How We Grew Our Fashion Accessories Business To Over A Million Dollars In Sales

By Christine Syquia
8 Comments

As with any company, growth happens in stages, but especially a company with physical products. Research and development, sample making, marketing the product and perhaps even handling some of the preliminary sales are some of the stages of expansion.

However, with my handbag company charm and luck, to grow our business we realized we needed to find sales partners to handle our sales. To achieve the growth we wanted for our company, we had to be able to focus on churning out new designs and handling our infrastructure and growth; thus, we created a team of salespeople to bring our sales to the next level.

Business Mindset & Goals

With looking for salespeople in the fashion industry, our mindset was that we were looking for partners. Domestically and internationally, we sought out companies who had sales procedures in place, as well as a list of clients who had purchased from them in the past, and who would most likely purchase from them again. My immediate goal was to have a showroom in every market in the US – Atlanta, Dallas, New York, Los Angeles and Chicago.

It was important for us to find independent sales representatives (salespeople who would travel and call on customers), showrooms and international distributors. Several years later, when our business had stabilized and I felt secure in my company’s growth, we actively sought top-tier accounts, which we then handled in house. Eventually, our biggest client we maintained was the Home Shopping Network (HSN), and we grew that relationship to be one of their top handbag brands.

Where To Find Salespeople To Sell Your Product

In the beginning, when looking for salespeople to sell our product, we signed up for our first trade show, and then just keep ‘our ears to the ground’ for news of showrooms or salespeople who were looking for new and fresh lines. I certainly would approach people who I knew owned multi-line showrooms and ask them to take a look at our brand. It was during the New York shows that I met our first showroom who was based in Atlanta. In reality, we never actually left our Atlanta showroom as we were always very pleased with their performance.

After Atlanta, we added our Dallas showroom and then Los Angeles. Our Los Angeles showroom opened up the specialty realtor Nordstrom account for us. After we were in Nordstrom for our first couple test orders, they eventually put us in all stores (80+) and purchased our wallets and belts, as well as our handbags. At this point, Nordstrom was ordering monthly orders from us for their entire company, which in retail lingo is called an all-door order.

Once we were in Nordstrom, it was quite easy for us to find a prestigious New York showroom. One of our top goals was always to have a New York showroom, especially one who had established relationships with the top accounts from Europe, the Middle East and Russia.

Things really started to come together after our New York showroom was in place, because we then signed an exclusive contract with a distributor for the Middle East. Our contract was a multi-year agreement, which resulted in a $100,000 USD minimum buy each year and granted exclusivity to our distributor in the Middle East.

Because of this exclusive agreement, we opened up charm and luck boutiques in several high-end stores in Dubia and Riyadh. Right after this deal was done, we inked a deal with another distributor in Germany, as well as a distributor in Japan.

Business Growth Follows Clear Goals

Although these events seem rather organic, I was very systematic about how I wanted our company growth to be. My first goal was to establish a strong distribution channel here in the US. Secondly, as we were growing our business domestically, we then went after high profile and large stores when we felt we could handle their production demands. Thirdly, we pursued and were pursued by international game changers who propelled our business forward. Lastly, almost all of the showrooms, salespeople and distributors that we worked with stayed with us for years.

One of my personal goals has always been retention. I tried very hard to make the right decisions about distribution agreements, partners and employees, so we would not have a lot of backward movement. In other words, I wanted growth and forward movement, and I did not want our progress to be impeded by poor training with our employees or salespeople. Consequently, I felt I needed to make the right decisions from the outset.

Before starting my handbag company, I worked at management in Nordstrom and had to hire and fire at least 100 people during my tenure. I really hated to invest time in someone and then have to lose them and start again, so I tried very hard to make the right decisions regarding work relationships.
Consequently, when I started my own company, I really tried to improve upon some of the hiring mistakes I made while at Nordstrom. These lessons I then applied to my hiring of employees, salespeople and even our trading partners such as our factories.

Application Of Lessons Learnt

The lessons I applied to my own company were:

  1. Listen to your inner voice or gut. I usually get a read about a person by spending a few minutes with them especially in a meeting environment. I have absolutely passed on deals that I did not have a good feeling about.
  2. Ask probing questions. How someone answers a question can be quite telling.
  3. Check references. If it is for an employee or new business partner, ask for references. I would always check at least three references.
  4. Review their written communication. This part mainly refers to employees, as it said something to me if there was a mistake on their resume or in their email communication. To me, it showed a lack of detail, and when working with fashion especially, it is all about the details.

In closing, in growing our company I applied the many lessons I learned along the way regarding treating people with respect, follow through and never letting an opportunity pass me by. When presented with the opportunity to meet with a new client unexpectedly or take an unscheduled phone call, we always did it. For me being an entrepreneur meant doing whatever we needed to do to bring our company to the next level, and by finding partners who helped with our sales, we were able to increase our sales very quickly.

Christine Syquia

About Christine Syquia

Christine Syquia is the owner of the Accessory Business 101. Get her free 30-page report which discusses how one can start a product based company with little to no experience. You can access the free report here. In addition to working with designers, Christine also enjoys working with local businesses as a business and expansion consultant in Santa Monica, California where she lives.

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8 Comments

  • Jon

    Interesting growth and it’s similar to what I’m planning with my business as well but in the luxury wooden toys business!

    Jon
    Founder of WoodMarvels.com

  • This is one of my favourite i.e. Fashions.

    Any business with this kind of products will never make loss as fashions are booming day by day. As there are many different aspects involved in it.

    Thus you have really shared very important information regarding this and I am sure it going to work definately and the main reason behind it that “fashions” is that thing for which any can ready to do anything no matter whether is paying of Bucks or anything else.

  • I would say advertisement on other blogs n sites also help to increase sales.
    With little pay fee it can happen.There are lots of other way like social media sites where can share website link with all friends and definitely get sale.Make as many as contacts you can online with niche sites.

    • Online promotion of business is a sure hit simply because of the widespread use of the internet. And what is so favorable is that it is even a cheaper means to market products.

  • Thank you for sharing your success story Christine.

    It is a good reminder of how having the right partners can propel business growth. I was just reading an article yesterday on how delegating tasks and getting skills on board must be learnt by entrepreneurs. And it seems that your sales team has done a fantastic job!

    Checking references and exercising due diligence are definitely a must especially when dealing with suppliers.

  • Thanks for the post Christine – as someone who started, grew and sold an ecommerce business, I went through some of the same challenges both online as well as offline when we were trying to establish a retail front. I can relate to your journey.

    I am interested in learning more about scalability. Though a very successful venture that lead in a nice exit for me, I have avoided dabbling back into retail business because of the hands on involvement. Are you someone who enjoys working in your business? I would be interested in learning more about how one can work ON their retail business and still grow it like you did.

    Thx and all the continuing best!

  • If the owners have a determination and the right attitude in the business there is no reason why success won’t follow. I learned a lot from this. Thanks Christine!

  • Wow that is really impressive, I will have to take a few tips form this article, great studd thanks.

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