I was talking with a friend & fellow designer the other day about how we each got started in the business. It was fun thinking about those early years and how much our businesses have changed since we began. But if there’s one thing we had in common, its that the businesses we have now are both very much different than the business we envisioned at the outset!
When I began this journey in 2004, I saw myself strictly as a pattern designer. It’s what I loved (and still love) doing and in those early years I was able to crank out 3-4 patterns per year. But you know what? It didn’t take me long to realize that a lot of my customers were having difficulty finding the required hardware for our projects!
For a while I avoided this problem by purposely designing my patterns so that there would be little or no hardware required, but when this self-imposed restriction started to cramp my creativity I knew it was time to change my business model and started sourcing hardware so I could sell it individually or in kits along with my patterns exclusively on my website.
But a funny thing happened when I started selling hardware online…
Not only did we see an immediate uptick in the sale of our pattern + hardware kits, but we also noticed that we were selling a good deal of hardware in support of other bag patterns on the market, from both independent & commercial designers. Additionally, we began getting inquiries from LQS’s about our hardware. Having seen it online or in items made by their customers, store owners wanted to know if we were willing to wholesale it.
But I resisted this whole idea.
First of all, fulfilling orders that included hardware tends to be tedious and way more time consuming than pattern-only orders.
And secondly, I found the whole idea of packaging and tagging our hardware for sale in retail stores very intimidating.
And thirdly and perhaps more importantly, it was 2010 and we were in the midst of a pretty deep recession. Stores were struggling and many were closing left and right and it just didn’t seem like the right time to take on all the inventory that would be necessary in order to launch a whole new product line. So I told myself, it’s just not the right time.
But here’s the deal…
I was talking with a fellow designer whom I greatly admire at Quilt Market that Fall and seemingly out of nowhere she asked me if I had ever considered launching my own hardware line. Her advice? Good quality hardware like ours was very difficult for both store-owners & customers to source on their own and in her opinion the market was ripe for our products. She suggested we go for it and I promised I’d think long and hard about it, but I wasn’t convinced. at. all. Not only was it scary to think about the amount of capital it would take to start up a hardware line, but there was also inventory & storage issues to consider. Let’s face it, we didn’t design our studio with a future hardware product line in mind!
Fast forward 6 months… and we’re back at Quilt Market in Salt Lake City (Spring 2011) and still with no hardware line when who should walk into my booth but Nancy Weber, the head buyer at Checker Distributors. As it turned out, Spring Market was S-L-O-W that year (painfully slow) and Nancy had time on her hands to talk…and she wanted to know, “When was I going to start selling that beautiful hardware to her?” I told her about my reservations but her advice was simple. “Don’t start by launching a complete line of hardware, just launch the pieces needed for the next new pattern. Do that each time you roll out a new pattern and pretty soon you have a complete line!” This made totally good sense to me! Nancy really was a fantastic buyer and I really miss her (I hope she’s enjoying her retirement!).
It was a EUREKA moment!
So… that summer as I was working up the Baggalista pattern, I was also making preparations to launch the first 3 items in our new notions line… a sew-in invisible magnet snap, and a slide buckle & loop combo in two metal colors, and that October we were off and running at the Fall Quilt Market!
Since then, we’ve stuck with Nancy’s formula, adding new hardware to our line with every new pattern roll-out. And the bottom line is; the notions line has definitely enhanced both our pattern AND our zipper line!
My only regret at this point is that I didn’t listen to the good advice I was getting a long time before I did!
And now…. it’s YOUR turn!
So… do you have any suggestions for either hardware that you’d like to see us carry or that you’re having difficulty sourcing on your own? And remember, we love reading your comments and answering your questions too, so please feel free to leave either or both in the space provided below.
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