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.