If you bought this book thinking you were getting a general overview of how to start a sewing based business, you’ve been misled. This is not:
How to Start a Sewing Business,
Sewing Business Success,
Secrets from the Sewing Industry.
Start a Successful Sewing Business.
This isn’t a generic fill in the blank how-to-start-an business book. Others have done a fine job of writing on basic business topics; but I won’t cheat you out of any basic business advice so here’s mine (in its entirety):
1. Taxes: Pay them (the IRS is easily annoyed).
2. Bookkeeping: Do it.
3. Accountants: Hire one.
4. Marketing and Advertising: A good idea!
5. Employees: Hire some when you’re ready.
6. Wages: Pay them (otherwise they’ll be disgruntled and annoyed).
7. Insurance: Get some.
8. Attorneys: Have one, just in case.
9. Business plans: Overdone lately, but write one.
10. Work space: You do need a place to work.
11. Telephone and utilities: You need those too.
12. Office supplies and postage: Supplies are handy, I’d recommend some of those.
13. Letterhead & business cards: A good idea too.
14. Financial planning: Yeah, do that too.
Now that I’ve dispensed the obligatory general-business-topics, I’ll confess that I’m not a general business-management guru. Luckily for you, I’m a trouble-shooter in the sewn products industry. This means my job is to prevent companies from going broke unnecessarily (as though any failure were necessary).
This book is everything else that no one tells you. It’s how to take your ideas, produce them, and sell them for profit. It’s not even about sewing; not really. You have more in common with auto-makers than alterationists. Has any auto-maker ever described themselves as being in the welding-metal-pieces-together business? Of course not. You have more in common with auto-makers because you both sell products, not process.
This book is how to start smart, plan for production, how to figure costing, plan material needs, engineer your production sewing set up, make design schedules and best of all, how to find people who can help you; people who really know their stuff. There are even lots of forms to keep you on schedule. But most of all you’ll learn the inside story, because there’s rumors on both sides.
The rumor inside the industry is that it takes technology, complicated equipment, and expensive services to make it. I know that’s hooey; it just takes motivation. It doesn’t take expensive technology and services; most successful companies wouldn’t know what POS or EDI was if they came up and hit them with a baseball bat. No, you don’t have to manufacture overseas, you don’t need to ‘motivate’ or otherwise intimidate the help, and you don’t have to make junk in order to turn a profit (who starts these rumors anyway?).
The rumors outside the industry are just plain silliness. Based on what I’ve heard, I can only conclude that these people are reciting urban myths, re-living fashion school or technical college from years ago, or from an old industry job they once had but just couldn’t cut. That’s not how it works. You’d be better off reading the entrails of a chicken or consulting a Ouija board or some other foolishness than listening to some of these people (who starts these rumors anyway?).
I wrote this book for and about the New Generation. The Designer-Entrepreneurs of today are the key to re-invigorating the industry; they are the future leaders of this industry. When I figured that out, I thought a book might keep some of them from starting bad habits or posing a danger to themselves. Then it occurred to me that this might be what was wrong with us. We never had a book. Everybody just reinvented the wheel. Repeatedly.
Since this is the very first book on how to start a sewn products company, I had nothing to base it on. So I wrote it using a process known as Reverse Engineering. Reverse engineering (in this case) meant combing through my tacit knowledge and industry work experience, and calling up some of my buddies from time to time to figure out why we did things in a certain way. But there weren’t any books I could use as references, so I had to figure it out on my own. There were no standards or guidelines written anywhere, other than the ones I had published previously. So, this book has very few citations or proofs.
You will notice this book is READABLE. It’s intended to be. It’s intended to be used and applied. It’s designed to keep people from going broke. A book doesn’t need to be stuffy and dull to be smart.
I could have written this book, using an impressive command of noun phrases, but that’s intimidating and no one would actually read it. I can’t help companies survive if they don’t read the book, so the book is simple and plain speaking; but it’s not simplistic or cursory. The point is, it doesn’t matter how right a writer is; a writer will never be real-world right if nobody reads the material. So, it’s readable.
You’ll notice this book is not “traditional”. That’s for two reasons. The first is, I’m not a ‘writer’ because I wouldn’t want to insult writing professionals with the comparison. So I broke a lot of rules not knowing how things are supposed to be done.
Second, you’ll notice right away that this material is opinionated, biased, and prejudicial. Well, that’s because I’m passionately committed to my vocation and I’m fanatically devoted to small design companies. Because I want you to succeed, I have used any cheap-shot rhetorical devices that will get your attention. In these pages I tease, beg, plead, nag, threaten, frighten, intimidate, cajole, make you laugh and cry, use guilt trips or any other thing I can think of for the sole purpose of persuading you to start smart!
Obviously, I really do care, otherwise, why would I have written in this format since it’s certain to offend some people? The truth is sometimes painful and you must know the facts. If you find you need to improve your system, then do it. Don’t dwell on the fact you were “wrong”. That’s counterproductive and no one ever built a business feeling bad about themselves. So get over it because you have work to do.
How and Why do Companies Fail?
It seems that everyone asks me this question, “How and why do companies fail?”
Companies fail for one reason. They think the rules don’t apply to them. Small companies skip steps in the process because they think that because they’re so small, the rules don’t apply to them.
Or they think that some topics don’t apply to them because they know the concepts inside out. This can be deadly for a small company. In my experience, I’ve found that small companies have the most problems in the areas they think they’ve already mastered. As an example, read the table of contents and pick out the topics you think you don’t need to read. Those are the very topics you should read first.
The rules apply to everyone, especially small companies. It doesn’t matter if you’re a one-person company making only one item or a huge corporation employing thousands. You don’t have to fail. You Are Responsible for Success.