Today we celebrate the thousands of small business retailers that are such an important part of the RuffleButts family! There are many paths in life and the path of small business ownership is not for the faint of heart, but without those that choose to take it on, our communities would be much different. Here are a few stats from Entrepreneur.com:
- Almost half of U.S. jobs are held in companies of fewer than 500 employees.
- 54% of U.S. sales happen at small businesses.
- Small business donate 250% more than larger business to nonprofits and community causes.
At RuffleButts, we work with the most amazing boutiques all around the world. These boutiques contribute to their communities, from jobs, to relationships with the neighborhood, to giving back in so many ways. The people that we work with on a daily basis at these stores touch our lives regularly, many of them carrying RuffleButts since the very beginning. So, today we would like to share with you 5 reasons you should shop your local boutiques this Small Business Saturday:
1. Because the owner is likely your neighbor and maybe even your friend. Small business owners are not those Executives working to purchase a 3rd lake house and 10th car. They are your neighbor, working to put their kids through college and pay off their home. Small business owners wear many, many hats, and their work is often never done, but they do their jobs with passion and commitment, dedicated to their business.
2. Because boutique owners, unlike most big box chains, often spend time talking with their customers and discussing their needs. They then find the best brands to carry in their stores to fill these needs. These brands may not be the cheapest options out there, but they are often small businesses themselves and many, many of them create goods of a quality level that far surpass those of the big box retailer...like RuffleButts =)
3. Because local boutiques create local jobs employing local residents. It is likely that your teenager will someday be looking for a part-time job and these local boutiques are the places they will work and grow. I worked in a local dance shop called Not Just Dancewear as a teenager and learned so much about running an apparel store. I also used the money to purchase my 1st car. I will never forget that experience.
4. Because most local boutiques give back to the communities that support their business. As noted above, small businesses donate significantly more to community causes than large business. Many of the boutique owners we work with here at RuffleButts sit on boards of local nonprofits and organize community events for local charities. At RuffleButts, childhood cancer is something near and dear to our hearts. While today, we are talking about local boutiques, RuffleButts is also a small business. We are involved with our local community here in Dallas/Fort Worth, and are currently working with Cook's Children's Hospital to pay it forward and touch as many lives as we possibly can. Like many other entrepreneurs and small business owners, I started RuffleButts with big dreams, but very high up the list of those dreams was using this business to do something bigger than myself. Our customers enable us to pursue that dream daily.
5. Because they care. I can't speak for every single boutique out there, but I can speak for many of the boutiques that are a part of the RuffleButt family. These boutiques care about their customers. They work hard to ensure they stock the best brands and that those brands meet the quality expectations of their customers. They will go above and beyond to ensure a fabulous experience for their customers. When we come out with new styles, our boutiques will select styles based on individual customers, and they often even know them by name. There is something wonderful about buying from someone who knows your name!
With all of the hustle and bustle of Black Friday, today, we celebrate Small Business Saturday and the RuffleButts Retailers that are a part of it. Without them, our dreams would not be possible and your communities would not be the same. We celebrate the small business owners, their determination, commitment, generosity, and love for their communities. To find your local boutique that carries RuffleButts and/or RuggedButts click here. If your local boutique doesn't yet carry the brands, please send us a quick message here and we'll reach out to them. Happy Small Business Saturday!
I am often emailed with specific business questions, and although I would love to answer them all, I sometimes fall a little behind. In attempt to help anyone and everyone finding this type of info helpful, I am going to try to give you my 2 cents here:
For national trade shows...
I am truly not the expert on this one. The only trade show that I have personally attended was KIDShow Las Vegas when I first launched the company in 2007. Ever since, I have been torn on the decision to attend these events. The cost is extremely high when factoring in travel and all of the additional costs on top of the booth. Although, with that said, it is all about ROI. If you write enough sales to cover your cost, it is a no-brainer, especially with re-orders down the road. If you don't write enough sales to cover the cost, is the exposure worth it? The trouble is you never know how much you're gonna write until the money has been spent and the show is over.
Another interesting piece of this puzzle for us is that we have been extremely blessed by the fact that 95% of our wholesale customers have come to us. In the past 3 years, we really haven't participated in trade shows or trade advertising. Fortunately, we have incredibly supportive fans who often recommend our products to their favorite stores. We also have two super sweet sales reps at their local markets who have introduced their clients to our brand. As our business grows, we continue to expand and explore other opportunities, but so far this is where we stand with trade shows.
