How did a digital brand manager running major campaigns for Microsoft and other corporations become a designer and founder of a children’s luxury clothing line?
- How did she land her signature dress on the cover of Parenting and Hudson’s Childrenswear Review publications?
Watch and listen as she discusses …
Creating the Brand First
Manufacturing & Research
From embellished blanks to cut & sew and special dyes needed to create a clothing product to why she chose to keep her product U.S.A made; learn the in-depth first hand knowledge Rebecca gained through her experience.
Do you know what trend-forecasting is? Do you know what colors and silhouette’s are going to be in style 12 months from now? Do you know the time frame children’s wear lags behind women’s wear? Well, you’ll need to do your homework if you want to be relevant. Rebecca dives into how she approached researching and choosing her line.
Marketing & Public Relations
From building a brand on a small brand budget to getting bloggers to write reviews, hiring a publicist and understanding the value of PR, learn how Rebecca had over 8,000 unique visitors to her site and the results that followed.
From preparing to go to tradeshows to hiring sales reps, gain Rebecca’s knowledge of what worked and didn’t work and how she always follows the first rule of customer service “do what it takes!”
AND, if that isn’t enough, learn how she did it all with 3 small children while moving to 2 different states.
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READ the Transcript
Rachel Olsen: Hi I am Rachel Olsen founder of Best Mom Products where mompreneurs share their adventures in business. Today I am talking with Rebecca Kaykas-Wolff founder of Petit Couture luxury clothing line for children. The expert advice she received early on that helped lead her down the path of success from trunk shows into retail stores. Does that sound right Rebecca?
Rebecca Kaykas-Wolff: Yeah it sounds great.
Rachel Olsen: Okay, clear. Yeah, well welcome. I would like to get started today may be you can just tell our viewers and listeners how and when did this idea come to you?
Rebecca Kaykas-Wolff: So I had the benefit of quite frankly being on my 3rd maternity leave when I had the opportunity to actually do something about the idea that I had since my first daughter was born about 9 years ago. At this point and I was on maternity leave and sitting at a park with a friend of mine at the time and we were talking about, ‘gosh if we could only do something, what it would be’ and we both discovered that we shared an interest in children’s clothing and we had come up with the same name. And so that just seemed kind of like kismet and so it prompted me to actually do something about it and so Petite Couture was conceived at about three and a half years ago in Seattle when our family was living there and we put on – primarily started with trunk shows.
Rachel Olsen: Maybe tell us a little bit about your background, what were you doing when you are in maternity leave?
Rebecca Kaykas-Wolff: Sure. So and nothing to do with children’s apparel space that’s for sure, my background from a resume standpoint, what I have done professionally for over 20 years is that I am a digital marketer. And so I was running the Safeco or Liberty Mutual web activities in the US at the time and I just was on maternity leave, prior to that I worked for companies like Microsoft and T-Mobile, driving a lot of their marketing and brand marketing as well as digital marketing initiatives.
Rachel Olsen: Okay so you have a strong background then in brand marketing, so did you think that doing something like this would come fairly easy to you?
Rebecca Kaykas-Wolff: You know it’s kind of funny because I think that early on I had a nice little peppering of ego and bravado and so I thought, ‘gosh how hard can it be to start a children’s apparel line’ and the joke is on me because its really hard. And, but you are right what I did know how to do is build a brand and you had to define kind of the segment that I was looking for to find kind of the value proposition of the type of company that I wanted to have. And my favorite pass time is that I am a complete clothes horse and so I love fashion and it just kind of blended all of the things that I really liked.
Rachel Olsen: What was the first product that you created?
Rebecca Kaykas-Wolff: We created the brand and so because that’s kind of where my background came from we decided to like on the apparel side of the business there is two things that you can kind of create, you can create a T-shirt line kind of screen printed T-shirt line or you can create kind of original cut and sow pieces. Quite honestly I didn’t really know how to do original cut and sell at the time and so we started with defining what the brand was? What the logo was going to be? We knew what it wanted to stand for the business and the company and so we went through an iterative process together to come up with basically the owl concept; we were looking for something that was wise, whimsical and had kind of a hint of flair associated with it. And so if you take a peek at our logo and so hopefully we compressed it along with this…
Rebecca Kaykas-Wolff: …and looking at our logo the owl, is basically this great little creature but his body has this pixilated mask component and so its kind of an eye towards not only kind of classic and timeless design but something with a modern edge as well. So that’s what we did first.
