Sunday, October 31, 2010

Fixtures for Zoe

But first, an incredibly cute picture of Lotus in my "proof" Zoe bag!  I had just returned home from Giant and tossed the bag on the window seat.  Lotus especially loves the reusable bags.  I think she make a good Zoe mascot!

The other side of the bag is a gorgeous picture of Zoe Girl.  I had taken the bag over to show Cori so she could see her beautiful logo design work in all its splendor!  The Website URL is contained on the ends of the bag and inside the bag.

But back to fixtures.  In the hopes of SOMEDAY getting the lease signed and moving forward, I've been considering design and fixtures for the store.  I love looking at examples of designs online and seeing how they have used color and merchandising successfully.  Some things that I'll need to start ordering soon:

  • Racks
  • Shelving
  • Tables
  • Mannequins
  • Chairs/Couches (for my customers and/or patient husbands/boyfriends/significant others
  • Steamers
  • Hangers
  • Sign Holders
Hangers are especially interesting.  How many times have you shopped at a store and tried on something with a beautiful wooden hanger and, when purchasing the item, been asked if you'd like to keep it on the hanger?  Then, the store gives you a plastic hanger and keeps the wooden one for reuse.  (They occasionally forget, as I have a few wooden Ann Taylor hangers in my closet!)  There is a good reason for this - the wooden hangers cost about twice as much as the plastic ones do!  I think I'll be keeping the wooden hangers also.

Tomorrow, I'm going to visit a furniture store that also has a specialty in designing retail space!

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Merchant Services

Our own personal credit card statement/agreements are confusing enough.  Being a merchant who will accept credit cards takes it to a whole new level!

As part of my conversation with my point of sale software vendor yesterday, I asked him to have their merchant services person contact me with additional information on what they can provide to me for credit/debit card processing.  Gina was very responsive and sent me information yesterday afternoon.

This morning, I printed it all out for review and starting writing down my questions for Gina.  There is so much new terminology that I spent quite a bit of time researching and trying to understand what it all meant!  I did not want to go into my conversation with her sounding like a complete idiot!

I will make the statement that the whole credit card process is a win for the banks and not a win for merchants and consumers.  The myriad fees charged to merchants for everything imaginable:

  • A percentage of each sale
  • A flat swipe fee
  • An additional fee if you have to type in the credit card number (as opposed to swiping)
  • An additional fee if you have to call in an authorization
  • An additional fee if you accept foreign credit cards
  • Higher fees for accepting corporate cards, loyalty cards or rewards cards (you know those cards that give you cash back?  Your merchant pays a higher rate to take them)
  • A minimum fee (in case you don't reach a certain fee level)
  • A fee for sending in your batch every night (and if you don't send it within 24 hours, there can be additional fees)
Gina told me to budget (once all the fees are added on) for 2 - 3% of my sales to be taken up in credit card fees.  I thought it would likely be around that 2% mark.

There had been some problems in the past with people setting up merchant services accounts without having any type of retail business.  They used these accounts to process stolen credit card numbers and commit fraud.  So, once I do sign up, they will perform a site visit to authorize that Zoe really does exist!

The good news is (and we had discussed this in earlier blogs) is that I will be able to accept debit cards (for actually a lower rate than credit cards) but I will not be able to offer the cash back feature that is available from some merchants.  (I won't have the PIN pad feature).  But many of you had privately contacted me and said you hoped I could take debit cards so I am glad to report YES!

There is a lot going on in the credit card world these days.  This recent article from the Wall Street Journal discusses a settlement that Mastercard and Visa have come to (but American Express is still fighting).  Very interesting read from both a consumer and a merchant standpoint.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

New Point of Sale Software Version - Evo

This morning, I met the Point of Sale software salesman at the Apple Store to get a demo on the new version of the POS*IM software that I selected in July.  Pat had prearranged with the Apple Store to provide us with access to a show floor iMac and he quickly installed the demo software.  The name of the new release is Evo (I supposed for Evolution of the software).

I was exceptionally pleased with the latest release.  The usability of the software has improved over the previous version as well as the graphic presentation and configuration options.  And, as I continue to become more knowledgable about the retail industry, I'm able to understand all of the possibilities for using the software to run this key part of my business.

As part of our demo, I had taken one of the orders that I had written at Market a few weeks ago to review the software capabilities in handling the set up of this purchase, the categories that I would want to track, and how the order would be received and placed into inventory.  We also talked about how the software would allow me to track special promotions and interface the customer information with my Constant Contact email marketing account.  I currently plan to purchase the iMac and Point of Sale software in early December so that I can begin setting up my inventory as I receive it in January.  It was time very well spent.

