Lauren Amery '16 is the Founder and CEO of Dagny Scout, a sports apparel brand dedicated to serving the sartorial sensibilities and competitive ambitions of women bound for a lifetime of activity. Dagny Scout launched on October 1, 2016 with a collection of women’s golf apparel, and will expand to tennis in 2017. Here, Lauren provides some key pieces of advice on getting ready to launch your business.
1. Be ready to hustle.
Before you launch, you will spend a lot of time successfully selling people on your concept and brand; however, it is much easier to get people to buy into an idea than it is to get them to open their wallets and actually make a purchase. For an e-commerce brand, the inclination may be to rely on digital marketing, but people are overwhelmed with ads and information, so it is important to focus significant energy offline connecting with customers and building a community of supporters. After Dagny Scout’s launch, I spent the first few weeks on the road doing trunk shows and meeting with customers — now 90% of my online sales are coming from those regions where I focused my attention offline. Online has been slow to build, but every time I engage with customers offline, the buy-in to the brand and product is overwhelmingly positive.
2. Surround yourself with advocates.
Cheerleaders are critical when you are launching your own business. Not only do they keep you sane and encourage you when you have doubts, but they are your best salespeople. My family and friends have been critical in keeping me grounded through the launch, and have connected me with some of my best customer leads.
3. Be a yes (wo)man.
One of the most uplifting things about starting a company is the overwhelming support you receive from others. Almost everyone you talk to will try to connect you with another person in their network who may be able to help you. At times, it can be overwhelming and can make you feel like you are coffee-chatting your life away, but you never know where the conversations will lead. I encourage you to always say yes and continue expanding your network as much as possible. Informal conversations at weddings and parties have led to dozens of trunk show leads for Dagny Scout; while not everyone I talk to golfs, almost everyone I talk to knows someone who golfs.
4. Have a plan…and a lot of backup plans.
It goes without saying that you should not launch a business without a plan for growth and monetization. That being said, it is important to have a few backup plans in case things do not progress as expected. For me, the plan is to launch a direct-to-consumer sports apparel brand for women, but as a backup, I have not ruled out wholesale or expanding into menswear. It is important to keep as many doors open as possible.
5. Have a list of achievable but ambitious milestones.
Establish metrics and milestones to measure yourself against — this will both motivate you, and make you feel good about your progress. For a business like mine — where a big upfront inventory investment is required — it would be easy to become discouraged by dwelling on how much inventory is left. Instead, I devised a monthly sales plan and track it rigorously. Achievable is the operative word here, which means this may not be the sales projection you show your investors, but it is important to set ambitious yet realistic goals.