Starting a Clothing Accessory Business
Interview with Dana Hanh Contey, Founder and CEO of KTR Enterprise
Fed up with her own struggles to get clothing to fit properly given temporary weight fluctuations, Dana Hanh Contey created Instant Button®, a removable, reusable button that allows the user to adjust the waistband of their clothes.
Interview with Dana Hanh Contey, Founder and CEO of KTR Enterprise.
Tell us about your current business. What are you doing exactly?
I'm in the business to help men, women, and growing children add or reduce their pants size instantly for that tailored fit instantly without requiring a belt or an alteration by using my patent-pending invention called Instant Button. Instant Button is a removable and reusable button that can be moved up and down the waistband for a tighter or looser fit.
When did you start the business?
I started the business in 2007 but no product to sell - just doing intensive research and development. Then, I officially launched the Instant Button and started selling on October 17, 2008.
What were you doing before this, and is this your first business?
I was working in a security company in San Jose, CA as a Channel Marketing Specialist, then I got laid off at the end of 2008, shortly after Instant Button was launched. Yes, this is my first business so I had a lot to learn along the way.
How did you come up with your business idea?
The idea for the Instant Button started after my third child. I was constantly adjusting the waistband of my favorite jeans' because I was stuck in-between sizes. I tried using belts to secure my jeans, but it was bulky and added another layer of thickness to my waist. Then, I tried using safety pins to shrink the waistband. After months of poking my fingers and body with the pins, I knew that I was on a mission to find a solution. In addition to my own struggle, I learned that many more people, including my family, and friends, were experiencing other factors that impact their waistband such as weight change, the infamous "gap" on the back of the waistband, and pop-off buttons. In the summer of 2007, I made a homemade prototype of the Instant Button and it became the solution to my problem and the many common problems that most people have.
Did you operate your business from your home? What were the challenges and benefits to this strategy?
Yes, I did operate my business from home. With a small house and three young children, our living space was very limited. I had to constantly rearrange my bedroom/office, garage/storage area, and living room/production space to make space for my children to live in safely. Besides saving money on operation expense and property rental, the beauty of working from home allowed me to spend more time with my children. Every day, I get to be spend time with my 3 year old daughter and enjoy picking up my 1st and 3rd grade boys from school.
Green business is all the rage right now. Has it really been practical for you as an entrepreneur to incorporate green business practices?
As a mother, I recycle all plastics, cans, bottles, and papers in my house daily. Therefore, it has been very natural and practical for me as an entrepreneur to recycle and re-use anything that I can. For example, I recycle our used bubble mailers in place of "shipping popcorn" when shipping out our orders. Also, Instant Button is not made of green material, but it is inherently green because it provides an option for people to recycle their too snug or too loose jeans/pants that are sitting in their closet waiting to be discarded.
With the current economy in a slump, what cost saving tips would you have for a new entrepreneur?
I would advise him/her to check with their family and circle of friends to learn what their specialty is to help out with different projects. For example, I had friends who helped me set up my website in the early stage. I had friends to help set up my PayPal account. I had friends who helped me write my first press release. I had friends to review my marketing materials. Believe me, I couldn't have done all this by myself nor can I afford to hire anyone to start my business. Therefore, counting on their family and circle of friends can help save a lot of money for a new entrepreneur.
What have you done that has been very effective in helping to grow the business?
As a new entrepreneur with no advertising budget, I pitched the Instant Button to different TV networks online, as well as bloggers for product review. The pitch was very effective because the Instant Button was accepted and featured on three national TV shows such as The TODAY SHOW, THE VIEW, and THE MARTHA STEWART SHOW. As a result of that, it catapulted our sales 1000% within 4 months of the launched date.
What advice would you give to somebody else who wanted to start a similar business?
I started my business as an inventor designing a product to solve my personal problem which became the solution to the common problems that most people have. From my own experience, I would advise the new inventor/entrepreneur to love what they do. Only with a strong passion, self determination, and patience, that makes the endless hours of the day and the sleepless nights of starting a business joyful.
Thank you for talking with us today, Dana. It was a pleasure to speak with you.
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