I was fortunate enough to have a lot of girl cousins growing up. When they would come over to my house to play, the creations were endless. Sometimes we’d run down the hall and do our best flips through a hula hoop and land on a pile of pillows in the living room. Sometimes we’d play Barbie dumps Ken for He-Man and build them a Lego house to live in… You get the idea. We had active imaginations.
But one of my favorite games was when we’d play shop. I’d use a stick of chalk to write advertisements on my bedroom doors and hang clothing from door knobs and dresser handles. My mom had a pricing gun that she ‘borrowed’ from her work and I used it to create price tags for full effect. My cousins Christy and Billie would pretend to buy what they liked and I would ring them up at my cash register and take their Monopoly money… Boy, even then it felt oddly good to make a buck! (We really do rear little capitalists in America, don’t we?)
Here we are in 2015 and I’ve reached a point that I’ve decided to start a clothing business. Man, it isn’t nearly as easy as it was in my bedroom all those years ago — or even in the 80s for that matter! You can’t just hang pretty things on a hook and invite girls to buy them. No, it’s not easy, but it is an adventure. And like all my adventures, I like to share with my friends :).
For starters, the challenges have been twofold: 1. Getting the internet savvy it takes to sell online. 2. Finding the best deals at the best possible quality on the ground. Let’s start with the challenges of getting samples and searching for producers on the ground…
I’ve been lucky to be introduced to some knowledgeable people here in Chiang Mai to start learning about buying options. Here are some of the biggest challenges I’ve faced personally:
- Finding the right fabric at the right price – There’s an enormous array to chose from, but it’s often cluttered and mislabeled in the shops (did you know that Chinatown also exists in Thailand, btw?).
- Getting samples made with high quality stitching. (The samples are needed to give to the seamstresses or factory as a template for producing your clothing in bulk.) Initially, I went for “best pricing” for my samples. The wait was long and the quality was poor, so I ended up having to start again with a higher quality tailor at a higher rate to get better samples.
- Getting samples completed in a short time frame. ‘Thai time’ is a beautiful thing when you’re reading a book in a hammock, but harder when you’re trying to start a business. Two days can easily become 2 weeks.
- Explaining American style preferences to Thai seamstresses. Sometimes little details get lost in translation.
- Realizing your design is not the best after trying out the sample! Hahaha… Of course, that’s why you try it first. It’s fun and part of the process, but it takes time :). Creating unique designs is very exciting for me and I know it will be personally rewarding but it does take more patience and experimenting.
- Getting a competitive wholesale price without resorting to factory. It takes a lot of asking around, especially as a foreigner, but my Thai friends have offered a lot of helpful suggestions. I just have to explore each one and keep looking for the best alternative.
All of those challenges are the fun ones! The bigger nut to crack is Amazon. Man, the name really reflects it for me. I feel deep in the thick of it, teaching myself about how to use keywords and SEO and the weird little tricks for finding products that will sell. It sucks the creativity right out of it for me! I just wanna take pictures and write appealing descriptions :).
Alas, my big learning for this week was not to put the cart before the horse. As much as I don’t love it, I have to experiment on Amazon with some non-clothing items and learn how it works from experience before I can sell beautiful clothes on it. In case you are thinking of doing the same, do note that getting approval to sell clothing on Amazon is easiest once you’ve already established yourself as a professional seller. Amazon further recommends selling multiple items to begin so more people can find you, buy from you and review you. (Which is now next on my to-do list.) So stay patient my dear friends and family. I have some amazing designs to share with you soon! Much love to you for being a part of my journey.
Please like my new business Facebook page, Tropic Bliss, to see the new designs as they come out and to get some special offers.
UPDATE: I attended an Amazon workshop Nov. 18 and there is no REQUIREMENT to sell other products before selling clothing. You just have to apply to sell them with high quality photos (white backgrounds) and detailed descriptions.