Tomorrow - the intricacies of credit/debit card processing!

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Don't Be "That Girl"

At my last company, we had a running joke in my department whenever there was a company-wide process or initiative that required a response by a deadline.  We would always say to each other "Don't be that guy...who has not gotten the information in by the deadline."  As I am working on content for Zoe's website, I find myself saying "Don't be that girl...who has a horrendous, out of date website."  There are some REALLY bad ones out there.

Personal pet peeve, but something that makes a terrible impression on me is when I visit a website and see events or news or blog postings so completely old and out of date.  I wonder how much they are paying attention to the rest of the details of their business if they allow their public face to the world to look that way!  OK, off the soapbox now.

One of the content items I was working on this afternoon was related to all of the different transportation methods that people can use to get to Zoe!  I'll be listing Metro information, Parking information, Water Taxi (from National Harbor/Gaylord), and the Old Town King Street Trolley.  All this in addition to a map that, when clicked, can allow you to get directions from anywhere.  Of course, with any content, I'll need to keep it updated appropriately so I am not "that girl".

We are still working through the open items on the lease.  My architect and contractor and providing me with numbers for us to do the vanilla shell work ourselves, with the landlord giving us an allowance for this work or a rent abatement to cover the cost.  We are hoping this might help move the process along and allow the Landlord to focus on their own buildout and not worry about getting mine done also.

I had lunch with members of my Columbia Zoe Council today and got to show them the proof of Zoe's shopping bag!  So much fun!  And they are working on helping me come up with a title for Zoe's column on the website.  They are such wonderful creative inspiration!

On the finance side of things, I faxed (toll free number so no waiting at Staples) documentation to Wells Fargo Financial to confirm my credit worthiness for one of my designers.  I had spoken to the banker yesterday to confirm the information I needed to send so it was fairly easy to put it all together.  All I can say is thank goodness for the financials in my business plan.  I look at them just about every day!  Sometimes when I get a request like this, I panic for a moment and then I remember "Nope, you've got know how to do this."  It's all so new!

Tomorrow, I'm meeting with my Point of Sale software vendor to look at the new release of the software.  He tells me that the price has gone down.  I'm hoping it really has and that it is not like the airlines, who charge a la carte for everything!  Oh, you wanted the software to run after you loaded it on the server?  That will be another $295...

Saturday, October 23, 2010

What Does It Take?

Last week, a friend of mine and I had gone to lunch in Old Town Alexandria (where Zoe will be located).  As we were walking back to her car, we stopped in a housewares shop.  As we were browsing the shop, she told the owner "My friend is going to open a clothing boutique here in Alexandria!"  While I won't share exactly what he said to us, let's just say he was not at all supportive and called my sanity into question!

It was ok because I've certainly called my sanity into question at least once a week since I started considering this idea a little over a year ago!  It was actually very helpful to find a couple of quotes that were encouraging:

Business plans are less important than businesspeople, according to Paul Graham, founder of Y Combinator. When considering an investment, Graham writes, he wants to see four characteristics in an entrepreneur: determination, flexibility, imagination and naughtiness. Naughtiness? "Morally they care about getting the big questions right but not about observing proprieties," he writes. "... They delight in breaking rules -- but not rules that matter."
While I feel strongly that it was and is important to have a good business plan in place as my guide, I realize that I'm going to have a lot of surprises thrown my way, as well as things that I just can't control.  I'm going to have to continue to be flexible and determined to meet my goal.  I've always had a good imagination and, believe it or not, a certain amount of naughtiness (which I'd more define as knowing what to care about and what not to care about)!  

I also liked this quote from Confucius:

“When it is obvious that the goals cannot be reached, don't adjust the goals, adjust the action steps.”
Once again, it speaks to having that flexibility to work with whatever is given to you.  I've really had that trait since my father was diagnosed with cancer over 6 years ago.  My feeling was, "Just tell me what it is, so I can figure out how to deal with it."  There was nothing that I could do to cure him but it did allow me to grieve and to prepare myself to help and emotionally support my family.  A true example of what doesn't kill us makes us stronger!

Not everyone will think what I'm trying to do is a good idea.  With God's help, I'll do the best with what I've been given!

Friday, October 22, 2010


Now when I go shopping, it also doubles as business research.  How much fun is that?

Yesterday I had some time to kill between an appointment and lunch with a friend.  I didn't want to go home and turn around and come back to the restaurant so I visited a close by shopping mall.  I did so with two major purposes in mind: 1) to see what brands the stores carried and 2) to look at merchandising strategies.

