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Sunday, December 28, 2008

Networking together

presentation survey

The time for resolutions is upon us. Do you know yours?

If you failed on last year's resolution, so what! Reboot! Go at it, again.
This time, don't go at it alone. Independent Enterprise Networks allow you to work your own business yourself, but not alone. Here are just a few reasons you should network together with others.

1. Freedom to contract alone.
2. Freedom to contract together with others.
3. Generate income alone (1).
4. Generate revenue through own network (2).
5. Generate revenue on earned bonuses (3).
6. An ever increasing number of specialist consultants with whom to partner.
7. A growing diversity of consultant talent.
8. A local-to-nationwide network expansion capability.
9. Transact business with partners in or out of network.
10. No sales or productivity quotas.
11. Network consultants determine and set their own service provider fees.
12. Network reseller/retailers determine and set their own service recipient fees.
13. Network members are free to drive network expansion across industries.
14. Free online skills-posting for member and non-member consultants and reseller/retailers.
15. Networks enable members to create and market their own private label.
16. Network members attend monthly workshop of their choice according to their business development goals and objectives.
17. Network members brainstorm sessions produce business project opportunities.

Come to Round Rock, TX and see what IE-Networks hold for your future.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Survey: What works best for you?

You are invited to give your much appreciated input in the two surveys on the left side of this page.

presentation

What is best time of day for meeting?

What day do you prefer for meeting?

Seasons' Greetings! Happy New Year's!

Thank you.


Gil

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Identifying the local independent retailer niche market

presentation
Local independent businesses, despite being independent, are not exempt from making the tough decisions of their bigger cousins. You can checkout the Plunkett Research Ltd company in Houston Texas for their analysis credentials in the area of apparel manufacturing and retail in America. You are encouraged to read the article in the website in its entirety. I have selected the following 6 key points to know about your niche market:

niche markets with special tastes and needs, such as Chico's FAS, which caters to 35- to 60-year-old women who want flattering fashions that suit their figures.

Speaking of figures, the well-documented expanding girth of Americans is placing new challenges upon fashion merchandisers as overweight people of all ages, tastes and income brackets require clothes in larger sizes. Designers and merchandisers face the task of developing and presenting larger clothes in a flattering light.

they have also developed a keen interest in sports apparel and workout gear to wear at the gym and in other leisure activities.

As more and more of these people become seniors, their tastes and needs will bring great revenues to savvy apparel sellers who learn how to cater to this market

Consumers have been trained to wait for items to go on sale before they make purchases

Meanwhile, a growing number of fashion companies, such as Worth and The Carlisle Collection, are enjoying success selling women's fashions in the home via independent reps-somewhat like the success of similar companies that sell cosmetics.



One would be truly challenged to find a business in America not affected by our current economic opportunity. Even if we assume most of those affected positively number in the minority it’s more likely the majority are affected in the negative.

The response to this has been reduction, cutting back or shutting down business operations and wait for fairer times. Those who elect to press on soon learn unless they have implemented or driving hard to implement a new way of doing business can expect the specter of failed business will show its face again.


1. Know the age of your niche market
Niche markets may be small and limited, but offer huge potential. China is a niche market, but wouldn’t you like in on that niche market! Sam Walton tapped into a niche market in discount retail as well as Michael Dell and we know how it turned out for them. The niche market of 35 – 60 year women represents such an opportunity. These are not fickle clients and would more likely favor a real, local retailer with whom they develop a relationship to deliver on their customer-made apparel orders.

2. Know the overweight shape of your niche market
This is a reality and the sooner you tap into it the better. These clients are likely not thrilled about the prospect of shopping store after store with increasing frustration and dissatisfaction with product and service.

3. Know the sports apparel and workout gear interests of your niche market
Your clients care not only about what they wear, but what they can do towards improving their health through exercise.

4. Know how to cater to the tastes and needs of your people becoming seniors in your niche market
Your clients may reminisce fondly about what they wore in their youth, but don’t assume they want to wear the same in the mature years. However, they may be open to some design variations on yesteryear’s style.

5. Know what and how you need to train your niche market
Department stores such as Nordstrom’s, Neiman-Marcus and Dillard’s have trained consumers to wait for the sale. What’s a major department store to do with a floor full of unsold apparel items, but to hold a sale. Local Independent Enterprise Networks enable independent retailers to avoid glutting the floor with apparel inventory because of the nature of order-on-demand local delivery by IE-Networks. Some areas in which to train clients include: providing Network consultants with pattern & material and subsequent repeat use of pattern, having consultants create a pattern for repeat use, also.

6. Know how to enjoy sales success in the homes of your niche market
The home is not just a point-of-sale, but a gossip table for design ideas and more sales from your niche market as well as the workshop of IE-Networks at-home operations.

Attend the next business presentation

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

A lasting story

This Christmas my hope is you are able to draw deep from Christmases past and reflect on what this time means for you. Whatever it has meant for you, whether faith, hope or love of God, friends or family; all these are present for you at all times, not just a particular time of the year.

While I can understand it may not hold meaning for some other than a time together with family and exchanging of gifts that in itself is a story which will be passed down through your family. That in itself is a powerful story of togetherness as preferred to aloneness.

I remember a few years ago when I would teach a unit on each holiday as it came up hoping to enlighten my fifth grade class kids. I thought I wanted them to understand a bit more than it being a day off from school or in later years a day off from work and picnics at the park. My fellow teachers were aghast that I was teaching the “r” subject to which I replied I was no more teaching religion than I was teaching segregation when we covered the 1960s civil rights movement. My declaration to the kids was: I am not asking if you believe it. I am not telling you to believe. I am telling you what is found in libraries throughout the world in places where the story about a baby named Jesus grew up to be crucified and resurrected to be declared the Son of God is not believed at alone, but it is preserved and taught as history as a lasting story.

When you exhange presents with your family remember:


There’s no time like the present. There’s no present like time.

Merry Christmas!!

Happy Hannukah!!

Happy Kwanza!!

Feliz Navidad!!
Take the surveys on left side.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

At least 319 ways

I am reminded of the Paul Simon song.

Alright!

Come back if I just lost you.

There are now, in Texas, at least 319 ways to connect with the recycle and remarket computer business through Dell’s work with Goodwill and Reconnect.

Look for Reconnect in your state.

Make a new plan . . .
then,
Go do it!

We would love to hear about your progress in the remarket business.


Watch for December 2008 business presentation in Round Rock Texas to be announced.
Let not your heart be troubled; believe in God, believe also in Me. - Jesus

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Keeping hope

Finally.
I am unemployed.
Look for December business presentation in Round Rock TX announcement in next few days.

But, hey!! Everybody!
Always keep hope alive. Expect great things.

I strongly believe the Independent Enterprise Network model is the best, most effective and efficient means for establishing, strengthening or developing local enterprise relationships between independents and retailer/resellers in computer and apparel sales.

Judging by the readership of this blog I can see the interest in states other than Texas. We know Americans are struggling throughout our nation and it is my earnest desire to expand IE-Networks nationwide as quickly as possible.

We have witnessed some extraordinary and unprecedented actions by our government in the business sector. Repeatedly, we have heard those actions were not about what was popular, likeable or party policy, but it was what needed to be done.

The IE-Network model is not nearly as grand or as top-heavy as would require government or big business involvement. It does represent an opportunity for those willing to explore other viable, legal, moral and ethical options for conducting business while building up their community at the same time.

Be of good cheer, all.

G

Friday, November 07, 2008

Affordable computers in our economy

The next billion computer users

The major computer manufacturers in America are jumping into foreign markets to compete with the local guys like Lenovo and Acer for their piece of the pie. The rush is on to great affordable computers for developing countries. Some are surprised by the quickness with which those affordable products are being taken up by the next billion computer users in emerging nations. Of course, that has only intensified their decision for a even stronger drive into those low-income markets, because the simple truth is; small revenue returns from small items from millions and millions of buyers is much better than no sale, no revenue all the more given the present global economy.

While it pleases me to know people in those developing countries including emerging BRIC (Brazil, Russia, India and China) markets I see no less an opportunity for entrepreneurs in America. Specifically, in the low-income consumer market in America. Major manufacturers are geared too high in price and their assumptions about this market segment to penetrate and compete successfully. Some personal observations I have encountered countless times living, working and interacting with these Americans might help to elaborate on that a little bit.

