Boss Lady is a series that shares personal insights from creative women in business. Today we chat with Dabney Lee Woglom, the founder of Dabney Lee, the lifestyle brand offering personalized stationery and gifts. Dabney discusses starting her own business, the organic nature of social media marketing and more!
1. Tell us a little about yourself and your career.
I’m the founder behind the lifestyle brand Dabney Lee, a design studio and retail store located in Brooklyn, Shelter Island and online. I have an affinity for paper, pattern, color and all things whimsical. I believe I have the best job on the block, as I was able to turn my passion for lucite, bright colors, paper, fashion and interior design into a line of personalized stationery, gifts, home décor and so much more (like pets, wrapping paper and tech cases). Prior to founding Dabney Lee in 2004, I had aspirations to become a teacher. I’m a wife, mama to a loveable clan of triplets and native Californian turned New Yorker. I dress almost exclusively in vivid hues, think there’s nothing better than a fresh palette of watercolors, am known for mixing a mean Bloody Mary and my happy place is on the beach in Shelter Island.
2. What prompted you to start Dabney Lee? Did you start selling online before opening your first store in Brooklyn?
I have always loved all things paper and anything personalized, but growing up with the name Dabney, I couldn’t exactly walk into a shop and buy something with my name on it; everything had to be custom ordered. Because of this, personalized trinkets instantly became treasures. When I set out to start my line of stationery I didn’t initially anticipate offering anything personalized. But when I began to receive requests from customers for these personalization options, it was a true delight. I saw them feeling the same way I did (and still do!) when I saw my name on beautiful papers. In the beginning, I sold at craft fairs. In 2005 I decided that I would try my hand at the National Stationery Show in an effort to bring Dabney Lee to the retail market. In that show alone, I sold my line into over 50 stores and every year since then, we’ve continued to grow. A few milestones include the launch of our website, opening our first retail store in Brooklyn in 2012, adding a home line which includes lucite trays and drink coasters, partnering with Target on several licensing deals, and opening our second location, in Shelter Island, in 2014.
3. You opened your second store last year. As a wife, mother of triplets, creative woman and a business owner, do you have any tips on work/life balance?
Work/life balance is never easy. When I’m at work, I always feel that I should be spending more time with my family and if I’m at home, I feel that I should be working on the business. It’s a delicate balancing act and sometimes I fail, but you just roll with it and know that at the end of the day, you’re doing the best you can. I made a conscious decision to keep my business close to my home so that my kiddos can pop into the shop for a quick squeeze before they head to the park or to hang out for a snack and to color with me in the studio. It’s in these moments that I feel like I’ve got it all figured out. I know that my work/life balance will never be perfect, but my hope is that by giving my kids an example of a strong woman who loves her family and her work, and who is happy, will help them in their future endeavors.
4. What is your most successful form of marketing? Is it different for the eCommerce site vs. your retail locations?
Social media has been very successful tool for both my store and online shop; there is nothing else like it! The organic nature of being able to ignite conversations while simultaneously drawing back the curtain to see who’s behind a business really draws fans in. It also serves as a highly personalized way to interact with customers. We love seeing how they are reacting to products and appreciate hearing what they want to see more of in the future.
5. What inspires you and fuels your creativity?
I have a soft spot for anything that adds a touch of whimsy to life…warm sunshine, pretty pink sunsets, rosé, ice cream colors, French music, J.Crew catalogs, Pinterest, my watercolors, new art supplies, glitter stickers, confetti, vintage artwork, children’s books and of course, my kiddos’ laughter.
6. Who is a Boss Lady that you admire and why?
I really admire Ina Garten; to me she is the epitome of a Boss Lady. She fearlessly runs her empire while balancing home life, and lets be real, she has the most fabulous kitchen. I want to be her.
7. What advice do you have for those looking to go from employee to entrepreneur?
Get organized, make a plan and don’t look back!
Just for fun…