Sunday, December 16, 2007

I think my interview with Boutique went great! I heard it the other day on my ipod. The 12 days of Christmas newsletters I sent out were well received and I had my last show this past weekend.

I am unofficially on vacation! Wahoo! I am going to finish all my Christmas shopping and hopefully catch up on some sleep! I have some packages to get out tomorrow to customers and then I'll work on last minute Christmas shopping, although I don't want to hit the mall with all the local shootings going on there.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Today I had my interview with Daria from Boutique Cafe as one of the 12 boutique owners in her 12 Days of Christmas interviews. It was a lot of fun. I was a little nervous at first, but once I got talking I couldn't stop... sound familiar? Anyway, it was fun to chat with Daria even after the interview. I feel like I know her so well from listening to her podcast for so long. She is as sweet as she sounds on-line.

I wonder how I will sound on the interview...
Wow! It's been awhile since I posted. Thanksgiving came and went in a flurry of activity, along with my daughter's 4th birthday. Then the week of "what was I thinking?" where I had booked 4 shows back to back. It seemed like a good idea at the time.

I survived that when my marketing husband thought of the great idea of putting together the "12 days of Christmas markdown"! In haste, I got the first 4 days of Christmas markdowns sent out late Nov 30 where an item for a boy and a girl will be marked 50% off (or more in some cases) for that day. Today, I just sent off the email with days 5 - 8. I am excited about it and I am glad my customers are too!

I think the Christmas feeling is slowly coming to life in our household. We have the Christmas Tree up as well as all the outside lights. Beaujolais wine is flowing as well as the eggnog. I am over halfway completed with my shopping, all the hard ones are left.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Computer Crash! Uuuugh! I feel like I've been down forever but it's only been a few days. So I wake up Monday morning and my husband says he spent until 3 am getting the computer up. With a smile on my face silently commending my husband for his valiant effort, I check email and inform him we don't have it. He gets up out of bed and does his wonders and viola it's running. Then I go check out a file I need and realize I have no access to the drive that has all our files. This puts me out of commission the whole rest of the day as he downloads our database of files onto our computer.

The now funny (but wasn't at the time) story is that at dinner time my husband, for what reason I don't know, asks my 6 year old to check the computer to see if it is still running (downloading the files). This process has taken all day and we are near the end of the download. With only 4 minutes left remaining in the download, our 6 year old darling daughter reaches for a pen from the holder on the shelf and tips the container of pens and all onto the keyboard, hitting the escape button!!!! You don't want to know the words that flew out of our mouths! Not sure what he did but he did retrieve it back anyway. Now he's uploading all the programs all over again. Wondering when I'll get life back as I knew it...

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

I am so excited! You see earlier this year I wrote into a South African women's magazine called Women's Lifestyle World about Chantel, owner of Bug Zoo, one of the two companies whom we import our clothes from. You see I had the pleasure of meeting Chantel in March and was truly awed by her. She works two jobs. Not only is she the co-owner of Bug Zoo with her husband, but she is also the Director of a rape crisis center in Cape Town. It all fell into place when they took me on a field trip to visit all the different women they employ (working from their homes), and how they are trying to make a difference in their local world, through their business and beyond.

I nominated Chantel for the magazine's "Woman of the Moment" feature (Check it out , she's listed the third person down). I didn't hear anything and actually forgot about it until I got this email from Chantel herself thanking me for my kind words. I quickly checked the feature to check out what I had written all those months ago, relieved I wrote a nice piece. I am so glad it was posted after all and thank you Chantel... you are an inspiration to women around the world and I hope some day to be an inspiration to others as you are.
Part 3 of How Hooligans Differentiates Themselves, Adri gives us her insight behind some of the Safari Range outfits:

"With the Ellie Crawler, the flock of grass had to feel almost real and the Ellie had to be very happy and smug in it's environment. Just like the babies we like to dress in our clothing - happy, cuddled and well looked after."

"Aaah, here Chantel came up with this happy fellow. He is a dancing knobbly kneed Giraffe, clearly in love with life and very happy in Africa. The lime green suited the happy feel and the allover print compliments the happy vibe."

The Knobbly Knees Romper went fast and I need to reorder these.

"Girls living Africa? To me they would be enveloped in flowers and vibrancy. We pushed the envelope quite a bit in steering away from the typical Safari Dress concept we have always made and it has been a huge success."

"Cool layers of fabric in delicate embroidery. This was designed for the 'little lady' in making. Due to the layered effect, I felt a delicate embroidery with lots of swirls would carry through this feel."

And I must say both the Loving Africa Giraffe Dress (left) and the I Love Bloomer Dress Set (right) are hits for the girls.

Now the boys shirts, I can't keep stocked! For moms of boys, you have to check these out:

"These large stories have been a success in all ranges. By incorporating many African animals into one scene - allowing all to interact with each other, creates such a playful theme that all children find appealing. Again, bringing in the bright green, in almost a safari style (with fake lapels on the sleeves) gives little boys a true fun outdoor feeling of play."

"Again, incorporating an animal story into one big print - This time focusing on the actual name of the range - SAFARI. When thinking of safari, we think about 4x4's and animals and African landscapes. Here, we decided to use all three elements, and again bring in the animals having fun into this type of environment."

