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If You Handle “Made in China” Items in Your Home Business….

by Mary Emma Allen on November 15th, 2007

In our “Apprentice” type friendly competition on the b5 Business Channel, we’re following Kay as she sets up her business selling aprons and chefs hats for children. Last week, we posted, Starting a Business on a Limited Budget at Startup Spark, information on how to use $500 for her promotion. (This also gave some great marketing tips for any start up business.)

This week:

Kay just found out that the novelty buttons that she sews onto her children’s aprons and chef’s hats are manufactured by the same company in China that has been associated with selling toys coated with lead paint. She has received confirmation from the distributor that the buttons have been re-tested and do not contain any lead. The buttons are, however, clearly marked “Made in China.” Kay DOES NOT have the budget to remove the buttons and replace them with new buttons. With just six weeks to go before Christmas, she is worried about the potential hit to her sales if parents worry that there is lead on her buttons.

Half of her friends have encouraged her to go public about buttons and re-assure her potential customers that there the buttons are okay. The other half tell her not to mention the buttons at all because it will cause more problems for her than it would help.

What do you say? In other words, how proactive should you be when things go wrong in your business?

The solution: Leading a campaign for lead free toys and products, as well as promoting hers as lead free could gain her positive PR.

Here’s how:

Get the Facts on Paper

*Do some research. Each state and country has its own laws about such issues, so whether Kay has a brick and mortar store will affect how she deals with this. Also, since the distributor is from another country, you have to consider the laws of that country. Check all of this with a legal expert first before proceeding.

*Get the proper paperwork from legal experts, the distributors, and relevant government departments (like http://www.cpsc.gov/) that the products have been tested as safe and lead-free. Independent laboratories can also conduct research, such as Consumer Reports (http://blogs.consumerreports.org/safety/lead/)

If she has all of the necessary paperwork, she can proceed.

Update the Product

*She should add an attractive, readily seen tag that proudly proclaims “Tested Child Safe For Your Peace of Mind.” This tag doesn’t have to specifically be in the buttons. The tag may be written in two formats: one for authorities (with all the legalese) - and one for the customers, if they wish to seek more information. This way, she can cover both the concerned customers and the legal aspects.

*Another option: add a leaflet inside the packaging explaining her policy for child safe toys, and that she has confirmed the safety of these buttons with the distributor. (including excerpts from the legal documents and paperwork from the government agencies and the distributor).

Get the Word Out

*Hold a press conference, with the manufacturer (or the US rep) and announce that the product is safe.

*Send Out a Press Release announcing the products’ safety as well. Begin all marketing messages with a “Worried about lead paint?” type of question, then show that she is lead free and happy to share the certification.

*Find reporters doing stories on the recall issue - and show how a proactive business owner checks and double checks. Do interviews, PSAs, about the importance of lead check-ups for healthy children. Including tips for parents on how to look for lead-free certification.

*Host a Get the Lead Out of Toys Day, which includes tips from her and other experts; as well as a special Get the Lead Out of Toys Sale. She could not only feature her products, but other items the manufacturer has developed as well. She can even go hand in hand with other lead-free toy manufacturers in promoting each other’s products on this promo day. (See Kay’s Press Release on this.)

*As this is a topical issue especially with Christmas toy shopping, there may even be scope for a newspaper article and/or You Tube Video highlighting her approach and that she prides herself on stocking only child safe items, taking the peace of mind and safety angle for parents. She can do this by using some lead test kits and take a video of her testing her products and coming up with “lead-free” results. This may even attract new customers.

Since it is a kid’s chef products business, she could use the word “recipe” or similar to get her message across e.g. “Kay’s Recipe For Child Safe Toys” .What would you do if you were faced with this problem? Do you have any suggestions? Do you happen to be stocking “Made in China” items that you’re in a quandry about?

Related post: Great Advice for Home Business Startups

Tags: , , , home+business+competion, ,

POSTED IN: Business Ideas, Promotion

16 opinions for If You Handle “Made in China” Items in Your Home Business….

  • “Get the Lead Out of Toys Day” (Sample press release accompanying “Apprentice” competition)
    Nov 15, 2007 at 2:12 pm

    [...] press release is part of the solution post for Kay’s problem..week 2… in the Business Channel “Apprentice” type competiton.) [...]

  • Laura
    Nov 15, 2007 at 7:04 pm

    What a wonderful post!

    As a business owner, I can certainly appreciate Kay’s dilemma. Here is the advice that I would give to her: be up front about the origins of the buttons. It’s much better coming from you than if people find out on their own. I’d also go one step further and test the buttons for lead myself, rather than just taking the vendor’s word for it. I think a lot of the quality problems that we are going through now are because someone took someone else’s word about the quality of the products.

