Wouldn't it be great if we had a way of seeing everything in our bag and keep it organized? Sarah Cogan works as a costume designer for film and television. She started her garment bag company, Set Ready Go!, put of her need to keep stuff organized and not having to lose of forget things. Set Ready Go! are the ultimate garment bags for brides, actors, speakers, musicians, COS players, and pretty much anyone who needs to go from outfit to outfit quickly and easily with uniquely designed see-through pockets so nothing gets forgotten. Sarah shares her exciting journey from developing the idea of the garment bag to where it is now and how it has evolved.
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Sarah Cogan on Set Ready Go!: The Ultimate Garment Bag
My guest is Sarah Cogan. She's the creator of Set Ready Go!, the ultimate garment bags for brides, actors, speakers, musicians, cosplayers and pretty much anyone who needs to go from outfit to outfit quickly and easily. Sarah's garment bags are the only garment bag that help you organize your outfit from head to toe with uniquely designed see-through pocket so that nothing gets forgotten. The patented design was inspired by her work as a film and TV costume designer. Sarah Cogan, I'm so super excited to have you here with us on the Business Building Rockstar show. How is it going?
Thank you. I'm excited to be here. It's going well.
I'm super excited to get into your story because you're my client, so I love you more than anything and I'm so inspired by you. The way you became my client is so funny because I was already so inspired by you. I learned about your story through our mutual friend and mentor, Michael Roderick. I came across your video where you were talking about your entrepreneurial journey and I was like, “I have to know this girl. I have to have her on my podcast,” and then you're like, “I have to work with you.” I'm like, “Awesome. That's great.” It's been fantastic. To bring everybody up to speed on where you're at today, what is it that you do?
I have a garment bag company that I formed. I'm inspired out of my work as a costume designer for film and television. I still actively work in that industry, picking up small jobs. From that I wanted a better way to organize all the outfits that I was creating. To be able to see all the jewelry and the accessories in one easy layout way. What the current standard is you put everything in a tiny Ziploc bag and your safety pin it into the garment bag and you hope you know you have everything. It's a lot of, “I thought this was in there and it's not in there.” My bags came out of this. Wouldn't it be great if we had a way that we could see everything, and it was organized? That was the genesis of it.
From conversations, I created a wedding dress bag. That came out of my uncle asking me like, “Who would buy this bag? Your industry is small and doesn't want to spend a lot of money, so who else would go for it?” That's when I was like, “This is something I need to look at and go after.” That's how we start with a wedding dress bag and now we're looking at targeting cosplay and other recreational actors. I've found like schools in Texas do a lot of competitive show choir and performances and so they loved them. That's how this has evolved. We're now in the container store nationwide. It's been very exciting couple of months and that's where we're at right now in terms of the story and how this has evolved.
You had recognized a problem that you were facing as a designer and you decided you wanted to solve it or you had this idea, “Wouldn't it be great if.” Didn’t you originally make it for yourself or was it just an idea first?
I start with drawings. I went around to all my friends who were designers and I was like, “What if the bag was like this? These are pockets.” They were like, “This is great. I love this idea.” I was like, “Cool, I’m going to make one in my living room.” At the time, I was living in Queens, New York. It was probably one of the most painful experiences of my life because I stabbed myself so many times with pins, the sewing PVC on your sewing machine at home. It's not meant for that, so that was really difficult but I did it and it was all of a sudden like, “This is great.” People are like, “I can see how this would work and why it's a good idea.” It kept evolving from there and people have been like, “What are you doing with it?” I realized I'm motivated by people being like, “I thought you were doing this thing,” and I'll be like, “You're right, I'm doing this thing.” That’s what happened. I created it and I went through a bunch of manufacturing issues to get to finding a rhythm.
Before we get into manufacturing, there are a lot more that goes into this whole taking an idea and a concept to realizing it. You did create one for yourself and you were using that then?
