How To Start and Operate Your Own

By Dusty and Bonnie Henson, Owners "World Famous" El Paso Saddleblanket Co., El Paso, TX

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Chapter I
Chapter II
Chapter III
Chapter IV
Chapter V
Chapter VI
Chapter VII
Chapter VIII
Chapter IX
Chapter X
Chapter XI
Chapter XII
Chapter XIII
Chapter XIV
Chapter XV
Chapter XVI
Chapter XVII
Chapter XVIII
Appendix A
Appendix B
Appendix C
Chapter I


Welcome to the world of frontier merchandising.

You are at the crossroads of an exciting industry with opportunities leading in every direction.

"Southwest" is the sign post where Cowboy, Indian, Mexican and Mountain Man come together in culture, lifestyle and merchandise. The marketing possibilities are endless. Whether you choose to set down roots in an established mall or to hit the road with a trailer-load of goods and follow the rodeo circuit, you can make money selling Southwest products. If you have the yearning to be an independent businessperson and are willing to learn some short cuts from those who cut the trails, you can be on your way to staking your own claim to fortune or fame.

Dusty and I fortunately found a little of both as we traveled and built our business. No matter how rocky the road would get, we tried to keep a focus on our goals. Despite failures and hardships, the journey was always made pleasurable by the wonderful people we met along the way. It was a real thrill to sell to celebrities like Steve McQueen, Arnold Schwarzenneger, Ted Turner and Jane Fonda, Red Skelton, Slim Pickens, Casey Tibbs, Charlie Daniels, U Two and more. You feel so proud when people of such stature look at your merchandise and actually buy from you. Southwestern products--Indian, Mexican and Cowboy collectibles are sought after by the rich and famous. Don't be surprised if you meet stars of stage, screen, and the music industry in the course of your trading.

You may be surprised, however, to learn how widespread the demand is for this merchandise. Stores specializing in Southwest products can be found in all 50 states, in Europe, Scandinavia,

South Africa, Australia and the Orient. Over 11,000 of these stores have something in common. (They purchase inventory from El Paso Saddleblanket on a regular basis.)

Why is there so much opportunity in marketing Southwest Products

   1. "Southwest" is not a fad. It is an enduring culture adapting continually in its growth.

   2. "Southwest" represents a life style as romantic as a Mexican Fiesta and as rough and ready as rodeos and rattlesnakes. It is a daydream that people act out through their Southwest possessions.

   3. "Southwest" goods are predominantly made by hand. Your product line is insulated from mass merchandisers who aren't interested in culture. All they want to know is if a manufacturer can deliver 10 million units a month. Availability of high quality handmade crafts is limited, and therefore, protects your niche in the market place.

How can you get your foot in the door of this exciting occupation?

Let's examine first how a business is started and what separates the winners from the losers. For those of you already in business, some of the information in this manual may seem oversimplified or redundant. Please bear with me. You might just discover a helpful hint here or there that improves the profitability of your current business, or somewhere between the lines, you might find a few smiles to rejuvenate the original gusto that led you to be a merchant in the first place.

Most businesses are started with either a product or a marketing concept. Many "would-be" entrepreneurs don't make it out of the starting gate because they lack either a great product or strong skills in marketing. This manual should help you leap over the stumbling blocks and take off far ahead of the pack.

For over 31 years, El Paso Saddleblanket Company has led the industry as supplier to the saddle shop, trading post and decorative accessories trade. Through the years we have helped to cultivate artisans from the Arctic to the tip of South America. Product lines have been invented, developed, improved and sometimes scrapped if quality could not be achieved.

The sorting out process has been done for you. A successful product line is waiting for your own personal marketing plan. If you do not have a clear vision for the selling strategy, Fl Paso Saddleblanket can also provide assistance in this area.

Although Southwest products can be marketed in hundreds of creative ways, the focus of this manual will be directed more heavily to the venue of a store or trading post. This type of setting offers a great deal of stability for your young business and establishes a foundation on which to grow and prosper.

Three important challenges you will face are:

  1. Attaining the right image

  2. Finding the right merchandise

  3. Picking the right location

If you choose to work with the staff of El Paso Saddleblanket, the first two are easy. For number three, you need some help from people close to you. By involving your spouse, family members or a close friend, the otherwise drudgery and stress of store searching can be turned into a very pleasant experience.

  A. Make reading the classified ads a family project. List potential locations to check out and make an event of the search.

B. Take someone along with you on the search for a location. Take time to get to know each neighborhood. Stop to have lunch near one of the locations you think is promising. Take a walk around a few surrounding blocks and get a feel for the area. Watch the traffic and see what kind of people pass by.

C. Share your thoughts with your companion. Discuss the pros and cons of each location. A second opinion never hurts.

D. Travel to other towns that have stores doing well with Southwest merchandise. Go to a successful tourist area to observe well run stores, even if it means going out of state. The more you observe other operations, the clearer the image you will have for your own enterprise.

E. Get up every day and make a list of what you intend to accomplish in the morning and afternoon. Cross off tasks completed. Those not completed should be carried over to the next day's list. List-making is a discipline and your personal score card for your progress. The preliminary tasks that precede the opening of your business should be exciting and fun, not nerve wracking and full of frustration. Create an aggressive pace but not to the point of exhaustion. Sleep well at night knowing you did all you could do for that day.


Updated 2001
© 2001. El Paso Saddleblanket. All rights reserved
No part of this book may be reproduced without the written permission of
El Paso Saddleblanket Co.

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