Interview with Street Fair Seller, Kip Cosson, Designer of New York-Themed Kid's Clothing and Books
>> This interview of Kip Cossom, owner of Kip Kids of New York, is one of a series on how to find business success through selling on the streets of New York.
Littleviews: I've been following your successful career as an artist and designer of children's T-shirts and other clothing ever since I moved to New York. When did you decide to get into books?
Kip: I have always dreamed of creating a children's book since I started my business in 1991.
Littleviews: Your illustrations are fun and fabulous. I even had the front part of a red T-shirt featuring the little yellow taxi framed for my office. Given your success, how did publishers respond to your proposals?
Kip: I tried several times to approach editors at major publishing companies in New York, all to no luck. The publishing industry is a very hard nut to crack. You have to have been published or have an agent, neither of which I had.
Littleviews: Those publishers must now be kicking themselves! Very few first-time authors have the type of exposure and following that you have. Tell us a little bit more about the experience.
Kip: My first children's book is named "Ned Visits New York." I sent prototypes to 20 different publishing houses, all to no avail. That is when I decided to self-publish my book. I knew I would be able to sell my book, with my street fairs, holiday market, website and my following of customers I had built up through the years.
Littleviews: New York is the place for entrepreneurs and Littleviews periodically prints "how to" articles about how to succeed in New York Street Fairs, such as Lea Lerman's Tips for Selling on the Streets of New York City and How to Become a Vendor in New York's Street Fairs, Flea Markets, and Holiday Markets, to name a couple. You already experienced success with your original children's clothing line. How successful was your book introduction?
Kip: I printed 2000 copies, which was a good thing, within the first four weeks, I sold over 1200 copies of my book all on my own. In May I ordered 3000 more copies of my book.
Littleviews: Was your success by luck, hard work, or ...?
Kip: The majority of self-published books either lose money or just break even, fortunately I am in the minority and have turned my self-published book into a profitable venture. I have been able to do it mostly on my own through New York Street Fairs, selling on the sidewalks of New York, craft shows, and New York Holiday fairs.
Littleviews: A lot of people think only importers are successful in New York's street fairs, but you are a 100%, home-grown native who's produced your own products. What advice do you have for others who want to get into selling?
Kip: I truly don't have a magic formula that will work for everyone. I think my success has been from having really well-received, original designs on my T-shirts and really enjoying listening to the people (including kids) who've purchased them. Interacting with my customers helped me to know my audience who were all delighted to own a graphical "piece of New York" on their T-shirts. The children's book took that personal experience with the city one step farther. It's about New York, the great city I live in.
Littleviews: You've been at this for over 16 years, so we can't say that you've been an overnight success. It's more like you've been a steadily growing success. Within the street and holiday market, you are a bit of a celebrity!
Kip: New York City is a great place to make your dreams come true. When others won't give you a chance, New York will, and that is why I love New York! I have learned to use the many resources New York has to offer to be self-sufficient, from taking taxi cabs to "get to work," and selling my line of kids' clothing and book at a wide variety of street and holiday fairs. I even sell on street corners periodically, like the popular market at Union Square (pictured above).
Littleviews: A lot of people don't realize how much determination it takes to set up and move merchandise on a daily basis. Moving your merchandise around by cab is truly a hallmark of a determined person! That said, New York has so many resources, including public transportation, websites like The Street Vendor Project and Littleviews, educational resources, and numerous street fairs, festivals, and markets in which to test your gumption and talent for a reasonable investment.
Kip: I hope my success story encourages others to get out there and make their dreams come true. It can be done, but it does takes time and hard work. If you never try, however, you will never know the possibilities that await you. If someone had told me 17 years ago when I lost my job as an interior designer with an architectural firm that I would be selling my art on the streets of New York, much less creating a successful children's book, I would have laughed at them and told them they were crazy. Losing my job was one of the best things that ever happened to me!
Littleviews: Learn more about Kip's line of work - his children's clothing (Tees, bibs, rompers, dresses), his book, "Ned Visits New York," NYC street fair dates, and his customers at www.kipkids.com
Interview by Karen Little. Photos from Kip Cosson of Kip's Kids. First published on 10/14/2007. All rights reserved by www.Littleviews.com.