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In The Jeans

My design is ready for the world. Now what?

Question: I've drawn up sketches of blue jeans, and now I'm satisfied with one I think the public would rush to purchase. How do I proceed with manufacturing and finding a buyer?

Name withheld

Answer: Some business experts might consider a solo novice designer going head-to-head in a highly competitive field of giants like Levi's and Lee a pipe dream. But we've seen too many people defy the odds to discourage you from proceeding--if you're sufficiently passionate, committed and determined.

The fledgling designers we've seen succeed have done so by carving out a niche, such as designing specialized clothing for Yoga devotees, orthodox Jewish professional women or those with physical disabilities. Or, if they have a mainstream item like jeans, they usually succeed by starting very small and building an avid following for a unique design that makes their line desirable to reps and retail stores.

So before leaping into mass production, we suggest offering your jeans directly to your target market by making several dozen prototypes and selling them yourself. You can do this at swap meets or sidewalk booths (like Ash Hudson did with his wildly popular Conart T-shirts) or by placing them in a few select boutiques (as Anna and Sarah Levinson did with their Ripe Inc. nail polishes). Once your jeans start attracting customers, you'll be ready to arrange for mass production and to contact buyers--if they haven't sought you out already.

You can contact reps through the Manufacturers' Agents National Association, P.O. Box 3467, Laguna Hills, CA 92654, (949) 859-4040, http://www.manaonline.org.

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This article was originally published in the October 1999 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: In The Jeans.

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