5 Business Tips from Fashion Start-up CEOs & Investors


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This past Tuesday, the San Francisco fashion and tech communities welcomed Liza Kindred and her stellar team at Third Wave Fashion for a special meetup of top “fashion tech pros” at The Founders Tell All: Fashion Tech Front and Center. The all-star lineup of panelists arrived ready to share their thoughts on all things fashion-tech: customer acquisition, public relations, branding, social media, mobile, funding, and more. The Tribe Dynamics team was lucky enough to attend and rub elbows with some of the industries finest. I’ve summarized key points from each speaker to inspire your brain intro action this Monday morning.

Beauty? Be Our Guest…

Meet Lindsey Guest, Founder & CEO of Beauty Army which offers a beauty subscription plan that sends customers a monthly shipment of six beauty samples based on an online beauty profile and product recommendations. Now before you all start opening new browsers to immediately sign up, finish reading about Lindsey’s story for her helpful advice!  Lindsey, having previously fallen in love with brand building through her previous work in marketing at PepsiCo. had a couple of key pointers when it comes to customer acquisition, something that we have stressed with our PR Toolbox. Aside from helpful tools like Facebook Share, which allows Beauty Arm to share samples of new products with customers and fans, Lindsey stressed that the success of Beauty Arm has come through a continued and dedicated engagement with a community of followers via social media.

Relying on Facebook for attracting new customers, Twitter for customer service and retention, and Youtube and Haul videos for sharing product information and helpful how-to’s, Beauty Arm has created a consistent and friendly voice within the beauty industry.

Lindsey’s social media takeaway: Regardless of the platforms you choose, engagement is the “beauty-queen” when it comes to brand building. It adds a personal dimension to your brand that keeps customers excited and loyally coming back for more.

Ready to enlist? You can follow Lindsey on Twitter: @lindseyguest or read more about her background.

Carpe Diem Your Cardimono!

Founder and CEO of Bow and Drape, Aubrie Pagano spoke directly to public relations within the fashion-tech space. (listen-up!) The start up, which its Founder lovingly refers to as “The Build-A-Bear for women’s fashion,” launched this past September and allows customers to custom-design classic silhouettes like silk tops, skirts, dresses, as well as accessory items like scarves and tote bags. Aside from falling in love with the hand-painted “cardimono” (which Aubrie flaunted beautifully!), we were also eating up Aubrie’s commitment to “storytelling” through PR. According to Aubrie, PR can often be “erratic”; the question any Fashion PR girl can ask is “what are the unique ways that we can build relationships?” This means ensuring that your brand’s story is both relevant and timely, as well as creating one as unique and on-of-a-kind as the Bow & Drape cardimono.

Aubrie’s PR pointer: “Pitch your [brand] as part of a cluster of other like-minded companies. For Aubrie and Bow and Drape, this means telling a story about a start up that offers “dequantized fashion”: unique, high-quality items, manufactured in the U.S and a refreshing breath of [freshly-pressed] air amongst increasingly homogenized alternatives.

Reading the next chapter of Bow and Drape’s story by  following Aubrie on Twitter @AubriePagano or turn the page here.

Beta Storytelling with this Brand

And then there was BetaBrand, whose funky, hipster-chic clothes and swagger were more than well captured by Co-founder and CTO Colin Stuart’s enthusiasm and passion for his brand. For those of you unfamiliar with the brand, the next time you find yourself with a moment and in need of a good laugh, check out BetaBrand online. With a great lineup of products (some of our favorites being the reversible smoking jacket, disco pants, and wet coast workwear) BetaBrand is all about creating experiences for their customers. When asked to comment on the brand’s social media and marketing strategies, Colin compared running the company to updating a blog. With new ideas for products developed daily both in-house and externally, it’s impossible for BetaBrand to maintain a traditional marketing budget. Instead, their marketing tactics (which includes a siren going off once a week as a public service reminder to all San Franciscans to make sure they are wearing pants) are content-driven like their products.

The goal (aside from saving San Francisco from unwanted pantsless-ness)? Sell customers a story about a brand that makes clothing that speaks to their community, in this case one that interacts primarily online.  Whether its submission ideas for new products or using customers who have sent in photos of themselves with a product as the models for the site, everything about BetaBrand screams user-generated content.

