For stiletto loving Missy's, comfy couture never looked so good!

Last I left you I had just finished up packaging and onto website design.  Oh, the beautiful language of coding.  I admire web designers who can sit at a computer for hours and do this:

 

 

More power to you!  Coding is not for me.  I contemplated building my own website to keep the cost down, but I changed my mind really, really, really quickly.  As an entrepreneur, you hire people (or get students for free) to do what you can’t do. 

 

I knew very little about websites, and the internet for that matter.  The online world was never one I was addicted to, up until I started my business of course.  I only signed on when I had school work to do or needed a restaurant address, you know, the basic things.  I was in college when Facebook first began, and I joined because everyone else did, but I almost never logged on.  How things have changed.

 

At this point, I was still reading my Mommy Millionaire book and read the chapter on website design.  I was introduced to a website called GoDaddy where you can purchase the domain name you want. Domain name? What’s that?  Well, your domain name is the name of your website; what people will type in the taskbar to get to your website.  I plugged in names that interested me and they were all taken.  My advice is, before you register your trademark with the USPTO, do a GoDaddy search of the domain name you want to see if it’s taken.  Chances are, it is.  Most people want the domain name to be the same as their company name, so save yourself the $375 trademark application fee and do the GoDaddy search.

 

I was lucky enough that the brand name I chose was available as a trademark on USPTO as well as a website address.  I purchased the domain for 2 years along with hosting for an affordable $80.  Then began my search for a web designer.

 

I contacted Lis, my packaging lady, but she informed me that coding is not her thing.  She did have friends who would do it starting at $5k.  Say what?  No thanks!  I continued to search the internet for a more reasonable option.  I found templates that were perfect but found out later that you can’t adjust a template to your liking, so I passed on the template.  Then along came one company based out of Brooklyn, NY that had the most amazing design aesthetic.  They were sexy, sophisticated, visually appealing, and they had a great eye for mixing colors.  I called them up and received an outstanding price: $18k – $30k.  I don’t remember my exact words when I heard that price but if I did they would be somewhere along the lines of: ?!?!hsd#%khd!#f.  The firm told me to think of a website as if it was a store, only bigger.  A store is only valuable in one particular area while a website is open to the entire world.  And that’s the reason for the hefty price tag.  I told them thank you and hung up.

 

On to the next one.  I called upon friends who did simple web design but I didn’t like their work.  It didn’t fit my brand and they didn’t understand my vision.  Months later I found my current web designer, Carissa.  I stumbled upon her by googling for web designers.  I liked her work and thought she fit the bill. Her prices were definitely affordable.  A basic web package started around $1400 and went up from there.  Its been website bliss from then on.  The entire website took months of designing because just like the packaging, there was a lot of back and forth with suggestions to change/keep things, and of course, I wasn't her only client.

 

I was always confused how orders were placed and processed via a website.  How would I know when someone bought an item or how do I collect subscriber emails and then send out a newsletter?  These are all the little things I thought about.  It wasn’t until I had access to my shopping cart that allowed me to see all my customers, orders placed, coupon codes, and newsletter subscribers, that I realized it was a lot easier than I made it out to be. 

 

I recognized that many things in an entrepreneur’s journey are trial and error and sometimes you just have to do it to learn the way.  That’s what I’ve done thus far and that’s why, as cliché as this may be, “Just do it,” is the perfect motto.

 

Next time I’m going to talk about where to get help and the different organizations that exist.

 

Have a great week!

Sotiria

What do you know.  You’ve made the decision to go forward with your dream and your next step is branding design.  Awesome!  But who do you call and what’s the process and what’s the cost?  Here are all your answers.

 

I knew what I wanted out of my packaging design and logo.  I was going for a sophisticated, classy, yet fun and flirty feel.  I wrote down keywords that described myself and my brand and then wrote down all the different packaging designs that already exist that I love.  My boyfriend created a logo for me so I can save some money, but I must admit, I’m glad I never went with it.  Looking back at it, there were so many things wrong with that logo and I would’ve never made it in the market.

 

I started researching online for graphic designers but I had no idea what to look for and what questions to ask.  All I knew how to say was “Hi, I want to create a box.”  Ha, its hysterical how clueless I was, I laugh at myself everyday.