Yeah, to test it out. That was January of 2015. I then, from that, had somebody else make a factory sample for our first one and test that out. I had like the one bag to run around with, so it's like playing with it and like getting feedback and talking to people and learning what people would want and then going back to the drawing board. That's where the wedding one evolved out of. I had this one that was made in March of 2015 when I hired a factory to make some. Those ended up coming in too high to utilize for sales, but I got all this feedback from the wedding industry. The lace pattern that's on our wedding dress bag came out of that conversation. There's a veil slot that's in our wedding dress bag that also came out of that conversation of this big expo where I thought, “Can people tell me what will help me to make this better and more what people want?” That's helped because people are excited about this pattern.
I then had these three sets that I was playing with, like sending out to people and talking to people with. Sadly, they've all been sent out to factory, so I don't have those iterations of them anymore. It's been like testing them out and then getting them and then trying it again. It's a lot of taking people's feedback, listening to it hard and going, “This stuff is important to listen to,” like putting some pattern because some people like being able to see everything in their wedding dress bag, but other people don't want to see their wedding dress, so having to play this middle game with that. We're the first garment bag that is a wedding dress garment bag with a slot for the veil so that it's all in one place. I've heard horror stories of leaving veils and leaving undergarments. That's one of my favorite parts of this journey. It's hearing what people need and then adjusting to it. That's what product creation’s about.
Feedback is so important. You're working on a new product line and you did something that you’ve got lots of feedback for it. Do you want to talk about what you are creating this new product line? Why have you decided that it's time to do that and the experience of receiving feedback in the way that you did?
I am working on the travel version of my garment bags called The Carry Away Bag. It's pretty awesome because it's a garment bag that folds into itself and when you unfurl it and you hang it up, you are good to go. You don't have to unpack. Everything you need is in the pocket. It's like taking packing cubes and mixing them with a garment bag and then you have my garment bag and so everything's easy to see. You don't have to miss anything, which is cool. It got a lot of positive feedback. What was great was the things that I already said it needs to be overhead compliant. It was great hearing people like, “It's overhead compliant, right?” I'm like, “Yes, it is,” but then people are like, “I want wheels. If this had wheels, I'm super in.” I thought that was probably the most valuable feedback I could get. Immediately, I was like, “We're going to put them and we're going to figure that out.” That's important.
In listening, my training as a designer has been helpful in product creation because I work as a collaborator. What I got out of this last experience is I can get to collaborate with people and my buyers and that's what I'm looking at doing and that I'm a very responsive CEO or founder. When people give me feedback, I'm very much like, “How can I make this happen and what does this entail?” That's the basis of how I work as a designer for film and television. It's always figuring out, “If it's not what I want, it's not what you want, what's this third thing that it needs to be that the two of us like?” That helps me to hear people and what they say and that's an important skillset for being a product designer of any kind. I'm grateful for that part of it.
The process then is you've had this idea, you've had feedback from people about how to create this carry-on garment bag, which is pretty cool. For me, one of the things that really frustrates me is when I go stay places, there are never enough hangers. I don't pack heavy, so I don't get what the deal is like. I'll keep stuff in my bag and then I might hang one or two things up and then steam them just to use them and then it goes in the bag. I love that when you had your prototype and you were showing it because you used it yourself to fly across country. It was like, “It doesn't even matter. As long as there's a bar, I don't need a closet because I have all of my hangers in my bag and my clothes are on the hangers.”
You can even get away with just a hook. You don't even need a case. It's also great because of all the pockets because once you hang it up, everything else is easy to access. There's no more digging through your suitcase or like, “I swear I packed this thing but now I can't find it.” That's also a big thing that for me is my thesis inquiry is, “How do I keep this as we organize everything and you can still see everything?” The being able to see everything when you pack it is part of why I started the company. Also, this what makes it unique. You can have something with a lot of pockets but being able to see it, that is the part that's important, especially when traveling that you don't forget something or think you packed it and it's not there. That's the stuff I like to avoid.
