Saturday, May 31, 2008

Starting An Apparel Company

Over the past few months I've had the opportunity to help six emerging entrepreneurs who are at various stages of starting or expanding their apparel businesses. These interactions made me aware of the fundamental knowledge I acquired in my start-up years by producing apparel domestically before venturing offshore.

Only after developing my experience "tool kit" was I confident enough to venture offshore. I tend to be quick to minimize the benefits of having gone through the rigors of learning product development domestically. Moving our factory from Massachusetts to the Dominican Republic was just as stressful, financially draining and ultimately as rewarding as the start-up of Corky.

For new entrepreneurs starting an apparel company I feel your pain. Fifteen years ago when we started Corky there was an incredible mix of mills, converters, trim supplies and sewing contractors in the United States. And, most importantly, the fabric produced domestically was far superior to the quality of fabric produced offshore. Today however, there are very few resources available in the United States and the quality of cloth produced offshore is now superior to that produced domestically.

From a start-up perspective I understand how overwhelming the process seems and can tell you there are no easy answers. Although you don't need to price your products below your competition, you need to price in a competitive range. My advise in the start-up phase is to find a local cut and sew contractor and develop a great relationship. When you eventually transition offshore, you'll still need the services of a local sewing contractors to make samples, repair garments and add trims that didn't arrive on time to put on offshore.

I would suggest that you work with fabric and finding suppliers that have developed offshore supply channels. When you transition offshore you can continue to work with these suppliers because they will simply ship your purchases from their offshore suppliers to where ever you advise. Be a great customer to your suppliers and they will reward you with prompt deliveries and novel products; the key to being the best in your niche.

Most successful apparel makers will sooner or later need to venture offshore, it's an easy step to take, but an extremely difficult step to master. Initially your deliveries will suffer, but you'll know when you've mastered the process because customers and employees will stop comparing current delivery performance with delivery performance when you produced domestically.


Anonymous said...

You are amazing. I think you should write book, honestly.


Alan Macomber said...

Thanks Dimpledot. We're friends on the My Kids Fashion social net. I'd love to try writing a book someday. For now I enjoy this blog and helping people that seek me out for advise.

Larry Wisniewski said...

Alan is a gentleman and a class act! I was one of those start ups. Alan took over 2 hours out of his day to show me the ropes, share his experiences, and give me valuable contacts within the industry. The time spent with Alan is sure lesson the learning curve ten fold and help Guy Skinny become a success! If you have small children and want to help support an integrity laden man and his company, seek out Corky and Company name brand when outfitting your child, you won't be disappointed!

Alan Macomber said...

Kim's Message: "Good morning,

Thank you for taking the time out of your hectic schedule to meet with me.The information you shared went above and beyond what I had expected and for that I am extremely grateful.

I left a message with Carlos and hopefully I will connect with him. Getting more of a yield per yard was an issue I was battling with. Me being as green as I am had no idea a "marker" even existed, again thank you.

I left 6 coats on a workroom table that if you are phasing any of the material out I would be interested in purchasing.

Your entire staff is absolutely wonderful and very talented. You have created a powerhouse of a company that should be a model for others.

I hope your container is in port today and you can take that off your plate before the weekend. It is supposed to be beautiful - Enjoy!

Warmest regards,

Hi Kim:

I hope you found your visit here useful. I took a look at those fabrics and I have 3 available.

1. Coral Twist Fur $9/yd
2. Pink Green Bengal Fur $14/yd
3. Red Carved Fur $11/yd

The fabric is all in the DR. I have a container leaving 7/4, just let me know if you want us to cut for you or you just want some rolled goods.

Good luck and all the best Alan

Alan Macomber said...

Hey Alan,

I hope all is well!

Great things happening, found a fantastic sample maker via Kenny, you were a TREMENDOUS help!


Larry Wisniewski said...

Alan, thanks again for the information, you will always have my loyalties and a kind word when speaking of you and Corky and Co. I feel like I need to have another baby so I can pay you back! lol

-Larry "WIZ" Wisniewski

President / CEO
Guy Skinny, LLC