Have you ever wondered what it would be like running your own fashion business? I sat down with Candice Lashley, who runs Caro Imports with her friend and business partner, Roseanne Selci. Candice is truly fashion savvy. Born in Barbados Candice grew up on the island as well as in Germany, her mother’s native country. She has been around the globe and back and is very open to unique and exciting fashion ideas from all over. Candice currently resides in Toronto running the business. In her own words she describes their business, “Caro Imports is a new import and distribution company operating out of Toronto, ON, bringing the newest trends in fashion jewelry from around the world to customers across North America. Our mission is to source high-quality exotic and unique fashion accessories from international destinations and to distribute them to Canadian and US retailers.” Caro Imports carries a line called A Cuckoo Moment that is designed and sold in Germany.
Q: What products does your company carry? What are the materials used? Where are they sourced and made?
A: A Cuckoo Moment is a very large line. We carry everything from, bangles, bracelets, necklaces, watchbands, hair bands, hair slides, belts, clutch bags, purses (big and small), organizers, and ballerina flats. The products are all made from exotic leathers from ostrich leg leather, stingray leather, and python leather. The ostrich leather comes from South Africa, and the stingray leather comes from Thailand. All the products are great quality and are hand crafted throughout Europe. The python is handcrafted in Spain and the ostrich and stingray are handcrafted in Italy. There are a wide variety of colours. The stingray comes in 25 colours, the python comes in 8 and the ostrich comes in 12 different colours.
Q: What made you decide to get into this business?
A: I have always wanted to be involved in fashion; especially accessories. I went to a trade show in Germany and met the designer for A Cuckoo Moment. She needed a representative in North America. I loved and believed in the product. I find the most unique pieces come from around the globe.
Q: What obstacles do you face on a daily basis?
A: Finding the right people to buy our product, and are willing to take a chance on a new product. We are definitely learning as we go, and have realized, knowing the right people comes with time. You always have to be a step ahead in fashion; you have to know what people are looking for.
Q: Were there high start up costs?
A: The biggest cost was buying inventory. We run an on-line business, so we do not have the expenses of brick and mortar operation. We pay a very low fee for a hosting package on the net, and our friend designed the site, which is self maintained. We always buy inventory in large amounts to lower costs as well. We have attended a few exhibitions, which does add to your over all expenses.
Q: Speaking of exhibitions, you were recently at The Clothing Show, here in Toronto and also The Mode Accessories Show. How did you find showing your products to customers there?
A: It was a great experience for us. We learned a lot more about the Toronto market; however, we will not be exhibiting our products there again. You really need to know your customer, when you want to sell your product. I found our product was too high end for those particular exhibitions.
Q: Because your products are made from exotic leathers, are your customers apprehensive about buying the products?
A: At first, people can be a little taken back when they learn what the products are made of. It’s no different then purchasing a product made of cow leather, here in North America. Just how we here in North America eat cow, other countries eat other animals that we my not be accustomed to. No part of the animal goes to waste.
Q: Do you think Toronto is ready for your kind of fashion?
A: Yes! I think Toronto is a fashion forward city, and customers want something new and unique. I find that buyers in Canada though often want to see if products do well in the States first, before purchasing. The retail sector is taking a hit because of the economic financial situation, and it can be difficult at times to sell luxury items.
Q: A Cuckoo Moment has been doing well in Europe, especially Germany, where it originates. Has the product gained any international press?
A: Yes, A Cuckoo Moment has been featured in, In Style Germany several times, as well as Sue Magazine and has also appeared in many leather, textile and trade publications.
Q: What kind of marketing strategies have you been using?
A: Mostly direct marketing. We have been focusing on stores where we would like to see our product being sold, and approaching them. Because we are a mainly a wholesale operation, we do not do any general advertising. Buyers that we have met have given us such positive feedback and realize this is a special product. Its important to keep in mind the different seasons buyers are making their purchases as well. We have been learning this as we go.
Q: What advice would you give to someone who was hoping to pursue this type of career?
A: Definitely do a lot of research before you buy anything. Know as much about the product as you can, believe in it, and be proud of it. Know your customer and their wants and needs. Network, make your contacts….this is so important.
For more information on Caro Imports, A Cuckoo Moment, and the products sold, visit caroimports.com