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To Blog or not Too Blog(gy)

In between the time I received my fabric and before getting the prototype built, I suddenly became a blogger. Yep. This company making “baby gear for stylish dads” was the inspiration for blogging. It was the chicken to my egg. Or the egg to my chicken. Or whichever. The business created the blog. Read on…

https://www.ecknox.com/blog/2018/4/19/chapter-6-to-blog-or-not-too-bloggy

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Major Strides, Minor Paranoia

So it’s been a bit since I stopped to reflect on my family and wonderful trials of parenting.

Luckily, I haven’t had major dramas to sort out, all year. How magical is that?

But something cropped up, recently.

The other night, my older, gender-fluid kiddo went to bed seemingly without a care. Later, my partner poked his head in and kid crying in bed. Though I was in another room, my antennae snapped to. I knew something was up.

I poked my head in right as older peanut explained why he was crying to my partner.

As an avid reader of my blog, you might recall (ahem) that we had a bit of bathroom anxiety at the beginning of the year, which my kid admirably solved for himself. But unbeknownst to us, he’d been using the girls’ room for the past few months.

From what we were able to decipher through the 1stgrade sniffling, our kid peed in the bathroom and another girl (we’ll call her Anna) was “in” the bathroom. For some reason, that freaked my peanut out (for whatever reason…and perhaps ironically.)

Then, in the play yard directly after, Anna whispered something to a friend and was clearly talking about my kid, which bothered him.

Through tears he said, “And that’s why I don’t tell secrets. Because it hurts peoples’ feelings.”

We ran the gamut from “she probably wasn’t talk about you” to “you know boys can go in the girls’ bathroom and girls can go in the boys’ bathroom”.

Our kid seemingly bought it and placated us by saying “ok” and probably felt a tad better getting it off his chest.

But I wasn’t satisfied.

On our gender-fluid journey, I’ve fundamentally felt that honesty, openness and truth will be our biggest assets. I think we need to address how our kid is and what his truth is. That doesn’t mean boxing him into a category, but might just mean, “we aren’t sure, but we are supporting him to figure it out.”

And I think that needs to go for him, too. Because secrets don’t make friends, but addressing secrets might help dispel the secrets, too.

I snuck back in and had this conversation:

Hey, buddy. Can I talk with you a bit more?

He nodded ‘yes’.

Can I crawl up into your bunk and snuggle with you?

Yes.

I crawled up.

So, Bud, can you tell me more about your problem with Anna?

She was in the bathroom with me and then she told a secret about me.

And what do you think that secret was?

I can’t think of anything but bad things.

He started to cry, here. I bit my own lip.

What’s the worst thing it could be?

That she doesn’t like me.

Oh. Well, Buddy, that might happen. It’s not possible to think everyone in the world will like you. But let’s think about all the people who do like you.

At this point, I started to name people off. But then I stopped myself. We all know it doesn’t matter how many people do like you as a 1stgrader – or hell, a 42yo – it’s that one person who doesn’t that bothers the most. So I changed tack.

What else might she have said?

She might tell one teacher and then another teacher and then another teacher and then another…

Might tell a teacher what, exactly?

That a boy was in the girls’ bathroom.

Hm. Interesting. My kid is still identifying as a boy. Ok. Noted. And also – really? – this is what bothers you?

Honey, guess what? All the teachers already know who you are and which bathroom you prefer! And they all love you! Also? All your friends in your class love you for who you are and what you are. (Thank goodness, this is true. No problems in class, this year. They all seem to “get” him.)

We lay in silence for a little bit.Then he went on…

Also? She might be jealous.

Of what?

That she wasn’t at my school, last year.

Hm. Maybe you’re right. And then – spark.Also? She might just not understand you, entirely…

And here’s where I might have gone off the rails or have had a stroke of genius.

…Buddy? You’ve made some slightly complicated and confusing choices, this year. You like to wear dresses, and that’s awesome, but you know not every boy does that and sometimes it’s not what people are used to. And maybe Anna’s confused or even a little scared. And with your choices, you might have a little responsibility to teach people and be open to them so they will understand you.

This might be way over my kid’s head. I dunno. But you know? – I do think we underestimate our children’s intuition and nuanced understanding of social dynamics. I took it to another level.

