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How to differentiate your fashion brand in a saturated market & why you shouldn’t make what already exists, with DONNI founder Alyssa Wasko

by Female Startup Club
October 2nd 2021
00:47:34
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Today on the show we are chatting with Alyssa, the founder of Donni.

Rooted in comfort and born out of the need of a creative outlet to cope with grief, Alyssa founded the Los Angeles-bas... More

before we dive into the show today we have some super exciting news as of this month. Female startup club is officially part of the hubspot podcast network, something we love about the hubspot podcast network is all of the inspiring shows dedicated to helping professionals learn and grow, especially women in business. So if you love female startup club and want to check out other shows like us, we definitely recommend checking out being boss, the gold digger podcast and the shakeup Check out all these shows and more at hubspot dot com slash podcast network. This is Alyssa Wasco for female startup Club. Mm Hey everyone it's doing here, your host and hype girl today on the show, we're chatting with Alyssa, the founder of Donny, rooted in comfort and born out of a need of a creative outlet to cope with grief. Alyssa founded the L. A. Based brand Donnie in 2000 and nine after the death of her father, Donald established first as a brand that created oversized scarves designed to be worn in countless ways. Donny has now grown into a lifestyle brand offering ready to wear accessories and jewelry.

Years later, Donnie remains dedicated to empowering women with wardrobe essentials that make them feel confident and comfy in their own skin. In this episode, we're going through what it's been like to bootstrap a brand for more than 10 years how to stand out in the fashion industry and what entrepreneurs should keep in mind when they're starting a business in today's world. If you get something out of this episode, please do share it with the women in your life. Who would benefit from hearing this inspiring founder story and as always, please do subscribe to the show. If you love it, let's get stuck into this episode. This is Alyssa for female startup club. Sure. Are you working around the clock to build the business you always imagined? Do you want to communicate with your fast growing list of customers in a personalized way, but in a way that gives you time to work on the rest of your business. Do you ever wonder how the companies, you admire the ones that redefine their categories do it? Companies like living proof and chubbies. They do it by building relationships with their customers from the very beginning while also evolving in real time as their customers needs change.

These companies connect quickly with their customers, collect their information and start creating personalized experiences and offers that inspire rapid purchase, often within minutes of uploading their customer data. Clavijo empowers you to own the most important thing to any business. The relationship between you and your customers and the experiences you deliver from the first email to the last promotion to learn more about how Clavijo helps you own your growth visit Clavijo dot com slash F. S. C. That's K L A V I Y O dot com slash F. S C. Female star presence. Alyssa Hi welcome to the female startup club podcast. Hi, thanks for having me. I'm so excited to be here. How are you today? I am good. Where are you? I can see a lot of clothing racks behind you. Love it. Yes, we are in L.

A. In our studio. This, I'm actually in our sample room. So this is where we do um kind of fittings and tweak things and fit them and make them perfect before they head into production. That sounds like every fashion gals dream when I used to work in fashion, I would love to get to play in like the closets and dress and take things and shoot things and all the fun stuff. It is, it is fun. It sounds maybe a lot more glamorous than it actually is. I think common misconception in the fashion industry is that it is very glamorous and it's actually, I would say one of the least glamorous industries that exists, but it is fun and when you get it right after all of the blood, sweat tears, fittings, shrinkage is measurements, it is really fun, but it's a process, it's a process to get things to a great place that meets, especially we have very high quality standards and fit standards.

Those are two huge things for us. So it's a very big process getting there. But once you do, it feels really, really good. Yeah, I bet. And with so many different styles, Gosh, there's, there's a lot to manage that. I, I totally feel you Do you want to give everyone a bit of a spiel on who you are and what your brand actually is before we jump in. Sure. Yeah. My brand, we started in 2009. It has been a journey we started. I mean our business really was completely accidental. I was in college and my dad had passed away and I was the kind of person that like to channel my grief. I wanted to do something very physical. I've always known I would work in the fashion industry, I'm not sure if I knew exactly what route I was going to go, but I've always been creative. I've always liked the very physical aspect of the fashion industry and I think when my dad passed away, I was having a scarf phase just in my personal style.