Adri has a talent of bringing the African way of life to us through her designs of fun animals for our children to enjoy. Thanks Adri!

Monday, November 12, 2007

Part 2 of How Hooligans Differentiates Themselves, Adri gives the following points:

1 - "Unique original designs" (Adri creates them herself)

2 - "Extra detail in the actual pattern, lots of top stitching detail to reinforce seams so they don't rip apart with frequent washing."

(I get a lot of comments from customers on the amount of creativity of the detail.)

3 - Extra detail in the print and embroidery. We pay quite a bit more to have these done locally, even though the East can duplicate at a lessor cost."

(I am glad they support their community and employ locally.)

4 - "Hand dyed garments such as the Lion Scrunch (pic at upper left) or the Dip Dye Dress is done locally in Durban. After the garment is sewed, the entire item is dipped in dye, heated for color fastness and returned to our factory for other embellishments. This is a rather lengthy process and quite costly due the manual nature of dipping and scrunching into a bundle. The scrunch dyed T is tied together with elastic bands before being dyed. It is the pressed before being printed."

(Wow! even I am learning more about their processes every day!)

5 - "The quality pigment used by our printers is sourced within South Africa. The secret to the color fastness of the prints is the amount of heat used to cure the prints and quality of the printing paste. We are satisfied they pass our stringent quality standards. We randomly inspect factories printing for us, and monitor fair labour practices and certificates or origin of raw materials used."

(This is why I am able to import under the AGOA guidelines.)

6 - "Quality control in manufacturing (sewing and finishing) is stringent. Careful attention is paid to secure seams and that embroidery appliqu├ęs don't come apart int he wash. Extra staff are placed before packing items to pull at seams and check for fabric flaws. Fabric slubs do occur with natural fibers but we check that there is no weakness in the weave."

Stay tuned for part 3 where Adri gives us a hint into the inspiration of the new Fall Safari line.

Friday, November 09, 2007

Part 1: I asked designer Adri from Hooligans to describe what sets her designs apart from the rest of the world and here's what she said:

Unique Original Artworks:
"Artworks are original and created by myself, whereas most people in the clothing industry take their inspiration from Europe and the East. An enormous amount of research goes into each artwork. First a style is decided on (actual cut and pattern) and then I think what picture would best suit this style and which animal would compliment it best. Finding animal photos and drawing them in a correct posture is the most difficult because one is taking a realistic picture and then animating it. Animating doesn't mean that a face and body can be completely out of whack. It at least has to look somewhat 'real'."

"Once I have the body standing or sitting in a cute way, the face is the main focus because that is what must be the total fun factor. The animal's expression must excite little kiddies and parents alike. Africa is a fun and vibrant country with plenty of sunshine... plant and animal life is abundant and that excitement flows over in my approach to the designs. I often find myself sit and smile while I draw as the little happy faces come to life."

Adri, you are definitely creating the "fun factor". Your new lines for the Safari Range are exploding off the shelves in the US! Stay tuned for how Adri differentiates their garments and discusses some of the actual designs and how they came to be.

The pic above is one of my favorites for the boys. In fact, quite a few of my shirts for boys are sold out due to the high volume of moms buying Hooligans shirts for their boys. I'll need to put in another order very soon.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

I am immersed and overwhelmed with all the marketing that is required. Always looking ahead to the next season and still maintaining this season. I was reading some other blogs and getting some useful information on what was working and what wasn't. "Starting a Baby Boutique & Clothing Line" had a great post on October 30th about whether it's worth doing the big trade shows. She even referred us to another blog JPD Mom who had some insight into that area as well. Some do the big shows and seem to do well while others feel direct marketing is the way to go. I started and continue the direct marketing route and have been second guessing myself but after finding out what a few others are doing, I am feeling content with my decision... making it work is another story.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Happy Halloween!

Rate our pumpkin carving techniques! Which one do you like best, silly pumpkin face, princess castle or Ariel with shell cups. Can you guess which one my 6 year old carved?

Will weak tropical storm Noel send us gusty winds and rain out our Halloween? I have two princesses who are hoping otherwise.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Check out this new laser printing process Bug Zoo started doing on their girls jeans! Click on the jeans (left) to view larger size.

In terms of the laser printing, they use a laser to actually burn away the top layer of the fabric so that is brings our the color of the next layer of the fabric. (I forgot to ask how many layers a pair of jeans has.) This is a new concept and they are real excited to be adding it to their line this year. What's really neat is that this process will keep the flower design intact wash after wash, similar to their other processes that keep the colors intact on all their clothes.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

My three words are "One Beautiful Night"! Never had we seen such a beautiful image that night and we're thankful to have had the opportunity to relax and actually enjoy it! This is my family one cool October night in Florida.

For more information on the 3 Word Project check out Becki's idea at

"One Beautiful Night!"

Monday, October 22, 2007

I had two shows last week so I haven't posted in a while, basically tired. I think it's all the rain we are getting, giving me the blahs. Everyone I know is exhausted. My latest theory is that there is this (exhausting) virus out there just wearing everyone down but without being sick so you still have to go to work.

