Monday, January 24, 2011

Plans within plans

While I'm in the process of moving my designs forward to final versions in readiness for production, I have been doing a number of activities on the side to keep the ball rolling. This includes taming the twitterverse so that my company can develop an internet presence, on the one hand, but also putting down on paper a series of preliminary versions of policy documents.

As a researcher with a reputation for "out-of-the-box" thinking, I have long recognized the value and importance of planning, and writing down one's plans. Twenty years ago, as I was entering the academic world as a young professor, I set down on paper my long term plans, which at the time consisted of developing a cogent linkage/platform between the arts and the sciences. In 1990, this was a radical goal - academia was a long way from welcoming such a prospect with open arms. Even today, although there are many more venues where collaboration between the arts and the sciences is taking place, there is still a great deal of resistance to this program. So it seemed unusual and daring at the time.

Mind you, I didn't proclaim my goals up and down my department, but I did quietly work away at them, so that, 20 years later, I achieved what I set out to do.

Over the course of those years, I was involved in setting up a major and well-funded research network as well as managing a research centre and initiating an arts-science business venture. I learned how to write a business plan, and initiated and led several large-scale consultation exercices aimed at developing strategic plans. So I have a good deal of knowledge and savoir-faire about how these things are done.

For my fledgling company, in order to solicit a bank loan, I had to write a business plan. These last couple of weeks, using the business plan as a basis, I have started to set down on paper my understanding of where gdotmoda's marketing efforts need to go - i.e. a marketing plan. Right now, the company consists of only me, but within the next few weeks I shall be hiring an assistant as well as a number of production seamstresses/seamsters. For the assistant, at least, I need to work out a clear approach to marketing. But even simply for myself, writing down my understanding as it develops through voluminous reading is an important task. There are so many things to remember, that a clear set of plans to steer by seems to me, essential. My marketing plan has two major sections, one for internet marketing and one for local marketing. These two subareas have very different marketing needs, and require almost separate marketing plans.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Keeping the books!

I know these blog entries don't seem to have anything to do with sewing and design, but as someone who is going through the motions of developing a fashion design business, I think someone may find this useful, as I'm not the only person interested in doing fashion as a business who began with very little knowledge of how to do this! After a quiet time over Christmas as I spent time more with my family than with the project, I started the new year flat on my back with a bad cold. It's only in the last two days that I've started to feel better.

I've started to systematically organize my research effort. Hence one of the tasks I will need to do soon will be to identify my most likely sources of fabric. I've still not made all my decisions in this regard, for example, off-shore versus fabrics produced in Canada or North America - right now, I'm trying to cost it all out and find good quality fabrics at prices that make sense. As I started to make lists of potential fabric sources, I realized I really needed to organize these into a database - my company will need to manage its sources rather more systematically than haphazardly. After some time looking into database software, I decided that what I really needed was to start looking into financial management software, since the fabric sourcing is intimately tied to many of the financial issues, and to develop the sourcing files simply as contact lists, using AddressBook on my Mac.

As a result, I spent time over the weekend reading up on reviews of accounting software for small businesses with a particular focus on MacOS-compatible software. Despite some discussion about a possible Peachtree version for Mac, I was not able to obtain any direct demo for this - instead I downloaded a demo version of AccountEdge (formerly MYOB).

My efforts to understand this software were hampered by my lack of experience with basic accounting principles. But as I struggled with the software, I kept telling myself - "hey, you're a senior academic, this isn't rocket science, tons of people work with this all the time, you just need to 'catch the trick' and you'll be fine". And when I stepped back to read some basic texts about accounting 101, I did finally 'get it', and from that point on, I've been able to use the software with only a few teething problems. The "trick", no doubt obvious to all and sundry who are familiar with accounting, is that you have to double up entries on the Debit side with entries on the Credit side. To some extent, the software does this for you, but until I understood the principle, I was producing nonsense.

Other teething issues were the realization that I needed to turn on "multiple currencies", since many internet purchases are in US$ (or even Euros) and not just in Canadian $, and then I had to figure out how to modify the default exchange rates to something like where they are now. I'm still not at home with invoicing, but I do feel that I am beginning to get a handle on how to use the accounting software to stay abreast of the financial management of my company. At this point, I'm not managing much more than some of the early financial outlays, but even for these I now have a cumulative figure of how much I've paid out to deal with a range of "start-up" issues as well as some ability to understand how these costs distribute across different categories of purchases.

I'm still waiting for the provincial registration papers to come back with tax numbers assigned, while in the mean time moving forward with finalizing the prototypes so that when the start-up money clears, I'll be set to get the production machinery in motion!