By Chanda Temple
When starting your own business, you can’t be afraid to hear the negative feedback because it’s bound to come.
It happened early in the career of clothing designer Smith Sinrod. She was at her first trade show when a woman walked by and said, “Eeew, look at that.” The woman didn’t know Sinrod was the designer.
The comment hurt so much that Sinrod wondered, “Gosh, should I be doing this?” But Sinrod recovered, telling herself that for every 10 nos the one yes she gets will make it all worth it.
“People are very opinionated. I’ve heard it all,” she says. “I think it’s important to have a little criticism. That’s the only way to evolve.”
Soon after she launched her by SMITH collection in 2010, the yeses came. Today, her line is in 75 stores across America. The line has also received media attention, including from E News’ Giuliana Rancic. Southern Living’s The Daily South featured her as a “Designer to Watch” in September 2014. Prices range from $200 to $350 for dresses to $495 for coats.
“We are starting to form a following in Japan. I don’t know how that happened,” says Sinrod, a 2009 graduate of the University of Alabama, where she majored in apparel and textile design.
Always looking for a fresh way to connect with consumers, the 28-year-old Sinrod, and her husband, Harris Diano, traveled across the Southeast with an air stream trailer this summer to promote her 11th line. She worked with stores to set up block parties that revolved around the trailer, food and fashion.
Sinrod was born in Washington, D.C. and grew up in Pensacola, Fla. She attended Alabama for its fashion design school and football. She moved to New York about three years ago to expand her brand. She’ll return to Alabama on Tuesday, Nov. 25, to present a trunk show in Mobile at Holiday Inc., 4513 Old Shell Road, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Between getting ready for the show and appearing in her best friend’s wedding this past weekend in Memphis, Sinrod took a few minutes to talk business.
What pushes you to keep going in business until you get a yes?
“You can’t force the line into a store. It has to be the right store,” she says.”So it’s important to go out onto the road and go into these stores because cold calling is hard, no matter what you are selling.”
What’s your motto?
“Never give up. My dad always told us that growing up.”
What’s one piece of advice for entrepreneurs?
“I think it’s important to do what makes you happy. And don’t sweat the small stuff. That one is from my mom.”
Saturday, 29 is Small Business Saturday, which is designed to get shoppers to support small businesses. What can a small business do to stand out on this day?
“I think stores can get creative with promotions via social media and offer giveaways to help further promote.” (American Express is offering free marketing materials for Small Business Saturday. Go here for details.)
Whenever you return to Alabama, what’s one dish you must have because you can’t get it in New York? Why do you love it so?
“Grits! I love shrimp and grits. They can’t make them like ours up there.”
NOTE: Alabama stores that carry the Smith Collection include: Gus Mayer, The Clothes Tree and Canterbury of Crestline, all in the Birmingham area; Painted Pink in Montgomery; CK Collection in Fairhope; Coquette in Spanish Fort; Effie’s in Tuscaloosa; and Holiday in Mobile.
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