The Process of Sourcing and Manufacturing: An Interview With Megan Cooper of Cooper Sourcing

Megan Cooper in her office amidst garment and fabric samples.  Photo by Jim Cooper.
     A garment goes through many stages before it hits the store, from design concept and sampling, pre-production approvals, in-line production, QA testing, to final product shipping.  The person that manages this process is the production person or sourcing specialist.  They work closely with a designer to materialize the concept of their design through the use of domestic or international factories.
     Cooper Sourcing is a worldwide sourcing specialist of apparel and home product based in the Bay Area.  Megan Cooper, the founder, has close to 20 years of domestic and international sourcing, product development and production management experience working with corporate retailers based out of San Francisco.  In her 20 years of experience, she has produced over 20 million units of apparel and accessory items.  I had the chance to meet up with Megan at Crepevine in Rockridge.  She exudes a healthy confidence and excitement for what she does that I found engaging.  Her wealth of knowledge about the industry and professional experience made it clear why she is well respected amongst her peers. 

Michele:  So, tell me about your background?
Megan:  I went to UC Berkeley as a history major.  My grand plan after I graduated was to take a year off and get a job before I went to law school.  I ended up working at Banana Republic in their merchandising offices at this great job which I loved.  Within a year they were sending me to different parts of Asia and Hong Kong because merchandising at that time had production responsibilities.  I was the low-life assistant that worked in the office who was immediately given all of the production to run, and I thought this was kind of cool.  “I get to work with designers and factories in foreign countries.  Wow!”  So one year easily turned into over ten years.  There wasn’t a minute that I didn’t love it.  And I learned everything.  I knew nothing about t-shirts or sweaters or wovens when I started.  It was the coolest time to be at Gap because they would just give you a department and tell you to run with it and figure it out.  We had great agents and offices overseas that were more than willing to teach me.  I was really, really lucky.

Michele:  Have you found that when they’re hiring production people now that they need to have more training and experience before they start off?
Megan:  I think that times have changed a lot.  I think I was really lucky when I started out because they didn’t even think twice about putting a 24 year old on a plane and sending her to Asia.  Because they thought you would just figure it out.  Budgets have changed so much and that affects the way companies are run.

Michele:  I’m sure they’re more particular with who they send over and they want to make the most out of those trips.
Megan:  Right.  When I was at Banana, we wouldn’t place a program in a factory that we hadn’t been to personally.  So every factory we worked with, we had to visit.  That in itself is an amazing experience because you can walk through the factory and explore everything and ask questions.  Our trips when we first started going were three weeks long.  We would spend a week in the Gap office and then two weeks traveling to see factories.  It was like a gigantic classroom and as a result we learned so much.  And we were traveling with other people, so we wouldn’t just go to a knits factory.  We would go to sweater factories, wovens factories, denim factories and even tanneries.  It was amazing.  So as a result, we learned.
QA manager inspecting the fabric before it goes on the production line.
Michele:  That explains your strong background.
Megan:  We saw everything.  It was the coolest thing.  Production, no matter what you’re making, whether a t-shirt or a toy, is the same kind of process.  Once you learn the basic structure, its like “Oh yeah, I can do this.  I can do anything.”  It’s a matter of knowing what pieces need to be done.  If you look at all the people that were at Gap all the way through the 90s, we all grew up going to all the factories.  I remember in the early 2000s, they started cutting back on travel for production and only letting them go once a year.  And maybe they would only go to the offices.  They wouldn’t spend a lot of time at the factories or they would just see the showrooms of the factories.  That was one of the biggest issues at the Gap when they started doing that.  They started to decrease the number of people in production and shift the management in-country.  It’s an understandable concept, but the flip side is that the people who are managing the production don’t know how to deal with the in-line factory problems when they come up.

