28. The Path to Starting a Import Business and Knowing When To Take a Leap of Faith
Xiomara is the co-creater of Unoeth (pronounced: ooh-no-eth), a leather goods brand that imports custom leather products from artisans in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. Although Xiomara hales from a long lineage of entrepreneurs, her business was birthed on a whim. She discusses how a one-of-kind gift from her dad triggered her entrepreneurial inhibitions, what the future holds for Unoeth, and how’s she adjusting to being a new co-owner of a brick and mortar.
- Started career in marketing and advertising after receiving a degree in business with a concentration in marketing
- Fell in love with retail while working retail jobs in college
- After working in corporate settings, decided she wanted more input in consumer products so she attend the Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising (FIDM)
- Following nine-month program, began work as an Assistant Buyer at Pottery Barn Teen, and then transitioned to working with Lucy activewear brand
- Father traveled to Addis Ababa and return with leather goods for family and friends, including a custom messenger bag for her
- After receiving a flood of compliments on her bag, her and her dad decided to start a business
- Initially Xiomara was balancing her Pottery Barn career, working part-time with Stitch Fix, buying a house and planning a wedding all while running the business
- Transitioned to a full-time entrepreneur in 2015; she slowing began hacking other commitments from her schedule to focus on business
- Use crowdfunding tool Kiva as a funding source; started out selling out at markets like Jack of All Trades and the Treasure Island Market
- Recommends planning monthly liabilities and necessities before considering leaving full-time job, as well reviewing sale trends
- “It’s never going to be the perfect time to take the leap of faith; it’s always going to be scary.” -Xiomara
- Initially hesitant about coming brick and mortar but noticed customers wanted a tactile experience when deciding to purchase product
- Xiomara worked with a business advisor to plan out the next 3 years and to make sure they are set up for success
- Opened a brick and mortar (Concept 47) with business partner in April 2017
- “Success is never a straight line” -Xiamora
- Says she learned most of what she knows now simply by doing says every challenge or obstacle was only a lesson on how to do it better the next time
- Xiomara walks us through the challenges of a import business: customs, getting clearance, HTS codes, how to fill out a custom form, airway bill, etc.; Lesson learned — hire a custom clearance company.
- Currently developing product line for mens leather good, as well looking to expand small accessories for tech, opportunities for other artisans in Ethiopia, and adding woven goods to her product line
- Has found her niche by mixing her love for retail with her creative and analytic talent while giving back to her roots in Ethiopia
- Can’t live without sparkling water, coffee, and her cellphone
- Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising (FIDM)
- Stitch Fix
- Jack of All Trades (market)
- Treasure Island Market
- Kiva (funding)
- Think and Grow Rich (Book)
- Tony Robbins (recommended anything by this author)
- Renegade Craft Fair
- Uptima Business Bootcamp
- Kim Davalos
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