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Social-Networking Site Gives Retailer a Start

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                   SoHo NEWS & TIPS
Helping You Make the Most of Your Small Office/Home Office


Today let's learn about how one retailer got her start using 
social-networking. It's always a good idea to start by 
figuring out the best place to target your demographic.


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Social-Networking Site Gives Retailer a Start 

Like many college students, Stephanie Madesh 
enjoys socializing online with friends through 
networking site MySpace.com. So when she began 
planning to create a Web-based apparel company 
this past spring, she thought MySpace would be an 
ideal place to court her target demographic -- 
young women like herself.

Ms. Madesh created a profile for her start-up, 
Kalon Clothing (www.kalonclothing.com and 
groups.myspace.com/kalon), on MySpace a month 
before her Web site went live to create some buzz 
about the company. Since then her business's 
profile has drawn more than 850 MySpace members. 
The company also has posted about $1,000 in sales 
since May, netting the college senior a profit 
of about half that amount, she says. 

For start-ups on a shoe-string budget, the opport-
unity to gain widespread exposure at no cost may 
seem too good to be true. But networking sites 
like MySpace, purchased by News Corp. last year, 
allow groups -- including businesses -- to create 
online communities for free. As a result, new 
ventures eager to establish an initial customer 
base can benefit by creating a network on MySpace 
and inviting "friends." 

A group page on MySpace usually includes a photo 
and description of what the group or business is 
about, as well as additional pictures or artwork, 
video, audio and links to Web sites, such as a 
company home page. Groups also can post news 
bulletins and launch user discussions. To get 
members to join, a group must make or receive 
membership requests. A group's members are listed 
on its page and vice versa.

Most of Kalon Clothing's more than 850 MySpace 
members were brought in by Ms. Madesh and her 
business partner sending invites to individuals 
one by one. 

"We had time and no money, so we were willing to 
do it," says Ms. Madesh, 21 years old. They 
invited MySpace users who were already members of 
other retail and fashion groups to join Kalon's 
group. They held a drawing for a $25 gift 
certificate to Victoria's Secret to entice users 
to accept their invitation. Participants had to 
complete an online survey about their impressions 
of products that Kalon was considering selling. 
"We got 300 respondents in two weeks," says Ms. 

Soon after, the company set up a fashion panel 
inviting people to complete weekly online surveys 
in return for store discounts or gift certificates. 
Ms. Madesh says about 40 people joined the panel 
after seeing ads for it on MySpace and Kalon.com. 
"We take the feedback pretty seriously," says Ms. 
Madesh. "Sometimes it's surprising. You think 
something is God awful and people think it's 

Ms. Madesh says she and her partner, a friend and 
fellow business major at Babson College in 
Wellesley, Mass., invested their savings to get 
Kalon Clothing started, spending about $4,500 on 
initial inventory that included women's tops, 
bottoms and accessories. A fellow student agreed 
to design and manage the Kalon.com site for a 5% 
share of the firm's sales. 

Continued below....


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Ms. Madesh says she did not track where her 
company's initial sales came from -- shoppers who 
found it on MySpace or by going straight to 
Kalon.com -- but plans to do so going forward. 
The company has not done any other advertising, 
she says. 
MySpace users can find Kalon Clothing by doing a 
search on its name in the site's group section, 
which is organized by category. The business is 
listed in "Fashion & Style" among more than 43,000 
other groups including big-name retailers like 
Urban Outfitters, though their profiles in many 
cases are not maintained by the actual companies.
Instead, they may be hosted by members who 
voluntarily represent their favorite brands. 

The company gets its merchandise from four apparel 
manufacturers, two of which provide free photos of 
models sporting their goods, says Ms. Madesh, 
which they post on their site. Photos of their 
other products are taken by photography majors at 
Babson for free and their friends serve as models, 
she says. During the fall semester, Ms. Madesh says 
the company plans to hire an hourly worker to fill 
and ship orders. The employee will work out of Ms. 
Madesh's parents' home in Lebanon, Ore., where 
Kalon's inventory is stored, she says. 

Ms. Madesh says they wrap orders in colored tissue 
paper, ribbon and stickers at a cost of less than 
a quarter apiece. "We do that to make the package 
a little more unique," she explains. "We feel that 
every time you buy something from us, it should 
feel like you're getting a gift." The orders are 
then shipped in boxes that the post office provides 
free of charge for priority-mail users, she adds. 
The company charges customers separately for ship-

Kalon Clothing has room to grow on MySpace, which 
attracted more than 48 million unique visitors in 
April and is the eighth most trafficked site on 
the Internet by unique monthly visitors, according 
to comScore Networks Inc. For example, a page for 
fans of retailer Abercrombie & Fitch shows that 
the trendy clothing company has more than 122,000 

Recently Ms. Madesh created a page for Kalon on
Facebook.com, another networking site aimed at 
college and high school students. Ms. Madesh says 
she hasn't put much effort into growing Kalon's 
presence on Facebook because she says its member-
ship is more niche than MySpace's. 

Last month, Ms. Madesh says she applied for a 
$10,000 loan from the U.S. Small Business 
Administration for her business. The money would 
go toward developing a print catalog, advertising 
on search engines and additional inventory, she 


Use your international customer as a resource with respect 
to determining the best way to ship from your country to 
theirs. Ask them about the methods that have worked best for 
them, use their advice, and then protect your financial 

So what did you think about this issue? Drop me a line and let 
me know at mailto:mandi@gophercentral.com 

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