The multi-billion dollar low-income consumer market in America

As many people as are quick to confirm they own a computer an even greater number confess it doesn't work or it's too slow, too old. Then, there is a large number of them who do not own a computer because the price is out of their reach. Some have no desire to own one. Others do not know what they could possibly do with one. Still, others desire to own one with some uncertainty as to what they would do with it, but they cannot afford it. Even if they could scramble the financial resources to buy one they cannot justify such a large-sum expense. The fact is major computer manufacturers know of this multi-billion dollar low-income consumer market in America. As big a market as it is it is best accessed by the smallest sole proprietor, the entreprenuer. The smallest slice of that pie could well make a considerable difference of family income for some people.

There is no bank or retailer expected to provide a loan or a layaway option for these consumers. The best, workable option is in the very community in which they live. They are in the midst of a vertible network of technical know-how individuals and consumers. How do they connect and how do they help each other while at the same time provide a boost to our economy from the bottom up?

The IPC Plan

It's not a loan or layaway plan or government subsidy, but the IPC (Individual Part-purchase Control) Plan. It represents a way to break through even the lowest retail price barrier. There is no document or contract to sign. The IPC Plan is merely a practical concept of mutual benefit between two people.

You, the technician, hobbyist, engineer, direct the consumer with "grocery list" in hand to Goodwill, other thrift store, reseller or discount electronics retailer week after week, month after month for every part required for his system. The consumer controls his weekly, monthly purchase expenses as he can afford it.
  • The consumer stores components in his home individual with parts inventory list.
  • The consumer and you agree on a date when you will build the system, unload and install software.
  • You build the system for the agreed upon fee.
  • The consumer owns his computer debt-free.
  • Total control of expenses by consumer

The parts inventory list is not only a running total of parts and cost, but the consumer can exercise his freedom to take it to anyone he chooses when he is ready to contract a builder for his system should the tech change residence, decline to build it or has become overwhelmed with too many orders.


What this involves is more than the consumer can ever expect from a retailer; a relationship between two members of a community. Some minor points of education would involve safe-guarding components from static electricity discharge and other careful handling reminders. In the end, the total cost of parts and your fee could exceed the cheapest system the consumer saw at the corner retailer. No, there's nothing wrong with this picture. Your neighbor, friend or client was well aware of his financial investment in the IPC Plan. The difference between the IPC Plan and a retail purchase is the consumer was able to absorb the cost into his daily living expenses. The expenses were in his total control.


Listening to opportunity


Independent Enterprise Networks enable members to connect with other techs as well as consumers. You determine the size and complexity of your project whether a private consumer or small business owner. Like the consumer, you, the networker determine how many separate client IPC Plans you have in your portfolio at any give time. The only financial expense is made by and controlled by the consumer. A local discount retailer or reseller may not be impressed, take notice or listen to one tech, but when they see the numbers involved with networks that has a way to make them listen to opportunity.


Get your information posted on the IC-TechNetwork.


Watch for IE-Network business presentation to be annouced for December 2008 in Round Rock Texas.

Monday, November 03, 2008

Borrowing change

I want to borrow a theme word from the election 2008 campaign for my own recurring theme: Change.

Specifically, that is change in the independent consultant / retailer business model relationship. Maybe you’re feeling our current economic crisis press on you for a “survive-to-thrive-again” mindset. What comes to mind, typically? Reduce your workforce? Reduce your expenses? These measures may be good for your business despite the wrenching gut-feeling from facing workers you esteem to dismiss them. Reducing your expenses involves less direct human interaction: Stop eat-out, take-out meal, seek out less a expensive source.

Again, these measures, from the business owner’s perspective, are good. However, the problem remains: You have not increased inbound cash flow. Who said you can’t increased cash flow in a recession (Yes, it’s time to face up to the r word . . .reality, too)? You ever notice in a “down” economy there’s always someone who’s buying when others are selling in a panic? One of the noteworthy responses to the global economic crisis was significantly different than other past regional economic downturns in the world. National leaders, in past regional economic downturns, scrambled to gain an edge for their country at the expense of their neighbor.

Independent Consultant Networks survive and thrive for people and because of people who survive and thrive only by helping others gain an advantage for themselves.
It’s the familiar adage: “What goes around comes around” with a mutual benefit twist for all.

Seven key elements of a local Network of consultants and retailers partnership represents:

1. A buyer bloc for fabric, sewing supplies, sewing machines retailers, sewing instructors, designers.
2. An ever-increasing source of talent to design and produce for local retailers no-inventory, low-cost customer-made apparel.
3. A ready source of low-procurement cost from local consultants.
4. A cost-free word-of-mouth advertising source in the form of consultants and retailers.
5. An ability to create and limit own fashion styles, own label.
6. A platform for ongoing discussion of ideas related to apparel, design techniques, fashion, vendor sources and more.
7. An ever increasing source of revenue, residual income and bonuses.

Lets network together for one another's benefit in order to survive today and thrive tomorrow.

Watch for business presentation announcement in early December 2008 in Round Rock TX.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Whiteboxes in Texas

I came across this interesting article with a long thread of responses.
You all know this topic is dear to my heart, but my heart sank like a rock as I made my way down the thread.

Look at Davidt’s message: Not In Texas, unfortunately
The time got away from me to post a timely reply to his message regarding whiteboxes being illegal in Texas as of September 2008. I did a bit of research and found it’s HB2417 to which he alludes. Bear in mind I am a layman in these matters and do not take what I say as a final word.

House Bill 2417 is an environmental law which will requires recycling of computers by manufacturers. The bill addresses the problem concerning whitebox (or, “no brand”) computers, namely, that they do not bear the manufacturers name. The bill, as I understand it, is not so much that whiteboxes are illegal, but that the manufacturer must identify itself as the manufacturer in some way even if by some means other than the manufacturers name. Ultimately, the law is about ensuring all computers are disposed of in legal, proper
compliance with Texas state law. Manufacturers are required to submit a recycling policy.

My personal (what else could it be, right?) of the law is that it focuses on manufacturers, not individual sole proprietors. If you advise your neighbor in the purchase of computer components over a three month period, assemble it, load software you have just manufactured a whitebox computer. If you built it for yourself that is a whitebox you manufactured. By all means, as a responsible citizen, turn it over to Dell, HP or retailer who are collection centers for recycling at no cost to you.

The Texas business climate is favors entrepreneurs. I believe our current economic times will
have laptop buyer parents looking at desktops for a better bargain. Yes, laptops are quite inexpensive. Desktops are even more. Whiteboxes even more, still.

Go’on. Build you one.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Whitebox Wonderland

Admittedly, I feel I should have got this one to you sooner. On the other hand, I feel vindicated about what I have been posting on this blog regarding the revenue potential for independent and small business custom system builders.

Read the article, Whitebox Wonderland by Damon Poeter

What are you doing in for yourself in the whitebox market?
What are you doing in the whitebook market?

Some early posts:

http://workingmannequin.blogspot.com/search/label/whitebook

http://workingmannequin.blogspot.com/2007/09/white-box-desktop-notebook-market.html


http://workingmannequin.blogspot.com/search/label/whitebox

Monday, October 13, 2008

If you build it for the good of all

The words whispered to Ray Kinsella played by Kevin Costner in the 1989 movie, “Field of Dreams” were the catalyst for building a baseball park for the legacy and the legends of the game. We never see the finished park. What was to attract fans was not a humongous facility, but the re-capture of a simple, wholesomeness for the good of all.

The words, “If you build it they will come” were as much about the players, those who play for the absolute love of the game, as well as the fans.

I have been urging and encouraging people with the Knowledge, Skills and Experience to build computers and servers for small business and neighbors, alike. That’s nothing spectacular. People will come to you not for the glitz, but for the homespun trust and “service” (actually, it’s “being neighborly”) they chance not finding at their local retailer for something they can use and is affordable. It is a means of revenue for the system builders and a means of allowing low-income Americans the opportunity to own a computer.

My search for the cheapest computer came up with $279, $195 and $164 (monitor not included). I am not going to name brands as a matter of principal. I maintain with a little resourcefulness an at-home tech-built computer system will beat the cheapest. How, you ask?

Lets understand, for starters, even $164 is a bit more than many people can comfortable to pull out of pocket for a single purchase. So, why do I believe they would be willing to pay even twice as much?

