I’m really excited to have Edmund Lowman on the show. Edmund is someone who I met at the Import Summit in Orlando and after chatting with the guy for a while at the conference, I learned that he’s got a pretty awesome story to share.
First off he’s a former rockstar who was part of a wildly successful rock band called Red Jump Suit Apparatus. In fact, I believe that his rock band made him a multimillionaire in his 20’s. Then he realized that the rockstar life was not for him, lost all of his money and had to work his way back up from pretty much ground zero.
Today Edmund owns a variety of seven figure companies. First off, he started Kekai Express which is a company that helps companies find great products and reliable suppliers.
What You’ll Learn
- How to source, validate and market a clothing line.
- How to get your clothing in from of large chains like H&M and Zara.
- The 2 main options on how to sell your clothes
- What Edmund would do today to start a clothing line
- How to find goods to sell online and how to import them and make money.
- What the main criteria is for selecting a product to sell.
- How to validate your product before you start.
- Where to source your products from. Where to find vendors and the scripts to contact them.
- How to attract quality suppliers. How to tell if someone is a middleman or a trading company.
- Online services that Edmund uses for his business that he can’t live without.
Other Resources And Books
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Now before we begin. I’m happy to announce that I’m holding my own ecommerce conference on May 19th in Miami, Florida this year called the Sellers Summit. Instead of the large crowded conferences that you are used to hearing about, mine will be small and intimate with a focus on learning. So picture small round table workshops instead of large auditoriums with a focus on actionable strategies that will grow your ecommerce business. For more information go to sellerssummit.com and watch the video.
Now, before we begin, I also want to give a quick shout out to famebit.com for being a sponsor of the show. Famebit is the number one market place for influencer marketing with over 20,000 YouTubers, Instagramers, people on Twitter and Vine looking to promote your company in any vertical whether it be, beauty tech, gaming, pets and more. Yes, you can get famous YouTubers and Instagramers to promote your business for as low as $50. And the best part is that you don’t really need any money at all to post a campaign and receive free proposals from creators. Now if you’ve listened to my podcast before, one of my guest, Emanuel Eleyae used famebit.com to make over $65,000 in four months with YouTube influencer marketing.
And the best part is if you use coupon code “my wife” at famebit.com, you will automatically get $25 off. So go to famebit.com right now, and get famous YouTubers to promote your products. Now on to the show.
Welcome to the My Wife Quit Her Job Podcast. We will teach you how to create a business that suits your lifestyle, so you can spend more time with your family, and focus on doing the things that you love. Here is your host, Steve Chou.
Steve: Welcome to the My Wife Quit Her Job Podcast. Today I’m really excited to have Edmund Lowman on the show. Now Edmund is someone who I met at the Import Summit in Orlando, and after chatting with the guy for quite a while at the conference I learned that he’s got a pretty awesome story to share. First off he’s a former rock star, who was part of a wild B successful rock band called Red Jumpsuit Apparatus. In fact I believe the rock band made him a multimillionaire in his twenties, then he realized that the rock star lifestyle was not for him, lost all of his money and had to work his way back up from pretty much ground zero.
Today actually Edmund owns a variety of seven figure companies. So first off he started Kekai Express, which is a company that helps other companies find great products and reliable suppliers. Two, he runs a multimillion dollar fashion production and design house called IFG. Finally, and this is kind of random, he also owns the most popular hostel chain in Thailand. Now Edmund’s got a ton of experience, but today, we are kind of going to focus his China sourcing company and maybe his fashion company, and basically how he sources great products from China for his clients. And with that, welcome to the show Edmund, how are you doing today man?
Edmund: I’m doing well, and yourself?
Steve: I’m doing very well. Here’s something I just want to comment on real quick. When I heard that you were a former member of a rock band, I kind of had some preconceived notions about your personality. So for example, when we were out partying, I kind of half expected you to get wasted and start like going on, jumping on top of the bar, and going nuts. But only half of that happened. You got wasted, but you didn’t do any of those crazy stuff.
Edmund: I’m usually the one that actually– everyone always thinks that. Everyone always think that they are going to get me wasted, and I’m always the one that leaves early and doesn’t get wasted.
Steve: Yes, just for the listeners, it turns out Edmund is actually super down to earth, easy to talk to and he knows his stuff. Normally, if you guys have been listening to my podcast, I don’t usually like to focus too much on the back story of my interviewees, but Edmund just got an incredible story. And so Edmund, give us like the rock star back story, and how that kind of led to Kekai Express.
Edmund: The rock star back story. Huh, yeah, basically where to start. I had a band. And I had several different bands actually. There’s even more to the story. I was in a bunch of bands before that. I had a few record deals before that even. Then, I just kind of like, how life works. Businesswise, it’s just like being an entrepreneur eventually if you keep trying, one of the ideas works, and that’s what happens with this band. It just happened to work. We went on tour. We had a top twenty song on billboard. You know did everything that rock stars are supposed to do. It just wasn’t for me. It was very unfulfilling I found.
Steve: In what way?
Edmund: Just you’re kind of like a circus animal. It’s like, you are plated around, you play the same song twenty times every single day. You don’t really have any time to– you have no free time. That was the most depressing part actually. I thought it was so depressing that I was traveling the world to all these amazing places, and I wasn’t seeing anything. It was like I was seeing the inside of hotel rooms, the inside of radio stations and the inside of amphitheatres, and auditoriums and they are all pretty much like the same in every country. So that was very exciting.
Steve: Interesting, but I imagine you did it for the fame, right?
Edmund: I think– good question. That’s good question Steve.
Steve: Well, then you made a lot of money too, right?
