Factory Direct: Tech & Sourcing Show for Small and Emerging Biz

Factory Direct

As of Thursday, October 1, 2015

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Ashley Dea and David Dea, cofounders of Factory Direct

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Chris Walia at the AIMS360 booth

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The Allegra Courtney runway show at Factory Direct

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Bobby Banafsheian of Life Clothing Co.

Chris Walia had the tables turned on him at Factory Direct, a trade show for technology and sourcing for startups and small businesses. The show ran Sept. 28–30 at The New Mart showroom building in the Los Angeles Fashion District.

Walia, director of business development and marketing at AIMS360, typically walks trade shows and cold calls booths to give out information for his Los Angeles–based technology company, which provides apparel enterprise resource planning (ERP) software.

At Factory Direct, he ran a booth for AIMS360. He sat at the booth and waited for people to drop by. He said that sitting at the booth served his company well. Instead of cold calling salespeople at trade shows, he said that he talked with executives who made decisions on technology.

“It is directly targeting customers,” Walia said.

David Dea, Factory Direct’s cofounder, introduced the show at The New Mart in March. The recent run of Factory Direct was the second time that Dea and Ashley Dea, his wife and show cofounder, had produced the show.

The most recent run of Factory Direct featured 25 exhibitors and 350 attendees. Representatives from Pacific Sunwear and Skechers and fashion lines Marine Layer, Shinesty and Field Scout visited the show, Dea said.

Michael C. Juliano, president of New York–based Frogfish Solutions, said Factory Direct gave his subscription ERP service a platform to spread its point of view in the market for technology. Small businesses are hesitant to try new business technology, he said.

“[Businesses] initially think that it is too sophisticated or they can’t afford it,” Juliano said.

Henry Cherner, managing partner of AIMS360, agreed.

“If they could budget for it, [technology] would help them get bigger,” he said. He contends that smaller companies could budget $3,000 to $6,000 annually for ERP systems customized for small companies.

Polygon Solutions, a Long Beach, Calif.–headquartered logistics company, ran a booth at Factory Direct’s second show after also appearing at the trade show’s first run, said Ted Houston, Polygon’s owner. Polygon provides back-end services such as EDI and invoicing for apparel companies.

“We got some great leads from this show,” Houston said, adding that he thinks Factory Direct’s market is ready for a growth spurt. “The biggest growing sector of the industry is the $1 million to $15 million company. They have creative ownership, but they don’t have seasoned executive leadership.”

Factory Direct vendors can offer these companies assistance and technical know-how, he said.

Manufacturers specializing in small manufacturing runs exhibited at Factory Direct. Some vendors—including Rich Honey, Sourceeasy, Life Clothing Co. and Yuen Shing Textile Ltd.—produced booths during the show.

Exhibitor Swaraaj Fashions manufactures small production runs of outerwear and leather clothing, from 75 pieces and up, said Janine C. Luciano, vice president of business development in North America for the Mumbai-headquartered company. “I got some leads,” she said. “I did a lot of networking with other exhibitors.”

Dea produced networking events during the Factory Direct show at Cuore Dell Amante Pizza and Pasta, an Italian restaurant at The New Mart. The show also featured runway shows of designers such as Courtney Allegra.

Another aspect of the show was knowledge-based. Factory Direct produced seminars for entrepreneurial education.

Frances Harder, founder of the education nonprofit Fashion Business Inc., spoke. Ilse Metchek, president of the California Fashion Association, presided over a seminar called “From Design to Distribution.”