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challenge revisited

Luvali Convertibles’ Jacqueline DinsmoreJENNIFER ROBERTS/The Globe and Mail

How have companies fared since appearing as subjects of our weekly The Challenge series? From time to time, we will follow up to see what's happened since the experts weighed in with advice on the challenges they presented.

A large, unexpected order from British retail giant Debenhams Retail PLC almost depleted Toronto-based Luvali Convertibles' inventory 15 months ago.

That prompted the company's co-owner, Jackie Dinsmore, to turn to The Globe's Challenge experts for help.

Her question: How could Luvali – whose product lines include bags with convertible slip covers, reversible products such as sun hats, scarves and iPad cases, organic baby clothes and diaper bag kits – be ready to meet large, unexpected orders without short-changing the small boutique clients that helped to build her business?

The experts suggested that Luvali secure debt financing to allow the company to place larger orders with its manufacturer in China. Eric Wazana, founder and creative director of Second Denim Co. in Montreal, also urged Ms. Dinsmore to find a local manufacturer.

Luvali has taken the advice to heart. Since then, it has obtained credit from the Business Development Bank of Canada and a bank loan guaranteed by Export Development Canada. It also found a local manufacturer that can turn products around in a couple of weeks, versus the Chinese manufacturer's turnaround time of one to three months.

It's more expensive to get Luvali's products made in Canada, says Ms. Dinsmore, but having a relationship with a local vendor will make it easier for the company to fill rush orders.

"It's been a crazy year," she says. "We're now in 1,500 stores (in the United States, Canada, Britain and South America) and we doubled our revenues over last year," which she wouldn't disclose, but did say were in the millions.

Luvali, which had about 20 sales reps last year, now has boosted that figure to120. The company has also added a national sales manager and an office manager, for a total of six direct employees; it plans to add another four or five in the next six months.

The company, Ms. Dinsmore says, is also currently working on a line of Indonesian designs to present to Debenhams Indonesia.