So getting back to my last post, I met Amber and we hit it off really well. In fact my husband was wondering where I was for so long. I came back inspired and ready to move, although in my tired and sluggish way - based on the virus I think I have ;-). I did work out today though and am ready to get back into that driven schedule I had before the school season started. For some reason I can't get it back.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Now that the stress is gone, I am left with this knot in my neck. I've been making my husband rub it ever so gently every night. It's almost gone now. So the issue I thought was number 3 but it turned out to be something else is actually number 4 now. So negative things don't always happen in 3's. That is an old wives tale as bad things can happen in any number I am finding out. Now don't get me wrong, all these issues were actually minor and all (but one I am still working on) have turned out in the end by making me either think outside the norm and be creative or basically try harder!

On a brighter note, Hooligans came out with a new logo. I added it to my website in the "About Us" section. There seems to be a blogger problem as I can't add the pic in here. I'll try later.

Catch you later as I am off to meet a fellow blogger who commented on my site here. We have similar interests as she is also a mompreneur of Ruffle Butts. She's bringing the ruffle back in baby's butts!

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Today is day 20, the last day to submit the originals to customs. I called my customs contact at ABX Logistics to find out if perhaps he got the delivery a day early, which he did not of course. We checked tracking numbers only to see no information from Friday leaving South Africa. I love technology... I skyped my contact to see what she knew so she was on the phone immediately finding out what she could. According to their records, it has been delivered. I am now waiting to get confirmation from ABX that they have it and have forwarded it to customs. I still won't have peace of mind until customs clears this notice though.

On a good note, I may have made a new friend and fellow mommy entrepreneur today. Maybe we can swap ideas.

Thursday, October 04, 2007

So I found out the number 3 blow! as I stated before everything bad comes in sets of 3. Funny, but what I thought it might be (and could still very well be as I haven't confirmed it yet.) wasn't. So do I really know what my third blow is?

The first was a customs audit of one of last year's shipments that needs to have corrected visa docs or I will have to pay tariff on the shipment, the second is the late shipment coming in due to missing visa docs, and I think the third is the fact that I found out that the purchasing manager of one of my wholesale accounts is no longer working there (which means I have to resell this sale which I thought was a done deal).

You know, last week and earlier this week I was all nerves. Funny how each new day brings a sunnier day with a rainbow slowly forming to bring me out of the darkness I had put myself into. Issue one is hopefully resolved as the new docs are being shipped for arrival early next week within the due date of the customs notice, issue two the shipment is in (which allowed me to send out today a shipment to a zoo in California - their first one at that!). My third issue is still outstanding but I have a brighter outlook and confidence to pull it off.

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Come and see the new awesome lines from Hooligans! One of my favorites is this Loving Africa Giraffe Dress (left). So cute for a play date or party. Also the boys shirts are great - check out my favorite, the Safari Bush Ride T (right). There is so much more so take a look - and the infant girls have a new bloomer dress set that I love even better than last years.

Saturday, September 29, 2007

I just posted to the MSN Business Breakthrough Challenge! Not like waiting until the last minute. It's due Sept 30. I had 497 words, three words under the limit. I wonder how many of these they have to read to narrow it down to 20 per category. Oct 15 is the date the semi-finalists are chosen. Wish me luck!

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Everything happens in 3s right? Well number 2 just did, the shipment that came in this week did not have the visa docs. So there my shipment sits in storage... waiting for only original documentation, which needs to fly in from South Africa. My father-in-law said that my daughter being sick was number 3 but I get this funny feeling that is not the case. I am bracing myself for the next blow!

Monday, September 24, 2007

Uuuugh! I have my first set of dealings with the Bureau of Customs and Border Protection. I received a Notice Of Action stating that a prior shipment I received last year was not sent under a valid visa. Hopefully this can be taken care of very quickly and easily with an ooops the wrong number was written down. Actually I have only 20 days to respond so it will have to happen quickly.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

The Bug Zoo winter lines are in! This Burgundy Bliss Party Dress and Leggings (left pic) is my favorite. Wouldn't it make a great holiday outfit? I asked Deidre, the designer at Bug Zoo, what inspired her to make such a darling outfit and she says her daughter (her miracle baby and only child) is what inspires her. Deidre doesn't like her picture taken... but here she is below.

This dress in particular was designed as she imagined her daughter as a fairy who grants wishes and is able to grant one wish a day. She created this story around the outfit. The burgundy color was chosen as it is a warm winter color for a fairy.

The other styles are inspired by what her daughter (age 5 now, enjoys. She is a real madam who loves feminine, yet funky styles and often 'advises' her mom when she is designing what she thinks will look good and what she thinks will sell. Do I sense a budding new designer growing up in our midst?

From what I hear, all of Bug Zoo think Deidre's daughter is an angel.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

I am going to participate in the MSN Business Breakthrough. I basically have to compose a 500 word or less essay about how the Business Breakthrough Team (I believe this is a team through VISA) can give me tools to make my business more efficient. The five categories to enter to win are: Marketing, Team Building, Technology, Finance and Organization. I am going to enter for the marketing category. The winner gets an evaluation and $10,000 in custom solutions based on the evaluation. Writing can be very difficult and I have until Sept 30 to send it in. Wish me luck!

Monday, September 17, 2007

So my ups and downs these past two weeks have been trying to get my two shipments in and getting them on the website. It's one thing here and one thing there that's been causing delays. Will I have my second shipment in by next week's show? I hope so. and I hope to have all the new items on line soon! Uuuugh! I just want to do everything now. Patience is not one of my virtues.