Michele:  That’s true.  They don’t have the knowledge of the factory’s capabilities and would probably be more focused on the business side.
Megan:  Or they learn, “Here’s my ex-factory date on June 1st.”  If they hadn’t been in the factory to see how quick or how slow things can move through the factory it might be difficult for them.  If the label is missing or one critical piece such as the interlining or pocketing isn’t there, well, you can’t cut the product.  All the materials will sit there in the factory until that critical piece arrives.  It’s interesting now because I work with a lot of production people at companies, some who have never been to a foreign factory.  If you look at the economy in the last 15 years, retail hasn’t been great.  So these companies spend their money differently.  That’s one of the biggest differences between big companies and small companies, it’s with how they spend their money.

Michele:  I could see that factories would be eager to take on more responsibilities on the production side.  This gives them ownership and flexibility of the production planning and details.
Megan:  What’s your experience with designers?
Michele:  I’m encountering designers doing all the work themselves or they are using local factories.  A lot of them don’t have the connections to source overseas.
Megan:  It’s interesting because Asia has changed a lot or certain levels have.  You can do so many smaller units now in India than you could ever do before because they have this whole group of boutique sized factories that have branched off and that used to do the subcontracting for the Gaps and Gymborees.  They’re small satellite factories that can handle a lot of smaller units.

Michele:  What’s the capacity?
Megan:  A thousand units.  I have one factory that has a minimum for a knit style at 300 units per color.
Michele: (A small buy for a basic depending on the product can start at a 10,000 to 30,000 per colorway in larger retail companies) My gosh!  What is the price point?
Megan:  Phenomenal and the quality is great.  It’s having that ability to have that connection.  I have one customer who’s a brand new company and they’re starting out with four styles.  Each style has two colorways, and they’re able to do 300 units per colorway, which is a great start-up.  When it comes for them to launch the line and pay for the merchandise for one style, it’s about $3,000.  We did the exercise for them to find out what it would cost domestically and it was like $15,000 for that same style.  It takes someone who knows production in Asia and what needs to be done to get a quality product.    
     There’s a lot of people out there who are not doing good quality work.  One of the customers I’m working with now have only done U.S. production.  They’re new to development in Asia.  So the costs that I gave them are 40% less than here in the U.S. but they’re so nervous to go overseas because they had a really bad experience five years ago when someone made samples for them and they turned out terrible.  So they were so nervous.  I said “That’s OK.  We’ll go ahead and make samples for you and you can decide on what you want to do.”  They saw the samples and they were thrilled.  Forty percent less is huge in this environment.  One of the feedback they were getting from their sales rep was that their cost was too high, so now they could be lowering their retail by 20% and still be making 20% more than before.

The factory’s fabric cutting room.

Michele:  How have you built your clientele of factories that you work with?
Megan:  A lot of them were factories I used to work with at Gap and Gymboree and who I’ve met through networking.  Right now I’m working on this new briefcase, so I went out to my factories and said “I know you can’t do my units but can you recommend someone?”  And they did.  It’s liked LinkedIn with factories.  

Michele:  How many factories are you working with now?  I’m sure it varies depending on the product and seasonal collection.
Megan:  I have five key factories that I work with continually year round.  I have domestic factories in San Francisco, but I don’t work with them very often.  I had one in Oakland but just found out they went out of business.  I have a couple in LA that I work with sporadically that are t-shirt suppliers.

Michele:  For those who don’t have a background in production, what is the process in working with a designer to producing the item and getting it to the store?
Megan:  Usually the way it works, and it varies depending on designer, we’ll meet and they’ll pass off specs, sketches or samples.  Then, depending on how well the package is put together, it’ll take me a week to get costing and two weeks for samples.  It’s all depending on the fabrics.  Domestically, it can take up to two weeks to get information.  In India, if I give them a package, I can get a cost in two days.  As long as the information is there, they can give a quote real fast.

