Attn: Vendors

Hello. If someone suggested that you come to this webpage and read this, well, someone must really, really loves your store or business, your employees, and all that you do. So, welcome. It’s nice to have you here.

Iraqi Bundles of Love is a pretty simple project of people helping people – people from around the world helping people in Iraq. The people most often are sewing, knitting and quilting hobbyists and artists, and their help has been in sending bundles of quilting, sewing, and knitting supplies. In 2009, this translated into 3445 bundles being sent into Northern Iraq, and in 2010 it became another ~900 bundles send into the Tikrit area.

IBOL has been about enabling. The bundles are about potential, not solutions. They’ve included fabric and yarn, thread and needles, buttons and zippers. You can read some more about IBOL and the project here, and below is a picture of a pretty typical bundle.

Totally awesome bundles, from Jessie Giardino

One of the truly awesome things that I loved about the first iteration of IBOL was the role that Sew, Mama, Sew! played. As some of you will likely recall, I threw out an off-handed question one day:

Has anyone convinced their local fabric / yard place to support this by selling stuff at cost (or darn tootin’ cheap)? Please let me know. I would love, love, love to find a fabric / yard place doing this. It’s gotta be possible, right?

Sew, Mama, Sew! were the ones to step up and meet that challenge. They did it for the first iteration, and then they did it for the second iteration. They’re awesome – not just a great business (my wife would like to set up an allotment from my paycheck, and just have them send to her regular monthly shipments of random Sew, Mama, Sew! awesomeness), but great people.

I suspect that there are others out there, other vendors, who would probably be game to join in. Why?

1. It’s a great way to interact with your customers. Share with them your involvement in IBOL. Talk with them about the project. Talk with them about how you feel, personally and as a business, about things like IBOL. I think you’d be surprised to hear what they have to say on these subjects.

2. As a vendor and a business, you too can do some stash-busting. Do you have high-quality stuff that just isn’t moving? Well, guess what – that’s the exact type of stuff folks are finding in their stashes and adding to the bundles they send. That great piece of Kaffe Fasset that you saw and just had to buy, and still haven’t found a use for. That half-bolt of super awesome cream print, that you bought because it was too awesome to not buy but that you now realize is more cream than you’ll ever possibly need. You probably have great stuff in your inventory that is fantastic stuff, but it’s just not moving. Here’s your chance.

3. The cold truth is, you can probably also make both some sales from this, as well as find some new customers. Folks coming to your website to order up some bundles will probably make a little time to stop and shop. That might translate into sales right then and there, but it might also get you some loyalty and exposure to a new and wider range of customers.

So, how does this work? Well, the original idea was something like this.

Figure out what you can do. Packaging is one part, sourcing is the other.

On packaging. You can make whatever bundle you want. For most IBOL folks, we rely on the large flat-rate boxes from the USPS, but figure out whatever works for you. One big box, with one big bundle inside? One medium box, with 4 smaller bundles inside? It’s up to you. I would encourage you to find something that works with your already-established distribution system. Once you figure that out, make a few and see just what all goes into a bundle. Some fabric, maybe some thread (always good), maybe some push pins or some rick-rack. It’s about finding out how to ship it, and what can do into that.

On sourcing. Once you have packaging figured out, look and see what stash busting you can do. Really, this is about figuring out how many bundles you want to targeting making. Sew, Mama, Sew! targeted doing 150 the first time around, if I remember right – that was what matched them, both for packaging and for sourcing.

One related thing is this: your wholesalers might be willing to play along, too. They, too, may have a stash of high quality stuff that isn’t moving, that they’d be willing to pass along at or below cost. New pins. New needles. Big spools of heavy duty threat. You never know. Your stash busting may well be matched by their stash busting.

After that, it comes down to a few little odds and ends.

Like where to mail it all. Very likely, when you ask, I’ll give you but a single address where you can mail them all. If you’re willing to play along and help out, I’ll do what I can to make it easier for you.

Like how to actually build the bundles. Maybe you have a super awesome pool of employees, and one week or one day becomes mass-bundle-making day. Maybe you reach out and involve your local guild – help us build the bundles of Saturday in the store, and we’ll give you a 10% off coupon for all purchases that day. Who knows – I am sure you can come up with something.

Like how to actually sell them all. Sew, Mama, Sew has always sold them online, and for both iterations, sold out in no time at all. But then again, they’re a virtual store and only do online sales. If you have a physical store, maybe it’s a take-and-bake kind of thing (buy the bundle, and you go mail it), or one of those things that goes next to the register with a flier and a kind word from the sales force.

Don’t worry — there’s no rush.  IBOL3D is set to be in support of Ramadan next year.  So, think about the spring, about bundles that would go into the mail around Memorial Day (or for the non-American crowd, around the end of May).

I’ll be the first to tell you, I’m a little biased about IBOL. I think it’s awesome, and I think most people who hear about it will agree. I’m often wrong, though. If you think this sounds like a good idea, and you want in on doing it, leave me a comment here and we can talk some more in email. I’d love to see the vendor aspect of IBOL grow for IBOL3D.

One Response to “Attn: Vendors”

  1. jeanne lese Says:

    I’m from San Rafael and know the LaFlamme Ladies. I want to send a bundle and plan to ask my friends to do the same. I also have a friend who is news manager the NPR station in San Diego. So please send me the address!

    I’m also director of Mefloquine (Lariam) Action, and assume you aware if this “troublesome” antimalarial drug. Jeanne Lese

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