How do you incentivize people to buy into your brand and spread the word? For Colin, it’s as simple as involving them from the initial steps of production. People “love what they create and contributing,” once they feel that sense of ownership, they’ll be committed customers for life.

Want to learn more, or file a missing sock claim with the sock insurance that comes with every pair from BetaBrand? Follow Colin on Twitter:  @bluescrubbie and discover more.

Principles of Investing

Last to speak, was Steph Palmeri, Principal at SoftTech VC, whose investment brag sheet includes some names you might recognize: Fab.com, Eventrbrite, True & Co., and Twitter! With Steph’s work keeping her on the lookout for the next big thing, in touch with early age consumer internet companies, and up to date on next-generation commerce, mobile, and SaaS, it’s no wonder Liza and her folks at TWF thought she’d provide some helpful insights for San Francisco’s hungry start ups and entrepreneurs.

What’s on Steph’s checklist when she’s meeting with a potential investee? There are two things the company must have: 1. really strong metrics (show me the money); 2. a differentiated story. Speaking to the second, Steph stressed the importance of standing out amongst your competitors: the others “just selling stuff”. Think of your PR pitch as your agency’s college essay or personal statement. It should be intimate and share something unique and interesting about your company. Investors and customers will feel that much more inclined to buy into your brand (literally and figuratively) if they feel that they are gaining membership to something special or being welcomed to a quasi-family.

Steph’s pitching pet peeves: Don’t leave your audience ten minutes in still guessing what it is you do. Have a sentence or two ready, that clearly and concisely tells them your story. Also, do NOT bring your advisor along to a meeting! Investors like Steph want to hear from you and get a sense for the brand or company from the people who know it best and are passionate about its future.

Clueless on cashing in on your brand’s cha-ching? Follow Steph on Twitter:  @Stephpalmeri.

Throw Some Sugar On Us…

Although he was first to speak, we have saved Brian Sugar, CEO and Publisher of the renowned Sugar Inc. for last because we believe his message adds a nice closing perspective to what was a very informative panel. Brian and his wife and business partner Lisa Sugar, founded Sugar Inc. in 2006 and have since grown the company to a multi-million dollar empire. You may not expect a man who owns a multi-million dollar empire (that has acquired a remarkable number of startups since its launch in 2006, including Circle of Moms,ShopStyle, FreshGuide, Shopflick, and Starbrand Media), to be dressed in casual white jeans and rocking fluorescent Nike’s, yet Brian’s laid back style definitely speaks to both Lisa and his attitude toward creating a fluidity between work and play that makes working the long hours of a CEO enjoyable.

While Brian is clearly to be admired for what he has accomplished with Sugar, Inc., what we were most impressed by was his healthy outlook on finding balance between his work life and time at home with the family. It came as no surprise to us that Brian had to dash out after his discussion, to attend a family party.

Brian’s entrepreneurial wisdom:  A healthy balance of work and play goes a long way towards your ability to take the bad with the good, stay driven and focused in your career, and dedicated and present at home with friends and family.

You can follow Brain at Twitter:@BrianSugar, and read more of his founding story on TWF’s blog.

To sum up, we’d like to give a big cross-country high five to Liza and the whole TWF crew for throwing a great panel and a big thank you as well to each panelist. The Tribe team had a lot of fun, learned loads, and met some truly inspired and talented folks! (We liked them so much we actually spent an additional three hours after the event chatting about e-commerce and content marketing over some leftover wine. Our apologies to the Orrick’s custodial staff.)

The best way to build relationships with high-profile fashion visionaries? Network, Network, Network! The best introductions come through founders, so search through your LinkedIn contacts and see who can get you a warm introduction at the firm of interest. Still stuck? Refer back to our post on networking apps and tools.

For more information about how Tribe Dynamics can help PR professionals manage and monitor media outreach, visit this exclusive offer for PR Couture readers.

Photo Credit: girlgeekdinnersbologna

Christina Goswiller

Christina Goswiller

LA native Christina Goswiller traded palm trees for the Stanford tree, where she studied political science and graduated with honors in 2012. Since her move to San Francisco, she has fallen in love with the entrepreneurial spirit of the startup world. Christina is particularly interested in the growing importance of technology within the fashion industry, which she follow through her work with Tribe Dynamics.