Friday, August 31, 2007

Today is the start of Labor Day weekend! Three days of bliss and fun in the sun. Today is date night - the kiddies are being picked up by Grandma and Papa! They are so excited! and so are we! I think we are going for a romantic boat ride and maybe hit a dockside restaurant along the way. As long as it's relaxing and not too much work. I want to relax tonight.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

So the big news today is that Feed The Children wrote an article on Kaboodle Kids in their special projects area. They decided to add articles about small companies who contribute regularly and I was one of the first to be picked! I wonder how long it stays up there? I'll have to find out.

I am also very excited to be a part of something that Frances Jones feels so passionate about. The front page always has a link to the Abandoned Baby Center in Kenya. All of Kaboodle Kids contributions are sent specifically for this center as we feel a need to help them, as our kids clothes come from Africa.

So check it out and see what other small companies are doing out there too.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

It's a great day! All my files are intact and life is good again. I have another added reason why I love him so much.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Yesterday morning started off like any other morning... until I go to open a file and it's not there. In fact, the folder containing all my company files are missing! What a shaky feeling as I call my hubby and ask why my stuff is gone. So I run a search on one of my files and luckily it sits in backup.

Right now, the computer has been working for over 24 hours to try to get back the files from what appears to be a dead drive. The back up plan is to retrieve everything from backup and manually figure out what I did in the past week that was not saved. So long story short, I haven't been able to work. Bummer! Hopefully this will be fixed by the end of the weekend.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

It's been a wild couple of weeks getting my 1st grader ready for school. Today was her first day. I'll be picking her up in the next half hour. I teared up a little bit this morning, she's growing up so fast.

Monday, August 06, 2007

Hot Summer Sale - 35% off all merchandise, and many summer items already reduced! Use SUMMER code at checkout. This sale is coinciding with the Florida Sales Tax Holiday through August 13. So I sent out my newsletter late Friday and find out my 35% off code wasn't working. What a first impression! I fixed it immediately though and it works now. Hopefully that didn't deter anyone.

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

The Making of Hooligans Kids Clothing

Adri owns Hooligans along with her husband Wayne. She is a fascinating woman and I'd love to tell you a little bit about her and how she designs the Hooligans clothing. She is "extremely creative, crazy person who loves to paint" (her words not mine). Her home is filled with the art she paints and she's a gardening fanatic. Local publications have taken pics of her "garden blush". People ask her to landscape their homes but alas I am glad she'd rather be designing Hooligans Kids Clothing instead.

She and Wayne travel to London and Amsterdam to see the latest styling ideas and what is fashionable for kids. She picks up ideas in her travels like "the dye effects are in fashion, embellishments such as beads, etc..." Adri states, "I also see the top end shops carrying designer wear for kids and they are obviously highly detailed. I enjoy Amsterdam's independent stores for their daring and artistic approach to clothing. I also look what children wear on the streets, because our clothing has a worldwide market and it must be wearable in any country."

It seems to me that Adri has a flair for design and takes it to a new level, by adding the true South African spirit to each idea. She personally designs each garment from scratch, hand drawing every detail, sparing no costs on finishing touches and fabric qualities. Let's hear how she does this. Adri states, "First I sit and come up with a colour theme. Then I look at the different styles and may make use of that. I then draw animals from actual wildlife photos, sometimes I visit game farms to study animals. I then take the drawings and make the animals friendly, adding expression to them so they appeal to both parents and kids. A kid must get excited when he or she sees the happy animal face frolicking in the jungle."

Adri adds, "Kids in Africa have sunshine all year round, they are outdoor kids and exploration is encouraged. I am passionate about the wildlife in all parts of the world and the preservation thereof and we want to educate children about animals and how important they are to the world. For example, the Elephant Facts Shirt (closeup at right) make learning a fun experience."

Adri makes it seem so easy as she explains how the process works, "I draw the garment, add the graphics and then we cut out the fabric and make the samples. The images are either printed or embroidered and then we start growing the range. The whole story must work together and we often change things as we go along to fit in with the whole theme. I sit for hours thinking and changing, sometimes ideas come to me in the middle of the might and I quickly jot it down. It's very focused, creative process putting a range together and takes up all of me."

As Adri says it isn't a one-woman show. She has surrounded herself with a dedicated team, including her husband and mother. It seems she gets her artistic side from her mom.

Hooligans is the "safari story", bringing animals to life though our children.
It's been quite a while since I last posted. I'll blame it on my niece who came to visit for the week. We had a great time doing something every day of the week. She enjoyed driving the jetski (see her with my hubby), but not as much as tubing (tubing with my daughter)! We finally wore her out by the end of the day! We enjoyed having her and most likely will make this a yearly event.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Since my trip to South Africa this past spring, I haven't had time to talk about the Hooligans styles. Sadly, due to unforeseen issues, they were not able to meet with me while I was there. I hope the manufacturing issues they had got resolved. I love the African Adventure range and wanted to focus on one of the girls shirts that really stands out for me. I asked the designer what went into making this shirt as well as the line and she was kind enough to tell me.