Rachel Olsen: Tell me a little bit more about the manufacturing process then, because if you didn’t really know I remember when we talked previously you said the first you did was even Google ‘apparel manufacturer’?
Rebecca Kaykas-Wolff: So yeah, so the funny thing is was like I said earlier is that you know I thought, ‘gosh how hard could it be? You know, they are little tiny clothes.’ But I really did, I Googled ‘apparel manufacturer’ and so I just started from the ground up and what we decided to do early on is essentially embellish blanks which is what a lot of t-shirt line companies do kind of out of the game, and that is you buy styles or bodies from companies like American Apparel or you know there is a litany of other ones that you can buy through screen printing companies so that traditionally will do logo wear for you know baseball teams or for company parties, not really different than that and so what we did is I basically setup wholesale accounts so I could buy the blanks myself and then started to design on top of those, starting to figure out kind of what kind of textures and treatments, wanted to do what kind of pantone colors or ink colors that we wanted to use, any kind of extra fabrication or trim elements with it and then I found a really tremendous screen printing company in Oregon and started to source and print with them and went through the process of making even our own custom inks that were water based and organic as well as some embellished inks and dye treatments that had glitter components in it that wouldn’t come off, that kids would love because of the tacky kind of cool feel and you know that was a process that I did and I think it took me about six months to arrive at the processes that we have now.
Rachel Olsen: Wow that’s incredible, because so much goes in to that and as you are learning about it and you are trying to determine what colors you want, who guides you in this process, was it the manufacturer, are you are finding this stuff on your own, how is that?
Rebecca Kaykas-Wolff: You know it’s a great question. So the manufacturer could guide me on kind of the chemistry involved in the screen print process because they are essentially chemicals that you are putting on garments and especially for children’s clothing there are a lot of regulations so it’s a very-very highly regulated enterprise. So there were things that we just couldn’t do because the chemical compounds were just too great, so that was what they kind of lent to the process, I took a step back and I started to research fashion silhouettes, what kind of color ways were coming out for spring and fall, because there is essentially two major markets that come every year, there is kind of a fall and winter color palette and silhouettes that come out and then there is spring and summer with a color palette and silhouettes. And usually companies work about 12 months in the background and you know I happened to have some friends that were – she was a buyer at Nordstrom in the women’s wear area and she helped me understand what their purchasing and design timeframe was like and then she actually pointed me in the direction of some companies that did trend forecasting.
Rachel Olsen: Oh interesting, so there are companies that just do trend forecasting. And is this for, do the same colors and silhouettes apply, I mean children has to be one area and then like adults is different?
Rebecca Kaykas-Wolff: Usually children, there is a luxury with children is that you know I would say that the children’s wear market is at least a season or even a year out from kind of women’s wear and women’s wear kind of dictates all of the trend and so when you are looking at trend forecasting you know and you wonder, ‘gosh why is it all – why does every designer have the same denim out this season, you know or the same shade of coral, why is coral the new hip color, which it is right now.
Rachel Olsen: Right.
Rebecca Kaykas-Wolff: So you see it from Sephora to Gap to J.Crew to [indiscernible] [00:08:09] like you see all of these different shades of corals because about a year and a half ago trend forecast helped to dictate what those color ways were going to be and then businesses like Pantone get involved so not only do you see it on the print side of the design world but then you also see it in custom fabrics and apparel. So this is something that you know I quite frankly I would hunt and hack and find information, I mean I am a really good researcher and I had, I did a lot of reading after the kids were in bed.
Rachel Olsen: Yes.
Rebecca Kaykas-Wolff: So I learned a lot really fast. Like I said you know that we did it really basically at first and that was just to launch a brand. And you know early on I was kind of made fun, I was the owl girl. When I would go and talk to buyers because it’s all I had, and I had a brand and at the same time I was trying to build that brand, I was learning, I was kind of teaching myself without going to design school or fashion school I was just kind of teaching myself.
Rachel Olsen: Yeah so that’s interesting. Did you have mentors or take classes or did you just research online?
