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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, December 8, 2012

Holy Cow is all I can say!

November is going down as my most exciting month ever.  At last I feel like a business in motion.  So much has changed since we began in January, 2010.  Back then I had no office space, Jillian and I worked together in my home.  Then I found a place to rent that Jillian and I could go to.  It seemed just perfect!

I rented space about 5 minutes from my home that was both an office and a warehouse.  Previously it had been a construction business and it needed quite a bit of redecorating.  I prepared it as a place where we could work, bring people in for private fittings and have a space to warehouse our clothes. 

The first year it was certainly adequate, it was just Jillian and I.  But by the second year we were getting a little crowded in our work space.  I had hired a second designer, but that turned out to be a bad idea after the fact.  Our warehouse now was shelving our order of ladies jeans and tees and the first order of the men’s jeans that I totally scrapped.  I had also created a shipping area in the warehouse as well but was not really doing much shipping as sales were not so much in 2011.

I was taking pictures for the website on a bare wall or in the corner of my office/reception area.  It was the best I could do.  The website itself needed work, but we didn’t have much to sell anyway, so it seemed good enough at the time.

The year 2011 was almost a lost year for Downs Designs.  I was struggling with the factory that I had been working with the entire time.  We were getting one bad sample after another.  We spent months and months getting one failure after the next.  My start-up money was dwindling and by year end, I knew I had to start looking for a new factory.  It really frightened me.

Then 2012 came and we still had no new style jeans.  After Jillian  finished the adults jeans and tees, she had been preparing the small children jeans.   The factory had been given the order in November of 2011 and I didn’t get them into my shop until May of 2012.  In the meantime, I had started working with another factory and we just couldn’t believe how good they were.  We would send them a pattern and the sample would come back perfect.  We were just overjoyed and, of course, I’m kicking myself in the rear for wasting so much time with the first factory.  But, it’s all been a learning experience for me, so I can’t look back with regrets, I can only learn from the experience.

So finally in May of 2012, we receive the children’s jeans from the first factory.  But, during the early months of 2012,  I had started working with a new factory and were already preparing the teen girl's jeans and were expecting them by late summer.  They arrived in August and were just fantastic.  We couldn’t be more pleased.  So now, with the ladies' four styles, the children's two styles and the teen girl's two styles to sell, I felt the time was right to begin marketing Downs Designs.

Laura joined the team at the end of August, 2012, and by the end of her first week she had already boosted sales.  The large men's jeans arrived shortly after that and then by the mid November the small men's jeans and teen boy's jeans arrived.  So with Laura’s hard work and actually having quality products to sell, sales in November were my best ever!  I also added Sean, my IT guy on a retainer.  He has been working on and improving our website ever since.

The Unit right next to mine became available so I rented it right away.  I knew I needed more warehouse space for the addition of all the new jeans and future clothes and I needed more office space as well.  After a little paint and some new carpeting, Jillian and Laura moved into the office space next door.  I then turned part of my main space into a photography studio with proper lighting and backdrop.  I brought in our seamstress, Doris, to take care of the hemming and alterations and prepared an adequate work area for her.

We’ve completely reorganized our warehouse and shipping area and put systems into place to handle the influx of all the new business.  We’ve developed work stations and flow charts to keep track of each and every order.  I’m been overwhelmed with all the business and putting in 12-plus-hour days. So I added another member to the team, Robin Gaw.  Robin is a great gal who has worked for my husband and I for eleven years in our medical practice.  She still works part time for my husband, works as a crossing guard for the City of Mentor and now comes in a few hours a day after her afternoon crossing duties to help me out in the warehouse. 

I also started working with a great organization called SCORE.  They have been consulting with Laura and I by sharing their years of experience in business to help me improve my own.    I also hired a consultant to help me put together a business plan and now I’m bringing in a QuickBooks expert who can help me utilize the QuickBooks program to its full potential.   

Our last age group will be in production very soon and we hope to have them delivered by early next year.  When we finally get all the age groups completed, we're going to start adding new fabric colors.  We have already prepared some of our ladies styles to be made in a black denim.  We're waiting on samples now to see how the fabric works out.  We'll know by the end of the year or early January about the new fabric we're trying to incorporate.  Jillian is also working on designing a short-sleeve T-shirt so we'll see where this goes as well.  This will involve finding another factory for manufacturing the tees.  But with the help of the young man, Joey, that I'm now working with, he'll guide me to the right people.

So you can see how far we’ve come and, hopefully, where we’re headed.  I plan to build Downs Designs into a full line of clothing one day and provide a line of clothing that people will be proud to wear.   I'm focusing now on the hardest to fit shapes and doing our best to create a standard size for people with Down syndrome.  I call our sizing "Downsizing"! 

I'm looking forward to the New Year and to the next phase of my journey.