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Made in the Shade

When this entrepreneur couldn't find hosiery in the right shade, she decided to do something about it.

What: Manufacturer and retailer of hosiery for ethnic women
Who: Terri Franklin, founder of Accents of Color
Where: Atlanta
When: Started in 2002

Wearing pantyhose can be a challenge in and of itself, but Terri Franklin, 49, had another difficulty: finding the right shade of brown to match her skin tone. She found she wasn't alone in the struggle. Like Franklin, other women with dark complexions were tired of the limited choices. "Black and off-black don't go with everything," she says.

In 1989, Franklin began researching the hosiery industry in hopes of creating a line of shades for ethnic women. Throughout the process, she ran into stumbling blocks--manufacturers wouldn't work without knowing that stores would carry the line, and the one manufacturer who agreed to make the product botched an entire batch. Franklin put the idea on hold in 1992, but a decade later, the time was right. "The growth of the internet was instrumental," she explains. "The challenge of how many stores [would carry it] was no longer an issue." With an 800 number and a marketing plan that included attending events like hair shows and conferences for minority businesswomen, where she knew her target audience would be, Franklin found a manufacturer, and Accents of Color finally materialized in 12 shades.

At the end of 2003, Franklin left her job of 25 years with AT&T and went full time with the business. Her redoubled efforts landed her line in small boutiques and beauty salons throughout the U.S. Nordstrom has placed an order, and Macy's is interested. Franklin has also recruited some small-business owners to sell the line as a complement to their products.

While she keeps her prices competitive with the major hosiery lines, her smaller production numbers mean less of a markup. "That's a challenge," admits Franklin, who projects 2006 sales of $200,000. Working on expanding her line into different styles, including support hose this spring, Franklin hopes to morph her business into a hosiery and accessories boutique that she can franchise.

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This article was originally published in the March 2006 print edition of Entrepreneur's StartUps with the headline: Made in the Shade.

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