Rebecca Kaykas-Wolff: I didn’t, you know it’s, luckily I am pretty scrappy and I always have been, but you know I had had a newborn and two other kids and my husband was living and working in another state and so I had a lot of time on my hands after 8:00 pm and honestly I built and designed a lot of what Petite Couture is between the hours of 8:00 am and 1:00 or 8:00 pm and 1:00 am. So that is kind of how wet my world looked like because those were the, that was the time that I had and…
Rachel Olsen: Yeah.
Rebecca Kaykas-Wolff: And then I went and I talked to local retailers and I really started to pay attention because fashion is always what I loved, I really didn’t pay attention to what the trends were and honestly I just kind of became a really good merchandise and a shopper. And I think that when you are just interested in something it kind of comes more easily.
Rachel Olsen: Yeah I definitely agree. Now did you come up with the owl design, so did you come up with that on your own, like did you draw that out or did you hire somebody to do that?
Rebecca Kaykas-Wolff: No, so we came up, so I came up with the brand and kind of the tenants that it needed to be classic and whimsical with some modern elements to it too and that was my, sounds like they are counter intuitive, knew that we wanted a wise creature to kind of embody that, sign about birds but an owl just kind of resonated, then did some research about you know gosh where there any – we knew that we weren’t just going to purchase a line art we were going to design something and I had a really tremendous illustrator contact in New York who has his own illustration business and I hired him and basically gave him the PowerPoint deck that I created about the brand with some sample visions with textures and color ways just to give kind of that, kind of a color swatch approach and a feel to the brand and within two cycles we were done.
Rachel Olsen: Wow. Yeah so because I am not as familiar with it what is the difference between an illustrator and a graphic designer?
Rebecca Kaykas-Wolff: So, I think in a nutshell an illustrator works in kind of vector based images meaning you, they are coming up with things that are not moving necessarily and you know don’t quote me, but when I was working with our illustrator he would do free flows, so he would actually draw things out…
Rachel Olsen: Okay.
Rebecca Kaykas-Wolff: …like so he is also got that ability.
Rachel Olsen: Okay.
Rebecca Kaykas-Wolff: He is a graphic designer but then there are other kinds of graphic designers on top it that do you know graphic animation work and kind of 3D rendered work as well.
Rachel Olsen: Okay so I want to go back, thank you for that. I want to go back you said embellished links and then you had also told me that there is cut and sew products, so could you just explain what the differences are for people who are listening because you are very seasoned on this and I think that some people who are going to be watching or interested in listening are going to be trying to figure out how to do this and so if that would be helpful I think to them.
Rebecca Kaykas-Wolff: Sure. I was so overwhelmed at first. So what you can do is if you are just going to first start out and I think that this is a really great rule of thumb is if you just want to start out and test some concepts it’s really expensive to do original designs through cut and sew processes and what cut and sew is essentially is it you are buying yardage, you are either buying it through wholesale mechanisms or you are going to a fabric store right and sampling that way but you are literally cutting out patterns and then either sewing it yourself or hiring somebody to sew it and so there is a manufacturing process involved and that also includes all of the finishing work, like labeling and any other tags or embellishments or packaging elements that go in to that.
And that’s an expensive endeavor because not only are you sourcing all of the trim elements like buttons and zippers, if you’ve got these components, where you know even if you were going to do a onesie, right or a one piece you got the trim or the pieces like that are snaps, right and so you’ve got to source those components all separately and in addition to the yardage and so even before that process you hire or you either do it yourself or you hire technical designers which can create what’s essentially called a tech pack that shows all of the ranges in sizing, how much yardage they are using per size, what the grading is for size, meaning the size variance and basically all the technical attributes for sewing. Right, and this is a very technical process, it’s basically a huge Excel spreadsheet with a swatch of your item you know indicated in that build of materials.
And then you hire basically a manufacturer to cut and sew and then there is finishing on top of that which could be labeling or packaging and all that so it’s a much more involved process and in order to really get a good economy of scale there you have to have volume because everything costs money and so its tough, its been tough for Petite Couture as it is now to sustain and keep going with that for every seasons release. I typically run sample runs which are smaller, they are more expensive and then I sell through and then I keep cutting kind of custom orders because you run into financing challenges and that you really have to finance large production runs and making sure that you’ve got a business line of credit or whatever else it might be so you know when you get into that world your mechanics of your business need to change.
