Interview: Amy Olson, Kuhfs fashion accessory line

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When Amy Olson, the Founder of Kuhfs fashion accessory line became tired of wearing the same old black and brown boots all season, she took one of her scarfs and wrapped it around the top of her boot.  She borrowed her mom’s sewing machine, learned to sew and made some prototypes. After 8 months of trial and error, she finally had a product that she was proud of. To test her idea, she made 100 pair and went to a craft fair.  Soon enough, she was in business.

Product:

Kuhfs are a sleek and stylish fabric cuff that you can use to accessorize your boots, jeans, leggings, workout pants and capris. Kuhfs allow you to show off your personal style in a distinctive and dynamic way with one easy to apply accessory. Kuhfs design increases the versatility of your wardrobe.
I wanted to make it easy for women to show off their personal style and not feel intimidated by the fashion world. My product makes it very easy to add personality and style to your existing wardrobe.

Target Audience + How to Reach them:

My target market is women ages 35-60. Moms who want to look put together and stylish, but sometimes have a hard time achieving that goal. My customer shops at Ann Taylor, Banana Republic and J. Crew. They will spend on high quality, well made products.
I am reaching these customers via social media, trade shows and internet marketing.

Greatest Success:

My greatest success to date is bringing this product to life. I was a stay-at-home mom for the last 12 years and I had no experience in the fashion industry. I had no idea how to get my product from idea to reality. It was and continues to be a trial by fire. I had to teach myself everything from how to get this product made, building a website, internet marketing and PR.
My greatest success is that through all of the ups and downs, I have not given up. Everyday I make baby steps forward.

Biggest Challenge:

My biggest challenge to over come has been manufacturing. No one wants to take a chance on a newbie who only want 100 pieces made. I could not get manufacturers to call me back, I could not get a decent quote for my product and I did not know all the pieces of the puzzle that need to be in order to get my product made.

Overcoming the Challenge:

After months of making calls and having samples made I finally found a local seamstress who was willing to give me a chance. She took me under her wing and taught me everything I needed to know to get my product made. She would do small runs (100 pieces), she would fix my pattern, she taught me how to make a spec sheet. She really gave me my start. I still use her to this day.

When you imagine success, what does it look like?

Success for me would be a profitable on-line accessory brand. I am not interested in retail or big box placement. My 3 year goal would be for Kuhfs to be a generating a $150,000 a year in sales.

What steps are you taking to achieve your goals?

I have a website and am using social media, internet marketing and PR to build product and brand awareness. I sell at local craft fairs, non industry trade shows (meaning, open to the public) and at fashion events. I have done house parties and am now getting into Facebook parties to help build brand awareness and move product.
I reach out to bloggers and have just hired a PR firm to help me.

What PR + Marketing activities have you done and what were the results?

I have done social media marketing, Facebook ads, promoted Pins on Pinterest, engage on all social media platforms. This has been good for building brand and product awareness.
I have worked with bloggers on sponsored posts, again, good for brand awareness but not much of a ROI with the bloggers.
I have also done google ad words and re-marketing. All of my internet marketing has been good for building brand awareness, but I am not seeing a ROI in those areas yet. It takes awhile with a brand new product to educate the consumer and see a ROI.

My product is an entirely new fashion accessory so I know it will take time to see sales increase. You need to expose your product to the consumer many times before they are willing to buy from you. It takes time to build that trust.
I have just recently hired a PR firm so I am excited to see what that will bring in.

As an entrepreneur, how do you decide what to do yourself and what to hire someone to do?

I always like to try to do things on my own if I can, but you have to be realistic in knowing your skill set limitations. Decide early on what you are good at and what you are not and then hire out accordingly.

If you are a creative type than tackle tasks related to that on your own. If a task involves you trying to learn a whole new industry or skill like Google SEO, then you would want to hire someone with experience in that area. The time it would take you to become efficient in Google SEO knowledge could be better spent in other areas moving your business forward.

I knew I needed to hire a professional photographer to capture my brand identity and supply me with beautiful images for marketing and for my website. SInce I am selling on-line, my images are very important because that is the only thing a customers gets to see. They do not get to touch and feel my product on-line. My images needed to be great in order to sell product.

How do you manage family and business?

My kids are 11 and 13 so I have the whole school day to get my work done. I am very organized with my day and how I spend my time. I think having structure and rules in place help you keep balance. When I am at work from 9:00am to 3:00pm, I do not do Mom related tasks like planning a school party or attending a PTA meeting. When I am done with my day at 3:00pm when the kids get home I switch from being at work to being a Mom again. I do not try to do work related tasks when I am on mom time.

I have found that this creates structure to my day and is less stressful for everyone. When you try to answer emails while you are supposed to helping with homework you are distracted and stressed out. Keep your time separate and stick to that schedule.

I do have to sacrifice time with my family on the weekends and evenings because that is when my selling events take place. It is just part of the job and I try to make up for it by really being present before and after school. My kids have my full mom attention when I am with them.

What advice do you have to fellow mom entrepreneurs?

My advice would be to plan your work and work your plan. Everyday do something to move the business forward. It doesn’t have to be a huge step forward but keep taking steps forward. Get very clear about your vision and what you want from your business because you will be pulled in many different directions.

When you start to hire others to invest in or help you build your business they will all have ideas on how you should run your business or what you should do to improve your product or services.

If you are not crystal clear on your dreams and vision of your brand or services you can be lead down the wrong path that does not align with what you wanted. You need to believe in yourself and stay true to your original vision.
I wish someone would have told me to believe in myself and to trust my gut and instincts. I spent a lot of time letting “experts” tell me how to sell my product and how it should be branded and I did not believe in myself enough to push back and say, no, that is not what I want.

What have you learned about yourself being an entrepreneur?

I have learned to trust my instincts and believe in myself and my abilities. Entering an industry that I knew nothing about lead me to question my abilities and second guess my vision because I did not think I knew what I was doing so I relied on other people to tell me what I should be doing and that always lead me down the wrong path.

I did know what I was doing and had a clear vision for my product but I lost my way when I started to not trust my instincts.

If you could wave a magic wand and be given anything to help your business right now, what would it be?

My magic wand would be a PR wand. Magically letting everyone in my target market know about my product. Building brand and product awareness is not easy so I would love more exposure.

What is your favorite go-to resource, tool, book, app and why?

Google. You can learn anything you need to know from google.

What is your favorite indulgence?

Going out for dinner. I love not having to cook once in awhile. It’s just a nice treat.

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