I wasn't going to share this part of my journey but then I thought about it and told myself that maybe my story could benefit someone else out there, and I did choose to share my journey so here it is.
I'm just going to put these super adorable photos of Mila and Penny everywhere to lighten up this blog post. (Bodysuits: Mila James, Tights: June & January, Mila's shoes: Mini Melissa, Penny's shoes: Honeysuckle Shoes, Photos: Arlene Easterwood)
Let me start off with a little back story. We'll call this person I'll be referring to as X. I met X through a referral from a really nice woman I've met along the way of my journey. When I first met X, she was extremely helpful and supportive. She assured me that she was here to help women in the industry especially mothers who are trying to make something of themselves. She even told me she always hoped to teach mothers how to make patterns/sew so they could make their own businesses from home. We talked long about my collection and where I wanted to take it and how I was hoping this was my chance at doing what I love while still having the opportunity to be available to my daughter. I truly believed X was on my side, which was mistake number one on my part. In a piece of the conversation I had with X, she mentioned that she charges for her time which she promised she'd be giving me a "huge" discount on as well as keeping me up to date as her time accumulates, and actually, she said she'd be giving me a "huge discount on everything." SMH, mistake number two, never trust ANYONE!
Throughout the last 10 months, I have constantly communicated with X and was continuously led to believe my collection was coming along just fine and that I would be sure to have it "soon." Mistake number three. I should have taken it upon myself to create contracts and set dates so we were on the same page. X would always push my collection to the side for her more "higher end" clients, which I was fine with at first because I knew she would probably make more money off of them, or so I thought. Finally, I got to a point to where I tried to set a date in place for production pickup and all went well at first. As we got closer to the pickup date to which she agreed to, the tables turned and I got a first look into her defensive behavior.
Forward to the past couple of months, I still didn't have all my things but she was fully paid on all materials, patterns, production, etc. After repeatedly asking for updates on her time, she FINALLY sent me an email of her hours spent on my very small collection. When I received her form of invoice, I immediately knew something was wrong but didn't want to make any accusations because remember, she was here to help women in this business. I agreed to pay her half of her time in hopes to get the remaining items of my production but before I sent her payment for the first half, I asked her if she could better explain her time spent on my collection so I can understand the process. Wouldn't you? I mean, her time was costing me more then my actual production cost, which was so odd to me so I feel as though I had every right to ask how her time was spent on my collection. The example I always refer to here is anyone who charges people by the hour should show some kind of accountability, when you clock in and out at work you check in and whoever you are working for can see how your time is being spent, so why would this situation be any different. If I am paying someone per hour, I'd like some sort of information on what I am paying for, not just a ridiculous total of hours at the end of their job without explanation. Anyway, when I asked, she responded with something to the effect of her being too busy to explain everything in full. I still went ahead and paid her for half of her time, which I thought was more then fair and was hoping this would get her to send me my remaining items (which, again, were fully paid for).
After much thought, I decided to approach her with my thoughts on her hours spent on my collection and how after 8 months I still didn't have my very small collection. The argumentative and defensive behavior I received from her for explaining my thoughts was out of this world. I couldn't believe it, I was seriously in shock! The arguing wouldn't stop there after. I begged for my things because those were things I owned. There was just no talking to X without being accused of lying. At this point, I had no other choice but to get a lawyer, which caused me to spend even more money! My lawyer advised me to continue to try and get my things back from her and then we could go from there. She agreed to send the items, but when I received more boxes from her not only did I learn I didn't get all of my things but the quality of my products took a huge hit. I could totally tell she took her anger out on my collection. You all remember my floral dress, right? The original design had a keyhole with a button closure on the back. When I met with her, she told me buttons were illegal for children's clothing, which I don't believe to be true seeing how many items at large stores including Target and even some pieces from Kate Spade's children's collection have buttons on them. Anyway, she insisted that I change the closure to be a tie-string. After discussing it with her I agreed, she sent me a sample that I approved for production. When I received the final dresses, not only was the keyhole gone but there was no button or tie-string, she completely compromised my design without my permission. When I approached her about it, she said tie-strings are illegal and I should know better. X was the one who recommended the tie-string over the button which is what I wanted and now she took everything out as if it was her collection and her design to approve. If she was trying to be helpful, she should have came to me and said she made a mistake about the tie-string and the button was the better way to go, but nope, X can never admit when she is wrong. Unfortunately, that was not the only issue with my dress. The quality was extremely sloppy, my ruffle sleeves looked so weird and don't sit right, the brand tags were sewn on horribly, the sizing of everything is off, and she used random size tags on some of the dresses, again, without my approval, but still, everything is my fault.
