Archive for February, 2009

Bittersweet February -the bitter

Wednesday, February 25th, 2009

Now for the bad news…
If you prefer, you can skip the bitter and get to more interesting matters below (under sweet).
Business is non-existent. To further make matters worse, we received an order on January 4th that we completely ignored (actually we failed to notice it). Talk about incompetence! It was only an order for one pair, so I tossed in a second pair for the trouble. I am not please that this happened, ESPECIALLY when I am only seeing about one order per week right now. What makes it so frustrating is that my primary tenants for starting this business is to offer a superior product with superior service –talk about dropping the ball!

The economy, namely the press (in my opinion, it wreaking havoc on the job market. Confidence is at such a low that I believe many jobs are being lost purely due to speculation. If every news outlet is reporting doom and gloom, then it must be true, right! It was the press that managed to nominate McCain as the Republican presidential nominee, it was the press the elevated Obama to superhuman status, and it is the press that has had a big hand in pushing us into the current economic mess that we are in. Granted, the housing bubble was bound to burst –it was unnatural, the magnitude of growth seen over the past decade and a correction was due. Not to mention how easy it was to get loans where the primary qualification was that you were breathing. Anyway, enough of that.

Finally, the really bad news. We lost our dog –Roxy. She was only 15 months old, and she was a huge part of our family. Outgoing and friendly…and full of life and energy, she passed away in surgery on the table while being fixed. To really make matters worse, the wife was having doubts about getting the procedure done, and I talked her into staying with the plan. We really thought that it would be best for her, but when the call came…suffice to say that it was not a good day, or even week. She is now buried out in the country at my folk’s home, and has her own tree planted in her memory…complete with her collar and nametag. We will miss her dearly. We know that we will want another dog, another Shih Tsu at that. But our hearts aren’t really into it, and we wonder if we ever will.

Bittersweet February -the sweet

Wednesday, February 25th, 2009

This month has been a bittersweet month. Much more bitter than sweet to be honest.
First the sweet…that way you can just skip over the bitter.
The first week of the month was spent up in North Lake Tahoe. We skied or boarded for 6 days. We hit Boreal on day one (Sunday) for some evening boarding. The next day (Monday) was in Northstar…now I do not like a resort where you cannot even walk to the main lodge mid-week. I mean, come on…Nobody likes lines, or waiting…in this case, you have to wait for the buses to get you back and forth from your car. Fortunately the spring conditions meant that we had lots of fun and sun, and the mountain in general is actually pretty good for skiing and boarding. In fact, it was among the best snow of the week with Friday being the exception. Tuesday we hit Squaw Valley, and this is the day that I cracked some ribs. They still hurt (most intensely in the morning). The morning was spent boarding with the wife, and at lunchtime my brother was arriving for some skiing. The wife was done for the day preferring to hang with the dog, so she took the tram down the hill while I boarded. I took a serious header on the flats moving along at about 20 miles an hour…not to fast, but very flat ground, when I went to turn and the downhill edge caught some slush and over I went. Long story short, I almost passed out from lack of Oxygen, and maybe 10 minutes passed before I could get back up and continue down the hill. Lucky for me, I had both Motrin and Vicodin in the truck and was able to get my boots on to finish the day on my skis. We had a blast skiing together, my brother and me. We found some great snow in the spring conditions on the upper runs everywhere we went. We did not hit KT though, it did not look very nice from below…
Wednesday, the wife decided to skip boarding and just hang out, so my brother and I hit up Alpine Meadows. To start, when I woke up, I was pretty certain that there wasn’t any possible way that I was going to be on the snow that day…I got almost no sleep and I still do not know how I managed to actually get my body out of bed. My ribs hurt so bad that I could not even lift my head. In the middle of the night, I had the wife help me get up so that I could go to the living room to try and sleep sitting up (with an electric blanket) to help keep me warm. When my brother got up, I hurt so bad that I could not even get up to get my Vicodin. About an hour after the Vicodin, I found that I was ready for some coffee and after adding in some Motrin, I was ready to go skiing…We skied everything but Scott’s and some of the double diamonds because of poor coverage and ice in the shadows. It was great once again and the spring conditions made for a good time –not to mention the warmer weather helped to keep me a little looser than had it been cold. Of course, being on skis really made the difference. I am so much more comfortable on skis, and the only thing that I could not really do was pole plant when trying to skate, and breath heavily. I could skate easily enough, but forget pushing with my poles. Oddly enough, we skied bumps (the face) most of the day and pole plants while skiing were a non-issue. Another thing that made the skiing so good this day was there was an equipment demo day for ski shops going on. And man, there were some good skiers out. I have never skied so fast all day without feeling like I was dodging slower skiers or at risk of drawing unwanted attention for Ski Patrol. There simply were not very many slow skiers out that day. My brother was skiing fantastic –actually skiing faster than me. He has clearly improved since I last skied with him, which was probably 15 or more years ago.
Thursday saw my brother heading back home, so the wife and I headed out to Homewood to try out something new. I boarded in order to do what the wife was doing, and Homewood really sucked for us. The snow was OK, but the mountain was not good for a top-down run for a beginner. Since I was with the wife (who is a beginner) we found her having to get out of her bindings to walk far too many sections as the green runs were basically a very narrow fire trail that meandered down the mountain. And to really as insult, this trail ended at a lodge that was closed! –I don’t see us going back there again. On the plus side, there were some great views of the lake to be had, and if you are an Intermediate skier, it looks to be a fun place…plus you can’t beat the price.
Friday, our final day…and it is snowing out! We have passes for Alpine, so that is where we head. Boy, I wish that my brother could see this. The entire mountain was skiable and fun. Only about 6-8 inches fell overnight, but it transformed the hill. I was off-piste (when the wife took breaks) and having a blast in the crud. I decided to ski while the wife boarded. She fell a lot and was getting frustrated. Towards the end of the day I talked her into letting me coach her down one run, and against her better judgment she relented, clearly frustrated that I wasn’t interested in taking NO for an answer. Long story short, she made more turns to toe side on this one run than she did the entire week combined! Not only that, but her big fear of falling and getting hurt never happened. Now, she is still not comfortable with transitioning from heelside to toe side, but at least she now knows that it CAN be done.
As an aside: we now believe that she may have damaged her tailbone early on during the trip, causing her to be extremely cautious –thus making things worse…to this day her tailbone is still hurting pretty badly (3 weeks later).

