Thursday, September 8, 2011

BizBlog: Team

Even though I am a hardcore Jill-of-all-trades and capable of amazing things when I get going, there will come a point where I won’t be able to do it all myself.  I’ve given some thought to who I will need on my team (in terms of job descriptions, and to a lesser degree in terms of who I’d want), and in roughly what order.  In the beginning, anything I can’t do myself or get a friend or family member to do, I’ll have to hire a consultant to do; eventually, however, there will be enough workload that it would justify taking on employees.

1.  More garment technicians (aka seamstresses).  Garment construction will be the most labor intensive part of my business in the early days, and it will probably the least effective use of my time for me to be sewing once the business really gets up and going.  At the outset, these will need to be people who are local, preferably women who have struggled with un- or underemployment, possibly those who have faced historic discrimination in the German labor market.  Once I’ve established a name for myself, but am busier with the Body Brilliance R&D and day-to-day business, I hope that my one-of-a-kind design/re-design pieces will become sought-after, expensive items that I can use for things like celebrity dressing to raise my profile, items to donate for charity auctions, etc.  I will also need someone with more training than I have as a seamstress and garment designer, likely someone who in Germany has the title of “Schneidermeister(in)” (Master Tailor, male or female), since I will no doubt hit a wall before too long with garment design and construction.

1a. When I get to the point that my garments will be mass-produced (and by that I mean in quantities where even a small sewing studio won’t be able to manage them), I’ll need to create a garment factory.  I’ve given some thoughts to this, and I’d really like to open a factory that employs and empowers women, in a country which has a fairly stable democracy, in an area where other industry closures have created unemployment or where employment has been hard to come by.  Were I to look to Africa, it would be in countries such as Benin, Senegal, Namibia or Botswana; India would naturally also be a possibility since it already has a garment industry.  Ideally, though, I’d really like to bring work to a place in the US that’s been hit hard by unemployment: someplace in the Appalachians, if I were to take the risk of creating a “company town”, or in a place like Flint, MI or Dayton, OH.  Regardless, any outsourcing I do would be on a fair trade basis; I want to empower my employees and fight poverty in my own small way, not exploit my employees and perpetuate poverty.

2.  A business manager, native or near-native German speaker, familiar with the German business world.  If she starts off life as my client and wears my designs, so much the better.  Probably half-time at first, moving up to full-time as the business grows.  She would have to wear a lot of hats at first, but would eventually need to be complemented by:
  • An Accounting/Finance person.  I’d probably start off us doing our basic books ourselves and hiring an external accountant, but if the company gets big, we’ll need someone in-house.
  • A Human Resources person.  I know little to nothing about German labor laws, hiring and firing practices, etc., and having someone who can do all those nuts and bolts things will be greatly needed.
  • A Marketing person.  Advertising is a must, I admit.  Double bonus if she can function as my:
  • Web designer and programmer.  Once my online selling goes beyond the realm of what I can do on Etsy or Dawanda, I’ll need a virtual storefront.  Hopefully this person can also function as a maintainer for our customer database, or else I’ll also need:
  • A database programmer and maintainer, to develop and maintain the back-end to my virtual storefront, and the systems that will ultimately be used in the brick-and-mortar stores.

3.  A personal assistant (ideally my BFF Maria) and/or a German-speaking secretary (gender unimportant; actually I think it’d be a cool role reversal to have a male secretary, especially since German is a gendered language).  There will come a point, probably sooner rather than later, where my (lack of) German skills will catch up with me, and I’ll need someone who can do telephoning and correspondence in German for me.  Also, there will also come a point (soon I hope!) where I’m so busy with creating and running the business that it’s an inefficient use of my time to do things like fetch lunch, pick up my dry cleaning, track my correspondence, research things online (especially because too much time on my computer leaves me really drained), etc.

4.  A software developer with CAD and graphic programming strengths.  There’s a lot in the garment designing and pattern drafting end of my business that will require custom software.  And as Joel Spolsky said in “Joel on Software”, if it’s a core component of your business, it should be developed in-house, rather than outsourced or done with pre-packaged software.

5.  A creative partner -slash- “real” fashion designer.  I’ll readily admit: from a design perspective, I’m not an artist, I’m a problem solver.  I’ll probably never come up with the kind of wacky shit that would make Lady Gaga say “IT MUST BE MINE!”, let alone the kinds of gorgeous prints that Missoni and Diane Furstenburg create.  However, in this vastly-underserved niche of plus-size design, there’s plenty of room for problem solving, because there are most assuredly problems to be solved.  That said, though, ultimately I’d love to get a young, up-and-coming, fat-friendly (and ideally fat herself!) designer to be the dreamer to my planner, the artist to my engineer, the Oscar to my Felix, the Cecily to my Gwendolen, the Marianne to my Elinor, the... well, you get the idea.  Someone who can run circles around me creatively; for as creative as I am, I know genius when I see it, and know I will never be it: therefore I must hire genius.

And let us not forget: MODELS!  Ideally, I’ll find clients whom I would love to have model the things I make for them, and there are always modelling agencies (although their idea of “plus-size” corresponds to my idea of “normal woman”), but I would love to have the reason and opportunity to approach one of the lovely fat women I see on the street from time to time, introduce myself, and ask them if they’d like to model for me.  I also have a little dream... a dream of a FAT-tastic spokesmodel, a woman who is a star of stage and television (will someone please get this woman a major movie role already???), the lovely Brooke Elliott.  Look at this woman!  Would she not be incredible as the public face of my company?  I’d swoon with fangirlish squee if I even got to have a meeting with her to broach the topic... *sigh* *crush*

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