Edmund: Yeah, I think. I can’t say obviously, but I think in the beginning I got in with pure incisions of I just realized I loved the music. As I got older, and as I started again to college and you realize– I guess for me like money was never– when I was younger, I’m not saying that I came from a super wealthy family, but I can from like a middle class family, so it was never like money was never a big stress in my life. And so I got to college and I started realizing, “Oh you have some money to live in the world.” I think at that point it became a little bit more about the money, whereas before that it wasn’t really, that wasn’t my reason for getting into music.
Steve: Okay, but you did make a lot of money with the band and then you ended up losing it somehow, right?
Edmund: Yup, exactly. We had a big lawsuit with a bunch of former band members over this song that was our hit song, and basically everything was gone overnight.
Steve: Yes, so I mean everything is gone and it just– so how does losing all of your money, you are in this rock band that you don’t enjoy being in anymore, how does that kind of lead to China sourcing. It’s kind of random.
Edmund: Yeah, yeah. Okay, so it wasn’t a direct. It wasn’t a direct like it just happened overnight thing. What happened was I had lost all the money. I still had a little bit left, and so I decided to go to Germany to go see my brother. He was living there and working as a professor at a university. So I decided to go see my brother. While I was there, I probably shouldn’t say this on a podcast, but [inaudible 00:07:56].
I kind of figured out that you could import cigars and [inaudible 00:08:04] are Cuban cigars and you could get them through as long as you took the labels off the cigars. So I started selling Cuban cigars online. And so it started like my first like real life business. I was like, “Oh, I can make money outside of a band.” And so I started selling cigars online and found out very quickly that that was a really bad idea, because I was going to get to federal prison forever and ever.
Steve: Technicalities, technicalities.
Edmund: Technicalities, technicalities. I mean what are [inaudible 00:08:33] burgers for anyways? So I shut down the business, but I actually acquired a little bit of money from that. I had a friend who was living in China. His family owned a fashion company. This fashion company, probably for a lot of you guys remember, it was called Asprey.
Steve: Yeah totally.
Edmund: Asprey was a huge company. They were part of Asprey in China. They did all the production over there. You know it was this [inaudible 00:09:01] family. Basically he invited me over. “Come over, I think you could help us out with the business development side.” I don’t know why I was the choice of all the people, but for whatever reason, he said, “I think you could probably help us out with business development side of things, and most of the ecommerce,” because they saw what I had done with my website. So they were very…
Steve: Your cigar company?
Edmund: My cigar company. And they were like, “Okay, that was interesting. I think we can use ecommerce and online store online marketing whatever, we think we can use that in our business.” So I went over there and my friend and I basically in a probably alcohol fueled conversation, decided that really what was going to be happening next over the next few years was to trust fashion, which is companies like Abercrombie and Gap and Zara, H&M, all these guys, they are just trending out clothes like nonstop. I was of the opinion that there was no way they were doing all this in house. This was all assumption at this point.
The amount of people you would need and the amount of infrastructure you would need to do that, and the margins in fashion, I just didn’t believe that they were doing it themselves, and I was right. And so we decided to hire a designer out of, just straight out of fashion school in Italy. We just went and goggled what’s the biggest fashion school in Italy. Then we called this school and found out who’s the top ten people that would graduate this year.
We had this guy like, “Hey look, we want to go after these three companies. So here’s X amount of money.” I think we gave him like five to ten thousand dollars, “Go on a shopping spree, buy as many clothes as you want from these companies, and we want you to bring it back here, and we want you to make clothes very similar to what they are selling right now,” which is what he did. Through friends of friends I had some connections at Zara a H&M, and at and some other big companies, and we got all these buyers to come into the show room. We basically sold them their shit back to them.
Steve: Interesting. So they didn’t recognize their own design. I mean these are different designs obviously.
Edmund: Yeah, they are different, but they are close enough.
Steve: I see, okay wow. Okay, so these large companies now like the Zara, they actually buy their clothing designs from you guys?
Edmund: Yeah, not always but most, a lot of the time. We get a lot of the designs are done through us for men’s fashion.
Steve: Okay, so this is IFG, did that come first?
Edmund: Yeah, IFG came first.
Steve: Okay and then how did that transition over to Kekai Express?
Edmund: So what happened was we were producing like massive amounts of designs. So we were doing like 2000 designs per season, so like almost 4000 a year. Let’s say 1500 to 2000. So what happened was our designers and our buyers were like, hammering really hard for like three to six months. I had like three months and then they had three months off, because of the way we were doing our production.
Basically, my partner and I were sitting around and I was getting a lot of emails from friends like, “Hey can you look for this for me. I know you are in China. Hey can you look for this for me I know you are in China.” And eventually I was like, “Dude, why don’t we just put a couple of our buyers on this while they don’t have any time right now.”
And the first thing that was brought to us was these touch screen monitors. So I was like, why don’t we see if we can source through this guy, it was a friend of a friend. We found like insanely cheaper. I think they are selling or buying them in America for like $425 and he was like if I can get them for like $375 to the door, like we’d be killing it. I was like, yeah, let’s look for him. We found it for like $175. And I was like guess what, I found them for $350, I got you. And so we are like, hey the sourcing thing. That’s not a bad idea. We just made like $40,000 in 20 minutes. Let’s do this some more.
Steve: Interesting, so these are all like random events that kind of happened to you. You didn’t start out saying, “Hey, I’m going to start a sourcing company.” It just kind of fell on your lap so to speak?
Edmund: It sort of fell on my lap. I mean, it seems like everything happens that way for me, I don’t know why.
