Women running their own companies? We love to see it. In our monthly series Small Business Spotlight, we chat with independent fashion entrepreneurs about their journey to be-your-own-boss status. Here, tips for raising funds, developing a marketing strategy, navigating social media, and more—straight from women who have done it themselves.
After 15 years as a personal stylist in Chicago, New York, and San Francisco, Bryn Taylor still felt she had few brands to turn to for staple wardrobe items. Her need for essential pieces that fit perfectly became the catalyst for her own brand, Ouisa, an ongoing six-piece capsule collection that combines minimalism with the ease of French-inspired uniform dressing. Intended to be mixed and matched, evergreen designs like crisp white button-downs, perfectly tailored black blazers, and pleated ankle-grazing trousers are some of the key players in Ouisa's bi-annual drops.
Without much business experience, however, Taylor didn’t know exactly where to begin. That’s when she enlisted the help of a small women-run consulting agency in New York City that helped Taylor connect with fabric suppliers and potential factories that could help bring her vision to life. Five years later, Ouisa saw its first collection drop in September 2021, with another one launching later this spring.
On Finding Funds
"Funding is something I’m still working on— it’s an ongoing challenge. In the beginning, I had set aside my savings and I was putting most of my styling income towards Ouisa. I did not fully grasp how much time and money it would take to build a strong brand—keeping a company afloat is an ongoing cost.
"I’m proud to be self-funded and I’ve had a lot of help from The Small Business Administration which has funded loans that were a lifeline during the lockdown of 2020. That being said, we are going to start exploring outside funding that will enable us to grow."
On Lessons Learned
"As a cusp Millenial-Gen X’er woman starting a new brand, it’s been a hurdle for me to understand the nuances of promoting a brand on social media. I would consider myself more analog in that sense, so gaining traction digitally has been challenging. I do have an amazing team which is helping me learn all of that.
"With regards to our product, we’ve had such a positive response to our first collection, but we did learn that our customers are hungry, not just for wardrobe staples, but also for instruction on how to wear and use Ouisa pieces within their own wardrobes. For collection two, slated to launch in April, we are going to embrace an instructional arm to the collection.
"We really want to educate people on how they can style all six of the capsule pieces together and how to work them into their existing wardrobes."
Behind the scenes of Ouisa's campaign launch.
On Managing Inventory
"As a small business starting out, I was really reluctant to spend a large chunk of funds on inventory that I wasn’t sure people would buy. I’m not a gambler, so I wanted to play it safe, especially in such a risky industry. The pre-order model felt like there were too many moving parts involved, but the made-to-order model felt more manageable. I didn't want to have leftover inventory that was both wasteful and would potentially lose value if I started putting it on sale."
On Overcoming Doubt
"My biggest fear was that people would not be patient enough to wait four to six weeks with our made-to-order model. I had a lot of unsolicited advice from friends and family who said people would not be [patient], but I decided to try it anyway.
"I was happily surprised that there was such a positive response, especially from people who understand the value in waiting for a pair of expertly tailored trousers. It goes hand in hand with my less-is-more mantra. If you're waiting for something, you're making more of a conscious purchasing decision instead of saying, 'Oh, I'll just buy this. It'll come tomorrow. I'll try it on. If I hate it, then I'll send it back.' My goal is to create a brand experience that is more intentional."
Sara Holzman is the Style Editor at Marie Claire, covering runway trends and tracking down the latest finds to buy and wear. When she’s not writing about fashion, she pens about the best places to jet-off to.
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