If you have a daughter, then you’re probably aware of how many young women tend to be very fashion forward. Either they know what they want, or they keep tabs on the latest trends. Tanya Murphy noticed how passionate her own daughter was about fashion when inspiration hit her.
Having just launched Design-Girls.com around the middle of last month, so far her business is starting to build up steam. Previous to this startup, Tanya was the Detroit Advertising Manager for a business magazine called Fast Company. It was her boss, who allowed her the independence she needed to conduct business in her own way, which had ultimately helped fuel her desire to become an entrepreneur.
What inspired you to create your business, Design-Girls.com?
My 7 year old daughter! She takes great pride in anything that she creates and she is especially fond of fashion. She loves to shop, she changes her outfits several times a day and she plays online dressing up virtual dolls. I began to think about how I could take this world of online fashion play a step further and create a more real-life experience for young girls. Now, my daughter and others like her can easily design an outfit that is unique and personal.
How long did it take for you to build your website from idea to launch?
I signed on with a web company out of California back in March. The website just launched in September, so it has been a six-month process from idea to reality.
Were there any problems you’ve come across as you were getting started? What have you learned as you’ve gone through that process?
Sure! First of all, I have no apparel or website programming experience. I realized that if I wanted to make my idea a reality, I needed to hire experts. The next hurdle was the cost. My husband and I have financed the effort thus far from savings, so I have been working with a very limited budget. Early on someone told me I would not be able build a website that functioned the way mine does, for the budget that I had to work with. Although that was discouraging, I didn’t take no for an answer and I just kept looking until I found what I needed. The most important thing I’ve learned is to take baby steps. Thinking about the entire business venture can get very overwhelming. And don’t underestimate the power of networking with neighbors and friends. I have gotten some terrific advice and help from those very people.
What are some of the goals you have for Design-Girls.com? What would you like to see happen over the next year?
First and foremost, I want to deliver a great experience and fun product to my customers. I am also hoping to increase the awareness of my business tremendously. It’s hard starting out, knowing you have a strong idea and wanting everybody to know about it, but realizing that it takes time to build a customer base.
As a mompreneur, how have you been able to balance your time between the business and your family? Do you have any special tips you’d like to share?
I have three children, so it is definitely a balancing act! The nice thing about working from home is that I can do it at any hour. Now that my kids are back in school I can work while they are away, yet I’m able to devote my time to them when they walk back through the door. Also, some days are more productive than others, and that’s just the way it goes. I also have a very supportive husband who understands that some other things (like laundry etc.) might slip while I’m trying to focus on this start-up, but that it’s okay. My friends have also been willing to pick up the carpool or watch my youngest when I need to get something done for the business. So, finding support from family, girlfriends, and neighbors is crucial.
How does your website work? What choices are currently available when putting together an outfit? How much does it cost?
Through a step by step process, users are prompted to make choices as they build an outfit. The first choice is a style. There are twelve different sketches to choose from in this area currently. Next, the customer picks a color, or fabric. The final choice is to add a fun trim which consist of everything from stretch lace and sequins to grosgrain ribbon, beaded fringe and faux jewels. Accessories, such as tote bags, are soon to be added to the site. Prices range from $20 to $26 per piece, so it is very reasonable for such a unique experience and quality workmanship.
How do you handle the orders? Do you keep inventory on hand, or do you follow another route?
I fax the orders to my pattern maker and consultant in New Jersey, who oversees the production of the clothing and accessories. She keeps the inventory on hand at her place of business. She then looks to see what trim has been selected by the customer, has it sewn on and then ships out the packages. I send out the gift certificates from my home.
Do you have any intentions for starting another business at some point in the future or do you think this will be it?
Never say never! If you told me a year and a half ago that I would be doing this, I would have been surprised. However, my son is quick to tell me that I have to start a website for boys once Design-Girls.com is successful! I like his positive thinking.
What sources have been the most helpful in the launch of your business? Do you have a mentor or favorite website?
There are so many places I’ve drawn information and inspiration from to launch my business. I watch Donny Deutsch’s Big Idea on CNBC which features entrepreneurs who are trying to launch the next big thing, as well as those that have already made it big. It’s very inspirational. The internet was a huge resource for me as well. That’s how I found my pattern maker and consultant in the apparel industry as well as my web-designer. Guru.com is a site where you can find an expert in any field, and several experts bid on the job you need done. I also went to my local SCORE office whose purpose it is to counsel small businesses. I have also read many business books and magazines. Entrepreneur had a great article on getting a business up and running in 30 days which included a helpful checklist and gave me some initial direction.
And yes, I have a few mentors that I lean on for guidance and the tough feedback that is critical when you are starting a business. One of those mentors is my former boss from Fast Company Magazine, where I was an Advertising Manager for eight years. Another mentor of mine is a woman that I met two years out of college when I first started in advertising. Our paths continued to cross in our careers over the years. Even though I left the business, I continued to stay in touch with both women. These women have done a lot in their careers. They are very smart, well connected, and I trust their advice.
What would you advise someone to do before entering the adolescent fashion industry?
First off…do your homework. This is a very competitive market. You have to have a very unique product to stand out because there are so many choices! When I first came up with my idea, I went online in search of a business that already did what I wanted to do. I couldn’t find one. So I knew I was on to something. Also, from a business standpoint, I know that this can’t just be a hobby. The numbers need to make sense. You need to figure out your costs and your margins and make sure it will be profitable…or make some changes until you get where you need to be. Most of all, you need to have passion for what you are doing!