Academic journal article Journal of Case Studies

The Path Forward for Dusty Rocker Boots

Academic journal article Journal of Case Studies

The Path Forward for Dusty Rocker Boots

Article excerpt

Introduction

As Leslie Thompson sat drinking coffee in the rocking chair on the back porch of her west Texas home that evening in the fall of 2014, many questions rolled around in her mind. Her story had been a whirlwind over the past 2 years and she had been amazed at the response to her new line of western boots. But she wondered what the path forward looked like. How could the business continue to grow and scale? Could she really make money in her role as product designer and wholesale distributor? What about her single supplier in Mexico? Should she sell more direct to end consumers online? Should she continue to warehouse inventory and fill her own orders? And the biggest question of all--was this whole thing worth the worry? The sun set and the clock eventually sounded 12 times as she tried to get to sleep.

Background

Leslie had grown up in west Texas and was very much a product of that culture, both with respect to fashion style and its "can do" spirit. She had completed a college degree in physical education and had taught school and coached for almost 10 years.

One morning in the spring of 2012, Leslie was getting dressed for her teaching job but was not satisfied with her boot choices and couldn't find a pair that matched her clothes. In coaching she had seen interchangeable colored attachments for youth athletic shoes. She thought "why can't women's boots have a similar type of changeable colored attachment?" She then came up with the idea to insert a colored piece of cloth inside the upper portion of a boot (known as the "shaft"), visible through a designed patterned opening. (See Figure 1 and DustyRockerBoots.com.) She coined the term "interchangeable inlay" for this solution to her fashion crisis. Initially, she simply wanted to make herself a pair of boots for personal use, but she soon realized that this could be a great business idea. She had absolutely no training or experience in starting or operating a business, but she and family and friends were passionate about her new idea.

Startup Timeline

Her first obstacle was finding someone to take an interest in her idea and make sample boots for her. She went to several boot shows in Dallas and tried to generate interest. She didn't have much luck at the boot shows she attended, but she made some good contacts including an executive from a major boot brand. Through that contact she was introduced to some manufacturing sources in Mexico who could develop the sample boots she had been wanting. Leslie soon took out a small business loan of $60,000 (line of credit) from her bank. She used some of the borrowed money to pay for lawyers to advise her and protect her intellectual property rights. In September, 2012, the LLC was officially formed under the name of Dusty Rocker Boots, LLC (DRB). She used more of the funds to purchase a small supply of sample boots. In October, 2012, the first small shipment of boots arrived from the supplier in Mexico. Initially, she kept her inventory in her garage and in a pool house. In March 2013, Leslie showed her samples at a booth at the Dallas Apparel Mart and the response was phenomenal, receiving $80,000 in sales orders. In June 2013 she built a $35,000 warehouse on her ranch property to house the inventory and the operations for cutting the interchangeable inlays. She continued to personally design various styles of cutout shapes in the boots.

Industry Overview and Competitive Landscape

Western style boots were nothing new and had been worn for centuries. They were originally used for working purposes on farms and ranches. As times changed, boots had become an important commodity in a large western fashion industry. But the cowgirl boot industry was as tough as the product and the women who wore them, and DRB had to deal with many well-established competitors, including Corral, Tony Lama, Ariat, Lucchese, Justin and others. In order to compete with them, DRB would have to match the competition's basic style, comfort and durability while offering the unique interchangeable inlay, which was a differentiating feature that no one else in the industry had yet implemented. …

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