Sundial is not a clothing company with tons of resources and employees... but one day it will be. For now, it's just me. An entrepreneur... the blogs call me a "girl boss." Well, I prefer to think of myself as an over-confident cowgirl. I've never taken no for an answer, and I want to inspire you all to do the same.
I never follow blindly, I always ask why. Because a lot of times, things can be done better. Sometimes this gets me into trouble. Questioning authority is not a safe bet. Neither is starting your own business.
When I finished my degree at Lake Erie College I had the opportunity to start working for a small clothing line with an equestrian flair. Little did I know that it would lead me to my dream job--starting my own company.
After several years of asking thousands of questions and learning about the industry I thought to myself, "I got this, piece of cake." After all, I am an over-confident cowgirl. I was gaining experience. I had a degree in business this is true, but classes can never prepare you for the roller coaster of the actual, volatile business world. I had seen mistakes made and promised myself I would run a tight ship, make tons of money, not make any of the same bloopers. And of course, I would run it all myself. Piece of cake, right?
One day I was in the shower and all of my thoughts came together to formulate the perfect plan--make affordable, boutique chic riding apparel from technical fabrics with just the right amount of bling! Duh! I'm a genius #overconfidentcowgirl
I started to run with my plans. I wanted this to be the most effective, most comfortable, most stylish, most sought after brand in the whole entire world! WHY NOT? If anybody can do it, I can! First I brainstormed about all the things I disliked: shoulder pads--gone, back zippers--who came up with those anyway, spot clean only--ew we ride horses, what about slobber!
Then I made a list of all the things I wanted: unique designs that push the limit, a recognizable style, comfortable and breathable, worry-free, durable, perfect fitting even if I gain a few pounds in the winter... oh and slimming! Can't forget a flattering fit for everyone. I wanted to design a liner that was like Spanx but better. No more chicken arms, or tummy bulge, or bouncy boobs, or bad posture!
I spent six months researching and designing and slaving over this shirt liner. I ordered sample after sample of fabrics, buckles, straps, zippers, nylon, velcro... I sketched design after design... and finally I thought I had it all ironed out. I started worrying about patents and copyrights. I finally pitched my idea to a factory for the first time.
I had a business plan with me, tons of info, sketches, NDA agreements... I was a bundle of nerves. I step foot in the factory wearing a BCBG business suit I bought half price from TJMAXX and a rolling suitcase of Sundial. I thought I was the hottest thing since sliced bread #overconfidentcowgirl
A seasoned veteran of the apparel industry, the factory owner looked at me like I had two heads when I showed her my design. She picked it apart piece by piece. She didn't know what to make of me or my crazy, sparkly tie-dye spandex and bra straps. I looked at her like a puppy dog that had just peed on the carpet by accident. Then, her assistant sat with me and discussed my design and ways to make it better. They told me they would attempt a prototype. I handed over my "life's work" to them and left with butterflies in my stomach. I emailed them every few days like a mother who's first born is sent away to 6th grade camp.
After two months they finally got around to pinning some of my scraps to a mannequin. I came in and talked with the assistant. She told me that she was having a hard time conceptualizing the garment. I spent an hour explaining horseback riding to this woman. I felt like we were getting somewhere. Three weeks later they had me back--I had a half sewn, half pinned Frankenstein shirt to gawk at. I felt like crying, and I'm sure I did. My idea was a failure. I was a failure.
The liner, as a properly fitting and effective posture support--could not be affixed to the outer shirt shell without causing significant bunching and pulling--totally not cool. I was quickly finding out this was a two-piece project. And costs were mounting. It came to a point where the production cost of my designs was going to be way more than what I wanted to be charging my customers... remember, "affordable" was at the top of my list. More lists. Lists and lists. Pros and cons. Being an entrepreneur is pretty much 50% lunacy and 50% making lists.
Then I started to find out that I was running out of resources. I was broke. Through college and there after (and still) I was (am) waiting on tables (to afford my equestrian habit of course). Every cent I earned I allocated for paying my bills, for Dexter (my horse), and then to Sundial. The same went for my time. I would stay up late hours scouring the web for fabrics, for inspiration... for answers.
Finally I discovered Intelliskin--a brand who was making, basically, exactly what I wanted to create. I was half devastated, half relieved. Half of me was crushed because those patents and copyrights I was planning on chasing were all for not. The other half sighed and was so thankful I didn't have to shell out thousands of dollars to develop this part of my vision. I reached out to them with my story and they were so kind. I spoke with their COO and we struck up a deal. I would design my shirts to pair with Intelliskin.
I got a second job. During the day I worked for a Chairman of a huge multi-million dollar company as a secretary of sorts. At night, I waited tables. In between, I worked on Sundial. I don't need to sleep, right? I was being pulled in so many directions, but how else do you finance a start up? Remember, I was doing this all on my own. This is my company. I don't need any help #overconfidentcowgirl
But I was wrong, I needed some advice. It was time to create my shirts. I had traveled to Philadelphia's Fabric Row and purchased some awesome fabric from some eccentric and very helpful suppliers. They were excited for me. I was anxious to start getting a return on my investment. A friend of mine encouraged me to network with some local Cleveland garment industry professionals. My contacts pointed me to one source: a small run boutique manufacturer in Lansing, MI run by a "girl boss" too.
To be continued...