The next time your co-worker, neighbor or friend laughs at the prospect of owning a computer tell him to drop by when he’s got $10 to spare. Then, you send him off with a single-item grocery list to Goodwill or a discount parts reseller to buy a power supply, keyboard or mouse. Next month he’s got $20 and he holds it another month until he’s got $35. You send him off with a grocery list and he returns with a motherboard. Finally, six months later after purchasing a hard drive and monitor and other essentials he has everything you need to build his system.

On a sunny Saturday morning your friend brings coffee and tacos (donuts? bagels?) and joins you in the garage. You assemble the system and install the Windows copy he bought at Goodwill or you go online to download the OS for his computer. After numerous reboots your friend is a happy, proud owner of his first system and puts $30 dollars in your hand as agreed between neighbors, previously. Total price: $400. SAY WHAT!! Whoa thar, hombre!!

What happened to the cheaper-than-retailer talk? No, this is not a case of poor addition. The above scenario is not to depict exact price for every single piece nor your service fee. It is intended to show how your friend, on his own terms, buys all the essential components for his system, himself. In the end the price tag could possibly exceed the reseller’s display case model. What’s the advantage for your friend? It is a deal he is never going to get at Best Buy, Circuit City, Walmart, Dell or HP. He won’t even get that on layaway and it's certainly not a handout.

The advantage and the reason your friend is happy is that despite the fact he could see this was turning out to cost a bit more than the store model

The bottom dollar price was one he was able to absorb into his daily living expenses.

This scenario, when replicated through the dynamic of a network is nothing less than the inclusion of the low-income consumer into the cyber world. Greater still than building a computer for a neighbor is the buildup of community one neighbor at a time for the good of all.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Do you believe in myths?

America is a consumer society. We buy things and ideas. When it comes to computers those in the industry, who are themselves consumers, buy, both computers and the IT myth: There is no longer a digital divide.

Other takes on this myth: Desktops are out. Everybody’s buying laptops. Sure.

The focus of the EDUCAUSE Review article The Myth about the Digital Divide: We Have Overcome the Digital Divide by Brian L Hawkins and Diana G Oblinger is on computer owners, primarily. Elsewhere, I have called for computer manufacturers and VARs and resellers to target the low-income consumer market; those who do not own a computer in America. This is a consumer overlooked on the blazing path to obliterating (NOT!) the digital divide.

The four points below are taken from the IT myth article.

1. Do we know whether students have a computer? Do we know their skill level? Although it is easy to assume that all students own a computer and are computer-literate, is that a correct description of the student body? Is ownership the same for all students, or are there significant differences between groups, such as traditional-age students and adult learners? Are there different needs based on academic discipline?

2. Do we look beyond who has Internet access to consider online skills? What online skills, support, and freedom of use define an appropriate threshold for digital access and use on campus?

3. Do we limit the definition of digital divide to a haves and have-nots dichotomy? The digital divide is not a yes-no proposition; it is a continuum. Beyond computer ownership lie issues of Internet access at a reasonable speed, as well as availability of support. The campus may need to define its own metrics to determine the extent of its underserved, digital divide population.

4. How limiting will inadequate online skills be to students? The ultimate issue behind the digital divide is the ability of students to learn, explore, and become participating members of their chosen communities. Education is increasingly dependent on students technical proficiency not only to find information but also to analyze material and access experts. If students are regularly expected to participate in online discussions or use tools such as wikis, campuses should provide reasonable support to ensure that students can participate effectively and autonomously.

What I infer from this article is there is a sizeable market among these existing computer owners. Unless they are buying a new computer Dell, HP and Lenovo have no interest in them. These computer owners are not a myth. They are an open market for VARs, resellers and independent consultants who don’t believe the myth.

Get your name on the IC-TechNetwork. Spread the word.

Friday, October 10, 2008

A step closer to Prom 2009

I went to Jo-Ann’s Fabrics, today.

What was that like you ask? Well, if you walked into O’Reilly’s and saw all the shiny auto parts, how would you feel? I was a bit apprehensive about being there. I thought to turn and run, but when Toni called “number 18" I stepped up.

Toni stepped out from behind the cutting table (is that the correct term?) to assist me. She followed me to the fabrics section. She was very cordial and helpful, not patronizing or condescending even though she knew she was dealing with someone who doesn’t know taffeta from muslin.

My mission was to get some idea of three key things when making your own prom dress: Fabric, pattern and price. Toni showed me some examples: one Vogue (V2891) and two Simplicity (4070 & 3784) patterns.

The Simplicity 3784 pattern was priced at $16.95, or with the store 40% discount; $10.17. The Vogue V2891 pattern was priced at $27.50 and at 40% discount; $16.50.

Fabric prices ranged at one end from 5.99 – 9.99/yd for the 60 inch bolt to 3.75 to 4.75/yd for the 45 inch bolt.


The approximate cost of the Simplicity 3784 and fabric price at the high end in both ranges is below.

Simplicity pattern 3784: $ 10.17 10.17
Fabric 4.25/ 3yds 14.25
Fabric 9.99/ 3yds 29.97

Total $ 40.14 $ 24.42

Who are your clients? Moms and daughters who will be shopping for prom dresses for Prom 2009. Where are they? McNeil, Round Rock, Stony Point and Westwood high schools in Round Rock Texas or wherever you live.

Once you consult with your client they go and shop Jo-Ann Fabrics for the above pattern (or one similar) and fabric at between 40 and 24 dollars they have taken a big part in the ownership of their designer prom dress.

The next part is yours. You have measurements, needle and thread and a delivery date. The fee you set is your business, but whether a low $40 or high $70 you have a client who has agreed to your fee in consultation. The bottom line fee may be the same or no less than your client would have obtained from a retailer or online. The great thing about it though is they got THEIR fabric, color, fit and price all in time for the big event. No last minute rush shopping.

Something else to consider. The earlier consultation allows clients the benefit of being able to purchase these materials far in advance. Then they can then direct their finances toward covering your fee. In other words, they don’t have to be hit hard with an expenditure of 90 to 120 dollars all at once on the same day.

Think up some incentives to reward clients who send you referrals. An economy like our current one always has opportunity, both for you and your clients. Just do it.

Finally, all the above is my best attempt at being accurate and honest with the numbers. I must allow the possibility I erred in my math somewhere, but I trust you quite likely have a far better understanding of what I’m talking about.

You are invited to get your name posted on the PROM-DRESS NETWORK. It' free. Spread the word.

This is not to be taken as any kind of endorsement by Jo-Ann’ Fabrics, but I can certainly point you in their direction.

Yes. My name is Gilbert Torres and I approved this message.



Jo-Ann Fabric and Craft Larger SuperstoreShops At Arbor Walk10515 N Mopac Expressway Nb, Bld 1Austin, TX 78759Get maps and driving directions
512-795-8086Mon-Sat 9a - 9p Sunday 10a - 7p
Weekly Sales Flyer

Sunday, October 05, 2008

PROM-DRESS NETWORK

PROM-DRESS NETWORK

PROM 2009

It is a source of wonder to me the readership on this blog. The StatCounter on my blog has exceeded the free entries I am allowed. That means I am no longer able to get complete, accurate figures for the number of visitors to the blog. More important for me than the numbers is the “visitor paths”, that is, from where the blog site visits come.

Over the past several months there have been repeat visits from Oregon, Florida, Texas, England, Mexico to name a few. Although my initial plans do not extend beyond US borders it indicates an interest on the part of these readers. These are the top four most read posts


Cedar Park TX freelance pattern maker

The PROM DRESS NETWORK: Unlimited

Round Rock Prom Dress Style

Hollister CA

Clearly, the PROM DRESS posts draw the most interest.

It pleases me greatly to announce I have succeeded in, despite being tech-challenged, posting the PROM-DRESS NETWORK link.

Do you think the Prom will be canceled in 2009 because of our economy or because mom or dad have lost their jobs whether in Round Rock TX or Oregon?


I don’t think so. What this does present is a need and an opportunity involving prom dress choices, purchases, costs and income for creative, resourceful people.

Anybody in the 50 US states can have their name added to the Network. Anybody, high school student, mom, dad with the Knowledge, Skills and Experience to assemble/create or design a prom dress in the comfort of their home can do so.