I've always like really loved scarves. I feel like a lot of people gave scarves as gifts and I feel like it was a gift. Keep in mind, this was 2009 when scarves were like really, really having a moment like you'd wear them with tank tops and like there was no season in which you didn't wear a scarf, wow, I was in school in Arizona, it was very hot and I wore a scarf like almost every day. So it was that time to just like painted picture scarves are not like that anymore. But I made a scarf for myself a couple of friends and I attached these little like good luck charms on them and it was kind of like something tangible. I felt like when I wore it, my dad was with me and people wanted them. So I started making them, like I said, it was really just like a coping mechanism for me at the time and my dad's name was donald, everyone called him Donnie. So that's, you know where the name came from. It was really never intended to be anything more than me making scarves for girls at my college actually was never really intended to be anything more than me making a scarf for myself and a friend and you know, it just somehow caught on.

I'm still unsure to this day if it was just people that cared about me trying to get behind me and support me during a difficult time or if people really genuinely liked them or if it was a mixture of both, but that's kind of where it all started. And I think after like momentum kind of picked up and I kept making these scarves and I couldn't kind of keep up with how many people wanted them and I had stores reaching out to me because we were posting them on facebook, This instagram didn't even exist at this time, which is so get the landscape a lot different, so different. I mean I just aged myself significantly, but that's kind of where it all started and then reaching out to a manufacturer and making it a little bit more serious. But we were scarves and only scarves for the first seven years of our business, which now thinking that we built a profitable business on that single product category. That is a very, very small product category is a crazy thing now to think back on.

Um, but that's kind of where it all started in humble beginnings. Yeah. Um I'm sorry about your dad. Uh, thank you. So before I get started, I just wanted to say that that's, you know, such a unique story and obviously something amazing that came out of that tragic situation. I don't know how to say this in the right way, but without sounding like tacky what that reminds me of, of people, you know, coming behind you and this thing taking off that you didn't really expect. It's like what it comes down to is that aspect of story and people wanting like these authentic brands that they can get behind that they can feel something through and it sounds like what might have happened is is you are able to be relatable to people, people deal with trauma. People deal with loss and they need something that they can be like, oh, I've got this, you know, for me, like, she's experienced it, that's why she started it. I'm in that same boat, I need it to and the importance of having that message and authenticity behind what you're building.

I think that's what speaks to me when I hear that story. And certainly obviously since then it's kind of snowballed and grown into this amazing business that you have. I do want to talk about sort of that 2009 picture when it comes to marketing and two now. But before that in those early days, when was the point where you started to think, oh, I'm going to have to invest some money into this business and I'm going to take it seriously now because now things have kind of changed and it's not just me making scarves for my immediate circle. Yeah. Um, I would say that happened probably about like six months after I would have like these like scarf parties at my apartment at school and I think there was one and we had like a couple 100 scarves probably, I didn't really know what to expect and people were like grabbing them and we sold out in like 30 minutes and again keep in mind this was in Arizona. So it was weird is the best word that I can use and I think it was just a matter of like, okay, there's really something here and it was really in the beginning and like even still to this point, I mean we're self funded.

So like this has really been like recycling, recycling, recycling and it's like the money we made on that trunk show or scarf party or whatever we want to call it. We used those funds to like go out to a manufacturer and like do this in a bigger way and we did it small and we did exactly what their minimums were and then the profits we made on that, we just kind of just kept recycling it so you know, I can't speak to raising or any of that. It really has just been a very slow, I mean there's a reason that it's taken us so long to get to this point and there's pros and cons to that certainly things that you know, our great about it and things that like I'm sure we could have gotten to this point much quicker if we would have done things a little bit differently, but I really honor our journey and the things that I've learned along the way and that have really gotten us to this point and I think has built something that isn't trendy and isn't, you know, going to just pop and then kind of go on the decline.