I will say that I will now never shop in the same way again.  As I looked at prices, I calculated what they had paid for the items wholesale.  I'd look at the whole store and estimate just how much the merchandise (inventory) had cost in total.  I'd look at the selections and think about who their target audience would be.  My eyes are wide open!

This afternoon, I'm reviewing the final set of wireframes from Web Designer Mark and starting to work on some content for the site.  He'll be sending me mood boards for the site in the next two weeks!  I am so excited - I love how the site is coming together.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

The Label Maker

With all of the new paperwork coming into the house with deliveries, lease documents, and the orders from Market last week, I HAD to get organized today or lose my mind!

First trip was to Staples to get hanging file folders and a plastic file box (plus send a fax to sign off on Zoe's bag proofs).  Then, to Walmart to buy an inexpensive label maker (which I already love).  I took all of my paperwork and sorted it into individual piles on the floor (sound familiar, COPT friends?)  I listed all of the labels I would need, printed them, and now I have a very organized file box full of files.  Jim is going to be so happy when he returns from KY tomorrow night to see that the dining room table can be used for dining again!

You won't believe this, but I already have enough vendors and categories to use up the 25 folders I bought today.  I think another folder buy will be in order soon.  As time passes, I'll decide what to leave in folders and what to put in three ring binders.  I feel much calmer now that things are better organized.

No new news on the lease.  I summarized the results of yesterday's meeting for my buildout manager, architect, and general contractor and sent them copies of the communication from the landlord.  I'm hoping to get things moving again on Friday.

Next up - working on content for the website!

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

And the Beat Goes On

Back to the real world today (albeit a little slowly, since I was still very tired from my travels)!

While I was away, the proof for my bags for Zoe had arrived!  RTR is wonderful about notifying me about shipments so I always know when something is on the way and when it should arrive.  I had told Jim that I was expecting the proof on Friday, so he opened it in my absence.  I love it!  On one side, we have the Zoe logo and on the other we have Zoe Girl.  On the ends and inside the fold of the bag, we have the web address.  This first set of bags are going to be reusable, so they can be taken to the grocery store, Target, Walmart, etc.  Additional advertising for Zoe!

Two large flats of my tissue paper had also arrived in my absence and have currently taken up residence in our kitchen.  Nola (one of our cats) is enjoying rolling around on the boxes.

I heard from two of my wholesalers today, confirming my new customer information so they could set me up in their systems and enter my orders (perhaps there is technological hope!)  And, I had a meeting with my attorney, my broker, and the landlord's broker this evening to review remaining open items on the lease.  We are still working through some of the definitions of the buildout and delivery of space to me but nothing that is insurmountable.  The landlord's broker is very encouraging and said they are happy with me and are excited to have me as a tenant.  The landlord representatives (a CEO and CFO) are away at a board meeting but we hope to pick this back up when they return later in the week.  I am eager to finalize this key piece and move forward!

Oh, and the immediates (scarves and bracelets) I ordered two weeks ago arrived today!  So exciting!

Monday, October 18, 2010

Market Report

The October Apparel Market wrapped up today in Atlanta.  Spring 2011 fashions have been ordered for stores all over the US but most importantly, for Zoe!  I want to share the whole experience with you!

I arrived at AmericasMart without issue on Thursday morning.  For those of you familiar with the Atlanta area, the Mart takes up three large buildings in downtown, close to the Olympic Park and Phillips Arena areas.  Building 1 is Home Furnishings, Building 2 is Gifts, and Building 3 is Apparel.

Clutching my ID and business card, I was quickly processed through registration and had my official badge, showing I "belonged"!  Just a note to my IT friends - the computer that registered me was the LAST computer I saw in the Mart.  More on this in a bit.

Along with my badge, I received a thick booklet (think about two Readers Digest magazines attached together) outlining all of the vendors, designers, and sales reps.  It also included their locations and phone numbers for the Market period and additional maps of the Mart.  There were also some advertisements.  The first thing I saw was that there was free coffee in the second floor lounge so I made my way there.

As I sat there and sipped my coffee, I noticed a stage and runway - this would be the location for various fashion show events throughout the Market period.  And the whole building pulsed with dance music!  Building 3 has a huge open atrium and each floor can be accessed either by short escalators or pod shaped elevators that are glass and look out into the atrium.