Over the last couple of months, I have been trying so hard to get the remaining items and patterns that I paid for and I would even offer to have someone come pick up production from her (a 5+ hour drive each way) and she would continue to cancel on me due to other clients. Recently, she said this particular Saturday would work for her so I said someone will be there by noon to pick up and she never responded. Either way, I knew I had to try, especially if she said this date would work fine for her. My husband went to her door, knocked and someone opened very suspiciously. All the lights were off, I mean, who answers the door with all the lights off in the middle of the day? Anyway, they said X wasn't there. I was so upset! I had to take matters into my own hands and show her that she can't treat me this way, she can't treat ANYONE this way. So I made a call to the local police department and asked if they'd be willing to help me with my civil issue and they were. I am SOOO incredibly thankful for them because they were able to get my things back for me!
After inspecting the rest of my items, unfortunately I have the same issues with the rest of my production. Inconsistent tags, sloppy tag placement, terrible sizing, etc. and at this point I don't think I can or even feel comfortable selling these items to everyone. I am still debating on a few of the items but I would definitely like to get the public's opinion after I share some photos of the quality.
I can't believe this happened to me, it has been a total nightmare. All this money that I've invested that I will never get back, that I no longer have to re-invest in this business that I've created because of what X has done. Every night I think of how much of our money is gone because of this and how I'm not sure how long I can even continue to do this. She's totally left me feeling defeated, less motivated, hurt, and for sure, less trusting of anyone in this industry. People like X are the reason why so many people are afraid to start their own businesses.
Something I also want to mention is a few words that were said by X, not directly to me, but to someone I know. X mentioned how her clients always pay her because they know what they're doing, they went to school. That comment really made me believe that she thinks I am just some stay at home mom who knows nothing. Not that I need to share my resume with her but I know enough and have learned enough to know what she is doing is not right. She also mentioned how I need her and I won't be able to do anything in this business without her.
I will be working with my lawyer on the next steps in hopes to get anything I can back so I can re-invest in this business, and if that doesn't work out, then I will need to think of a plan B. I know my feelings will surpass and I will get through this but I just don't know how much longer I'll have to wait to pursue this dream of mine.
As I've mentioned before, I do still have some sellable items and I am hoping to get those released soon! Not that this wasn't enough on my plate but we recently had to move out of our home due to water damage and my husband got a new job in a whole different city so we are in the process of finding a new home and moving...again.
With all this being said, I hope whoever is reading this, if anyone, can take my experience and learn to never fully trust anyone and to always trust your instinct. If you feel someone is taking advantage of you or something doesn't feel right, it probably isn't right. Ask others who are experienced in your field for their opinions, which is what I did and I am so glad that I did. Even though things seem shitty right now, it won't always be that way. Soon, and I hope real soon, this experience will be just a story I can tell and overcame. With how defeated I feel today, I know this experience, the words spoken to me by X and the disrespect I have felt by her will help me to continue on tomorrow. I would never want her to know she got to me and got me to quit what I am trying to do here. I don't want Mila to know that I let someone get in my way, if I decide to end my short lived business, I want her to know it was because of a choice I made on my own and not because of one person who got in my way.