I think the way that we've gone about things is building something that's hopefully going to last. But yeah, I think it's really just been a series of recycling funds and also being beyond frugal and I think for me that is the biggest thing, I think, you know, I talked to a lot of other business owners or people who want to start things and I feel like people are wasteful with their money and I think that even if you are doing a round of funding and you are raising that doesn't mean get the nicest biggest office and spend the most money on your furniture and when you're flying for work, fly first and stay in the coolest hotel that's not, I don't believe in that and that's how we've gotten to this point is being as scrappy as possible and really spending what are some examples of that like scrappiness especially in the beginning, like I'm always interested to hear like how people scrap to make it work kind of thing. Oh for sure. I mean I lived in new york for a very long time and malika who has worked with me for 10 years at this point and is really, you know my right hand, it was just you know the two of us for a long time and she was in L.

A. And I was in new york actually, she was in colorado and I was in new york and our production was in L. A. So we would meet in L. A. I also had a full time job in the beginning in new york. So like it was balancing that We would fly out to L. A. to meet for like production trips. Now, I would take in the beginning the oddest our flights with layovers to save $150. We would stay when I tell you in the most sketch Airbnb s you can imagine in downtown LA. It was like we almost went to sleep at night sometimes and we were like, hope I see you in the morning, like super shady. I remember one time specifically it was on the same block as a hospital in downtown L. A. And we were being followed and we had to go into the emergency room at the hospital and ask them. They had a security guard to like escort us and walk us down the block because like some guy was following us so glamorous life of a fashion entrepreneur.

I'm not telling people to do that, but like saving $50 with saving $50 and it was like I'm sure now looking back obviously there's no cost to your safety and like we maybe redid where we got Airbnb s in the future. But I think the point that I'm trying to get across is just like, Even if people are like, it's just $100, it's not just $100, it's like that really does go a long way and it adds up it really totally and also making a sale and making that $100 back sales is hard. Like that's the reality for all of us in any industry, like to make a dollar, like outside of a salary where you get paid every month like on rotation, it's hard, it's really hard. Uh Oh yeah, I totally, I totally get what you're saying When you think about, I mean we're obviously talking about a really long period of time, it's hard to drill that down into 30 minutes.

But if you were to think about the last 10, 12 years what do you think have been the key pivotal moments that have led to your growth and to get you to this point of where you are now? I think it's definitely like you have to be resilient and I think that that goes for any business, especially fashion, fashion is really hard. It's an oversaturated market. There's so many things that are similar, a lot of people just like want to have a fashion brand and because there is such fierce competition especially whether your direct to consumer or whether you're wholesaling, which we do both. I think there's just a lot of things that knock you down. A lot of things you try that don't work and it's so easy to be like, okay, that's it, this isn't working. When we showed to barney's actually, barney's maybe isn't a good example, barneys actually reached out to us in the beginning and that was like a huge moment. I would say that was like the first luxury department store that showed interest in us.

But it's like we have been showing to Saks and Neiman's and all these other people for years and I'm saying like we'll keep an eye on it, but you know, it's not right right now and I think it's the resilience and the persistence and the passion to know that like you should keep going instead of giving up because it is so easy to give up when like, especially when it's something that you're making and you take it so personally, that's something that has been like a journey for me as a person. I mean listen at the end of the day and this goes to, you know, influencers, brands, designers, it's like there are a lot of people that are putting things out there that's like your art to be really ripped apart through instagram through everything. And I think if you're staying true to yourself, it's way easier to power through all of that. Whereas if you're not, I think it really takes you down and I think that's taken me a long time to get to that point and designing what I feel is right versus what the trends say or what our showroom says or what, you know, at the end of the day, it's what I feel and that's what our customers feel.