I had intentionally made my first appointment for 11 am on Thursday.  I was afraid that my flight would be delayed or registration lines would be long or some other disaster would befall me.  I did not want to be any more panicked than I was!  Since I was early, I decided to start to get the "lay of the land".  After I sipped my coffee, I started to look at some of the vendor displays.

The way the Mart is set up, the 2nd, 3rd, and 4th floor are temporary exhibits.  These are wholesalers who come in just for the market and set up in temporary space, often separated by curtains (imagine trade shows you've attended).  I walked around and looked at these offerings.  While there were some nice things, I will say that now I know where a lot of bad fashion comes from.  It has to be purchased somewhere!

The 6th floor contains fine jewelry, the 7th some additional apparel, jewelry and accessories and then the 8th starts the permanent showrooms.  Each floor going up seems a little larger and more structured.  I wish I had been wearing a pedometer as I walked the perimeter of each of these floors, just looking and learning and taking everything in.

Since my first appointment was on the 8th floor, I made my way there and located the site of that meeting.  Before I knew it, it was time to go in!

Many designers do not want to have to worry about the wholesale process, so they make agreements with professional wholesale organizations to handle that part of the process.  My first visit was to one of my accessories vendors, where Heather and I spent significant time selecting beautiful belts and handbags for Zoe.  Heather was wonderful as she provided me with the specifics on how the belts are sized to fit and typical size distributions.  I tried them all on (of course)!  She also introduced me to the jewelry lines that her wholesaler represents, so I can select from those items as well when I'm ready.

Now, for my techie friends - when the wholesalers say the term "Write an Order" they truly mean "Write".  There is not a computer in sight.  Everything is done by hand on order forms with multiple carbon copies.  Totals are done via calculator.  The fashion industry may need some technological help!

It was time for lunch (there were several places to get a sandwich at various locations in the Mart - they even had a Chik-Fil-A on one floor).  I regrouped, updated my buying totals and headed on to the next appointment.

The 1 pm appointment was my first apparel appointment and it did not disappoint.  This wholesaler represents a very large number of designers, some of which I knew and others I did not.  The account rep allowed me to go through the designs for my chosen designer, pick out what I liked and we put them up on the board (this is a multi-level set of small grooves extended from the wall that allows the clothes to hang against the wall so that you can see them easily.  The walls are always white.  After I had selected all that I liked for the store, she grouped the items into their delivery dates (I'll write a whole blog on how that works) and gave me line sheets (I promise to do a glossary on these terms) so that I could see the wholesale price, the recommended sales price, the sizes available and the colors available.  From that, I selected what I wanted to order, size distributions, and colors and we proceeded to "Write an Order".   In this case, I also filled out a form required for a new buyer where they will check my financial situation/credit.  Oh, and I bought beautiful pants, jackets, tops, and dresses for Zoe!

The final appointment of the day was with one of the wholesalers with whom I had been talking for some time.  Most of the account reps are young (to me), probably mid-20s.  A few are my age or older but not many.  This particular wholesaler was showing the denim line and one of the primary knit lines that I wanted to carry and I was not disappointed.  We had a fantastic session and I left clutching orders for those items for Zoe also.

Although I was tired, I felt that I should continue to explore and learn as much as I could.  (By now, it was around 3:15).  I continued to walk the higher floors and was wowed to find one floor that was nothing but prom gowns (this is the time of the year that stores are purchasing them, so they can show them in the spring).

I did visit one more wholesaler that had not been on my appointment list and looked at their dress line.  I took line sheets and wrote out some orders but didn't place them.  Since they weren't on my list or part of my going-in budget, I wanted to make sure that I really wanted the items before placing the orders.

When I walked out of their showroom, I was suddenly exhausted.  And it was almost 5!  Time to head to my mom's in Athens!  Traffic was bad but could have been worse.  What is normally about an hour and a half drive was two hours.  That night, I could hardly think clearly.  It was a combination of tired and trying to process everything I had seen that day!  I went to bed after dinner so that I could be ready to hit the ground running the next day!

On Friday, I was up at 5 and out the door at 6!  Traffic to Atlanta wasn't bad and I was parking at the Mart in an hour and a half!  I grabbed one of my beloved Americanos from the Starbucks downstairs and sat down to reevaluated my progress from the previous day and map out the day ahead.  I knew how much I had left to spend and what mix I wanted to go for in my purchasing.

My first appointment on Friday was at 9 and was delightful.  Abby could not have been sweeter or more helpful.  She and I went through the racks together, selecting colors and styles.  In their showroom, we hung them on a rack and looked at the color combinations and selection that way.  Especially when thinking about sizing, I had to consider the cut of the item, the pattern, and how it would look on different sizes and body types.  I also purchased some earrings in complimentary colors to add to this collection.