At left is the Safari Girl Top, which I feel depicts the essence of Africa. As Hooligans designer, Adri tells me, "This entire range is based on an 'Adventure in Africa' so the little girl is looking up in wonder at the friendly giraffe on her exploring and adventurous trip. The way in which she is standing depicts restraint and respect, yet awe for the animal and the look in her face is saying that it is also an educational trip for her."

She also references their swingtickets (which are the tags that hang from the clothing) saying, "when you buy the clothes you can pretend you are in Africa and be any animal you want to be!"

I love it when designers let you in on a little bit about what inspires them. I truelly think the Hooligans line brings out the essence of Africa and brings it to the level of small children. I am proud to say that I carry their line and hope you enjoy them too.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

I got some exciting news today. 5 Minutes For Mom posted their interview of me today on their blogsite. Click "my interview" to see it. It really made my day. It's fun to look on their site and read so many other women's blogs. I get quite addicted and time can fly while on this site so beware. I also like looking at other mom shops as I like to promote other moms and their businesses. In fact I ordered something the other day. Shopping is another one of my downfalls.

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Happy 4th of July! The celebrating is starting a day early since the girls are so excited. It started off with a small parade and patriotic songs. Click on the link patriotic songs to hear first my youngest singing "Red, White and Blue" and then both together singing (as they call it) "O Beautiful". Have a great 4 th of July!

Monday, June 25, 2007

Summer days are here! We just got back from a family vacation up north and boy did it get cold at night. I forgot how cold it can get. We all came back with head colds! The girls loved being at the farm and making s'mores by the fire while listening to daddy tell his brave stories about the bear in the old store basement and the snapping turtle of Slippery Rock.

I was disappointed that no sales came in while I was gone, but I did get a great customer comment via email that I'll put on the website. I am proud to say that I haven't received any negative comments. Should I knock on wood now?

Friday, June 08, 2007

I haven't blogged in a while as the summer season has started and retail sales are in their usual slump. I got like this last year I remember (oh whoa is me). I do have a great ad going out next week with She Finds Mom. It's a great mommy site, as well as 5 Minutes For Mom is another one that is going to list Kaboodle Kids on their site. I found these sites while talking to a friend. I love both of them. The more of these sites I find, the more I am spending on them and not getting my work done! Anyway, I hope the ad next week and getting my site up on the other one helps generate some sales. Also Feed The Children got in touch with me and they are adding small business editorials to their website and they chose Kaboodle Kids as one of the first ones to be posted! That is exciting! Coming off my high of being on the Mommycast show as well.

Another reason I haven't blogged is that I've been busy with a new initiative for the website. I've added outfits on my website now, with pictures and everything. Hopefully, this will take all the work out of finding the outfits on my site... and the customer gets a better deal by buying the whole outfit vs each individual piece.

Monday, May 21, 2007

Welcome to all the Mommycasters! What a treat to be featured in show number 196 - "Africa Followup". I was surprised to hear me on your show when I listened this morning. I have quite a few interviews posted below that give a little more on each interview I had and I've got more to post at later dates. So come again.

If you are interested in the Bug Zoo and Hooligans clothing lines, check out my on-line boutique - Kaboodle Kids.
Conway also arranged a meeting with the original owner of Bug Zoo, Bev Witte. She was wonderful to talk with and I learned much from her. Click on 'Interview with Bev'; it's a little over 8 minutes. We met for coffee outside of the very first Bug Zoo store, see pic at the left. Because we were sitting outside, you'll here some pretty loud background noise from some construction across the street that comes and goes.

It starts out with me asking Bev what made her start Bug Zoo. Bev was a fashion designer for ladies wear; she was on a sabbatical after having her second child. Not 3 months went by before she started designing kids clothes. Funny how the industry had changed just at that time... all the major stores and dept stores stopped selling children's clothes, which meant quite a few factories closed down as well in the 1990 timeperiod. Bev explains a little bit about Bug Zoo clothing being theme based to educate the children as well as provide fun clothes to wear. At first the clothes were unisex than changed to infant, boys and girls wear.

Bev also talks about selling the business to Conway and Chantel, which happened in 2005. Bev and Conway also had a bit of conversation about designs and such for which I did not include, but wanted you to hear her answer to my question about still being a part of what Bug Zoo is doing today.

In the end, Conway asks about a picture I had showed him of my daughter in an outfit that my older daughter wore and my youngest is wearing today. This was the outfit that first attracted me to Bug Zoo clothing and gave me the drive to go out and find them. Bev responds about "omer ads", which is like a washing machine ad for their clothes. As Bev states that due to their pre-dying process using combed cotton, the quality stands out wash after wash! She still has customers saying that not only do the clothes get handed down to their children, but also to cousins and younger cousins that wear the clothes... and they are still like new!

Sunday, May 20, 2007

So today is my last show for the season unless I pick something else up during the summer. During my last show, I was asked to do another one in July, so that's a good thing.

I have to revamp my website as I am getting many comments that the clothes don't show as well on the web as they do on display so I am going to start taking pictures of sets and maybe sell sets with better close up pictures. I've got to figure out how these clothes can sell better on-line.