It's not about the buyers, it's not about our show room, it's not about all of that other stuff, which I know I'm kind of digressing from your original question, but I think pivotal moments are, you know, a celebrity wearing our pieces getting into certain department stores and like those were the moments where it was like, okay, keep going, like you have something here don't give up and I think like characteristics are resilience and just like the confidence to stay true to like myself I think as far as like the actual product and design process and not letting a lot of the outside feedback get in which I've designed collections that are horrible and like I take accountability for that even though like they're like we need more colours, we need more prints like mrs years ago and I listened to them, I felt horrible about it. I looked at the collection and I was like I don't even like this, it didn't sell well and it was like those were the hard lessons that I had to learn to stay true to myself, my vision and you know in order to keep going but I would say like the big moments you know when you get those breaks and when it feels like okay there is something here that is working, don't give up, keep going.

What celebrities have sported your clothing. Um we really had a lot of amazing ones. I mean when Beyonce had blue the first time she took her out in public she wrapped her in one of our scarves which was like not really. Yeah that was a great great. Yeah that must have been like 2013, maybe 2012. And how did that happen though? Like was that just totally No no that was okay. Um You know we worked with like our people we have the pr team and they, like, sent it to her stylist, like, things like that. There were definitely some that happened more organically. I mean, like, Jessica Bill Helding, Jessica Alba happened, I mean, and this was very early on, this was like 2010, Um Halle berry more recently, like Kendall, we had Bella Hadid Ashley Graham, I mean, I'm missing a ton of them. We just, and like, that's some of them have been more organic, some of them have been through stylist, some of them have been through instagram DM s I mean, it's a combination of of all the things, but I think, I think those are things that kind of gave us street cred to be honest.

It's like, I think especially now, I don't think that like a celebrity wearing your pieces actually moves the needle like immediately, Especially at this point, I think it really is just something that like, you share with your community and it just gives them some sort of validation in knowing that like, you're a brand that these people wear, but it doesn't have the same immediate return that it did back in 2010, 2012, when us weekly would show Jessica Alba wearing one of our scarves and we'd sell 100 scars on our website that day. It's not like that anymore, obviously because the digital landscape has changed so much with instagram and influencers and, you know, all of that stuff, but that was definitely like a big way that we, you know kicked off and you know, to your earlier point just about people connecting to a story, most people that follow us on instagram right now and that by our brand, I don't even think they know anything about our story, it was like that was something that was in the beginning that people like I can't even tell you the emails, I have some of the emails saved so that we got in the beginning, they were just so emotional and people connecting to the story and comfort, I would say like comfort in all of its forms is the thing that has been our constant since the beginning and I think it's a physical comfort, a mental comfort and emotional comfort and you know we would get emails of people like my mom is going through chemo right now and when she's in chemo she wraps your scarf around herself every day as a blanket and there's something about it that makes her feel safe and those are the things that for me, even still today, even though it doesn't look like that anymore.

I think we just want people to feel comfortable and I think you that doesn't mean only loungewear and sweats, it means making things that someone puts on and makes them feel comfortable with who they are and gives them a confidence about them that they can go into a meeting or get on a phone call or go on a date or walk into the grocery store the farmers market and just like feel good about themselves and who they are and you know, you notice the difference when you wake up in the morning and you put effort into not necessarily effort, but like you feel good in whatever it was that you did that day, whether it's do your hair or do your eyebrows or put on that one outfit, you come at your day differently, you talk to people differently, you know, it's just different, it's a different thing and you know that comfort is really our mission. It's to provide comfort to people in whatever way that we can and I think that's been like the constant really the whole time since the beginning, even though so much has changed from those early days.

For sure, I love that and I love that you've got this kind of clear mission and clear like that's your unique thing, that's what you're doing. You stick by it even if you've veered slightly from time to time on things that you know collections that you weren't happy with, but you've had that consistency throughout the journey. If you haven't already implemented a Crm system into your business now is the time Crm or customer relationship management is at the heart of scaling your side hustle into your success story. Crm systems, take any customer interaction and transform that interaction into valuable data and insights allowing you to strengthen the relationships with your customers and grow your business with tools for marketing, sales, customer service, content management and operations. The hubspot Crm platform is fully customizable for whatever your business needs. Use hubspot to meet customer demand, align your teams and work smarter without slowing down With total control and over 650 integrations, hubspot is totally customizable and purpose built for businesses big and small.