 

I figured I'd contact a female company that already has a design aesthetic that I love and just go with their designer, so that’s what I did.  I ended up on the Mommy Millionaire forum (from the Mommy Millionaire book that I will talk about soon) looking at a video of an up and coming entrepreneur on The Big Idea with Donny Deutsch.  I watched in admiration of how she conducted herself and mainly how she appeared on the program.  I wished that would be me one day.  Anyways, she spoke about how she made her packaging, and she did the same thing I was going to do.  She called up another company and simply asked them.  So, the next day, I called her up and told her I loved her segment and loved her packaging, and asked if she could recommend someone for me.  Thank goodness she did, my graphic designer is awesome.

 

I called up Lis (graphic designer) and spoke to her about what I wanted to do.  I immediately asked her to sign a Non-Disclosure Agreement, which simply states that everything we speak about remains confidential.  Get an NDA template from anywhere online or from the NOLO website and don’t be afraid to use it.  It’s common practice and people are used to signing them.

 

Lis and I spoke and she jotted notes about where I was going with my idea. She also had me fill out a questionnaire which would help her in determining my style ethic.

 

We started with a logo.  In a week I received in my email 20-30 different design concepts for a logo.  I was overwhelmed.  It took me days to figure out what I liked, because I liked them all!  Once we agreed on colors and font of the logo (this process took a little over a month), we moved onto the box packaging.  The box, believe it or not, took over a year to completely finish.  It took Lis anywhere from 2 weeks to a month to create design concepts.  And each time I received an email, there were at least 10 to choose from.  I was excited to see them but confused as to which I should choose.  We went back and forth, phone calls, emails, pictures, etc, every month to work out the kinks.  We tried large boxes, small boxes, bows, glue, velcro, different colors, UV coating, high gloss, foil stamping, everything in the book. 

 

A year later, after we completed the box, it still wasn’t finished because my manufacturer needed to change things around in order to print it properly.  Then I had to discuss accurate pantone colors, paper thickness, and box closure.  Looking at a color on the computer screen is not the same as looking at it in person.  A pantone book cost too much money to buy, so I called every art store in Manhattan to see if they had pantone swatches.  Off I went to Manhattan to stare at different shades of pink that only different by .01%.  Many of you may say “Oh, just pick a color, they’re all the same.”  However, I was putting my name on this product and it had to be up to par with my liking, I mean, if I wouldn’t buy it, then who would?  So, I had to be positive that the pink was not bubblegum pink or too light that it faded into the background.  It was a never ending ordeal.  More on manufacturing later on (my box manufacturer was absolutely fantastic and a pleasure to work with).  Here is the finished product:

 

 

For those that don’t know, a pantone book is a universal book with every color shade you can imagine.  Each color has a code which allows anyone in the world to accurately understand what color you’re talking about when you give them the code.

 

Graphic designers don’t come cheap.  For logo and box design, expect to spend anywhere from $3000 and up.  Think of this as money well spent because you will need it to effectively capture your market.  Look at perfume bottles/boxes and makeup packaging, they both have awesome designs that appeal to women.

 

Stay tuned for next time when I’ll discuss web design.

 

Sotiria

BRANDING 101

July 19, 2010

 

Wow, it’s been so long since I last posted anything on my blog.  Sorry, to leave everyone hanging.  I’ve been so busy lately getting everything in order for our event at the Malibu Beach House (pictures coming soon!), our trade show coming up, and on top of that, working a full time job!  Work never ends.

 

I digress.

 

Last time I left off on branding 101.  Branding is probably the most important part of your business.  I always thought “Product is King,” it is King, but branding is the crème de la crème!  Think of how many times you’re in a store and you see something that is really dumb, and you think to yourself “How are they selling this?”  It’s called branding my friends, the company selling that dumb product has branded it as a must have. 

 

All my lady friends understand what I’m about to say – while walking in Bloomingdales, why does your eye land on an Alice + Olivia dress instead of a Guess dress?  Branding association is what I call it.  You associate Alice + Olivia with a higher price, exclusivity, and of course higher quality.  Growing up with a seamstress of a mother who was a stickler for quality, I can say that price doesn’t always mean better quality.  Alice + Olivia have branded themselves as a higher end/classier company, and women just eat it up. 