Michele:  And the quote is pretty accurate?  It doesn’t change during production?
Megan:  For the most part, the quotes are solid unless the designer makes a change to the product.  There is one challenge we’re encountering with fabrics.  The cotton pricing has gone up since the beginning of the year by 25%.  There’s a boll weevil that’s eating cotton in China and as a result, they have produced the smallest cotton crop within ten years.  Cotton prices are going up sky high.

Michele:  Is this driving manufacturing elsewhere?
Megan:  It’s driving everyone crazy.  A friend of mine at Gap says they’re all freaking out because they’re not making their Q3 (Third Fiscal Quarter) plans because cotton prices have gone up.  And the way it works in that environment, if the prices go up they need to try to figure out how to not let the cost change affect their bottom line.  I still have customers who are buying small units who are complaining their costs have gone up 20%.  I’ll just tell them to Google “cotton costs.”  If you just Google it, you’ll get Newsweek articles and Wall Street Journal articles on the cost of cotton going up.  It’s a global problem.  I’ll encounter people who will say “I don’t want to pay that” and I tell them “good luck.”  It’s not like I’m making it up.  I had a really big program, almost a half a million units,  for one customer who wanted to see how the prices were varying outside of China so we tested costs with other countries.  It’s true that China’s prices are going up, but there are some instances where you can still get a great price.
Michele:  Why do people favor factories in China versus those in other countries?
Megan:  You can pretty much get anything in China.  It’s a one-stop shop.  I had one customer who was producing their product in Canada and wanted to shift their production overseas.  They were so worried that they wouldn’t be able to get a particular paper stock in China.  You can get anything in China.  They have a huge publishing industry.  They do a ton of paper.  However, they were so convinced they wouldn’t be able to get this paper.  We sent a submit to China and the first submit we received back was perfect.  They were so shocked.  I’d be hard pressed to not find something out of China.  Maybe there will be something the customer can’t afford.  For example organic pricing is much higher in China than it is in other places.  Part of that is proximity to the source.  There’s much more organic cotton being grown in India than there is in China.  China is not totally sold on it yet, that this is a big thing they want to put their money into.
The factory’s sewing line.
Michele:  After you receive the cost quote for an item, what happens from there?
Megan:  If the cost is workable, I usually like to have a sample made before the order is placed, just to be sure everybody likes the quality.  I want the customer to see what they’re going to get.  It’s a good conversation point between me and the factory and the customer.  At the end of the day, we want the customer to be happy with the product they are getting.  You don’t want them to get the product and say “Really?  This is really what I’m getting for this money?  What happened?”  Therefore, my ideal is always to have a sample made.  Once we’re up and running, it’s fine to proceed with orders without having a sample made.  But for that first time and that first order, you want them to see what they are getting because the last thing I want to do is spend a lot of time on something they won’t be happy with.  It doesn’t help me and in the long run it doesn’t help them.  There’s always a person that’s not happy and it’s because they didn’t convey what they wanted.  The most important thing to tell anybody is that if you have a really good visual of what you want, you will get a much better product.  Describing something is limited:  I want it to feel like this or be like this, etc.  There’s so many words you can use to describe something, but everybody does better with a visual.  You can do an exercise where you take the exact same exact product concept and give it to two people.  With one, give them a sample of what you want and the other one do nothing but words.  Even though you might be describing the same thing, you’ll get two totally different outcomes.  It’s really fascinating.
     In working with a factory, ideally I would have the sketch of the style and a swatch of the fabric – a complete package.  Sometimes I’ll get a sketch from a client with comment that “this is kinda the idea of what the style is that I want and I’ll describe the fabric to you.  I want it to be standard t-shirt weight, but maybe just a little bit heavier and brushed on one side.”  This is versus “Here’s what I want.”  It’s a reality versus an idea.  They might be happy with the swatch at the end of the day, but you spend 3 or 4 times as much time getting to that point.  Options are fine, but the customer still needs to know what they want.  Most of the designers that I work with, 50%, if not more, trained to be designers.  They went to school to do it so they have a good working knowledge.  The other half are the ones I spend a lot more time with.  They’re learning as they go along, which is fine.  It’s always nice to work with someone who knows what they want.  That’s such a hard thing to do when you’re putting together a line and you’re dealing with “I think I want this or not.”  Part of that has become my filtering process of taking on new customers.  

