eating with the “enemy”

I wobbled across the icey street in the west end of town. The street was dark, dreary and void of life. I arrived at a white industrial looking door to find it locked. Thankfully, opened a few moments later by a cheery woman dressed in black with brown cowboy boots. We entered the incubator and noticed the glass encased walls of empty rooms. We were then lead through the cement laden and white walled corridors to a massive “fashion preparation facility”. The line of chairs were placed at the centre of the gymnasium sized room while sushi was available to nibble on.

I listened quite intently to the two very accomplished speakers, yet was not convinced. Their CV’s were long and impressive with degrees of fashion, experience at brand name establishments and a knack for designing and selling. But, there was a general lack of passion and/or inspiration for me as an onlooker. My excitement fell short as I had no great ideas of inspriration. Yet, I realize my expectations were high as I heard great things about this place and wanted to believe it could help me – maybe it still will but in other ways.

The disappointment of the whole event was paying an absurd non-member ticket price to not really get anything out of it that was substantial or even inspirational.

Looking back at my half hazard notes, they all seem desperate and my effort was placed at grasping at bits of information to try to align it with something I could apply it to. The one ongoing theme was location and following your customer to where they live. If you’re target market is rich women then go to Yorkville, Rosedale and Forest Hill – makes sense as a store front. I did not agree if you are in fact a destination store where you don’t take off the street customers but emphasized the personal by appointment only set up – then customers will seek you out no matter where you are.

I ended the night with the unique opportunity to have dinner with my direct competitor. A suave individual who was very down to earth and geniune. He was dressed in jeans, collared shirt and purple cardigan. He fiddled with his coat zipper and confessed that it was broken and stated that his clothes were the last to get fixed. (Business must be booming – friend!) I was still on my best behavior and did not want to open up my pile of company secrets. Nonetheless it was an interesting experience, one that allowed us to share some commonalites, and learn from eachother. I find that people can be scared or intimidated by their competitors, but they are in fact a wealth of knowledge and possible future collaboration.

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