By and large, I have liked Fashion Incubator since finding them a while back.  But I part ways with them over some of their thoughts re: CPSIA. (And pardon typos, I’m typing with my left hand, Wally sleeping/nursing/coughing in my right arm and Genna sleeping on my left upper arm.)

Here is a quote from their website about tiny businesses:

Tiny enterprises, self described (many are no different from us)
Which brings me to the tiniest of producers who stand the most to gain. Yes they do. Yes, I get that their homes and livelihoods will be dramatically affected in the same ways one would be impacted if one suddenly lost their job (no different than stitchers being put out of work when the largest producers go under). Some of them are making up household budget shortfalls and may have to go to work leaving their kids in daycare, definitely an unpalatable choice. Some may have difficulty securing work. However, of everyone, they have the most flexibility because they can react to produce basically the day market conditions change. I do predict some big changes in this market though. It will be more difficult for them to use fabrics they buy at the store because they most likely won’t be able to get certifications from retailers. In some ways it could be good because it will force them to overcome some trepidation and attend a wholesale fabric show. If you know where to shop, minimums just aren’t that high and you do have to know how to talk to people.

With respect to the tiniest of producers, I think an issue that has not been discussed openly is the conflict born of entitlement, often expressed in blogs and forums across the web as “freedom”. As the system existed, they had the freedom and entitlement to conduct their affairs as they saw fit and it won’t be that way anymore. It is only natural to resent that. We all resent forced change but it’s not practical to wallow in it or throw fits about it. Even under ideal modifications, this law will force many to either become more professional or get into something else. If this is something you love, it can only rankle being forced to put on a suit that’s too new or big for you. The truth is though, the only difference between many Etsy and eBay sellers and members of our forum is not company size but professionalism (for some reason, visitors and forum guests think we’re all big companies).

Tgis may be true for small apparel manufacturers. But I know, well, for one thing, going to a wholesale fabric show is not an option for me. First, I do not think it is likely appropriate to attend with small children. I am unwilling to travel overnight sans chidren – particularly those under 1 year old. Travel as a familu is impractical unless we want to forgo vacation and use dh’s vacation time to go to trade shows instead.

Second, wholesale minimums might not be that large if you know where to shop (and I know where to shop for the fabrics I use a lot of). But they’re certainly higher than 2 yards, which is my typical purchase for print fabrics (other than flannel). Two yards will make four Mei Tais, and four MTs is typically all I want/can sell from any particular print. 2.5 yards will make one ring sling. Two yards will make dozens of Cycle Pad Bags, six changing pads, three large wet bags, or about 6 small diaper outers.

I could certainly increase that, but even going up to a bolt (let’s say a bolt of the average cotton print is 8 yards) gives me 24 changing pads from that bolt. Consider that I typically restock 20 changing pads at a time, at least a dozen prints per restocking, it will take me over a year to go through just a single bolt of fabric.

Carrying that logic and math through to the conclusion, I will be able to offer far, far fewer prints. Much, much less variety.

Third, then continuning with the above point, I have less variety. Let’s say that currently, over the course of the year, I sell 100 MT carriers. Each of those 100 carriers are different. With having to buy fabric wholesale, I’ll be able to offer only 10 different prints. This will likely then appeal to fewer people resulting in fewer sales. Most of us very small diaper and sling makers rely on our variety to remain competitive. Everyone has the Frog Pond print from Bummis. Not too many people have the Cats In Space print from Wallypop.

Fourth, oddly, I currently get Better Than Wholesale prices by buying retail. I know, it’s crazy. But if I shop right, with sales or coupons or special discounts, I get my twill for less than what I could realistically get it for wholesale. Same with flannel. Because unless I’m willing to buy in serious bulk, I can’t get the really really good prices, I just get the sorta good prices. So having to buy wholesale actually makes my costs go up. My costs go up = my prices go up. My prices go up = less competitive against the “big guys” = fewer sales = no reason to buy fabric wholesale because I can’t go through it. It’s a circle. A bad circle.

Fifth, because I’m so small, I do have a lot more flexibility. I also have a much smaller margin. I truly cannot afford to NOT be able to use the fabrics and supplies I currently have in stock. There is a chance I could sell them off, but I really don’t run a fabric store. (The few fabrics I do sell for home sewers are almost more of a pain than they’re worth – it’s the very least efficient part of my operation.)

Now, I get their point. All this is part of being “more professional.” Yes. And that’s not necessarily a bad thing. It’s like when I gripe about home sewers who start selling their extras for a little extra income. They can dodge a lot of expenses I can’t since I’m an actual business. (Insurance, compliance with the law, respecting zoning ordinances, labeling laws, collecting sales tax, expenses involved in maintaining accurate records, etc.) I’ve had customers ask why my dipes, which are largely the same as Jo Schmoe’s down the street, cost more. She’s not a business; I am.

The same would be true of why my stuff is less expensive than some of the bigger companies’ and maybe I just need to suck it up and “grow up.”

But I don’t want to, darnit! (picture me on the floor throwing a tantrum.) But it’s more than not wanting to. It’s knowing that I can’t survive in the middle ground. I have to either stay very small like I am, or I have to actually be a big company. And Wallypop was never supposed to be a big company. It cannot and will not move out of my basement until my children are also out of my basement.

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About sarahtar

Our Family lives in central Iowa. We are Christians, conservatives, and crunchy granola heads. We love the outdoors, photography, and lindy hop. Turn ons are people who are polite, honesty, and really good root beer. Turn offs are mean people and people who make my life more difficult.

Posted on December 17, 2008, in Information, Sweatshop. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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