So whether you're just getting started or you're looking for all the bells and whistles, hubspot is the number one Crm platform for scaling businesses, learn more about how you can customize your Crm platform with hubspot at hubspot dot com. You said something a moment ago about early in those days when you were going out and you're pitching to luxury boutiques like sacks and whoever and they were saying no and like turning you away, but what was it about the brand and your persistence that you think turn the corner and like you've obviously persisted. So that's one thing you've been like, okay, I know isn't a no forever like I can go back next season and show again that kind of thing. But is there anything else that play? And I'm asking because I know we have a lot of entrepreneurs in the fashion space who listen to this, who would be looking at you being like, okay yes, like this keeps me motivated, this re energizes me like I need to hear this today. So what do you think it was about or what do you think it is about retailers that kind of like help switch it from a no to a yes, I think it's just evolving and like also I think just maybe visibility, barney's obviously is not the best example anymore, but it's really like our example because I think they wanted things that no one had, they were the emerging designer department store, that's what they were.

You know, if sacks had you, they wanted absolutely no interest in you and they wanted things that are different and it's like once you get into one of those, I feel a trickle effect because once we were in Barney's, it was Bloomingdale's, it was Sex, it was Nordstrom, it was all of them coming to us. And then it's a matter of who is your customer and you really, I think the biggest mistake people make and I've made this mistake is just looking at an order and like what that number is instead of looking at the store and who your customer really is because sure I'm not gonna use store names because like they all appeal and work for another brand. But one store can send you the biggest order you've ever gotten and you can take that order make the product and it's really not that stores demographic and they're going to send it back to you and you're going to be really screwed as a small business.

So I think it's really knowing who your customer is and making sure that the stores and the part of your retail partners align with that and to not get distracted by the numbers and the amount of an order. I mean, even now when we have new stores reach out to us that like try and dangle these gigantic orders, I'm like, well cut that order into a quarter, let's test it for a season. I would rather something sell out and we can make more or we revisit in a larger way the following season, then accept these gigantic orders and then they get stuck with it and then we get stuck with it. Or even if we don't, it's like that doesn't feel good to me, I don't want to, you know, work with a store and they're stuck with units and I'm not going to take them back and they're stuck with them and then we'll never work together again. I mean, it's all this give and take with these partnerships, But I think, I mean, listen, like I think our brand has really evolved as I have evolved over the past 12 years.

You know, I was in college and I dressed a certain way and then I moved to New York and I worked in luxury, you know fashion in a corporate environment for 3.5 years and I dressed a certain way and then I was out of that and I was all in on this and I was traveling and taking meetings and doing pr and had an office in new york and was like this small fashion brand and it's like I have evolved and I think once you get to the point, I'm not gonna put an age on it, once you get like a little later in your twenties and early thirties, I think you really learn and know who you are. And I think that's kind of the point when I learned who are brand is, I'm like to listen to kind of what I was saying about staying true to myself and my vision and what I see for our product and you know, I think it was like when I was just out of college are designs were young and they were, you know, our branding was young and it appeared young and it's like, I know now looking back why it wasn't for sacks because it almost looked junior and it was reflective of where I was at that stage in my life.

And I think as I evolved and as our brand evolved and as our branding was solidified and our mission was solidified. That's when people started coming and coming back, I would say. And like the fact that these people took these meetings initially when we were, you know, got our logo, I don't even want to like even think about what our logo looked like. I knew me that they like took meetings with us but it's a process. It's an evolution and I think you have to be open to to that evolution and to know that like where you're starting is not where you should end up because it's a journey, it is a juror need to get there and like to know what your logo is that represents your brand properly. We've had four logos over the past 12 years and it sounds silly. A logo is paramount totally. We have our we just changed our labels. This is actually an interesting example. Our labels and everyone on our team had a moment where like we were all freaking out because the new material we used for our labels looked like, I don't even have words for it.

