Running A Clothing Brand By Myself: A Glimpse Into My Crazy Life
Hi! My name is Miriam Zelinsky and I run Lazyjack Press. I did a Starter Story interview a few months back and now I’m BACK for another blog post.
When you own your own clothing brand, no day is identical to another. You are prepared to work hard and you are willing to do it whenever and however long you need to. It is your baby, after all.
With that being said, not every day is completely jam-packed either. To get a better idea of how my typical day goes, I’ll be giving you a snapshot of a regular workday. I also plan to write another blog post about my typical day at a pop up/trade show or holiday market. Stay tuned for that!
Wake up and tell myself to go back to sleep. My brain is on overdrive as I wonder whether Italy has responded to my urgent email from the night before.
The custom project was due LAST week! I’m also COMPLETELY out of a bunch of styles from my line like Sweet Shades Bro ties (hello, it’s summer and it’s a pink tie with sunglasses/croakies on it) and my trusty Trust Me I’m a Doctor tie…I promised a few customers it would have arrived by now.
Trust Me I’m a Doctor tie
No. Go back to sleep. It can wait.
Ugh. What if Italy didn’t email me back? I’d have to call Francesco and demand an answer. Yes, DEMAND.
I give in. I open my email just so I can soothe my querying mind. There is an email from Italy. The ties (both custom and for my line) won’t be ready until three days from now. WHAT? Now my blood is boiling and I can’t fall back asleep.
Alarm goes off. I had just drifted off into a deep sleep. The last time I looked at the clock it was 7:45 AM. I get up and make a beeline for my coffee machine.
I drink my coffee and go through the mountain of emails I received during the night.
I am relieved when I open an email and it’s someone trying to sell me something that is absolutely useless to me. I can just delete it instead of adding yet more bullet points to my to-do list.
Also, when someone emails me and doesn’t bother to spell either my name or company right, I delete it. Delete. Delete.
I consult my to-do list from the night before and add that I need to write a check to DHL for customs charges from the last tie shipment, Vistaprint is having a sale so I should really get more stationary, and I need to follow up with that store in Martha’s Vineyard about carrying the line. I leave the store a voicemail.
I have successfully ordered more stationary, but also got sucked into designing these adorable little stickers with our bow tie logo on them.
They’ll be perfect to add to the pocket square packaging. I may have also ordered customized notepads, a few pens, and slightly larger mailing stickers because my logo looks good on all these products I don’t really need.
I go over the orders from my website. I write personalized thank you notes for each order. A few of the orders are from customers I met during the holiday market. I love seeing that!
Wrapping up Sweet Shades Bro in my new office
I package the orders – ribbon and all. I go on the post office website and print out labels for each order. Meanwhile, I fight with the tape and end up having to throw out half of the roll. Stupid tape.
A rather good day – taking my orders to the post office!
I go over my orders I got from Nordstrom.com. I manually subtract each item that sold from my inventory since it’s not automatically synced to Shopify.
Then I work on the mailing labels. It takes no less than nine windows on the UPS website to get ONE label printed. I print, package, and get it all ready to be mailed out. I submit tracking information and invoices on the Nordstrom portal.
And yes, it’s called a portal and an animated wizard (I kid you not) took me through the tutorial for it and it was NOT self-explanatory in case you were wondering.
My phone rings. It’s a 415 number (San Francisco is my home town so I’m curious).
It’s this really nice, eager (young sounding) guy from a new startup app wanting to show me a demo of how to automate emails to customers after a sale is made. I apparently signed up for the time slot when I was trying to get them off of the phone a few weeks ago.
I watch his mouse move around my screen and am actually pretty impressed, but it’s not something I need at the moment.
I finish packaging all of the ties. I start doodling a bunch of ideas for a new custom project.
Francesco calls from the mill in Italy. He wants to personally apologize for the delay in sending the ties out. Apparently, no other customer uses 21 momme silk (21 is the highest quality) so they completely ran out and had to order more.
