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Advice on children’s couture bus., pls

BellaGabriella | Posted in General Discussion on

I’ve wanted to do this for a very long time and now approching the half-century mark of my life (I don’t want to talk about it) I really want to do it. I’ve done all the business research, have a business plan, thought of a name, and know all about the taxes, license, and town rules. I have been sewing since eighth grade, and have sewn everything from babies garments through a maternity maid of honor gown. Quilting, cloth dollmaking, doll clothes, cross stitch and embroidery too. I like to learn new things and end up teaching myself. I’m pretty particular too which at times, is a blessing and a curse.

Now I need the advice. Is this really something that, if I find the right area, people will pay for on an ongoing basis? Will new mothers and grandmothers pay money for couture babies and children’s clothing? Has it been done? I am keeping my day job, but would like to exchange my second job for something I am doing on my own to make money. After all, there is retirement some day…

I welcome all thoughts, ideas, suggestions, and encouragement.

Thanks,

Nancy

Replies

  1. MaryinColorado | | #1

    I think this could be a very lucrative business if you have the right demographics and marketing.  Places like Aspen, Colorado, where so many wealthy and famous people live and vacation comes to mind.  There may be places that will take your garments on consignment. 

    Best wishes on your venture, I hope it works out well for you.  Mary

     

  2. jjgg | | #2

    before you do anything else, you must get Kathleen's book and read it cover to cover, then read it two more times. The Entrepreneurs Guide to Sewn Product Manufacturing.
    http://fashion-incubator.com/mt/

    To answer your question, Yes, if you find the right niche it can be quite lucrative, - Do you plan to do this via the web? out of your house? sew everything yourself? Have a store front? I'd love to hear more about your plan.

  3. User avater
    VKStitcher | | #3

    There is a children's clothing designer/manufacturer in Raleigh that started out small, in her garage.  She found her niche and has been in business since 1979.  For inspiration, you might want to check out Patsy Aiken's website.  I am not affiliated with her or her company, but I do live in the Raleigh area and have known about the company for many years.  Several times a year, they open the factory to the public to sell the previous season's designs, samples, and fabric and trims.  I recently picked up some coordinating cotton knit fabrics at one of the factory sales--excellent quality, nice weight, clear colors.

    It sounds like you have done all of your homework as far as the business goes.  Best of luck to you, Nancy--I hope you make it work. 

    1. BellaGabriella | | #5

      Thank you Mary, Vickie, and Solo. I too, hope I can make it work. I'm sure it will take some time but slow and sure still gets you places. I'm going for different, simple, and affordable. I'm not sure if I'll go webpage; I've heard a lot of horror stories by doing this. I may just try old-fashioned word-of-mouth and see how that goes. Maybe an ad or two in a couple of newspapers and a brochure for the asking. That's in time though. I'm hoping to quit my second job in a month or so which will give me the time I need to get ready.

      Jjig - I remember hearing about that book, but isn't it geared to manufacturing? If so, I have a heads up already because I've worked in mfg since 1980, the last 18 years in quality control. The last 10 I've been responsible for the administration of quality systems (ISO/TS) so at least I have that background too. I'll post a new thread asking for more info on that book, her website doesn't really describe its contents.

      Thanks again, everyone.

      Nancy

      1. designsbysue | | #12

        Hi!

        I have just started a sewing business - I design and sew anything - 55 years sewing (since I was 6).  I always dreamed of starting this type of business when I retired - never expected how much I would need the extra money to live!

        I put my business cards in fabric stores and have been picking up lots of clients.  It helps when the fabric store knows you and your sewing.

        I wasn't impressed with e-bay at all.  Was thinking of doing a web page - I wonder what kind of horror stories there could be?  I did sell one grocery cart/high chair cover the first day on e-bay - but by the time I was paid - I made absolutley no money!!

        It's nice to hear someone else is trying it too.  No matter what happens at least I am finally doing something that I truly love to do!

        Good luck with your business.