As before, after the meeting, I regrouped and reviewed my plan, my budget and my remaining needs.  And then off to the second meeting at 10:30!  This apparel meeting was slightly different but still very enjoyable.  The rep gave me the line sheets so that I could follow along and she presented the collection to me on the white wall.  She would put the different groupings of items up and I would ask her to remove the ones that I didn't like.  During all of these showings, I had the opportunity to fully inspect the garments and feel the materials and quality.  Once we had a "collection" for a single ship date, we'd write an order for that date.  That's another thing, IT friends.  Each ship date had to have it's own written order sheet.  It just doesn't seem productive!

During the 10:30 meeting, the rep showed me a pair of denim jeans that had been worn by a model on the runway in New York last month.  I have never seen such a long, skinny pair of jeans in my life.  We both had to giggle at them because they just don't look real!  And that takes me to my next thought - I got to see runway models up close during the Market.  And nothing prepares you for it.  Even though I've seen them in ads and on TV, to see them in person is shocking.  They are like torsos on stilts!  Ladies, I think they are born that way.  It is not attainable!  So don't ever beat yourself up about it!

Virtually everyone I met with was helpful, kind, and supportive.  I met two reps (both of which I visited on a whim - I didn't have appointments and I hadn't been in contact with them prior to the show) that were less than impressive.  I probably wouldn't not purchase from their lines because I didn't like how they handled their presentations and they questioned the fact that I didn't like everything they showed me.  Obviously, they hadn't talked to any of my former technology salespeople (ha).

After a quick lunch, I headed to my final scheduled appointment at 1 pm.  We had a fantastic review of tops that I think all of you are going to LOVE!  After selecting the styles, we picked colors and sizes.   In this meeting (and in ALL of my meetings) all of you were with me.  I constantly thought "Oh, that would look so nice on this friend" or "What a perfect color for that friend!"  Each one of you is my constant inspiration!

After this meeting, I did a final tally of my purchases.  Although I had some money left in the budget, I felt that same exhaustion and overload starting to set in and decided it was time to call it a day!  Although I so much wanted to continue to explore the Mart, I felt that I had accomplished exactly what I set out to do.  Zoe is dressed for spring!

Once you've written an order, it is as though you've joined a secret society.  You are then given the "password" to the designer's site and can look at the line sheets and fashions to your heart's content.  And, you can download all of the photo and written content you need for the web presentation. (Web Designer Mark was happy to hear this!)

I'm in the Atlanta Airport as I type and will go through my orders tomorrow to summarize all of the deliveries so I know when I should be receiving what items.  The scary part - buying for summer starts in early February....

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Tired But Happy (Not the Official Market Update)

I have SO much to share!  I am completely exhausted but feel very good about the Market experience today!  I'm in Athens, Georgia with my mom tonight and go back to Atlanta tomorrow for Day Two!

I am too tired to do today's experience proper justice but will blog about everything tomorrow evening! 

Off to Market

My first blog post from high above somewhere in the Southeastern United States!  I like the on-board Wifi!

I had meant to post last night but was so busy getting things ready at home and for my trip to Georgia today.  I went to bed early since the 3 am alarm came far too quickly!

I think I'm ready for Market today!  I have all of my appointments scheduled for today and tomorrow.  AmericasMart has a nice website feature for buyers that allows you to select your preferred vendors, save notes about those vendors (I typed in my appointment times and the person who I'll be meeting with) and print it out.  From that, you can also print out maps of each floor with your preferred vendors already highlighted!  All of my vendors with the exception of one are on the 9th floor of the Mart.

From a fashion standpoint, Jim pronounced me "very cute" this morning.  I went with my black geometric peep toe shoes, black skinny jeans, black/red/gray top, and black long cardigan sweater (at least on the plane, where I am always chilly).

On Wednesday morning, I had also received more design diagrams from Web Designer Mark.  I've reviewed those on the flight this morning and sent a response back to him.  I'm really pleased with his work.  I also received Zoe's stickers from RTR yesterday!

If I am not too exhausted when I reach my mom's house tonight, I'll update the blog with my experiences from today!  So excited and anxious!

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Debit Credit and Thai Food

I had to throw the Thai food in the Title to keep the non-accountants reading today's blog posting!  In all fairness, I'll talk about it first so those who find the financials snoozy can stop when they are done with the first section.

