Day 14: Trusting my gut
The thing that keeps me up at night right now is finding people I can trust. I’ve heard horror stories about working with factories who over-charge, don’t deliver on time, and straight up lie. The problem is factories have all the leverage right now as I’m in startup phase. I can place an order and the factory can come up with a problem. They can say things like there is an issue with the pattern, or that the care labels weren’t delivered on time, or that a bigger order has come in and they need to fulfill it. On my side I need to have production complete by a certain date. Any delays is a big problem. So now a factory will say in order to deliver on time I need to pay $x amount, which can be in the tens of thousands.
Now whether or not I’m being overly paranoid is up for debate. But these are some of the things I’ve been told to be mindful of. And it scares the crap out of me. Finding people I can trust when entering a new industry is perhaps one of the biggest challenges I face. I’ve found the best way to do that is by getting referrals from within my network and using my “gut instincts” when meeting with a person.
One of the first people I met my first week was a denim designer who was referred to me by a trusted source. We had one meeting and in that meeting this individual was talking in very general terms about his process to design jeans, source fabric, and get a sample made. When I pressed on wanting more specifics about the process and price he dodged the questions. My initial instinct was not to trust this guy and find someone else. But because he was a referral and I was so eager to get going quickly I decided to trust him. We told him, as a first step, that all we wanted was for him to spec the measurements of a couple pairs of jeans we liked as a reference for designing our jeans (this usually costs about $100) and nothing more. After he did that work he said we owed him $3,000 or we wouldn’t get our jeans back. When we refused to pay that egregious amount he threaten a lawsuit.
Fortunately the issue has diffused and we should be fine, even if out a couple pair of jeans. In many ways having that experience immediately upon starting has reminded me to trust my gut more and not rely solely on referrals as a proxy for trust. It’s already come in handy as one of my referrals (from someone I barely know) was to a woman who’s been in the denim business for a long time. We had a fantastic initial call and my gut was to trust her. She in turn introduced me to a factory that she highly recommended. Just based on my trust of her I had a good feeling about this factory and it was proven true after an initial and thorough call with them. I’m visiting that factory in LA in a couple weeks and look forward to putting my initial anxiety around factories to bed.