Boss Lady is a series that shares personal insights from creative women in business. This week we chat with Deanna and Daria, sisters and co-founders of Hubbell Hille shoes. While both women still maintain full-time jobs, their main goal is to continue to create and grow a comfortable shoe line that fits their preppy style. They share with us their marketing tools, advice to aspiring entrepreneurs and the challenge of balancing it all.
1. Tell us about yourselves and your career.
We grew up in a close-knit family in Colts Neck, NJ and have been in the City for eight (Deanna) and five (Daria) years. We’re usually back and forth between NY and NJ and spend weekends in the summer at the beach in Spring Lake, NJ.
Deanna: In high school I had a small business making handbags, which prompted me to go to The Fashion Institute of Technology. I loved living in New York and started a small wardrobe consulting company helping working women with their style; however I quickly realized that my dream was to work in finance. Coming from an unconventional background, I started my journey by spending two years underwriting financial institutions in insurance and am now working at a private equity firm. Though I love my day job and the industry that I am in, my creative side, the constant need to be busy and an unrelenting desire to start my own business, prompted me to start Hubbell Hille with my sister.
Daria: I went to college for elementary education and had the full intention of becoming a teacher in New Jersey. After a few jobs in varying industries, and a jump across the river to New York (much to my surprise), I am now the Office Manager at an all-women financial recruiting company. Much like my sister, I love my day job, however my love of fashion and the desire to by my own boss one day led me to say “yes” when my sister came out of the bedroom one rainy Thursday night with the grand idea of starting a shoe company.
2. Describe a typical work day balancing a full-time job and your own shoe company.
Deanna/Daria: We typically leave the house around 7/8AM and don’t get home until 7/8PM so aside from orders that have to go out right away, most of the Hubbell Hille work is done on the weekends. Once a month, we hold board meetings at our kitchen counter to discuss what needs to be changed and if we are meeting goals. What’s nice about being the owners is that we don’t have to answer to anyone besides ourselves. We are fully accountable for the pace that Hubbell Hille will grow at and we are not pressuring ourselves to be an overnight success.
3. What was your inspiration behind starting Hubbell Hille?
Deanna: I’ve always had the desire to start my own company and be my own boss. Given my inherently creative side I knew that if I was going to start a company it would be fashion-oriented because it comes naturally to me. I always have such a hard time finding shoes that fit well, are comfortable and hold-up to the taxing NYC streets. My style is generally preppy so I am of course a huge fan of crests (along with Daria) and while we would easily see them on blazers, we didn’t really see them on many shoes. There were a few here and there over the years, but the smoking slippers we saw were either $60 and not great quality or $450 european-made, but still not durable enough to stand up to city streets. This lack of what we were looking for in a shoe coupled with my desire to start a company led me to Hubbell HIlle.
Daria: I love that Hubbell Hille allows us to take what motivates and inspires us and channel that into something that is uniquely ours. We drew inspiration from everything that impacts our daily lives; the desire for a comfortable, stylish shoe, the excitement of starting a business and turning our shared ‘passion for fashion’ into a reality. It doesn’t hurt either to have your sister as your business partner.
Fun fact: The name Hubbell Hille came from Deanna’s obsession with The Way We Were and one of the main characters played by Robert Redford.
4. Starting a company with your sister must be exciting, how do you delegate who does what in the company?
Deanna: Though I am four years younger, I have a pretty aggressive personality and usually take the lead on things, however I always consult my sister along the way. She’s very diligent and organized so I know I can count on her to make sure we’re hitting any deadlines. We have a very ying-yang balance to our personalities so it works.
Daria: It’s great having a business partner that you can share clothes with! I think it helped foster our personal style. As the middle child of two very strong personalities, I have always been the most subdued of the three of us. This carries over to Hubbell Hille and like Deanna said, it works. She generally takes the lead on most things and I know exactly what I need to do to play my part. We always consult with one another, especially when it comes to a design decision. I’m typically very indecisive though, so she usually makes the final call.
5. What has been your most successful form of marketing?
Deanna: Being that we’re in the early stages of our company, and doing this mostly at night and weekends, social media has been very effective for us. It’s the quickest, cheapest way to reach a broad audience and start building brand awareness. We spend most nights reaching out to various bloggers/journalists/stylists across the country to work with them in promoting Hubbell Hille. Most of them are very receptive and super helpful!
Daria: Good old fashioned word of mouth is always helpful too. Just having our friends, family and co-workers wear our Hubblers has generated interest in the brand.
6. What advice would you give to other women in the industry that are trying to start their own line?
Deanna: I’m sure my advice will be more credible when Hubbell Hille has $20m in annual sales, but my advice would be (and I think this applies to many areas of your life) to just do it! Don’t overthink it or else you will just come up with many reasons of why it’s not possible, not smart, not easy, etc. We are now in a time, I think, when it has never been easier to start a brand, between the internet and social media, so give it a shot. Stop thinking and start doing.
Daria: Start small and don’t expect to be an overnight success. Prior to establishing Hubbell Hille, Deanna became an overnight expert in all things small business related. She didn’t wait for someone to give her the answers or show her the way, she found it herself! Don’t let anyone deter you from pursuing your dream, but be smart and do your homework so you know exactly what’s entailed.
7. Where do you hope to see Hubbell Hille in 5+ years?
Deanna/Daria: We would love to see Hubbell Hille surpass $2m in annual sales, have an expanded product line beyond our “Hubbler” style and have pop-up shops in Nantucket, Palm Beach, New York and Spring Lake, NJ (our beach town). We also would like to see a portion of our annual revenue going towards a charity of our choice (which we’re working on!) as we think it’s very important to give back to the causes you are passionate about.
8. Who is a #bosslady that inspires you?
Deanna: Any woman who proves that you can have it “all”, whatever your definition of all is. That working, learning, having a family, being engaged with your community, etc. are all possible to balance. If I had to pick a specific example, the founders at Tuckernuck inspire me. I came across an interview with one of the Co-Founders years ago and have been following them ever since. It’s three young women with very impressive backgrounds and they have built an amazing company over the past few years…their vision and marketing is genius!
Daria: Coming from an education background and currently working in an all-female firm, I’ve had the opportunity to work and interact with women from all walks of life. It’s the everyday woman that inspires me. The mom, the professional, the young struggling to start their career and the seasoned veterans who just won’t quit. My current boss is a mother of three who took her experience from a 20+ year career and started her own firm that has continued to thrive. She is a female powerhouse!