My one shareholder, as my husband calls himself, is asking for many reports to see how business is doing now that I've hit over the one year mark. I think I am much better off than I thought as I started running my reports. The key now is to sustain current business without going into more debt. I think that's easier said than done. It's funny how whenever my husband goes into the shareholder role and asks questions, I get all defensive. I can just imagine what CEOs of big companies feel like at a shareholder meeting. Once I learn to counteract my husband with good solid confident answers (confidence is the key), that's when I know I've mastered the next threshold for me.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

To continue from last week's post on my day visit with Bug Zoo, after our visit with Rugaya at her home, we next went to visit a CMT setup. CMT means cut, make and trim (which is the term for an outside contracted group that puts a garment together). Although this group only did the "making" part of it. Bug Zoo had cut all the pieces in-house and this particular group sewed all the pieces together into the final product, just as I see it when I get my shipment (pic at right is a winter item I will be ordering later this year).

In the same way that Rugaya works from home with a group of ladies to do various beading, embroidery, etc..., the CMT group had originally worked at factories in Congo that closed down and immigrated to South Africa and are now working locally together in the back of a friend's home (see top left pic).

With all the sewing machines running and the radio, it was a very loud setup in there. The ladies were all working happily and said how they loved working for Bug Zoo. I could tell it was geniune as they were giving Conway a hard time joking around with him. I am very proud with what Bug Zoo is doing to help the economy locally in South Africa even though he could make the clothes cheaper by importing to China. By the way, I wouldn't be importing these goods via the African Growth and Opportunities Act (AGOA) if they were being made in China.

Before we left, Stuart brought out a good point in that these garage type setups are the model that will help the economy in South Africa. I believe he is right, but the question is, can you find enough business to maintain enough small garage type setups to reach the whole nation?
Wow! It's been while since I posted. It probably has to do with my daughter graduating from Kindergarten and having her very first piano recital! She did awesome!

On Mother's Day, I read a book and took a nap in the afternoon. It was a day to relax and not do anything. I have been selling a lot through shows and they are winding down a bit so I can finally breath a little bit.

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

I am excited to finally put together a 16 minute audio interview with Rugaya, who manages beading projects at her home. It starts out with Stuart asking Rugaya to explain what she does, etc... as well as he narrates often to help me get a better picture (Conway does too). I found it quite hard to get her to talk more openly. I assume that is part of their culture.

Rugaya (right pic) has quite a few women working for her and pulls up to 30 women in the area to help on larger projects. I saw samples of her work - great quality and quite beautiful! She is skilled, beading anywhere from simple cushions to exotic ball gowns... quite a talented lady with a lot of spirit.

We interview Rugaya at her home - the upper left pic is the entrance to her home. Rugaya also showed me the tiny room in her home that the girls all work in (lower left pic). Stuart and Conway also help me understand the job situation there, companies exploiting the high volume workforce with low wages, the male dominance of the income allocation and what Rugaya has done to improve her life since working with Stuart. You'll notice Rugaya may not speak as much as the guys do but she confirms their statements.

Please disregard the fact that I say "wow" alot. My husband pointed that out to me.

Then just as we are about to get into the car to leave, Stuart pointed out to me that right across the street from Rugaya's home was a home where children can come to learn. The program is called "Happy Tots Educare" (see pic at lower right); but then the "66" at the end of the adjacent house is the sign for a tic (drug) house. Sadly, the children come to learn and then get hit up to do drugs on their way out.

Thank you Rugaya for inviting me into your home to share your life with me and to help get an understanding of life in Cape Town, South Africa.
I just have to tell you that this past weekend has been busy. My daughter had her Kindergarten graduation program and we had guests for the weekend. She looked so grown up in her cap and gown... it was so cute! And each kid had a speaking part and they all did very well. My daughter did exceptionally well. (I am biased!) I am not sure I could have spoken in front of a crowd when I was that age. It also lasted 2 hours... now I see why high school graduations last so long! By the way, I didn't cry. I was busy in the back keeping my youngest entertained.

Friday, May 04, 2007

I am excited today as Mommycast emailed me back that they liked my audio clip!!! Not sure what this means yet though.
I am just as anxious to finalize the interview with Rugaya, but I've been busy working quite a few shows and seeing my customers firsthand and enjoying what excites them most about the clothes I sell. It gets me all pumped up! It was great fun to have a mommy go hog wild on the boy clothes, such a rarity as this mainly happens for girl clothes. It's most fun for me as I feel like I am shopping right along with them as I say" hey did you see this?" as we put together multiple sets. I love seeing this part and it actually makes me better at ordering what merchandise people love most... and it tires me out at the end of the day!

My next excuse is that my darling daughter is graduating Kindergarten today. The program is today anyway but school doesn't get out until the end of the month. By the way, when did they start giving them a cap and gown to wear? I know I'll be crying tonight at the program. And of course we've invited everyone on the planet to come so as my daughter told her 3 year old sister, "I am having a party for my graduation. It's for me ya know." The blank stare back just had me cracking up as she then went about her business with older sis tagging after her discussing the details of the party.