Rachel Olsen: Okay yeah so I want to talk a little bit about that and the financing. So what is, if anybody goes to a manufacturer what are they going to tell you, like a sample, is a sample run a certain number of pieces that you have to run?
Rebecca Kaykas-Wolff: So usually, so there is a couple of pieces – usually you will do an initial sample run of a one to two pieces in two different sizes that are kind of at opposing ends of their grading, so you can kind of see what a size 2 will be as opposed to a size 10.
Rachel Olsen: Okay.
Rebecca Kaykas-Wolff: And see whether or not the grading and consistency make sense. Then after you agree that everything looks good and do some tweaks you typically roll out your sales sample pieces and so that can be anything for a first small business like mine its probably 6 to 8 sizes per style and color.
Rachel Olsen: Okay.
Rebecca Kaykas-Wolff: But it is still expensive when you are writing check yourself.
Rachel Olsen: Right-right.
Rebecca Kaykas-Wolff: Those samples go out to like I keep some, some go out to editors or publications so you want to make sure that like all the trade press can have your stuff when they are doing a call like if they are doing a you know a polka dot motif in May and you have got something that’s polka dot you want to make sure that they can have your item.
Rachel Olsen: Okay start focusing on the marketing, I know that that’s a huge strength and I just want to backup so when you say what the editors are doing, how do you find out about this? Did you hire a publicist, did you – can you research the editorial dates and what they are going to be looking for on your own?
Rebecca Kaykas-Wolff: Sure, so for the first two and a half years I did it all on my own and so I researched quite honestly I trawled Facebook for other children apparel businesses, I would find other designers and quite frankly see what they were up to because everybody posts like where they are in the trade press and so I looked to the brands that I really respected and I found out who they were in and you know basically found the editors that way. And then I found their editorial calendars because all of that stuff is pretty publicly available because they want to source as much information as they can and so I had, I would say moderate success doing that myself, I knew how to pitch things, that wasn’t the issue, the issue was I was really brand new and I really didn’t have the contacts at that time.
Rachel Olsen: Okay.
Rebecca Kaykas-Wolff: And so it was little by little that I was able to establish some contacts and I did some very early blog interviews kind of like the [indiscernible] [00:17:53] and then quite honestly I used a lot of sales samples and used the mompreneur blogging community and I went the review circuit for the first year and a half and had reviewers with kind of over you know 8,000 unique users and they’ll had a brand that was on the higher end of things.
Rachel Olsen: Uh hmm.
Rebecca Kaykas-Wolff: I had them review and you know that’s how I actually had gone and impressed earlier on and then that would lead to other opportunities. So I am just a firm believer in kind of taking advantage of what you have available. It also provided an opportunity to learn like what was I good at, what was I not good at, what did I like doing, what did I not like doing, and how to work with in this new world because I was really adept at launching big-big brands with different types of budget but doing it all yourself is a completely different piece.
Rachel Olsen: Right-right you have to be as you said before kind of scrappy and the mom bloggers, so that’s interesting so when you reached out to the mom bloggers to review your product and they reviewed it, where you sending them samples for free at that time?
Rebecca Kaykas-Wolff: I was at the time, it was – you know you are paying for PR.
Rachel Olsen: Right.
Rebecca Kaykas-Wolff: And that’s the payment and they have a business to run too and that’s kind of the agreement. But you know I think I learned early on that some were worth it and other weren’t. Just like in every industry you are going to have people that are really good at their crafts and some that aren’t. And so you know I learned a lot and you know I made some mistakes, absolutely, and but whenever anything was published then inevitably several more bloggers would pop up, I really didn’t have to go find anybody after a certain amount of time.
Rachel Olsen: In a, I mean to a degree it went viral, in the mom blogging world is that…?