It looked like it could have been any other brand that sells things for like, like a luxury brand. And it's like taking it from this like cotton silk to this twill, whatever material it changed everything. And I think it's those details that go such a long way that people you know disregard. And those changes over time that when we found our foundation and our footing that allowed those stores to kind of revisit us in a more real way mm Very long answer to your question. I love it though. Thank you so interesting. I want to switch to talk more about your marketing in today's world. Obviously you've gone through this journey. 2000 and nine different landscape to today. There are platforms like Tiktok, there's instagram this, I don't know however many other channels that probably weren't in existence back then For you now. What's working and where is really important for you to allocate budget towards in 2021.

I think content is the truth I think, and like knowing that that evolves and knowing that what people are gravitating towards on instagram as far as content is not a constant and that it changes a lot. But at the end of the day, making sure your product is portrayed in a way that is true to your brand and also true to or also appeals to your demographic is what moves and sells your product. So I think that's anything from, you know, our photo shoots to, you know, working with the right content creators and that like our community of content creators and like just advocates almost are in line and creating the right content for our brand. I think that's really it to be honest. I think, you know, your instagram feed is a three second, like someone touches your profile.

It's like they have three seconds to make a judgment if this appeals to them or it doesn't and you want that those three seconds to represent your brand fully and the best the best it can. And you know, I think that making sure that content represents you properly is everything. It's how you acquire new customers. It's how you retain existing customers. It's all of that. Yeah, I totally agree. I think actually people look over the fact that your instagram is essentially a website. People come there, they're going there before your website most probably, and then they're committing to whether they want to continue that journey or like exit the shop immediately, but that's your, that's your website or that's your store and you need to make sure that people land there and they know really clearly what you do, what you sell if it's for them and if they want to stick around. Um, so definitely a piece of real estate, not to kind of look over in indefinitely in this landscape.

Um, I saw you did a collab recently with Soul Cycle and I wanted to ask you about that, you know, hey, how it came about, be, what the impact of something like that is for you. Is it kind of in the same space as, you know, working with a celebrity where you don't see a direct ri or is it something where you're like, yeah, we drive sales through that partnership and it's great for us. So there's different ways to collaborate. Soul Cycle is a retail partner. So they buy our regular collection and within our regular collection, we create exclusives for them. So they are essentially existing styles that we create and customize in a color palette that is either matches their logo or appeals to their customer and it's an exclusive that only they have. So Soul Cycle is an example of that because they are a retail partner.

It really is just an exclusive. It's not, you know, an entire collection that we created together. There are other brands that we have done more comprehensive collaborations with. And I think there are some that you see immediate are Oh, I yes in sales, but you also see you have acquired a lot of new customers from it. There are others that I think there are benefits, but you can't measure it. I think it's like a slow roll over time. Maybe you sell like the collection over six months and you see followers coming in over six months after like a couple of posts from either brand. So I've started to like not love the word collaboration because it is just so used now in every facet of this industry. You know, I think it's exclusive. It's designing a collection together, that is equal parts both brands, companies, humans, you know, really coming together. 50 50.

And then there are, you know, partnerships with other like minded brands, whether it's giveaways or sweepstakes or you know, just gift ing's I think, I mean we do a lot of gift ing's we do a lot of gift ing's with, you know, influencers. Taste makers editors and just longtime supporters of our brand, what's a lot like how many, like what's a lot of gifting per month? Say it depends, it's more by season. So we have, you know, our girls that have like, really supported us from day one and we gift them every single season and they can pick from whatever they want. And those are like, girls, those are our homies are rogues, like they've really been there for us. And then I would say that's maybe about like 40-50 women that we're gifting each collection. And then on top of that, there might be a tighter list of girls that like, we want to start working with and like, start that relationship with that we, you know, offer a more narrow selection of pieces that like, are ones that like, we really feel are are standouts of the season that like we want to share and help.

