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Date: 9/21/2015 5:59 PM UTC

With SNR as our point people, we begin taking meetings. Now, you should know, when we were trying to get licensing deals on our own, we emailed and called all the big players… The majority of them never responded to our queries, and the ones who did, either shot us down or scared us into thinking they would steal our (now patented) idea. In short, alone we got just south of nowhere.

But being with Robin and Susanne at SNR was like being with the cool kids on line at the club. Suddenly, we were “on the list”, no more waiting on lines behind the velvet ropes… It was all, “Pocket Frenz®? Come right in…”

We met with all the big hoodie players. If you’ve been to Target or Walmart or Bloomingdales or JC Penny, you’ve seen their work, adorned with Disney characters and Spongebob and Star Wars and Super Heroes. We set our sights on Freeze CMI, the biggest player in the industry, with over 200 licenses in their portfolio – and to our great pleasure, they wanted Pocket Frenz®! Say what?...

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As of this writing, we have signed a contract with the Freeze team to co-brand our Pocket Frenz® IP with all their brand-name licenses. Starting the 4th quarter of this year, you will be able to get My Little Pony Pocket Frenz® and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle Pocket Frenz® and Marvel Super Heroes Pocket Frenz® and Mickey and Minnie Pocket Frenz®! And in 2016, we will be on the floor in preferred vendor space in big chain-stores nationwide. (check the press release here) And Freeze wants to help us continue to produce our private label Pocket Frenz® as well – so we can continue our mission of helping kids and inspiring their imaginations.

In 3 years, we’ve come a long way from sketches at our kitchen table. But haven't won anything other than opportunity yet.  We know this is just the beginning… Now off to licensing show in Las Vegas. Wish us luck!

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Date: 9/21/2015 5:56 PM UTC

So a few blogs back, we mentioned meeting Robin and Susanne at SNR Licensing Consultants. We won’t bore you with too many details, but we liked them right away, trusted them (increasingly unusual for us) and, best of all, they shared the same vision for the future and growth of Pocket Frenz® that we did. They were even pushing us in directions we hadn’t yet considered (towels, bedding, etc.) We found their business acumen catalyzed our creativity and we began designing almost immediately.

With lots of good faith and some handy family lawyering, we struck a deal for SNR to represent our brand and take us in to the “big boys.”  We’d heard the right representation could make all the difference when it came to licensing. Now we are about to find out…

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Date: 9/21/2015 5:54 PM UTC

 

The last 11 boxes of our ill-fated Peruvian shipment of hoodies (which now seem like adult hoodies since they’ve been in transit for so long), wound up being shipped to the NY offices our Peruvian production facility (why? We still don’t know).  You would think that after all we’ve been through, after all the money we’ve spent, the 3 month late delivery, the general misery of the entire experience (at this point, not just for us, but for them), they’d just give us our remaining inventory, pat us on the head and let us go our not-so-merry way…

Nope.

In the eyes of the Peruvian production facility, we still owe them roughly $700 for shipping, trucking and customs fees. Mind you, these are shipping and trucking fees we never authorized and were never consulted on – why would we want our merchandise to go to their facility in the first place?! Bizarro World. But, nonetheless, they will not release our remaining 11 boxes (which we must now come pick up) until they get their $700. We beg, we plead, our heads spin completely around and we vomit frustrating putrescence… GIVE US OUR BOXES!!!

Nope.

They want the money first. On principle, we consider just letting them keep the boxes (we shall pay no ransom!), but those boxes contain thousands of dollars’ worth of hoodies that we’ve already paid for. For $700, we just can’t let them go… But we will not pay in advance, lest these last 11 boxes mysteriously disappear again. They out-do us in the lack-o-trust department by refusing to accept a check, even a cashier’s check. I tell them I will bring the money, in cash, to their office in NYC and I will hand them the cash at the same time they hand over the boxes (yes, it’s become just that childish).

My father (who insists on being there to make sure I don't go coo-coo for coco puffs) and I drive into NYC, in his truck, cash in hand, anticipating a contentious exchange. They are obviously feeling the same thing as they refuse to do the exchange at their offices (the powers that be are “out-of-the-office” that day – cowards!) It’s go time, and months of frustration and anger fuel my every movement.  We arrive…

Anti-climactic.