Although I’m still annoyed, it’s always great to speak to Francesco. We also discuss ideas for the new custom project as well as a new idea for my line. I like to periodically come out with new things – not just be stuck releasing new things because the season changed. It keeps things exciting!
I run across the street to the gym and take my 45-minute kickboxing class. I love this class and always feel so much less stressed when I’m done. I head to the local salad place and pick up a salad on my way home.
I eat my salad at my desk while catching up on emails I missed while I was at the gym.
I shower and run down the street 18 blocks to meet with the agent of the Italian mill, Jim. I bring a print out of the CAD (a digital rendition of the design) and I’m greeted warmly (and with coffee, which is always a bonus).
Jim spreads this beautiful silk “blanket,” as it’s referred to, filled with tiny squares of each pantone color. We go through a bunch of options and variations and Jim writes up all of the color choices.
Next step, Italy will print out actual silk samples of the design with the colors we chose. We chuckle over the latest name that I’ve given my newest design – Playing the Field, it’s a lacrosse tie. We catch up for a bit and then I walk back towards home.
Playing the Field tie
It’s also not the most normal time in my life as I’m getting married in a few months and moving cross-country. By the time this article is done, I will be married and living in San Francisco/the Bay Area. Weird.
I call my wedding planner back (she’s called and emailed me a bunch of times already) and she asks me a bunch of questions I don’t know the answer to like if I want gold or silver touches on the tables and which style of videographer I prefer. One of my best friends (who is a practicing lawyer) loves wedding planning and I forward the questions to her.
When I’m back at home and catching up on more emails, a message pops up from Facebook messenger from a customer who wonders if I have the Wasp tie in stock. I check Shopify and it says it’s out of stock.
The Wasp tie
The customer wonders when I’ll be getting it back in. Hm. I wasn’t really going to order that style for a while. The problem is with over 55 designs, it’s so hard to keep up with inventory. It would cost a fortune to get every single design I’ve ever made and have a tie, bow tie, and pocket square (while meeting Italy’s minimums).
I make a note next to the styles that are either low on inventory and that I should think about ordering or that are sold out. I do a rough calculation of how much it would cost to get all of these different items from Italy. Hm. Best wait.
I talk to my business partner in our East Hampton boutique and find out how it’s going out there today.
Our boutique in East Hampton (55 Main Street)
She makes beautiful handmade jewelry, ps: Garden of Silver. She mentions that someone wanted to do custom ties for their wedding so she told them to email me and asks if I can send more Foreplay ties because they’re getting low on stock.
We discuss ideas to advertise in Dan’s Paper and then go back and forth with mock up ideas. It’s also almost the end of the month so I write her a rent check to mail the next day. I always joke that if the store doesn’t do well, we can move into tents since we won’t be able to afford rent, but hopefully it’ll (at least) be a bedazzled one. I draw a tent each month on the post-it to represent how the month went. This month, it’s just a line representing the ground and there’s no tent in sight.
I get an email from a showroom in Atlanta. I have to make a decision on this, but I’m just not sure.
My whole motto so far is saying yes to everything and taking every seemingly worthwhile opportunity.
This showroom could benefit me, but it could also turn out to be a financial drain. I tell the company that I need a little bit more time.
I check my to-do list and realize the application for the holiday market is due. I’ve already done an application for one market, but the second market’s deadline is...well, today.
I fill it out, attach pictures, and put in my credit card for the fee: $3,000. Yikes. Here’s the thing: sometimes it’s feast and sometimes it’s famine. Like right now, I have to put a lot of money out to participate in the markets, trade shows, and showrooms, but it pays off.
Unfortunately, all the money is due months beforehand. It’s all worth it, but it’s hard when you want to take advantage of every opportunity. I’ve said this before but it’s so true – I never want to wonder what if I had tried something...
I hop on my next conference call. It’s for another custom project. This company wants large silk scarves. They want pricing from the mill in Italy I use and also my other source in China.
