Partnership Success Story: a High Fashion Entrepreneur Goes Global
The Finest Accessories (TFA), a five year old privately-held luxury hair accessory products company with clients such as Macy’s, Bloomingdales and Nordstrom.
CEO Laurie Erickson had previously owned a hair products company when she sold it and after a period of time, this self-proclaimed “chronic entrepreneur” started a hair accessories product based on the idea of authentic, French-manufactured hair “ornaments.”
Without funding or established contacts, Erickson had to create manufacturing partnerships that extended beyond a vendor relationship.
Value-basis at TFA:
Laurie and her designers created unique designs using Italian, French and other ethnic fabrics and incorporated these into hair clips. Setting fashion trends would prove easy, but not the manufacturing process. To realize her product vision, Erickson had to create a custom manufacturing process and provide this to her manufacturing partners.
Erickson would deliver her orders as well as her processes to the manufacturing partner in return for exclusivity and first right of refusal for potential competitive clients.
Joint development and manufacturing with eight Oyannax, France based manufacturing companies. It is considered “joint development” in addition to manufacturing because TFA “introduced them to new ways of creating products that had never been done in the last 500 years of business,” she explained. This requires continual adjustment with each new accessory design.
Low, but now without exceptions. Many companies have been in the same family for generations, and work on oral contracts which require a lot of trust. But one manufacturing company took on a TFA competitor and were going to use TFA’s proprietary manufacturing process. After that, Erickson reacted by telling them “that the market is very small and if you lie to me I’ll pull my business.” She backed this up by asking for an audit which showed the revenue from her business as opposed to the other firms. “It was clear that as a percentage, my business was growing faster and at a more consistent rate than anyone else.” Ultimately, “this proved more of an incentive to maintain a partnership with me than any contract.”
Several thousand dollars for the plane tickets.
Partnership return on investment:
Millions of dollars in time to market advantage.
Words of advice:
“Don’t badger your manufacturing partner on price. If you operate on a basis of fairness, everyone walks away satisfied. Fighting for a percentage of a penny is worth less than having my calls answered, my faxes returned and my order being manufactured in a crunch.”