Actually, I see no reason why anybody outside the US can’t be included in the Network if they believe it might help them.

How does it work?

A Stony Point, Round Rock, McNeil, or Westwood high school girl and/or mom is browsing the Internet for Prom Dress choices. This blog site shows up in their Google search. They click the hyper-link and look under their state heading for consultants, that is, a designer in their town or closest to them. They call and come to terms. The designer delivers the client their dress at an affordable price in time for the big event.

Price and payment are agreed upon between consultant and client.
Prom 2009 will be here before you know it. Now is the time to lay down some groundwork. Get your name on the Network.

Email your information to: GTorresCUE@gmail.com Subject: signup

Then, spread the word.

wm

Monday, September 29, 2008

The IC-TechNetwork

How does the IC-TechNetwork operate?

Individuals, including technicians, engineers, hobbyists, VARs and retailers post their information on IC-TechNetwork.
You either contact or are contacted by others on in the Network or outside the Network because of mutual interests.
Payment terms are agreed upon between consultant and client.
Submit your information to: GTorresCUE@gmail.com

The IC-TechNetwork will take on life of its own.

Individuals will connect with VARs or small businesses to perform tasks well within their capabilities. Groups of consultants will find each other and network together to take on projects for clients.

Who are the people who need to look into the IC-TechNetwork?

Certainly, they are people who possess varying degrees of Knowledge, Skills and Experience in the tech world. They may be gainfully employed. They may be about to become unemployed. They may be unemployed.

1. Individuals who want something to fill in the gap while they look for something else they prefer to do.
2. Resellers/retailers who want to ramp up their sales/service accounts, but cannot afford or do not want to add employees to their payroll.
3. Individuals whose vast KSE intimidates prospective employers salary capabilities and ability to retain such highly qualified individuals.
4. Individuals with B1 visas who must fulfill US Embassy requirements of “gainful employment” for immigrants.
5. VARs who may not be able to hire highly skilled workers, but will work with consultants, eagerly.

What is the goal of IC-TechNetworks?

A launch date is out there in the vastness of Texas in Round Rock. Anyone who wishes to “upgrade” from their network will be able to do so through membership in the IC-TechNetwork. Nobody is required to do so. We are not government or union.

Why would you want to upgrade?

A truly, effective and dynamic network does two things:

1. It brings networkers into and keeps them in contact with friends and peers who share similar abilities and interests, and
2. It generates residual income for you.

Get posted, today!

Sunday, September 28, 2008

TechNetwork

It’s been a really tough task for myself, being tech-challenged as I am, but I have managed thanks to the Google team, to setup the IC-TechNetwork.

If you live anywhere in the 50 states you may send me your information for posting. It will appear under your state of residence.

This service is free. Any earnings you might derive through your products or services as an independent reseller/retailer or independent contractor are yours to keep. Service fees are agreed upon between you and your clients.

Notice to local, independent Apparel Designers and retailers:

Watch for a similiar setup for APPAREL in the days to come. It's another tough challenge, but I am encouraged by my success with the setup of the Tech network.

Keep the faith. Grow in faith.

GT

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Boxing clever

This is a great article. I especially call your attention to his point about technology. Technology may be hardware, but in our age we are familiar with software, such as MS Windows, as technology, too. IE-Networks is one such technology independent retailers can leverage for the development of their business. gt


By Neil Davey The last ten years or so in the retail world has been a grim time for smaller independents.

The march of the big box retailers and their relentless focus on scale, efficiency and cost cutting has left many smaller shop owners despairing that they can ever compete.
Of course this is crazy talk. After all Sam Walton began Wal-Mart’s journey by taking over a single franchise store and building from there. And as Uzi Yemen, CEO of the MAPCO Express C-store chain, explains elsewhere in these pages, US retail will always have room for entrepreneurs willing to take risks and build a business.
Of course the key in retail is to give customers something they want. The vast scale of the big boys means that smaller stores won’t succeed if they try to compete directly with supercenters – they don’t have the scale or logistics to make this feasible.

But all is not lost. One of the big buzz’s in retail in localization – how can assortments, and even stores be created to better serve the needs of local, unique markets. And while the heavyweights of the sector scratch their heads and wonder how to re-design supply chains, or take advantage of the reams of customer data they produce to meet these needs, it’s fair to say that smaller, local, stores have an inherent advantage in focusing their efforts on local needs.

To look at how smaller chains and stores can better compete ERS has spoken to Thomas Zaucha, the CEO of the National Grocers Association, and Marc Jacobs, author and CEO of Dollar Days. They explain how being small should be seen as an advantage – as long as you have the insight to offer something different.

Opportunity knocks

For independent retailers, the news that a big box retailer is to open up shop in their community is enough to send shivers down the spine. Yet evidence suggests that it needn’t be a death knell for small retailers. Indeed, research by DollarDays International has revealed that by undertaking various strategic changes, 42 percent of small retailers maintained their market share when a big box player opened up nearby – and a further 35 percent actually reported an increase in business.

Marc Joseph is CEO of DollarDays International, an internet-based product wholesaler to small businesses and local distributors. After being inundated with calls from entrepreneurs seeking advice, he decided to put his nearly 30 years of experience in retailing and wholesaling, to use in the form of a book. The ensuing tome, entitled “The Secrets of Retailing…Or How to Beat Wal-Mart” details how small businesses can compete with big box retailers that come to their towns, as well as providing advice on the nuts and bolts of setting up a successful retail chain. Marc divulges some of the secrets to ERS.

ERS. What are the main strengths of big box retailers?

MJ. There are two things that have made them strong. The number one is their ability to buy in bulk. There are certain commodity goods on which you can’t compete with chainstores – laundry detergent, for instance, or paper goods. They can just buy truckload after truckload and small stores have to buy it in pallet form, so the chainstores compete on price. The second thing is their efficiencies of distribution. Wal-Mart has a just-in-time inventory system where it can flow goods from manufacturers to the stores very quickly and very efficiently. So the whole distribution center that these chainstores have created for themselves is a competitive advantage.

ERS. According to survey results by DollarDays International, 99 percent of the small businesses have big box retailers located near their stores. Does this spell the end for these small businesses?

MJ. If you are an entrepreneur this is actually an opportune time to go into retail, because the chainstores have created so much opportunity for everybody else. There are a couple of factors that have come about in the last ten years that have made it such a good time. The first thing is technology. The cost of technology has come so far down that small stores can now have the same kind of technology as the chain stores. Independent stores can now track their inventory and track their customers. That has created the opportunity to have the knowledge you need to compete. The other thing that has arrived to give the independent stores a chance to compete is the internet. Small stores are not only selling across the street and across town, but now they can sell across the US and the world. So this has opened up a whole opportunity for bricks and mortar stores.

ERS. Interestingly, the survey results suggest that 72 percent of small businesses opened their stores after the chainstores arrived in town. This seems to tie in with your argument that these chainstores have created opportunities.

MJ. Lets take the coffee shop business as an example. Starbucks is on every corner of the US. They are everywhere. But there are 600 more independent coffee shops now in this country than there were six years ago. What happens is that it is kind of like when the tide comes in, all the ships rise. The awareness of the coffee industry has created a niche for these smaller independents to go out there and find their little piece of the action. So chainstores create opportunity for independent stores.

ERS. How can retailers translate this opportunity into big bucks?

MJ. We advise entrepreneurs to open a store right next to a chain store. The Targets and the Wal-Marts of the world are spending millions of dollars to drive customers into their stores, so smart entrepreneurs are opening up independent stores around that to play off the traffic, so they don’t have to pay for all the advertising. These chainstores have also opened up the opportunity for dollar stores. When you walk into any modern mall these days, you will see a dollar store. A place where everything is easy to understand and you don’t have to ask about pricing and you can buy what you want. Retail Forward predicts that there is going to be another 9000 more dollar stores in the US by 2009.

Another niche that opens up when chainstores arrive are gift stores, selling better kinds of unique interesting kinds of gifts. And then there are specialty retailers – none of these chainstores do large sizes well, and none of them do juniors well. So you see that these independent apparel stores are opening up all over the place. When you think about it, most major trends have started in independent stores, because they are the ones out there taking a little chance and trying something a little different. And then it is picked up by the chainstores. So we see that chainstores have opened up an opportunity for entrepreneurs to open up their own independent stores.

