What I Learned About Production Sewing

While they may be distant relatives, home-sewing and production sewing are completely different animals.

Here are some of the things I learned when working with my consultant and visiting a contract sewing manufacturer.

Sewing Manufacturer

 

1. Industrial Machines are not the same as Home Sewing Machines

Industrial machines are not necessarily bigger and stronger like people may think. The difference is how they are used. A home sewing machine is designed to be a jack of all trades, master of none.  An industrial sewing machine is designed to do one thing very quickly and reliably.

If you’re making a pair of jeans at home, you will sew each individual seam with the same machine and you’ll need to reconfigure it for each operation.

If you’re sewing a pair of jeans in production, you will have a different machine to sew each seam.  Each machine will be set up to do it’s individual function as quickly as possible.  And when you’re using sewing attachments, it can be done VERY quickly.  Check out this video of a waistband attachment: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Gb3PSxRIARU (doing that on a home machine would be VERY time consuming and it would be difficult to get it straight)

2. My current method of Scrunchie Leash making is not scale-able. 

There are some things I learned that can immediately increase the efficiency of production, but there is one major roadblock to scaling the production of Scrunchie Leashes. Currently, we sew the leash inside-out and then turn it outside-out. There is no great way to perform this function in production. 

We examined a few different ways this could be overcome by sewing the leash outside-out from the beginning, but they all have different effects on the look and feel of the product and are heavily dependent on the material. So, the leash needs to be redesigned for manufacturability.

3. Massive gains in productivity are possible.

Seeing all the different machines that are made to put together clothing in record time shows me that it would be possible to make massive improvements to our own production.  Currently our production house (aka: my mom) is able to make about 6 leashes in an evening. If I can nail down a redesign and find some used industrial machines, it may be realistic for us to make 100 leashes per day while increasing the quality at the same time.

Increasing our capacity from 6 to 100 leashes per day would open up retail and wholesale possibilities. This is the goal and it feels within reach.

The Big Lessons Learned

  • Get help from experts. I paid a decent amount of money for my consultant, but it was worth every penny.  The amount I learned in those few hours face-to-face could have taken me months -or maybe years- of frustration to figure out, and I probably would have given up before I got here.
  • Make sure they’re the “right” experts. Had I talked to a home sewing “expert” I would not have gotten very far. The production environment and the home sewing world are completely different beasts.
  • Always learn and adapt.  Learning these new production techniques would be wasted if I wasn’t willing to alter our design to utilize them.

That trip gave me the direction and confidence I needed to move forward.  Before I was stuck thinking I couldn’t sell to retailers because I didn’t have production capacity and I couldn’t pay for production capacity because I couldn’t afford it without higher sales.  With my new knowledge, I feel empowered to improve our design, increase our production and scale this business.

 

 

How A Slapshot Taught Me About Business

When I was in college, I signed up for a lot of different intramural sports – many of them I’d never played before.

One evening my team and I were warming up for a hockey match when I noticed some of the guys ripping slapshots that looked like they had been shot out of a cannon rather than hit with a stick.

I secured a puck, wound up, and hit that puck with every bit of strength I could muster.  The puck slid leisurely across the ice.

“What?!” I thought “I just demolished that thing and it barely moved!”

I tried swinging even harder.  I tried holding the stick differently.  I tried twisting my body the wind up.  It didn’t matter what I tried, I couldn’t hit the puck as hard as these other guys.

freeimage-6929741-web

But then…

My friend Garvin skated up to me and explained how it works.  As any hockey player can tell you, you hit the ice in front of the puck.  The stick bends a little bit so when you hit the puck all that stored energy is unleashed.  I tried it and the puck rocketed out like I was Wayne Gretzky.

What That Has To Do With Business

When you’re trying to start your first business (or learn anything new), you’re going to encounter a lot of challenges and wonder why things aren’t working out the way your favorite entrepreneur podcast is telling you it will.

Why are your facebook ads not returning?

Why are people not following your blog?

Why aren’t people following your twitter account?

The slapshot taught me that even though I’m working hard and doing everything I see others doing, things work out a lot better if you stop trying to learn it by yourself.  Find people you can learn from.  Not just blogs and podcasts and online videos… you need real people.

