As a small business looking to expand, foreign markets can be intimidating – especially markets as competitive as the US.
“The US market is challenging as it's so large and daunting and you can get swallowed up,” says Samantha Stevenson, founder and designer of Pared Eyewear. But it’s also one of the most exciting, because there are so many opportunities.
“Australian design is sought after and very popular at the moment, which has been great advantage for us. However, you are competing against huge established brands and being the new guy can be tough.”
Pared Eyewear started out with just the Australian and New Zealand markets because Stevenson and her partner, Edward Baker, felt they had a strong connection to stores and agents, as well as a strong knowledge of what people here want. From there they branched out to Asia and America, learning what changes needed to be made to fit in to those markets.
“In Asia we need to have alternative fits and in the US the ordering style tends to be less wide and deeper per sku,” says Stevenson.
“Also, in the US, trade fairs are the best way to sell, which is very different to the Australian way of selling. You begin to learn what each market needs, but it does take time.”
I wanted the customer to pick up a pair of Pared and admire the small details and choose it for its design as opposed to buying it because of a logo.
Stevenson decided to found Pared after five years of working for other Australian brands. She says it felt like a very natural progression, but the first thing they needed to do was to set Pared apart.
“I was very interested in branding the eyewear in a new way - subtly without heavy logos,” she says. They decided on small cutouts on the arms and small cutout details on the front of their designs.
“I wanted the customer to pick up a pair of Pared and admire the small details and choose it for its design as opposed to buying it because of a logo.”
They started with just five styles, but they also hired sales agents to help them grow and lined up retailers so they could go straight into stores when the stock was delivered.
But as a small business with a small staff, it’s been tough to keep up with the demands of growth. Being in fashion means they need to manage cashflow at the same time as they try to forecast stock, and there have been big disappointments as well as big wins.
It’s important to remember that a “no” is just a “no for now”, not a “no forever”, says Stevenson. Circumstances change, so stay in touch even if something doesn’t work out immediately – things might change later.
“I think also listening to your gut is so important,” she says. “Believe in what you are doing and why you started to do it.
“My biggest mistakes design-wise have been when I'm compromising to please someone else or trying to be something else. Of course, advice is important. However, you have to be true to your brand and protect it.”
Jan is a Sydney-based writer and editor whose work has been published in a stable of titles including the National Post, The Daily Planet and Edmonton Examiner. He is currently Editor at ShortPress.
Images: Supplied and Pared Eyewear offical website.