Steve: In like both of these cases too, right? Like the clothing company and the sourcing company.
Edmund: Yeah, and actually the band as well to be honest like in retrospect.
Steve: Do you recommend this like procedure for starting businesses?
Edmund: Not at all. Okay, here’s the thing. Actually with the clothing company, sorry– and I’m sorry if I’m moving around, you guys are hearing a lot of noise. I’m at my good friend Will’s house right now, and his cat’s going crazy as you are probably hearing.
Steve: He’s a cat man.
Edmund: He’s got twenty of them, it’s weird.
Steve: Interesting, everybody thought.
Edmund: Here’s the thing, for my outside perspective, it sounds like they fell on my lap. But actually going to China in the first place was a pretty huge risk. I had a very stable life living in Germany. I had a girlfriend. Everything was good. I could have stayed there forever, and the quality of life was great there. I had a basically few more months and I could get citizenship. Not citizenship, but like permanent residency. It was a huge risk and a huge decision for me to go to China.
That alone was a risk. I took a small amount of money to go there and try to start something. Even the story of how once I got there, there was all this chaos. The day I got there basically the family’s company got invaded by the government. A bunch of family had to like leave that day. My friend and I lived in like this terrible apartment for months, and months and months trying to get the business going again.
It wasn’t– it sounds easy and nice, but I think like any success story, if anyone asks you about your blog, they probably are going to be like, “Wow man, you are crushing it. That’s awesome, that it just worked out for you.” But I’m sure there’s years, and years of work behind what you’ve got until now. It’s easier to look at it…
Steve: Oh yeah for sure.
Edmund: When you are not the one doing the work it’s easy to look and go, “Oh yeah that must have been great.” Yeah, we put in a lot of work. I would not suggest to anyone just jump in and hope that things fall in their lap, because it’s not the way it works.
Steve: Here’s the thing Edmund, a lot of my listeners are actually– I ran a class too where people want to sell their stuff online and actually a lot of people want to start to their own clothing line and have their own fashion line. I always tell them that selling clothing is tough. I thought since you kind of do that for a living. I wanted in your perspective, if you were to start a clothing line today, like how would you start?
Edmund: Okay, how would I start today? There’s sort of two ways you could do it. Way number one which if it was me personally, this is– no, that’s too very simplified. Okay, way number one is this. Way number one is you go either, if you are going to do in China, or whether you are going to do it locally, it doesn’t matter, you go to a local seamstress.
This is a side note too. This is what really interesting about fashion. A lot of people think that it’s like a restaurant. Have you ever gone and you sat at a restaurant and you are sitting in the front and you’ve never been to the kitchen. And you are sitting in the front, “Oh men, it might be this mysterious thing. This fancy steak is coming out with red wine reduction and rolls made of potatoes and oh men, it must be crazy back there. How did they do this?”
And you get back in the back and it’s some short white guy, picking his nose and kicking your steak. And you are like, “Oh wow, it’s not as mysterious as I thought it was.” This is how I feel about fashion as well. Is that people go, “Oh men, it must be all this stuff that goes into it, producing these shirts and clothes and blah, blah, blah.” It’s some fat white guy picking his nose.
Steve: I thought it would be some Chinese guy doing it actually.
Edmund: Actually yeah. It’s the Chou family; your descendants are over there. In China or locally, everybody thinks I have to go to China, I got to go here. But you can just as easily go to a local tailor or a local seamstress if you are trying to get prototypes made at least. And they can make the stuff for you. Anyone who knows how to saw– I think even you told me like in the beginning, you learnt how to saw. You did all your monogramming, right?
Steve: I did but that’s all done by the machine, not by me, but yeah.
Edmund: But still, it’s not like it’s this crazy complicated thing. I would guess that probably if I came over and sat for a weekend with you and learnt how to embroider, probably by the end of the weekend I can probably do some basic stuff, right?
Steve: Oh yeah for sure.
Edmund: It’s the same thing with fashion. It’s not really this crazy thing. I mean there’s more technical designs, but it’s not that crazy. Anyone who knows how to sow can probably make what you are looking to get made, so you can go to China, but you can also just go to a local seamstress and have them prototype your things. Then after that, the next step, this is where you have…
Steve: Well, let’s talk about the prototype real quick. So let’s say I don’t have any background in clothing design, what do I tell the person to prototype, do I just give him assurance, say make something similar to it like kind of what you did?
Edmund: You’d be shocked I would say especially with fast fashion, 99% of their stuff is not new designs. What most fashion houses do is they go out and they buy samples. They call them samples. So basically they go into Zara for example, and they buy a bunch of shirts off the racks and say, I like this, I like this, I like this. And then they take them to a company like ours or they take them to the local seamstress and say, “Okay, I really like this design. I like the material, but maybe can we move this pocket. I don’t like the pocket. Let’s get rid of that. And that tag, let’s move that tag. And instead of making it swimmy happy dolphins, let’s make it angry scorpions.” Just simple stuff like that and they just modify the existing shirt, or the existing design. Sort of like if you like pimp your ride, kind of the same thing.
Steve: So they probably just rip apart the clothing and then create a pattern out of it based on your…
Edmund: Yeah, so you can do that way as well. Sometimes, they’ll create a pattern out of it, sometimes if they already have the basic design they know what the pattern is. But if you take it to like a local seamstress, they can definitely cut it up and make a pattern out of whatever you take to them. If you say like, this is the base. This is what I really like. Make a pattern out of this. They can do it. Or an even easier way is you can go on like Fiverr, or you can go on Odesk.