Rebecca Kaykas-Wolff: It did earlier on and you know those were in the earlier, it’s kind of funny to think three and a half years back but that was the earlier days of Facebook and the early-early days of Twitter and so I early on I was able to kind of capitalize on some of that because I was a digital marketer, the technology didn’t really bother me. And I kind of knew how to utilize all of, I mean how to push that still images. I also from a marketing perspective early on shot some really amazing photography as a Seattle photographer and used her for I think two to three different photo shoots and her images just built the credibility, it just lent it an additional layer of credibility to the brand even though at the time of selling one pieces and [indiscernible] [00:20:34].
Rachel Olsen: Yeah that’s so interesting. Yeah I think that you are on, your photos are beautiful your website is gorgeous and I mean so I think also your clothes and that’s interesting that you say that because a photo is really important in the digital age and I mean it was important before but it’s a different experience, you know everybody even with Facebook advertising or Google and that’s true, I mean three and a half years ago was early on now it’s you know you are trying to clear the path, you are trying to figure out what’s working and it’s just a different world out there that’s constantly changing.
Rebecca Kaykas-Wolff: Absolutely. And I wouldn’t say that it’s a lot more saturated now as though you know about a year ago I hired a publicist to help [indiscernible] [00:21:13]. And quite honestly it was just getting too unreal, it takes time to do that and to force things and you know to make sure that you have had all the editorial press on that, it takes a lot of time and I was able to get two covers up front so got a Parents cover and then Hudson Children Review cover which was a trade magazine.
Rachel Olsen: Right so that’s pretty impressive what results did you see from that?
Rebecca Kaykas-Wolff: You know hard to say; quite honestly I received a lot of industry kudos which was great, there were a couple of sales from tailors that saw it on the wholesale side of life and then I got some direct orders through it as well, but PR is not something that you can do once or twice and getting a cover, that’s all great and it felt really good, it felt like I was validated, like my dress had won and that was great. It was the same piece, it’s actually some of the dress that’s in back of the room. And that’s great because that’s been kind of my cornerstone silhouette and it’s a piece that I designed by myself and that was, it was very you know it was very validated.
Rachel Olsen: Right, that’s great.
Rebecca Kaykas-Wolff: Happening.
Rachel Olsen: Yeah you brought it to life.
Rebecca Kaykas-Wolff: You work hard at something that you have to do all of – I mean it has to be continual and so you know it’s just a process.
Rachel Olsen: Right-right. So that’s interesting so you hired a publicist did you do you, you said you use Twitter and Facebook, did you ever advertise, to paid advertising through anything?
Rebecca Kaykas-Wolff: You know I tested out doing some paid advertisement with Facebook and that was only to garner more likes and views within my Petite Couture page.
Rachel Olsen: Okay.
Rebecca Kaykas-Wolff: And at the time I was doing a lot more blogging than I am now, I have been woefully horrible at that in the last seven months but I was with a lot more blogging and really my blog post was to live a day in the life of entrepreneur and you know on a personal note I appreciate life changes and in my you know very fruitful paycheck too, it’s something that was turning off our and in an interview that I was just learning about.
Rachel Olsen: Right so now you have come all these way, it’s been what like three years, about…?
Rebecca Kaykas-Wolff: Uh hmm.
Rachel Olsen: Okay. So you know I liked when we had talked, you had told, you had said, you had made an analogy or a distinction between a lifestyle business and a big business. Did you consciously did this as a lifestyle business?
Rebecca Kaykas-Wolff: I did.
Rachel Olsen: Yeah, can you explain that a little bit?
Rebecca Kaykas-Wolff: Yeah I can, so we – on a personal note our family has had a couple of moves, so we moved from Seattle to Portland, from Portland to Bay area which is where we are now; while I was in Portland I was able to get involved in the entrepreneurial community there in kind of the Angel Network if you will, so the Angel Fundraising kind of world and I was able to learn a lot just about business mechanics and the fundraising process and I got some really great consulting and counseling when I was there, just about how to structure my business and what I need to think about, not just from a funding perspective but gosh I needed to put together a Performa which was essential to get my profit and loss, you know, table and when was I going to be profitable and you know could I really end up making and selling these items and being profitable and how many accounts did I need to sell into to start to break even.