And then I reverted to my normal verbal diahhrea and kept talking.

Also, Buddy? – remember that bullies are often people who are bucket-dippers (if you haven’t read “Have You Filled A Bucket, Today?”, you probably should. It illustrates beautifully for kids the notion of bullying and hurt feelings) and maybe Anna needs you to reach out and be her friend and let her know who and what you are. Maybe she needs you to fill her bucket because hers is empty and she’s trying to dip into your bucket to be happier?

I droned on.And finally I shut myself up.

Does this make sense, buddy?

I’m thirsty.

Wait, what?

I’m thirsty. Can you get me a water bottle?

After all that, my stroke of genius (or torture…burdening my 6yo with more social responsibility than anyone should handle) takes in my words and responds, “I’m thirsty.”

I’ll take that as a sign that he felt slightly less burdened.

 

So…I dunno. As ever with our ambiguous journey down gender identity, I know we aren’t in uncharted territory, but it feels that way for us. Have I done the right thing?  Anybody out there with more wisdom?

I feel good about our conversation. And in checking back in with my kiddo over the past couple of nights, he seems fine, too.

Sigh.

Update: three days later, my son said, Daddy! I said ‘hi’ to Anna, today.

Oh? And? How’d that go? Did she respond?

No.

But my kid was so proud for doing something that brave.

I gave him a cookie.

 

How are you? For reals?

Maybe we need a different kind of check-in?

I had this thought while reading an obituary for Anthony Bourdain. It seems everyone, including his mother, said, “He was the last person I’d expect to take his own life.”

I suppose we hear this all too often. Is it always the “least likely” to end their lives? Not particularly. I’m probably fortunate to count only one dear friend who took his own life. When I got that news, I wasn’t at all surprised; saddened, for sure, but not surprised.

This all makes me think of a moment after the death of my mother. Months after the funeral, a friend called to check in and said, “I don’t know – do you want to talk about your mom? Is it too depressing so long after the fact?
On the contrary, I was relieved to talk about her. Of course in the month after a family member’s death, that’s all anyone talks about with you. But soon thereafter, we Americans resort to our regularly-unhealthy relationship with death. We avoid it.

But it felt good to talk about my mom 5 months, 10 months, 1 year, or 5 years after her passing. It keeps her alive – not in a “I haven’t moved on with my life” kind of way, but in an appreciative form.

It’s healthy to address the reality of death. We can’t always hide from it or be protected from it. We need to consider it, accept it, even embrace it. Why hide from anxiety or things we can’t control?

And maybe when we let precious people unexpectedly slip through our fingers because “we never expected it”, means we need to address death more often? Perhaps when we’re able to get beyond small talk with friends, and when we’ve surpassed chit-chat about sports teams and summer vacations, included in our discussions of politics and art and God, maybe we need to strike at the heart of all matters and say “How areyou?” And implied in that italicized “are” is:

Are you OK?

Do you need help?

You won’t hurt yourself between now and the next time I see you, will you?…because you matter to me. Got it?
Maybe?

We are all far too preoccupied with material gain and working too hard and feeling guilt over not spending enough time with our kids. Life in 2018 is hard. So what point is there in keeping up appearances, anymore? It ain’t 1957. Aren’t profound relationships based on real connection? Sharing the worries and disappointments and stress of every day life? It’s more impactful to talk about our emotions and depression than our accomplishments. So much in life is fleeting and doesn’t matter. What does? Mental health. Without it, what have you?

How are you?

A Father’s Day Campaign to Follow

A few months ago, I attended a conference called “Dad 2.0”. I’d never attended a conference of any kind, before. It felt very grown-up.

Dad 2.0 is a community of dad bloggers who are mutually supportive in their endeavors to write compelling stories, occasionally strategize how to monetize blogs, and most important, network to nurture a mutually-supportive community.

I’ve been part of the group since I first began blogging, but I’m highly inactive.

However, I attended the “Dad 2.0” conference and was blown away by its woke-ness (in a good way). Here’s a community of guys who are absolutely 100% there fortheir children, no matter the kids’ gender, interests, abilities or attitudes. They’re a group of men proud to re-write the narrative on “dumb dad” clichés, being on the forefront of the #metoo movement (whether or not they have daughters or wives), and are emotionally available for each other and their families.