Other events (specifically the Boom Boom Room):
Ok, I get this question often, and I totally understand why, but it is a tough one to answer. Here's why...I truly believe that most events are what you make of them and 90% of the time, they are a lot of expense for an ROI that rarely justifies it. For me personally, I am glad that we did the Boom Boom Room and am grateful that Jayneoni extended the invite. With that said, I feel like, over the years, it seems as though almost all children's product companies have received the same invite, and the reviews are quite mixed. For me, it is all about expectations. If you expect to walk into some event, to be surrounded by glamorous celebrities and for your line to become a Hollywood hit overnight, then this is not the place for you. If you are going into this as a possible press opportunity and fun experience, then I think it could be worth the cost. For me, I'm glad we went when we did, but don't have plans to return in the near future.
I find that so much in this business is hit or miss, trial and error. You truly have to find what works for you. I would say that most of our business friends do participate in these trade shows and some attend the Boom Boom event year after year. I find that I often stray from the norm in the business and do what works for us. With that said, this may not necessarily be what works for you.
In response to this blog, I receive numerous emails from other entrepreneurs looking for input and/or guidance regarding specific situations. I would say that manufacturing seems to be the biggest challenge across the board, but once you finally have something made, the next most popular question is how to get it into stores. Yes, this is the million dollar question! Over the past few years our company has grown organically, but I have often thought, it sure would be nice if all of the stores that are just now learning about us had heard of our brand even just a year earlier! They often feel the same way, once they find that our products are typically a pretty consistent seller for them. So, how do you get your products into stores?
1. Word of mouth
Yes, the is obviously the easiest and least time-consuming, but is the non-aggresive approach of letting stores learn about your products through other avenues. I always love to hear that a store is applying to carry our products after numerous customers have requested that they carry our brand! This obviously shows us that we are on the right track, but it also shows me that we have not done a great job of letting these stores know that we exist.
This is obviously the most expensive form of spreading the word. The great thing is that it most often pays for itself in the long-run, but in the start-up phase, we all know that cash is not always the easiest thing to come by.
This is definitely my recommendation for those of you in the beginning phases. Truly it is wonderful at any stage, but the great thing about editorial is that it doesn't cost a thing. Okay, maybe a sample or two, but that is certainly well worth it! Editorial was a large factor in our initial growth. We were very fortunate to receive buzz from some fabulous publications that really helped to earn us credibility as we were gaining momentum. My advice here...you don't get what you don't ask for you. Get out there, you have nothing to lose!
4. Selling directly to stores
This can be a bit discouraging at first, but if you have proof and therefore confidence that your products will sell, that will relay to your wholesale customers. Don't waste their time, know who they are and why your products are a good fit. Also know that you will receive more "I don't have time" than "sure, let's take a look at that", but for every "sure" your brand is building and the ratio works itself out as stores realize that there really is something in it for them. Put yourself in their shoes...there are truly a ton of great products out there, but there are also quite a few that aren't so great. They need to know that this is going to help their business.
When selling to stores, what do you need (this was a question that I just received this week, specifically inquiring about the items below)? Hope this is helpful Kristi!
1. Brochures / line sheets
We started out with basic line sheets, but have found them to be a bit old school in some ways. Obviously they are neccessary, but my advice is to keep them simple. Let stores know what you are offering and at what price. We now use a simple brochure for our basic products to convey the line in general and then we assist them in selecting the items best for their store.
2. Swatches / samples
If you are meeting with a store in-person, they will likely want to see some samples and swatches. They are just like any shopper, and if possible, would like to see what they are purchasing. I wouldn't advise taking in your entire apparel line on the first appointment, but be prepared to give them a good feel for your product. This is also where websites can be super helpful. If you have great lifestyle pictures on your website, this can often eliminate the need for samples, saving everyone the hassle.
3. Sales order form
Yes, once they give you their order, you will need to write it on something (unless you have an online ordering system). Honestly, I ordered a ton of carbon copies of a RuffleButts order form when we first started, and I still have them sitting in our office today. We RARELY use these since most of our ordering is through our website, but you better have something that looks professional to take orders in the beginning. Here is a link to a sale order that I found online. It is pretty basic, but a good guideline for getting started.
So, this is all just my personal opinion, but I hope it helps =)