I want to be an entrepreneur. I have seen all of these young fillies on Instagram selling their tie-dyed t-shirts and their sailor pants, and I have decided that I want a slice of that cool gang pie.
We are in Thailand, Chiang Mai to be exact. Anyone who is anyone knows that Chiang Mai is not just the home to very bendy people who love to show off by balancing each other on their big toes in the local park, but, it is also home to a mass of entrepreneurs; digital nomads, bloggers, web designers, online techy guru people who sit in coffee shops all day pretending to look very important.
I have decided that I too will spend long hours in trendy cafes, ordering frappuccinos and pushing my fringe back off my forehead while I frown at my laptop.
That’s going to be me.
Trouble is, I have never done anything remotely like this in my life. Not ever. The closest I have ever been to making things happen online is when I discovered how to use the online food shopping service from Tesco’s.
Time to put my acting skills to work and start to bluff it. Don’t they say fake it till you make it?
And so, in December 2018, the journey began to make it happen.
What to sell in my new super duper online shop
Anyone who knows me will know I have a passion for anything big, baggy and comfortable. Along with my belly and my charity shop Emu Ugg boots, my Berlai bra is the obvious example.
I don’t care that my boobs ooze out of the sides of it; it is soft and comfy and a dirty tan brown colour. It makes me feel as though I’m doing something positive for the planet by wearing it. That bra actually makes me feel like a better person.
While I was on my worldwide trip, I took a liking to those baggy yoga style harem pants. The ones that earth mothers wear with a hessian sac while they are breastfeeding their nine-year-olds.
I love those pants. Not only are they colourful and Asian, but they are also baggy, relaxed and very very comfortable. The perfect pants for me.
I never had the nerve to wear them in my twenties because I stupidly believed that they made my size ten bum look big. Fast forward thirty years and I’ll pay whatever it takes to let my bum cheeks flap around in the wind like two big wobbly jellies.
These pants are the bomb, so I decided that they were what I would sell on my soon to be up and running and making a fortune online store.
How to find a supplier in Thailand for my multi-million dollar baggy pants empire.
I don’t know if you’ve ever tried googling ‘pants-wholesale-for desperate woman-to sell on her blog-dot com’, but if you do, nothing much comes up.
Luckily, I know how to stalk people. It is a skill that I have mastered over the years. All it took was for me to spy on other peoples threads on Instagram who were talking about fabulous pants in Thailand and I managed to trace the source back to a factory in Chiang Mai.
As soon as I had an address I was desperate to race over there and introduce myself. Strike a deal. I was convinced that this poor little factory in Chiang Mai would fall at my feet when they found out that I had New Zealand dollars to spend.
But on the advice of my husband, I refrained. He said that it wasn’t professional and that I should email.
So I did.
‘Hello’, the email said, ‘I’d like to sell your pants because I think they’re really nice. Can you give me some good prices, please? And don’t try ripping me off. I may be nearly fifty but I’m not totally doolally. Yours, Liz’.
Something along those lines.
Surprisingly, after waiting for three days, I still hadn’t received an answer, so one sunny Wednesday morning I decided to take matters into my own hands.
“Get dressed,” I called at the two snoring heaps that were my teenage children slobbing away in the corner of the bedroom . “we are going to a clothes factory. To buy clothes.”
Don’t let anyone say we don’t do fun stuff on our family travels.
The factory was a good forty-five minutes away. Brian suggested that we take an Uber and arrive in style but there was no way that was happening when we had recently hired two perfectly good mopeds.
I had dressed in my best off the shoulder pink floaty top – the one I got from the charity shop in Blackpool. If I was to be an overseas buyer I needed to look the part.
Feeling like Coco Chanel, I pulled on the moped helmet, the one from the hire shop that smells of wet sweat, and heaved myself onto the back of Brian’s moped nearly toppling us both over.
I chose to ignore the fact that when I caught sight of myself in the moped wing mirror, I looked like a weeble wobble. My sweaty cheeks were pushed so close together that my lips looked as though they were saying choo choo.
No matter. In my mind, I looked like a high flying businesswoman and not like Matt Lucas with a mouth ulcer.
Arrival At The Factory.
The factory was very Thai. A large square building that looked a little bit like my old infant school without the lollypop lady.
“Oh, God. How embarrassing”. cringed my 14-year-old daughter.
My daughter – to whom everything is embarrassing. Unless of course, she is throwing a bottle of ice tea over herself and her best friend and then sharing it on Insta. That’s not embarrassing.
‘Let’s just go. They won’t even speak English. Why are we even in the middle of the jungle?’
It was true, we were in the middle of the countryside, but this made it feel a lot easier for me. I don’t know if I would have been able to bluff my way into a swanky shop on Saville Row.
I ignored her and marched off with my shiny Matt Lucas cheeks held high, walking down the alleyway at the side of the building.
Through the glass doors, I could see hoards of workers bent over sewing machines handling reels of colourful material. Luckily, each person looked over the age of twenty-five, so that put an end to my son’s taunts that this was probably an illegal sweatshop that was run by a group of toddlers with guns.
No one took much notice of me which miffed me a bit. Didn’t these people not know that an international buyer was here to purchase their goods?
