How to move up to another level
There’s been some scattered discussion about what professionalism means. Some non-members in the forum have assumed professional involves production of large lots but it has nothing to do with scale. Professionalism means adopting competencies such as the lingo and practices designed to smooth transactions, facilitating communication and understanding regardless of company size or sales. Based on everything I read, professionalism provides “a foundation for effective communications and efficient performance”. Never at any time was company size or output mentioned. In short, professional means better, not bigger. This site illustrated them as such:
Competencies, particularly in light of the CPSIA legislation are what concern us most. None of these crucial elements have anything to do with company size or output. It has everything to do with assuming the responsibility of learning. With regard to the CPSIA legislation, this law will force the smallest of producers to move up to another level if only with respect to their language practices. You don’t have to produce thousands of units to need to use the correct terminology for something (professional means better, not bigger). This law guarantees that you now must even if you’re only making onesies and twosies part time. For example, before it really didn’t matter what you called yourself in the process of conducting your business, but all that’s changing. I mean, someone might giggle if you describe your contractor as the manufacturer and yourself as a “private label” or at least be very very confused about what you were trying to say but with these changes in the law, you’re not going to have the freedom to use the terminology you’re most comfortable with. These words mean very specific things.
For example, I’ve received at least ten emails over the past two months from people who describe themselves as “private label”. At first it threw me because these were owners of really tiny companies but now I think I get it. They rationalize “I’m a private company and I have a label,” but that’s not what private label means. Private label means you manufacture stock products using your patterns and fabrics to spec for other companies and sew their label into it. The other perennially confused term is “manufacturer”. I don’t care if you don’t own a single sewing machine, if you cause a product to exist, you are the manufacturer. Under the law, these two things matter a great deal. For example, a lot of you who are using the unprofessional meaning of private label will read this and think you’re off the hook:
CPSC eliminates product safety certification requirement for foreign manufacturers and private labelers. The CPSC’s final rule eliminates the requirement for foreign manufacturers and private labelers of imported consumer goods to certify that they conform with applicable CPSC product safety standards. Only importers will be required to issue conformity certificates for imported goods.
Again, no one is to be offended I’ve quoted them, this is just what was uppermost in my inbox and was specifically sent to me in response to the above reference:
I’m also a private label. I was terribly confused by all that because I thought I read importers and private labels didn’t have to have the certificate.
In summary, even if you decide that professional means an operation much bigger than you, the law does not agree. While the law would agree you don’t import, it would not agree you’re a private label. Besides the quoted statement from the legal site above is highly misleading. Even if you were not a private label, you’d legally be the manufacturer (even if you’re paying someone to make it for you) and thus subject to the law. Anyone who sells product in the market place is considered to be involved in a commercial activity. As I explained before:
With respect to the tiniest of producers, I think an issue that has not been discussed openly is the conflict born of entitlement, often expressed in blogs and forums across the web as “freedom”. As the system existed, they had the freedom and entitlement to conduct their affairs as they saw fit and it won’t be that way anymore… Even under ideal modifications, this law will force many to either become more professional or get into something else. If this is something you love, it can only rankle being forced to put on a suit that’s too new or big for you. The truth is though, the only difference between many Etsy and eBay sellers and members of our forum is not company size but professionalism (for some reason, visitors and forum guests think we’re all big companies).
It boils down to forcing a commitment where there once was freedom… This law may force the decision among tiny producers to become more serious about it. I don’t know how they can comply with the labeling requirements if they’re not using better management and tracking methods. And it’s not that they must use full-bore practices used by the largest firms (we don’t) but they’ll need to mature and adopt accepted standards that stand the test of time (in my book). For what it’s worth, if I were a tiny producer, I’d resent any of these options. It doesn’t seem quite fair if you’re used to doing things your own way and want or need to be flexible. It doesn’t feel fair to take something away from you that you’ve always had.
As a commercial enterprise -commercial meaning you’re involved in commerce no matter how small- you will have to assume responsibilities you’ve studiously avoided. Yeah, I get it, it takes some of the fun and serendipity out of it. Government can suck the joy out of a lot of things but it serves no purpose to resent people who are trying to help you with a hand up. The truth is, because you’re small, you can’t assume your products are safe. How do you know? As one person said:
I’m not talking about your ability to compete with Target, I’m talking about your ability to compete with another WAHM who has decided to make a professional venture of her handcrafted business and because of her revenue, is required to test.
By the way, no matter how imposing “we” may seem, most children’s wear manufacturers are small companies. 68% have fewer than 20 employees. Probably 99% of my children’s wear manufacturers on the forum have fewer than 2 employees so you have a lot more in common with “us” than you realize. Other than having assumed the responsibility of educating ourselves, the only difference is one of attitude. Imagine how your claims for special treatment sound to others who’ve worked hard -just as hard as you have? Many feel belittled by visitors to our forum. As one stay at home -professional- working mother said about criticism from visitors:
I am a mom. I am special. Anyone who is trying to get me to operate with an ounce of legitimacy is destroying my livelihood. My customers appreciate poorly sewn and constructed handmade crap because they are against everything big bad corporate stores and their Chinese child/slave labor products stand for. I should not be required to do anything at all because I work from home, when my kids are napping. Make those big guys pay the fees. Kids don’t get harmed from my products because they are protected by the aura of good intentions and blissful ignorance.
In summary, don’t harbor resentment at being forced to become more professional. Professional means better, not bigger. Equating professionalism with big, bad and nasty is really a cop out; it’s avoiding the responsibility of continually educating yourself. Most of you have no problem educating yourselves about how to construct things better, so why do you belittle the necessity of having to learn better processes? Did you know that 97% of these companies are started by women but 98% of them end up owned by men? I don’t think it’s accidental. Fortunately or unfortunately, this new law will force you to commit or leave the field. Luckily, you don’t have to do it alone; there’s over 900 members on our forum who are happy to help.