        Sue

         

  4. solosmocker | | #4

    Ebay is a possiblity. I would research their "boutique childrens clothing" and the same on Etsy too. "Delaney's Garden" is one that comes quickly to mind. Certain, though not many, designers have a big following and get amazing money for their original smocked garments. They always seem to be dress, pinafore, pants, hat combos for children and are incredibly well done and original with lots of handwork. But other designers of similar goods just don't command the price. I do think the marketing has a lot to so with it and the really successful ones have very professional web layouts, prof childrens models and photographers. I would definitely check out this option if for no other reason than to let you know what is going on in this field.

    solo

  5. Crazy K | | #6

    Hi there.........am jumping in with a little (not much) experience with regard to sewing for baby........ your couture sewing.  My daughter started a business nearly two years ago at the urging of friends who loved the generous flannel receiving blankets they received from her as gifts.  She did much research and found fabric that she liked and has been selling blankets (not flannel) (two sizes) burpies, bibs, hats, mittens, booties and is expanding with a few additional things.  One thing she found is that ebay was not the way to go for her.  She would put things on there and get only a pittance and if she put a limit, somethings didn't sell.  It seems that on Ebay everyone is looking for a bargain.  The fabric she uses is expensive but people do not realize that.

    She has created a website and started by doing craft fairs in our local area.  She is now attending Trade Shows (both wholesale and retail) all over the country.  That in itself is an expensive venture.  She has a local factory that is doing most of the sewing with her dear mother (me!) sewing samples and helping her with her designs.  The shows require travel, hotel and sometimes very expensive booth rent.  Most of the time she's lucky to recoup her expenses but she's getting her name out there.  She has recently joined a local networking group of women business owners.

    I hope I'm not dashing your dreams.  She is still running her in-home daycare business besides all of the other work.  She spends many hours per day working and then traveling on weekends to shows.  She would like to retire from daycare when her little guy (now 5) is a bit older but she has a long way to go.  She's young and has energy and much determination but right now she is weary and has then next three months of 2 and 3 trade shows per month.......besides running her daycare business. 

    If you would like more info, please email me. 

    Best of luck to you........

    Kay

  6. lorisews | | #7

    I would be careful to look up whether there are rules/regs about selling stuff for babies in that I think there may be requirements about fabric flammability and lableling. If so you will want to see what you need to do to be in compliance.

    1. BellaGabriella | | #8

      Lori - yes, there is. They require fabric content and care instructions. I have a business book that explains a lot of this stuff, also about selling clothing made from commercial patterns. Basically, you can't do it, unless someone commissions you to and you use their pattern. Copyright states you can't purchase a commercial pattern and make that product for general sale. I know it's done everywhere and there are some exceptions. Your best bet is to design your own, and keep records!

      1. ctirish | | #9

        Nancy,  I have contemplated this over the past couple of years. I am waiting for my granddaughter (she is 2.5) to be in school full time. I have her every day and sewing with a toddler around is not possible.

        It sounds to me like you would like to do custom couture for infants and children. There is definitely a market for it.  This is what I came up with for a game plan.  To use high end materials and start with high end products. For example, Christening gowns, First Communion dresses and suits for boys, anything you can monogram and personalize for the little ones.  Along with that I would consider some of the casual styles that are pretty frou-frou.  I read in a magazine that the way to get into the eye-sight of mom's who will spend anything is to send gifts to the latest actress that is pregnant and hope she likes it enough to tell everyone who made  it.  I suppose you could do that on a local level  with whomever is in the spotlight in your area or state.

         I think the hardest thing is to get your name out there.  In a previous life, I made specialty cakes and sold them.  It was tough getting started and then I donated cakes to the local PTO's annual auctions, and the word was out.  If you have any infant boutique's in your area you might try having them sell on consignment and see how it goes. 

        Just keep thinking outside of the box and you will get there.

