What does it take to go from business idea to lady boss?
This new column features an entrepreneur, who happens to be a mom, each week—walking us through the process of how you too can take your ideas from dream to reality. If you missed our last article featuring Paige from Little Bean + Co. on the value on branding, you can read that here. This week, we're discussing the fifth step many modern entrepreneurs need to make on the journey to success: having a social media and online presence. At only 23-years-old, Jenny Wecker has more success than people twice her age. She's done it all at breakneck speed with her daughter on her hip and now, just over two years after Fawn Design began, a second baby on the way. After high school Jenny attended college for a short time, but like so many born entrepreneurs, (hello Mark Zuckerberg!) she found that it bored her, and was actually holding her back from pursuing her goals. In early 2014, Jenny was talking with a friend who was expecting a baby about the complete and utter lack of stylish, functional diaper bags.An accomplished seamstress herself, Jenny had been sewing since she was five years old. In fact, she made each Fawn Design bag by hand during their first year of business.Our bags are also faux leather inner and outer – not fabric-lined like so many diaper bags. It's super easy to clean but it also looks incredible. You can even pull out the entire inner part, shake out any crumbs, and put it back in. It's so easy. The majority of our customers are moms buying them as diaper bags, but we also have a lot of people buying them because it's such a good solid bag: a fashionable backpack. The fact that someone who doesn't even have kids is using it tells me that we're on the right track.When I started I wasn't a mom, but now I actually use the product with my child. I can think about like things I want to change or the color I want to see. I can picture things for future photoshoots like how would I combine colors, how I would style that color and how the whole thing would come together. Traveling has also inspired me in a major way, and you can definitely see that reflected in our social media. The best part of owning your own business is that we have that freedom. We live in a nice enough house, we have a nice enough car but we could live in much bigger house, have nicer cars, have nicer things, have nicer clothes. Instead we've always been like, “I would rather go to Europe!" I'm glad that my husband and I both feel that way because when we come back and we just feel recharged and creative! We went to Italy and I remember all those colors and now our Fall colors will reflect that. And, how cool would it be to shoot those new colors in Italy and tell that story?Just do something. That's what I did. I just started and thought, “I'm going to give it 100% or not do it at all." I'm seven months pregnant right now. My daughter Georgia will be 15 months when this baby girl is born. It was unexpected but we actually are really happy. Honestly I know its going be really hard the first few years but I definitely think its one of those things that's a total kind of blessing. When I think about the future and where this business is going to go, Georgia's going need a friend and that friend's gonna need her, too. We'll never be too busy for our kids but I think we're going to have a very different life. And I think this all happened for a reason.My family comes first and yesterday was a great example.This week has been so crazy. But on Wednesday it was my sister's (the nanny's) birthday so I decided to give her the afternoon off. My husband and I tossed around the idea of bringing Georgia into work but then we were both like, “You know what, let's take half the day off and get outside with Georgia!" There's always a ton of work stuff we could be doing but Georgia needs our time too. That's a perfect example of how we do things. When we're working we're working really hard so that when we're done for the day, we're done. We don't bring it up at home and we just focus on her. Beyond being a mother, being spouse and having a business with my husband… people ask us all the time how we manage to do that? And it's super hard. I'm not gonna lie, super hard. But having those boundaries where work is work and play is play helps. We're not perfect but we try hard.
This new column features an entrepreneur, who happens to be a mom, each week—walking us through the process of how you too can take your ideas from dream to reality. If you missed our last article featuring Paige from Little Bean + Co. on the value on branding, you can read that here. This week, we're discussing the fifth step many modern entrepreneurs need to make on the journey to success: having a social media and online presence. At only 23-years-old, Jenny Wecker has more success than people twice her age. She's done it all at breakneck speed with her daughter on her hip and now, just over two years after Fawn Design began, a second baby on the way. After high school Jenny attended college for a short time, but like so many born entrepreneurs, (hello Mark Zuckerberg!) she found that it bored her, and was actually holding her back from pursuing her goals. In early 2014, Jenny was talking with a friend who was expecting a baby about the complete and utter lack of stylish, functional diaper bags.
That was Jenny's “ah-ha!" moment.
Now, her KickStarter campaign has been featured in the New York Times, her company sponsors the app “Collabor8" and was featured alongside it in Forbes, and the sales to date this year since January are over half a million dollars. It's the real American dream, and this unique entrepreneur is taking it all in stride. I was lucky enough to talk about the wild ride these last two years have been, what running a business with your husband (and daughter) is like, and how social media has been integral to building her brand and her reputation. This lady boss knows her stuff. Her unique way of looking at problems and coming up with creative solutions is what makes her company, Fawn Design, so powerful. Indeed, her designs are not only outside the box, they are redefining the box into something softer—almost like the half-circle shape of her brand's signature bag.
How did you first forray into social media with Fawn Design?I stated making the bags by hand to start and posting them on Instagram. The response was really crazy from the start. Very quickly I got to the point where I would take an order for one and people would ask, “When can I get one, when can I get one?" and I had to say, “I have no idea!" at that point. I was sewing as fast as I could. And then I actually became pregnant with my daugther Georgia during that crazy time and was extremely sick. I had a really tough pregnancy, so it was making it an even a harder struggle to keep sewing the bags myself. My husband had said from day 1 that if I wanted to turn this into a business and make real money that I had to get them manufactured. He knew I would never be able to keep up.
