Transitioning Your Wardrobe From Winter to Spring With Basics

It’s that time of year:  Seasonal wardrobe transition.  Ugh!   Leaving the house in the morning, it’s downright cold.  By lunchtime, the temperature has risen and we’re way overdressed.

Here are a few tips to make the seasonal switch a little smoother:

  1. Start getting your boot feet into sandal shape. Who doesn’t love THAT pair of boots?  We’ve been wearing them for months.  They go with everything from skinnies to skirts and tights.  But now they’re causing swamp feet because it’s just too warm outside.  But it’s not yet warm enough for the sandals, especially in the morning.  Make the switch to flats.  Flats are perfect when paired with your skinnies and skirts.  Your feet can breathe, and you won’t catch cold if you’re caught in a spring shower or temperature dip.
  2. Scarves, scarves and more scarves. Scarves are a lifesaver.  Pick up a few lightweight scarves in bright spring colors.  You can begin wearing your spring tops and dresses, using the scarf as a wrap on chilly mornings, and twisting it into a neck ring or belt as the day becomes warmer.  The pop of fresh color gives some of your favorite pieces from last year new life.
  3. Layers – the cornerstone of seasonal transition. Not ready to put away that soft cardigan or cute jacket, but the thought of wearing it over a tee or top is just too much?  Wearing a super soft cami, like Tucktails, is the answer.  The flat weave won’t ride up or bunch AND it doesn’t get pilly like throw-away camis, so they’re nice enough to wear as a show-off layer.

Lessons of a Trade Show Newbie…

What’s that old saying, if you ain’t learning, you ain’t growing?  Something like that.   Well, after our first trade show, I must be ten feet tall.  Part of the reason I started blogging this entrepreneurial journey is that somewhere out there, maybe, just maybe, there’s a would-be entrepreneur scanning blogs for bits of advice, a  few scraps of hope, a kinship with someone else crazy enough to go for it.  After all, that’s what gave me the final push to start Tucktails – reading the stories of those who had gone before and, more importantly, were generous enough to share their hard-won wisdom.

Deciding to attend an industry trade show was necessary, but not easy.  Necessary because it’s probably the most efficient way to reach the greatest number of boutique buyers.  Not easy because it costs a lot of money.  A lot of money.

After a tremendous amount of research, it was decided that the Atlanta Apparel Market at the AmericasMart would be the place to start.   February was the show, and it was time to take the plunge.  Just a few of the decisions to be made were:  Cash-and-carry or order writing?  What about the display?  Show specials?  What, exactly, would the process be once I had a customer standing in front of me?  What to wear?  Should I get a haircut, pack snacks, how many extra extension cords would I need?   Aaaaahhhhh!

But stress isn’t what this is about; it’s about lessons learned.

The first thing I learned goes against my nature of trusting everyone, but it’s that show reps are not your friends. They are there to sell spaces to vendors.  Let me repeat – They are there to sell spaces to vendors. They will tell you what it takes for you to make that hefty payment.   I selected our spot based on the fact we would be located next to the coffee and wine bar…a coffee and wine bar that never materialized.  No explanation was given as to why it wasn’t set up.  There were no responses to inquiries.  There was no recourse.  It was disappointing, but we tried to make, uh, chardonnay out of the lemons.   My amazingly supportive husband ran out and bought a cooler, plastic cups, ice and wine.  We made our own wine bar.

Other lessons are free.  For the richest source of these lessons, listen to the veteran vendors around you.   Throughout the week, I continued to pivot based on what I could hear they were doing.  I quickly developed a comfortable approach and knew what buyers expected to hear.  I started to really get the hang of it.

A basketball coach once taught me not to celebrate after making a basket, but to act like I’d done it before. (In fairness to me, it was the moms versus the eighth-graders and it was, in fact, the first time I’d ever done it.  I really, really was in the mood to celebrate!)   But that lesson served me well at the market.  The first sale didn’t happen until nearly three o’clock on the first day.  My stomach ached.  I was on the verge of tears.  My hands were shaking.  But once that first sale was complete, you’d better believe I wanted to dance in the aisle.  And with each sale that followed over the next few days, I wanted to cheer.  But I managed to keep my cool.  It was pretty obvious, I think, that I was a newbie.  Besides, I was telling everyone anyway.  But I didn’t need to be giddy over the whole experience, as much as it was my heart’s desire.   There was no clapping, no little shuffling dance moves – just head up, eyes forward, scanning for the next approaching buyer.

