Category Archives: Retail

Saying It Right, Makes Customers Experience It Right

Everyone is stressed this holiday season. The opportunity is ripe for both shoppers and store personnel to be rude and abusive (particularly when stores hire part time or seasonal help who haven’t been properly trained). But there’s a very simple way to break out of this cycle and turn a potentially bad experience into a memorable one – which is something we all want. Check out Michael Hess’ post on CBS News Moneywatch about how you say something during the holiday season being crucial to creating a good customer experience. Here’s one example he gives:

Say this: “Let me help you with that” or “How can I help you?”
Not this: “You need help?”

This is great advice not only for the holidays but every day. And this practice can be used in writing business documents, such as business plans as well. For instance,

Don’t say this: “Our sales goal was to increase business 40% this year but we only made it to 15%”.
Say this: “We increased business 15% this year and are working towards a 40% sales goal.”

The second phrasing puts a positive spin on the situation. Just as importantly, it tells the reader that you are in control of your business or situation. The reader, particularly an investor, is going to look more favorably upon this positively stated situation.
In the long run, this kind of speaking can change the way you think towards a more positive outlook in general.

For other examples, check out the link to the blog.

Taking fashion to the next level: from two participants

Taking fashion to the next level: from two participants

Last week I focused on the Design Entrepreneurs NYC program just completed at FIT. This week I want to pass on feedback from two of the participants: one of the designers selected for a prize and one of the designers who showcased her products at the event. Like all our participants, they put blood, sweat, and many sleepless nights of their lives into this program.

First up is Katerina Lankova, Founder and Designer at Stee-letas. She showcased her products at the DENYC closing event and told us: “Through the DENYC I have been able to explore the business of fashion beyond my comfort zone and formulate a clear picture about bringing the product– STEE-LETAS®– to the marketplace. Seeing other designer’s work, and hearing the unique stories behind their creative process, was both inspiring, motivating and humbling. Ultimately, the most important benefit of the program was the sense of shared endeavor, the priceless connections, and the lasting friendships that resulted from it. I am grateful for the opportunity that DENYC represents; I am already integrating the skills, insights and training that I obtained into my design aesthetic and my business practice.”

Katerina Lankova

Designer Jes Wade. Photo by Sergio Kurhajec.

Jessica Wade, Founder and Designer at Jes Wade, and one of the three winners of the presentations to the panelists, has this to say about her experience: “The opportunity to think about the past and present of Jes Wade during the intensive DENYC program was a gift. Finishing the course with a presentation that was supported by esteemed fashion industry heavy weights was confirming and an even bigger gift. It was a NYCEDC program that focused on every aspect of the fashion design business with a rigorous “mini MBA” boot camp style. The professors and mentors from FIT and the industry were both challenging and supportive and the entire experience a huge asset in confirming the future of my business. I highly recommend this intensive program to all highly motivated design entrepreneurs.”
Jessica wrote her business plan with the help of the DENYC program. The prize is in two parts – one is time with consultant Ari Bloom who Jessica will work with to develop innovative relationships. The second, time with Charles Klein, will help her to negotiate new relationships (in addition to the attorney she already has a relationship with).

Jessica Wade

Best of luck to the two featured designers above and to all the great designers who participated in the DENYC program!!!

If you are interested in participating in the 2013 class of Design Entrepreneurs NYC, please note that the application process will launch in early 2013. For updates, please visit
For those of you interested in participating in the business of design, NYC Fashion Fellows is now taking applications. NYC Fashion Fellows

Pop-Up Partnerships

I recently co-conducted a class on growing your business at the first Design Entrepreneurs NYC class – sponsored by FIT and NYCEDC (New York City Economic Development Corporation).  My co-teacher was David Colby, an attorney that works with start up businesses. What a great class and full of positive energy.

One of the subjects we covered was partnerships and joint ventures and how it’s imperative to structure a good operating agreement or contract between the partners/parties.

