Amanda Barker | Crain's Philadelphia

In this ongoing series, we ask executives, entrepreneurs and business leaders about mistakes that have shaped their business philosophy.

Amanda Barker

Background:  

Halftee offers women a half T-shirt that it bills as a “new and improved dickey.” Founder Amanda Barker, a BYU graduate, set out to create a product with “a cute neckline and sleeve coverage but ditches the bulky length.” The Lindon, Utah-based firm sells online and via home shopping channels in the U.S., Canada, Germany and Italy.

The Mistake:

We had formed a fresh relationship with ShopNBC, which is now EVINE Live. It's a shop-at-home television network, and it was our first rodeo. We'd been on air for about six months, running into summer, when the buyer came to us and said a spot fell through. They said, “We're going to need these quantities and in a time frame.”

I don't know if life could've stacked odds more unfairly, but I wouldn't let it go. We figured we'd just push through.

It was a complete disaster on all fronts. We ran out of fabric; our manufacturer was out for two weeks out of three or four. I was nine months pregnant and dealing with this stressful situation.

We were able to fulfill 60 percent of the order, but we had to do a backorder on the other 40 percent, and doing that would drop our on-air sales by 30 percent.

I said yes when I should have said no. We needed our own set of policies and priorities. I don't know if I ever would have done it differently, however. When you're the small fry, you have to take those chances.

I don't know if life could've stacked odds more unfairly.

The Lesson:

In order to be successful, we have to have our own policies and understand our own limitations. You have to recognize the pitfalls that are going to happen if you push the machine to its absolute maximum.

We needed to have better communication with our buyer and know what we would compete in. We also needed to ask the right questions. We were so new and thirsty and hungry; we were willing to do whatever it took to get that air time.

We’re now on HSN, so we did the jump to a bigger company. We launched in Canada, Germany and Italy. We were able to learn and grow and figure out timelines. We made sure we could account for the time it takes to get fabric in.

We thought it was going to snap us right in two, but we learned and we've grown.

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