At lunchtime today, I met my friend Janice at Mai Thai in Old Town Alexandria for delicious Thai food.  She is a dedicated Zoe blog reader (Hi Janice!) and we spent lots of time catching up and talking about many different topics, including my experiences thus far with Zoe.  It is so thrilling to me when people are excited about the adventure!  After lunch, I got to show her what will hopefully be Zoe's home in a few months - she was very excited and liked the space very much.  She has been very kind to offer to help me in any way she can!  I have no doubt I'll be calling on her in the upcoming months.

On my way home from our lunch, I got an email from the last wholesaler on my list regarding an appointment for Market later this week!  We'll be meeting on Friday afternoon.  I'm so excited as this wholesaler represents two brands that I love and VERY much want to have in the store.

My major Zoe task for the day was to update my financials to confirm that I am on track with the estimates that I created in the business plan for start-up.  I'm also preparing to officially set up my accounting system with my accountant so I wanted to have everything in a more detailed structure than I've been tracking it in the past.  I'm very happy and satisfied with the results and feel that I can follow the merchandise purchasing plan that I had created for Market.

Tomorrow:  What do I wear to Market?

Monday, October 11, 2010

Quiet Days

Every so often, I have a quiet day in the world of Zoe.  And that is ok because there will be many not quiet days in the months ahead!

Yesterday afternoon, I went to Old Town to pick up a Christmas gift for my niece and run an errand for my mother.  (Do not hate me - I've decided to finish all of my Christmas shopping by the end of October this year.  I feel like I have a lot to do with Zoe in the coming months and don't want to miss out on the enjoyment of all of it!)  Of course, it was a beautiful autumn day but I was overwhelmed with the number of people out shopping, dining, and walking around Old Town.

I've been struggling with whether or not be open 6 or 7 days a week.  My mentor, Greer, was open 6 days a week when she first started her business.  She has since expanded to 7.  Sunday is an important day to me, not only from a worship standpoint but from a renewal standpoint.  I wrote my business plan to be open 6 days a week in the first year, and although I see the crowds and think about the extra business, I hope I can stick to my plan of 6 days a week.

I started this morning with an inventory of the remaining forms (both state/commonwealth and city) that I need to fill out once Zoe is confirmed in her "home".  I feel like I have those details in place now, meaning I know what I need to do once the lease is signed.  Architect Michael had a question following the review of the MEP plans I forwarded to him on Friday and I spoke to my broker about that question. And, toward the end of the day, I received a FedEx tracking notification from RTR - something has shipped!  With the weight indicated on the notification, I think it is likely the proofs for my bags.  That would be very exciting!  I hope they arrive on Wednesday!

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Putting It All Together

All of the different tracks of Zoe continue to head in the same direction at the same speed!

As I noted in yesterday's entry, I had received the redline changes to the lease from my attorney on Thursday evening.  On Friday morning, I reviewed them and was very satisfied with the updates.  I forwarded the document back to my broker with the note that he propose that the landlord give us an allowance to do their work rather than they having to do all of it.  I'm very curious to see their response.  We did not substantially change anything in the document but simply clarified several areas in more detail.

I also received the MEP drawings from my broker and passed those on to Architect Michael.  We have two other sets of drawings outstanding that I hope to receive this upcoming week.

Work continued on planning my time at Market next week and I've scheduled more appointments for Zoe! One of the things that mentor Greer had told me last year when I met with her is that designers will not sell to you if someone else in your immediate area is already carrying their line.  That makes sense, as they do not want to cannibalize their sales.  So far, I have not had that as an issue although many of them have asked me my location so they can make sure this will not be a problem.

The AmericasMart website has a special login for buyers (I feel special!) that allows us to map out our market plan and see detailed schematics of the floor layouts and vendor locations.  It is really going to be an interesting experience.  They do not allow photographs inside the building so I won't have any fun pictures to share on the blog.  I can understand this - they don't want views of their lines coming out except those they control.

Friday, October 8, 2010

You are Now Qualified as a Buyer

Oh, what sweet words those were to read in an email from AmericasMart Atlanta yesterday afternoon!

A few days ago in the blog, I had shared a list of all of the requirements for qualification as a buyer at the Mart.  Knowing that I needed to do my buying for the store to open in Q1 of next year (spring fashions start shipping in January), I booked my flight and car in Atlanta for the Apparel Market to run from October 14 - 18.  When the work on the lease was moving forward quickly, I thought I would likely have it signed before market next week and have that as my final qualification piece.

When it became clear that the lease would likely take longer than I had anticipated, I knew that the only other qualification that I could obtain from the list would be an invoice from a Mart vendor.  Now, the logical side of me gets very disturbed when I think about the fact that you have to buy something to be qualified as a buyer.  But let's not dwell on that.