Edmund: Yeah, trust me man, people do it all the time. Hire someone; say hey, “Take a picture of the shirts.” Say, “Hey can you Photoshop this for me. I want to put this, this and this,” if you have no Photoshop skills. If you have Photoshop skills you can do it yourself. Put it on to like a PDF and show them exactly what you want the sizing, where you want to move things and very easily a seamstress can copy that, as long as they have like a base shirt to work off of and they have a design that you’re showing them, they can definitely do it.
Steve: Okay. So once you got that what’s the next step?
Edmund: Okay, then obviously you want to produce or you want to sell, so this is where my, you can go left or you can go right. If you go to the last that would be going to some of the biggest, I don’t know what that means, you can get some of the bigger is what I’m trying to say, some of the bigger fashion shows. Not like fashion week, but these are like wholesale fashion shows where the buyers from all of these big companies go to either source clothes or even to just source new fashion design companies.
There’s one called The Project Show in New York and I believe it’s also in Vegas, there is another one called the Magic Show which is also in New York and Vegas if I remember correctly, maybe it’s just in Vegas. There is another one called Bread ‘n’ Batter, that’s a massive one in Germany, there’s all these big fashion shows per year, and if you remember actually Daymond John talked about this during the Import Summit, when he spoke. He said he went there and he didn’t have any money so he was just was like walking around the show showing people his clothes.
He was wearing his clothes and talking to people and taking their business cards and trying to get them back to his hotel room to show his clothes, and that works. You can hustle and that’s really in business especially when you have no money, your only option is to hustle, and not be afraid and not be shy to go out to people and say hey this is my product, do you want to buy it, because otherwise no one is – if you just put it on the website and hope people are going to come, it’s not going to work.
That’s one way, go there, and try to meet some people, collect some emails, collect some cards, unless you have $100,000 in and you want to buy booths you can also do that, but that’s quite a bit of money.
Steve: Yeah, actually before we go on to the other side I was just curious what the margins are like on clothing, so how much does it cost to produce let’s say a typical T-Shirt, how much would the clothing company buy from you for and how much it would sell?
Edmund: It’s really all over the place, a typical – because shirts, actually like a T-Shirt are pretty hard to make money on.
Steve: Like a burn down let’s say.
Edmund: A burn down would be where you make money, it really depends on the quality, they can be as cheap as…
Steve: I’m just trying to get an idea of the market.
Edmund: I mean the market let’s use like 75% to 100%, you could say like maybe you buy them for $6 to $12 really depending on quality, quality obviously is a huge factor,. If I was producing for 6 then I should be able to sell it for anywhere between $10 to $14 depending on the company, and also depending on both, because I mean if someone huge comes in and buys it and we will sell it for 8 because they are buying 200,000 pieces, it really depends.
The other side of it too is sometimes especially when you are working with bigger clients like you’ll lose money on some piece because you are making money on other pieces. So it’s like okay we want all of these pieces, and you’ll say it’s okay we’re going to lose money on this shirt and this shirt and this shirt, but hey we’re killing it on this shirt and this shirt, and so basically it evens out, it’s a game of chess.
Steve: Okay, it sounds like the pricing is just like a traditional retail model, double for whole sale, and then double it again for retail.
Steve: What’s the other side?
Edmund: Depending a lot on the book.
Steve: Of course.
Edmund: If they’re buying massive amounts then obviously they are going to push you way hard on the pricing.
Steve: Sure, that totally makes sense.
Edmund: The other way, if I were going to produce something today, would be the beginning part is actually the same, then I would go to either back to the seamstress, or I would go to try to source for a factory in China and put a little bit of skin in the game, how much you can afford and start getting some samples made and getting them online. And even with this I have kind of two varying schools of thought, one way would be to go around to local boutiques to try to get some preorders so that you are not spending your own money, I’m not a big fan of spending my own money.
I would probably do it that way, I would try to maybe get to some boutiques, maybe go to some smaller like – even locally, I know people have fashion shows, so there’s like Massey shows or there’s wedding shows where they show off all the new bridal stuff depending on what you are doing. I would maybe try to get one of those too and just try to walk around and show other people what you are doing.
If you couldn’t do that and you just feel you can’t go around and talk to people then the other way I would do it is get 10 to 50 pieces made of each product you are trying to sell and get it up on Amazon, get it up on Etsy, get it up on eBay, get it up on your site and so try to push it that way. It’s just that I think with the online model especially when no one knows who you are, it’s a lot more labor intensive, like you really have to get a lot out there and convince people to buy your stuff, whereas when you meet people face to face it’s much easier in my opinion at the beginning at least to get them to buy your stuff and take a chance on you.
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Okay so let’s go onto those two ways a little more deeply, so you walk into a boutique where you just ask for the owner and say hey I got some clothes to show you?
Edmund: Yeah that’s what I would do.
Steve: Like what’s the, is that how really it works?
Edmund: Well I don’t know, I have never done it before, but I think it would, you are saying how I would do it, this is how I would do it. I’ve never personally had in my own fashion brand where I was just selling to stores like we always had like a – We always went route one, where we went to all project shows and all the wholesale shows like Bread ‘n’ Butter, and we sold, took book orders like right off the bat, even though we didn’t know what we were doing.
Actually I had a lot of, it was like a kindle spirit with Daymond John because even though obviously my company was not as big as FUBU was, his story to how he got started is very-very similar to how we got started. I was like okay I guess that’s a pretty proven model that works, the only thing with that is that it doesn’t really – like a lot of people want that instant gratification of seeing their product in a store right away, that’s the goal, kind of like hearing your song on the radio.