ERS. In your book you suggest that there are a number of secrets to competing with the big players. Can you divulge the secrets?

MJ. There are seven secrets; seven ways that you can compete. One is by selling close-outs. A true close-out is only a couple or three truckloads of product. Because it is small quantities, independent stores can buy what chainstores can’t, because they can’t fill all 500 of their stores with close-outs. So true close-outs give the independent the chance to have a lower price and show something different than the chainstore. The second thing is that there are plenty of manufacturers that are just too small to sell to chainstores – there are more and more places where they just don’t make enough product. So there are plenty of manufacturers with which you can create that relationship and buy unique product. We also have a whole level of manufacturing where they won’t sell to chainstores because it would take up 80 percent of their production to deal with them and then if the store takes their business offshore it will put the manufacturer out of business. So you have the opportunity to find those manufacturers who will do that for you.

Also, the small stores have an agility with their overhead costs – chainstores have got management super structures, teams of buyers, lawyers, store designers, public relations and so forth. If small stores need someone to do public relations they just outsource it. And you run your own store so you have got the ability to figure out when you need people in the store to service your customers and when you don’t. You have got the opportunity to get agility on the overhead. Another reason that small stores can compete is that they offer a much simpler shopping experience. I was in Target last weekend, and I had to park all the way out at the end of the parking lot, It took me ten minutes to get into the store; where I was going to was at the back of the store, so that took me another ten minutes; it took me another ten minutes to check out…it is an experience going in these chain stores! Independent stores are smaller, you can usually park close to them and you can get in and out.

Elsewhere, there are plenty of rural areas that are just too small to support chainstores. And there are inner cities where chainstores just don’t go. So there are independent stores being opened up by entrepreneurs because of their location. And the last thing is customer service. If you run an independent store you get to know the customer so that he/she feels at home. You go to a chainstore and sure they have a guy greeting you but that is really for security. They want to get you through the registers as fast as they can. The whole personal attention thing really works and is something that independents could run with.

ERS. Ultimately, is your message that small retailers need to understand that when a big box retailer opens in their community it’s not a death sentence?

MJ. It is more of an opportunity than a challenge.

So there you have it – for smaller stores the secret seems to be leveraging the best practice and technology that has been developed by the bigger boys, and utilizing their size and agility to offer a different customer experience to the supercenters. You might not be able to land a knock-out blow to the might of Wal-Mart et al, but clever retailers should at least be able to get to a points decision. Difficulties remain for sure, but if retail were easy then it wouldn’t be any fun.

Tips to compete with big box retailers

Think small?
Large chains can’t benefit from true closeouts, which are broken lots or leftover goods that a manufacturer needs to unload. This gives the smaller retailer a chance to show products of real value.

Be unique?
There are many new and unique products that, because the supply is limited, chains pass over them, giving the independent stores a chance.

Develop relationships with small manufacturers?
Many small manufacturers will not sell to chainstores.

Agility on overhead cost?
Small retailers can beat the giants in another price-related factor: their overheads can be significantly lower.

Simpler shopping experience for the customer?
A store that is 2000 square feet is much easier to shop than a 100,000 square foot giant.


Location?
Underserved neighborhoods are a real opportunity for independent stores to thrive. Be where the giants are not. Personal attention?Customer service is the backbone to the independent business. People like to shop where they feel comfortable and at home, where they feel the owner cares about their wants and needs.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Discount designers

It seems every week we are exposed to some new effect of our struggling economy. Read this article on how high fashion designers are not above moving into the low-end discount market to increase sales. The most interesting thing to me is that in our economy, such as it is,
none of these designers think to ease up, slow down, or wait for better times.

Here’s what I take from the article for local independent apparel retailers determined to succeed and grow in this economy:

· Have you designed an affordable line?
· Are you reaching more people?
· Have you created any new partnerships?
· Do you have a source of new designers to provide you with fresh ideas and designs?

http://www.businessweek.com/lifestyle/content/sep2008/bw20080911_459145.htm

Take special note of the additional benefits these designers gained as a result of trying something new. Mizrahi found sales of high end fashion designs were revived quite unexpectantly.

None of the above suggestive questions involve anything extraordinary or expensive. They are all part of the IE-Network model which any two enterprises; at-home apparel contractor and local apparel retailer can partner together for their mutual gain.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

The value of a penny doubled

If you have ever attended a network business opportunity meeting you have probably been teased, provoked and made to feel silly/stupid with this question:
Do you know how much money you would have if you took one cent on the first of the month and doubled it every day for thirty days?
Just to give you the idea: Day one = 1 cent, Day two = 2 cents, Day three = 4 cents, Day 4 = 8 cents. Guesses range from .60 cents to $60 to “about 100 dollars”.

I have heard it more than a few times at network business meetings. Unfortunately, I believe the presenter and his/her audience often overlook the more important lessons while they argue in their minds the disbelieve at what they are hearing. If you are a whiz with a calculator you figured it out as quickly as it took you to touch those number keys. You others can take the slightly longer, manual approach. Take a sheet of paper. Number it one through thirty for the days of the month. Then start writing in your numbers beginning with 1 cent for day one, 2 cents for day two, 4 cents for day three until you reach day thirty on your paper.

One co-worker argued as though he knew for certain I was mistaken without even attempting to figure it out for himself: Lesson number one: Perseverance. Another co-worker simply worked his fingers on the calculator and confirmed what I had told him. A friend replied, “Yeah, that’s assuming you have a penny to double every day”: Lesson number two: Networking. This little exercise was reported by Richard Poe in the first ever investigative work by a veteran journalist in his book on network marketing, “Wave 3: The New Era in Network Marketing”.

Lesson number one is about perseverance. It’s about sticking with it to the end. My co-worker was unwilling to even start the work of figuring out the answer. I can’t say I did any better. The first time I sat down with paper and pencil I thought to quit at about day 25 because it seemed to me, “No way is this going to add up”. Even though I knew the total dollar outcome at 30 days I was about to quit! I was incensed at myself for even thinking to quit on a friendly mental one-cent exercise.


Lesson number two is about networking; what the many can do together. My friend missed the point saying, “. . . assuming you have a penny. . .” Networking is all about what the many can do together for each other, not you alone. Things, like one cent, that have very small beginnings can grow enormously far beyond what any single individual can imagine or can accomplish on his own . . .if you do the work.

J Paul Getty was an oilman in Oklahoma in the 1930s. Although he was not a networker he understood the concept. One of his sayings: “I would rather earn 1 dollar from a 100 people than 100 dollars myself.” The networking concept has been well understood and practiced by corporations like McDonald’s, Starbucks and Burger King who cover the country (and the world) with their franchises. Corporations earn small license royalties (called, “residual income”, also) over and over from their many franchises. Networking, or private franchising, allows any private individual with the vision and desire to build a business to receive similar royalties from networkers in their organization.

Seemingly small things are transformed before our very eyes and we fail to see it. There is an instance recorded in scripture when Jesus fed 5000 with 5 loaves and 2 fish. The disciples who walked through the crowd dispensing the loaves and fish failed to see their baskets never ran empty. Worse still, it never dawned on them they gathered 12 baskets full from the leftovers after the 5000 ate. They were no worse than many of us who fail to see things before our eyes greater than we’d ever imagined.

The point of the exercise is neither a promise nor guarantee of immense wealth in thirty days. It is about the reward and the value of a penny as being far greater than its monetary worth when two or more people work together.

The next time opportunity knocks at your house answer the door. When you do, don’t make the mistake of quitting before you do the work. Do not underestimate what the many can do, together.
Day 30: $5,368,709.12

Friday, September 05, 2008

Dell to sell factories

The reports are Dell may be looking to possibly sell its manufacturing facilities worldwide to contract manufacturers within eighteen months. There’s no joy in such news for those most affected should the reports become reality. However, there is opportunity, also.

As I see it, it is a vindication of E F Schumacher, the late British, world-renown economist. Although an economist himself, Schumacher had no kind words for his brethren and the lofty places they occupy in crafting and shaping government economic policy. He summed up his view of economics as it affects the common man in simple terms in his book, Small is beautiful. The mega-corporations, like Dell, Microsoft, IBM and the like, are not the answer to economic inequality and the enhancement and nurturing of human worth with dignity. The manufacturing floor, he believed, is in total opposition to these human values.

