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What I Learned From Re-shoring Our Manufacturing As a US Consumer Brand"

Business

With American manufacturing being a huge topic of interest for our President, Donald Trump, you would think it would be an easy transition to re-shore your business. Well, try running a company with double manufacturing expenses on a single sales revenue.


Our brand, FOXERS, is steadily increasing in demand around the globe, and it's perfectly poised for a second factory, one in our homeland. We already had some products made in the USA, right in Atlanta, GA where we are located. So, to help combat inventory selling out due to our growth (and thus lost sales) I thought that it might be time to manufacture some of our highest volume products here. I have always wanted manufacturing to be close to the office, but the cost and expertise had never worked out before.

There were a lot of questions that came up with that decision. How do we handle two factories with double purchase order expenses? How do we purchase all of the fabric and parts months before production and be able to pay for it? When to start and what to make first? This also requires double the cost for everything (fabric, labor, parts/notions, etc.) so how could I possibly handle this increase? One top of all that, we hired a new marketing manager for FOXERS Amazon sales, and he was asking us to increase inventory before he increased advertising. He was familiar with crowd funding and thought it should be our next marketing step for exposure. Interesting? I needed capital to create the USA manufacturing while we still maintained our manufacturing abroad and he needs reliable inventory made quickly and steadily that won't run out. So we have the answer: pre-order-crowdfunding to purchase a FOXERS racerback before it's made to get us the money and exposure we need.

We decided on the FOXERS 24/7 Racerbacks. Our customers already love the comfort and style, they even reorder often with every new color that becomes available. So why not also bring in some new fabrics (made in USA) and a new size that's been long requested (3XL). First decision made, product samples made, samples tested, and new size developed. Cost of samples, patterns, grading for each size, photography, video production, models, etc.: all done and paid. All that was left was choosing a platform to setup pre-ordering and start raising funds, one Kickstarter account later and we were ready to go. The cost was already adding up, but the dream of USA manufacturing was coming to life right before our eyes.

Everything was ready to go, but we still had to make the promotional materials and actually get people to pre-order. My first thought was, "Oh no!" I didn't want to put myself out there and ask people to buy my racerbacks out of nowhere. What if no one pre-orders? Or even worse, what if only a few people do and we don't get the funding to build the local manufacturing to supply those pre-orders. Our marketing manager assured me that it would work and do well. He said you will have to market to your FOXERS customers, the racerback customers, your family, friends, business associates, etc.

So, here we go June 18th launching a pledge-based ordering system through a crowdfunding platform. I was so nervous on that day that I hardly remember anything from hour to hour. I told myself, "It's okay if we get about $1,500 today in pledges for the racerbacks?" But the marketing manager kindly reminded me that no, you need to get at least 50% in the first few days or it might not fund. WHAT?! I can tell you one thing: I did not sleep for three nights straight after the launch. I'm still thinking about it day and night as it is ongoing, but I can already say this experience has pushed my limits whilst bringing us so much great exposure. Am I scared? Yes. But it was definitely the right decision. Fear is something that all business owners feel. Being a bit scared or even nauseated when you grow your business in a new direction is completely natural. Now, I use this knowledge to keep me focused and calm when I do feel that way; I know it's the norm and it means things are mostly going to be successful so long as I can push through.

We funded over 74% within the first week and still have three more weeks to go! Yes, I'm still putting myself out there, but it is working!

Since the start of our campaign I have had so many great inquiries for new business opportunities and sales. We've increased sales everywhere on all our other platforms and formed new relationships simply because we put ourselves out there with this one campaign. My family and friends have learned so much more about FOXERS and are all talking about the campaign! I have learned what to do better as well as what not to do, if I were to ever do this again. We learned how to market our brand through a crowdfunding platform like Kickstarter, but we also learned that pushing our boundaries is worth the fear once you get to the success. If anyone else is thinking of doing this, please email me anytime. I'll give my advice on what I did and didn't do, from one friend to another.

You can support our Kickstart campaign here.

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Lifestyle

What I Learned From Dating Younger Men - It's Refreshing and More Authentic!

"There are no good men out there," yet another woman my age declared. At 50, I was freshly divorced after two decades of marriage and motherhood. My unhappy marriage had shattered my faith in men and romantic relationships. Based on my ex-husband's opinion of my sexual appeal, I was afraid my naked body would cause future lovers to run screaming from the room. Rather gleefully, I announced to my girlfriends that I was done with men, and sex, forever.