It’s like okay that’s I’ve made it, but in a lot of ways that’s not really making it, that means that you’ve got a really developed supply chain and if you start off that way I think it can even be a bit of a nightmare, whereas when you get to these project shows who knows who’s buying your tuff. It might be someone in Lebanon, it might be someone in France, it might be someone who has a small boutique in California. You’re probably not going to instantly walk in a shop and start seeing your stuff, but that model is the base of building one your financial foundation, and your supply chain that can move you into getting your stuff all over the place in my opinion.
Steve: So you were at one of these big shows, what are the negotiations like especially when you don’t know what you are doing?
Edmund: When we did that we kind of went all in, we had– we bought a booth, so I think…
Steve: You bought a booth, okay.
Edmund: Yeah, it was expensive, there was, we got a small booth, crappy little booth and I think it was like 60 grand, and it was basically all the money we had. We were like okay we got to make it work, and we were just there all day just hustling. Anyone who walked by we were like hey man check out our clothes, check this out, product new fashion company in China blah, blah, blah buy my stuff, and typically the way it works is there’s one of two things.
Even at this time we didn’t even have an office because we were so broke, and we had all this trouble with the [inaudible 00:28:24] basically was kind of set up incorrectly in China. We like rented out like this – you can rent out sometimes during the fair like these fake offices, where someone will set a reception, you can put your logo up on the wall and these conference rooms, and blah, blah, blah.
Edmund: This is what we had, so people come in, they look at your clothes, oh yeah this is cool, and some cases they might say yeah we really like what you have, let’s sit down and talk numbers right now, or they might say this is pretty cool, can we come to your show room, which we paid for this office so that we can have a showroom. So we would bring people the showroom, walk around, show them everything, and at that point typically what they do is if they really liked it they’d start to make an order.
They made an order and after they made the order they would have like five days to transfer the deposit, and after that’s done we start production. It’s interesting in business, that’s what you’ll always find, at least I do, that there’s this like magical moment when someone hands you their money and you think it’s going to be like this big crazy thing and fireworks are going to go off, and it’s something really technical and it’s just like no give me my money dude, that’s it, okay let’s do this.
Steve: Usually when someone hands you money, I’m like oh crap.
Edmund: That’s how I am too, but that’s the point it’s just like it’s nothing really that mysterious, it’s just like oh shit now I really have to go do this.
Steve: I was under the impression that you were selling your designs and not actually having to produce your own stuff.
Edmund: It depends, so excuse me I drink some water. We do both, the way it works for someone like H&M comes in, here’s how it works. They come in, they start just like shopping in a mall, they start pulling off the designs that they like, and they start putting them on the racks, and they’ll have like the H&M racks. We say, okay we like all these designs, we will like to buy these, what’s your pricing on them? And we say, okay, this is our pricing. They say okay cool, they’ll go away for like four, five days, they’ll come back and say okay, well, this is our opinion. Sometimes they only take the pricing its crazy, they really know production. Sometimes they just say this is what we like and they take pictures of it and then they go off.
And they come back and say, okay, this is what we think this costs this, this is what this costs, this is what this costs. And they give us the pricing. We look at the pricing and we say okay, yeah, we can work with that or no we can’t work with that. If we can work with it then lots of time they’ll say, okay you guys go ahead and produce it, and we’ll actually produce it for them. Or if it’s at this time where it’s like we think that it costs us for example we say it costs $10, and they said hey, we are coming in at $7. We’ll say, okay, there is no way we are going to be able to produce this and make money; do you guys want to buy it? And sometimes they’ll buy the design.
Steve: What to stop them from just stealing it?
Edmund: Nothing, a long term relationship I suppose, but yeah, there is nothing stopping anyone from just walking in and taking picture and running off. But yeah, we haven’t had it happen; I don’t think it would happen; it would be just tarnishing the relationship so bad. I don’t think it would be worth it to them.
Steve: Okay, so here is the thing, there is a lot of people who contact me, they want to sell their own clothes, but they’ve opted or option number two to produce their own stuff and just list something on Amazon and their own site. The problem with that is when you are unknown, clothing all kind of looks very similar to — there is a lot of designs, but they all kind of blend together after a while. So if you were going with option number two, like how the heck do you get the word out there, is it just leg work at that point?
Edmund: Honestly I think it’s really similar to what you do with your bargain and what I do with standard price which is you have to put in the work. I have heard so many people say to me, oh yeah, so we are going to put up a website, and we are going to sell online and duh-duh-duh. I’ll say, okay, well, that’s cool, how you are going to get people to your website? Well, yeah, well are going to have this website and it’s going to be online, yeah, I get that part. How people are going to get to your website, because it’s one thing to put up a website, like that’s great now. But you have to be producing content or value that make people want to go visit your website. People don’t just go randomly search for mywifequitherjob.com like that’s not how it happened, right?
You had to start putting up value and things that people are interested in. So if it were me and I was actually going to start ground zero of fashion blog right now, what I would do is I would first start a blog. I would start writing about fashion, I would start Instagram account and Pinterest account. I would start pinning clothes that I think are cool. And then start putting pins up with my clothes, like with links back to — I think with Pinterest now you can actually link it back to your website right?
Steve: Yeah, well, absolutely yeah.
Edmund: Yeah, so I would start putting pins up with clothes that are mine that are cool, make sure they are like really beautiful pictures. I’m not a huge — I don’t have a huge amount of knowledge about Pinterest, but I have seen how it works for other companies. And it seems like when you have really beautiful sleek cool pictures people click on it, like, okay, what is this, I want to buy this.