So going through that process you know they asked me to define do you want a lifestyle business or do you really want to go big and you know of course everybody wants to feel like they want to go big, but the reality was its that I was funded, I was self funding my business, I didn’t have the latitude, nor did I really have the background at the time I feel like I’ve had a lot more confidence than insight now, and it’s something that I continue to think about but I didn’t really have the ability to go raise money nor did I really have a business model that really made sense for investors to invest in, I have a really low margin business that needs high-high volume but that requires you manufacture quite honestly overseas or to do a lot of volume domestically.
And that’s not the business that I am running and, nor was I able to work around the clock and travel continuously and that’s what you have to do. And though my business became a lifestyle business which meant that I was just going to do what I did being a mom at this time and it’s been challenging and its goes slower but it’s made it possible for me to still manage pickups and drop offs with my kids and you know some ballet class, or their play or whatever it might be and that’s not and they are young so that’s kind of the beauty of it and they have all been involved in it [indiscernible] [00:26:20] and it is great.
Rachel Olsen: So thank you for sharing that. I felt like the lifestyle probably resonates with a lot of people that are watching and listening and it’s, I think it’s always mind boggling how do you actually do it, you know it’s like you’ve built this successful business and looking at your room that you are in right now with all of your product and everything that you have done to this point and its you know, you think is its really possible to do, but over a span of you know three years building and building and building you are just continuing to build and consciously building at a slower rate based on what your business needs are and where you are at personally and I think that as moms I mean I know I too you know you feel the extra pressure to kind of, you are probably the business person and you just want to push it along faster and quicker and, or maybe it doesn’t, I am putting words in your mouth, but you know you have other responsibilities that are just as important and you need to be able to balance all of those, so…
Rebecca Kaykas-Wolff: No, it’s definitely true. I think on a business side though what’s tough that you have to justify your heart, right and because it is a hobby, it’s a hobby that in my case mostly covers itself from a financial perspective which is great.
Rachel Olsen: Yeah.
Rebecca Kaykas-Wolff: Because times does it, which means that you know I fund it, you know I put a check, and luckily that’s not as just it was in the beginning. But the going slow part is really challenging sometimes because you know I didn’t make every market, luckily I’ve established some relationships with some buyers, especially online buyers through some like Zilly and Totsy and some newer ones like Openside, somehow that you know pushed the volume and its great. So it’s not as kind of sexy as going to market and eating all the bigger buyers and I have shown my line to SAF and Bloomingdales, Emen and Nordstrom and Barnacles, so they’ve all seen it and [indiscernible] [00:28:30] really like it, you need to work on something which is – I was so fortunate to have really early feedback and its great and so I still continue to work on as I have. But I did think that it’s not really, I think business is like this, it really is just about perseverance and establishing your credibility that way, because I don’t, I feel like there is a [indiscernible] [00:28:56] a lifestyle brand and over my success, I just can’t think of one off the top of my head, there are no instagrams in our world, you know so it’s a much different business.
Rachel Olsen: Right. So what did the big, tell me the difference, I want to talk to you a little about, you are in retail stores, I want to talk to you about how you got into those retail stores, how you found sales reps and then also the difference like, you’ve got this feedback from corporate stores, what did they have to say, what was the big take away from that?
Rebecca Kaykas-Wolff: So, you know early on my heart was just set, and all I wanted was I wanted to be in Nordstrom and Newman and you know Saks, like those were the guys that I wanted. Completely unrealistic I would say, but because I have some business knowledge I was able to have some conversations with them and they loved the design aesthetic, they loved silhouettes, they loved the point of view of my collection, it has its kind of classic and timeless and conservative is not the right word because it’s almost a negative connotation but a classic children’s wear, it’s not straps and lace, but I have to work on fabrication which is something that I am doing some experimenting with [indiscernible] [00:30:19] for more fluid cottons and they have to have a really soft hand for children, especially luxury, so and it isn’t all about soft and flowy and there are things that work, right there is texture of products work in selling [indiscernible] [00:30:37] with us – but I went to my first market, ENK about a year and a half ago and showed the collection in New York and there, a lot of buyers, so all the big buyers walked by, saw it, I got some good feedback; Nordstrom came and then I was able to cover the costs of my trip, it was a couple of pretty [indiscernible] [00:31:02]and they basically bought the entire line, which was great.
Rachel Olsen: Wow.
Rebecca Kaykas-Wolff: And it was mostly my little skirts and sweaters and the dresses and a couple of owl signatures dresses that were picked up.
