when the going gets tough, keep it moving forward....
At the end of July I thought I was on the verge of blowing d&w up and then everything I'd set up fell apart real quick (again).
With zero working capital, I'd spent the past 4 months begging, borrowing, trading with everyone imaginable to develop the first collection beyond t-shirts and had also set everything up for the most spectacular summer shoot/launch ever. I promised everyone involved that the funds to pay for it all was guaranteed to come "any day now" and I actually believed it as I was having meetings with several big time investors and they all seemed very interested and ready to jump on board. The problem was that I prematurely kept moving full speed ahead so as not to loose any time, convinced that one of the investors would provide the funds needed to pay for everything in no time but didn't have anything actually guaranteed yet. (and had maybe $500 in the bank)
I had a nyc designer putting together a full line of shorts, custom tees, ties, polos, woven's...almost free models lined up from the top nyc agency (how I got models who get paid $5000+ a day to work for free is another story in itself), a nationally known photographer, an entire pet line being sampled...all done by selling everyone on my vision and promising that the funds were on the way (again, i had no doubt that it was happening).
Its pretty obvious to everyone but me that anything involving investors can take a very long time and as soon as it became clear that nothing was going to happen anytime soon, all my awesome wheeling and dealing fell apart very quickly and I had to explain to people who were already putting in hours for me that I had to put everything on hold or cancel. My credibility took a major hit and I took it all pretty badly, angry that everything had blown up in my face and also mad at "everyone" for not "getting it" and not jumping right on board. (what do you mean you won't write me a check this instant?).
After not leaving the house for almost a week, puttering around feeling sorry for myself, I started to clear my head and write down what my current issues where (Advice: WRITE EVERYTHING DOWN). I had one issue: great ideas, insane motivation, no capital. With no one writing me any checks in the forseeable future, the bright spot was I was lucky to have a decent amount of t-shirt inventory still. There was only one solution to raise money: get out there and start selling.
I already had 7 trunk shows set up for the month of August so I hit those hard and I also signed up for a bunch of random events (I ended up doing 16 trunk show type events in August). Sometimes I'd wake up at 5am to drive two hours to a show that sucked but would wake at 4:30am to try another the next day. (falling asleep at the wheel on more than one occasion).
All in all at the end of August, I not only almost doubled my previous best month, my sales for the month were higher than what I brought in the whole of 2009, my first year in business.
Even though it was a ridiculous amount of work on my own, I was able to turn things right around by eventually realizing what any good startup entrepreneur should know, you have to roll with the punches (and some of those punches will come close to knocking you out), adapt quickly to every situation (can't afford to do a full line now like you planned? keep pushing tees while looking for the next opportunity to expand) and do whatever is necessary to keep moving forward.
The reason for this extremely long post is that I meet people all the time now who, like me, are in the startup phases of a line or some other concept and we are all looking for some magical advice to ensure our businesses will take off.
Well, for me that magical advice is that if you've first done your research and still think you have a shot (however small) at building a successful product/brand/whatever, then understand that you are about to take on one of the most harrowing experiences EVER. Things will fall apart majorly probably more than once, sulk and lick your wounds if you need to but get up quickly, assess your situation, adapt and most importantly keep it moving forward at all costs.
btw: based on how I did in August, I am opening up a showroom next month (still with zero backing)..... Details to come.
Front of new d&w showroom opening in October.