Coffee Talk with Free Reign Founders

What personally motivated you to start the company?
Necessity is the mother of invention. Friends since childhood, we grumbled often about how hard it was to find a good bra for our small breasts. We never felt a need to wear a bra. For years, we would buy and wear clothing so you couldn’t see we were braless. This might be a shirt with two pockets, thick fabrics, or layers. Since we didn’t need the support, it felt crazy to wear an uncomfortable bra, and most bras were either too thin to provide coverage anyway or too “push-up” to be meant for us. The biggest insult of all was the underwire bra, rigid and unforgiving to body movement, an overly constructed shelf for little to hold.


What obstacles did you overcome to give you a totally unique perspective on what the market needs?
As smaller-busted women, all we asked for was a comfortable bra with a little support and coverage. Feeling completely misunderstood and underserved inspired us to create Free Reign – a line of comfortable bra tops with integrated lightly padded molded cups engineered to contour to the unique shape of smaller busts. We saw an opportunity to take what we were seeing developing in seamless activewear tops and apply that to everyday wear with soft fabrics, an innovative inner bra and a modern look. Our first product is the Everyday Tank, and we have plans to expand the line in the future. We’ve designed our apparel for the A and B cup woman. We know our customer. We are her.

What inspires you and fuels your creativity? 

We’re inspired by Guy Raz and the entrepreneurs whose stories he brings to life through his NPR podcast How I Built ThisAs with most start-ups, creating Free Reign has been a rollercoaster ride. There are moments that are thrilling and others so anxiety producing they make your stomach drop. Listening to the journey of other founders – the barriers they encountered and the pivotal steps they took on their way to success — is an ongoing source of inspiration and learning

What advice do you have for the next generation of entrepreneurs? 
Follow your dream. Don’t shy away from challenges because of fear.

Words to live by.

Do what you love!

P.S. Carroll lives in her Free Reign tank — from tennis to pilates to Zoom. The perfect everyday tank! 

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Stand With Presence

This past weekend I took a walk along the Brandywine River to see the fall foliage. I was inspired by the new garden sculpture installation at Somerville Manning Gallery – especially Stand With Presence by Vicki Vinton.

The reaction to the sculpture was immediate and powerful.  Vinton’s inspiration for Stand With Presence was simple: a friend of hers was experiencing writer’s block and, in her true artist form, Vicki drew a red figure and sent it to her friend with a note – dig deep.

Stand With Presence by Vicki Vinton - Social Stylate

“Current events are just old events dressed up in today’s fashion. The process of creating whether it be painting or sculpting must hold in it some sort of history. Simply the passing of time or a nod to events that have gone before.” says Vinton.

This is a pivotal time for women.  Women of all ages are rising up, speaking out, and making themselves heard as never before. Stand With Presence is a symbol of courage, and beauty –a reminder to keep your beliefs in yourself strong. A reminder that we have the answers if we take time to be present.

Over the past few years, we have seen the power of storytelling play out in one of the largest stages for women. Storytelling is rooted in our culture and has been proven to be one of the most effective ways to share who you are with the world while also providing the power to find our inner strength.

Stand With Presence invites women of all ages to share their stories and bring their strongest selves to their biggest challenges. Raising two boys on my own for the past ten years and starting a business has been my greatest gift, and has given me strength and courage. Your story can transform your life, change the lives of others, your story can change the world.

SStand With Presence by Vicki Vinton - Cindy Pettinaro and Carroll Ivy - Social Stylate

Carroll Ivy and her friend, Cindy Pettinaro Wilkinson, pose with the Stand With Presence statue.

Follow along: #StandWithPresence @standwithpresence @smg_gallery

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For over thirty-five years the Somerville Manning Gallery has introduced current art trends into an area already steeped in a rich art tradition, mounting exhibitions that relate to this cultural heritage both past and present. Recognized as experts on N.C. Wyeth and his family, Somerville Manning Gallery has created multiple exhibitions on N.C. Wyeth, Andrew Wyeth, and Jamie Wyeth. Also represented are the Wyeth women, daughters of N.C. Wyeth, Henriette Wyeth Hurd, Carolyn Wyeth, and Ann Wyeth McCoy.

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Coffee Talk with Ann Ahl founder of NFUSE

There are few things better than coffee and conversation which is why we try to set up a coffee date with a different person every month. It’s a great way to catch up with old friends and chat with people we’ve been dying to meet.

What personally motivated you to start the company? 

My sister, Emily and I started nfuse as a way to make a daily chore (putting on deodorant/ applying body lotion) pleasurable, safe and actually good for you.  Most people don’t realize the lack of regulation around the ingredients that are in deodorants, creams, and lotions that we put on our skin every day. As daughters of a breast cancer survivor and mothers to teens, we were adamant that every ingredient is absolutely safe and effective. 

Coffee Talk with Ann Ahl founder of NFUSE

What obstacles did you overcome to give you a totally unique perspective on what the market needs? 

Breaking into an industry dominated by huge multi-national corporations is daunting to say the least, so that was a challenge.  I think we’ve had success because of our unique perspective and understanding of the benefits of magnesium and how it’s best absorbed.  We received a patent last winter on our magnesium technology used in nfuse. There are no other deodorants (natural or otherwise) that are formulated to deliver magnesium and nfuse is truly innovative.  My sister and I are fortunate because my husband’s family has been involved in magnesium and the environment for many years so it’s very likely that any conversation around the dining table includes a discussion around magnesium.

What inspires you and fuels your creativity? 

Being in nature inspires me and fuels my creativity.  Nine times out of ten if I take a long walk or run, I find that I can work out a nagging problem or come up with a new approach.  Also, Emily, my sister and nfuse co-founder, inspires and drives me. She’s whip smart, determined and the ultimate innovator. We love working together and are passionate about changing the way people approach their daily routines.

That said, Emily and I, sisters and founders of nfuse, have never had an interest in being just another natural deodorant or body lotion company.  We have been single-minded in our efforts to upend daily routines by replacing iffy ingredients with nourishing magnesium and delivering this essential nutrient through the skin. The idea that your daily routine can not only be “not bad for you” but actually healing and healthy is what gets us out of bed (with the help of nfuse) every morning and we will continue to innovate to deliver on this promise.

The book you own that is the most dog eared.

That’s tough. There are a few but probably Mission In a Bottle: The Honest Guide to Doing Business.  A friend gave it to me right before we launched nfuse, it’s the story of the start-up years of Honest Tea.  Also, I just finished Educated by Tara Westover which I loved. I’m a big fan of podcasts too since I drive a lot – listening to How I Built This with Guy Raz.

What advice do you have for the next generation of entrepreneurs? 

It’s a marathon and not a sprint. Your business will take over your life and balance is very tough to find. However, if you are willing to show up and put the work in it’s the most gratifying endeavor you’ll ever have.

Words to live by. 

Keep going.

You can do it.

Pick the right partners. 

Look for nfuse at Janssens, houppette, Whole Foods, Urban Outfitters and more. Recently featured on Martha Stewart, Town & Country, and The View. I am in love with the lotion — a must!

Coffee Talk with Ann Ahl founder of NFUSE

 

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Boss Lady: Dabney Lee Woglom

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!

dabney lee

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…

behind the boss: dabny lee

Art by Toshitaka Aoyagi | Wölffer Dry Rosé Cider | Hermes Watch | Barefoot in ParisDorchester Hotel

More on Dabney Lee:
Website | Facebook | Instagram | Pinterest

 

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