Rachel Olsen: Okay. What is the process of going to market, like when you decided you were going to market, what did you need to have in order to go to market?
Rebecca Kaykas-Wolff: Sure. It’s an event and so it’s a trade show like a lot of good shows, and so what you need to do is you need to figure out what the booth space is going to be, how big it’s going to be, whether or not you can afford to decorate it, because everything costs money and its all union in New York which means that its even more expensive. So, I designed the space, pretty [indiscernible] [00:31:46]and I got a couple of fixtures and some couple of rig-a-wall systems, which were essentially those [indiscernible] [00:31:54] you can hang things on, it made better use of the space and so I could actually merchandize things a lot more efficiently and then you know you ship all your pieces to your hotel which is where I shipped it, I didn’t ship it to the event, but I shipped all the pieces to the hotel, I bought mannequins so you can see a mannequin this way in back of me and I created collateral which were essentially all the sales, the [indiscernible] [00:32:24] essentially the wholesale orders or forms that retailers pick up, you can essentially see, but the specials are with silhouettes are what your booth structure is, will sell. And business cards, like any collateral that you can kind of think of.
Rachel Olsen: Okay.
Rebecca Kaykas-Wolff: And you got to sign it.
Rachel Olsen: Okay and then how many people, so you said ENK, what is that particular show known for?
Rebecca Kaykas-Wolff: ENK is a huge trade fair that’s New York and they do a lot of different things, but the children’s show there are let’s say four of them throughout the event and [indiscernible] [00:33:07] job at center so it was gigantic, everybody is there. And everyone shops there, from little boutiques to online retailers to the biggies, they all walked the show and over the course of three days, and you stand around and get to know your neighbors really well and sometimes if you make friends with the retailer right next door to you, or the manufacturer or designer next door to you, they will send people over to you and that has happened in my case, this really lovely brand referred people over, maybe just to see it, and to get visibility for the brand and I got really-really tremendous feedback, but you know it takes probably three or four shows before you are really booking volume, because they need to make sure that you are going in business.
Rachel Olsen: Yeah.
Rebecca Kaykas-Wolff: So I would be lucky if I was actually to be able to cover costs.
Rachel Olsen: Yeah no, that’s great, what – is it the boutiques that pick it up then, then you start establishing relationships with those boutiques, and how does it work, like do they want to buy a minimum, do you have to have a minimum line or…?
Rebecca Kaykas-Wolff: Usually you can write what your terms are, but to be quite frank I feel like you just do what it takes and that’s kind of the first rule of customer service regardless and if people didn’t want to buy the minimum that’s fine, I was going to make it work, but usually they will pick up a couple looks and [indiscernible] [00:34:36]. And a toddler line, a size that is general size 2 to 6, sometime they want up to size 12 and you know [indiscernible] [00:34:46]. And then with the infant line it is usually, you know 3 to 6 months up to 18 to 24 months.
Rachel Olsen: Let me ask you a little bit, so then you do at some time hire sales reps or how, what is that relationship like?
Rebecca Kaykas-Wolff: Yes, you typically do and in my case, you know I kind of taught myself and I modeled some of my favorite brands and so I saw a hush, if you want to buy a wholesale how are they selling and then I would, see oh look at all these distributors or reps that are in, you know typically they are representatives in the north west, the west which is LA and Dallas, the mid west which is Chicago, Atlanta and New York and so those are your basic market centers in the US and then you’ve got international distributors and like a lot of other things there. And so I just started calling them and then showing them my line and it pretty nascent at first and unfortunately I learned a very good lesson, I was associated with a very-very bad rep and in fact there was a lot of litigation against this person at this point but I did really [indiscernible] [00:36:05] things about personality and haste and so you kind of have to go with your gut and if your collection isn’t ready for their showroom that’s okay, so you just kind of build slowly, its better than being aligned with somebody that isn’t super reputable and unfortunately there are a lot of them.
Rachel Olsen: So what does that mean, what did this person do or not do that…?
Rebecca Kaykas-Wolff: Unfortunately this person even though we had written in the contract that the samples were owned by Petite Couture and all these other things I never did get them back, it would just cost me more to litigate than to just caulk it up as a loss.
