The original post that started all of this off was Small Businesses You Can Support Today and I wanted to expand on that, so here we are. Each month, I’ll be sharing an insightful interview with the founder of a small business that has taken my interest and I want more people to know about. If you have a small business or know of a really great one, get in touch with me!
Previously I have interviewed the founder of Cocabana and AlicexLizzy so make sure you check those posts out!
Today I’m talking to Chlo from Dumb Blonde Club! I’ve been following this brand on Instagram from pretty early on, and have wanted to get my hands on some forever. I finally treated myself to one of the loungewear sets last month and it’s quickly become a wardrobe favourite!
INTERVIEW WITH THE FOUNDER
How did Dumb Blonde Club come about?
I never really had a plan set in stone to start my business, I graduated from university in 2018 where I did fashion design and felt really lost in life. I thought I wanted to travel so just had temp jobs and then went through the process of applying for fashion related jobs in London. This process was extremely difficult and it just wore me down so much because I kept getting rejected and just felt I wasn’t good enough. I feel like it’s every fashion graduates dream to start their own business but I didn’t really know how or what I wanted to do.
I give a lot of credit to one of my friends, Lauren who asked me to create her a pair of the 2 tone mesh trousers back in late 2018/early 2019. She found the initial purple/blue fabric and then together we found the rest of them. I started off making her and pair and then it spiralled from there quite quickly, I set up my depop page and got orders straight away and then worked on my Instagram and website for months! I am so grateful for Lauren because without her I probably wouldn’t be here today, one year into my business!
How long was the idea for the brand in your head before it came to life?
I’d say it took a few months to fully evolve but at the same time it was a bit of a snowball effect, once I got the ball rolling it just kept growing more and more. I came up with the name which was a play on the phrase “dumb blonde”, created a logo and ordered some marketing materials and started off very basic. As I didn’t plan to begin a business I didn’t have any money to invest in it so a lot of my things were very simple and everything I earned I put back into the business, which I still do now. I’m really glad I’ve got to a point where I’ve been able to re-brand and have a logo and marketing materials created for me as I think it really brings the branding together but at the beginning the most important part for me was to just get the photos of the products and post as much content as possible to try gain followers and orders! Although I feel most of the time I have my stuff together, a lot of it is “winging it” to a certain extent!!
What’s the hardest part about running your own business?
I think the hardest part of running a business for me is the amount of things that have to be done. As I run DBC alone I am the designer, seamstress, packager, website designer, social media person and administrator! There is so much to do that I think most people don’t even think about. There seems to be a glamorization of starting a fashion brand and I have seen a few people start one up and then just stop because they realise the hard work that goes into it. Social media is a 50/50 for me, I know I wouldn’t be where I am without it but it is also really draining. It seems really hard to grow on Instagram as they don’t always show everything to people and that gets me down! When you’ve worked so hard on collections and content and only a small % of your followers see the photos it can be a bit disheartening. Having said that it is all worth it, I just can’t wait to grow my team!!
What do you wish other people knew about being a small business?
I think it is all subjective, so for me I’d want people to understand the amount of work and time that goes into my business. As a generation we are so used to fast fashion and 24/7 customer service. I’ve had a few awful situations since starting out. For me, I have a set date I try get my orders made and posted in (granted I have missed a few dates but I am only human and this does happen!), I have this all over my website and Instagram but I will still receive messages off people who are really angry about there order not arriving within a few days because they haven’t read that it can take up to 3 weeks.
Obviously we all love our clothes arriving within the week but I do think fast fashion has damaged small fashion businesses as there seems to be an expectation to get things done so quickly and have next day delivery on top of that. Another part is that my customer service is not 24/7 which again I think we are all so used to. I know I am not the only brand who receives certain messages as we all do talk about our work issues as we’ve formed a little community which is lovely, but if you don’t reply within a certain time frame then people will “expose” you or take out paypal claims. It is all small parts but I think for me I wish people realised that there is only one human behind the brand, a human who has feelings and cannot be working all day every day as that isn’t healthy.
I’ve managed to take my emotions out of it now but I used to cry for hours when I got a horrible message!! I just wish people would remember to be kind, it doesn’t matter if it’s me or ASOS, there is still someone sitting behind a screen who doesn’t deserve a horrible message!
Do you use influencer marketing? What has your experience with that been?
Yes I do use influencer marketing a lot. I have mixed feelings about it as it has been both good and bad for me. Hollie Parsons was the first “influencer” I worked with, she took a chance on me and helped kickstart my business and we’ve worked together a few times since and she is just amazing!!! I try to choose a range of content creators, I don’t really look for following but the content they produce and their engagement with my brand and their own page.