Monday, April 30, 2007

So as we continue to drive, I ask Stuart how many women work for him. I was astounded by the fact that he can only keep about 20% working continuously based on the fact that there aren't as many retailers who don't outsource their work overseas. Not only is sustainable work needed, but he also spoke about his collaboration with a non-profit to help educate the women and their children. Stuart also gives me a little insight on Rugaya, who she is. Click to hear audio clip (4 1/2 minutes).
This next clip is only 2 1/2 minutes but it's Stuart and Conway narrating what I see as we are driving through Delft and finally arrive at Rugaya's home. It was very interesting to see the town (left pic), shopping off the street. Many taxis I saw, which makes sense since many don't have cars to be able to get to work. The plain looking schools which have nothing more than the building itself. Finally, we arrive at Rugaya's home and this is what her street looks like (right pic).

Friday, April 27, 2007

The last post on Monday has an audio clip that gives an overall view of what I learned while I was there, but I want to give you a little bit more as it's hard to put it all into such a short version so I'll start with the road trip...

In the morning of my visit with supplier Bug Zoo, Conway (owner of Bug Zoo) says we'll take a road trip to visit with the ladies that do the detail work on the clothes I import. We leave the office and just before we get into the "Bug" car, we meet up with a man named Stuart and he gets into the car with us and off we go. I felt like I needed to backtrack and figure out how Stuart ties into this road trip. So this audio clip is an interview with Stuart, he starts by explaining why he is there (I didn't get a chance to record me asking the question, so it will start with him explaining what he does.)

In a nutshell, he started his own company Tamarind about 3 years ago, working to empower women in the community. Basically he is the link between these women who are skilled in all different areas of the textile industry, whether its beading, embroidery, crocheting, etc... with retail manufacturing companies (like Bug Zoo). I learned much in this interview of the life there and saw it first hand on our drive as you see in the pictures. (The pic at the right shows the number of these types of homes are quite deep and it went on for miles.) Stuart explains that much of these women live in impoverished areas with 50% unemployment rate. Go ahead and click on the link to find out more about what his business is, how it works and why he started it...

Monday, April 23, 2007

Although my whole day with Bug Zoo was great, I want to jump into the middle of my day and start on the road trip to visit the ladies that work from their homes or in their communities close to home. I knew Bug Zoo was doing something special by hiring these ladies to work from their home, what I didn't realize was the impact that it has.

Before I left for South Africa, I listened to one of my favorite podcasts, Mommycast, and they interviewed a woman who had lived in Africa with her husband and two children for a few years. It was a great show and they spoke about life there, what it's like... touching on quite a few different areas. Not really knowing the experiences I would have, I contacted Mommycast and they showed interest in any audio I might have while I was there. So I bought a small audio recorder and off to South Africa I went.

There is so much I want to say that I will break down each portion of the road trip as each touches on different areas. But I consolidated the interviews I have into about a 6 minute audio clip for Mommycast which focuses on woman in South Africa, which I am sending to them today. It consists of a portion of the drive to Rugaya's home, narrating the life there as I was seeing it firsthand driving through as well a a little history about Rugaya, then visiting with Rugaya, and finally leaving her home telling me more about the issues facing South Africa, specifically Cape Town. Picture at left shows Rugaya and Stuart walking on Rugaya's street outside her home.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

The animal pics showed a fun side of my trip to South Africa. My real reason for going was to meet my two suppliers, Bug Zoo and Hooligans, and hopefully a local representative of Feed The Children. In the end, I was able to meet with one of my suppliers, Bug Zoo, who was based in Cape Town. I got in late on a Sunday evening after 25 hours of flying and layovers and we had set up that I would be picked up at 7 am the following morning. What was I thinking? and Conway was there promptly at 7 am in his "Bug Zoo" car (see pic of Conway and car). It's definitely great advertising, people were always looking at us as we were driving by.

Conway outlined my day with taking me to the office first to meet the staff, spend some time getting an understanding of the business and how it worked there. Then we were going on a road trip to meet the "ladies" who work from their homes. After lunch, we were going to go meet the original owner of Bug Zoo and see the first Bug Zoo store.

At the office, I met his wife and business partner, Chantel, who also has a job as Director of Rape Crisis in Cape Town. She was able to welcome me before taking off to her job. I don't know how she works full time and helps run a business! (That's why she's so skinny.) So Conway was my chaperone for the day... and what a day it was! I have never learned and seen so much in such a small amount of time. I felt like a kid on a field trip...

Sunday, April 15, 2007

I received an interesting question today about what my blog is about - I just see a bunch of animals. I will close today with my final safari pics of my trip to South Africa and will go into the real reason I went on the trip - the business side of it. Stay tuned...
One animal I thought we'd see were the monkeys. We were told to zip up the tent every time we left to keep them from having a party in our tent (which it sounds like they are not good house guests). We did not see one, which I guess was a good thing.

Here is a great pic of a zebra (left). Don't you love the butt shot? Although there are many different antelope there, I chose the waterbok and impala to show you.
The waterbok (right pic) is known for the white ring on its rump (kinda like a wet paint toilet seat ring). Botlierskop Reserve is well known for the black impala (left pic), very rare. As you can see in the pic, they've been breeding them for some time. We were told the black ones are quite expensive.
The evening entertainment at the reserve is that after a nice dinner, you join the group by the fire and play bongos. They teach you a simple tune and the instructors play the melody and it was a lot of fun. See my husband and I by the fire still banging after everyone has gone. Overall, the safari was awesome! It's nothing like a zoo experience.