Michele:  How do you select clients you will work with?
Megan:  If there is somebody and their very wishy-washy and they’re not really sure of what they want to do or not committed to their idea or can’t really convey what they want to do, I won’t work with them.  There’s certain questions I always ask about who their target customer is and how they think they will go about selling their product.  If they don’t have a very good answer to that, it usually tells you that the product and the information they pass on the product is not going to be consistent and well thought out.  That piece of how you’re actually going to sell your product is probably the most critical piece there is.  Everything is changing is so much.  Even five years ago people would go to Magic and set up a booth and that was how they were going to sell all their products.  As a designer now, you can send a PDF to a boutique and be, “Here’s my Spring line.  The fabrications are the same that we did last Spring.  We have three new fabrics and I’m just going to Fedex our three new fabrics to you and what we’re going to do.”  Once you get up and running, you can run your line like that.  You don’t have to go to the shows anymore because you have that one-on-one relationship with whoever the buyer is.  Until you’re that good, it’s hard.  

Michele:  After you place your order, how long does it take to manufacture the product?
Megan:  It depends on fabrication.  If the fabric is approved, it could take anywhere from 65 to 75 days.  It depends on what’s being done, but most of the time the longest is 75 days.  It’s all fabric driven.  Lets say you’re a new designer and I’m showing you a sample for the first time.  I’m hoping that out of that sample, you’ll approve the fabric.  That’s the first most important thing.  Then the mill can start making the fabric once you place the order, then we can work on the lab dips and work on the fit.  All that can be done, once you approve the fabric.  Once you have a fabric, and as a designer you work with it more, you learn how it best drapes, how it best fits and how it wears.  Those are critical things for the customer.  So that’s one of my biggest questions.  What type of fabric are you thinking about?  How much knowledge do you have of fabric?  In a lot of times I end up educating them, but a lot of times, especially when I’m working with women customers, they already know a lot about fabric because they wear it.  Once the sample is approved, we’re ready to go.  We can place a purchase order and the goods can ship, like a knit item, within 60 days.  That will allow you time to approve the fit, the color, the wash, all the trims, everything.
A kid’s product is being sent through a metal detector at the final stages before it ships to the customer.
Michele:  Do you have particular fit models you work with?
Megan:  Most of the designers I work with have fit models they use.  I have fit models I can use, but I have found over time that it’s best for the customer to come up with who their fit model is.  Ninety percent of the time it’s themselves or a friend, which is fine.  It just needs to be consistent. 
Michele:  Aren’t there industry specs for designers to use?
Megan:  Certainly, but not everybody wants to use that.  I think it definitely guides people in their grades and in their fits.  I have a couple different pattern makers that I work with that I bring in to do that consulting piece of it, to kind of guide them to the right size.  Ninety five percent of the time the designers will be fine.  They want it to fit the best on the maximum number of people.  The last thing they want to hear is that the fit is bad.  I did work with this one customer who wanted his wife to be his fit model.

Michele:  Why is that?
Megan:  Because he thought she was beautiful and fabulous.  He was madly in love with her and that’s wonderful.  But she was very skinny and six feet tall.  That is not a women’s medium.  So he was trying to make this item for his wife which was wonderful, but he also had plans of it being a multi-million dollar business.  I brought in a friend of mine who is the best pattern maker I know and she explained to this guy why he couldn’t use his wife as a fit model and he was “Sorry, this is who I want my fit model to be.”  He didn’t care that the average women’s medium is 5’4″.  His wife is 6 feet tall and he wanted to make the inseam of the pants all fit her.  He never got his business off the ground because he kept on bringing in his wife and all of her friends to try on the product.  After a while I was like, I can’t do this anymore because it was the unending fit.  We just continued making samples for them to fit.