When I was on that ice, I could see everything the other players were doing, but I still couldn’t figure out why it wasn’t working for me.

Get help from people that know more than you do. You’ll be glad you did.

 

 

Getting Back On – A Business Update

On Saturday, April 26, my friend Marty texted me:

“If you are going to skip out on kickball, the least you could do is write a blog post during that time so those of us who care can read something about what you are up to each week. ”

I told him I would post on that day… but I didn’t.

I’ve been failing recently at following through.  It can be hard when you’re a solopreneur because you don’t have somebody holding you accountable.

Nobody asks me if I accomplish what I was planning to accomplish. Nobody makes me explain myself when I fail.

As we all know, when you fail – when you fall off – the only thing to do is get back on.  The best time to write that blog post was on Saturday, April 26.  The second best time is now.

Scrunchie Dog Logo

Cue Business Update

There have been several things happening recently so I’m not going to be talking about any one thing in too much detail. If you’re only here to see how my facebook ads worked out, scroll to the bottom. :)

Contract Sewing Manufacturing

I read the book “Entrepreneur’s Guide to Sewn Product Manufacturing” and will be meeting with the author, Kathleen Fasanella, on May 18th & 19th.  We will be rapid prototyping the leash construction and meeting with a sewing contractor to discuss leash manufacturing.

You can see her site here: http://www.fashion-incubator.com/

I’m working hard on the leash design and finding fabric sources to make sure I’m ready for this meeting!

This is in an effort to make production scalable so I can begin marketing to retailers and going to…

Pet Expos

I’ll be signing up for several pet expos over the next few months in order to market the leashes to customers and retailers.  My hope is at-expo sales pay for most of the expo and the exposure continues to pay-off after the fact.

I really want to focus on developing good relationships with retailers.  They know what their customers like.  If I have to change the leash or switch to a different product altogether, they are the ones who will help me get there.

While there are many independent expos available, I’m planning to use the Amazing Pet Expos network (http://www.amazingpetexpos.com/) since I can get a multi-expo discount.

I’ll be locking in my expo dates around the end of May, after I get an idea of production schedule from the meeting on the 19th.

My Interview on the Chris Cerrone Show

This interview was actually recorded a couple weeks after Scrunchie Leash launched on Jan 23rd, but it finally went LIVE on April 25th.  Check it out! I think I only say a few dumb things…

http://www.cerroneshow.com/jacob-karasch-scrunchie-leash-chris-cerrone-interview/

National Small Business Week

Starting production and expos is going to put a major strain on my finances.  In order to help fund these expenses, I’m going to making a big sale push for National Small Business Week NEXT WEEK.

So on May 12 – May 16 you can get 10% off AND free shipping!

Here’s How:

  1. Buy a leash at http://www.scrunchieleash.com/
  2. For 10% off use the code: NSBW10
  3. For free shipping use the code: SHIP4NSBW

These codes are stackable, so you can use them BOTH during that week.

I will be posting on this blog, on the scrunchie leash blog, on twitter and facebook about this sale.  Please share the deal with your own network! I really need this sale to be successful so I can move forward with production.

Every post and share really helps.

Ok, on to the last topic in this already LONG post:

Facebook Ads

As you may know from reading previous posts, I’ve been experimenting with facebook ads.  This really needs it’s own post, but here are a few quick lessons learned:

  1. My ads rarely convert directly to sales, so running my ads for sales conversions doesn’t really work. Running ads for site visits works a lot better.
  2. Retargeting those who have already visited my site reminds people we’re still there.  It seems to be effective.
  3. Ads performed MUCH better when I made them more specific to the target audience.  For instance: ads that said “Check out Greenville’s new dog leash” performed better than ads that said “Check out this new dog leash” for my target audience in Greenville SC.
  4. The ads seem to take some time to soak in.  I ran the ads for a couple weeks with very few sales, BUT the sales kept coming after the ads stopped. I’m not sure I’m quite at a positive ROI yet, but there is definitely some good potential.  More learning is needed.

 

As always, if you have any comments or feedback, please leave a comment! I love hearing from others and it always helps to have people to chat with. :)