      2. KathleenFasanella | | #10

        RE: ebay. forget it. Sure, there's always exceptions to the rule but many more people lose than win. Not only do you not want to sell there, you must take steps to make sure your vendors don't sell there either (see "how eBay can kill you" on fashion-incubator.com). Craft shows, ditto (the opposite of lean, you'll have to produce items in quanitity without known demand). I know some people have made a go of it but imo, it's too dicey. Many many more fail. Moms aren't likely to buy custom for themselves much less their kids; only if they have fitting problems. Grandma, maybe, but she'll usually only order based on a sample, otherwise she'll just make it herself. If Grandma has the money, it's usually because she doesn't have the habit of blowing it. Most won't pay $300 for kid's playsuits. Of all the ideas posted, consider producing some samples and taking them around to stores. This has become more acceptable lately. Still, I wouldn't recommend this step until you read the Entrepreneur's Guide that you asked about before. You have to know how to handle stores.Re: patterns. There's another option. Hire them made for you. Under work for hire, you own all rights. If a "pattern maker" out there claims otherwise, they aren't a professional working in the trade. If you think you can get a price break using someone like this, it's usually the opposite -and often by a LOT! There's a lot of businesses now that target people like you. Somehow, they're patched into homesewer circles and lingo and know what key words to use to attract you,or use the kinds of terms and language you're familiar with. One party who claims to make patterns for small businesses, charges TEN TIMES the going rate. She looks particularly legit because she runs a (homesewing) organization for (home) pattern companies. BEWARE! My over riding question is why do you want to do custom? If it's because you only want to do one-offs, consider joining PACC. Not saying this is the case for you but I think many people hedge their bets saying they want to do custom because it seems more approachable, or doable than making a hard reach for something "grander". There is ALWAYS room for somebody who is good. ALWAYS. Most people -and I do mean most- fail unnecessarily. Either they don't want to follow established protocols and adopt standard practice or they refuse to do the sort of due diligence the effort requires.

        1. BellaGabriella | | #13

          I just got back from my week in MI and surprised to see so many more responses.

          Ctirish - I considered formal but it's everywhere. It's in bridal and specialty and now even JC Penney. I want to do something different, for now.

          Kay - I am grateful for the advise. Your daughter sounds motivated and persistent, but she also sounds tired. I'm not looking to get into the craft fair / craft mall / ebay way of selling.  I figure it will take me 2 - 5 years to become established as long as I don't burn out first, which is why I want to move slow and steady. I made a list of my strengths and weaknesses and what I am willing to give up and put into it, and although a blessing and a curse, I have to work with me and to succeed, I have to factor that into my equation. I do wish her the best.

          Sue - thank you and good luck with yours as well.

          Kathleen - thank you for your response. Why custom? Truthfully, "otherwise" didn't occur to me until I read your sentence about being approachable. I realize I am not opposed to doing something "grander" and actually would prefer it. I guess I thought marketing to stores would be as difficult as an unknown novelist trying to get published. As you said, people are always looking for good, and I'm hoping, different.

          Nancy

          Edited 3/16/2008 9:23 pm ET by BellaGabriella

          1. Crazy K | | #14

            Thanks for your response.  As I was reading, I realized that I failed again........I made it sound like my daughter is doing all the things that she started with!  Well, she is partially......the website, yes.....and she has improved that over time; the craft fairs, no.......trade shows, yes.  She now is doing both wholesale and retail trade shows but no craft fairs and absolutely no e-bay, since she had the same luck you did when she first started.  Craft shows would not be fair to her local wholesale accounts.  She does do retail from her website.

            She is young and a newly single mom.  She is working hard now so she can make a better life for herself and her son.  The daycare business is her bread and butter.....the retail/wholesale is something she hopes will become a full-time business in the years to come.  She is tired but by her own choosing.  She is filled with determination and optimism.  She gets rave reviews on her products wherever she goes.  If you are interested in communicating with her, she said she would be happy to answer any questions for you.  She has learned a lot along the way and continues to learn as she encounters new challenges. 

            Please email me if you would care to communicate with her and I will give you her email address.  Best of luck to you in your endeavors!

            Kay

             

  7. Crazy K | | #11

    I wrote you earlier regarding getting your business started.  I'm afraid I wasn't too clear about where my daughter has gone with her business.  She's still small (altho not doing what you want to do) and I think perhaps she could give some guidance.  She now has gotten accounts with a few baby boutiques around the country by doing the trade shows.  She does not do 'one of a kind' items as you might but she is still very small and targets the small specialty stores.  If you would like to check out her website, please let me know.  It might give you some ideas.  One thing she learned very recently was to get involved with a networking group in our area.  She has gained so much and learned so much from them.

    I'm sure there would be a market for special one-of-a-kind clothing if you just get the word out.  That seems to be the hardest part of getting started.  One thing she has done is to give baskets of her items to charity auctions in our area and send gifts to local TV personalities that have babies, etc. 

    I hope this has been more help than my posts of the past.

    Kay

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