Babson Business—RADESIGN INC. Brand Name—Davis by Ruthie Davis
Name of Business: RADESIGN INC. http://www.ruthiedavis.com/about/
Brand Name: DAVIS by Ruthie Davis
Founder's Past Life/Business:
Reebok International: worked in various positions. My last position was Director of Reebok Classic
Decker's Outdoor Corporation: VP of Marketing and Design for UGG and Simple
Tommy Hilfiger: VP of Design and Marketing for Women's Footwear.
Mission: To create a new niche in the high-end women's designer footwear market by taking the best elements from classic and sophisticated women's dress footwear design and combining them with innovation in materials, form, and function to create modern high-tech high fashion shoes that are youthful, sexy, and wearable.
Began: Incorporated in June 2004; First Signature Collection for Holiday 2005.
Revenues: 2005-$150K; 2006-$350K
Initial Investment: $300K
Broke Even: Projected for 2007 (making shoes in Italy is very expensive and a longer process to break even but there is a lot of equity built in the brand name through marketing that is the real value of the company in the early stages of building a designer label).
Employees: One part-time. I have many outsourced people on contract for me…a production agent in Italy, a PR agency in NYC, a sales showroom in NYC, etc.
Where: Office/Design Studio:150 West 25th Street, Suite 1004;NY, NY 10001
Showroom: 42 Greene Street, Loft #4;NY, NY 10011
How the Idea Began: This was an idea that had been germinating for many years. I have always been inspired by fashion and also have a strong interest in sports and modern functional gear. This interest also evolved to include modern architecture. I have been a shoe freak from day one and I knew there was a new modern niche to be filled in women's footwear because I am my own consumer and I couldn't find what I was looking for in the marketplace. I wanted shoes that looked as sleek and modern and sexy as a G4 Powerbook, a Razor cell phone or a modern building by Richard Geary.
Initial Preparation to Germinate Idea: I just jumped in and started designing what I was looking for and then went overseas and started working on the prototypes. I spent a lot of time researching the marketplace as I always have done, which includes lots of shopping, reading fashion magazines and basically living the life of a fashionista…
Favorite Thing about the Business: I love building a brand—the image and total package. Every single thing I do speaks to the brand—from the packaging to the product to the marketing to my office, etc. I am very detail oriented and love building a total brand image and package.
Worst Thing about the Business: The most difficult parts are the manufacturing and dealing with some (not all) of the retailers. Both areas can be very trying to say the least.
Biggest Challenge: I chose a very difficult business—high-end designer shoes. The barriers to entry for a start-up are extremely high as luxury shoes made in Italy are very expensive. I have to compete with brands like Gucci and Prada with huge infrastructures and economies of scale and power. It is a constant battle until I build my brand name to where I can get to the volumes where I can start to make a real profit. Ultimately, this sort of business model will make its money if I get bought by a larger company (think Kate Spade, Juicy Couture, Marc Jacobs, etc.).
Don't trust that because a company looks reputable on the outside that they are trustworthy. Credit check everyone. One of my first retailers in NYC—a big glitzy name that has 4 location in the city and brands like Prada—never paid me. They accepted their inventory and just never paid up. To this day, they owe me $22,000. I am in the process of taking them to court.
Don't assume that anyone you are working with to help you with you brand will do what you ask them to do. You have to check and double check and triple check all work—as it is you who will ultimately pay the price for mistakes not them.
Starting a business is like an Olympic event, you need to treat yourself like an Olympic athlete—meaning sleeping, eating, exercising right or you will not have the physical or mental stamina to deal with the daily hurdles.