Talk about not getting with the program

July 28th, 2010

That is the best title that I could come up with…sad.
I recently updated my index page for www.xovergear.com based upon feedback from a guy I just met this week. I was scheduled to play flex league Tennis here in the Tri-valley area (Bay Area), but due to tearing my meniscus I was basically unable to play for more than a month. I got pretty far behind schedule for my matches, but everyone in my flight have been pretty good about it.
I am playing in a mens’ flex league at the 3.5 level -since the flex league season began, I have been moved up to a 4.0 rating based upon some doubles performances that I have had… Getting back into the flex league after more than a month off, my lunch time opponent that I played against yesterday (I scheduled 2 matches, lunch and evening) mentioned that he visited my site and asked if I would like any feedback. “Of course” was my response, so he basically cleaned up the text on the front page. I sent him a pair of briefs for the help -actually, I was sending them to him regardless as he sounded interested, and I could use all the interest I can get. BTW -I beat him in 3 sets, and am happy as I seriously thought that I was going to get pounded. He beat me the first set 6-2! The next two sets were both tiebreaks which I squeaked by. I remember thinking going into the 3rd set that win or lose, this was a fun match. Maybe I am actually starting to mature??? J/K I am still competitive, but seriously not too concerned with my singles skills as I am not sure how long my body will hold up to singles competition. It is partly due to my competitive nature that I feel will ultimately do in my body, as I tend to play each point too hard. I am starting to realize that at 45, I really need to play more intelligently and not run myself ragged -even though that is fun in itself and is a good portion of the reasoning behind my picking up tennis in 2009 in the first place. The best way to preserve my body I have found is to avoid single competition and stick to doubles…but singles is the truest test on a tennis court that there is.
Anyway, in summary, sport has once again provided the motivation to get around to updating my site and trying to take this underwear project more seriously. The desire is there on my part, but in streaks…I don’t want to make excuses, but I do have a lot of them (excuses that is).

newbe with the iPhone

February 11th, 2010

Just a quick blurb to get this off my chest. I recently changed jobs and had to get a new phone…Dropped a Blackberry pearl for an iPhone 3GS. Love the iPhone, but simply hate the way some of it’s features are implemented. I mean, what is it with iTunes? Is it even possible to come up with a more UN-intuitive system for putting music/files/applications on your phone? I purchased bejeweled-2 the same day that I picked up the phone, and before I had even setup iTunes on a computer was enjoying the game. I get home, setup iTunes, and select music to put on my phone, and only a few days later head off to Japan for training with the new company, and a new laptop. Install iTunes on the new laptop so that I can get more apps and d/l some podcasts, and find that I risk erasing all my music if I sync my music. Ok, I unselect sync for my music. BUT I do have some language lessons on my laptop that I would like to get on my iPhone, but there is basically NO way to do this that I can find. I will have to wait to get back to the US and to my home PC so that I do not lose the music that I presently have installed. How lame. Of course, there might be a way to get around this, but just describing it took me this long, so I cannot imagine how I would search for this. What little searching I did do, turned up having to d/l a text editor and finding certain lines to make changes, but that was to address a similar though from what I could tell, not exactly the same issue that I am faced with. Not sure why I cannot just drag and drop my music wherever I want.
Then there is the issue with APPS. I lost bejeweled when I downloaded several apps off the net while here in Japan, but I lost Bejeweled!!! the only APP that I have actually purchased -and not through iTunes! I went back to purchase Bejeweled with the hope that the store would recognize my phone and user ID, but no, they wanted to charge me again for this APP. Now the new apps that I downloaded while in Japan will be gone when I sync back at home -how lame -again!!! I purchased this game directly from the phone over wi-fi, so fail to see why it would be wiped from my phone during a sync.
Then the issue of getting images onto the iPhone that were not taken with the iPhone. Again, why no drag and drop?
Enough of the rant. I hope that over time I can figure out this complicated POS that has so many strengths at the same time. The APPS rock, but the portability w/r/t to traveling with a laptop or separate laptops is poorly implemented.

Bittersweet February -the bitter

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

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

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.
Summary:
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

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

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.

SEO rambling

December 17th, 2008

I believe that I have mentioned in previous posts that I have retained the services of a company that specializes in SEO –search engine optimization. The company name is Visible.net, and the nice thing about this outfit is that they are there whenever I need them. Meaning, when I call them during work hours, I have had at least a 95% hit rate when it comes to getting a person to actually speak with. Unfortunately, having a day job means that not only do I not have the time to call during normal work hours, but I find that I have trouble thinking of intelligent questions to ask of them when I do. I mean, I do have one question…when are sales going to increase? –in case you are wondering, yes, I have asked them this very question –earlier today in fact.