I mean, it's it's all like I mentioned like this cycle, it's like this give and take that. Like, the relationship works if all parties are like, you know, in it for real and like, that's what that real list of those 50 women is, is that like, it's such a win win for all parties involved. And I think that's really what you're looking for when you're doing any sort of seating, but, you know, as far as like partnerships is like a great example is we just partnered with this company based in California called peaches and there are a seasonal business, they have a peach farm orchard, I'm not sure what the proper term is, but they, They grow the most incredible peaches and they sell them in these boxes that protects them from getting bruised or they're just like unbelievable. And we did a gifting partnership with them. So basically what we did was we selected 20 women locally that was a win win.

You know, for both of us, it was great brand exposure for peaches to like get to these influencers that like we work with directly and we did a gifting where we sent a set that like was the same color palette essentially as these peaches and wake up in the morning and you go out your door and you have like these package and it was great for both of us. It was like these women were like, oh my God, I love that Donnie isn't just sending me Donny and you know, introducing how to pay two and delicious. I mean in the peaches are just like to die for, they are so good. But I think that's another example of, you know, it's, we're also supporting this other business and I think for me, our instagram is very small for the business that it generates and you know, it's small but mighty is what we really call it, but like we have a platform that is very engaged and we have a customer, our return customer rate is extremely high for industry standards and I think they trust us, they want to listen to us.

And it's like we have a platform that like we can use to promote other businesses, other women, other causes and we do and I think that's a huge thing for us also, and you know, I think as long as everything, whatever partnership, it has to be a win, win, it's a two way street, and I think that's something that's often missed in this industry. I think it's a lot of take, take take, um and a lot of expectations that are unfair. And I think if you are going into things knowing that like it has to benefit everyone truly. That's when just like long term success is really achieved? That's where the magic happens. Magic. Exactly. What do you think is the most important piece of advice that you could give to anyone who is either already in the fashion industry or an earlier on in the journey than you or wanting to start a fashion brand in 2021. I honestly would just say, don't create something to just create it and don't start it to just start it, have a perspective, have a point of view, have something that's different, do it differently.

I mean, if you want to start a basic t shirt line, there are a million different basic t shirt line, so what are you doing differently? What makes it different? My philosophy truly is, we're not going to make something if I feel like someone out there does it better than us because there's absolutely no point, There is so much good stuff out there, truly, so much good stuff. So as far as like, like a great example is like expanding into different product categories, swim is something that a lot of people have asked us to do and I don't want to do it because swim there is so much amazing swim out there that I don't feel like jumping into that market because like I have swimwear that I love and like I'm going to just keep that for them, you know, and I think that's a great place to do a collaboration with an existing swimwear brand, but I think it's just the problem these days is a lot of people just want to start a business and I think you have to let the idea come, you want the idea to come before the business plan, you want to identify why your unique, Thank you.

What's your point of difference? Why should people buy you over joe blow next door? Right? Exactly, Brutally, agreed. There's a lot of stuff in the world these days. Um, at the end of every episode, we ask a series of six quick questions to kind of wrap it all up, some of which we might have covered, some of which we might not have. But question number one is, what's your why? Why are you doing what you're doing? I think that's twofold. I think the first is like I said earlier, to just like provide comfort to our customers in the community in whatever way we can. And I think also to provide opportunity, I think, you know, our business touches a lot of people as far as like in L. A. We produce everything locally. We support a lot of factories, dye houses, cutting houses, um just a lot of businesses and you know who we employ within our immediate team.

I think that really drives me that responsibility of the opportunity that we are able to provide um is a huge y for me, I love that Question. Number two is what do you think has been the number one marketing moment that made the business pop? I think I would have to probably go back to the celebrities because I think that's what gave us credibility very early on and without that, I don't know if we would have gotten so much momentum early on and I think that that really drove things until this point and obviously that piece looks different now, but you know, in the first couple of years having some major celebrities where our pieces was, I think paramount in our foundation and then thus building, you know, a successful business from there. So, cool question #3 is where do you hang out to get smarter? What do you listen to or read or subscribe to that other founders would benefit from knowing about?

