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Small Spaces: The Pocket Princess



Small Spaces: The Pocket Princess

By Heidi Staseson

 

While many people are using this week to gear up for school, Kimberly Rosadiuk is harkening back to the 1980s where she’s putting her design skills into action creating costumes to flaunt with her sister at Sunday’s Roxette/Glass Tiger concert in Calgary.

 

She could use the break as the day before that she’ll be at the Toronto International Film Festival where she’ll be showcasing her product, Dressed’n-case inside the First Weekend Club.ca Canadian Film Lounge.

 

All of this straight on the heels of a busy summer tradeshow tour selling her design wares that, with the help of a Dragons’ Den episode last year, is quickly helping Rosadiuk earn a place as a successful entrepreneur in the Canadian specialty fashion market.

 

Her patented product, ‘The Twist,’ is much like one of those ‘something-that-turns-into-something-else’ inventions you see on late-night television alongside the ShamWows or watermelon dehydrators—but with a much more stylish and practical ‘twist.’

 

It’s a purse that turns into a sundress to be worn poolside or on the beach. Rosadiuk came up with the idea returning from a Bahamian trip when, on the plane ride home to Edmonton, she found herself ruminating over how much more relaxing her holiday might have been without the added stress of having to lug around a burdensome purse on the sand.

 

She says she could never find cover-ups that weren’t tacky, fringed sarongs or dumpy T-shirts—neither which contained pockets—so she’d often tote around her lip gloss, cash and keys in the pocket of her boyfriend’s swim trunks.

 

As one who wears a lot of black, Rosadiuk notes her options for fun, flattering and functional beach attire were limited. “I have my own very distinct look and I couldn’t find anything out there that was my size. I just hated the prints and the fabrics for a beach cover-up; they were too girly or too flowery or they had turtles all over them.”

 

Rosadiuk says she felt more insecure in her beach cover up than she did in her bikini. She also frowned upon the island trend of people walking around donning their towels waist-level—“like they’d just gotten out of the shower—not exactly appropriate for the dining hall.

 

Problem solved

 

So the 32-year-old graduate from a Montreal fashion design program started sketching on her in-flight cocktail napkin. She came up with four distinct designs, each of which started as a cloth purse that when unfolded becomes the pocket of an actual dress.

 

“The purse becomes the pocket. Whatever you put into the bag, you’re just putting into the pocket of the dress,” Rosadiuk, who has a penchant for problem-solving, explains.

 

“Everything has to be functional…and make sense—I’ve always thought that way,” she says.

 

Thus, the doodles became the prototype for her patent.

 

“The ‘Twist’ just looks flattering on every [type of] body. It’s so diverse; you can wear it six different ways,” Rosadiuk says of her wrinkle-free, quick-drying purse/dress which comes in five different print patterns as well as a solid black.

 

Her designs change with the seasons and while she purchases her fabrics in Vietnam her products are made locally in Edmonton.

 

Deal: no-deal

 

Not new to the start-up scene—Rosadiuk ran a small men’s and women’s clothing boutique on Edmonton’s trendy White Avenue called Morse Code—she soon realized she was spinning her wheels and getting nowhere.

 

“It was impossible; I wasn’t making money,” she says of the business she ran for four years, ostensibly “to give myself a job,” before closing its doors.

 

“It was my baby but I lost passion in it…it was just too much of a struggle,” she notes.

 

When she appeared on CBC’s Dragons’ Den in April 2011, unlike many of the contestant ideas that are typically snuffed out by the five “Dragon” judges, Rosadiuk and her gimmicky garments were met with enthusiasm.

 

“Dragon” Jim Treliving, chairman and owner of Boston Pizza International Inc., offered Rosadiuk $175,000 for 55 per cent of Dressed’n-case.

 

On camera what viewers saw was a happy handshake deal leaving the impression that a fortuitous future lay ahead between the fashion entrepreneur and her new partner, one of Canada’s most successful entrepreneurs.

 

Rosadiuk confirms, however, that Dragons’ Den deals aren’t set in stone and that Treliving’s involvement with her company has essentially been relegated to e-mail lip service via an adviser “middle-man” named “Rowan.”

 

“He didn’t invest,” says Rosadiuk. “He gave us a deal on the show—he said ‘yes,’ but off TV, in real life, we just took advice from him.”

 

Apparently, that’s the way Dragons’ Den works: investment deals as seen on TV are not guaranteed.

 

“You can say ‘yes’ on the show—they can do a deal on the show—but you go through due diligence and renegotiate and kind of go through everything in details afterwards. And sometimes things just don’t go through,” she explains.

 

Instead, post-program, Rosadiuk says Treliving provided her “some really great advice.” “He pretty much convinced us to listen to his advice, take things slower, not to get into more debt, and kind of start it on our own,” she says.

 

“He means big business…Some of the things I wanted him to invest in were too tedious for him,” she asserts. At the time of the show, Rosadiuk remarks she was seeking the sun, moon and stars, metaphorically speaking.

 

“—and [Treliving] was like, ‘I know you’re really excited…but you don’t need to do it that way; you don’t need to get into more debt;…you can do all of these little things on your own,’” she recounts.

 

Nevertheless, she says her “Dragon” would be waiting in the wings once she reached the point where capital was paramount. “If [for example] I needed to take the product overseas and get a million dresses [made], that’s when he’s like, ‘call me up and I’m in,’” she says.

 

In hindsight, Rosadiuk says she’s happy Treliving reneged on the deal off-camera. His would-be investments were earmarked toward marketing, production, a new [tradeshow] booth and a new website—all of the “little” things which he told her “you can [pay for when you] make your own money…and grow your business slowly.”

