Cody Ritz, originally from the Des Moines area, moved to Dallas, Texas to attend college. While there Cody fell in love with fashion and the industry as a whole. When he moved back to Iowa, Cody struggled to find a job in the fashion industry that allowed him to hone his creative abilities. Finally, after searching for a couple of years and having no luck, Cody decided to start his own business. CLenz Designs, a Des Moines business specializing in customized evening gowns, pageant wear, dance wear, audition uniforms, and other apparel, was founded in February 2013.
After being a small business owner for two years, Cody realized that although he was an expert in fashion, he could use some assistance on the basics of running and operating a small business. So in 2015, after meeting SBDC Director Christina Moffatt in a class, Cody decided to see what resources America’s SBDC Iowa (SBDC) had to offer.
Cody remarked, “The SBDC really just helped me with the basic business stuff that I didn’t have a lot of knowledge in. Christina has been a mentor to me. Without her knowledge and advice I never would have taken some of the risks I have. She really opened my business up to a greater potential.”
Thanks to the help of the SBDC, Cody was able to quit his full-time job in retail, where he was working 60 hour weeks, to devote more time to developing his business. The SBDC helped him crunch numbers and figure out when would be the best time to make a decision about his business that was risky, but clearly the right one considering CLenz Designs has quadrupled their sales in the last year.
When asked about marketing his business, Cody says, “I have been very blessed to not have to spend a lot of money on marketing. Most of my marketing is done via word of mouth and social media. My product, being very visual, is easily shared among customers and potential customers. If someone sees something they like, they’re going to ask where it came from and how they can get something similar. Most of my marketing money has gone to the recent updating of my website. I have a wide variety of customers so I try to ensure that I market to a wide variety of people.”
CLenz Designs is very active in the community. Cody volunteers for a variety of local organizations in the Des Moines area. He has taught classes on being a small business owner. He has also created pieces for special events held by both the Des Moines Art Center and the 2016 Child Serve Bubble Ball. Being involved in the community is one of his favorite aspects of owning his own business. He not only enjoys being able to spread the word about his own company, but also about the volunteer organizations and what they do.
Cody loves being a small business owner and has greatly enjoyed working with the SBDC and his counselor, Christina Moffatt. He looks forward to seeing what this relationship has in store for him and his business.
In the next year Cody hopes to acquire a location to serve as a shop where he can sell his apparel and also do the measuring and fittings for his customers. Once he does this, he will hire his first employee immediately to help with the overwhelming amount of labor that comes along with the customizing industry. Someday, Cody plans to hire or contract out the actual sewing process, to allow him to focus on being the face of the business in the community.