MAGIC Las Vegas Day three

Wednesday, February 25th, 2009

MAGIC, Las Vegas, day three (Thursday Feb 19)
The last day was a wash for us. I wanted to attend a seminar today, but I attended it yesterday completely by chance. The show itself was winding down all day. So we walked and talked. We met some pretty cool companies… The folks at 180S kicked down a free pair of gloves to the wife and me. Nice gloves for skiing and boarding and will definitely come in handy. Easy to talk to folks and I want to give a shout out to them. So when you are looking at ski gloves, 180S has some really cool features…one of which includes a special finger for operation of iPods without having to remove your gloves. So if you ski or board while listening to tunes, there is no other option than 180S. The gloves are quality, not gimmicky.
Also talked with some folks from Kuhl (pronounced cool). Not really fashion in the strictest sense, but some nice outdoor wear and base layer stuff. Very high quality and I can already attest to the functionality of their gear. It is cold and rainy here in NorCal right now and I am wearing a wool 3/4 zip pullover with a unique lining that is similar to fleece, but different. Retails for around $100, which is pricey for a guy who looks for sales when buying functional clothing, but clearly quality stuff. I will be washing it this evening to see how it holds up –always important.
One other goal of my trip to MAGIC was to try and find sales representation…I feel that a rep can do a lot with a good product. In one of the seminars, I was called upon to explain why I had raised my hand to a “survey” type question, and in explaining, I mentioned that I was a startup with product warehoused in our garage at home. So a rep from the Las Vegas area approached me and we exchanged business cards…I called to follow up but no response as of yet. Perhaps men’s underwear was not what she was looking to add to her line card? As for other leads regarding reps, I have nothing to report, though I was told to look into LinkedIn…I am already on LinkedIn, so was apprehensive about doing something not related to my primary job since I have many contacts from within my present company. So I have opened another account with XOvergear as my company.
By the end of the week, I was exhausted. We were so tired at the end of each day from all of the standing and walking, we failed to partake in any late night activities. The most we did was eat out and one night we went and got foot massages. 75 minutes well spent. My legs still felt exhausted afterwards, but the process of getting the work done was so relaxing. I wanted to get a full body massage, especially being in Las Vegas…but I am still nursing some cracked ribs and simply could not imagine trying to lay on my stomach. I can’t even lay face down in bed yet and it has been 3 weeks since using my upper body to try and break up the ice while snowboarding. I will also admit that walking the show opened up a lot of ideas for us, with decisions as to how we might move forward. Business decisions that we will need more time to consider.

