We’ve gone into Walmart.ca which is scary too – having to make decisions of what big boxes to go in and worrying about how it’s going to affect your other boutiques. We monitor the pricing of our important products so there’s no price cutting.
How do you deal with the cash flow issue?
The BDC [Business Development Bank of Canada] helped us with a loan. I was badly burned in a divorce and had to give away half the company and then buy it back, so I’m really hesitant to give away any equity in the company. We’ve stayed a private company. I’m incorporated but I’m the sole owner. I’m not interested in venture capital. So it’s really difficult ...I basically hide from people whom I owe money to, pay the squeakiest wheels and hope that by the end of the next month, everything comes together. Touch wood so far, we’re fine. We pay the salaries. It’s not as bad as I make it out to be but it is a monthly cycle that’s tricky.
You remarried after the divorce?
Yep. We run the business together. Scott’s in charge of sales and marketing.
Do you want more lines?
We’re constantly approached to distribute other lines because everyone knows us as the Sophie the Giraffe distributor. Half of me wants to take on as many brands as we can to increase our sales, but having said that, you have to look at the different ways that people want payment. If there’s anything coming from overseas, you often pay 25 per cent at the time you order and pay the balance at the time the order ships from whatever country it’s shipping from on a boat. So it’s six to seven months before you get any of that money back – before you sell it and are paid on it. We won’t touch any new line that won’t give us terms. That’s one of our stipulations.
We were just in Vegas at the All Baby & Child show and eight people that I didn’t know emailed me before I got there asking us to distribute for them. I didn’t go see any of them because we just can’t. We can’t put our current lines in a precarious position by using our capital to get new lines going. So at this stage, we’re just saying no to everybody. It’s hard to do because I wonder if I’m saying no to the next Sophie.
What’s your criteria for spotting the next Sophie?
We look for products that won’t get push back from anybody. The common comments you get are, “Oh, it’s made in China, I don’t want it.” “Oh, it’s plastic, I don’t want it.” “It’s not BPA free.” “It’s not eco-friendly.” Anything anyone can say something negative about, you don’t want to touch. It’s hard enough to get new products into stores without there being a known factor that a percentage of the population isn’t going to like.
The challenge is nobody wants anything made in China but they also don’t want to pay $26 for a rubber giraffe. We don’t want to deal with returns or quality control issues. We have minimal daily dealings with that kind of stuff because we associate ourselves with higher end products. They’re not the $75 stuffy toy but they’re higher end, so not typically the junk that’s going to fall apart.
Where’s Jane time?
My husband and I compete in the Ironman and marathons. I still train a lot so my alone time is my running.
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