Tell us about your shop and the idea behind it.
Daughters of Simone is a San Francisco-based, online vintage bridal boutique. All gowns by origin are one-of-a-kind vintage. Many of our gowns are reconstructed to look more up to date (a shorter hem line here, longer sleeves there). We also sell vintage bridal accessories and handmade vintage-inspired garters.
We came to the idea on accident really, but I guess that’s where a lot of great ideas start. We were eating dinner at one of our local San Francisco eateries and began discussing dreams of joining the 20-somethings entrepreneurs’ club with one strong interest in mind — vintage. Having gone to our fair share of weddings, one of our friends joked that we should go into vintage bridal. We initially laughed, quickly waved it off, and changed the subject right then and there. Needless to say, bridal was something neither of us had considered. However apathetic, we recognized that there was something about the idea of “vintage bridal,” in the way of meaning and originality (both missing, at times, in our ideas of the current wedding industry) that our minds wouldn’t let go of after that night. Once we started to do the research, we discovered small pockets of people doing these completely unique weddings, tossing out the rule book and making it their own. No huss no fuss, just mindfully creating a wedding centered around the great love that was to be shared that day. This uncharted bridal movement instantly inspired us, and we began to feel that this project was something we could really connect to and feel passionate about.
Tell us about your previous working situation/s and how you discovered Etsy.
Brittany: Before Daughters of Simone I was about a year out of college working in the city doing real estate, an industry that is fairly familiar to me in that it has been my family’s business for three generations. While I felt lucky to have the job, it never felt like my destiny. Growing up, that’s what I was taught to aspire for, but with the current economy and months spent trying to find a job after college, this ideal really became a lost and forgotten dream. At some point I realized that if I kept going at what I was doing then it would be difficult for me to turn it around and do anything else. I believed I needed to figure out what I wanted to do now and try to do it – now was the time – otherwise it might always be that much more difficult. So I began researching.
This began shortly after meeting Christy for the first time. We both had a mutual friend who told each of us separately that we reminded her of each other and that we needed to meet. Needless to say, we became fast friends and it was a match made in heaven. From then we set on weekly dinner meetings where we would discuss different business ideas, brainstorm and just bounce ideas off of each other. Christy had found herself in a similar boat as I, looking for a way to fill a creative void that she felt was missing.
Like most, a friend first introduced us to Etsy. I had never heard of it before, and being a huge vintage fan, I immediately began scouring the site for treasures. I thought it was fascinating. People could sell their creations with such little overhead and literally make it overnight. You can find practically anything too, and for someone like me who is always looking for something unique or something that I’ve never seen before, it’s all here. I love that Etsy only allows handmade and vintage items. There is this big possibility for people to really go after their dreams, and with the site growing every day, it’s a marketing platform that works all by itself.
What steps did you take to prepare for transitioning into full time Etsy selling?
Brittany: First Christy and I studied, researched and brainstormed everything about how we wanted to embark on this. We utilized everything that the SBA had to offer, including attending seminars and talking with counselors. We read this blog series, Quit Your Day Job, like it was our own personal bible. We talked to anyone and everyone, read business books and biographies on related successful business people. We studied how other sellers conducted their shops, and how they incorporated their policies into their business structures. We really dug deep and were committed to figuring out the secrets. At some point I decided that if I really wanted to do this I needed to quit my real estate job and move out of the city back to my hometown. It was a really vulnerable decision for me and I really didn’t get a whole lot of support, but I felt the fire and I knew if I didn’t make these changes I would probably end up distracted, broke, and back at a job I didn’t like.
What is your favorite part of the process in reviving vintage dresses?
Brittany: My favorite part is scouting the gowns. It’s always been my favorite part about vintage at large. Digging into this huge pile of clothes and finding the treasures that lie somewhere within. Then I love looking at the possibilities the gown has. Could I add a low back? Could it be made into an A-line? I also love when a bride finds a gown out of our collection and knows it’s “the one.” It’s incredibly flattering that someone would wear one of our dresses on one of the most important days of her life.
Christy: I really enjoy the marketing aspect, and interacting with brides. Since Brittany balances living in Fresno and San Francisco, I have the opportunity to put on fittings for brides that would like to try on a gown before they buy online. I get choked up practically every time I see a young bride try on “the one.”
Have any tips for scoring great vintage?
There are many local thrift stores that I go to on a regular basis, but if I have a good day to spend thrifting I like to go to the more untouched areas of town, such as downtown or the outer boroughs. Saturdays and Sundays are perfect for flea markets and garage sales. I think garage sales are the best-kept secret in finding incredible (and cheap!) vintage items. Try it once and you’ll become addicted.
What are your best marketing tips?
