Monday, October 27, 2008

Open Call at Henri Bendel

it all started at 4 am this morning. I woke up, wishing I could have stayed in bed another few hours, because it is quite cold in NYC. But today was another one of those significant signpost days: The open call for new designers at Henri Bendel.

Left home at 5:00; took a cab to the subway and rode to mid Manhattan-on a relatively crowded train, mind you. This is NY. Always people going somewhere doing something. I love it.

So I got to Bendel at my targeted time of 6:00am, and already the line was around the corner from the entrance. As I calmly took up my spot, feeling like someone camped out for tickets to a Madonna concert or something, I felt very proud of myself for getting up and being there.

So the next woman who came right after me started to chat and asked me, based on my accent, where I was from. Would you believe she was also a Trinidadian! Amazing coincidence. Antoinette lived in Connecticut and was looking to develop a re-usable shopping bag from fine cotton in India. She was also a fashion designer for almost 25 years. So needless to say, things started off quite well. In fact, as a true Trini, she liked and wants to buy one of my steel pan bracelets.

After my friend Jennifer, another Trinidadian lawyer on a trip to NYC, came by at 8:30 for morale support, the excitement begun. Since I had never been on an open call for new designers at Bendel or any other store in New York or elsewhere, I was expectant, and had the mindset that what ever happened, it was a learning experience.

So after about 9:15am the line started to move, as about 30 persons were let into the building at a time. At this time, Jennifer and I became more organized. She would open the jewelry case and arrange the display, while I would start talking - the elevator pitch of key points that distinguished my collection - and set out the brochure and case and music CD, etc.

So at about 10:15 we entered the building, down into the basement ("the dungeon" says Jennifer) to register our name and await our turn. My new friend Antoinette, who was in bags, was seen first since there were so few bag designers (hmm. maybe I should keep this in mind). She returned with not too good news; Her bag was not accepted. Ah well. She was primarily looking for this type of feedback to decide how far to go with it at this time.

Then my turn came. Jennifer and I approached the buyer's line with a mixture of excitement and adrenalin flowing. All of 2 minutes I was told, while you stand and show them your stuff.

So as we got to the buyer's table with two young buyers, I started my elevator pitch. "Hi. I'm Liz Mannette and my jewelry is all based on the music of steel drums...." Of course, I forgot the speech and the elegantly worded sound bites. So much for preparation. The two pleasant girls smiled and asked a few questions about the jewelry and even examined a few pieces. And then they said, "It's very interesting that you're working with the drums, but we don't think it is for the Bendel customer." Sigh.

Ah well, at least they were pleasant, and you know what I took away from the experience; Do what it takes; if it doesn't work out, correct and continue. So listening for divine guidance in the whole thing, I heard it very clearly; Find the buyer's for this jewelry. Seek them out, get to know them and connect with them. So this is my renewed focus on connecting with my existing customer base; get them to refer me to friends and family and build the business globally in this way

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