As apparel industry co-workers, Julie Cruz and Roshena Chadha shared not only a passion for fashion, but also a desire to own their own business. When a convertible fleece cover-up they designed proved to be a huge hit with friends and family, they realized the simple shawl could be the start of something big. Seeking help turning their concept into a business, in March 2012 they visited the Small Business Development Center hosted by College of the Canyons.
SBDC Business Advisor Mark Colonomos helped the partners obtain business licenses and permits, develop a product line, determine price points, write a marketing plan and build a business website. They also attended social media and marketing seminars as well as a payroll tax seminar.
• Make it official. “Mark showed us how to get our tax I.D. number and resale license, how to set up a business bank account—all the things no one tells you before you start a business,” says Chadha. “That enabled us to get paid and to pay wholesale prices [for materials], but it also really motivated us. Being able to say ‘We have a DBA; we’re a legitimate business’ pointed us in the right direction to grow.”
• Be creative. “Mark taught us about sales strategies and had a lot of ideas for different avenues we could sell to,” Chadha explains. “When we started, we had one idea of who we could sell to, but he suggested selling to bridal stores, maternity stores, yoga studios, swim stores—it really opened up our eyes.”
• Keep it simple. The shawl is essentially a circle with armholes; explaining the multiple ways to wear it was a challenge. “We needed a way to show and demonstrate the product without having to hand people a booklet,” Chadha says. “Mark helped us figure out the simplest way to do that.” Using photos and videos, the Shawl Dawls website models more than 15 different ways each shawl can be worn.
• Do the math. To turn their one shawl into a business, Colonomos helped the partners develop ideas for multiple products. “He helped us figure out profit margins and what price points to make this a [viable] business,” says Chadha.
Officially launched in May 2012, Shawl Dawls wrapped up its first year with sales of $150,000. The company has six employees and will soon hire two more, in addition to its 11 interns. The shawls are sold on the company’s website and in over 100 stores in 22 states nationwide.
As they work toward their goals to make Shawl Dawls a million-dollar business by 2016 and eventually to sell product in every major city in every state, Cruz and Chadha are grateful to have a caring mentor in their corner. “Mark is so supportive of us,” says Cruz. “He comes to all our events, checks up on us and is always there for us.”
“It’s so rare to find people that have the time and the willingness to mentor you,” says Chadha. “Everyone should advantage of the SBDC’s services.”