Michele:  How long did this go on for?
Megan:  It was for a friend of a friend, so I was trying to be nice and I did it for six months and I was doing it for free too, which was even worse.  So I finally said, “You know what, I’m done.  I’m sorry.  I wish I could help more but this isn’t working for me.”  No matter what, at the end of the day, if you’re selling a women’s bottom, it needs to fit women.  Not one woman.  The percentage of women who are a size “0” and six feet tall are really kind of none.  It’s a very limited market.  But you do come across people like that and I’ve gotten better over time to establish that filter.  At the same time I’m trying to find new customers, I feel like I’m interviewing them as much as they are interviewing me.

Michele:  What is your communication like with your factories?
Megan:  If everything can be planned via email, my life would be so much easier.  With a couple of my factories overseas, if there is something urgent, they just text me.  The first time my factory sent me a text, they were so apologetic.  I was like “Oh no, this is so easy.  Text me anytime you want, then I can respond and it’ll be all done.  Or you tell me to look at an email and I’ll go look at the email.

Michele:  And people are more direct on email as they need to get to the point of what they want to communicate.
Megan:  Yes, and English is not everybody’s first language.  Phone calls can be hard because it’s open to interpretation on the words.  When you have it written down on paper, it’s a lot easier to go back and check the information.  Sometimes the word choices are not the same of what I think you mean and what you think I mean.  It’s just so much easier when we do everything via email.  For example, we had this one customer that kept on telling us we needed to test for lead, for something that had no lead in it, and the factory rep was getting so frustrated because she kept on asking about it.  I told them “You don’t need to worry about it, I’ll take care of it and I’ll be sure that she understands that she doesn’t have to test for lead.”  It was the funniest thing in the world because he was not understanding that I was saying that I would take care of it and that there was no testing needed for lead.  And he thought I was saying “No, there is testing needed for lead and I’ll take care of the testing.”    Finally I recapped it all in email and sent it to him.  I could visualize a sigh of relief on his part.   
     Word choices also are critical.  I never try to say “in correct” fabric because if you take away that space, it becomes incorrect fabric.  So I use “wrong” fabric.  You can really mess things up with word choices.  We’re lucky for the most part that everybody works in English.  I had one customer who started to do production overseas and then stopped because she had a horrible experience and part of it was due to challenging communication.  She had a hard time just getting anyone to answer her emails.  I have a couple of customers who are like that.  Getting a response every day can be difficult as the factory works on their own schedule.  I’ve had some customers who get back to me no matter what, every day.  And I have other customers who will get back to me around my schedule.  They know I do my emails first in the morning instead of last.  At five in the morning, I’ll get messages.  This will be my fourth summer doing this.  From the perspective of my family life, it’s been amazing.  My daughter experienced me traveling a lot the first seven years of her life.  My son knows nothing but me being around his whole life.  

Michele:  It’s great you balance a healthy work and family life.
Megan:  I remember hearing when I was 24, that when you’re 65 and reflecting on your life, you’re not going to think “Oh, I wish I stayed later at work.”  You’re going to be, “I wish I had that experience or what did I miss out on?  Did I miss out on time with my friends?  Did I miss out on time with my kids?”  It takes perspective.  When you’re 24 or 29, you can think your career is what you’re all about.  That’s what defines you.  Then you realize, not really.  There’s so much more to who you are than just what you make.  That’s a part of it, but it’s not who you are.  It’s also much more fun when you figure it out.  Maybe that comes with age.  When you figure out, “I never want to be the CEO of a company.”  
     I had a friend who thought his main goal was to be the CEO of a company.  From the point when we were in college.  All he wanted to do was be the CEO.  So he became the CEO and it was the worst 18 months of his life.  Absolute worst.  From the point where he got the job and had it on his resume to the point where I was fired, it was the worst 18 months of his life.  There was not one day when he was happy, nor one day where I said the money was worth it, there wasn’t one day.  So I said to him, “What’s next?”  and he said “I honestly don’t know.  I just know what I don’t want to be.”  Now he’s like “What do I want to do when I grow up?  I’m 42 and I’m asking what I want to do when I grow up.”  I said “Well, you know.  This is when you figure out what you like to do.”  That’s what we tell our kids, you want to do something that you like to do. 