For me, it's like my day of checking out of somewhere, I lose so much time from the day because I need to give myself time to pack everything back up and make sure I don't leave anything behind. Sure enough, there's always some little thing like piece of jewelry or something little that I don't have and I'm like, “Last time I had it was at that hotel or at this place.” I love that everything there. It’s amazing. I'm so excited.
I'm excited and the feedback has been awesome. It was one of the most empowering things I could have done for myself from a business standpoint but also from seeing what people had to say. What I learned from my first two products is once you do a run of product, you're committed to whatever it is. If there's something you want to change, you can't change it or you have to scrap everything and that gets very expensive. Making sure they have all the kinks worked out before you go to production run is such a big deal. I'm grateful for this experience because it got me excited and I do well when I'm accountable to other people. I'm even more like, “This has to get done. I'm so excited. All these people believe in me.” All the feedback, so it's going to be an even better product. It's a debate on telling some people about how I'm adding wheels and they're like, “Are you sure? Some people were okay with no wheels.” I said, “If wheels are the determining factor between people buying the bag and then not buying the bag, why would we even make that a question then? Let's make this a non-issue.” Those are the moments that I couldn't have had if I just went straight to a factory run and was like, “Here's my bag and let's make it.”
I wouldn't have even thought of wheels because I'm like, “It's just a bag, like a duffle.” You put it over your shoulder, but wheels would be amazing. It's one of the things you don't think about.
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Can we talk about a little bit more from the business perspective of the lessons there? As your coach, I want it to push you a little bit to show you that things don't have to be done before they get sold. This is a concept that we talk a lot about called preselling. It's not just with products, especially with services. A lot of times we have, as entrepreneurs, these perfect ideas in our minds. We create something or like, “This is what people need. They're going to love it and we're going to love it,” and all this stuff. Then we just do all the work and like you said, when you put a run through, it's it. That's what you've got. With services, as most of my audience are service-based entrepreneurs, it's like if you go ahead and you just go through and you create some product or program or whatever, then you try and sell it, then you don't get that incredible feedback, which means that now you've done all the work and nobody's buying. That's an expensive lesson that many of us learn over and over.
Sarah, the assignment/exercise was to keep it grassroots. We went in with no plan. Some of the feedback you gave me afterwards, like, “For a flash sale, I could've done things differently.” You totally could have, but this wasn't a flash sale. It wound up being a flash sale, but the intention behind it was, “Let's play. Let's have fun. Let's see what happens if we just put it out there at the bare minimum to cover your costs just to play around with people that already know and love you.” Can you talk more about maybe some of the fears going into that and also the excitement, more about some of the lessons learned?
Once I got pumped about it, I was like, “Let's do this.” There's a little bit of fear of not meeting any goal that I had.
I mean like the fear before because you could have done this at any point in time. What was the difference why you didn't go ahead and just do this super early playful experiment without getting a little kick in the butt?
Some of it is, for me, definitely an accountability thing. I do so well with accountability that I knew that was an important piece for me. Some of the fear like, “No one’s making me do this.” I don't even know if this came out as an idea because I felt like it's not even ready yet, so therefore nobody's going to even be interested in supporting it knowing that it's going to be improving or developing. It's more like no one's going to be interested in this yet because they're going to expect this very specific finished product. If it's not in some ready state, then they're not going to be interested in presale. There is that fear of rejection within that.
What I learned and took away from this is that people are excited to be a part of it. I have a big community of people who support me, which is not something that I've ever believed. That was a big takeaway. I have a lot of people who genuinely support me. Amazingly, all these people I don't even know that came into the picture that we're like, “This is awesome and I'm going to get it.” I was like, “Wow, that is pretty cool.” I didn't feel good enough before that I was able to do it. The kick in the pants to move forward was definitely the thing that helped me go, “Let's just give this a try. I know I have somebody I can turn around and talk to if this didn't go how I had hoped,” or to look at what the issues were. Before, I wasn't sure how to hold things and look at when things are not working, why they're not working, and when they are working while they're working in. Being able to come back to talking to you about it and knowing that that's something that we can look at it together, that also made me feel more secure about moving forward.