“We’re trespassing. This is so wrong. Can we just go?”
Dramatic teenage Son – 17. He’s a millennial. What can I say?
Meeting The Boss
From the door at the end of the building appeared a beautiful young Thai whippersnapper. Obviously the boss.
‘Can I help you?’ she said, looking very beautiful and very Thai in her black silk kimono. Just gorgeous.
My pink off the shoulder top was sticking to my back as a result of motorbike fumes and sweat and I momentarily panicked and almost lost my nerve.
I wasn’t expecting such a confident young beauty. I was thinking more of a big heifer with a pin cushion clasped to her bust, dragging a mile of yarn and a sewing machine whilst singing the blues.
‘Hello’ I spluttered trying to sound semi-intelligent, ‘I have a shop in New Zealand, And I am looking for some clothes to sell’.
What a lie.
You do not have a shop in New Zealand Liz. You have five shitty sheep, you live under a volcano and you write a blog that your mum and her next-door neighbour reads.
Luckily, the boss lady trusted me. It must have been because of the kids. Women who travel with their kids are mental and so would never think to lie about their life.
I love the way that Thai ladies bow and speak in a gentle tone. I wish I were like that.
This lovely woman who, just five minutes earlier had been going about her day doing gentle sewing and running her business empire, was now faced with a sweaty woman and a pair of embarrassed, sour-faced teenagers trailing behind her.
Never once did she think to screech, ‘what the bloody hell are you doing here? You haven’t got an appointment, you half-wit. And why on earth are your cheeks so squshed together?’
She was perfectly lovely.
I decide there and then that I will try to speak in a calm voice from now on.
How Things At The Factory Worked.
The lovely boss lady invited me to her office and we talked about how everything worked. Her, explaining essential things such as shipping costs and import duty tax and me, nodding and bluffing. Hoping that my sweaty top lip wasn’t too much of a giveaway.
We discussed price. ‘The pants are cheaper if you take over fifty pairs’. She explained in her Thailinglish.
I didn’t like to say that I’d probably only need two pairs to be going on with.
One for my mum and the other for the woman who is feeding the sheep. I wanted to impress her after all.
‘I’ll take one hundred pairs!’ I beamed, expecting her to fall through the floor like Rumplestiltskin. She didn’t bat an eyelid and went on to explain that it would be approximately $100 to ship the pants to New Zealand and the delivery would take approximately ten days.
A hundred bucks? No way Jose. My mind quickly calculated the cost and I pulled my shoulders back and made a bold family decision. You can’t be seen to be flustered when you are an international buyer of pants after all.
‘We’ll take them all now and we will carry them home in our rucksacks’. Hurray for me!
How about that clever clogs? Me. With my big wet cheeks growing like two bed sores.
The kids suddenly sprung to life.
Sonny, who doesn’t like to make a fuss in public obviously thought this was the time to break the habit of a lifetime. “I don’t have room. I have to pack my trainers and I want to but a samurai sword” — shut up weirdo, I wanted to snap, but instead, I smiled my nicest I’m-going-to-kill-you-later smile and tried to remember to talk in my soft Kimono voice.
‘This isn’t a game’ I hissed dramatically, ‘This is for the shop‘. If I could have reached his arm I would have pinched his skin as hard as I could, but lucky for him he was too far away.
I ignored his look of total disgust and was thankful that he didn’t fire back at me: ‘What effing shop you nutter?’.
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Deciding Which Pants to Buy.
This was the tricky bit. There I was, with two kids who are ready to drop because they got up at nine am and are suffering from shock — boiling hot — the sun glaring through the glass windows of the stock room.
There was no other way to decide on style size and colour, other than for me to try them on — one hundred pairs of pants.
Me sweating like a mule, the kids begging to go home and Brian with his head stuck under a sewing machine trying to figure out how it worked.
There was no mirror in the stock room and the assistant that was helping me with the purchase of the pants couldn’t speak a word of English. She just kept smiling at me for no reason.
I couldn’t possibly see how I could try on a hundred pair of pants and not know what the hell they looked like.
“You’ll have to tell me if they look nice,” I said to Brian.
Brian who hates baggy harem pants with a passion.
Brian who wishes his wife would wear those little denim shorts that she used to wear thirty years ago.
Brian who will get his brains bashed in if he doesn’t tell me that every single pair of these baggy Alibaba pants looks stunning.
Getting The Pants Home To NZ
I left the building from the same door that I had entered through three hours earlier when I was but a young naive pants buying novice, but now, here I was, carrying one hundred pairs of pants and three kimonos in four Thai bin bags. What a bloody legend.
I was the proud owner of my first stock load of Thai clothes. Silvano Vangi eat your heart out. I was buzzing.
‘Look at me now!’ I wanted to call out to the workers, who were still all ignoring me, ‘tell your friends! Spread it! I’ve got stock for my shop!’
Onto the back of the moped. Onto a plane. Into a car and finally reaching the bed in our spare room in New Zealand. Where the pants will sit until I have my shop up and running.
These things take time you understand.
Leave me a comment if you enjoyed this post and would like to hear more of how I am bullshitting my way into business. Liz x