They’ve send a young female intern to handle the exchange.  And she knows nothing about the entire experience.  And she is pleasant and professional. She merely accepts the cash and points us to our boxes.  We do our best to inventory the boxes on the street while she takes our money to the bank…

As I inventory, a policeman comes to give me a ticket for being parked illegally. Maybe it is the desperation in my eyes, but he backs off and lets me off with a warning.  See, every story has a silver lining.

You have now heard the entire saga of our holiday 2014 collection. We will speak of it no more. It is officially out of our system. A painful learning experience. A brutal business school. Something we hope has made our company stronger.

They say “from great adversity comes great opportunity…” Well, maybe they don’t say that, but they should. And for us, we persevered long enough for opportunity to come knocking. Stay tuned…

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Date: 9/9/2015 5:13 PM UTC

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So where were we?... Ah yes, back in a 26 foot rental truck careening toward Newark to pick up our long lost inventory.  This time, I’m a seasoned professional. Didn’t almost kill anyone on sharp turns, pulled into the proper loading dock, had my truck driver swagger on… no one threatened my life, the manager who threatened to have me arrested last time was on her break – all in all, a far better experience than the last time.  I hand in my paperwork at the warehouse and they even claim to know exactly where our missing boxes are! I strut to my loading dock and wait…

And wait…

And wait… ftz-warehouse Finally, I notice a shift change. The fork lift operators who were supposed to be getting my boxes are leaving for the day and I still don’t have our merchandise.  This can’t be good.

I grab one of the new fork lift guys and ask him where’s my stuff? His response, “What stuff?” I explain the whole thing and he is reasonably sympathetic (he thinks it’s “pretty f-ed up”), but apparently my paperwork has left/disappeared with the last shift… so the only way I’ll get my shipment today is if I know exactly where our boxes are in the vast warehouse (I swear I am not making this up).

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Luckily, I kind of do know (amen, for eavesdropping).  When I handed in my paperwork earlier, I overheard one of the fork lift operators say our boxes were on “the rack.”  “On the rack,” I blurt out, not having any idea what the rack is, but apparently it means something specific to Johnny Forklift… He gets on his ride and disappears deep into the bowels of the warehouse.  45 excruciating minutes later, I have our boxes and I am triumphantly on my way back to East Quogue. Finally, something has almost gone right with this collection!

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Oh yeah, but did I mention we are still 11 boxes short?…

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Date: 5/4/2015 6:32 PM UTC

First thing Monday after the Chappaqua Show, we hear from Robin at SNR (BOOM! Bet you didn’t see that coming). She and her partner, Susanne, are excited about the licensing potential of Pocket Frenz® and would like to represent us in that world.  This could be our opportunity to get the Mickey Mouses and the SpongeBobs and the Spidermans of the world in our pockets. It’s what we’ve always dreamed of and a little friggin’ exciting.  We get a great vibe off Robin and Susanne on the phone, plus Robin won the Pocket Frenz® in the Chappaqua raffle… so that’s got to be a sign, right?

 

HDH_6749 We gag our instinct to rush into things with a tablespoon of past experience.  Robin and Susanne seem very professional and aren’t trying to push us into anything, and there enthusiasm for our mission seems genuine.  They’d like to sit down in person and discuss what they think is the big future of our company. We quell our reflex to get too excited and schedule the meeting.

 

snr However, before we can even focus on licensing possibilities and whether or not SNR is the right representation for us… there’s the little matter of the 45 missing boxes of hoodies (which supposedly have been found in the bowels of a Newark warehouse), a large truck rental and the avoidance of massive warehousing fees… If you’re a reader of this blog, you know my trucking skills and Newark Cargo experience aren’t exactly fond memories… Since we can't afford a professional trucking company, and there’s so much red tape, looks like I’m going to have to do it all over again… (my hands are shaking just reliving this)…

 

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Date: 4/24/2015 3:40 PM UTC

So… it’s the last school show of 2014 in Chappaqua, NY. I leave the house at 5am, drive the 2.5 hours to the land of Milk and Clinton’s, and arrive early. To be honest, I’d rather be home, but I’ve got a great parking spot (for a change) and I can tell right away there is going to be a lot of kids at this show. The best part of doing any Pocket Frenz® sales event is seeing kids react to our hoodies. Suddenly, I’m kind of excited about this. It’s the first time I’ve been excited about something Pocket Frenz®-related in months. Feels good.