These guys are men for the ages and I was proud to meet so many inspirational writers.

I’ve since become slightly more voyeuristic on their Facebook page, knowing that there are so many great fathers who write in this community. I recently watched a thread about one guy complaining about another group of dads he’s a part of in which the men are victims, blaming their wives or girlfriends for all their troubles and generally thinking of their children as accessories. This particular dad blogger stated, “I love the Dad 2.0 community so much with its love, respect, and pride in fatherhood…not like fatherhood is a burden. Which it is (cuz kids are assholes), but isn’t.”

I was impressed.

Also, I had no idea there were other groups out there, especially ones that had fathers who were angry about being fathers. So much yet to be mined on the intrawebs.

Anywho.

Two of the gents I met at Dad 2.0 were Jeff Bogle (Out With the Kids) and Aaron Yavelberg (Sleeping on the Edge) two bloggers who’ve already taught me leagues about what it means to be a man and a dad in the short time that I’ve known them. They both write with inspiring frankness, humility and humor.

My company, E.C.Knox will run a Father’s Day Campaign until June 17th, during which we will feature the words and thoughts of many inspirational dads (not all of whom have used an E.C.Knox diaper bag!)

I hope you will click over to check out the words of wisdom and inspiration (and exasperation) being shared, there.

Slow Clap, Roseanne

I’ve never had a strong opinion about Roseanne Barr. I never watched her original show growing up. I sort of rolled my eyes at the reboot of her show, as with the other reboots currently on TV. Is there really a complete dearth of creative content? Cuz I have a few TV scripts I’d like to get out there. (Seriously.)

With her re-boot, last week, I paid passing attention to her pro-Trump views and the articles focused on her incoherent political views. To my understanding, she’s a Trump supporter mainly to save us from Pence. Fair enough. I see that logic.

(However, I think that while Pence is a political troglodyte who’d prefer a Christian equivalent of Sharia Law where women and men are communally separated – more or less – at LEAST he isn’t a complete lunatic who could potentially embroil us in an unintended nuclear war with….who-knows-which country.)

But I see what Roseanne means.

And then I watched the pilot of her show and I was gobsmacked. Roseanne is bringing shockingly relevant issues to her viewing public (which is largely not-coastal liberal “elitists”). Her nebulously-sexual daughter moving back in, her sight-gag sister with the “Nasty Woman” t-shirt, the struggle for affordable health care, her African-American granddaughter, and her gender-fluid grandson? My eyes bugged out to owl-eyed proportions.

I can’t believe I’m saying this, but I agree with Roseanne, now – that she’s bringing the discussion of the struggles of the middle class to primetime TV. She’s supposedly going to address the lives of the people who voted for Trump and that so shocked the rest of us who thought an abomination like Trump could never actually happen.

I also see that Roseanne spouts untruths and bigotry, that the Black granddaughter in the show is a quota-filler, and that Rosie is a base provocateur capable of saying any ridiculous thing to stay in the limelight (like so many.

But jobs, jobs, money, and jobs are the understandable preoccupation for the white working class voters who voted for Obama and then voted for Trump. Agree with it or not, the liberal coasts need to understand what’s going on in areas un-blessed by tech start-ups, app development and organic markets.

Democrats blew it in 2016. Yes, the election was absolutely hijacked by Russia and misinformation and Hilary won the popular vote. But none of that should have mattered. Hilary’s policies should have routed Trump’s bombast. We should have spoken the language of the people who most need governmental support and health care and education and job protection.

Roseanne just may be bringing that discussion to the fore; and that’s impressive as hell, in my view. Not to mention the fact that she’s doing this all the while “normalizing” the diversity of the 2018 American family – with adoption, sexual diversity and the freedom of self-expression given to children who don’t fit into conventional boxes of black/white, blue/pink, boy/girl, etc.

Fluidity is the name of Roseanne’s new game. Fluidity of politics, perspectives, sexuality and gender.

Her re-booted show is a Trojan Horse of Democratic identity politics in a Trump community of frustrated, disenchanted working people.

Slow clap, Roseanne, regardless if this is your intention, or not. Let’s make this discussion fruitful.

Chapter 5: You Only Get One Chance to Do This Right…Don’t F it Up.