- Blog pitching! Blogs are the way our generation gets the news, especially our little fashionistas. Write a nice letter to a blogger introducing your brand, and maybe they’ll decide to feature your work. If they don’t write back right away, don’t give up. Send them an email a couple months later updating them on your brand. Don’t forget to compliment them on their work as well. It’s true, flattery goes a long way.
- We had a long sale during the holiday season because the holidays are our slowest months (who’s thinking about a wedding dress when they have 50 gifts they need to buy?) and that actually went really well. Practically every sale we had used our promotional coupon code.
- We also do free shipping on all of our orders. We cannot tell you how much people love free shipping.
What’s been your most popular item or line to date?
Brittany: Our brides love our lace-lined low-backs and our off-the-shoulder gowns. I don’t blame them, when I get married I imagine wearing one of these styles myself.
What is the biggest challenge you face during your daily schedule?
Brittany: For us, photo shoots are huge. We are constantly shooting! Especially since in order to maintain our inventory we have to consistently upload new gowns, which also means we’re always on the hunt for gowns. In addition to scouting, Brittany does all the photography, so a large portion of every week is spent scheduling and finalizing each shoot.
What’s the hardest part about running your own business?
Brittany: I’ve read this many times in this series, but I have to say it too. You wear many hats! If you’re a control freak about your business you might not always mind this, but at times what I would do for a room full of employees! The most important and beneficial thing to wearing many hats is that we need to do everything ourselves in the beginning that way we know our business better than anyone else. We know how to do every single possible thing and through the mistakes — or ” learning experiences,” as Christy and I like to call them – you really can advance yourself and your business dramatically.
What do you enjoy most about not having a day job?
Brittany: I love what I do. I feel extremely fortunate because I believe that while everyone has the ability, not everyone has the opportunity to do what they love. I’ve also discovered that at heart I’m an entrepreneur. I really enjoy business. It’s a challenge I take head on.
What is the most exciting thing that has come out of selling your designs through Etsy?
Christy: There have been so many meaningful milestones, it’s hard to pick just one. In the beginning, selling our first dress the very night we listed it was probably the most exciting. It sounds silly, but it truly was an out-of-body experience. We may or may not have danced around a little bit while celebrating on the phone! It was incredibly intimidating to put ourselves out there, so the first sale was a crucial confidence booster. After more purchases started to roll in, the anxiety of people judging our business started to subside, and I remember Brittany and I both sharing that we had moments of internal dialogue saying to ourselves, “People like my stuff? Wait… I could really do this.” A few months later, the San Francisco Huffington Post featured an interview with us focusing on vintage brides. The article served as a powerful affirmation that we were progressing and, more importantly, that the vintage gown demand we so strongly believed existed was in fact real. This month, we had the opportunity to showcase Daughters of Simone gowns at our very first trunk show in the city where it all blossomed, San Francisco! Being an online boutique, we rarely get the opportunity to meet our brides, so that was really special for us.
What advice would you give someone considering a similar path?
- Brittany: If you really want something you’ll find a way to do it. If you don’t want it that bad, you’ll come up with excuses for why it can’t be done. Very important!
- Stay in your own mind. Don’t listen to the people who don’t encourage you along the way. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t think about what they’ve said. We’ve learned there’s wisdom in some critiques, but take them in way that will benefit you and not drag you down. Realize that not everyone is going to support you in the ways that you would support them. Get over that immediately and surround yourself with people who bring color to what you’re doing. You can’t control other people or their opinions, but you can control who you include in this journey.
- If you don’t already, learn to love reading. Reading is your best friend. Get your hands on any little piece of information that will prepare you for what you want to do beforehand. Books, blogs, interviews, mentors, classes, market research, networking — staying ahead of the curve matters. You should strive to eventually consider yourself an expert, and experts never stop learning about their craft. That’s why they’re experts!
- Learn to stretch that dollar. If you’re not getting at least three price quotes for every piece of material you put into your business, you’re most likely losing money.
What goals do you have in store for the future of your business?
Christy: Right now, we’re in the works of starting our first made-to-order vintage-inspired bridal line! The concept is something that’s formed over time as we noticed sizing and popular style accessibility becoming a major problem. It literally breaks our hearts when a bride emails us that her dream one-of-a-kind gown has sold. The last year has proven that our demand is concrete, but we’d like to expand our means of distribution, which can be limited when solely working with vintage. We’re constantly refining, testing out new ways to do things and doing anything we possibly can to better understand our brides’ needs.
Anything else you would like to share?
A big thank you to the founders and team behind Etsy! To say that Etsy has been a catalyst in our business coming off the ground would be a gigantic understatement. There are so many talented artists out there, and we’re grateful that there’s a place for all of us to come together and get our craft out there. It truly has been a warm environment to be welcomed into.
Thanks for sharing your story, Brittany and Christy. Check out their work in the Seller’s Items below.