1. You recently launched your new accessories brand, Neely & Chloe. What motivated you to start a new business?
While spending about a year and a half in the accessories space as a retailer, it became increasingly evident that there was a significant opportunity to address the consumer. We kept searching for the perfect bag at a realistic price point that was chic and sophisticated – a bag that our customer would love. But it wasn’t out there.
We both approach the business from a very rational perspective, and we’re trying to create something that we want but can’t find. As our own consumer, we believe we have a unique viewpoint. While being a 24- and 25-year-old running a business isn’t always the simplest task, it has allowed us into the minds of our customer, and we know that she’s out there searching for something new.
2. The decision to cut out the middleman and go directly to the customer seems to be a core part of your strategy. Tell us about the benefits and challenges of this approach. What impact does it have on your ability to control the customer experience?
Most importantly, this approach allows us to bring our customers a higher-quality product at a lower price point. The direct-to-consumer model has become increasingly integrated into our brand story and identity as Neely & Chloe has developed. While a more traditional approach, including wholesale, offers benefits such as increased exposure, brand recognition and faster growth, it limits your ability to control the interaction with the consumer.
Our brand focuses heavily on quality and experience, and we didn’t feel comfortable relinquishing control over such a significant component of the business. We believe that our customer is savvy enough to understand the value of direct-to-consumer and that we can achieve the same brand recognition and exposure through internet sales, a social media presence and public relations placements in high-end editorials.
3. What role does the integration of social media and e-commerce play in reaching your customers?
While we believe passionately in the brick-and-mortar experience, only so many customers will be able to engage with our physical store in Manhattan. Beyond that, social media, our website’s aesthetic and the online user experience will be our main points of contact with our customers. Because of the direct-to-consumer model, our prices are low, so we will have to use all the other tools at our disposal to tell the story of attainable luxury. The consumer will be able to tell from the physical product that it is well made and of the highest quality, but everything from our packaging and store design to social media and our website will have to reflect that elevated aesthetic.
4. As female business partners and sisters working together, have you run into any unique challenges?
The short answer is yes. We work and live together, so we try our best to leave work at the office. Unfortunately, we’ve had little success there. Our biggest challenge is that the two of us communicate so effortlessly, we sometimes forget to pass along developments to the rest of our team. But we’re working on it! The positive is that this allows us to be incredibly transparent with each other about our thoughts and opinions on everything from design to operational logistics. It allows us to lean on one another for support and a little bit of stress relief.
5. What advice would you give other young female entrepreneurs?
You can do it! Deciding to uproot your life and build a brand, concept or idea from scratch is always going to be intimidating. When you’re young, it’s easy to fall into a job and get comfortable. We are both very lucky to have supportive family and friends who helped us realize that there was no time like the present. It will always be easy to make a laundry list of reasons why not to do it, but when you find yourself constantly thinking “what if,” you know it’s time to go for it.
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