So I would really get my stuff out there on Pinterest, with Instagram, even Periscope. I think Periscope is an amazing tool you and I started using it recently a bit. If I was in fashion I would do a Periscope like, hey, I’m going to show you guys today live how to design a shirt or hey, I’m going to show you guys today how to do a stitch and actually show people how things work.
And these kinds of things will start getting people interested in what you are doing. And not only that, it will position you as an expert. Once you are positioned as the expert and whatever your field is, people are going to start coming to you not only for advice on how to do it, but two on looking on what you are selling, they go cool this guy obviously he is an expert, so I’m going to buy his stuff. So that’s how it goes.
Steve: Yeah here is the thing, that takes time right? Like for me it took me like two years I think before I started developing a following on my blog. A lot of people just don’t have this patience, and what’s tough about clothing. So when we started our store, we got a lot of early sales on through like buying ads right? But with clothing does that work as well?
Edmund: Doing what?
Steve: Like let’s say I can’t just buy adwords ad for like button down shirts and expect to get sales right?
Edmund: I don’t know, I never tried it…
Steve: You never tried it okay.
Edmund: Yeah, because I mean like my business model and I’m sorry if this is disappointing your listeners, my business model is so opposite of that. But I guess if it were me, and I don’t know I do Facebook ads and adwords stuff or other things. I would think in theory you probably could put them up and it might work, your conversion rate would probably be really crappy and you probably spend a lot of money getting people to your website.
Maybe if it was something like Facebook ads and Pinterest ads, you might be able to get people to your site, but again it’s really developing that name that people know and trust. It’s hard to get people to buy something online from someone they have no idea who they are. Already buying stuff online it’s a little bit scary for a lot of people. I would say Amazon; eBay would probably be the best ways to try to get sales in the beginning.
But I also don’t believe in get rich quick, and I don’t like people who pitch it, I just don’t think that’s how it works. You can’t just go put stuff up online and hope that’s it’s going to work tomorrow, it’s not. And people who say that it’s my opinion are lying too; I think that you have to put in some work, and it’s going to take some time.
I don’t know if it’s going two years, but I would say it’s going to take a couple of months of really pumping out some content, getting on different — like doing what I’m doing now and getting on podcast. And knowing people so they let you on the show, and getting your name out there a bit. And then you can start really pushing it, I just don’t…
Steve: You are pretty annoying yeah, it’s true. Sorry I cut you off there, I was going to say yeah so okay…
Edmund: In all fairness in the beginning about three years ago or so when I was first trying to kind of like get into this world of online marketing. And even though I don’t even have a blog or anything, I do stuff with other people. But I was really annoying with Noah, like hey man like put me on your blog man, like let me do an interview; let me come speak at your conference.
Finally he’s like just leave me alone. And I think that’s what it takes, if you are not pretty consistent then don’t do it you are wasting your time. If you are going to give half, half, and you are going to work a little bit on it, it’s going to be the kind of side project that you don’t care about that much. And when it’s convenient you work on it, then dude don’t waste your time, because it’s probably not going to work. It’s got to be something like you have a full time job, plus you do this. This is what it takes, this is hustling, this is how you make money, and if you are not willing to do that, then don’t do it.
Steve: Yeah, I just want to touch on one of your points there, is getting your name out there. A lot of people who just sell stuff online don’t do that right? They kind of just list it, and they drive some ads to it and they expect it to sell when in fact when you kind of develop deeper relationships with people through other blogging, or any of the various mediums it doesn’t really matter what you do, they are much more likely to buy from you no matter what you decide to sell. And even if like you decide to sell something completely different, it’s easier to steer that audience over to the new product that you are going to sell.
Edmund: Definitely I mean once you have a relationship with somebody you’re way more willing — not only willing to buy from them, but less likely to return it. So once you’ve decided if I buy something on Amazon from some company I have never heard of, when it gets to my doorstep I’m going to be very skeptical from the moment I open that box to when I start using the product.
And I think I’m going to be way more likely to return it, whereas if I already have a relationship with whatever that product is, I’m going to be way less likely to return it because my expectations are already managed. I already basically know what I’m getting. When I don’t know what I’m getting, my expectations can be all over the place.
Steve: Yeah, totally, hey, Edmund we got off track a little bit because I wanted to talk a little bit about your sourcing also. No this is good stuff. I want to talk a little bit about sourcing like let’s say you got this contract and you got to buy a lot of clothes, where do you find your vendors?
Edmund: Okay, so sourcing I can give you all kinds of [inaudible 00:38:12] if you want. For us obviously our offices are located in china, so the way we go about it is probably a little bit different. But even with an operation outside, a lot of times we use Alibaba simple as that. We go on there and we look for people on our study.
We start looking at like the way I look at it I look like are they gold supplier, which that is a just a box symbol, but it’s getting more and more strict to get that symbol. I see do they accept trade insurance, I see how they handle onsite check. And I’m still looking at it that way, I find really-really good suppliers and I start contacting people, I send out designs and see if they are able to do what I want to do, then I ask for a sample.
This is the thing too especially with clothing. In the beginning if you are trying to source clothes; it is going to be expensive to get a sample. We have people ask us for samples all the time. Making samples for a Fashion Company completely sucks. Just so everyone out there knows and there is no…
Steve: How much are we talking about for a sample for like a burn down let’s say?
Edmund: I mean it just depends, like on the company, on the quality, how bad they want your business, like if someone asks me for a burn up I’d pay like 100-200 bucks easy, because it’s going to annoy the crap out of me to do it. It means that I have to take a worker who can be producing 20 or 30 shirts completely off the line, 20 or 30 shirts that are going to make us quite a bit more money and get this order done.
