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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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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Inspired by Design

I was date raped in high school. As I read the news of Jeffery Epstein (and thousands of other stories) unfold, I find myself thinking why have I never had the strength to talk about my experiences. I realized I there have been countless times for decades that I have been a victim. I found myself wondering why I have never had the courage to speak up.

I no longer feel powerless. As a single mother raising two boys, teaching them respect and accountability for their actions has been my top priority. The feminist writer Jessica Valenti, author of Sex Object, has some valuable advice: “It’s important to normalize a healthy reaction to the rejection of affection.

Thank you Leigh Ann Barnes for inspiring me to find my voice. Leigh Ann who was a victim of date rape in college found her passion designing handbags.

Let’s rewind….
Leigh Ann Barnes was sparked by a challenge from her family: create a transparent stadium-approved bag that is stylish, functional and fun. What came to be: a dynamic accessory collection providing jobs for women in-need.

Hit play….
Emboldened by the challenge, Leigh Ann harnessed her ingenuity and created a chic convertible handbag. During the creative process she realized a sense of purpose was needed that went beyond the Gamechanger Bag.

The Aha Moment: connect ideas with action, need with purpose and, ultimately unite women of all ages. The smaller leather goods could be made by survivors of abuse. Creativity, kindness and compassion through hands-on manufacturing.

Fast forward…..
Leigh Ann Barnes is defined by transparency, creating joy and making change happen. Her long-term goal is to introduce other brands to the Cottage Manufacturing Model in Los Angeles and Georgia.

The end [but really, it’s just the beginning]…..

Leigh Ann Barnes business model is more than a handbag or an accessory; it’s about recognizing and embracing that we are all equally important and deserve the same opportunities. Though Leigh Ann Barnes is only one step in the journey to these women restarting their lives, it connects ideas with action, need with purpose and ultimately unites women of all ages.

From this game changing foundation, Leigh Ann Barnes partners exclusively with accredited factories when manufacturing overseas to ensure women working abroad have a safe work environment.

In the U.S. company aspirations include growing the Survivors Cottage Manufacturing Program in Los Angeles and Athens, Georgia. The goal is to incorporate brands and manufacturers into the Program as a resource for reclaiming and repurposing their own excess materials. A duality of doing good as they support work for women in need of reclaiming and repurposing their lives.

image: @photo_flo

You can buy her bags at Neiman Marcus, via her website or her pop up shops {where you can find Leigh Ann telling her story and inspiring other young women}.  Cast your vote for Leigh Ann via the Accessories Council Design Excellence Award.

Game on.

  • Bonus for all readers. Save 25% off your purchase through September 30th, 2019. Use code #sostylate at check out.

 

 

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Boss Ladies: Kaylyn Minix & Michelle Trincia

Boss Lady is a series that shares personal insights from creative women in business. This week we chat with Kaylyn Minix and Michelle Trincia, co-founders of bloom daily planners, a Newark, Delaware based company with chic planners for women of all ages. Kaylyn and Michelle share with us what it means to empower women to live positive and organized lifestyles along with advice for future #bossladies.

bloom planners | social stylate

1.Tell us a bit about yourself and the company.
We were both born and raised in Delaware and have been planner lovers and list makers our whole lives. We both attended the University of Delaware where we met, interning at our future company! bloom creates daily planners and a variety of other organizational that inspire and empower women to live a positive, organized lifestyle. Our goal is to help our customers lead a more healthy, fulfilling life and be the best versions of themselves! We are so grateful for the platform that we have created, our amazing team and useful products but most importantly our bloom girls who inspire us every day!

More from Kaylyn: My fiancé and I are new home owners and love working on and decorating our home. We are currently planning our dream wedding in Mexico and Honeymoon in Europe! I love spending time with my loved ones most. Traveling, fashion, shopping, my exercise classes, cheat meals, crossing things off my to do lists and filling up my planner with all of these wonderful activities!

More from Michelle: I am recently married and live with my husband and a giant golden retriever. I love traveling (we just got back from our honeymoon to Paris/Amsterdam/Italy!), new music, new food, new experiences! I am a busy body who is, in addition to bloom, have too many side projects including three Etsy shops and a dogsitting business! I am always on the go and thinking of new things to do/try/create. I love listening to interesting podcasts, reading books by inspiring business owners, and I also try and relax sometimes with family and friends.