Michele:  What would you say have been some of your challenges in running your own business?
Megan:  The biggest challenge I have been facing within the last six months is getting small companies to understand things like the cotton crisis with prices going up is real.  It’s not about a bunch of factories who grouped together and decided to mess around with small customers.  
     It’s telling people that they would never get a product for $9 because of the way its been constructed.  I have one customer who had this one style that they have been running forever and they wanted to improve their margins to 70%.  I think that selling something at 70% when selling something at wholesale would be a miracle.  I don’t think you could build a successful wholesale businesses off of those margins.  You can have that be as your goal, but I don’t think that’s realistic.  It was one of those things where he is more of a finance guy and his wife handled all of the design.  So he gave me the target cost of which the material cost just for the yarn, not even including the manufacturing costs, was more than the cost that he wanted.  And he was acting like we were messing with him and were trying to rip him off.  I was like, “Feel free to go out and find somebody else who can make this product for you.  I have no issue with that.”  That customer at one point had been one of my best customers and all of a sudden, when they decided to change their strategy on margins, things changed.  I honestly believe that will end up killing their business because they’re going to have to compromise somewhere on the product line.  The biggest challenges have been learning how to maneuver through difficult customers and gaining that filter to select customers I can work with.

Michele:  Both are very key in establishing your customer base.  On the other side of business, do you have a vendor compliance when choosing your factories?
Megan:  Yes I do.  I’ve been able to put together a very good vendor handbook based off my experience in other companies.  All factories are ISO 9001 approved.  They all have fundamental organizational management set up in the factory.  They all meet the legal laws of the land.  I also have a factory that will do third party audits for vendor compliance.  Most larger companies require that.  So if a factory has a recent audit that’s done by BV or MTL for let’s say Kohl’s, that’s as good as gold for me.  I wouldn’t work with any vendor that I hadn’t already worked with or have some very strong referral from.  Most of the factories, even in China, are more than willing to have an audit done.  They want more business.  They don’t want less business.  If it’s all smokey, smokey, then forget about it.  There is a basic vendor agreement that I give to all my vendors of the basic laws of the land.  It’s very similar to what Gap and Levi’s all do, but I do it on a smaller scale.  
     With all the organic companies that I work with everything is certified organic because what you will hear more and more is that people will say it’s organic, but it’s not.  So everything that I work with is certified organic with the world certification (GOTS), so it’s all done above the board.  My thing is if there’s something that smells smokey, smokey, then something’s the matter.  It sounds silly, but it’s true.  I was starting to work with a vendor who was a referral from a friend, an accessories vendor out of LA.  I even knew of them when I was at Gymboree and even then I had a feeling that they weren’t above board with everything.  So I started asking them questions and I was getting vague answers and you know what, I said “I’m done.”  I ended up finding a great resource as the result of moving on, but it is one of those things where your gut and experience level.  When someone is not forthright on an answer, there usually is a reason why.  

