Sign & Digital Graphics

Start Here October '19

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91 S T A R T H E R E 2 0 1 9 your business card to bulletin boards or updating social media with a photo of your latest order. Even the little things count and add up over time. And finally, when it comes to interacting with customers and taking orders, it is essential that you develop a consistent sales process. Every order should have written documentation, a sales agreement that includes your business name, the customer's name, and their phone number and email. On this agreement, you need to specify the products that are being ordered by brands, styles, colors, sizes, and quantities. Note the payment terms of the agreement, such as a 50% deposit, balance due on delivery, etc. List the price of each unique item based on a specific quantity. Indicate the due date and how the customer will receive the goods. At the bottom of the agreement, have the customer sign it and date it. Note the deposit and payment details right on the agreement. If the customer contacts you to make any changes to an order they have already placed with you, request confirmation of that change in writing by email and add the change orders to their agreement. Resources One of the best things you can do to jump start your business is to connect with other embroiderers and apparel decoration professionals. It is not likely that someone else in your home- town will want to mentor you, but what about in communities a bit farther away or online? Attend at least one industry trade show a year to see what is new, what is changing, and to find trends that you can bring back for your customers. Subscribe to and read industry magazines like this one to stay current. Your suppliers and sales reps often have a wealth of knowl- edge that is helpful. Take the time to develop relationships with them. You will succeed more quickly when you think of yourself as a business owner/entrepreneur and not just an embroiderer or apparel decorator. The difference between thinking like an owner or a product producer is often an early indicator of how successful you will become. People are not walking into your business naked. They need more than a shirt to wear with some colorful threads in it. Learn to discover the customer's 'what,' or 'why,' and you will never have any real competition. Stop selling stuff and start offering solutions. IN PRACTICE Milford Adams and Kalyn Cabbil, Embrace Shoelace Designs What got you into this particular industry and dis- cipline? I have been sewing for over 30 years designing wed- ding gowns with hand embroidery. After relocating to Wisconsin, I toured a Chicago International Quilt Expose in 2008 introducing me to machine embroi- dery and digitizing. It was love at first sight. This started as a hobby that now has grown into an excit- ing business venture. I especially enjoy creating my own embroidery designs. What has been your most popular application? My partner and I were exploring niche markets with embroidery, and an idea came to us after embroider- ing on a canvas athletic shoe as a gift to a family member. We realized how plain the shoelaces looked. I added a simple block font to the 'center bridge' area of the shoelace using an application process I devel- oped and the rest as they say is history. Today we are an e-commerce business that spe- cializes in personalized decorated shoelaces, Embrace Shoelace Designs. What has been one of your biggest successes in this business? We often get the "Wow, that's interesting, I've never seen that" remark when we market our product. The personal design shoe industry has grown over the years since the introduction of products like Air Jordans and our customers love the idea of being able to design their own shoelaces to complete the look of their footwear. There are colorful, printed and woven design type shoelaces on the market, but not embroidered shoe- laces. This application is unique and more durable for this type of accessory. Our customers can personal- ize their shoelaces with designs, fonts or a mixture of both, making design possibilities limitless. What do you wish you had known from the begin- ning instead of learning through experience? How difficult it would be to find a U.S. based manu- facturer for shoelaces. We found wholesalers every- where that sell shoelaces that are made overseas, but we needed something special. The shoelaces we offer are a custom width, which gives us the ability to add embroidery designs. It took us almost two years to locate a U.S. manufacturer that could produce this custom product for us and was willing to work with a little guy. Keeping a variety of dif- ferent hoops on hand allows for unusual and otherwise hard to hoop items to be embroidered. (Image cour- tesy Midwest Products)

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