2.Where did the name “bloom” come from?
We felt bloom was the perfect metaphor for our brand! Our products are designed to inspire and empower women Dzbloomdz into the best version of themselves. Blooming is a continual process and a lifelong journey. Our logo is a daisy which is a symbol of purity and new beginnings. We believe each year, each day, each moment is an opportunity to start fresh and strive to be better. The name bloom also captures the brightness and colorfulness of our brand and patterns, and it makes for a lot of fun flower metaphors. Wins all around!

3.What does a typical day at the office look like?
Every day is different! There is always something fun and exciting going on! A new deadline, a product upload, a new shipment or event to cover. We are always working on new designs and product ideas, attending trade shows, and making new relationships to help bloom continually ‘branch out’! Our office is very collaborative and open concept, so we’re constantly generating new ideas (designs, products, social media campaigns, etc.) Something really unique about our company is we are able to take an idea from conception to delivery to the public. We’re always brainstorming new product ideas, new designs, and new layouts then working together to bring them into existence. We always say it’s like Christmas when we get our new samples. To then see our customers be helped by these products we created is the most rewarding thing in the world. Our products are truly our babies!

4.What is your best source of inspiration for your designs?
Following the trends that we see in the fashion world, stationery market, Pinterest, travel, really anything that inspires us! We also pull most of our inspiration for new patterns and products from our #bloomgirl community. We take their requests and feedback very seriously and are always tweaking current products and even making new ones to fit their needs! We recently started a cover contest where we literally let our users design their own covers and then let the community vote. The winner gets their design printed, a cash prize, and planners for life! We love incorporating our users into our day to day decisions because we wouldn’t exist without them!

5.What would you consider your best tool for marketing?
Social Media! Twitter has been an amazing tool to create more personal conversations with our bloom girls. We try to connect with girls who love to be organized or need a little inspiration in their lives. It makes our day to brighten someone else’s. We also rely on Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest! The best part of our day is interacting with our bloom girls!

6.If you could do a collaboration for a line of planners with anyone, who would it be and why?
Kaylyn: I would have to say Mary Kay! I am actually a Mary Kay rep and see how closely bloom and Mary Kay’s values align. We both focus on inspiring women to be organized, follow their dreams and achieve their goals. I think we could have a great line together to empower women across the world tobe their own girl bosses!

Michelle: I would love to work with TheSkimm or Sophia Amoroso on a custom #GIRLBOSS planner! We love that book and it would be so great to incorporate those concepts into a yearly planner!

7.What is one of the biggest challenges you face as a business owner and how do you overcome that?
Juggling everything in our personal and professional lives is certainly a challenge. It inspires us that bloom creates products to help make a hectic, (but exciting!) life more manageable. Everyone wants to appear that they have it all together but that is not always the case. We have some pretty intense work, travel and social schedules but we ultimately thrive off of this. We know what to expect, we make the most of it, remain grateful for these opportunities and get it done! The environment we have created at bloom has helped us keep a positive and grateful mindset to accomplish this and live a more fulfilling life. This is our goal for women around the world.

8.Where do you see yourself in 5 years? 10 years?
bloom is growing so quickly. The sky is limit! We are adding more products and employees by the day so we see major growth in all of our current sales channels, new sales channels, new distribution relationships, nationally and internationally, and a much larger team to help us accomplish this!

9.What is some advice that you could give to someone trying to start their own business?
Follow your dreams and never give up! We love the quote “Don’t stop until you’re proud.” Remain focused, proactive, and organized and it will happen.

Set goals, stay accountable, read books, listen to podcasts, always try to expand upon your knowledge. Find a creative outlet to inspire you and help relieve any stress. Keep a healthy professional and personal balance so you don’t get burnt out.

Trust the process. We have had many ups and downs but things always seem to happen for a reason, and for the best!

10. Who is a #BossLady that you look up to and why?
We love Sophia Amoruso and the founders of the The Skimm, Danielle Weisberg and Carly Zakin. They have all paved their way from the ground up and we can really appreciate their stories. With passion and determination anyone can be a #GirlBoss!

Kaylyn’s Moodboard

Kaylyn Minix & Michelle Trincia Boss Lady | social stylate

Michelle’s moodboard

Kaylyn Minix & Michelle Trincia boss lady | social stylate

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