My very, very good friend London Edwards has done the impossible. She has her products for sale in the Pottery Barn Kids catalog and website. There were ups and downs, good and bad days. It was a very long process that started last fall and just finally came to fruition last week. Her products debuted on the Pottery Barn Kids site late Thursday, July 22, 2010.
If you are like me and wondering how the hell...er heck did she do that - well I found out. Actually, I lived through it with her most of the past year. She was nice enough to answer a few questions to help others that might (like who wouldn't?) want to get into Pottery Barn Kids.
Can we get a little history about your Company, My Little Dish?
London - I started My Little Dish in 2001. Began wholesaling immediately with local stores, I never did any local shows. We did our first trade show in the first few months and again 6 months after that. Even though now I think trade shows are a waste of money, but I did learn the term "Licensing" from a neighboring booth. That turned out to be helpful in 2004 when I licensed some of my products.
How did you get into PBK? Did they contact you?
London- They called late one afternoon. I didn't answer because it was after hours and normally don't even check voice mail until the next day. Something told me to check right away and when I did, I about fell out of my chair. (I still have that voice mail saved on my phone. I also have the voice mail from when she called to confirm they were adding them to the new line.) I called them back and spoke to the senior buyer, who said they needed samples immediately could I overnight them!
I guess I should have asked her how on earth they found her, because I still do not know. I am guessing that if the buyer was searching for personalized dishes or plates, My Little Dish would be one of the first to come up. Something I wish I knew when starting a company, it helps to have the product name in the company name. I can not tell you how many times I am called to paint a house, paint a sale sign at a Burger King or ask if I am hirng contract painters.
What was the process like?
London - The process was long. Actually that's an understatement. From conception to the finished product it was exactly 8 months. With a lot of back and forth, design changes, many more samples and dealing with dozens of different people. Everyone I dealt with was very nice, but big companies can be interesting to deal with. Everything has to go through senior designers and buyers and they change their minds more than a teenage girl changes clothes!
Ahhhhh, like I said in the intro, I was going along with her on this entire ride, getting emails, texts and phone calls from her weekly and sometimes daily. I know for a fact it could be very frustrating sometimes for her , especially if you are not used to collaborating with so many people on your designs. When working with big companies (I have done it) you take the good with the bad and learn that it is not just you but an entire design team that is helping (or hindering) your designs.
How did you come up with your designs? Was it a collaborative effort?
London - They asked me for my top sellers and told me what they were looking for (sort of in a very vague manner) and I painted all 12 designs in both girl and boy colors. After they looked them over and told me they loved them, they started to pick them apart. They didn't like the black, could I change text color? This pink was too light, but that one was too dark. So after a few more batches of samples, we finally narrowed it down. Then they sent me a few bedding samples and asked for designs based on that. Voila! Done, sent the samples. They loved them and were going to take all of them.......then they weren't going to take all of them. Indecisive definitely, but with so many cooks in the kitchen, I got it! They were always very polite and very appreciative of everything, so it made the changes very bearable. I have been very appreciative of how kind everyone has been there. You hear stories about big companies. I have stories about some big companies. But this company has not disappointed me in the least, yet.
London - I can't remember anything they asked, but I can remember a comment that blew me away when talking to the first Buyer. She wanted a price break, because (of course) they are a profit driven company. When I asked her for the volume they thought they would do so I could run numbers, she said a similar product sold 10,000. 10,000 units? 10,000 dollars? For a quarter, for a year what? She said $10,000. I assumed she meant in a year. (Which my accountant informed me that plenty of my accounts sell that much in a year, so a price break might not be worth it.) Sooo.......I emailed her as much. Within seconds she shot back an email saying "No, that is $10,000 a week!!!!!!!" I began laughing hysterically. I'm not sure why, if I found it funny, or if it scared the hell out of me. But I couldn't stop laughing. All I kept thinking was OMG, that was for one product and they just took 12 of my designs.
Something to keep in mind is that many companies (large and small) always give out these huge projections for what they think they will sell. I have been doing this for eight years and never have they been correct. Almost always (except for one Halloween Plate) they were way off. It is very exciting and I hope that PBK is dead on, but just keep in mind that projections are not facts.
Anything else you can share for someone hoping to work with big Company? Bit of advice? Or something you wish you knew?
London - Ask a lot of questions, kill them with kindness, don't turn down additional products they want to add, because chances are they will narrow down the line eventually after numerous meetings with other buyers. I wish I had agreed to do the melamine, ornaments, frames and any and all they initially asked instead of being cautious. Some problems are good to have, so take them on and worry about how you produce them later. That's easy to say now, because I haven't started producing yet. So ask me again in a few months, in the middle of Christmas season!
Well, actually this is only half the story, I can't wait to see how this plays itself out. London is a hundred percent right about asking questions. Also I would add if you are itty bitty and run your business out of a closet....maybe do not share that. I never used to let on how small my company was - as long as I could deliver what they asked, that was good enough.
I have worked with some large and very, very large companies.(psst...Nordstrom, Target, Warm Biscuit Bedding when I was a newbie, Home Goods, Favorites Catalog, Femail Creations Catalog, The Right Start). One store even took an entire year to pay me. A. Year. I am not saying that will happen here, but if you choose to work with a large company know that you are doing everything on THEIR terms. Also, you may need to hire additional employees, rent more space, buy more supplies, purchase special packaging - added costs that you may not know when you get wined and dined by one of the big guys.