After the class I got into a discussion with one of the entrepreneurs who described his situation – a case of serial partnerships.  It seems he is often asked to partner with a name fashion brand for one fashion show.  The agreement for that show is that no competitor of the name brand can be mentioned for the duration of the show.  So the partnership, or agreement, lasts for only the duration of the show – three maybe four hours.  I thought, how cool.  A pop-up partnership.  After the show each of the partners goes their separate way.

The startup partner benefits enormously by participating with a famous brand – this increases their exposure, lends credibility to their brand and gives them documentation they can use for promotional purposes. And, perhaps, if you want to stretch it, bragging rights for having been a partner of that designer.  My assumption is that the established brand benefits by introducing a cutting edge new brand to the scene. That’s an amazing win-win.

Just remember that even in pop-up partnerships, an eye should be kept on the legal terms of the agreement to make sure everything is spelled out.

Grey is Good!

Pam Witzig wrote an excellent blog recently about everyone being so politically correct about race, gender, preference, disabilities, etc.  Except for one sector –people over 50. Our society still discriminates ruthlessly against this sector.

Just when people reach the age when they have all this marvelous expertise and experience, society and big business tries to put  them out to pasture.  The bias is so ingrained that few ever even speak about it. Kudos to Pam.

That brings to mind an experience I had a few years ago at the Irish Consulate.  I walked into a networking meeting about an hour into the event and everyone in the room was engrossed in conversation in groups of three and four.  I looked around and saw the typical scene in a tech setting – a bunch of young (mostly men) guns talking in groups and trying to impress each other. I figured that I knew more than them and so wasn’t interested in approaching any of those groups. I then saw a group of two or three grey haired men and decided to join that group. I walked up to them, and it turns out I already knew one of them – an extremely prominent venture capitalist. He was speaking with the Irish Consul General to NY. We were introduced. The Consul General and I spent the next 30 minutes in hot conversation about innovation. It turns out he was one of the architects of the peace treaty between the North and South of Ireland. He knew plenty about innovation. We exchanged cards and stayed in touch for the two or three years he was in NY.  It was a wonderful connection. Additionally, I renewed my relationship with the VC.

I bring up this story to point out that had I not specifically welcomed the opportunity of speaking with the grey hairs in the room, I never would have had that experience.

So when you’re out and about and hiring or networking give the grey hairs their due. They’ve probably been around a lot longer than you and can provide an enormous wealth of experience and information – if you’ll just let them.

Here’s the link to Pam’s post:


Why I don’t want your business…

Look … times are tough. But I’m very good at what I do and I don’t have to keep selling and proving myself to people who are distrustful, looking for a bargain, so in the dark that they can’t make up their minds, don’t really know what they want or need, so bored or mentally ill that they just want you to keep selling to them … you get my drift.
Sure, everyone has to sell themselves, their business, their product. But there comes a point where you’re eating into your profit by spending an enormous amount of time convincing someone (usually an entrepreneur or very small business owner) just how good you are. And they often can’t make the purchasing decision … ever … about anybody. This is not a real lead. It’s fishing in a toxic pond. You can’t let it get to you and you shouldn’t act desperate. Let someone else waste their time getting the business … if it’s there to be “got”. And what happens if you do get that kind of business? More of the same … every decision, suggestion, strategy, etc. needs to go through the same process. Just walk away. I do. And I sleep better at night for it.
I’m not talking about people who hire you (if you’re a consultant) and then all their fears and hidden neuroses emerge. Those people just require a huge amount of hand holding and explanations but they really do want to get the job done. I’m talking about the ones who put out just enough bait but can never close the deal in their own mind … much less in reality.
My services are comparatively expensive. But what clients get for their money is a job done with strategy and not just a pair of hands or a templated off-the-shelf solution. Some clients who came to me have literally said, “I know you’re more expensive but I want the job done correctly.” They are very happy with the product. And continue to tell me so. Especially after I’ve increased their business by 6-fold or 10-fold. You don’t get those kind of results from cheap. Or off-the-shelf. No one tells clients that. So you have to. That is just before you walk away.
Your company or product is your special baby. Why treat it anything less than special?