    If the buttons tested positive for lead, I’d pull them even if it meant that I lost money and even if I ultimately lost the business. It’s much better to fail having taken the moral high road (and easier to start over), than to lose the business under scandalous conditions because I sold something unsafe.

    Just my two cents…

  • Mary Emma
    Nov 15, 2007 at 7:51 pm

    THanks, Laura, for the great advice. I recall changing the construction of toy frogs I once made because warnings came out about buttons on toys being dangerous for children…they could choke on them. So I took the buttons I used for eyes off all the frogs (bringing some in from stores to do this) and appliqued on eyes. It made for my piece of mind. And I had no complaints. If I couldn’t have made a substitution, I would have discontinued that line.

  • Do Any of Your Quilting/Fabric Art Items Contain Lead?
    Nov 15, 2007 at 8:11 pm

    [...] is the host this week for one of the teams.  Here you’ll find a post addressing the issue, If You Handle “Made in China” Items in Your Home Business.  You may want to add your comments regarding how you’d handle the situation. Technorati [...]

  • Home Biz Notes Hosts Winning “Apprentice” Post
    Nov 16, 2007 at 6:38 pm

    [...] been announced the winners in Week#2 of the Business “Apprentice” contest.  The post, If You Handle “Made in China” Items in Your Home Business, with the accompanying sample press release,  Get the Lead Out of Toys Day, (posted at Home Biz [...]

  • For Alzheimer’s Caregivers Who Are Following the “Apprentice” Type Contest
    Nov 16, 2007 at 7:04 pm

    [...] may like to know that the PROS were announced the winners in Week#2 entries.  The post, If You Handle “Made in China” Items in Your Home Business, with the accompanying sample press release,  Get the Lead Out of Toys Day, (posted at Home Biz [...]

  • For Quilters Who Are Following the “Apprentice” Type Contest
    Nov 16, 2007 at 7:11 pm

    [...] may like to know that the PROS were announced the winners in Week#2 entries.  The post, If You Handle “Made in China” Items in Your Home Business, with the accompanying sample press release,  Get the Lead Out of Toys Day, (posted at Home Biz [...]

  • Yvonne Russell
    Nov 16, 2007 at 10:22 pm

    Congratulations on a great post Mary Emma. There are some great tips here.

  • Top 5 Tips For Newspaper Interviews
    Nov 20, 2007 at 9:02 pm

    [...] had a scare when she heard the buttons she used on the children’s chef clothes she made came from the same Chinese factory that made toys with lead in them. Luckily her buttons [...]

  • Anonymous
    Nov 21, 2007 at 6:41 am

    [...] we last left Kay, she had a scare with the Chinese made buttons she used on the children’s chef clothes she made. She tested her buttons and they are lead [...]

  • b5media - You’re Fired.
    Nov 26, 2007 at 5:41 am

    [...] been following the competition, the winning entries from each week to date are: Week 1 Week 2 Week [...]

  • When a business gets successful
    Nov 29, 2007 at 5:13 pm

    [...] Home Biz Notes what to do with a potential public safety [...]

  • Home Biz Notes Participates in Week #4 of the “Apprentice”
    Nov 30, 2007 at 2:01 am

    [...] Week #2 - If You Handle “Made in China” Items in Your Home Business [...]

  • Quilters Take Note…”Apprentice” Type Competition into 4th Week at b5 Business Channel
    Dec 1, 2007 at 5:50 pm

    [...] Week #2 - If You Handle “Made in China” Items in Your Home Business [...]

  • Kathleen
    Dec 3, 2007 at 4:15 pm

    Wow. First, take a step back and be practical. What does labeling law require? I’ll clue you in, it’s nothing about buttons, neither content nor country of origin. Kay doesn’t need to disclose anything about the buttons at all. That said, it wouldn’t hurt if she put “lead free product” on her hang tag. She certainly doesn’t need to mention she bought them in China. It’s a lot of drama over nothing.

    Kay would know this if she complied with labeling law and got her RN number (a first step). I’m surprised none of the entries in this challenge used apparel industry sources of information in formulating the challenge, organizing priorities or finding solutions.

    ps. Another thing that is critically important and also missed by the facilitators, is *where* Kay is located. There is one state in the US with several requirements she must fulfill if her products are intended for infants and small children.

  • b5media - We Have A Winner!
    Jan 7, 2008 at 6:49 am

    [...] led by team leader Celine Roque of Pimp Your Work, bounced back in Week Two with their advice on avoiding bad PR when things go wrong.  It was to be their last [...]

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