You’ll always get the odd person who won’t fulfil their end of the deal, I’ve had a few people who just never posted the photos or have taken months to do so which is a shame but I think this has happened to so many other brands too but I’d say the people I have worked with have been amazing, like anything you’ll always have a few negative experiences. Most of the photos on my Instagram feed are customer photos as I think it really helps when people love your products, I also try gift one of my customers a free product each month just as a little thank you.
In terms of my own promoters, I choose girls that I want to represent my brand and this has just been trial and error so far, it’s never going to be perfect but I’ve learnt a better way to do it now and I’d say to any other brands who are wanting to work with content creators on a promo basis – give a deadline and lots of guidelines as this has helped me! I want to try to mix it up every year just so more people have an opportunity and we can all grow together. It is all a learning process and I’m still figuring that out but I’ve got some amazing girls who promote for me. As a brand owner I know that my brand could be more inclusive/diverse so a main goal for this year moving forward is to have a diverse feed and make sure my brand is for everyone.
What is one thing people might not know about the business?
This is a hard one! People always seem really shocked that I run the business alone, and make everything myself. I think because I never usually put my face on my social media pages/website it’s harder for people to get to know me as a person / brand owner but I’d absolutely love that, it’s probably just a lack of confidence thing if I’m being honest!
I’d absolutely love to start a YouTube channel, speaking about starting a small brand and doing Q&A’s, behind the scenes videos and studio vlogs. I’m hoping to pluck up the courage to do this next year as I think this would have been a big help for me when starting out my brand. I want to be that person people can feel supported by and go to for inspiration or help. Eventually I will show my face a bit more and do some talking videos over on Instagram but if you are interested in seeing who is behind the brand my personal instagram is @chlodaniel !!
Another thing you may not know is that I do everything from home, most of my money has gone into creating collections since I started and I couldn’t afford to rent a studio space with the big lights and backdrops – it’s taken a while to get a good aesthetic but I bought myself a stand, a backdrop, some lights and a tripod and all the shoots have been done with friends at my house! I know it could be more professional but for me I didn’t have the funds and the photos do come out well (besides the awful fabric backdrop I had at the start – apologies if you’ve been round for that long as it was bad!!).
Are there any small businesses you’ve supported or discovered recently?
I adore supporting small businesses, I’m constantly on the hunt for new brands on Instagram and tik tok and I try to support as much as possible. I don’t buy so much from fast fashion stores any more, only when I need a staple piece like a pair of jeans or a new jumper etc so I save up my money and use it towards small brands.
Some I have bought from recently are: Sassy Pants the Label (@sassypantsthelavel), Sissy X Lounge (@sissyxlounge), Nice Guy Tie Dye (@niceguytiedye), Belle Beachwear (@belle.beachwear), Groovy Gems Clothing (@groovygemsclothing), Tinkerbells (@tinkerbellss_), Shop Amy Clothing (@shopamyclothing), and Jaceys Clothing (@jaceysclothing). There are so many amazing brands and I will always support and buy where I can, I always support small businesses on etsy too, I love buying stickers, pins and prints for my walls at work just to brighten my studio space up a bit! Some illustrators I love are Amy Lesko (@letsgolesko), Katnipp Illustrations (@katnippstudios), CocoNutacha (@coconutacha) and Emily Harvey (@eharveyart), I know how much it means to people when you buy from a small brand, so if I can help someone’s dreams come true then it makes me so happy.
Anything else you’d like to add?
As I’ve spoken about the hardest part of running my business I wanted to add the best part too, just as it isn’t all bad. As I said before I felt so lost when I left uni, I didn’t feel like I had a direction to go in and I had no faith in myself. Starting DBC has given me such a boost and I am finally getting back to feeling confident in myself! I have met so many amazing people since starting, and I am lucky to call them my friends now. The support is so overwhelming and it just makes it all worth it, the good will always outweigh the bad. People who don’t even know who I am have shown me so much support, more than people I classed as friends and have known for years!!
We never know what the future will hold, this brand may go on for years, or it may not but I am so proud of myself and the little community I have built with my brand. I am so excited to see where things go, and to keep growing. My plans for 2021 are to expand my sizing, I am adding sizes 4, 18 and 20 to begin with as I want to be as inclusive as possible and this is something I have been saving up money to do as pattern blocks can be pricey! As the new collections didn’t really get their chance to shine I will be adding more to them for next summer and maybe 1 or 2 new collections, cow print may be making a return!!
WHAT TO DO NOW
I think you can all join me in saying a massive thank you to Chlo for sharing such in depth answers with us, I feel like I know a lot more about her small brand now after reading this!