Samantha Conner Designs
Fabulous Accessories and Clothes for the Girl who has Everything.
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journey from handmade to wholesale. That rags to riches story every new designer loves to read and dreams about at night. I know you will enjoy the inside information she shares on showroom representation, wholesale dos and don'ts and manufacturing. First let me tell you a bit about her business.
Samantha Conner Designs was founded on a simple principle--to make beautiful things. The company began almost 7 years ago as a creative outlet for owner/designer Samantha. At that time she was a new mom to baby girl, and was looking for something to do during nap time. Over the years, what began as hair bows at craft shows has blossomed into a successful hair accessory line that is sold in high-end boutiques across the country. Recently Samantha Conner has expanded to include a girls clothing line, sizes 2-10. Wholesale customers can shop her line at the Posh Pit showroom at the Dallas Market. Retail shoppers can visit her shop HERE. Customer service, enthusiasm, and attention to detail set her company
Samantha: I had an accessory business for several years. Once I took my accessory line to the wholesale market in a showroom with a sales rep, I started looking for ways to expand my line. Clothing was the next step for my business. I have always enjoyed making simple dresses for my daughters and dreaming up ideas for clothing to go with my hair accessories. I think it was always in the back of my mind. But I didn't really believe it was something "I could do" until I started working with a manufacturer and a showroom.
TFBM: How long were you in business before you decided to wholesale?
Samantha: My accessory business was word-of-mouth for about 3 years. Then I began contacting a few local boutiques and inquiring about selling wholesale. I was surprised when boutiques wanted to buy my handmade accessories! I didn't really know what I was doing--so I just asked a lot of questions and learned as I went.
Samantha: I continued to work with a handful of the same wholesale accounts on my own for 2 years. My boutique customers encouraged me to consider selling wholesale at Market. I knew if I wanted to grow my business, I would have to hire help manufacturing. So, I found a local production manager and she helped me understand what it would take to manufacture my handmade headbands in larger quantities. Since I live close to the Dallas Market Center, I went to the
next Children's Show. One of my best boutique customers "got me in the door", and then I was on my own! I just walked the floor and 'sold myself' so to speak. I went from showroom to showroom wearing one of my headbands. I basically said, "Hello, I have a hair accessory line and I wanted to know if you would be interested in representing it here at Market."
TFBM: Tell us about sample requirements and marketing material requirements for your showroom?
Samantha: I was fortunate to find a rep that was willing to work with a new line. When I joined the showroom, I only had my accessory line. So I compiled my best selling styles to create "Market Collection". I provided her with a line sheet and order form for the showroom, sales literature, samples of all the styles, several pieces to display my
headbands on for the showroom, and pdf files to email her clients. (Once I began selling clothing as well, the requirements were the same.)
TFBM: How many seasons have been selling wholesale?
I have sold my accessories for 3 seasons and my clothing for 2 seasons wholesale at the Dallas Market. This summer, I created a small collection of clothing that I have been selling by myself. I have offered it to my wholesale customers, but the sales have been primarily 'direct to my retail customers' via Etsy.
TFBM: Were you happy with your first season orders?
Samantha: I was so surprised when I began getting orders for my accessories! It was really exciting. After about a year, I decided to expand my line to include clothing. My first season of clothing was Spring/Summer. I didn't get a ton of boutique orders, but I did sell a large quantity of one style to CWDKIDS catalog. That sale was a huge boost for me. It was amazing to see my design in a national catalog.
TFBM: Did you have a hard time producing the quantity?
Samantha: Yes, if numbers are low in a style, then it doesn't get produced. It's kind of sad to see a pretty outfit 'die' because the bookings on that style are too low. But I can't justify or afford manufacturing just a few quantities of a particular style. In order
to make a profit, larger quantities need to be sold.
TFBM: What products sold best wholesale?
Samantha: In my experience, hair accessories are easy to sell. Customers also like coordinating outfits that are affordable. Customers are only willing to pay high prices for brands they recognize, so that makes it really hard to get started. Especially when manufacturing in the USA.
TFBM: What would you do over if you could when it comes to wholesale?
Samantha: I am still figuring that part out! But, I would say, don't let a showroom 're-design' your line. Stay true to your original vision for your products. Also, be aware of all the costs that are involved with wholesale. I think as small, "made in the USA" designers, we sell ourselves short to try and compete with larger designers. Things like insurance, boxes, folding/tagging/packaging, credit card processing, shipping and handling-- all need to be considered in pricing. If you set your price too low to try and capture more wholesale sales, you will never make a profit.
Samantha: My accessory line is still in the showroom. For me, selling the accessories is painless. The styles don't change as much and I feel I have a lot of control over the production. But this summer, I chose to take the clothing out of the showroom. I was not getting enough sales to justify the stress of having my clothes at Market. I was getting a lot of pressure on my pricing and designs. Now I am working on selling the clothing myself via my wholesale contacts, local craft shows, Facebook sales, and my website. I want to find my niche and be free to design as I please. I want to capture more of the retail dollar as opposed to the wholesale dollar.
TFBM: Did your showroom representative give you any tips you can pass on to
Samantha: Find a unique niche that you can fill. The market for girls apparel is saturated, so in order to stand out, you need a high quality product that is different but also well-priced. Boutiques want outfits that are easy to put together. And they want to see lots of options, they like a variety of pieces in a collection. Also, when launching a clothing line wholesale, be prepared to invest some money. Designing and producing a sample line can be costly. And then when it comes time to manufacture to
fill orders, you will need money up front since the boutiques won't pay you until their orders have shipped.
TFBM: What's ahead for Samantha Conner Designs?
Samantha: I am excited about the future of my company. I want to continue to make unique hair accessories and fun clothing. Sewing makes me happy. I felt like some of that happiness was taken away this year with the stress of 'designing for Market'. But I am taking it back! If I can be creative and make beautiful things, then my life is joyful. And no matter what, I can always be happy about that. I am also looking to make more contacts with other designers. I recently attended a conference for blogs and small business owners. Being around other entrepreneurs was amazing. I want to find ways to work with others who have a passion for creativity. I am in the process of putting together a multi-vendor giveaway (with the assistance of the Fashion Business Mentor!) to help others grow their business. I do believe in the whole 'live, learn, and then share' motto. We are all in this together!
TFBM: Where see and buy your goodies?
Samantha: Come find me on Facebook and say hello!
You can shop my styles in my ETSY SHOP and at fabulous boutiques across the
Follow Samantha's journey from passion to profit on her blog, Crafty Texas Girls. Her story will inspire your creative side and perhaps encourage you to follow your dreams.