Another poignant moment came thanks to an acupuncturist. I was in a session for a leg injury and I told him the story of my bag. He said, “I have another patient I should put you in touch with. She’s a gem and she’s high-up in fashion design. Let me call her for you.”

He did. And he put me in touch with her.

This sent-from-the-fashion gods woman offered to meet me for coffee on a beautiful summer morning. I thought I’d need to impress her because she was a high-power consultant at Saks Fifth Avenue.

I met her on a street corner. I walked with her to an uber-crowded Starbucks and she said, “I hate waiting in line for corporate coffee. You wanna just hit the coffee truck?”

Again: the kind of grounded attitude I never expected in the fashion world.

We walked out, I splurged with $2.50 for two light-n-sweets from a coffee cart and we sat on a bench.

I told her my concept and showed her sketches and even brought swatches of my fabrics.

She was enthusiastic and warm and, for better or worse, told me I was on track with all my strategy. (I was still desperate for someone to tell me, “No. You’re doing this all wrong and your non-existent business plan is a pipe-dream.” But nope. Everyone said I was doing it right. Could it be I was an entrepreneur, at heart?)

I asked her what she actually did for Saks.

“I’m a fashion technician.”

I stared blankly.

“You see how on this shirt you’re wearing,” at which point she reached out and touched the shoulder of my shirt.

Oh, god. Don’t scrutinize my off-the-rack Banana Republic outlet store clearance sale shirt.

She did.

“…see how it just falls off your shoulder without any shape? I help Saks fit things so they just look better. I’m sort of a fashion engineer.”

Fascinating.

So I went on about my future plans and how I was just waiting to get more fabric and hardware and getting my fabric to Ben Liberty by the end of July and he’d crank out a bag in two weeks (as he said he might) and then I’d sell it and possibly be in business by Labor Day and my kids’ college fund would be over-flowing by December.

This “coffee-on-a-street-bench” meet-up took place, well…years ago.

Rada leveled with me. “Alright, you need to slow down. You have to take your time. You’ve got a great idea but you’re new to all of this. Everything will take time. You’ve got the luxury of being a-seasonal. It doesn’t matter when in the year you enter the market. But most important: take your time. You only get one chance to do this right. Don’t fuck it up.”

Another round of “best advice I ever received.”

Chapter 4: Who’s Carolina Herrera?

So I called Ben Liberty.

A brief phone conversation revealed a super friendly man who seemed far-from-pretentious when he listed the companies for whom he creates samples: Gucci, Coach, J.Crew.

Once again, I was talking to a behind-the-scenes fashion mover-and-shaker who voiced full enthusiasm for my project.

Spoiler alert: throughout the entirety of my research and building this company, everyone everyone EVERYONE has been nothing but helpful and enthusiastic. I expected Project Runway attitude and fashion snobbery. Nothing could be further from the truth.

(Well, actually, Howard with the Italian fabrics was condescending and unimpressed, but then again, I didn’t actually tell him what I was making.)

So, in person, Ben ended up being a blue-collar Bostonian with a fantastic small factory on the far Lower East Side of Manhattan.

“I used to be one of hundreds. But 9/11 destroyed our business. No one could get to us. Everything south of Chambers was closed off for months. We couldn’t do business. That’s why I’m the only one left.”

His factory was about 1,000 square feet of leather cutting, piercing, treating machines, rolls of extra fabric, and drafting tables with chemicals and dyes.

This felt so authentically cool.

He ruminated: “So anyway. Men’s fashion. It’s much more interesting than women’s. Women’s is cyclical. It’s all been done. There’s not much new. But men are just catching on and becoming more fashionable. That said, it’s tough. Men’s bags are really, really tough. What’s your idea, again?”

“A stylish men’s diaper bag,” I responded.

He stared at the ground with arms folded for a pondering moment and then said, “Oh,” dramatic pause “Now that’s a good idea.”

I smirked. “I know.”

So we (James and I) showed him our initial designs and told him we were waiting for our fabric to arrive from Italy, but could he build for us in the spring? (It was February, now.)

“Um…I think so. I mean, I gotta do some work in my getaway house and I think I’m outta town in a few weeks for a client, and then my wife has forced me to take a vacation and then I have some work to accomplish. But my wife keeps track of all that. But I think I can.”

He took a dramatic pause.

BUT, if Mrs. Herrera calls, I drop everything for her.”