I got to the point where I literally wanted to scream if I looked at my sewing machine before I gave in and listened to him.
At that point, how did you figure out what your next steps were?Money obviously was the biggest thing, and finding a manufacturer. We wanted to use a US manufacturer but it was not going to be an option for us. There wasn't a single manufacturer who was willing to try. They said the bag was too complicated, and that overseas, handbags are really big. So we got quotes from overseas manufacturers, and while they were more reasonable than the US ones, we hadn't made very much money from sales at that point. We didn't have much savings and we were living in my parent's basement. So we decided to do a Kickstarter campaign to help raise the funds to place our first manufacturing order. We ran it as a presale with the hopes of raising $25,000 from December 1st to December 15th. We ended up raising $42,000 which was pretty unexpected. It definitely gave us the validation that people did actually want the bag – it wasn't just my mom and friends.
Are all your sales online or do you wholesale?We don't do wholesale right now, we just haven't really needed to. Our sales direct to consumer have been so good that we don't have the inventory to open up to wholesale. We have a ton of interest in it and we just have to kinda keep turning them away for now. I don't know, its kinda one of those things we don't know if we'll ever do.
What makes your bags unique?When I was designing the bag I had a vague idea of what I wanted. I wanted it to look different, and be unique: to not look like a diaper bag but to have all the function of one. The first things I decided on was the shape—the half circle shape which is our bag's trademark. There's nothing else out there that looks like that. But you'd be surprised how much math is involved in making a half-circle bag. It took us a really long time to get the calculations correct and then pleasing to the eye. But when we got it right it fit like a glove.
We're really proud of that. The shape, the design, everything, we did that all on our own.
Did you have any experiencewith social media before you started Fawn Design? No – other than personal use of Facebook and Instagram. But I quickly realized the power of social media. I would post a picture of me with the bag on my personal Instagram and people would say, “Oh my gosh, I want one!" These were people I didn't really know that well, like people from high school or in my neighborhood. That's when I knew social media would be a powerful tool for growing our business. When we did our Kickstarter campaign, we reached out to a large number of bloggers, sent them a bag, and asked them to post two pictures each day and link our Kickstarter. Collaborating isn't new, but using it to fund a Kickstarter—I don't think a lot of people had thought of that before. But you know, Instagram still is like our most active platform. And I plan all the posts still, even though I have an employee do the actual scheduling and posting. I love the creative process of going through customer's photos and curating them on our feed. Recently we started doing more Facebook, working with an agency who do a lot with social media to drive sales. We also do quite a bit on Pinterest. We pin our items, of course, but we also pin a lot of other things applicable to our target audience. Turns out, Pinterest is usually a top referring site which was surprising to us.
How were you able to grow your social media audience?Right now we have 53,000 followers on Instagram and that's been growing for two years. It was really slow to start, but once we had our Kickstarter and started collaborating with influencers, then our Instagram really stated to take off. We were using it to keep everyone who preordered updated on the status of their bags. And since the beginning we've been really big on collaborating. We send out a lot of free bags each month to different bloggers or influencers. We ask them to post about it and it helps! Giveaways have been good. But once you hit a certain amount of followers then those giveways stop contributing to the bottom line: into sales. We've never done a loop giveaway though. I always recommend people don't do those. They're not good for your social media. At the end of the day you want followers who are there for your product and not just there for free stuff.
Would you say that Instagram has been really integral to building yourbrand? I definitely think up until this point it has, but Instagram is changing and that's been really hard on some people. We are switching our focus a bit to other social platforms like Facebook and Pinterest and into actually working with bloggers to have them post on their blogs and on Youtube. So it has been important for us, but I don't think it's as effective as it was, say, two years ago. But it also doesn't wear on me like it used to. It's smoother now.
You mentioned Youtube. What are your plans for that and other videoplatforms like Snapchat and Periscope? I have a Snapchat account but up till now it's been more of a personal account. A lot of customers follow me and I guess I just like to show what I do on the daily, to show what our life looks like. People probably think our life is a lot more glamorous than what it actually is. Then this past few months I've been doing a weekly Periscope talking about different business topics. It's really fulfilling for me to put all the advice I'm asked about on a daily basis into a central location.
Creatively, what inspiresyour design and how is that brought into your social media? I go through phases when I'm super inspired and super pumped, but I'm just like anyone and there are other times when it's like, “Ah! I don't even want to think about that kind of stuff!" But I've always felt like I looked at things in a different way.
Becoming a mom has really inspired everything we're doing going forward.
How important would you say confidence is in building a brand andstarting your own business? Confidence is one of those things that is so important in so many aspects of your life and the older you get the more you realize just important it is. When you're not confident you see how hard things are. I come a divorced family and there was a lot of being pulled here or there. I had to grow up at a young age and decide the kind of person I was going to be so I could make my own choices create the own life that I wanted to have.
People ask me what's biggest piece of advice for starting a business? I always say, just start.
How does being a mother impact the way that you run your business?
I tell everyone my three priorities are my family, my faith, and my time, and it goes in that order.
Is there any one piece of advice you'd give to aspiring entrepreneurs?I have two. One, don't underestimate the power of sitting down and making a list of all the things you should be doing. Unfortunately the stress never goes away once you've completed a task because there's always 100 other things you need to be doing, but it helps to feel like you're accomplishing something. And two, don't let money get in the way. I don't recommend getting in debt but I know a lot of people get discouraged by the financial side of business. Sometimes you just have to get creative.