 

While Rosadiuk still dreams big she gives credit to her parents’ VISA card which she’s swiped to the hilt since she started her business. She’s also living in their Spruce Grove, Alberta basement. One day, she aspires for that millionaire status, but for now she can at least show them the proceeds of their generosity.

 

And she truly feels Jim Treliving has her back.

 

She agrees that viewers and readers may be surprised to learn of this Dragons’ Den disclaimer—just as she was when she discovered the “fine print” as she “was literally walking into the show.”

 

“I read the agreement and I’m like ‘Oh, I can totally agree to say ‘yes’ just to get my foot in the door and renegotiate with these people’…nothing’s legally binding,” she says.

 

For her part, Rosadiuk remains confident: “We have [Jim] on the backburner. He just says ‘keep me updated with changes.’…I think he’s a very smart and very nice man. So I was very happy that he gave us a deal.”

 

(On television, that is.)

 

Since the episode aired last December, more than 150 retail outlets are carrying her products nationwide, online orders are coming in globally, and she’s acquired sweetheart status on the annual Canadian tradeshow circuit. With all this attention Rosadiuk anticipates seeing her first profits in 2013.

 

Only two years ago, at her first tradeshow, Calgary’s the Festival of Crafts Art & Craft Sale, Rosadiuk pulled in more than $4,000 with Dressed’n-case.

 

“I was just blown away by how many people were there, how many people shopped and how much money I made in one weekend,” she remarks.

 

“[On] my first day I made over $1,000 and I [thought] ‘Wow! This is amazing!’ I had struggled in my store. That [amount] was a lot to me. And it was easy and it was fun.”

 

Shoppers buy her ‘Twist’ garment starting at $49 for beach vacations or wedding gifts. “I haven’t done any bridal shows but I’m going to try out a few,” says Rosadiuk.

 

“Brides have sent me pictures where all the bridesmaids are sitting on the beach…with big sunglasses and wearing their Dressed’n-cases.”

 

The “inventress” also hopes to one day target cruise lines with a kiosk of her product in every port. And she’s been invited to have a swag booth prominent at the 70th Annual Golden Globe Awards this January, where celebrities will get to sample the Twist.

 

The reality of TV

 

Rosadiuk concedes that none of her overnight successes would have happened without Dragons’ Den and she has no regrets about not really snagging a deal on the reality show.

 

“It gave me so much motivation; it was such great publicity,” she says.

 

“Overnight, to have somebody in Newfoundland ordering my product—do you know how long it would take me to actually [otherwise] get 40,000 people on the Rock to see [that]?”

 

Further, prior to Dragons’ Den, Rosadiuk says she hadn’t acquired a single online sale compared to today’s devoted online audience and consistent sales across the country.

 

“I actually couldn’t be happier…We had a lot of fun in the Den,” she says.

 

Even fire-breathing “Dragon” Kevin O’Leary, known for his haranguing and hard-nosed antics went easy on her, she quips. “[He] wasn’t too bad. I was really lucky. My mom was one of the models…she was nervous that she’d get mad or cry and I said ‘Keep those sunglasses on, Mom.’”

 

O’Leary actually bought a couple of dresses from her off-set and even connected her with Barbara Corcoran, real estate mogul and a panelist on ABC Television’s Shark Tank, the Mark Burnett-produced sister series of the Sony Pictures Television International format Dragons’ Den.

 

Until Rosadiuk’s actual profits start flowing, she says every penny she earns goes back into building her business.

 

Her advice to new business owners includes:

 

  • Plan to have your business plan NOT go according to plan. “The business plan always changes,” she says. “You always [have to] make [adjustments] for things that come up or things that don’t work out as well.” She discovered this while culling some of her retailers after realizing a few of them weren’t the right fit for her product or that frequent staff turnovers were preventing employees from properly showing customers how to “do the ‘Twist.’”

 

  • Do your market research. “Product placement is very important,” says Rosadiuk. “Pick and choose who’s going to carry your product. It’s pointless for me to under-represent my products in a place where it doesn’t belong.”

Dressed’n-case is a unique concept that requires teaching retailers the step-by-step process of how the ‘Twist’ goes from purse to dress.“Every kind of product and business is different but mine has to be demonstrated,” she says. “If [stores] just have people behind a till punching items in, like at a drugstore, let’s say, it’s not going to do as well as in a specialty women’s lingerie boutique.”

 

  • Finesse your media savvy. “Try to get as much free media attention that you can,” she says—especially once you start to amass capital. “Send out press kits and definitely having a strong website and presence on Facebook. It’s just important because that’s how people find people these days.”

 

  •  Shrug off fear of copycats. “I realized in business no one is going to do it as well as you can when it’s your own idea,” she says. “If it’s your concept, your creation, your baby, you’re the only one that’s going to put that energy, enthusiasm and passion into making it get off the ground. No one is going to copy an idea until they see that it’s actually worth the money.” (By then, hopefully you will have a patent in place.)

 

  •  Share ideas. Talking about your concept often leads to new ideas that can position you better in the marketplace rather than if you hoard your thoughts. “The more I share my ideas the more I get automatic feedback,” she explains. “Somebody from the outside might have some constructive criticism, right off the bat, which [turns out to be] something I didn’t even think about.”

 

When asked what business owners such as Treliving and other experts say is the secret to crossing that million-dollar mark, Rosadiuk doesn’t have to pause.

 

“Most business advice I get is that every product has its lifeline,” she says. “I get that from every professional. [They say]: ‘I hope you’re working on something else.’”

 

So is she taking that advice?

 

“I’m actually launching something this fall. It’s very clever,” she enthuses.

 

“It also folds into its own little pocket! It’s not a beach cover up. It folds into a tiny little bag that is very compact. I guess I’ll be known as the Bag Girl. I’m just working on the legalities of it!”

 

 

 


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