What pushed Fred and I to start the business, is our experience when we worked part time at an international purchasing agency while still in university. As part time workers there, we used to help out mainly with purchasing of Chinese commodities and then ensuring that shipping arrangements were done for the foreign enterprises.
While we were there we observed and learned some valuable lessons. We noted that due to the frequent negotiations with the manufacturers and suppliers in china, the purchasers were expected to be well acquitted with the different products in terms of their strength, weaknesses, and the scale of medium and small enterprises. We also noticed that the factories that were tasked to make the different products were merely contract manufacturers who did not have any knowledge on where the products design came from in the first place. Although the products made in china were great and the prices were affordable, most of the factories did not have their own brands or design. They just produced goods based on specific requirements from the different renown foreign companies.
We saw an opportunity here because China has a large population and has great resources at their disposal that they could use to their advantage but they hardly do. This condition saddened us and we decided that we would in the future develop a brand of our own that was high quality and export it around the world. We decided that we would first start small scale and then improve as we go. Fred and I were very creative people and we knew that we could start our own company and grow it into a success one day. We would take advantage of China’s well developed manufacturing sector and the refined production techniques to make a name for China.
On graduation eve, Fred suggested to me that it was the ideal time to pursue the dreams we had and make a difference. We quit our part time jobs and purposed to create our very own company and brand hence the brand ILYMIX was born in 2015.
We first started off by getting into the fashion industry business with the ultimate goal of designing our own accessories and scarves in the future. When we began the business, it was around fall and winter meaning that scarves were very popular and we would get market in US, Canada and Europe. We had the challenge of money when we began and this made it difficult to do great things and run a big business. We were however, determined to make a change and let the world know that brands in Chinese were authentic and great. We had a vision and despite the fact that we were small we knew that if we worked hard consistently, we would not be fail.
HOW WE SOURCED FOR OUR SCARVES AND THE CHALLENGES WE MET
At that moment we decided to diligently do our own research of the market first. Where we lived then, Yiwu, had numerous factories and supplies from Zhejiang and other provinces in China hence the market for scarves was definitely large. The market had a large variety of scarves that had different styles including the bandanas, headscarves and triangle scarves. The scarves were made from different materials but the main ones were cotton, linen, polyester can chiffon.
Although there were a variety of scarves that were offered in the market, there were so many loopholes and it was very hard to get the products that we really wanted in terms of specifications. We realized that most vendor stalls only concentrated on taking export orders and did not have any stock at hand which was a very big challenge. For most suppliers, if you wanted to buy a certain style from them, there was a minimum order quantity that you had to make; usually at least one thousand which did not favor us because of the nature of the fashion industry, as it is very fast paced. This proved to be a challenge for start-ups and small businesses like ours as we could not sell such amounts within a short time. The suppliers were more focused on selling their scarves to bigger companies as opposed to small clients which is why every time we would approach them to supply us with stock they would say no upfront or keep telling us to come back without intending to actually sell to us.
After trying effortlessly for a while to get a supplier, we finally got one who had the stocks were looking for. At first sight, when we inspected the quality of the samples, they seemed to be fine in terms of quality and we so went ahead to purchase the packs. We were later disappointed when we discovered that within the packs, most of the scarves did not meet the standards we wanted to sell to our customers and they were low quality. We tried to return to the suppliers in exchange for better quality but they refused. Despite the fact that we had lost a lot of money trying to get what we wanted, we were determined and refused to sell the bad quality scarves to customers hence we disposed them without any hesitation. We looked at the bigger picture and we were focused on keeping our philosophy which was maintaining excellent standards and not selling any flawed products to our clients at any point because of desperation.
Determined and undeterred, we kept searching to find a source of high quality scarves. We discovered that most suppliers in the market were agents and not manufacturers so they were not able to store large amounts of products at a given time. We also noted that some of the suppliers were only keen to cost save and make high profits and hence sold poor quality of products that were trending at a particular period to achieve their objectives. They did not really concentrate on giving value for money to the people they sold their products to.
Based on the tough past experience, we knew that this was going to be challenging and so we took a more vigilant approach. We began to visit the medium and large factories and we would go on site to inspect the processing technique and the production environment to determine the quality of the scarves upfront. Most of these manufacturers that were located in Zhejiang targeted high end markets in the United Stated and Europe so most of their products were excellent. We also visited factories in Jiangsu province just to make sure we got what we were looking for. Although the process of carrying out on site visit was slow and tedious, it was totally worth it because the scarves met all our requirements in terms of quality and style.