Uh-huh. Anyway.

“Okay, sounds good. Well, we’ll be in touch as soon as possible, get our fabrics, hardware, lining fabric and the like and we will be in touch.”

James and I walked out. Even though this was a research-based initial interview, I was in love. “He’s the guy. I don’t even care if other people are cheaper or easier or anything. He’s just so nice and seems so calm and competent and kind. I wanna use him. But…who was that Japanese-sounding woman he referred to?”

James was aghast and closed his eyes with a smirk. “Somewhere in the world Carolina Herrerra just gagged because someone doesn’t know her name.”

We laughed. Hard. But seriously – I’d never heard of this woman. In my defense, she hardly makes any clothing for men. Now I recognize her as one of the most hoity-toity of all Upper Ease Side women’s designers.

But I hope somewhere in the world, Ms. Hererra was humbled just a little bit…by an entrepreneur fashion wannabe.

You’re ok with being humbled as “Jenny from the block”, Carolina, aren’t you?

And I set out to round out my cache of fabrics and hardware.

My First Sponsored Post (But Actually Not)

I’ve never written a sponsored post. There’s a whole world of badass bloggers who are making a living writing about products and services and restaurants and hotels and all sorts of fabulously gifted items.

I’ve lacked diligence and focus to do so effectively.

I dipped my toe into that world by recently attending the “Dad 2.0” conference, an event where hundreds of dad bloggers from across the country came together to network, commiserate, and meet companies actively seeking bloggers to write sponsored posts.

I’ve found it intimidating to imbue my stories of everyday life with shout outs to Crest or Kia. I’m afraid I’d be disingenuous. It changes blogs, a lot. But before I get judgmental about it, the conference was all about “how to make money from your blog”.

And why not? Companies are desperate to find new ways to reach audiences.

In the Hulu and Instagram world, we try to avoid ads at all costs. But we are a nation of consumers. Buying stuff drives the American economy. And if industry can’t market to us, we don’t know what to consume.

Ads are vital to our economy and industry.

The fact that bloggers are now tools of marketers is a win-win. Bloggers have an audience that marketers need to reach. And the best bloggers still inform and entertain their readers, even with ads.

Anyway, at the Dad 2.0 summit, several companies were there to recruit writers and hand out swag. That was fun. Mini Lego sets of the Millenium Falcom from Lego, energy bars from Plum Organics, a pop-up barber shop sponsored by Dove Men, and Kia loaned cars to go for beignet runs (Dad2.0 was in New Orleans.)

One of the booths was Hanes. I was impressed that the first thing touted in their booth was their effort to reduce water waste in their factories, as well as incorporate recycled fibers into their underwear. Good for you, international-corporation-able-to-single-handedly-affect-climate-change-one-undy-at-a-time.

(They also solicited writers to take a trip to a National Park with their family and write about their experience. Yo, Hanes! Pick me! Pick me!)

Another booth sponsor was Clorox. They had a mock bathroom and kitchen and set up a “cleaning competition” where participants had to pick up plastic balls (like in a ball pit). The winner with the most points won a Visa (* not #ad) gift card as well as a $500 donation to the charity of their choosing.

While standing in line to “compete”, I started sweating because it felt like a commercial audition. As an actor, I loathe commercial auditions. So often casting directors say, “Just improv! Have fun with it!” And I start comparing myself to my audition competition (none of whom I’ve seen) and think about the actors who’ve invested their time and money in improv classes when I just wanna come in and read a card that says, “Buy this shit” and rush back to pick my kids up from school. I’m not that improv/commercial guy.

But at Dad 2.0, there weren’t a lot of actors. So I pulled out some easy fall-back gimmicks like physical comedy and a bump-n-grind in the midst of “cleaning up” my kitchen. It was cheap.

As they tallied my arbitrary points, Clorox gave me the quick schpiel on their current campaign to point out “a cleaner house leads to less stress, more focused kids, and healthier emotional and physical health.“

Such a link isn’t the first thing I think of when I buy Clorox items, but it really did make an impact on me.

And then, at the end of Dad2.0, I learned that I’d won. I felt like I’d cheated, but I won.

And I suddenly had $500 to donate to an organization of my choice? Sweet.