For this project, they have the design ready to go. I get off of the phone with them and call the agent from the Chinese mill. They’ll have to get back to me tomorrow, as they haven’t done a 36 x 36 14 momme Hermès silk scarf in a while and the silk pricing in China fluctuates on a weekly basis. I write a quick email to the new clients detailing Italy’s pricing and letting them know I will get them the rest of the information the following morning.
I’ve been staring at the word “blog” on my to-do list for more than a few weeks now. It’s even circled in red ink. Somebody told me when I first started out that blogging was so important to a business.
It apparently helps with SEO and making you more “relevant” on Google searches etc. It’s just so hard to sit down and write one.
I don’t want to sound like or be one of those bloggers. You all know what I’m talking about. I write a short article on the new spicy margarita drink I’ve been making lately. I re-read it to make sure it sounds somewhat okay. I spend quite a bit of time futzing with the photo since it keeps uploading upside down.
I get a call from downstairs and apparently I have three LARGE boxes downstairs.
I open the door as the doorman brings up these boxes. I could sit in these boxes! At least I could if they weren’t filled with my sock order. I have to order 96 pairs of each style so it’s easy to see how it can build up. I quickly scan my apartment and try and mentally figure out where on earth I’m going to squeeze this shipment.
Each time I get packaging or other bulky items in the mail, I shove them behind our TV in the bedroom. All of the closets are completely full! I keep pushing the TV forward so I have more storage space behind it. New York apartments weren’t meant to also be fulfillment centers for products! Wonder if my fiancé will notice that the TV is basically halfway across the room at this point. Oh, he will.
Also accompanying the socks is a bill...a rather large one, might I add. I adjust the inventory levels of the socks and make a quick social media post saying that the beloved Chick Magnet sock is back in stock. I’m pleased when I get a few orders for it.
I get an email from a store I already supply to. It’s a re-order. Excellent! I open a Word document and type out the names of the ties, bow ties, and pocket squares the store ordered. I print them out on labels and manually stick each label on a LJP tag.
Kitty is an excellent helper!
Since the labels are way too long for the tags, I have to cut them in two places so they’ll fit. I then cut ribbon and weave the ribbon through each tiny hole at the top of the label. It’s time consuming, but it’s a nice touch. Plus, how will their customers know that the bow tie is called Blue Balls?
The Blue Balls bow tie
I pull each style that was ordered, carefully packing the tie with its appropriate label, write a note to the new store, and then an invoice. I run to FedEx two blocks away and ship it out. I return and email the store with the tracking number.
That was so much fun that I consult my list of interested stores that I have made contact with and write follow up emails to them. I attach pictures of my newest tie, Camel Toe, as well as the new Re-Rack (red party cup) cummerbund. I cross my fingers as I press send.
The Camel Toe tie (I LOVE the camels’ little pink eyelashes!)
I go downstairs and collect my mail. Bills, bills, and more bills. I also got the prototype for the new bow tie box. It came out very well!
I write all of the bills that arrived and write the amounts in Excel. I order the new bow tie boxes. I also write down in a separate notebook what I ended up selling today. All in all, a pretty good day!
My fiancé gets home. He changes and we make a martini. Hey, I’ve earned it! We discuss our day while making dinner.
I continually check my email all night and respond to everything while catching up on the latest episode of “Southern Charm.” I have an idea for a holiday tie. I sketch it out real quick so I won’t forget about it.
I make my to-do list for the next day. It makes me so much more relaxed to have everything written down. I get invited to participate in a holiday market on the Upper East Side in November. I quickly read over the contract and print it out for further examination tomorrow. My eyes are tired!
I head to bed. I watch a few episodes of Survivor (guilty pleasure) as I try and drown out LJP and all that I have to accomplish.
Thanks for reading! If you want to learn more about what we’re doing, follow us @lazyjackpress or check out our website lazyjackpress.com!
Lazyjack Press has provided an update on their business!
About 2 years ago, we followed up with Lazyjack Press to see how they've been doing since we published this article.
Hey! 👋 I'm Pat Walls, the founder of Starter Story.
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