Michele:  Getting answers is so critical when you have a lot at stake with production of a collection.   Honest communication is important.
Megan:  Especially around testing.  Since February of 2009, the government has totally changed testing requirements.  With anything that’s a kids product, it has to be tested for phylates or lead and flammability.  A violation if you don’t do it can cost you $100,000.  They’re even going after small manufacturers as well.  The flipside is that if it’s not something that’s historically flammable, for example t-shirt fabric, you don’t need to test it unless you’re brushing it like crazy and making it from a flat jersey to a fleece.  Then you do.  When the CPSC came out with all this regulation, it was really vague.  So people from larger companies like Gap and Gymboree were reading this and were like, “Oh my God, what does it mean?”  It caused a flurry of information within the industry and basically it was really good because you had the people at Gap, Walmart and Target, all these huge corporations, pushing back on the CPSC.  So as the result of them all pushing back, all this clarification came out.  
     There are government websites where they post daily, all of the questions that they were getting about all the classifications and rulings.  You would have Walmart sending in this 30 page document and it was super helpful for all of the smaller companies.  It was one of those moments where I was “Thank God for all of those compliance organizations at Walmart who can sit there and do nothing but read through everything and question it.  They were doing all the work and they were totally right.  They’re also the largest importer of apparel in the U.S., so they had a lot more at stake.  One of my customers from Canada knows nothing about importing goods to the U.S. and was worried about duty and whether I heard Obama was going to increase duty coming out of India or China.  I said “I’m pretty sure that’s not going to happen because duty supposedly went away around 2001 and they are not going to raise duty, but keep them as they are.  He said “Are you sure?”  I said, “Well yeah, and you have to remember that there are companies like Walmart, Target and Gap.  If  Obama is all of a sudden going to come back and say “I want to raise the duty by 3%”, that’s going to add dollars to all the retail.  It’s going to hurt the economy and people are going to lose their jobs.  There’s a chain reaction.  It’s not like it’s just going to hurt this one company.  It’s going to make an affect across the whole U.S.  I can’t imagine they’re going to do that with the economy the way it is.  No matter how mad you are at China, it’s not going to happen.”  I directed him to all the apparel lobbyist websites and weekly e-newsletters that go out on this plus other issues.  He checked it out and was like “OK, I totally get it.”  As long as Walmart is the number one producer of apparel, then I think we’re pretty good.  It sounds silly, but here’s this little company in Canada, very worried about Obama and I’m like “Thank God for Walmart.”  He also never thought he would ever say that.  

Michele:  Overall, what has helped you be successful?
Megan:  I look at every problem and see what I can learn from it.  No matter what, in production there’s always problems.  Rarely do you have something that goes from start to finish seamlessly.  It just doesn’t.  There’s always something that occurs and its important to have that ability to look at it and go “OK, what do we have to do, what can we do, what can’t we do, and resolving it so that everybody’s happy.  The hardest thing, too, is making sure that everybody’s happy.  Making sure your customer is happy and they’re not losing any sales, and your factory is happy and it’s not too much of a cost for them.  I did have one program where the factory made a critical error, and it was one of those situations where the only thing we can do is own up and say this is a big mistake.  It helped just by being honest.  
     Removing any kind of mystery to the production process also helps, so I really try to get my customers to the point where they understand everything and that there isn’t any mystery.  One of the first customers I had thought production was such a mystery.  They would send off their PO to the factory and then if they were lucky, six months later the product would end up on their doorstep.  I did this whole thing, which was part of my Gap training, where I would send them a weekly report on what was going on within production.  They were so mystified by that.  At first they didn’t know what to do with it, but I let them know that it was more for them to know where we are in the process.  They laughed after everything shipped because they said “You kind of removed the mystery from it.”

Michele:  It also gets them involved in the process.
Megan:  I told them that’s how it should be, as you should know what’s going on.  And if there’s a problem, you would know why.  They need to know if a fabric doesn’t get approved why it would impact delivery.  It’s important to remove the mystery and get them to understand production.  That’s the last thing that I want is to spend so much time on something and not have the customer be happy.  

Michele:  Earlier you mentioned the importance of doing what you like to do.  Are you living that out?
Megan:  I love what I do.  Everyday is new and I am continually learning by solving the riddles of sourcing. 

Additional information on Megan Cooper and Cooper Sourcing can be found at
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