Thank you for sharing that. I was thinking about some of the people who I shared it with because I'm so for Sarah. I’m so team Sarah. I love this bag. I'm so excited about it. I love everything that you do. You have a huge mission, huge heart and you're a changemaker. People don't even know yet what's to come. I am fully happy to support you and because of my enthusiasm for you, I shared this with some of my people who are so excited about it that they shared it with their people. I was seeing friends of friends of friends who were posting about that they ordered it. It is so hard when we think we're all in it alone when, as entrepreneurs, as creators, oftentimes it's hard to tell who has our back and who's just there to cheer us on and different roles that people play. I so appreciate you recognizing the community that you have around you because it only takes a few people that believe in you and believe in your mission that get to see what you're doing, what you're creating and then they ask. That's a hard thing for us to do is to ask for support that we need. What was that like for you? I did push you quite a bit to be very blatant and ask people as you have a smile on your face.
I hate feeling like I'm nuisance to people, so it was very much getting more comfortable with those feelings. I’m going through something else in the company to handle something and I'm like, “I'm going to have to ask all these questions and I don't want to bother them.” Definitely that came up for me in doing this video presale. I started finding ways to make it more playful rather than like, “Please, help me.” There are two ways of asking for help. One is like, “I feel small and tiny and so I need you to make me feel big by helping me.” Then there's, “I feel small and tiny and unable to do things, so help me.” Then there's like, “I have this fun, audacious goal and I'd love to get to it. Can you help me?”
In hindsight, I would have liked to have a little more specific with why the help spreading the word and why the help with pre-prepurchasing, what that's going to help me do. That would have also made it more specific to people of why they're buying, not just, “We're helping Sarah make this thing happen,” but then like, “This is going to go towards now focusing on X, Y, and Z, so if it's getting the right types of wheels and figuring out that system. If it's then helping make some prototypes so we can go and do some big influencer videos,” and things like that. That was my learning takeaway also in the asking, making it playful and also making it specific.
When I first started my online business, I had the error in thinking that if I did a pre-presale or whatever it is, I could only do it once. I can't do it again. It's like, “Who says that? You make your own rules.” You did this unexpected thing. It was an experiment and maybe next, you're going to talk about the experiment. You're going to let all those buyers who jumped in speak to them and let them know, “Here's what this was about and here's what I want to do next. Here's how you can help and here's why.” All of those hindsight realizations, it's like, “I can build that in,” and you never go to that price point again. It was pretty crazy. $100 for a bag that’s starting at over $200.
At the moment, the wheels might make that more. It might be a great deal.
It was a great deal. The cool thing is the people who were able to take advantage of that, they invested in your market research and so it was to say are not going to do it again in another way, but it's not $100. Now, it's more. You keep creeping up the ladder. I hear people talking about their worth. I interviewed a perspective virtual assistant that I did not start working with. She was talking to me about trying to figure out her value, so she can start at this now. It's something that we don't need to talk about to potential clients figuring out our value. You meet the market where they're at, so you have this unproven thing. You're proven, you've got a great company, you've got a great product line already or mastermind or program or whatever the case may be, but this new idea that you have isn't proven yet.
Why not break even? Why not cover your costs because that's so beneficial? Then you're like, “I'm rocking and rolling with this, I can raise my price.” Too many people are trying to perfect things out of the gate, put it at a price point that they think they deserve or that the market will pay for something comparable or etc., but they haven't proven it yet, so I love that you started with an experiment and now it's like, “Next iteration, here's what's up.” If my people want to be potentially a part of that next iteration, if they want to know when the next little special deal to help you grow this and perfect it and they can be early investors in it, do you have a page or something set up? You want to talk about what that will look like?
You can go to Bit.Ly/GetCarryAway. That will take you directly to the page for The Carry Away Bag.
In your entrepreneurial journey, if you were to look back and give younger self some advice when you first had this idea, what would you tell your younger self?
