All Janie McQueen wanted was to find a few stores that were willing to stock the baby items that were hand sewn by her mother. Even shops that knew her quite well turned her down. Not to be deterred, she turned toward the Internet. She created a website and posted the items on Etsy. Unfortunately, that did not do much good. According to the Wall Street Journal, the spark she needed to sell the items came in the form of a sales rep that specialized in baby apparel.

The result, she says, was a contract that landed her mother’s craftwork in 48 clothing boutiques nationwide by the end of her first year in business, in exchange for a small percentage of the wholesale price of the items they sold.

“It helps to have a rep,” says Ms. McQueen, because such a person gives an unknown entrepreneur “more credibility.” She counts her mother, Mary Patrick, as her business partner, and says their start-up, Susu & John, ended 2010 with $25,000 in gross sales. The company is now profitable, she adds.

For entrepreneurs with products to sell, a wide range of sales channels abound — from boutiques to big-box stores to online marketplaces. But identifying appropriate retailers — and striking deals with them — can be a challenging first-time endeavor. Experts say the best strategy is to research venues that are a strong fit and prepare a compelling and succinct sales pitch.

“You want to look at outlets that sell similar kinds of products. You try lots of different things and see what works,” says Bruce I. Newman, a professor of marketing at DePaul University in Chicago.

Photo from Susu and John

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