Um, well I am a very big like take my dog for a five mile walk and listen to a podcast. Um, my favorites are probably, I forget what it's what her podcast is called. It's P A barren Cini. She has a podcast and she interviews all sorts of different people in the health and well in the space in the business space. I love her. I love burn a browns podcast. I think less direct business advice but more just like how to be a good leader and how to be okay with being vulnerable, which I think being vulnerable is like you have to do that in order to be successful in business. So I would say those two are probably my favorite go to Thank you. I'm gonna like them in the show notes. For anyone who wants to check them out. Question number four is, how do you win the day? What are your AM or PM rituals and habits that keep you feeling happy and successful and motivated? I think it's just like making sure I carve out time for like any of that. I think on the days when I'm more flustered and don't have as much time to fit in things big or small for myself for the days that I don't feel like I'm winning.

So I think it's anything from, you know, waking up 30 minutes earlier to make sure like I can take my walk from two miles to five miles and like that small of a thing to, you know, at night doing the, I never know how you pronounce it, the gua sha thing on my face and it's like those are the things that when I do them for myself. I think I do a better job at everything else in the middle of the day I'm with, your self care is really important. It really is. Question number five is if you were given $1000 of no strings attached grant money, where would you spend that in the business? Content? I mean I spoke about content. It's just super important and I think that is where you um those are the assets, that's all your product the best better than anything else. So I would say content for sure. Yeah. And particularly important in the fashion industry, I would say, you know, you need to see it for me to see it in motion. You see it totally? Question number six, last question, How do you deal with failure?

No, it's taken me a long time. Like I said, I I spent a lot of years taking things really personally. I think now failure is opportunity and I think it's dissecting why it was a failure and and make immediate steps to change. So I think it's whether that's like a specific product, a color, an initiative. It's dissecting it, dissecting your failures and making real active changes to turn it into, you know, change and opportunity. Amazing. Yeah, this was so cool. Alyssa was so much. Thank you. Thank you. It was so lovely talking to you, wow, what a cool story. And actually, you know what? I have one final question is that what's your vision now with the brand or what's your goal? Obviously you've bootstrapped it so you don't have that. Like, hey, I'm definitely going to sell this one day. You don't have, you've got like the world is your oyster essentially.

Where do you see yourself going with this? It's been a long already, I don't know. Yeah, I get that question so much. And I think I always thought that I had to have an answer to it and I think I realized with everything and with all the evolution and changes, whether it's from scarves to close or um really anything, I think it's just to not necessarily have an answer to that question. And I think as we evolve, things change and being open to that and welcoming the things that come our way. And I think as long as our two constants are providing comfort and the things that we make and providing opportunity, as long as we continue to do both of those things. I think this could take on many different iterations or many different paths, but just kind of being open to whatever that might look like, well, very exciting. I'm excited to continue watching you jenny.

Thank you so much for being on the show today. Thank you so much. This was so fun. Yeah, hey, it's done here. Thanks for listening to this episode of the Female Startup Club podcast. If you're a fan of the show, I'd recommend checking out female startup club dot com where you can subscribe to our newsletter and learn more about our D I. Y. Course the ads. M. B. A. I also truly appreciate each and every review that comes our way. It might seem like such a small thing, but reviews help others find us. So please do jump on and subscribe, rate and review the show. And finally, if you know someone who would benefit from hearing these inspiring stories, please do share it with them and empower the women in your network. See you soon. Mm. Mhm. Yeah. Mhm.

How to differentiate your fashion brand in a saturated market & why you shouldn’t make what already exists, with DONNI founder Alyssa Wasko
How to differentiate your fashion brand in a saturated market & why you shouldn’t make what already exists, with DONNI founder Alyssa Wasko
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