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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, January 19, 2013

Plans for 2013

Well, January, 2013, is here and, as expected, sales have slowed down, but our work has not.  Everyone is busy with plans for the New Year.  Here’s what each of our team is working on:

Laura (marketing)

Laura has mapped out her year of travel.  She is preparing to “hit” the road in 2013.  She has plans to attend conferences, Buddy Walks and meetings with DS organizations.   She keeps up with our Facebook page and what’s going on the around the country.  Downs Designs had not done any marketing until Laura joined our team because we were still developing our styles and sizes, but now that we have almost all our pants sizes in stock, we now have products to market.  It’s time to let people know about us and Laura is doing a great job with that!

Jillian (designer)

Jillian has finished designing the pants for all ages.  Unfortunately, the Youth Sizes didn't get into production in 2012, but we hope to have them in stock by late spring or early summer.  She is also working on a new order for the ladies jeans in black denim.  The black denim jeans will have no rivets.  We hope that black will be a color that can be worn as more casual wear.  Also, if someone is working and required to wear black pants, this will solve that problem.  And the ladies jeans were our first jeans and we have made many changes in our jeans since then. So our new black denim ladies jeans will have our new waistband and no tags. We have plans to make the rest of our styles in black denim as well.  Jillian is working on some new designs.  I won’t say just what she is planning yet but we hope to create something new in 2013.

Doris (seamstress)

Our "Hope" Jeans with a little added color 
Well, Doris has been another great addition to our team.  She not only is doing a great job at hemming and alterations, but her creative mind has been busy as well.  She suggested adding a little color to our children’s jeans.  We have not introduced her idea just yet because we’re waiting for our improved website to come out.  But here’s a sneak preview of what we’re going to offer in the children’s jeans.  This picture is of our little girl jeans with a flannel pattern added to the cuff…they are adorable!  We will have a few colors to choose from and for the boys, a few plaid options.

She also came up with another great idea.  Remember the 500 pair of men’s jeans that I decided not to sell because of the problem with the back rise being too short.  They've been in storage since 2011.  Well, she took a pair of those men’s jeans and turned them into a denim skirt.  What has she done!  We are going to test the skirt on our models and if the fit is good, we’re going to offer them on our website.  We’ll see how people like them, but I think it is a great idea.

She also suggests that we could make shorts or even capris from our existing jeans.  Since we’re hemming the jeans anyway, maybe someone would like us to hem them shorter.  That would be an easy solution for now if someone wants a pair shorts or capris.  We’ll have to see how that goes as well.  Next summer we hope to offer shorts, but this year it’s just not possible unless we use our jeans in other ways.

These are some ideas we’re discussing for 2013.  We’ll do some posting on Facebook to get opinions from our almost 3000 Facebook “Friends”.

Our Website

We have plans to improve our website this year.  We’re going to try to make it more “user friendly”.  We’re going to make our shopping cart part of our website rather than a separate link.

Then, with the help of modern technology, we hope to offer even more personal service.  We’re going to try to add a video chat on the sight so we can do visual fittings with our long-distance customers.  If we can see the person trying on our clothes, we can help make sure they get the best fit possible.  Even now with smart phones and email, I’m able to help with our fittings, but I think if we have a video chat line, it will improve our service even more.

My plans

Well, for the last few months I've been working with a fantastic woman, Susan Swartzwelder.  Susan is a professional business plan writer.  She has a consulting business helping people like me write their business plans.  My goal this year is try to get a bank loan.  I have personally been funding Downs Designs for three years.  We have invested hundreds of thousands of dollars of personal and personally-borrowed money because banks will not help a small business get started.  Even though our government says there is lots of money available for small businesses, it’s not true at all.  But Downs Designs is still a very young company and relies on constant financing from me.   Our first 2 years were all about research and development.  Last year we just started getting in products to sell, but until August of last year when Laura joined our team, we had done no marketing.  So I feel that 2013 marks the beginning of Downs Designs.

With the help of Susan and the great job she is doing to create my business plan, my goal for 2013 is to get some financial help.  We need working capital to keep us going until our sales are able to support the business.  But I have confidence that the help will come.  God didn't give me this business just to see it fail, so I know this is the year I’ll finally be able to present our plan to financial institutions with positive results.

The next thing I must do is raise our prices.  If the business is going to survive and continue to give our personal “try-on” service, I must increase prices.  We’re going to include the hemming charge into the price of pants and then raise the price of the pants $7.00.  The other price increase will be the shipping costs.  The U.S. Postal Service is increasing their postage rates January 27.  I will have no choice but to increase the cost of shipping.  This is not going to be a pleasant task, but to sustain Downs Designs and keep it operational, I have no choice in this matter

My next trip to China is March 6, 2013.  This trip I will be choosing other fabrics for our pants.  I want to look at khaki, navy and another denim option.  The black fabric I chose on my last trip looks great (I've already seen a sample).  But the most important part of the trip is to continue to build my relationship with the factory owner.  Because of our special designs, the owner’s cooperation is vital.  He is so kind to allow me to order very small quantities.  The small-quantity orders he allows me to place is almost unheard of in this industry.  Most jeans factories require much larger minimum orders than I place.  But because of my trips to the factory and the relationship that I continue to have with the owner, I feel confident that our good relationship will continue. 

I've been studying Chinese for about a year and have increased my lessons from twice a week to three times a week.  It’s a tough language to learn but I feel I must.  Because of my travels to China several times a year to a place where only one person speaks English (the owner’s son) I feel very strongly about learning the language.  My goal is to actually talk with the pattern maker and factory owner myself instead of through an interpreter.   I wish I were younger, I think it would be easier, but I’m doing my best.  I have a great teacher who has the patience of Jobe; I don’t know how she does it.  I take my lessons from an online school called E-Chinese Learning.  My teacher is in China and we have our lessons over Skype.  We meet at 8:00 am three times a week for 50 minutes.  This on-line program is exactly what I needed to help me with this language.  I've tried learning it on my own though CD’s but it’s just too hard.  I don’t have to leave the house or sit in a classroom and I have private lessons from a true Chinese person who lives in China.  It’s the perfect solution.  I’m sure I’ll be studying for years before I get comfortable with the language.

I’m so proud of all my team and their hard work.  And I’m so grateful for our customers and their patience and support as we develop Downs Designs.  This year increasing products and sales are our top priority.  Now we need your help to spread the word.  Please share our website with your friends, school or organization.   We have our jeans in stock and we need to get them off the shelf and in your hands…Karen