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.