Schumacher’s small, but workable, view of an efficient and effective economics model incorporates the following elements:

· Affordable Any tools or equipment an individual procures to work their trade must be affordable. Purchase of such should not put the individual in debt for much more than the equivalent of an earnings period of , for example, one or two months.

· Small Whatever tools or equipment the individual acquires to earn his/her livelihood should not require any more storage space than one can afford in their own home.

· Creative An individual should be able to find creative expression in what he/she does in earning their livelihood. This creativity is not necessarily of an artistic form, but in the freedom to create one’s day with their family in mind.

Some examples of the above include, a sewing machine, computer/air conditioning technicians’ tools, roofers, satellite dish installers, light automotive and much more.

Now, here’s a scenario.

Suppose a given factory employs 100 builders to assemble computers. The indication by companies outsourcing operations overseas is that model cannot be sustained indefinitely. What Dell may do would not be anything unique. The private manufacturing contractor? That’s just another “mega-corporation” model not unlike the one which just failed. Those affected by a plant shutdown and those who view that plant as their competition are the same who can benefit, _ together.

How many of those 100 individuals with the Knowledge, Skills and Experience in computer assembly in an at-home IE-Network would it take to build systems for a VAR or local independent retailer/reseller, _ as independent contractors? How much would the retailer/reseller’s sales increase were there a small and ever expanding local IE-Network to build custom systems? Although the IE-Network model will launch in Round Rock Texas the model can be easily replicated in Reston Virginia, Schuamburg Illinois, New York City New York and San Angelo Texas.

Small is beautiful.

Stay tuned.

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Another look at the social contract

There are those who define as a social contract the agreement between citizens and their government. According to definition long ago people made the choice to give up individual personal freedom in exchange for the greater, mutual benefit of all. Then, they setup government to keep peace and order. I wonder when it happened that we also took that same social contract and applied it to the employer/employee relationship.

A social contract is not a written document. It is a willful binding of two by mutual agreement for their mutual benefit.

I believe whether you are talking about government or employers the agreement is a mutual one. We may not like it, but it is one we have accepted. It is not forced on anyone. Everyone has an opportunity to work to change it. Everyone has a right to leave it. No one individual has the right to tear down either government or social contract. Yes, there is room for improvement. There are other options besides the traditional, conventional, employer/employee model.

The Independent Enterprise Network model (IE-Network) provides another look at the social contract. There’s nothing to protest or teardown. It’s people who choose to build something of their own for themselves, but not by themselves. Although they may hear their own fears and the doubts from friends and family they do not listen. They move forward.

Before you think about changing your social contract and moving forward here are some things to keep in mind.

· The US government recognizes the right of the individual to act on their own behalf and earn his/her livelihood as an independent contractor.

· The low-cost, low-risk nature of contracting allows the individual to invest their time and energy into his/her service and product cautiously and solidly.

· The IE-Network model social contract is strengthened by the human qualities of creativity, warmth and sharing.

· The IE-Network model, unlike other network marketing businesses, elevates the designer and his/her creativity.

· Networkers partner with retailer/resellers who choose the networker’s products and services for their customers.

· The IE-Network model, unlike the employer’s limited wages, generates constant and increasing income for network members.

Quite often I find people who want to tell me about a friend. Usually, it’s a friend with immense talent and experience. In some instances, they have a great deal of equipment. They have all the resources and desire to give expression to their creative power.

There are, on the other hand, retailers. You and I have seen them come and then they are gone. They are no different than those anonymous friends I’ve mentioned. They have a vision to target a clientele no one else reaches.

The curious thing is, without fail, every time they each learn about the IE-Network model they become excited about the possibilities for realizing their dream. However, nothing changes.

Here’s another definition you’ve probably heard: Insanity is doing the same over and over and expecting different results.

Stop.

Note: Like some of you, I am an employee. I have been facing the prospect of unemployment. The (mild) chaos that creates in terms of losing/gaining ground toward launching my business (example: loss of conference facility) does not diminish my resolve. Yes, your thoughts and prayers are welcome. gt

Thursday, August 28, 2008

California apparel industry and Texas

The price of not calling on my IT friend for help setting up my new computer: Lost articles. If you are so inclined you can search for the article background. Here is the gist of the lost article. Gt


* * *


I have often stated California’s number one position in apparel. Even now, the state’s industry is engaged in new strategies between designers and independent contractors in Los Angeles. These defensive strategies are in response to increasingly high fuel costs and foreign competition. The offensive components of this strategy include; 1.) utilization of an abundant supply of local apparel talent, 2.) quick turnaround on small and large orders not possible with large foreign and domestic manufacturers, and 3.) the development of personal relationships between designers and ICs. Thus far, this has resulted in a bustling apparel economy, despite the struggling overall economy. There may well be displaced workers who would differ with that statement, but the resourceful, innovative approach by the California apparel industry in Los Angeles brings up a question.


WHAT ARE THE LESSONS FOR TEXAS APPAREL?


Again, I have often stated Texas is number one . . . in the number of displaced apparel workers. The previously stated conditions are true and affect the apparel industry in both states. Unlike California, Texas is number one in the nation in exports for eight years in a row. Although the California economy is bigger than the Texas economy Texas continues to distance itself more and more from California in exports. Mexico is Texas’ number one trade partner, with California, again, a distant second. Certainly, Texas does not lag behind with a wealth of apparel resources of its own. The lessons for Texas apparel: 1.) utilize local independent contractor talent, 2.) quick turnaround of product orders from local ICs means nominal or elimination of inventory stockpiling and quick return of investment, too, and 3.) relationships with local ICs are a human interaction valued as much for dignity, idea exchanges and friendship as for product delivery. It bears pointing out IC-Networks are neither employers nor jobs. They are at-home enterprises.


THE IC-NETWORK MODEL


While I could be off on some details I understand the California model involves an individual designer partnering with an “independent contractor” who employs a small group of apparel workers to manufacture apparel items. This is the traditional, conventional model. Moving from such a conventional model to an at-home Independent Contractor Network model involves change. Change is seldom easy. It may be easier when it is thrown at us than when we think, plan, decide and implement it. The idea of change can make us reflect on how “everything’s fine”, “the last time I tried that I failed”, or “I don’t know if that will work” and not about moving forward. The innovative at-home IC-Network model is the Texas model for implementation of these lessons by apparel designers and contractors. The model can be implemented in California or anywhere in the nation where producers (designer/contractor) and buyer (retailer) are found. A network is as big or as small as required to fulfill orders, not just for one buyer, but as many as buyers as partner with the IC-Network. Their income is generated through; 1.) personal productivity, 2.) residual income, and 3.) bonuses. They are not the designer’s or retailer’s employees. They are truly Independent Contractors. Further, network membership options are available for all.


WHAT CAN AN IC-NETWORK ENABLE ME TO DO?


1.) A private label of your own for your, a.) seasonal apparel items, and b.) fashion designs. A favorite question I like to ask when meeting boutique owners, “Do you own your own label?) The answer is, “no”, usually.

2.) Custom-made, or customer-made apparel need not be ceiling price as in the past. Both, contractors and retailers, have cut themselves out this market through their pricing. It is far better to create a product at a marketable price sustained through quality and repeat customers than to sit idly waiting for the next “big” job or sale.

3.) Expand your sales reach to customers and retail clients through your IC-Network partners. If you are a network member and IC-Networkers who produce your apparel are contracted by a retailer to produce your fashion design that’s sales income for you and the IC-Networker without you threading a needle or lifting a finger.


WHAT WILL IT TAKE TO START A NETWORK IN TEXAS?


1.) Attend the next business presentation in Round Rock TX when it is announced. 2.) Review the FAQs on this blog to inform yourself. 3.) Prepare yourself for change.

Super-size? No thanks

I receive, and respond to, a steady stream of calls for help from people. They are ready to bring out their creativity on 1) a pattern, 2) make some samples, 3) produce their product, then, 4) bring it to market. The first two steps can be, and are performed by themselves, often. The third step, finding a manufacturer is perhaps their earliest and truest test. Actually, finding a manufacturer, rare as they may be, is not as tough as finding the desired quality at a price that won’t crush the budding enterprise before it even launches. I wish I could say I knew how they did finding a manufacturer, but that is not feedback information I have been provided. One individual had existing connections with a manufacturer she had used in China. She was ready to end that long distance arrangement in favor of a US manufacturer to produce her apparel line. Those oversize apparel producers are the same who have gave birth to the consumer’s adage on apparel choices on the rack: One size fits none.