I have to take them completely off the line, I have to have them focus on only your sample, and hopefully it gets done right the first couple of times. It might three, four, five times to do it, so at least a day of work maybe more. And it’s just not efficient at all. Even when we do it we charge a lot and people usually don’t do samples with us. However there are a lot of people that do just do samples. They are called sample houses and they’ll actually make samples for you.
Even if the factory doesn’t make the sample for you, you can take them a sample of your product and as long as it’s a good factory they should build a copy if it exactly. Even then you still want to get at least like a small production run at the beginning, so maybe five to 10 shirts so that you’re not going all in and finding out that they have no idea what they’re doing. Yeah it’s worth it in my opinion and I don’t know if your experiences have differed, but my experience is that it’s worth it to pay the factory a little bit more to do a couple samples for you in the beginning.
Steve: Yeah absolutely.
Edmund: Then make the money back later, and also the thing is too with a lot of factories especially if you’re talking bigger orders, they’ll ask you for money upfront. Okay like you want these samples give us 200 or $300 we’ll make these samples for you. You say okay like no problem, but hey if I do this order with you and everything goes well will you please just count this sampling fee off the final order, and all the time people go yeah no problem. They just don’t want you to go and get the samples and run off forever because people do, do that and the factories just like you’ve been banned in china. The factories have been banned so they’re very cautious about doing free work.
Steve: Yeah absolutely I was just curious though on Alibaba like sometimes you get some Chinese dude who just wakes up, goes on the street, buys some stuff, and then ships it to you. Do you do any sort, like how do you sort out the real guys from some of the fakers?
Edmund: Yeah no problem and there’s a few ways you can do it. Like when you actually go into Alibaba, if they’ve had what’s called an onsite check which I always look for, there’s a little blue symbol on the bottom of two hands shaking. You can click on that and it will show you actually the onsite report on that factory, so it means that either someone from Alibaba’s inspection team or third party inspection team has actually gone into that factory, and they’ve given a full report like what is their actual uplift capacity, is there ability or is there potential to expand later if to a company that is huge.
What are the conditions of the factory, are they over staffed, are they under staffed, do they have enough staff, what’s the condition. I mean it tells you everything. So typically I always click on those to see what they say about the factory, and if that doesn’t work, if they don’t have an onsite check then the next thing you do is hire a company, an inspection company just to go out there and verify that the factory is there.
Those companies will charge you like a hundred or 200 bucks. They’ll go out there they’ll look through the whole factory and they’ll come back and give you report on what they think of the factory. That’s personally how I would do it. You can also I mean I’ve lived in china long enough that I’d say okay yeah you can also look up the address and this and that, and you can call and see that the reality is as the great Steve Chou once told me never trust a Chinese person.
Steve: I probably did say that actually.
Edmund: There’s just so many ways that you could easily. I mean it’s the other side of the world and the walls aren’t the same as they are here, and definitely business morals aren’t the same as they are in the states. I am not saying this to scare you, I’m just saying is if it were myself I would at least spend the money to get an inspection company if they don’t have a check to go out there and check it out, because it’s not worth it to go send like1000 or 20000 or whatever amount of money to some person that you’ve never met before only to find out that they’re buying clothes out of the back of someone’s car, like you don’t want that to happen.
Steve: Do you have any comments on Alibaba verses Global Sources verses going to a trade show, like the Canton Fair verses like using Panjiva or in this yeah.
Edmund: Okay, so Global Sources and Panjiva I’ve heard of both of them, I’ve never used either. The sites that I’ve used are Alibaba, made in China and gone to Canton Fair. I personally think and it’s hard to say. I have two really varying opinions on this, because on the one side it’s like yeah it’s great to go to Canton Fair, it’s really great to go and meet the person face to face especially in China, because china is so much about relationships. If you have the means to do that then by all means you should go do it, because I think that’s the best way to have a great relationship with the Chinese factories.
Go see the factory, meet them, go out to dinner with them, do the whole song and dance that is China and the factories really will have a lot of respect for you just for making a trip out there. On the other side I also realize that not everyone can afford to go to China, or can take the time or whatever, and I totally get it. If that’s your case then I personally believe Alibaba is the best option though I haven’t really used Global Sources. I know this site, but I haven’t really used it so I can’t comment on it too much, but I can say that Alibaba is getting really strong in protecting the buyer.
It used to be very factory centric which is the factory can get away with murder on Alibaba and since their IPO they’ve released some really great products and more coming out, where they’re really trying to protect the buyer more. So things like trade assurance, protects payment 100%, protects quality 100%, protects your shipment 100%. They’re coming out with a new thing called secure pay which is going to be like you can actually pay for goods through their own proprietary system with a credit card which will be insane for people who like to collect miles that will be great.
Steve: That’s true yeah.
Edmund: Theirs is this I think Alibaba is really, it seems like in my opinion they’re pushing to make it a safer platform which will be interesting to see how it works, but so far I think they’re doing a good job.
Steve: I’m also curious how you deal with quality control.
Edmund: Okay so with IFG we have our own in house QC that will QC things as well as we also deal a lot with inspection companies, because obviously when we’re producing stuff it’s for outside companies, so we have companies coming in and inspect us. That’s one way you deal with it. With Kekai Express the way we deal with it is we have our own QC guys as well which is we call them production managers, so what they’ll do is if there’s a production run happening, depending on the factory and depending on how much we’ve worked with them and how much money is on the line.
We’ll send them actually to the factory to monitor the production, and basically they’ll just stand there and watch the lines see how things are being made. They’ll take pictures, they’ll pull a product off the line to make sure it looks like it’s good. They’ll do– I mean it’s hard to say like us for fashion example like I will say fashion; because there is so many different products you can source.
