Chapter 13. First: Make. Then: Sell

So Roy cranked out a beautiful bag; essentially the one you’ve all admired and ordered. (Smirk. Everyone’s still due a “friends and family” discount. Just email me!)

I put together my first “line sheet” - a retail document that gives the specs of an item including measurements, listed features, a picture and (most importantly) the price. 

So with my inept power point skills shoved in the background, I put together a faux-power point document in Word and listed the measurements, the fact that my badass bag turned into a backpack, and oh. BTW – it retails for $800.

I knew that was an embarrassing price. 

But it was also realistic. Labor with Roy cost $185/bag. Add the $100 for materials, and conservatively estimate a 250% markup for retail and I’m barely making a dime from the bag.

(I also knew that declaring the price to anyone without bursting into laughter would put my acting skills to the test. I mean – I’d never ever blow $800 on a messenger bag.)

But that was the math. Plus, I knew that there would be a population out there who’d pay $800 for a bag…without even thinking. I’d make fewer bags, but they’d cost twice what I’d originally set out to make. That’s a wash, isn’t it?

And hopefully I’d establish a brand that could then have a mid-range and low-range subsidiary. I was making the Lexus model, hoping to soon make a Toyota and Scion model. 

But first: high-end luxury.

Within a few days, I happily shouldered my new bag and walked door-to-door to a couple dozen men’s and baby boutiques in Manhattan and Brooklyn. 

More often than not, the owners of the men’s boutiques were in the store. They’d listen to my quick schpiel as I tried to make the case that, yes – my diaper bag didfit well into their curated store full of hipster woolen pants and $400 button-downs.

They all said, “Nice. But no.”

As for baby boutiques? To a “T” (is that how one writes that expression?), they all said, “This is beautiful. I love it. Wow, you’ve really thought this through.”

And then I passed them my line sheet.
Usually laughed. “Sorry. We can’t sell for this amount. You belong in a department store. But good luck.”

And I’d head home. I was undeterred, but confused how to proceed.

Then I met Tracy.

Tracy was a mother of a child in my younger son’s nursery school. Ours was an neighborhood cooperative preschool. One of the parents’ duties was monthly meetings followed by drinking. Because duh.

I overheard Tracy say she was in fashion. I sidled over, introduced myself, and asked if we could have coffee. 

“Sure.”

“Like, soon.”

“Sure.”

“How about tomorrow morning?”

She laughed. “Sure.”

The next morning I bought her coffee and launched into the verbal story you’ve been reading for the last 11 chapters of “Starting Up a Start-Up.” 

I showed her the bag. She said, “This is great.”

“That’s awesome to hear. But ‘great’ doesn’t sell. Is it too expensive?”

“I don’t think so. There is that consumer out there.”

“Right. But none of these dozens of stores where I’ve door-knocked have responded well. It’s too expensive for them.”

“You belong in a department store.”

“Right,” I said. “But how do I do that?”

“Well, I know someone at Barney’s. I’ll put you in touch.”

My jaw dropped.

“Oh, yeah. I forgot to ask. What is it you do?”

She responded, “I work with fashion start-ups and build them into big companies.”

My jaw dropped further into the ground. 

And after picking it up, I charmingly and awkwardly said, “I mean…I don’t have any money, but…could you ever, um…work with me?”

She laughed. “You’re not ready for me. But I can help you with department stores, for now.

That'll do.