And I also learned, although thankfully on only one order, that buyers can change their mind.  I did have one order cancel.  But looking back, I don’t think it was ever legitimate in the first place.  It seems as if the “buyers” were collecting information.  I suspect we’ll see them again…as vendors.

(By the way, if any seasoned salespeople have advice on if/how you do extreme vetting of buyers, I’m all ears.  That was a big waste of time.  And since I was working alone, it irks me that a legitimate buyer may have passed without at least taking a card.)

At the end of it all, we more than doubled the number of retailers carrying Tucktails.  It was certainly worth the time and money.  We’re investigating various shows and will definitely attend more.   In advance, I’ll practice my pitch.  The display will be perfected.  I’ll try to pick our locations based on fixed points – like the rest rooms.

And just in case, we’ll be bringing a cooler full of wine.

This Little Piggy Went to Market…

Remember that game played on a baby’s toes, This little piggy went to market, this little piggy stayed home…?  A week from today I’ll travel to Atlanta for participation in a trade show – The Atlanta Apparel Market at AmericasMart.  It’s an overwhelming venue with floors and floors of glamorous displays, the latest fashion trends, chic models, and thousands of boutique buyers.  The massiveness of it makes me want to hide my head and be the little piggy that stayed home.  The entrepreneur in me knows I’ll be the little piggy headed off to market.

In all honesty, I feel as though I’m trying to sneak in and hang my macaroni art among the gallery walls of masters. The glossy pictures and social media videos of past markets are everywhere. (Gulp…) They’re really fancy. And really expensive. It’s to the point now where it’s probably best not to look anymore .  It’s sort of like not Googling your symptoms to self-diagnose your disease. The more you read, the more terrified you become.

As probably any entrepreneur will tell you, mentors are vital. My friend who has a successful sales career has graciously withstood a barrage of questions from me over the past couple of months as plans for my first order-writing show have developed.  He’s given me great advice. The order forms are prepared, informational fliers printed. There are giveaways and attractive displays.  My outfits are packed, along with comfortable shoes.  Last weekend saw a new hairstyle and highlights.  I think this little piggy is ready for market.

Looking forward to crying, “Whee, whee, whee” all the way home!

Rough Life

I never know how to react when people say they hate me.  Actually, people don’t say it; friends do.   You’re so thin – I hate you.  You live at the beach – I hate you.  You’re so tall – I hate you.

The thin thing takes a little work and a lot of vegetables, it’s not just the luck of the genes, so I’m not sure why I catch flack for it.   I affectionately, and I think accurately, refer to our home two miles from the sand as ‘The Love Shack”, so you get the idea there.  And the tall comments always baffle and embarrass me.  That IS the luck of the genes.  I find those comments, well, weird.

The other tired, old catchphrase is, Rough life.  You post a picture to your social media from a restaurant, and several comments read, Rough life.   You share some good news – Rough life.

Everyone has their own sack of troubles; I certainly have mine.   But everything is in your perspective, right?   Take today, for example.  I’m having a rough day.  You know the kind:  You learn an important lesson but you still want to scream, or throw up, or both.

It got me thinking about reframing my idea of a rough life.

R – Resilient.   Starting Tucktails wasn’t just some great idea that popped in my head one day and the next day Oprah Magazine is calling them a “fashion problem-solver.”  (Really, she did.  Pretty cool, huh?)  No, I had a dozen really, really bad ideas over the years, cringe-worthy ideas that seemed brilliant at the time.  And each time I got knocked on my butt, I got back up.

O – Optimistic.  There is always hope.  I don’t have all the answers.  I don’t even have most of the answers.  But I do have faith.