 

Another thing I want to touch upon is price, and I have to thank Mr. Christian Louboutin for teaching me this.  With a high price tag comes exclusivity, and a frenzy.  Put it this way, do you think the red sole would be such a hit if the price were $100?  I don’t think so.  The fact that his shoes go upwards of $800 proves that this is an exclusive item that only certain women can buy.  When we see this certain woman wearing them in the street, we easily recognize the red sole, then easily recognize that she paid $900 (including tax), and she lands herself in the exclusive-high-end group, and she’s happy.  Does this mean than Louboutin is better than any other shoe company out there?  No, I actually think they’re very uncomfortable, but….Branding is a powerful thing!!  If Steve Madden made red sole shoes first for $100; there wouldn't be such a craze because the shoes are affordable – no exclusive group to put them into.

 

 

When establishing your company, whatever it may be, you have to understand your brand, customer, market, and where you want to go with it.  Do you want to be in the luxury category, i.e. Gucci, Hermes, Louis Vuitton?  Do you want to be in the affordable luxury category, i.e. Elizabeth and James, L.A.M.B, French Connection?  Or do you want to be in the affordable – mass retailer category, i.e. Target, Wal-Mart?  There isn’t anything wrong with any of these options, but you need to pick what you like and then brand it according to your chosen group, and of course, price your product properly. 

 

Apple is one of my favorite companies because they started out struggling and grew to this wonderful, successful corporation that has become a cult.  If all Apple products were sold hundreds of dollars less than they currently are, and if there wasn’t a fancy Apple store, do you think people would be lining up outside for hours?  I think not!  When you walk into an Apple store, you think luxury, cool products, and they’re the best.  If Apple were sold at RadioShack, they would not have their luxury/cult status attached to them.  Of course all their designs are far superior to what any other company has produced.  And that all adds to their branding, but you pay the extra money for that cool design to be in the exclusive Apple cult. 

 

You see where I’m going with this?

 

Now, let’s say you happened to score a sales account with Saks Fifth Avenue.  You would be jumping up and down at this point because that is an awesome account to land – congrats!  You roll out to 30 Saks stores and your product starts to receive more press and sales go up.  You’re happy and the people at Saks are happy.  All of a sudden, QVC contacts you to be the next feature value of the day.  Any sane person would be doing back flips out of sheer joy that they’ve scored two huge accounts.  The following week you are in talks with the QVC people and you both agree on a deal to sell your product at a discounted price.  In your mind you think sure, everyone buys things on sale.  HOWEVER, and this is a big however, what about your product being full priced at Saks?  Do you think the Saks people will be just as ecstatic as you are?  They are about to lose big money because everyone will buy the product on QVC and not at Saks.  You are about to lose a big account that has more value than QVC.  I’ve spoken to a few ladies who this has actually happened to.  They scored a big, valuable account and then tried to get on a home shopping network, and they almost lost their big accounts.  They received phone calls from the department stores threatening to drop them if they went along with the shopping network.  Guess what?  The ladies didn’t go with the shopping network. 

 

 

 

 

At then end of the day, your company is always worth more at a valuable department store such as Bloomingdales, Saks, Neiman Marcus, etc.  As soon as you go to a chain bargain store, such as Duane Reade, Wal-Mart, Target, the value of your company drops.  This doesn’t mean you won’t make money at a bargain store, but, if you are at a high end store and want to sell your product to Target as well because you think you can capture another market share, think again.  This is why Sara Blakely from SPANX created ASSETS to be sold at Target.  SPANX keeps its high end value and it allows for its other brand, ASSETS, to capture another market, and all your retailers are happy. 

 

I tend to babble but this is all something to think about when starting your own company, whether it’s a restaurant or a furniture outlet.  Next time you walk into a store, look at products from a branding perspective and think about where they're trying to go with it.  I always stop and stare at signs, and logs, and packaging, and think about what they're trying to prove and if it's visually attractive.  It will help you in your decisions.

 

Next time I’m going to talk about the process involved to build your brand with your logo and packaging.

 

Keep reading and spreading the love!

 

Sotiria

Enter our GIVEAWAY!!

July 6, 2010

Hope everyone had a great 4th of July weekend!  If only every week was a 3 day weekend. 

I wanted to remind everyone that we have a giveaway going on over at Galtime, a fabulous magazine publication providing information for ladies from beauty and fashion to parenting.  Check out their website now and don’t forget to enter the giveaway .  It ends Friday July 16th, so hurry up and enter…what are you waiting for!!

The first step in starting a business is to create an idea. I remember like it was yesterday when a light bulb hit me with the idea of Relax Missy. Women would get it and they would fall in love with such an ingenious design. But how do I go from a pretty picture in my head to holding the product in my hands?