For fashion if it was production run for shirts, they will pull clothes off the line, they will test the fabric to make sure it’s really the fabric that they’re saying that it is because sometimes the biggest problem people have in China is they say they’re getting like 80/20 cotton blend, and it turns out that they’re getting 80/20 polyester blends.
Steve: Dude that’s happened to us, yeah, pain in the ass.
Edmund: Yeah it’s a huge pain in the ass when you think you’re getting 80% cotton and you end up getting 80% polyester, it’s obviously a very different material, and it’s a very different experience for the customer especially. They will pull the fabric off the line; they will do what we call burn testing. You can actually burn the fabric and see the way it burns with a lighter, you can see what it is. They do pretty simple burn test to make sure it is what it is, whether it’s not.
They would check the stitching to make sure that the stitching is nice clean stitching, because obviously there’s a bunch of different types of stitches that you can do which gets deep into fashion. Make sure that the stitching is what we asked for, make sure that you know different pieces of different garments have to be done with a certain type of stitch; otherwise it’s really easy to fall apart.
Steve: If you were like a person in America you would just hire someone to this absolutely.
Edmund: Yeah I am sorry I am getting very deep into this, like next. If it was– if I am a person in America and I am not living in China, yeah I would hire someone like V-Trust, we use them a lot they’re a great company. They’re very solid, they’re also very strong in textiles, and we would send them a sample. Ideally the best way to do is you send the V-Trust a sample of what’s getting made, so this is exactly what we want. If you can, send them an inspect sheet, send them a design sheet.
The more information you can give to them the better the job they’re going to do. You can also just send them email and say hey, does this look okay and they’ll tell you their opinion, but the best way is the more information you give them the more accurate their inspection will be, and those guys are super on point. I mean they’ll send you like a 40 page report on a couple of pieces of garments telling you exactly how it’s put together. No matter what you’ll never get a perfect production run like that’s just not how production works, but V-Trust will give you very-very accurately what is going on with your production.
Steve: What is an acceptable defect rate for clothing let’s say?
Edmund: Yeah, I think three to five percent is.
Steve: Three to five percent, okay.
Edmund: If it gets anything over that, I mean three percent is what we aim for, sometimes five percent happens, but I think over that with any factory if you’re getting over five percent that’s not good.
Edmund: I mean I’ve seen people that run on like say 10%, and I am just like how are you guys– that’s just so inefficient, but yeah we run three to five.
Steve: Okay, cool hey I mean we’ve been chatting for a while. I want to be respectful of your time. Thanks a lot for coming on. If anyone out there who is looking to start a clothing line or importing from China where can they find you?
Edmund: Yeah you can email me at Edmund E-D-M-U-N-D@startupbros.com so S-T-A-R-T-B-R-O-S-U-P. Wait I did it the wrong way, S-T-A-R-T-U-P-B-R-O-S dot com, so startupbros.com, and yeah I’d love to hear from you guys, follow me on Twitter all that good stuff, I don’t know how this works.
Steve: What’s your Twitter handle man, you’ve got to tell me your Twitter handle and your Periscope handle.
Edmund: Yeah it’s Edmund Lowman E-D-M-U-N-D-L-O-W-M-A-N you can follow me on Twitter, you can add me on Facebook, email me at startupbros and always Steve Chou maybe he’ll give you my phone number, stuff like that.
Steve: Yeah what’s funny is Edmund just bosed or doing periscope. I think you’ve done two or three. I’ve only done one at this point but it’s been kind of fun.
Edmund: It’s interesting isn’t it? It’s like you’re just broadcasting whatever out into the world and people watch and they comment.
Steve: I feel like I am doing standup comedy. I’m just like on the stage, I can’t really see anyone though.
Edmund: Yeah you were funny there, your Periscope was quite funny.
Steve: Thanks man.
Edmund: It’s also interesting, like it feels sort of like the Truman show, doesn’t it?
Steve: It does, yeah totally. It’s a weird feeling and hopefully it will benefit the business like in some way.
Edmund: Yeah I periscoped myself eating dinner the other night, I had thirty people watching me.
Steve: I saw that I was going to join, but I was like your title was watch me eat or something like that right?
Edmund: Yeah that’s what I was doing, I was eating nachos, I’m drinking a margarita and people watched.
Steve: Did you say anything or?
Edmund: Yeah I talked a little bit. I was just curious, I was like how, what’s the most ridiculous thing we can put up and just see what people will watch. I was like watch me eat, will people watch that, and they did.
Steve: Yeah I wasn’t sold on that one.
Steve: All right dude well hey thanks for coming on the show man.
Edmund: Yeah it was a pleasure and good luck to everyone out there.
Steve: All right take case.
Steve: Hope you enjoyed that episode. I get a lot of emails from readers who want to start their own clothing line and the information that Edmund revealed today is priceless. For more information about this episode, go to mywifequitherjob.com/episode102.
And once again I’m starting my own ecommerce conference this year it’s called the Sellers Summit, which is going to be held in may 19th in Miami Florida. If you’re interested in learning about ecommerce or taking your existing ecommerce business to the next level, then you must attend. Go to sellerssummit.com for more information.
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Finally if you’re interested in starting your own online business be sure to sign up for my free six day mini course where I show you how my wife and I managed to make over 100K in profit in our first year of business. Go to mywifequitherjob.com for more information, sign up right there on the front page, and I will send you the course right away via email. Thanks for listening.
Outro: Thanks for listening to the My Wife Quit Her Job podcast, where we’re giving the courage people need to start their own online business. For more information visit Steve’s blog at www.mywifequitherjob.com.