I felt like Clorox gave me keys to a kingdom. I thought of political groups (duh), campaign finance reform, protecting trans kids, etc.
And just a few short days later, Parkland happened.

Working to keep guns OUT of schools would be my cause. (At the very least. I mean – truth be told…I’d just get rid of guns, period. But I digress…)

I wrote my contact at Clorox hoping it wouldn’t be too “controversial” to give Clorox bucks to something slightly controversial and sadly political.

Clorox said: It’s entirely your call.

So I was honored to give $500 to the Sandy Hook Promise. I mean – an organization founded after the mass murder of 1st graders and kindergarteners wasn’t able to convince Congress to act, but it’s still trying to enact change.

And today, I heartily applaud the students from Stoneman Douglas and their activism in demanding that everyone, someone, ANYONE do something about guns in classrooms, the youthful purchase of assault rifles, bump stock sales and (not) arming teachers.

Clorox doesn’t have much of chance to, for instance, ban sales of guns to minors. (Thank you, Dick’s and Walmart!) But they are on a campaign to make people healthier by promoting cleanliness. I’m pretty sure they’d support limits on gun purchase, ownership and use. I won’t force them to take that stand.

But I will gladly use their money to further a cause helping keep children (and adults) safer and healthier. “Clean is the beginning. The rest is everything.” I’ll buy that.

Chapter 3 – International Color Cartel

So I called the fabric guy. It was just before Christmas and he said, “I can’t meet until the new year. I’ll be in Italy making decisions about colors and textures.”

I had it in my mind he was one of the international color cartel that decides what the rest of us poor consumerist schlubs will be force-fed for the next year.

A few weeks later, my design partner (James) and I were ushered into a conference room lined with 4 rows of 12×12 fabric swatches.

Fabric guy (Howard) knew he was dealing with newbies.

His eyes-half-mast behind the glasses demeanor gave away nothing. He wasn’t a shark ready to take advantage of us, but I could see the sigh behind his Elliott-Gould-in-Ocean’s-Eleven glasses that said, “this is such a waste of time.”

Before meeting Howard, I told James I wanted the bag to be leather – like Louis Vuitton bags, but dyed deep navy blue.

“Ok, well Louis Vuitton isn’t leather, first off.”

“Oh.”

“It’s coated canvas.”

“Coated with what?”

“Um…plastic.”

“You mean, these rich people are just carrying around Chuck Taylors coated in melted Fisher Price toys? How ridiculous.”

Luckily, I didn’t need to expose my low-brow condescension to pompous fabric dude.

When I told him, “We’re looking for deep navy blue coated canvas,” he asked, “What are you making again?”

Julia’s words rang in my head. “Don’t tell him what you’re making.”

“Um…a messenger bag for men.”

He smelled my obfuscation. I smelled his disdain.

“Well, do you want PU or PVC?”

“He-heh. What do those stand for?”

“Polyeurethane and PVC.”

“Like PVC pipes?”

“Yes.”

* Amend my previous assertion about rich people carrying canvas grocery bags covered in melted plastic pipes.

“Um…what’s the difference?”

“It’s preference.”

“OK. What would you recommend?”

“I’ll show you both.”

He brought us a few hangers with indistinguishable squares of deep navy blue melted plastic on canvas.

I stared in that quickly-mind-numbing way when you contemplate the difference between paint chips labeled “delft” and “bashful delft.”

Finally, Howard said, “I mean, one thing is: you can’t have PVC with kids. It’s toxic.”

OMG. Was he reading my mind? Thank goodness he was doing so.

“Oh, OK. Um…we want PU.”

Phew. Dodged a PR nightmare, there.

We settled on a fabric that cost 23 euros/square meter.

(Yet another time I think the US absolutely needs to get its act together and adopt the metric system. Seriously, my fellow Americans, what are we doing?)

Howard’s company was NOT converting to inches, let alone dollars.

The height of pretension. Sorta.

To further the sting, I wasn’t ordering in bulk. I just needed a little bit, which doubled the price. So we ordered 3 square meters of this fabric for 46 euros/sq meter.

As we were filling out the paperwork, Howard mentioned, “You know, I really think you should be considering nylon. It’s the future.”

I had my chance – “Wait. Are you part of that international fashion cartel that decides what colors and textures we will be wearing for the next four years? Is that why you had to be in Italy over New Year’s?”