Manufacturing a product is not easy. It takes a lot of research and planning, and I knew nothing of this. My family was not in the manufacturing world and therefore I didn’t have any hookups. I was completely on my own. Actually, there were tons of things I needed to do before even getting into the manufacturing phase. I hadn’t even begun and I was already frustrated!

Borders is one of my favorite bookstores and since it was a 2 min drive from Stony Brook Campus, I took a drive to see if there were any books on business or manufacturing. Again, I was coming up short, until I walked one aisle and saw a lady on the cover smiling at me in colorful clothing. Her smile and her bright colored clothing, including white, green and pink, caught my eye. I picked up the book and read the title: Mommy Millionaire, How I turned my Kitchen Table Idea into A Million Dollars and How You Can, Too! Hmm, the title was catchy, so, I sat down and started reading. Instantly I was drawn in because I realized this book was not just a motivational book but it was a real HOW TO book, with step-by-step details. I bought it and sped home to dissect every word. If there is a book out there for entrepreneurs, it’s this one. Go out and buy it!

I finished Mommy Millionaire in about a week and used it as my guide. I discovered the USPTO website which became my new best friend as I was researching patents and trademarks. Everyone has a different opinion on patents, mine is – don’t waste your time on it. Unless you are TRULY inventing something, and not re-inventing, then get a patent. As you get into the market, expect to see competition, it’s just a given. If you want to write a provisional patent, which is a shorter version of a patent that you can do yourself, then do it, but don’t wait years for it to be approved before you develop and market your business.

Now, Trademark, is a MUST!! This protects your product name and it makes sure that you are the only XYZ brand name with a lip gloss in the market. You can’t have two XYZ companies because it will get confusing for the consumer. This is no good. All you have to do is hit the Trademark tab on the USPTO website and type in your potential product name. If you see it’s taken, move on and pick a different name. I went through about ten names before I chose Relax Missy. When thinking of a product name, you have to think about branding and your customer, this of course, is another topic itself.

Once you finally decide on a brand name, you should register it ASAP before someone else does. You don’t need a high priced attorney for this. I successfully registered my own Trademark with the help of a NOLO book. NOLO.com is a great free legal website with templates and advice and inexpensive books you can buy to help you out.

I tend to ramble because I have so much to say and teach!! Tune in next time for Branding 101 – the do’s and don’ts.

Unleash your inner millionaress!!
Sotiria

I never do any of those facebook apps or play games on facebook. I just never have…not really my thing. But, I do love the “25 things you don’t know about me” app, so I decided to join the cool kids and give you all some juicy details. Although, I like to do things differently and I made the list “30 things you didn’t know about me.” Enjoy!

1. I don’t drink coffee, soda or juice. Hate the taste of coffee and soda. I am a water person all the way.

2. I am very friendly and approachable.

3. I love to talk and ask a lot of questions.

4. I am very humble.

5. I danced for almost my entire life since I was 5 all the way through college.

6. I started dancing to correct my pigeon-toed feet and fell in love with it.

7. I was very shy growing up.

8. I have a Mandalay dress that I bought on sale from Lord and Taylor 3 years ago and I have worn it to 3 weddings. (luckily they weren’t the same people ?).

9. I think I can sing.

10. I am my own worst critic and really, really hard on myself.

11. I have never had surgery or broken any bones. (knock on wood)

12. I love, love, love abstract art and can’t wait to create my own one day.

13. I am currently writing a book and publishing it before I’m 30.

14. I am Greek – Ti kaneis?

15. My entire family lives in Greece, except for my brother and parents.

16. No, I don’t use windex for everything.

17. People may find this strange, but I’m not a fan of chick flicks (except Sex and the City, of course) I prefer serious movies like Shawshank Redemption and Revolutionary Road.

18. On that note, Shawshank Redemption is my favorite movie.

19. I get frustrated when I watch a comedy that is not funny and realized I have just wasted 2 hours of my life I will never get back.

20. I work all hours of the day.

21. Friends and Seinfeld are my favorite sitcoms – now these were funny.

22. Diamonds are not my best friend (I know, I know, strange). I prefer shoes and a Carrie Bradshaw brownstone.

23. My hair is one big frizz ball, I rarely do my hair unless it’s for an event.

24. I do my own French manicure once a week.

25. I can’t live without music!

26. I have been working since I was 16!

27. I am not afraid to wear colorful clothing – just ask my boyfriend.

28. I plan my outfits around my shoes.

29. I didn’t watch a single episode of Sex and the City until 2008.

30. I think America is way too conservative when it comes to sex and nudity.

I need to make another list because this list kept going and going, I had to cut it down.