Now, a trip to Atlanta is never wasted, as I love getting to see my family.  And, if I hadn't been able to get my qualifications, I would have made to trip anyway just to spend time with them.  But I knew I'd be creating a big problem for myself if I didn't get my inventory on order.

I had been working with different wholesalers (vendors) and reviewing their upcoming lines.  Some types of vendors have what they call Immediates - these are items that they sell all the time because the styles are part of their basic brand and they don't change.  So, they can be bought anytime and sold anytime, regardless of season.  They have Immediates in addition to their seasonal lines.

So what doesn't change drastically over the course of a few months in fashion?  I settled on accessories because things like scarves and some jewelry can be fairly timeless.  Yesterday, I placed an order for scarves and bracelets from one of the Mart vendors and received a copy of my invoice.  I'll meet with this same Mart vendor next week to review their Ready to Wear (RTW) line of clothing and accessories.

Once I had the invoice in hand, I made copies of all of the other qualification items and headed off to my trusty Staples to fax everything to the Mart.  (No one hogging the fax machine this time!)  Within a few hours, I got the confirmation email!

It was a busy day with Zoe yesterday.  I completed review of the Home Page Wireframe diagram for Web Designer Mark and sent him my comments.  I received the formal quote from Architect Michael and signed off on it.  And, late last night, I received the new draft of the lease from my attorney, which I'll review today and, hopefully, be ready to send back to my broker!

Thursday, October 7, 2010

When Email Brings A Happy Surprise

I am still an early riser, even though I no longer have a long commute to work.  I enjoy getting up with Jim, fixing his lunch, having breakfast with him and seeing him off.  After he leaves, I normally sit down at my laptop with my coffee to check my email and get the day started on the right foot.

Imagine my delight when I saw that I had an email from Web Designer Mark with the wireframe diagram of Zoe's home page!  He was pleased with the responses that I had given him in my website reviews and used that information along with the other information from our talks and email correspondence to create the diagram.  I'll be reviewing it today and providing him with comments.  I often get wonderful surprises like this in the mornings (as opposed to when I was in IT and was often surprised with an "Oh crap!" kind of email!)

I had a morning meeting with Buildout Manager Scott, Architect Michael, and Construction GC/Estimator Bob at Zoe's potential space.  We had a wonderful meeting and I was very impressed with my first meeting with Michael and Bob face to face.  I really got the feeling that they cared about my best interests and both were very knowledgable in their fields and in dealing with the City of Alexandria.

At the end of our meeting, we all had "Action Items" to follow up on to keep the process moving.  After lunch, I completed mine, one of which was to provide the team with the contact information for my attorney so Architect Michael and he could reconstruct some of the language in the lease to specify how the space should be delivered to me.  By 2:30, they conferenced me in on a call to discuss the changes!  I like this kind of service!

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

The Lease

Not long after I had posted yesterday's blog entry, I received an email from my attorney with his redlines on Zoe's lease!  I quickly emailed him back to see if he would be available to meet with me today to review it and he confirmed that 2:30 would work with his schedule.

Even though I was tired, I perked up after receiving his comments (of course, I had to read them right away).  Like my comments, there really weren't a significant amount of changes and he had included an Exhibit A that address the conditions required for delivery of the space to me.  In our face to face meeting this afternoon, he felt that the lease as a whole was very fair to me and wanted to make sure we addressed those areas that needed some clarification or additional definition.  I felt that he had my best interests at heart in his review and I was very appreciative.  Many of the people that I've worked with in planning and designing all aspects of Zoe have impressed me in that way and it really encourages me.

We have a couple of items related to the delivery of the space that I will review with the architect and general contractor tomorrow morning.  Once I've gotten those answers, he will finish updating the document and send it to me to forward back to the landlord.

As I was preparing to leave his office, he asked me if I had ever worked in Alexandria.  I told him I think I had worked everywhere in the DC area BUT Alexandria!  He stated that he felt that I would really enjoy it and I shared that I was already beginning to identify a "small town" feel even though we were in the midst of a large metropolitan area.  That's a nice feeling and harkens back to one of the things I hope to create with Zoe.

Monday, October 4, 2010

I Know It When I See It

Former US Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart uttered one of my favorite lines (in reference to a case about something that I don't want to mention on my blog lest it attract the wrong kind of followers!)
"I know it when I see it"
That describes me well.  I can have a mental picture of something that I'm looking for and, when I see it, everything crystalizes and it all becomes concrete.  That's how I felt today in two different situations.