MAGIC Las Vegas Day two

Wednesday, February 25th, 2009

MAGIC, Las Vegas, day two (Wednesday Feb 18)
Today I spent some time attending seminars and quickly learning that the seminars appeared to be primarily geared towards larger established companies or companies that are quickly growing/expanding. In fact, I am starting to feel that the entire show is that way. I was amazed at how many smaller retailers and companies were on display…and the reason for my amazement was that according to discussions with others, a single (smallest) booth (8×8) runs in the neighborhood of $5000 for the show!
Anyway, back to the seminars. I attended a couple of seminars regarding global sourcing (strategies and options) as well as how to lower cost of landed goods. Again, I got the distinct impression that startups really have to work hard to pull relevant information from these seminars as they tend to focus on how to manage and rate multiple factories in multiple countries etc.
Closing out the seminars on Wednesday was “e-retailing and marketing 101”…finally a seminar that applies to someone in my position! So the seminar begins, and I find that it is actually a seminar called “Fashion business Inc. presents “starting and branding a new clothing and accessory line””. I am thinking to myself that I must have confused my days, since the guide that I have shows this seminar to be on Thursday at 4:00. It turns out that it was in fact moved up a day, and was the ONLY other relevant seminar for a new business/start-up and was on my short list to attend. Oh, and the discussion that I had planned on attending? –it was moved to another room FOR THE SAME TIMESLOT! Ok, the message is pretty clear by now. If you are a small business or start-up, you are not all that important. I mean, I spent the better part of a day listening to the issues facing companies like Ann Taylor and JC Penney, companies I might add, that have very little in common with me and those like me, only to find that the two seminars most relevant for new businesses are arranged so that they are in the same timeslot but in two separate rooms. I fully understand moving the discussion from Thursday at 4:00 –after all, the show ends on Thursday. But in moving, clearly no thought was given to the timeslot selected. Not to mention that the guide which I picked up on Tuesday afternoon was incorrect. I did not occur to me to investigate the accuracy of the shows and their respective timeslots.
It is not my intention to be a whiner. I learned a ton by walking the show as well as attending seminars. In fact, I met some folks in the same boat as me w/r/t starting their own businesses and feeling that the discussions were ignoring them. I hope to continue communicating with some of these folks…

MAGIC Las Vegas Day one

Wednesday, February 25th, 2009

MAGIC, Las Vegas, day one (Tuesday Feb 17)
Today is the day where we finally attend THE clothing tradeshow. It is called MAGIC and it is huge! The wife and I flew together and met her sister just a few hours later. Her sister decided that she wanted to come along at the last minute and I was all for it. She is a seriously gabby girl, and I figured I could use all the help that I could get. She is also a lot of fun to be around, and she was only going to do the first two days before heading back to the family.
The first thing that I learned after getting our badges is that we arrived a day later than we should have. What I mean by this is that being a start-up, my goal was to attend as many seminars as possible, and Monday, day one (the day before the show opens), was the first of their many seminars. “Sourcing ABCs” followed by “Developing a fashion product and getting it manufactured” were on the agenda for Monday, and both really apply to what I’m trying to do at XOver. Of course, one thing that I learned by the end of the week is that the guide I was carrying with me was subject to change. In fact, it did change in one instance which made little to no sense to me –more on that later.
There were no shows of interest to me on Tuesday, so I spent the day in the Sourcing building talking about fabrics and possible manufacturers for future production. I am still very happy with my contact in Shanghai, and I look forward to doing more business with him, but I need to be able to keep him honest with pricing. So I dropped some samples with various manufactures in the hope of getting competitive pricing bids for comparison purposes as well as samples to check their quality. –I fully realize that I may very well have to redo a lot of the work that went into getting a finished product if I were to change suppliers at this time. The first time around, it took the better part of a year to iron out all the details and I would expect nothing less a second time around –unless I was able to travel to China and spend significant time overseeing things.