Until Next time,
Sotiria

Hi all!  Let me introduce myself first. My first name is Sotiria (it rhymes with cafeteria, just with an “O” instead of the “A”).  I’m 27 yrs old now, but when I started my entrepreneurship journey I was 24.  It’s been a long, long road but a rather exciting one and I wouldn’t have it any other way. I wasn’t born an entrepreneur, but as soon as I began working for myself, I realized how much I loved it, and here I am today with my own company and spilling allllll the secrets!

 

The Concept

In August 2005, at 22 years old, I was in Las Vegas with four of my girlfriends getting away for the weekend.  Las Vegas is a greattttt place, if any of you haven’t been there, you MUST!  Our plans for the evening were dinner and dancing at Body English (now called Vanity).  All of us were getting dressed putting on our finest outfits and shoes, of course. I grabbed heels that I have never worn but planned to wear with an outfit that matched them.  As soon as I put the heels on, I knew it was a disaster waiting to happen.  These were 15 minute shoes, as I like to call them, and they were literally unbearable.  I try and hold my own with painful heels but sometimes the pain is just too much and I need a break.  I made a quick purse change and grabbed large rubber flip-flops to place in my bag to change into.  Guess what, as soon as I stepped foot into the venue, I transformed into the ugly shoe stepsister.  Anyone who knows me knows I never, ever, ever wear flip-flops.  These were the culprit:

 

 

 

This is when it hit me:

 

Me: “This sucks, not Vegas material. Got to be a better way.”

 

Little birdy in my ear: “How about stylish flats that fold?”

 

Me: “Yes!!! That’s what this world is missing.”

 

So, as soon as I came back from Vegas, I started sketching and researching. I had absolutely no idea what I was doing, but I knew it needed to be done and it would help many women.  

 

But, and a big BUT, I was in college, and I didn’t go to a business college where I was prepared for all of this.  I went to

Stony Brook University, home of the magical sea creature – the Seawolf.  I majored in Health Science with a concentration in Nuclear Medicine (it sounds cooler than it really is).  I graduated in 2006 and from 2006-2007 I did a clinical rotation in hospitals and private clinics.  This is what really pushed me and made me think “I need to work for myself; I can’t let my destiny lie in someone else’s hands.”

 

I rotated for 3 months at a hospital (I won’t mention the name of the hospital or the people) and it was 3 months of HELL!!  I attribute all my motivation to this one experience, so even though it was horrible, I would never change what I went through.  The supervisor in the Radiology department that was in charge of the students, lets call her Tina, was such a miserable person.  She was a negative, nasty, anxiety through the roof, hyperthyroid, evil person.  (Side note- for those of you that have never seen a person with hyperthyroidism – they are skinny, hyperactive, eyes coming out of their sockets, if you see someone running around like a chicken without a head – you’ll know what I’m talking about.)  Tina didn’t like me very much; it was almost as if she had something against me.  I've never been the person to suck up and keep my mouth shut (it has gotten me into a few troubles) so whenever I felt violated, I said something, and maybe this is the reason why Tina had it in for me.  Still, to this day, I don’t know why I was disliked by this lady. 

 

Now, you get the picture.  Because of this, I knew instantly I could never work for someone like this, nor would I ever treat someone like this.  So, entrepreneurship was my way out, and I knew I had the drive and determination to make it happen. 

 

Another note about my background, my mom was an apparel designer.  She was born and raised in

Greece and was sewing wedding dresses to clients by the time she was 15.  When she came to the states and had kids, she began making children’s clothes and started selling them to small boutiques.  I grew up walking to showrooms, factories, (which were all in NYC twenty years ago) fabric stores, Bloomingdales and Saks.  However, she gave up her vision to take care of my brother and me.

 

This is going to be a blog showing everyone a behind the scenes look at what it takes to not only develop a product from scratch, but also how to develop a brand with staying power and legs to grow.  Currently, I am also writing a book about the steps I took to start my own brand and business, and this blog will highlight key points from my journey. All the marketing, PR, the development process, dealing with

China, events, sales, etc.  All the glittery details will be right here on the journey of a Soloprenette!

 

So, go ahead, read, pass the info along, and ask me any questions you might have.  I will always respond.

 

Until next time,

Sotiria

 

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