So, once I put my drawings on paper, I was super proud of myself. My husband had an earful on that day and when I went to the office and I proudly showed it off to my friend, his response was great. Just great?! For all the efforts? Ahh! You could give a better reaction dude, I thought to myself.
All my friends were young couples and yet to be new parents so you can totally imagine the humor. I started taking sewing classes. I did have some very minimal sewing skills as a kid. But since the bag involves sewing I started taking sewing classes now and then. The main idea is to get an understanding of how all this works. What efforts go in. I started at the grass-root level because my idea was not to become an expert. My idea was to understand the terminology and the process. The design just does not end with the design, one should also put an effort to see what it takes to make the design a reality.
So then, my next step was to figure out how to make the sample making the bag. I wanted to know how to make a prototype of a handbag. Since I don't have the expertise, I know I had to find one. Yet there are a couple of ways we can make the prototype ourselves.
To make the prototype of a handbag yourself, You could do the below.
1) Make the prototype with a cardboard or a thick paper. All you would need is scissors, a cello tape, and a measuring tape. This might be intimidating at the beginning but if you take baby steps you can actually get this done.
2) Buy a handbag which is as close as to your design and which is less expensive. For this, you need to have a big heart. Because you are going to cut open the bag. Imagine yourself like a doctor!
Then there is the third option! find someone to make a prototype for you! If you are in America, trust me this is going to be very expensive. If you are tight on budget, tell yourself that you cannot afford it and keep looking for ways to get it done. Eventually, you will find one. Once you tell yourself that you don't have many options and you know your limitations you will find a way to get it done. Just keep looking.
The way I did it is I started with sewing stores. I went to a nearby sewing store and asked them for contacts. Usually, sewing stores will have contacts. Many folks will leave their business cards with the stores. You can either go to the stores or you could call the stores. You can also reach out to local community colleges and schools. Students in the last semester will take up projects and they usually charge you less. You could also check the LinkedIn Groups (Like Fashion & Accessory Start-up, Handbag & Accessories and other fashion groups)
Next step I started sending them emails. But many of the folks said they will not be able to take up or do the project. There would be days where I would feel I had found one to do my prototype and then I would end up returning empty hand. Later, I realized all this is part of the process.
My other resource was Yelp. I could not travel long distances as I was pregnant. I wanted to find someone local. I was 100% sure we will find someone local. We just have to look up. Then I found one contact 50 miles from my place. We went back and forth with emails and one day my husband, son and I drove down to meet her. It was a good discussion. I spoke to her about the measurements that I wanted(I took these based on my previous diaper bag) and found out how many yards of material I would need and also what other materials I would need.
I went back and picked up materials like zippers, rings, elastic bands, and vinyl from Joann's. I did not have a clue where to start. So I went to a known stores. But there will be many other stores. So make sure you search online for any local stores. Don't compromise and do find what you need. Google is your guide all the way long! So keep searching.
I shipped all the material. My bag was done in few weeks. I received the bag with mixed emotions. The bag had all the features I wanted, but it was nowhere close to a functional bag!. Also, some of the designs worked and some design totally failed!. I was disappointed. But I moved on.
I kept going. Now that I have a physical model. I wanted to make a better prototype. I searched on Alibaba. But I had no clue what to look for?!. I looked up some Indian Manufacturers and I was finally able to find one resource online. I was going on a vacation and I had to find one closer to the city I was going.
I met with the manufacturer. They said they understood what they have to do and in some time, I got the second sample bag and it looked more functional and on top it more like a handbag!. But wait! It was missing a major feature I requested. I called them up and they said it's not possible. I had to head back to home to the United States and it was July, the year 2015.
Meanwhile, I tried to look up for manufacturers more referral based. I could not find one(at that time. But, Later on, I found few resources). After a year June 2016, I went back to the same manufacturer. He changed his price this time. He figured out, that I only have one source and that's him. Not a nice place to be in! I made one change and placed an order for the minimum number of bags.
October 2016! I got my bags!!! I was ecstatic!. But I had a lot of steps I had to do before I could launch the business.
More on, Steps to Start a Small Business in my next post!
Definitely timing of my vacation. I found the manufacturer who was in the city I was visiting. I got hold of this manufacturer through some online website. Be mindful that most of these online searches are trial and error. Also, note that I moved on to another manufacturer(s). Hope the information helps.
Hi Madhu, I just read your post on how to make a prototype and I’ve been struggle to find a manufacturer myself. My question to you is, did you physically go to India to meet the manufacturer or was the timing of your vacation just right?