Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Small Company, Big Goals

I love all of the brands that I carry at Zoe but one of my creative favorites is knitwear brand LiaMolly.  When I first began studying brands for the store, one of the things I did was go to my own closet to look at pieces that I loved.  I hadn't even realized that I owned a beautiful LiaMolly sweater (that I often paired with a Velvet top - one of my other brands).  After looking at the "then current" line for Spring 2011 and speaking with the wholesaler, I placed my first LiaMolly order at the Atlanta market last October.

Her beautiful designs did not disappoint - they were popular with my customers for their uniqueness and high quality.  Even before opening my doors, I had already placed orders for Fall 2011 as well.  Although there are some very large "corporate" fashion brands, many are small businesses not unlike Zoe.  It was not unusual for me to communicate directly with LiaMolly's COO when arranging payment or making a change to an order.

Over the summer, the LiaMolly Facebook page included some press/information on the fact that the Asian manufacturing facility that had produced the LiaMolly clothing was increasing the minimum orders from 300 pieces per style to 2000!  For a company that sells to small boutiques like Zoe, it was not going to be feasible to expand their market to this extent.  I knew that LiaMolly had decided to bring the manufacturing back to the US and focus it in New Orleans (where the company is based).  I was thrilled as I try (as much as possible) to stock the store with products manufactured in the United States.

I knew that things weren't going as planned to obtain the knitting machines when I contacted the wholesaler in September to make an appointment to see the Spring 2012 line at Coterie in New York.  The wholesaler told me that they would not be showing at Coterie but they would send me linesheets when they became available.  Because I set aside certain amounts of money for certain classifications of items, I knew I wanted to hold some money to spend on LiaMolly's spring line.

In October, Seema Sudan, the founder and creative talent behind LiaMolly, had taken matters into her own hands.  Using a funding platform called Kickstarter, she laid out her plans and requirements to keep the line going and manufacture it in Louisiana.  She had one month to raise the $26,000 downpayment on 1 knitting machine to keep the company going.  You can read her story here.

I admired her determination and her bravery.  I'm sure she had attempted other avenues of financing and been turned down.  I wanted to do what I could to help.  I shared the Kickstarter page on my personal Facebook page.  I made a donation on behalf of the store.  I talked about it to anyone who seemed interested.  And I thought about it a great deal.

I am very fortunate to have some wonderful friends who are well-networked in Louisiana.  In telling them about LiaMolly's challenge, they were able to share her story and needs with the right people in the right places.  I received wonderful news yesterday that, thanks to their communications, Greater New Orleans, Inc., was in contact with Seema to discuss how they may help LiaMolly!

And today, Seema announced via Facebook that they had reached (and exceeded) the goal of funding the downpayment on one knitting machine!  And with 3 days to spare!  It is so exciting to see this great example of a small, determined company prepared to make a difference, train skilled workers, and add jobs in their local community.

Plus, I still get to sell beautiful sweaters like this Fall's Sparrow!

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