 

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  Then my cell rings. More good news. United Cargo Newark has finally (they think) located our missing 45 boxes. I need to pick up all the boxes within 48 hours, lest they begin charging me $400/day in warehousing fees. While the thought of renting another 28-foot U-Haul and driving it poorly through the streets of Newark at night yet again makes me throw up in my mouth a little bit, at least they found our hoodies!  It appears we are finally going to have the majority of our collection. Perhaps we will even get some return on the inventory we spent all our hard-earned/well-borrowed money on all those many months ago?! I push all panicked thoughts of truck driving to the back of my mind and concentrate on set-up. We now only have 10 boxes left unaccounted for (they are still being held captive somewhere in Peru… but that is a story best left for another blog).

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  CUT TO: The Chappaqua Show… and it’s a great one. The kids are loving Pocket Frenz® and, despite our being sold out of many sizes, sales are brisk. In the throws of one of my many sales demonstrations, I am approached by a woman who takes particular interest in our product.  She introduces herself as Robin and asks if we have a patent. When I reply in the affirmative, she asks if we’ve ever considered licensing… Now, we’ve always felt licensing was/is the future of Pocket Frenz® -- having brand name characters in our patented pockets would be the only real way to get our brand out to the masses (and blow us up, as they say). Problem was… we knew nothing about how to make that happen. Robin said she was a principal in a licensing agency called SNR and, while she didn’t want to get in the way of my sales, she wanted to talk to me in more detail about Pocket Frenz®.  We exchanged cards. Now, please understand, we’ve been approached by a lot of people promising us a lot of things over the last two years… and every last one of them turned out to be (for lack of a better term and in varying degrees) full-of-it. Therefore, Robin’s seemingly genuine interest and cool personality didn’t get my hopes up. But then she won the Pocket Frenz® hoodie we’d donated to the school raffle.  What are the odds on that? I could hear Marni in the back of my head singing, “some things are meant to be.” What do you think? Are we ever going to hear from Robin again? Is she legit?​

 

 

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Date: 4/22/2015 7:22 PM UTC

Continuing our trip down memory lane, it’s mid-December now and Christmas season 2014 is almost over (note: X-Mas and Back-to-school are the 2 biggest sales seasons for Pocket Frenz®). Our sales expectations, retail leads and budgeting for the year has been completely obliterated by the non-delivery of our Peruvian inventory. Like the small business Titanic, we somehow managed to hit the one iceberg that could sink us. However, between GMA Cyber Monday and hustling gift shows and holiday fairs every weekend, we’ve cobbled together enough cash to at least stay in business – so hurrah for that!

 

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  Full disclosure: Barring something unforeseen and insanely positive, we estimate our small business has been set back at least a year by this production snafu (I’d call it a cluster-fu--, but this is a family blog). Meanwhile, we are still waiting for United Cargo Newark to find the 45 Boxes of hoodies they’ve lost… and for our good friends in Peru to ship the remaining 10 boxes of our order (y’know, the order that was contractually due over 2 months ago? The one that cost us an on-air spot on Good Morning America?... The one we paid an extra $6K to have expedited by air?  Yeah, that one…)

 

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  With what little inventory we have left, we prepare for the last craft show of the season. It’s a two-and-a-half drive to Chappaqua for a school event and, considering how few hoodies we have left, Marni and I are seriously considering bagging it…  The last 6 months have taken their toll on us and, to be honest, we desperately need a break – to recharge our batteries, our excitement, spend some time with our kids and to remind ourselves what the hell we started this business for in the first place. Give up is not in our mission statement, but this is about as close as we’ve come to quitting… Because we need every penny to get us through this, I decide to do the show alone (who knows, maybe I’ll sell a Pocket Frenz® to a Clinton?!) and Marni will stay home and launch Operation: ROTOAC (Reintroduce Ourselves To Our Amazing Children). We’ve been so stressed out and working so hard, we’ve haven’t been as present for them as we usually are. Our brand is inspired by our kids, but not at the expense of our kids. When we started this thing, we swore we’d never let it take over our entire lives… But lately it feels like it has.  Parent/business owners out there, anyone else had that problem?​

 

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Date: 4/18/2015 6:04 PM UTC

When we last blogged, I was still in the United Cargo warehouse at Newark Airport.  Now it’s 3:30 in the morning… and, guess what? I’m still there! Waiting on our 45 remaining boxes. (Can you believe the last 10 haven’t even left Peru yet?! But that’s another blog).