Last night and today, I completed the homework that Web Designer Mark had given to me - review the seven websites that he thought were similar in nature to what I might be looking for (based on our conversations) and share my likes and dislikes.  Of the seven, I had two that I did not like at all (both popular sites), two that were "fine" but left me somewhat indifferent, and three that were excellent and most fit the kind of web presence I want Zoe to have.  Of the three excellent ones, all were for smaller organizations that were very design focused.  It was really fun to consider the overall design and functionality of the site, rather than racing through, ordering something or looking for information (although those were definitely things I considered as I looked at each site - the ease of doing so).

And, in between rain showers, I made a grocery shopping trip and did a side trip to Treasure Trove, which is a consignment/donation store benefiting Inova Hospitals here in Northern Virginia.  As I had noted in my Charlottesville report a couple of weeks ago, I've been looking for items to use in decorating the store and have certain things in mind.  When I walked into Treasure Trove today, there was one of the items sitting right in front of me!  I was so thrilled to find exactly what I was looking for!

More very positive news on the space front - I'm set with a meeting with Build Out Manager Scott, the General Contractor and the Architect for Wednesday morning in Zoe's (hopefully soon) space.  I'm still waiting for the final comments back from the attorney on the lease but REALLY hope to have them tomorrow.  (No one wants to see me get impatient!)

Sunday, October 3, 2010


On Friday, I received the proposal from Build-Out Manager Scott, signed off on it, and sent it back.  He has lined up an architect who has done work in Old Town Alexandria previously as well as a General Contractor.  We hope to meet in the space on Wednesday or Friday of this upcoming week so that they can get started with their work.

I also spoke to my attorney and discussed his review of the lease.  There is one clause in the renewals section that he feels puts me at a disadvantage, especially if it were invoked during the original term of the lease.  I contacted my broker to see if we could remove that clause (it was not in the original Letter of Intent) and am waiting to hear from him.

I also confirmed the design for my stickers on Friday - Zoe Girl will be gracing the stickers with all of her gorgeousness!

On Saturday, I printed a small number of business cards at Staples (no crazy fax machine hogging lady in sight!) in preparation for market.  I also confirmed another appointment time with one of my potential suppliers/wholesalers!  So exciting!  And my family is very excited that I am coming, even though I will be busy in Atlanta for part of the time.  I'm going to stay a few extra days so I can spend some time with them.

I hope to finalize the lease this week and hold the meeting with the GC/Architect.  I am preparing to do my web design homework so that I can have answers ready when Web Designer Mark returns home.  Somehow, all this doesn't really feel like work!

Friday, October 1, 2010

Getting Ready for Market

In addition to enjoying our much needed rain yesterday, I spent most of my Zoe focused time on getting ready to go to Market in Atlanta in October.

Here are the requirements to attend Market as a buyer (and my status):

   Wholesale Retail Businesses

   All of the Following:

  •      Current retail business license or federal resale tax certificate (DONE)
  •      Imprinted business check (IN PROCESS)
  •      Corporate credit card or proof of merchant credit card ID #  (DONE)
  •      Photo ID or passport (one per buyer) (DONE)
  •      Personalized business ID (business card or cancelled payroll check) - One per buyer                                required (IN PROCESS)
  •      Internet businesses must also provide print out of search engine with web-site and proof of URL registration (N/A)

   Plus One of the Following:

  •      White or yellow page business phone listing 
  •      Current year executed sales tax return or sales tax coupon book 
  •      Lease agreement for commercial space (IN PROCESS)
  •      Photo of retail store front with company name/logo/signage clearly displayed 
  •      Current Invoices showing you purchase Mart-related Merchandise in quantity for resale

I had to hold off on getting the business checks imprinted (and yes, I know, there aren't many things I'll be writing checks for) and business cards (I'm going to have some temporary ones printed up but am working with Cori on my formal cards) until I had a better feel for my location.  The business bankers at Wachovia/Wells Fargo are always so helpful in answering my questions and getting me on the right track.

As you can see, they don't just let you waltz in there and "start shopping"!  I've confirmed my meeting on the first day of market with TKE Sales, who rep two of the lines I plan to carry in the store.  I'm hoping to continue setting up meetings today.  You don't have to have an appointment to meet with the wholesalers but it does make the process more focused and efficient.

I faxed in approval of the tissue paper proof as well as my sticker order yesterday.  There was an interesting "encounter" with a woman at Staples who did not want to "share" the fax machine.  I'm starting to question my decision to save money by getting rid of my home long distance service!