Having recently installed Google Analytics, I am now able to track hits to my site in a far more comprehensive manner than using the Yahoo! based site tools that come with hosting through Yahoo!. I can even view the location of visitors to my site. Things are so slow right now; I have the time to look at every single hit. Visible.net is supposed to help me with getting my web page to show up on web searches for any number of things…from men’s boxer briefs, to men’s cotton underwear. One thing is painfully clear to me. Traffic is not getting to my site. I would venture to say that I have a fairly encouraging “sale to unique visitor” ratio of maybe between 1% and 5%. But with some days only having a single site hit (unique visitor), or worse, none…it is hard to generate sales. I have taken to selling on ebay with seriously discounted pricing levels from now until Christmas. Profitability is extremely low, but I am really hoping that folks buy and if they like what they see, they return. There is where my confidence is high. –as mentioned in a previous entry, the sizing is the only area where I have some reservations, and that is easily overcome…just order a size larger…

I have also gone and joined MySpace, as well as Facebook. MySpace seems better suited to promoting XOvergear.com than Facebook, But that might have more to do with my complete lack of familiarity with both. Visit me at Facebook…under the name of Xover Gear. I am not sure how to search…but if you are familiar and reading this, it may be a simple thing. Suggestions are always welcome.

Just to be clear, my efforts mentioned above are targeted at SEO. As much as I like the folks at Visible.net, after 4 months I have not seen any improvement in site visits. Anytime that I see a spike in visits, I can pretty much trace it back to a particular event that I did on my own. eBay is a perfect example. I have posted some product for sale on eBay in which I have posted a link to my xovergear.com site for additional sizing information, -this realized a rather quick increase in site activity.
I know that I also need to work on my social bookmarking. Some sites that come to mind include the following that I have or am in the process of joining…technorati.com, delicious.com, flickr.com, partnerup.com…as well as some that I am hoping I get started with soon, including, twitter.com, dmoz.com, etc… I am sure that there are more, but I am guessing that using what I’ve already signed up for might help me the most. I have started searching for forums on entrepreneurship, and starting a business, but have had limited success. I did find a discussion forum on MySpace forums, but I have not had time to read through much of it.

Tell you what, I sure wish that I knew how to work with sites like Facebook and MySpace, and even wordpress –which is what I use for my blog. I want to improve the appearance of all three, but find you need to know code, not to mention the complete lack of an intuitive building structure. I have attempted some things on MySpace with very (extremely limited) success. Same goes for wordpress. You are reading my blog now.

I wonder if using MSN homepage and their blog page would be helpful? I am guessing that it may not be worth my time, especially considering the issues I have with what I am currently engaged.

Anyway, getting late and I gotta run…
“keep the rubber side down:

Shrinkage???

December 17th, 2008

I just got feedback from a fellow traveler that I gave a free sample to, (who turned around and ordered a dozen more). He sent me an email letting me know that his shorts seem to be shrinking! His comments were to the effect that they shrunk even after the first wash. Now, I have attempted to replicate just about every scenario that might exist in the design of my underwear, and I have noticed that the underwear will shrink a small amount after the first washing, but I have not seen any noticeable changes after that. In fact, I wrote the shrinkage off to a fabric that was no longer relaxed and flat (as it comes out of the package).
Further communications with this fellow traveler to see if I might learn exactly how they are being laundered failed to turn anything up that would be considered out of the ordinary. I include laundering instructions on my packaging indicating to steer clear of hot cycles and more importantly, very hot dryers, but that was more for fear that the heat, especially during drying, would attack the rubber in the Spandex. A fear that has not yet been confirmed in all the wash cycles that I have subjected my product to…

But this does raise a concern –and some comments as well. I did all of my own design work, meaning the shipping of samples back and forth between the factory and me, using leftover material that was of similar composition to my material, but NOT the same weight. Similar in this case meaning the cotton/spandex ratio of the material. The weight that I am using on my first shipment is a heavier weight cotton/spandex than one can purchase directly from a supplier (off the shelf). I have noticed that my sizes of the finished product are not exactly what I was expecting (and had designed). While I still wear a size M, the production sized M is much snugger fitting than the samples that we sent back and forth during the course of a year of development. A reality check confirmed this to be the case as I still have all my samples (which are all size M) in my underwear drawer and they fit loosely in comparison.
If money was not an object, I would be placing another order with revised specifications for size, and would discount the existing units to try and move quickly. This size issue seems to affect the all cotton shorts more so than the mesh with cotton. Of course, discounting them now just might help with sales, since traffic to my site has been dismal. See other update…(SEO)

Once I get to reorder time I will be updating my sizing, as well as getting some new colors out there. I am also working on a few other ideas, which I will discuss in another entry…

Technorati submission

November 10th, 2008

This is my submission to Technorati
Technorati Profile

As an FYI, this is a part of my attempt to increase traffic to my website: XOvergear performance apparel as business has been slow. I will not blame the economy as I do not believe that the economy is doomed. Things will bounce back, and let’s face it, good economy or not, folks need underwear. I cannot help but think that our boxer briefs and trunks are the best deal in designer men’s underwear period. I will admit that they are not for everyone, but if you like them, you love them. I would say that better than 50% end up wanting more. The fit is snug, some call it a “European fit”…I call it an athletic fit. I want achieve success, if for no other reason than to prove my theory that the big manufacturers are only in it for the money. I badly wish to move forward with new colors and designs. I want to release my ideas for women’s sleepwear -which will simply be boy shorts for the bottoms along with form fitting tanks and tees for the tops.
Then there are the men’s dress/workout XOver tee shirts that I want to start designing and offering. All logos will be placed strategically so that they can be worn under white dress shirts. Later, you can wear them at the gym without having to look like you are wearing wife beater or bargain tee shirts…

More to come…