 

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  The forklifts come… they’re empty… the drivers have bad news for me… they can’t find our other 45 boxes.  They’ve looked everywhere and they’re lost somewhere in the warehouse. They’ll have to trace them. I’ll have to come back another day.

 

IMG_1291 I tell them I’m not leaving.  I tell them I’ll sleep there if I have to! I put a bounty on the missing freight – free hoodies for any forklift driver who finds my boxes! I am freaking out!  The warehouse manager asks me to leave, demands that I leave, threatens me to leave… She’s bigger than me.  And she’s going to call security. Full disclosure: A small part of me (my back), is grateful to not have to load 45 more boxes…

 

IMG_1292 4AM: I drive the truck home in the rain… the GWB is closed… I can’t take the parkways… it takes for friggin’ ever. But, by the grace of G-d and children’s hoodies, I make it home safely. And my kids love seeing the big rig in the driveway when they wake up.  At least they think I’m a real trucker.

 

IMG_3245IMG_3246 The next morning I unloaded the new inventory (thankfully it looks and feels amazing)! I returned the truck; and orders have begun rolling in on our website for the new styles.  Ups and downs, ups and downs… wouldn’t be Pocket Frenz® otherwise… BTW, we’re still 55 boxes of hoodies short. Stay tuned…​

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Date: 4/15/2015 4:56 PM UTC

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At 2:32AM, the first forklifts arrive (for the record, the female forklift drivers at Newark are very nice)… 44 of our glorious boxes on a wonderful wooden pallet -- it’s like seeing an oasis in the Sahara.  They try to drive it onto my truck… but(shockingly) my truck is the wrong size. They ask me if I have a pallet lifter… I have no idea what that is so I say, “probably not.”  They show me a pallet lifter. I don’t have one and, even if I did, I wouldn’t know what to do with it. They drop the shipment in front of my truck… Yup, I have to load the inventory manually, box-by-box, all by myself (all 4,600 lbs. of hoodies)… Maybe now I’ll gain the respect of the other truckers?  If respect is laughter, I get a lot of it.

 

ftz-warehouse-2 And so I loaded, and loaded, and loaded… 44 boxes… And they brought out the next load… 33 boxes… loaded… I am running on adrenaline… Did I mention the drink and snack vending machines in the warehouse are broken? I want to go home and work for someone else in a business that is decidedly not mine and Marni’s…Marni is home, worried sick, trying to design our new pajama collection calling me for updates on my now dying cell phone. As Jessica Guadagno told us at the photoshoot, “sometimes the only good part of having your own business is saying you have your own business.”

 

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Date: 4/12/2015 5:27 PM UTC

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So we are being charged $400 dollars a day for warehouse space at Newark Airport for a collection that was supposed to be here 8 weeks ago… Makes perfect sense to me… Problem is we don’t have the $400 a day as the very collection in question is threatening to bankrupt us.Literally within the hour, although I drive a Prius and have never driven anything larger than my dad’s pick-up truck, I rent a 26 foot U-Haul and, in the pouring rain, in rush hour traffic, make the 3 hour drive to Newark airport.

 

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I arrive only to find our Peru contact has given me the wrong address (thanks again)… I finally arrive at the Port of Newark depot. It’s dark and I am literally a boy trucker amongst manly 18-wheelers. I have absolutely no idea what I am doing, almost crush a car, it takes me forever to back the rig into a loading dock and when I do, it’s the wrong dock and I have to move it…

I finally process my paperwork, pay the ridiculous warehousing fees I had no idea I was accruing, and am told to wait by my loading bay until they can find my inventory.  All-the-while the other truckers are looking at me like fresh meat… It’s like an episode of Oz. Even I want to beat me up.

I wait for over 3 hours. Angry people want my loading dock, but I ain’t moving. I am getting these hoodies if it kills me (and it may). I honestly have the thought: if someone knocks me out, at least I won’t have to drive that enormous truck home. It’s 2 AM now. WTF?

 

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