U – Uncompromising.   Trust your gut, I tell myself over and over.   Strive for perfection, without being a stressed-out lunatic.  Don’t let people try to change you.  It’s simple stuff, but can sometimes be hard to remember as the days go zooming past.   Truth to self equals a peaceful life, as long as your personal truth doesn’t involve trampling others.

G – Grateful.   The most important component of my rough life is gratitude.  Each morning, the first thought in my head is, Good morning, God.  Before anything else, I read a few short stories about the lives of the saints, the daily Mass readings, say a rosary, then let my Bible fall open to any random passage through which the Lord wishes to speak to me.   As I’m reading, always in my mind is a spirit of thanks.

H – Happy.  Practicing all of the above can’t come to any result other than happiness.  I’m not saying I’m never crabby.  I definitely can be – especially when I’m hungry, or learning lessons that make me nauseous, or both.   But that’s easily fixed with either a cheese stick, or a nap, or both, and then it’s back to happy.

I still feel kinda crappy.  And I am having a day that’s not going to make it to my list of favorites.   But the next time someone remarks about my rough life, I’m just going to say thank you and wish them the same.  Now, let me grab an afghan.  I need a nap!

I Let Strange Men Touch My Underwear

No, really, I do.  And my husband is on board with it.  Actually, he encourages it .  It was sort of his idea in the first place.  I’m a “hugger” by nature, so it wasn’t too far of a leap for me.  Still, I’m not the touchy-feely type.  Until recently, having men I don’t know touch me was something I was very much against.    Back patting?  Get lost!   Shoulder or forearm rubbing?  Ewwww.  Just, ewwww.

It’s almost exactly three years since we attended our first cash-and-carry event at the Greenville, South Carolina, Holiday Fair.  Our display was lovely.  It really was.  We’d spent days preparing at home, staging in the living room, marking off the floor with tape to get a “feel” for our booth.  And when we got to the show, people thought we were selling the furniture that made up our boudoir-themed exhibit.

My husband, Bill, always my strongest supporter and the source of inspiration, great suggestions and endless jokes (both funny and painfully corny) realized people needed not only to see what we were selling, they needed to feel them.  So he rearranged the layout and pushed Maggie (our headless mannequin) to the front edge of our area.   We encouraged passerby to see and feel what TUCKTAILS were all about.  And considering the small amount of inventory in our initial order, our sales were pretty good and we went home happy.

Last year, Bill and I, along with my sister, Lynda, and our dear friend Cindy, headed back to Greenville for the Christmas sale.  We took a gamble and rented a double booth.  We had racks and racks of product.  All three of us ladies were encouraging shoppers to feel the TUCKTAILS on display – and we were even bending and squatting to show off the ones we were wearing.  With a little tug at our sides, we encouraged browsing ladies to feel them.  Sales were beyond our expectations.  We went home thrilled.

Between last year and today, the beginning of September, as we prepare for another year of the holiday fair circuit (we’ve increased attendance to include more), the realization has settled in that we cannot only sell piece by piece; we need to expand into wholesale.  We need boutiques, uniform shops and gift shops to carry our camis.

So this is why I’ve been letting men feel my underwear.  Anyone I encounter with a possible link to a wholesale lead, and I’m whipping up the back of my shirt to show them my invention, encouraging them to rub it between their fingers, touting the utility of it, as well as how luxurious it feels.   I’ve made a couple of very good connections this way.

So if you know someone, man or woman, who would be interested in opening a wholesale account, let me know.  They’re all welcome to feel my underwear.

I’m A Sucker

I know this.  My family and friends know this.  Need a volunteer for something? There’s my hand in the air. Someone needs the benefit of the doubt? I’ll dish out a heaping serving.  It’s who I am, and I’m fine with it.

What makes me nuts is strangers trying to get over on me.  Admittedly, I have a lot to learn in this entrepreneurial journey of bringing an “a-ha moment” to market.  Of course, I expect the unsolicited offers guaranteeing me bazillions of fans, followers and customers via their proven methods to enhance my website, improve my social media content, boost my virtual presence – even to whiten my teeth and find me dates with gentlemen over 50.  And there are the really funny ones – people offering to file my international trademark application for the bargain-basement price of $1,500, Western Union, please.