Rachel Olsen: Yeah.
Rebecca Kaykas-Wolff: But it hurt it stung because you know that was a baby.
Rachel Olsen: Right-right. So how do you decide, at what point would you decide to get a sales rep, is this something like did you do this further on down the road, once you were a little bit more established or…?
Rebecca Kaykas-Wolff: I did it probably in the, I did it about a year and a half in so I found, and I still have a sales rep in Atlanta and one in LA and then one is Dallas as well and so you basically get them and they sure market for you and for wholesale its great because you are writing orders and you are delivering it anywhere between 12 to 16 weeks later and if so you’ve got time to produce them so that’s the idea is that you are able to produce after the order are aggregated.
Rachel Olsen: Oh interesting, I didn’t know that. So is that typical for manufacturers easily, how long does the manufacturing process take once you have a line established?
Rebecca Kaykas-Wolff: About a month because its mostly domestically produced is two to three weeks.
Rachel Olsen: Okay.
Rebecca Kaykas-Wolff: And my, the sweaters are made in Peru and that’s like on a month, a month and half cycle, just depends.
Rachel Olsen: Okay.
Rebecca Kaykas-Wolff: My production process is much longer but when you are going on business to India or China or anywhere else and for larger ones in Peru it will be longer. Longer lead times.
Rachel Olsen: Yeah so that’s – I want to ask you about, you have done so much within marketing and sales, what do you think has been the most helpful thing that you’ve done or the most successful that happened with PR or something in marketing that you did or the say that having sales reps
Rebecca Kaykas-Wolff: I think the first time that somebody purchased that I didn’t know, when I was so excited I always really valued all my friends and family support but the first time that a stranger bought something from me was a really big deal and I think that I am most sad in fact that I had launched a something and that I got to creatively have a vision and that was really great, you know there are a lot of things that could be better and its like I said it’s the process, just take on as much as you can at any given time.
Rachel Olsen: Great so what does the future hold for Petite Couture?
Rebecca Kaykas-Wolff: I am still working on pieces and so the goal is to have some new pieces out for next spring and summer so I am kind of sticking fall, and the sales time from right now for that market and so in the next fall I will have some pieces out for spring and summer for wholesales.
Rachel Olsen: That’s exciting, that really exciting. So I got one more question for you and then we can wrap up. So what is you know a personal, once personal trait that you think is the most important for entrepreneurs?
Rebecca Kaykas-Wolff: Well I think tenacity is super key, I you know I have worked so much to this process I also say that you have to have certain level of kind of blind enthusiasm for your idea because nobody is going to love it as much as you do and especially when the times get tough which they mostly are when you are starting, you got to really love it in order to stick with it, because it is hard and you are eager to take the bruising, I mean I don’t know how many times I’ve been told no, or this or that or you know its tough, I think the thing that really surprised me too was that I launched our first website two years ago and sold some through it and some random person wrote me kind of a really disparaging note about the brand, it wasn’t really couture and you know it was just, it was so personal and at that point I realized that I really had a business and I hadn’t really though about is that oh my gosh this is what happens when you have a business and do it kind of, I felt validated because I was doing something right, but at the same time it hurt because it is personal and they don’t know that I am one person…
Rachel Olsen: Yeah…
Rebecca Kaykas-Wolff: …you know sitting on the other end. And last that that’s kind of a the great part of, and so I think its tenacity and enthusiasm and, but I also have to be a realistic about what you can go and take on because it’s really easy to get ahead of yourself and I definitely made some of those mistakes.
Rachel Olsen: Well it sounds like you are doing a lot of things right, so good luck on the future…
Rebecca Kaykas-Wolff: Thank you.
Rachel Olsen: I want to thank you for sharing your story, you’ve been very candid and I appreciate it, I think it is very informative and people are really going to appreciate it. I am going to put up on the site as well, you know where you could be found but if this turns into a podcast Petite Couture can be found online at www.petitcouture.com and for our viewers and listeners if you like what you’ve heard today, please subscribe to our monthly newsletter so we can make you aware of future interviews. Thank you and until next time…
Rebecca Kaykas-Wolff: Thanks Rachel, bye.
Rachel Olsen: Bye-bye.