Shipping Clothing by Natalie Nguyen
I am an entrepreneur- I sew, sell and design my own clothing through a brand I established in my freshman year of high school. Discovering an old, stored-away sewing machine as an eleven-year-old, it was only a matter of time before I had created my first piece of clothing. Whereas I had resorted to markers and plastic stencils to design previous fashion endeavors (including a hand-drawn t-shirt that I wore on the first day of fifth grade), my world became one of fabric and threads as I learned to sew clothes in order to solve my problems. In my middle school years I had trouble finding my own style. One day, disappointed while swimsuit shopping, I questioned: if no brands carried the type of suits I desired, what if I just made my own?
Disregarding my faint knowledge of swimsuit-making, I leaped at the chance to create a piece unlike any other. The standard store-bought clothing pattern would not be sufficient with my vision. Using the previous years’ Christmas wrap as the basis of my design templates, I sketched out my own pattern. Hours were spent stenciling, trimming, and pinning together fabric. Yet, the result of sewing was a suit that neither fit nor expressed the style I was aiming for. Creating such carefully fit items of clothing was not a simple task, and the unsuccessful outcome of my initial swimsuit was an instant reality check.
As weeks of broken seams and oddly sized pieces followed, I refused to abandon my idea. I persisted on, titling my morning alarms, “Finish stitching” or “Cut the second pattern,” to remind myself to continue creating amidst the time constraints of school and sports. Suit after suit was replicated and tweaked. As finished products finally became representative of my vision, I started to sew similar pieces to my friends. With growing popularity I established my own brand, selling various hand-sewn bikinis while also learning how to market different styles, develop a business website, photograph collections, and mature my skills as a clothing designer. By looking past the disrupted stitches and other small frustrations of sewing, I have learned to be assertive in solving my own problems. Whether I am creating my own clothes or devising a new marketing plan through packaging, I dare to look at issues from a different perspective. Not only did my business allow me to share my vision with my community, I also feel as though I was able to inspire initiative in those around me. Launching a company requires patience, follow-through and time management on top of other extracurricular demands, and after having had made my own, a few other girls in my school created their own start-up’s as well. When a customer orders off of my website, I follow a complex, multi-step process in order to give it to them- I package the piece, and then ship it to them. I used to find the idea of creating a label and sending a product through the mail relatively daunting, but now I utilize it with ease.
Although they may not appear to allow room for creativity, shipping and packaging provides me the opportunity to market my brand. I decorate plain envelopes with brand stickers, and thoughtfully wrap my own products with colorful tissue paper and ribbons. My goal is to make my packages appear as presents, so that customers can engage with both the packaging and the piece it contains. I also take the chance to connect with customers personally; in every shipment, I include a handwritten note in the packaging to thank the customer of their purchase. Shipping is the final step of selling an online product, yet I have found it to be the most important. Through shipping I am able to share my work with others beyond geographical boundaries; as a high school student, I was previously confined to selling pieces locally to friends and friends-of-friends. Now, I am able to expand beyond my neighborhood; in a few months after starting my business, I was able to sell over fifty pieces throughout San Diego County. In the following year, my products spread across the country to Hawaii, Washington, New York, and Massachusetts. Past my business, I am able to use shipping to accomplish other tasks as well. As I learned to use different shipping platforms to sell products from my website, I am also able to use these skills in daily life. When my grandmother passed away last year, I helped in transporting her precious possessions across the country to our home in California. With my knowledge of printing labels and locating affordable packaging, I helped to move fragile tea cups and childhood toys through the process of bubble wrap and boxing. I feel connected to my grandma through her quilts and other cherished pieces, and this would not have been possible without shipping.
Shipping has allowed me to share ideas, products and valuable items around the country. Beyond the lessons I have learned from creating my own business, I continue to grow as a seventeen-year-old through school and outside activities. As a high school senior and older sister, I am always seeking a balance between driving my younger brother to school, finishing my homework on time and attending sports practices. My parents both work full-time, and caring for my brother- helping him with homework, cooking him food, and driving him- is the equivalent of another extracurricular. We live twenty miles away from school, so my priorities have to shift with my activities. Through this limited time I am forced to learn better time-management skills, and because of this, I feel more prepared for the rigor that follows a higher education. In the business-world, my AP classes, and at home, I have many responsibilities, but through my personal difficulties, I have learned to balance them all. Just as I like to take on the hardest job, class or new challenge I can find, I hope to have the opportunity to keep rediscovering my limits in college and beyond.