He didn’t even smirk.

“No. That was just for factory meetings. No, I’m telling you that nylon is the future. It’s the 80’s, again.”

“Heh-heh,” I nervously giggled. “What does that mean, actually?”

“Those ‘LeSport’ bags and ‘Members Only’ windbreakers?”

I made an “ew” face.

“Yeah. They’re back. You’re gonna come back here asking for nylon, I’m telling you.”

And then, as an afterghought, I asked, “Do you know any prototype bag makers?”

Before this moment, I’d always assumed I was going to ask some of my costuming/wardrobe contacts in the Broadway community to somehow manufacture a bag for me. I didn’t know if they would or what the result would be, but that was my only brainstorm.

“Nope. They’re all gone. That whole industry is overseas. And what few remain are all schisters and dupes. They’re awful. You can’t trust anyone, anymore.”

Shoot. That was deflating.

“Except this guy I heard about, Ben Liberty. I don’t know him. I don’t know anything about him. Except I hear he’s good.”

“Ok. Ben Liberty. Do you have his number?”

“No.”

This guy.

I walked out the office door, looked at James and rolled my eyes. “That was a trip.”

“Without a doubt,” he said.

We high-fived.

I’d now put money on the line. This was becoming real.

And then I called Ben Liberty…

Chapter 2 – Starting the Path

So I called a good friend, (also an actor), who had some experience in design, James Brown. I asked him, “I have a random idea for a design I’d like to ask you about. Can you meet me at the playground where I bring my kids?”

A few days later we met at a playground, aka my office.

“What do you think of making a stylish diaper bag for dads?”

He didn’t guffaw in my face. Phew. First step down.

Right away, James put together some inspiring ideas and notions of other bags. A week later, we met up at a coffee shop (so we’d have a table for sketching) and laid out a basic idea of a messenger bag.

I mentioned, “I’d like the bag to be deep navy blue. Like Louis Vuitton material, but blue.”

Armed with a design, I first reached out to a friend, Mike Lubin, whom I like to call “the unofficial president of an unofficial gay dads club” with which I’m remotely active.

I texted him a pic of my design and said, “what do you think of a company making baby gear for stylish dads?”

He texted right back: “You should reach out to my friend, a fashion consultant, Amy Meadow.”

Delighted to be pushed forward, but (ever the needy actor) I still had to ask, “But…what do you think of the design?”

He was very complimentary.

Phew. Someone likes me.

That was pivotal. (The networking, not the compliment.) As an actor, I always think of “networking” as a dirty word – it’s so self-serving. “Hi. What do you think of me? Don’t you think I’m great? Will you hire me?”

But Mike sending me to Amy forced me to call strangers and ask for advice and direction. It’s self-serving, but also collaborative. “Hi. I have this idea and Mike said I should call you and ask for advice and direction.”

Surprisingly, along this mulit-year path of advice-seeking, every single person has enthusiastically contributed to my path.

And I can’t wait to return the favor. It’s exciting to hear about new ideas and work with people to advance a collective cause of entrepreneurial spirit.

So I call Amy Meadow and give her my quick schpiel. As I talked, I could hear her fingers tapping in the background, presumably to Google “baby gear for stylish dads.”

“Ohmigosh, I can’t believe this doesn’t already exist. What a great idea!” she said. “Okay. You don’t need me, right now, you need my friend Julia. She’s a factory-sourcer for diaper bags. She will help a lot more. Call me back after a few more steps.”

So I called Julia

Again I hear background keyboard googling. “Ohmigosh. How does this not already exist? Alright, I help source companies, but mainly I work with UN-stylish quilted bags carried by women in the TKTS line.”

(This cracked me up. I hadn’t even told her I’m an actor and she’, well…joked about the tourists in line for 1/2 price Broadway tickets.)

Julia gave me a brief breakdown of how to budget and breakdown services and products. It was mind-boggling.

And then: “OK, you don’t need me, yet. Go talk to my friend, a fabric importer. He can help you pick a fabric and start building.”I’ll stick with reaching out to the fabric guy.

“He’s the best fabric guy in all of New York. I promise. His products are unparalleled. But,” (dramatic pause) “don’t tell him what you’re doing.”

Happy for the heads-up, I called the fabric guy.