But the saddest part is the bottom-dwellers preying on me and others like me; a mom with an idea, a dream, and a bit of naivetè.

We’ve just begun to wholesale our Tucktails.  It’s an exciting time.  With each order, no matter how large or small, we celebrate.   Receiving an email about what would be our largest order yet made my heart leap.  The fact that it was an order from outside the United States gave me a moment’s pause.    But we’ve appeared in an overseas publication – and O, The Oprah Magazine – so word is beginning to spread.   I thought, It’s possible.  When he asked me to write up an order on our form, I happily obliged.   When he called me twice to reconfirm what he was looking for, his budget, shipping options, I felt a little better.  It made sense.  English wasn’t his first language; he was double-checking.   When I asked for his credit card information, he agreed to supply it, along with the contact information for his preferred shipping company.

And that’s when it hit me.  The email address for the shipping agent didn’t look right to me.  Something just didn’t sit well in my gut.  I did a Google search of the man and his “company” – and there it was…  Stories of people getting scammed popped up all over the screen.

Dadgum it.   So, me being me, I sent him an email saying I was bummed that our deal wasn’t going to work out, that I’d uncovered he was a con man, and sent him my best wishes.  (I debated that last part, but took the high road and left it.)  He had the audacity to try to contact me again, insisting he was the real deal.  So I had to go through the mess of blocking him.

More than anything, I was annoyed that he wasted my precious time.  But I was furious that he tried to take advantage of me – and that he had succeeded in ripping off others like me.

So, I wasn’t a sucker this time.

But if you need help painting your kitchen or moving furniture, want me to write a letter of recommendation for your kid, anything honest and ethical, I’ll gladly be a sucker every time.

Blogging the Journey

This is long overdue.  I mean, way past the time I should’ve started.  That’s what happens when you take a running leap into the deep end of the entrepreneurial pool  – you’re immediately in over your head.  It feels great, and it’s exciting, but you quickly start thrashing around to keep from drowning.  So in my thrashing, and sometimes swimming, (but not yet, because I’m still learning) overlooked was the fact I should’ve been blogging this journey.

So, a little background…

You got here, so I’m guessing you’ve at least heard “Tucktails” but still may be unsure what they are, who’s behind them, and what it’s all about.

They’re the most essential evolution of lingerie in our lifetime.  At least that’s my opinion.

Gone are the days of wondering, Is my butt sticking out?  Can people behind me see my panties? Did I just scandalize that adorable family with those small children because I bent down to heft a giant bag of dog food into my grocery cart?  Did my son’s best friend’s father just flash crimson as I squatted to sit in front of him in these bleachers and my jeans slipped down past my equator?  AAAHHHH…. Stop the insanity.

So with a couple of old camisoles, a pair of kitchen scissors and a travel sewing kit, the prototype for Tucktails was fashioned.  They’re camis that are long in the back – to keep you covered, no matter what.  But we designed them to be functional.  I’m busy. What, you’re not?  Of course you are. Do you have time to straighten, pull, tug and untwist your underwear, or even to think about it, during your day?  I’m guessing not.  They’re standard length in the front and tapered around the hips– so there are no muffin tops or jelly rolls. (I have enough of the natural kind, thank you.)   The back is a tail. Get it, Tucktails?  Clever, huh?

The fabric is the hook, though.  It’s a nylon/spandex blend that is quick-dry.  Yeah, I said it – quick-dry. No sweating. (For any of us in our own personal summer, this is a good thing. Correction: This is a great thing.)  It’s so soft that I won’t even try to explain it in words. That is the number one comment we hear from ladies when we do pop-ups and shows: I can’t believe how soft these are! Oh, my gosh, feel this. Hey, Sally, I’m not kidding, come here – you’ve got to feel this.   The fact that they can be tossed in the washer and dryer with your regular laundry is an added bonus, especially considering the aforementioned busyness.

Well, now you know what Tucktails are.  I’ll add blogging to my to-do list. You’ll learn who we are and how we got here, and can follow us as we make our way into lingerie drawers everywhere.

Tucktails – We’ve Got Your Back.

~ Mary Ann