock. This is something that happens in the business world as well. Maybe we’ve been advertising the same way for years or trying to establish our business through the same avenues. Perhaps we can flush out our business routine and try something we’ve never tried before. Social media is a great way to get your product out there. The web is always changing and people flock to new sites regularly. I found a great site DAILYTEKK that has a post on the top 100 websites and blogs of 2014. The idea is that of a billboard top 100. The site creator never puts a website on the list twice. Sites like DAILYTEKK show you what’s new in the web world. Trying new methods can help you extend your clientele. If you search through the tunnels of information on the web you’ll discover fresh and creative ways to promote your business.
If you build it they will come. People perceive you off of how you perceive yourself first. The same goes for business. If you invest the time to make what you have for your business look as professional as possible people will be more likely to invest in it. Take the time to create professional labels for your products or business cards for your services. If you are a designer put together a nice portfolio. There are great tools out there that can take your portfolio to another level. You can take images of your designs and create an online portfolio. There are apps that can help you make amazing portfolios. If you would like to do it yourself and not rely on an app you can do that as well. I’ve attached a video below that shows you how to create a website or portfolio of your designs. It uses photoshop. Choosing that route will give you creative control over all the details.
Say what you will about Ursula but the woman knew the power of word of mouth marketing. She had costumers lined up because someone always knew someone who knew someone who had told them about her services. Marketing your business is essential. You cannot reach the masses if you don’t market. This week I found an interesting way for small businesses to get their merchandise and services out there. Have you ever considered doing a showcase? A showcase allows you to set up a booth and market your business one on one with potential costumers. Showcasing in conjunction with a larger business guarantees that the traffic will be there as their costumers flow in and out throughout the day. This is great for people who have products they have developed or special services they provide. If you’re interested in doing a showcase contact some big name businesses and ask if they offer the opportunity for people to showcase. During my research, I found that Sam’s Club offers this type of opportunity. The video below is based on the showcasing they do and what you should consider if you’d like to participate. The key to getting your product out there is marketing, marketing and more marketing. Never underestimate the power of word of mouth marketing. Someone may know someone who knows someone who knows the right person that they just happened to have recommended your product to. Ursula landed the kings daughter as a client which wasn’t too bad for business.
Rumpelstiltskin was a man who knew the importance of a name. He had many talents. He could spin straw into gold and one day he offered to help a poor millers daughter being held in captivity. However, he had a few strings attached. She could use his services just not his name. As long as he controlled the use of his name he retained his power. You should always protect your identity in your personal and business life. In business, you do so by having a trademark. You can get a trademark for around $300. Trademarks protect names, symbols, words and logos that distinguish your business from other businesses. You’ll have to first do your research to make sure that the name isn’t already taken. I’m in the process of applying for a trademark. Once I finish the application process, I will blog about the wait time and response I receive. There are several sites on-line that offer you trademarks but in my opinion it is safer to go to U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. As for Rumpelstiltskin, his empire crumbled with one word from the millers daughter, “Rumpelstiltskin!” I guess he should have had a trademark.
Once upon a time there was a boy named Jack. Jack ran a small business with his mother selling milk from their cow. However, they weren’t reaping enough profits. They could barely make enough to meet their daily needs. After a while, the business collapsed because their cash cow dried up. Jack and his mother decided to cut their losses and sell their business. On the way to the market, Jack met a man who offered him “the answer to all his problems” in exchange for his cow. Jack thought it over and decided that magical beans were the way to go. These beans are what I like to call “myths”. This is information we hear through the grapevine that has no real backing. I have heard several times that when you start a small business you can apply for a grant from the Small Business Administration/SBA or other funding organizations to cover the cost. I did some research over the past few days and discovered that this information is simply incorrect. The SBA does not offer “free money” for people looking to start a new business. The grants that are available are for specific groups, activities or organizations. On the other hand, they do offer guidance on how to start a business. They offer information on writing a business plan and training on how to start a business. However, there is a tiny ray of hope for those hoping to receive a grant. If you are dead set on a grant you can look into what your state offers. You can check with the local economic development agency. I’ve posted a link below that contains the websites for the local economic development agency in each state. I’ve also posted a link that lists the different federal grants that are offered in the event you wanted to check for yourself. To go back to Jack, I can tell you that after several phone calls and online searches I’ve learned that you should be leery of sites offering you access to federal grants for you to start your small business. Some of these sites even ask you for money in exchange for a list of grants you can use. Don’t let them scam you. In the end, Jack made it up the beanstalk only to find a Giant that chased him back to where he started and he frantically tried to cut his ties with his investment (magic beans) by chopping the tree down.