The information I have copy-pasted below provides some simple, clear arithmetic. This information is nothing new, but I hope it may help some of you appreciate what a local IE-Network is and can do for your business. The US apparel industry has (or did) for many years relied on major big-time manufacturers to produce its apparel. The pressures of cost and price resulted in most, and at this point maybe all, those major manufacturers to go abroad.

However, equally as much a part of the US apparel industry and maybe even bigger than those major manufactures were the thousands of small establishments which contributed to apparel manufacturing. The overwhelming majority of these small establishments employed four or fewer employees. These small establishments were successful and vital to the apparel industry for the immense (and inexpensive) talent they brought to the design and production process.
My question(s):

How many times do you need to multiply by 4 before you have an IE-Network capable of producing your apparel line?

Those 4 workers in small establishments are no less skilled than the hundreds employed by an overseas major apparel manufacturers?

Why then should a local IE-Network be viewed any differently?

What the information below reveals is the apparel industry has long relied on the many, small operations for the bulk of their production. This is not McDonald’s. You may want to super-size your apparel producer, but a small one will work wonders, too. There are, according to the Home Sewing Association, over 40 million people in America who sew at home. The HSA cannot say what the breakdown is between sewing for leisure and sewing for profit.

My take on this as a profitable opportunity for Independent Contractors and Independent Retailer/resellers: It can’t be all that tough to build IE-Networks locally, regionally, statewide and nationwide; beginning in Round Rock Texas. (check out the free burrito!)

The following are clips taken from the article. I have added the red highlights.

The U.S. apparel and fabricated textile products industry is highly fragmented and quite labor-intensive. Of the approximately 24,000 establishments that produce both apparel and fabricated textile products, nearly two-fifths are establishments with four or fewer employees. More than half these establishments have fewer than 100 but more than 4 employees.
_______________
The apparel manufacturing segment is experiencing an ongoing retrenchment. As emerging market countries continue to take on the workload of manufacturing, it is likely this will continue to be an American industry on the decline. The number of establishments engaged in cut and sew apparel manufacturing decreased from over 13,000 to less than 11,000.

________________________________________________________________________
Not surprisingly with the continued trend to outsourced jobs outside the U.S., the number of workers engaged in the industry took a very significant decrease in only 5 years. The drop of over 50%, however, is unusually large it appears employment in the industry is now around a quarter million, down from over a half million workers.

This is not an industry with a high concentration at the top. As indicated above, there are still many establishments that employ 5 or fewer workers. The four largest players account for less than 20% of industry revenues while the top 50 represent slightly over 40% of all industry revenues.
Concentration of Revenue by number of firms in the industry is as follows:

Total Number of firms Revenue as % of all firms in the industry


4 largest 18.8%
8 largest 23.8%
20 largest 32.6%
50 largest 43.9%

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Private label

It is heartening and exciting to meet others of like mind. Malissa Long is one such person. I clicked my heels in midair (well, alright! It’s a metaphor. . . but I can do it) when I learned of her decision to offer private label collections to boutiques in Austin. Among the boutiques: Girl Next Door, Adelante, Blackmail, Soigne, Envie, and by George. I do not know of the boutique owners' decision.

I often broach the subject of private label when I meet independent apparel retailers. Three
things come out, typically:

They have thought about it, but it’s too expensive,
They have thought about it, but do not know how to go about it, and,
They have never thought about it.

Malissa is typical of the vast number of individuals talented in apparel in Texas, Virginia, Oregon, Florida, California, Matamoros Mexico. I mention these locations because these are just a few of the places from where this blog receives returning visits. Clearly, people are curious. They want to know how they can utilize and benefit from their KSE as independent contractors in apparel. Malissa is talented in the creation of patterns and is well prepared to tackle the challenges boutique owners see in private label:

They are hard to produce.
They are costly.
The time involved is too much.

Malissa is not reinventing anything. She is merely accessing free open source patterns that are
out there for anyone to use. She will work with clients on any adjustments, alterations to
produce the owner’s desired wishes. Contact Malissa if you're ready to try out your own private label. That sounds like an Olympic Gold idea!

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Lessons from an Olympic gold medal winner

Everybody's looking for gold! Some lessons from a gold medal winner at the 2008 Olympics in Beijing China.

He, like many competition athletes, did not come to China to have fun. He came to take care of business. The business of sports is competition. The profit/loss business ledger columns of business are the win/loss columns of sports competition where a win is profit and a loss is a loss, still. He came for the gold.

Michael Phelps, the twenty-three year-old from Baltimore Maryland, has forced even the most disinterested to take notice of his remarkable Olympic feat: An unprecedented eight (ocho) gold medals in men’s swimming competition to surpass Mark Spitz' 1972 longstanding record of seven.

We spectators may find it difficult to accept this view of Olympic sports competition. It doesn’t sit well with our romantic, couch view of sports as entertainment. This is not a throw-off on capitalism or competition. It is about a lesson of independence and team work.

I wrote a Spanish post on the "Treasure of the Maquiladoras" ("El Botin de las Maquiladoras") a while back. The point of that post was to illustrate although the maquiladoras (apparel assembly manufacturers, primarily) in south Texas are gone their treasure, their gold, remains. That valuable treasure is the Knowledge, Skills and Experience which remains as the sole intellectual property of the independent former workers who now earn their livlihood at McDonald's, Walmart or the call centers and plastic injection molds which continue to seize the labor-force opportunity left behind in south Texas.

These same individuals possess the capability to team together with local independent apparel retailers; a virtual apparel manufacturer. I receive a regular stream of emails from designers in need of pattern makers and a manufacturer. At least one of them has expressed her desire to discontinue her business with China manufacturers. She has decided to go for the gold in the US, instead. Why are these two, independent individuals and independent designers, apparel retailers, not seizing the valuable treasure in their communities for the creation of their apparel items, their apparel line? They are both looking for gold, but both seem to look past each other.

As impressive as are Michael Phelps’ accomplishments they are a powerful testimony and lesson about trust, confidence and risk. Although he tied the world record when he won seven (siete) gold medals as an individual there was one more. The only race left where he could possibly, and quite likely, win another gold medal was the 4X100 medley relay; _ not as an individual swimmer, but as a team member.

Lest you think, “It’s only a game”, that is not the mindset of competition athletes. The decision by Michael Phelps to play as and be a team member was potentially costly. His image was at risk had the team suffered a loss. However, I believe it was more than just another race for him. It was an golden opportunity to play, compete and win as an American team member. He believed in the capability and willingness of his teammates to take the risk and go for gold together with them.

Take care of business. Go for the gold. Enhance your competitive edge. Build your team. Build your IC-Network.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

A logistics perspective on apparel outsourcing

This article clip on apparel is from a logistics perspective. Logistics is all about the chain stretching from order placement, design, materials, manufacturing; to order delivery. Clearly, outsourcing is not the cure-all for ills affecting US apparel retail and manufacturing. Although the setting here is the global stage the issues and their solutions are real for local independent enterprises and independent retailer networks, too.

These three things stand out about outsourcing:

The pursuit by apparel companies for lowest prices continues.
The problems of contractor turnover.
Poor apparel/contractor relationships translate into poor product quality.

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Hot Topics in Apparel

Strengthening Outsourcing Relationships
Apparel companies' relationships with contract manufacturers in low-cost countries have historically been transient. Deals sometimes last only a few months as brands continuously pursue the lowest cost. On average, one-third to three-quarters of an apparel company's contractor portfolio turns over every year.
But this relationship-hopping comes with a price: poor product quality and contractors who are unwilling to invest in enhancing operations.
"Flitting from contractor to contractor hinders flexibility, hurts quality, and invites social compliance and visibility risk," says David Aquino, research director of the Industry Value Chain Strategies Service at AMR Research, Boston.
Some brands are ameliorating this risk by taking a more strategic approach and pledging longer-term commitments. They're also putting more feet on the ground -- either their own local personnel or in-country logistics or sourcing partners.

