Monday, March 30, 2009

Patent Process

Last April I applied for a provisional patent for the Bubele Loop. By applying for a provisional patent, an inventor is able to cut costs and is given a full year to test the market with the new invention. Well, my year is almost up! I prepared the patent paperwork myself which is not advised but given that I do not have thousands to spend on a patent attorney, this was my only option. I spent hours researching the right way to prepare the required documents and I used an online manual provided by the website.

I did the search on my own because this can be an expensive process. A search is when you spend countless hours searching any similar terms to your invention through filed patents. It is recommended that you pay for the search before you file because if you file and then their search comes back with a similar invention then you get denied and you lose the filing fee. But, since I was able to file as a "small entity" it only cost $82 to file for a non-provisional patent. The search would have cost more than this so it works out better in my situation just to go ahead with the filing process.

It is exhausting going through all the information needed, but it will be worth it in the end if a patent is granted and I was able to save all that money! Some worry that if they file the documents themselves that it will be rejected but I filed my own provisional patent and I filed my own trademark application and even though I had to fix a few errors and pay an extra fee, it was still a ton less than hiring a lawyer.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Updating inventory

Keeping a constant eye on inventory and updating on a regular basis is essential! The last time I did inventory was before I updated the site and before I hired a sales rep in the Mid West. After online sales and sales from retailers, I thought I should go over inventory again. What a mess!! :)

My actual inventory is way off of what I had counted and tracked last time. Why is this? Well, one reason may be when I need to send off media kits in a hurry, I just grab something and NOT mark it down. Or I mark it down, but not on the actual inventory sheet.

Because my items are mix and match, I really need to know exactly what I have in stock at all times. If a retailer calls me on Monday morning and asks what I have in stock for immediate delivery, I better know what I am talking about!

So, my advice on inventory control if you are a start up clothing line is to ALWAYS keep track! Find what method works best for you. I think I may need a clipboard hanging up in my face that I can grab and mark down quickly if something goes out. I have inventory management software which is good but doing both and reconciling at the end of the week is what has to be done.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Giving to charity makes sense

I had a great discussion today with my 5 year old. It was about giving to charity.

Adam was loading up the car (the tiny prius) full of things we didn't need any longer to drop them off at the Salvation Army. Dylan asked why daddy was putting all of our stuff in the car and I told him where it was going and of course he wanted to know more about this whole charity thing...

I said, "Well, when we don't need things any more like this old rocking chair, we donate it to a place that gives it to people that may need something they can't afford. A new mommy may need this rocking chair to rock her baby."

He looked at me and said "OH! That makes sense!" It was like a little light went off. He understood that there are people out there who would like some of the things we have for ourselves that may not be able to afford it. He knows all about money and how it works. He has had his own little bank for the past year and when he wants a new toy, he has to save for it. So, the basic concepts are there.

The conversation ended with his ideas for that new mommy to utilize the cool side pockets in the rocking chair. Kids are compassionate by nature I think.

I have some charities that have been on my mind lately that I want to donate to. I will be setting that up soon through Bubele and will post more info at a later date :)

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Selling to retailers

It's been almost 2 years since Bubele was started and I recently found a sales rep in the mid west and decided to hire her to show Bubele at the trade shows she does. So far, so good. She has brought in quite a few orders! I was hoping that I would have more of an idea what retailers would want and narrow down what I should reproduce.

Due to lack of funding, I only have very limited stock of each style and color. I did this so I could have more variety with the Mix and Match pieces. Now, I am getting ready to finalize my reproduction and I am so confused! The design I thought would be the least popular- the multi stripes- is actually selling. It's a good thing, but I had planned on phasing out the stripes and bring in a new print to mix and match with the dots and regular stripes.

I also planned on introducing 2 more styles: t-shirts and girls top/dress. Each will have the Bubele Loop and will be mainly for replacing the bigger sizes in the Bodysuits I decided to drop. I found that bodysuits over size 12 months do not sell very well.

I am producing more than I did last time, although I don't think it will be enough for the sales I am projecting. I am not worried about ordering too much, I know they will sell eventually. I am worried about funding all this up front! Awhile back I considered bringing an investor on board but decided against it. But, if I don't produce enough stock then I am stuck telling retailers that I am out and possibly losing those and future sales.

I am all over the place with this! Any one have advice for how they plan how much stock to keep?