Saturday, April 14, 2007

Of the "Big 5" animals, we saw 4 of them (rhino, elephant, lion and buffalo). We did not see the leopard, which is extremely rare to see; although, we were told there was a small one in the reserve that occasionally feeds on the antelope.
The buffalo were well hidden down in a ravine in the tall grass. We almost missed them. There were about 12 in the herd and we saw a baby one too. They were wary of us in the beginning, dead still just looking at us with a sort of blank stare. Some of them finally got bored and started moving about, yet very aware of our presence. I must admit, the buffalo do not intrigue me as other animals do. My husband, on the other hand, was fascinated with them. It could be based on my first encounter with buffalo. It was on our first safari about 9 years ago. Our first ride out we came across buffalo just as the sun was setting. The jeep got stuck in the mud and the buffalo started milling closer to us as we made much noise trying to get unstuck. I remember that night vividly because we thought that was the most beautiful sunset we had seen and it could be our last. Our guide had to throw sticks at them to get them to go away. When they got as close as they did, you realize how big they really are. They hide themselves well in the tall grass and look much smaller than they actually are.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Lunch with the elephants was amazing! I am glad we ate first though... it's messy feeding them and they started going after our leftovers pulling fruit right from the bowl with their trunk. (They got a reprimand for that.) So I was the first volunteer to feed Sam. First he sucked the pellets from my hand which felt like a very powerful Hoover vacuum. Then Sam wanted me to pour the pellets into his trunk for which he kept sucking them in his trunk to make room for more - quite greedy. They do need to eat a lot!

Then Sam was instructed to lift his trunk over it's head to allow me to hand feed the pellets into his mouth. At first I just put it at the edge and most of the pellets fell out of his mouth. (Notice Sam's "get on with it" look as if saying will you learn to feed me right?) The trainer told me to put it way into the back of his mouth and feel the smooth tongue. It was smooth alright and slimy! But way cool!!!

So let me show you my husband feeding him in his mouth at the side angle to get a feel of how far you actually go in. It's quite scary to be that close to an animal so large. When they first walked up, as he got close to me, I immediately backed away - very intimidating.

So while we spoke to the trainer, I had to ask about the jewelry that is made from the elephant hair. I have a bracelet with a strand of elephant hair in it. A friend from work had said that elephants have no hair and that it came from his butt... that I have an elephant butt hair bracelet. Well I got close enough to the elephant to see he had hair on this tail and chin whiskers (many of them). So Damien, no longer do I wear an elephant butt hair bracelet!

So the two elephants we met were actually in the movie "The Gods Must Be Crazy" where they get drunk off the amarula berries, which makes a great liquor by the way!

Monday, April 09, 2007

So back to the safari...The rhinos are a beautiful beast. They definitely have my respect. The last time I saw one over 9 years ago, we were being transported by jeep from a canoe trip through a small reserve which had rhinos. We rounded a bend and came face to face with one angry rhino. He started trotting faster and faster after us... we couldn't back up fast enough. Finally our driver managed a three point turn in the road, which was the rhinos chance to charge us. He decided to let us go. As one guide joked in the past, "How do you know when a rhino's doing a mock charge? If you are still left standing!" I was happy to have a peaceful sighting with these rhinos this time round!
I started an Easter tradition last year that everyone loved so this year it got a little bit bigger... so we decided to do it at the park. We have an Easter Eve Flashlight Egg Hunt with some of the local kids in our neighborhood. They come in their pajamas with flashlights and scout for eggs just as it's starting to get dark. They exchange their eggs for non-edible prizes (as it is close to their bedtime and they'll be getting a lot of candy the next day anyway). They sure enjoyed themselves this year as seen in the pic!

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

The giraffes are one of my favorites. For being as tall as they are, they are so graceful. We saw a family of them, what looked to be a dad, mom and two small ones. It was wonderful to see one drinking as in the pic to the left. They can't stay down very long as they can get a blood clot in their neck and die.

It was neat to see a giraffe run, another first for me. The other interesting thing was that they walk both right legs then left but run front legs then back legs, galloping like a horse.

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Nothing says the "wild" more than hearing the sound of bones crunching by a female lion eating a carcass! (pic at left) I'll admit it was thrilling although we were all cringing at the same time hearing all that crunching bone.

She was only allowed to eat after the dominant male had his fill. See him here growling at us protecting his food. The low deep growl was quite fascinating. We did not hear him roar though.

Monday, April 02, 2007

I did really do some work while I was there and am still working on that as it will take longer than I thought, but I do have to tell you about the great safari we went on! The place was beautiful!
It's called Botlierskop Private Game Reserve. Once we arrived, our bags are taken away to our room while we leisurely ride a small boat to our Tree tent (top left).

The picture of the room at left is exactly like they show (our pic matches close to theirs). Check out their website. This is not like any tent accommodation you have ever seen! Don't think we were roughing it out there. And if you're feeling a little bit adventurous, you can take a shower outside! (I am not telling whether I did or not, but I will tell you the bath tub was great too.)

Some say Botlierskop was named after the rock formation as seen in the pic - a Dutch word meaning bottle top. Others say it was named after the original owner of the land. Supposably the owner did not get along with the surveyor, who incorrectly spelled the land owner's name as Botlierskop.

Stay tuned for the a glimpse of one of our safari rides...