They're hoping a rationalization of suppliers and longer-term deals will build the trust required to spur contractors to invest in technology and equipment, boost quality, and prioritize their work.
Apparel companies are also setting up supplier portals to enhance long-distance communications. The most successful companies build global sourcing infrastructure slowly and methodically, rather than rushing in, Aquino says.
"We prefer to stay with the factories we have good relationships with," says Lisa Kuhns, account manager at The S Group, Portland, Ore., which maintains offices in major production countries to offer a local presence to apparel companies lacking the resources to build infrastructure themselves.
"Having strong relationships gives us better negotiating power, and helps hold down prices on behalf of apparel companies," Kuhns says.
In addition, apparel companies are getting more involved in raw materials sourcing, a task previously left to contract manufacturers. It's a strategy designed to shore up quality, which tends to suffer in the move from factory to factory.

Pinpointing New Low-Cost Countries
Rising prices in southern China are driving apparel companies to new low-cost locations throughout Asia, and focus has begun to shift to African and Pacific Island countries. But sourcing from these countries can be risky because they lack apparel production training and infrastructure.
"Critical mass has to build up before large air and ocean carriers can offer fixed-day service out of a new location," says Tom Wyville, vice president of marketing for FMI, a Carteret, N.J.-based 3PL.
It's a challenge to move to less costly, industrialized areas without higher transportation costs wiping out the savings. 3PLs and sourcing partners are helping apparel companies by opening local offices that offer services to hold down logistics costs and provide visibility and quality control. Logistics strategies include blocking out space with air and ocean carriers and operating consolidation centers.
But the number of new sourcing locations is finite. "The world is round, and eventually you come back to where you started," notes Mark Cohen, CEO of Tracy Evans Ltd., an apparel company that has returned to sourcing from Central America after a brief shift to Asia.Smart apparel companies operate multiple supply chains, balancing near-shore with distant sourcing locations, and maintaining reserve capacity to meet unexpected demand.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Grow your business on a weak US dollar

Profits from export sales are up for US corporations like Microsoft, McDonald’s and California wine makers who are taking full advantage of the weak US dollar.

A weak US dollar could present a mutual opportunity for at-home custom-apparel Independent Enterprises (IE) and Mexico (or, US) Specialty buyers.

A weak or slow economy is often seen as being bad for business and not a time for taking a risk. However, you can grow your business on a weak US dollar, too. Specialty products and services often take a back row to the company’s core business until the economy recovers. However, Independent Enterprises and buyers need not rely on high volume to sustain and grow their business even during a down economy.

Because both are among the smallest business units, compared with major manufacturers and mega-chain store retailers, they are best able to change into a surge mode the moment the economy rebounds. While many downsize their operations into a “survive the slump” mode these Independent Enterprises, because they are already “downsized”, don’t need to think or act small. They are forward and progressive thinking about opportunity. Some incoming revenue is better than not at all, but perhaps more important, parties involved are setting themselves to be ready for the economy re-surge.

What could make a partnership between an IE-Network and a custom-apparel Mexico Specialty buyer attractive and grow your business on a weak US dollar?


1. Individual attention to buyer’s client preferences.
2. Network can be as big or as small as buyer wishes.
3. Diversity of talent.
4. Potential of ever expanding IE-Network base.
5. No contracts or commitments to buy.
6. Networks and buyers, alike, are mobile.

IE-Networks can sell their “Made In USA” label, proudly and confidently. Specialty buyers can give IE-Networkers assurance of prompt payment-for-services through the setup of a Commercial Credit transaction account with a bank in the Network’s area. Even better, set it up online for electronic quickness.

I can imagine you’ve got questions. I do not have all the answers, but _ we can talk.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Independent Enterprise Network presentation

You are invited to attend a Powerpoint slide presentation on

CANCELED
My apologies for the inconvenience. Reschedule to be announced.
Independent Enterprise Networks


The Powerpoint presentation is an overview of the at-home IE-Network model:

Profits
&
Strategies

6:00PM
Friday August 15

Caffe Panini
(Conference Room on premises)
1105 S Mays Street
Round Rock, TX 78664

Caffe: http://www.caffepaninitx.com/

location: http://www.caffepaninitx.com/1698692.html

Who should attend?

Independent Apparel Retailers

Independent Apparel Contractors

Independent Computer Systems Builders

Questions or comments:
GTorresCUE@gmail.com 512.218.4627

Saturday, August 09, 2008

Lining up to buy fabric from Mexico

They are lining up to buy fabric following the news release by the USTR.

The doors have just opened wide . . . for Central America.

Actually, the international conference call on July 2 by US Trade Representative Scott Quesenberry was to reassure all parties Mexico denim fabric exports to CAFTA member Guatemala will start on August 15. The savings for factory owners range from 30 to 40 percent over US-bought fabric in the past. Of course, as we know there is no longer a textile industry in America to produce the fabric for which apparel producing countries have been starving. Apparel produced in these CAFTA countries using Mexico fabric is than imported into the US duty-free, without quotas, and, _ very cheap.

This raises some questions in my mind. I submitted my question concerning ICs in Texas to the USTR on August 08 and will share their response as soon as I receive it. My question: Is this duty/quota-free denim fabric available to ICs in Texas?

Do fabric retailers, such as Hancock and Jo-Ann have an interest or plan to procure Mexico denim fabric for their customers?
If the cost-savings are so appealing for factory owners are they any less for ICs?
What if a local IE-Network of at-home apparel makers approached the store management to make known their wishes for this fabric?

Actually, this may be an opportunity best seized by an independent Mexico entrepreneur.

What if this fabrics vendor turned right around to place, pickup and purchase custom apparel orders from IC-Networks in Texas for his/her clientele in US or Mexico? Any international import/export issues would be his business to handle, not that of independent contractors.

What if your private label caught the vendor's eye? Are you ready to meet the buyer’s requests?

FYI: Powerpoint business presentation to be announced August 11 on this blog.

Saturday, August 02, 2008

Independent apparel retailer unity

“No, but sounds like a great idea!”

That was the reaction from an independent apparel retailer in Round Rock to my question: “Is there an association of independent apparel retailers?

Consider this my invitation to all: If you can enlighten me to the existence of such an association, organization or network to unite independent apparel retailers I would like to know about it. Also, I invite you to view, “CHALLENGES OF THE FUTURE”, a resource by the Illinois Retail Merchants Association.

What effect does the IE-Network have on the unity of independent apparel retailers?

First, unity among IRs means merchandisers and others businesses will see and hear them as a body.
Second, unity ceases to be a mere slogan or wish, but a reality. Independent retailers who unite can exercise their business clout to leverage textile suppliers and retailers on behalf of the IRs’ apparel-makers network.
Third, unity gives IRs a voice in local government.

The link above is the actual text. The five-point text below reflects my red highlights added for emphasis. Here is one portion I highlighted.

Some of the trends affecting retailers discussed in the report are:
1) the increasing amount and intensity of competition;
2) the impact of major demographic changes like the aging of America, the growth of the Hispanic population, and economic clout of the “Y Generation” born 1981-1995 as the largest consumer group in US history;
3) the backlash against chain expansion in smaller communities;
4) the impact of soaring healthcare costs on retail businesses; and
5) the ever-blurring delineations between market segments and buyer groups in the US.

1. The competition is not going away. It is not only from overseas, but across the street, across the street. Increasing sales revenue must come from something more than less expensive procurement. A retailer’s local, private apparel-makers network offers great promise for reducing procurement costs by minimizing or eliminating conventional inventory stockpiling practices.

2. The buyers represented by these demographic groups can best be reached through IE-Network members who themselves, as apparel-makers, both young and old, represent the community demographics. I have heard from so many young girls and young women a mere two, three years out of high school who have great desire and ideas for fashion. What snuffs their creativity is not knowing or being able to partner with independent retailers. Despite their youth many of them have old, conventional paradigms, “I-need-a-lot-of-money-to-start-my-business” mindsets toward getting into the apparel business.

3. Perhaps the best indicator of this backlash is WALMART has committed to taking on the “small business” look in local communities. Whether they achieve that is not so much the point as that they see the value of you of the independent small business.

4. I believe the allusion in this IRMA source is to BIG retail business. Nonetheless, contractors, in the truest sense of the word, represent a way for retailers to continue to build with their former employees Knowledge, Skills and Experience as independent contractors and eliminate healthcare costs.

5. This point is closely related to the first point on the demographics makeup of the community.