I would say when you're creating a product cashflow, you need a lot of cash up front, like a lot. It’s a lot more than I expected. That's the big thing to take away, at least for myself. I have 900 units that are supposed to land. I have to prepay for those. I started paying for those four months before they land and if I sell them immediately or sell a portion of them immediately, I don't even get paid from my retailers until 60 days later. You're looking at fronting $20,000 to $30,000 in cash for six months. Understanding that flow of cashflow is important.
Coming from my design background, I never know what I'm going to have work-wise three months in advance sometimes. Having that long-term picture of cashflow has been a big learning lesson on my end. Understanding that would alleviate a lot of stress. That's the big thing that seems like, “If I had only known this, it would've been so much easier.” Also listening to your fear. I had been doing so much work on that with you and on my own. I realize looking back at how I responded to things two years ago, three years ago, a year ago, there was a lot of fear in it. A lot of not wanting to put people out and not wanting to make other people uncomfortable that I allowed myself to be uncomfortable in terms of like not selling and things like that.
What about in terms of what did you do right? If you were to go back and talk to younger Sarah, when you had the idea from this place now and congratulate yourself and say, “Here's what you need to do that I did right.”
At the moment, it's sticking with it regardless of what anyone else has said. I'm starting to get very clear, very careful with who you share your ideas with, especially when they're new. I have probably overshared and received a lot of pushback of like, “I don't know if you could do this.” People coming from care not wanting to see me get hurt, having their own fears and issues around what I'm doing. I've stuck with it. What I've learned more than anything is that I am definitely someone who doesn't give up. I don't know how to give up. That, for me, is something that I feel very proud of and then also this very much listening to people and what their needs are and then wanting to address it. The Carry Away Bag comes out of conversations with people. I'd go to business networking international meetings and people would say to me, “I love your two bags. Can you take it on a plane? Can you take it on train? Can I take to the gym?” I'd always be like, “Not quite.” That's no longer an excuse. That was the impetus of creating The Carry Away Bag. Those are the things that I'm strong at, sticking the course and listening to what people need.
Listening to the what people need that are willing to invest, that are willing to buy as opposed to listening to the naysayers who are trying to protect you but it's about their own frame of reference.
This whole experience has also been outside of my world as a costume designer. I don't have an MBA. I have a Master’s in Fine Arts, so painting and drawing are my tools that I learned. I also want to share that because so many people are afraid to start something because it's outside of their knowledge. It is hard to learn it all but if you're passionate about learning it, you'll learn it and you'll figure it out. You'll grow from that and that's also important.
If my people want to find out about when this next pre-presale is or presale and get notified, where should they go to get that?
You can go ahead and sign up for our newsletter at SetReadyGarmentBags.com. We'll be sending out newsletters on the updates on that Carry Away Bag. For the BBR show listeners, I've got a special code for you. It’s BBRShow at checkout and you'll get 10% off of whatever you order.
Sarah, thank you so much for being here with us. Do you have any final thoughts, any final words of wisdom that you'd like to leave the audience with?
Be kind to yourself. Most entrepreneurs have a really high level of expectation. I know I do. Just be kind to yourself.
- Set Ready Go!
- Carry Away Bag
- @SetReadyGoBags – Twitter
- @SetReadyGoBags – Instagram
- https://www.linkedin.com/in/sarah-cogan-81809720/ – LinkedIn
- https://www.facebook.com/SetReadyGarmentBags/ – Facebook
About Sarah Cogan
Sarah Cogan is the creator of Set Ready Go! The Ultimate Garment Bags for brides, actors, speakers, musicians, cos players, and pretty much anyone who needs to go from outfit to outfit quickly and easily.
Sarah's garment bags are the only garment bags that help you organize your outfit from head to toe with uniquely designed see through pockets so nothing gets forgotten.
The patented design was inspired by her work as a film and tv costume designer and we'll be digging into this and more in today's episode of the Business Building Rockstars Show.
Thanks again to Carrie Roldan for supporting the Business Building Rockstars Show.