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I have a beautiful granddaughter who was born with Down syndrome. She has enough challenges to face in her life and I want to make sure that finding appropriately fitting clothes will not be one of them.

Saturday, April 30, 2011

2011 is Overwhelming!

OMG, we have so much to accomplish at one time it’s almost overwhelming.  No one could ever believe what is going on at Downs Designs.  On the surface, it appears not much is happening, but behind the scenes our office is buzzing with work.
Here’s a summary of what has happened since January through April, 2011:
At the same time our first shipment was delivered early in the year, the first samples of the children and youth sizes arrived as well.  We were excited to see them.  They looked great, but we still had no idea how they would fit.  But we were so busy unloading our first shipment, getting adult fittings and preparing the website store to open, that the youth size samples were put on the back burner.
I also decided to use Cara’s graphic design skills to create some fun graphics for about 1000 of our plain colored shirts.  I found a local printer in the area to do the screen printing but the process was slow.  We averaged about one shirt color per week and we had 8 colors.    But it was fun watching the plain color shirts get a facelift.  Here are pictures of just two of our different designs.

Now that our first order had arrived, the news media started to take notice.  Michael Cardamone, my marketing agent, had put out a press release.  Then our local newspaper, The News Herald, called and wanted to do a story about Downs Designs.  I was thrilled, of course, but so disappointed about our men’s jeans.   
Next, The Plain Dealer called and wanted to write a story also.  Wow, this was really exciting.  The Plain Dealer is a huge newspaper that reaches the entire Cleveland area.  Here's a link to the story in The Plain Dealer:


Also at this time I made an appearance on a local program called “Good Company”.  The interview was only 5 minutes, but it was an opportunity to tell my story.  I was so nervous, but I managed to get through it.  If you would like to see this interview, here's the link:


Next both Channel 5 News and Fox 8 News called about doing a story.  I couldn’t believe this.  The article in the Plain Dealer drew so much attention.  I was excited to have the publicity but still felt very sad about not having men’s jeans.  But in spite of the problem with our men's jeans, I couldn’t pass up these opportunities. 

Because of the local media coverage, we started to get local business.  We were getting calls for private fittings from all over Northeast Ohio.  My main problem was I didn't have men’s jeans.  But our fittings for women's jeans went very well.  The jeans looked and felt great on our women clients.  The women’s shirts looked great as well and the graphics added so much more to the plain colors tees.
Finally, we began working on our children and youth size samples.  We started to make calls to our youth size models.  I also managed to get my granddaughter to stand still for a fitting.  We found another 5-year old boy whose mother was willing to help out as well.  I found a few more volunteers to do more fittings and after these fittings; we learned we had quite a bit to adjust on the samples.  It took weeks to accomplish these fittings and time was passing very quickly.

It’s now March, 2011, and still I have no children or youth sizes.  I know people have no idea what is involved in designing clothes.  I would not believe why it takes so long to create a pair of pants and a T shirt myself if I was not involved.  It all sounds so simple, but the truth is, it’s incredibly difficult.  Nothing is easy or quick and I’ve learned a very hard lesson with our men’s pants that we cannot rush anything.
The second set of children and youth jean samples arrived, but we still had more work to do.  We immediately started making adjustments again to our patterns so the factory could get started working on a third sample jeans order.  The sample T shirts got finished and should arrive the first week of May.

While we were trying to repair our men’s jeans patterns and make adjustments to our children and youth sizes we also find some issues with our large size men’s T shirts as people started trying them on.  We decided to make some changes in the men's adults T shirts as well.   OMG, I felt like I wanted to explode inside, but I had to keep going.
The internet was not bringing in the orders like I thought it would, but, if I speak frankly, I was really relieved.  I liked the local traffic for now.  It was a better learning experience for us.  Also, what I saw coming into our shop were very elderly parents of people whose children were between 35 and 50 years old.  Their parents were typically in their 70’s or 80’s.  This age group generally does not shop online or even have a computer; so I realized that the adults would more than likely not be the main source of my business.  I knew I had to  get the kid’s clothes finished as soon as possible.
Money was getting tight as well.  I've been working on trying to get more financing.  But, what most people don’t realize is that I am completely self funded.  I have been investing thousands of dollars per month into this company for over a year and half with full time employees, manufacturing expenses, travel expenses, office expenses and much, much more.
But, truthfully, I am not fearful or worried.  I know that this business will flourish one day and I am where I’m supposed to be.  I feel that everything will fall into place in good time.  My dad always told me that "anything worth having is worth waiting for".  So I hope people will be patient with me…

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