For the first year, I got tangled in my sheets alone every night, overjoyed to have the bed and my body to myself. I felt liberated by divorce—free to be me, skip showering, and make dinner for one. But it bothered me when women decried the scarcity of men, because I'd known so many good ones—college boyfriends, my brother, my best friend from business school, etc. The first of many naked truths gradually crept up on me: I was not going to find my juju again through self-help and yoga. The feminist in me didn't want to admit it, but going for too long without men was akin to starvation.

I didn't want another husband. But I needed men, a lot of them.

The universe signaled its approval by sending Mr. Blue Eyes to me at an airport. He was 29 and perhaps the sexiest man I'd ever kissed. Being with him convinced me, pretty decisively, that men were going to heal me, even though men had destroyed me many times before. I became the female incarnation of a divorced, clichéd older man: I bought a sports car, revamped my wardrobe, and took younger lovers. "I want five boyfriends," I told my best friend KC after that first tryst ended. "Sweet, cute, smart, nice. Enough that I won't get too attached to one." My message from the frontlines of divorce at 50 is that to restore your confidence as a woman, especially in the wake of a crushing breakup, try dating outside your comfort zone, expanding your dating pool to include partners you might never have considered before. It may not be the recipe for a lasting union, but in terms of rebuilding your self-esteem, it can work wonders.

The first thing I noticed—and liked—about dating younger men is that they didn't want to marry me or make babies with me. And I didn't want that either. Frankly, I didn't even want them to spend the night. Since I'd been 11, I'd been taught to seek out and value men who wanted commitment. To my surprise, I found it refreshing, even more authentic, to be valued not for my potential as a mate, but instead for my body, intelligence, life-experience and sexuality.

And the sex! I quickly realized that—warning, blanket stereotype coming—men under 40 are more straightforward and adventurous than older men, maybe since they were raised with the Internet. You hear so often about the scourge of crude, sexist online pornography; and I agree that the depersonalization of women as sexual playthings is deeply destructive to all genders. However, from sexting to foreplay, I found younger men uniquely enthusiastic about getting naked and enjoying sex. Every younger man found my most erotic zones faster than any man my age ever had, with a lack of hesitation men over 50 seemed unable to fathom.

Also, about my big fear of getting naked in front of a younger man? Completely unfounded. I started to shake when Airport Boy took off my sundress in our hotel room. Had he ever seen a woman my age nude? How could I stand to be skin-to-skin with a body far more perfect than mine? I had given birth to eight-pound, full-fucking-term babies. I'd nursed them, too, and at times by breasts looked (from my view at least) like wet paper towels. "You have a spectacular body," he told me instead, running his hand over the cellulite on my stomach that I despised. That night I learned that younger men who seek older women accept our physical flaws—they don't expect perfection in someone 20 years their senior. These men taught me to see my body through a positive, decidedly male lens, to focus on the pretty parts (and we all have them) rather than the flaws that we all have too, whether you're 19, 29 or 59.

I even found the pillow talk lighter, easier and more intellectually stimulating, because a younger man's world view differs so vastly from the pressures of my 20-something kids, annual colonoscopies, 401K balance and mortgage payments. They have simple financial problems, like "Can I borrow a few quarters for the parking meter outside?" or "Do you have any advice on consolidating my student loans?"

Everything feels simpler with younger men. Men under 40 seem less threatened by assertive women; they grew up with them. They like cheap beer instead of expensive wine. They don't snore (as much). Leftovers a 55-year-old would scoff at look good to them. Their erections NEVER last more than four hours. Their hard-ons end the old-fashioned way and 45 minutes later they are ready for more.

But what I enjoy most about younger men is not the sex, or the cliché that they make me feel young again—because they don't. Younger men make me feel old, and to my delight, I like that. I feel valuable around younger men, precisely because I am wiser and more experienced in life, love and between the sheets.

I know I'll never end up with one for good. The naked truth is we don't have enough in common to last. One recently put it exactly right when he told me, "I love this, but there's always gonna be a glass ceiling between us." That lack of permanence, the improbability of commitment and "forever," doesn't mean I can't pick up a tip or two about self-esteem, and enjoy the magic of human connection with younger men. And vice versa. The experience can enrich us both, making us better partners for people our own ages down the road.

*My viewpoint is from the perspective of a heterosexual woman, because I am one. But change the gender identification and/or sexual orientation to whatever works for you and let me know if the same advice holds true. Thank you.