Megan Hunt and Sarah Lorsung Tvrdik have recently launched Hello Holiday, a new e-commerce site that promises a charming and exuberant approach to style and shopping. Megan and Sarah have a rich and diverse background in business, blogging, and fashion. Hello Holiday captures and shares these talents in an innovative and vibrant approach to e-commerce.
The Big Plate: What’s on your plate?
Megan Hunt: I have more on my plate than ever, but I feel like that’s something I’m always saying. Professionally, I’m working to build Hello Holiday’s momentum after our strong launch last week. Everything I do with Hello Holiday is so much more challenging and mentally stimulating than anything I’ve done in the past, and it’s also my first time working with a partner which adds more to my plate mentally. Besides that, I’m raising a two and a half year old, working on my amateur radio license, and finishing my first book.
TBP: Share with us how Hello Holiday came to be.
MH: My partner Sarah Lorsung Tvrdik came into my office one night to borrow my garment steamer. As I worked and she worked, we started talking about what was next for us. I opened up to her about how I felt like I was in a transition point professionally, wanting to get into something more scalable. Sarah told me about how she wanted to take her experience as a stylist and writer and start a boutique–translate her experience into a new career. It was one of those changing moments–a fork in the road where I knew I was about to make a decision that would alter the course of my life. So we did it. We decided to just do it. That was in February 2012, and seven months later we’re finding ourselves here at launch. We spent this whole year sourcing inventory, driving and flying to markets around the country, writing web copy and developing our site, and creating a business strategy to turn Hello Holiday into something really sustainable.
TBP: What do you find exciting (or challenging) about the shift from designer to buyer?
MH: Honestly it was such a relief to back out of the independent design cage I had boxed myself into. It all happened so fast for me, and I don’t think I went into that endeavor with enough preparation. I started as an accessory designer in 2005 and grew that business to be pretty successful by my own standards–it had a ton of potential. Then I decided to launch a line of bridesmaid and wedding dresses, and I had sales and really loyal and supportive customers, but the overhead involved in producing a fashion line just dragged my business into the ground. I was riding this emotional high of fast growth and took a foolish risk. I learned a lot from that–I consider it a huge milestone in my career, that failure. It was a sick burn.
However, my stint as a fashion designer did prepare me wonderfully to work as a buyer. I’m good at picking out the highest-quality clothes at the lowest prices. I know how things will look after they get washed. I know when things are overpriced because I can estimate the costs of materials pretty well. And when we meet designers I can help gain rapport with them because I understand their challenges. I think Sarah and I as a team are coming into the retail industry with some awesome advantages–my experience as a designer and a business owner, hers as a stylist and writer–we’ve got what it takes.
TBP: Tell us about your tag line “Celebrate Your Arrival.” I really like it!
MH: Thank you! Sarah and I believe that in an industry that can be so pretentious, the best use of fashion is to make every day more festive, celebratory, and delightful. The name “Hello Holiday” is about a friendly, accessible approach to fashion, and reminds us that wearing something we love is a way to escape the stress and monotony of our routines and lift us up. The clothes you wear communicate so much about you–who you see yourself as, and how you want to be seen. Where you are. Where you’re going. Our customers are women on the brink of a milestone in their lives–a graduation, a new job, a marriage, a new family member, a huge interview–they’ve got places to go. That’s why our tagline is “Celebrate your arrival.” To get literal, all of us are “arriving” as we discover our identities as women. Our designers are “arriving” as they introduce their collections to a mainstream audience. And after 3-5 days, your package arrives on your doorstep!
TBP: Do you feel women entrepreneurs have any advantages or disadvantages compared to their male counterparts?
MH: A big part of a woman’s life is making peace with an amount of exclusion from certain networks, and I feel that entrepreneurship is traditionally one of them. Fortunately, people are becoming more versed in conversations about privilege and the pervasiveness of sexism, and of course it’s extremely rare to meet anyone deliberately promoting discrimination. But when I go to meetings with my peers, I’m still one of the only women at the table. I’m still asked to speak at conferences “because we needed to add a woman.” When I meet others at industry events, I’m still asked whose wife I am (and the not-at-all better “sorry, I thought you were just a wife” backpedaling ensues).
While women and other minorities are working hard to change the ratio, what would help us are more active male allies who don’t only avoid discriminating as individuals, but address institutional privilege by actively calling out the discrimination of others.
I feel like the entrepreneurship culture is coming to a critical moment for women–people are talking more than ever about the strength and under-utilization of female founders. Ultimately, our individual advantages are just that–individual. But in a culture that is so paternalistic, finding that equal playing field can be a struggle. All we can do is keep developing ourselves and building positive relationships. I do believe that our individual strengths and reputations are our biggest advantages. The best thing a woman can do as an entrepreneur is understand her strengths.
TBP: What was the hardest part of building out an e-commerce model?
MH: Maybe the hardest part was trying to predict the behavior of our customers–what is the eye drawn to first on the page? How do people like to check out and complete the payment process? How do they share? How do they open their packages? And, HOW CAN WE BUILD THAT? Coming up with interactive strategies is hard. Building it is harder. I think people will notice continuous development and upgrades on our website.
I also want to credit Cody Peterson with bringing all of our ideas for our site into reality. He really helped us out and was super awesome to work with.
Sarah Lorsung Tvrdik and Megan Hunt | Credit: Malone & Co.
TBP: How do plan to work your social media strengths into the HH brand?
MH: We’re building an easy way for customers to share their full orders on Pinterest, Twitter, Facebook, and their blogs. After our customers buy something, they want to share their whole purchase, not just a link to a few items–there aren’t any ecommerce platforms that have caught on to that intuitive fact. We also want to build an application that lets customers choose the pieces they want from the emerging designers we find each season to be produced and distributed through our site. We’re really hoping to disrupt not only e-commerce, but fashion manufacturing. Besides that, we actively engage with customers who share our products and purchases through their own networks and reward them for their engagement.
TBP: Any startup lessons you’ve learned that you would like to share?
MH: One thing I learned from my last business is that EVERYTHING you do is marketing, so it’s important to be intentional and conscious about everything you do because someone’s going to associate it with your business. From your font size to the button shapes on your website, to the way you dress and whether or not you swear on Twitter (which I do)…whatever it is, you never know what someone’s first impression of you and what they’ll gather from it. From Hello Holiday, I’ve learned a lot about my own strengths from working with a partner. I’ve NEVER been a lover of group work. I’m very controlling, persistent, impatient, and decisive, and working with another person has forced me to let go of the need to do everything and be everything in this business. Sarah is so complimentary to my personality and she’s been really understanding of my “quirks” in this way. I’m learning when I need to be insistent and when I can defer to her expertise.
I’m eager to learn from our customers going forward. We’re just in our first week of launch here and I’m sure there are many hard-won lessons in our future. Overall we’re going to strive to execute a really exceptional ecommerce platform that makes money by giving customers what they love: quality products, accessible prices, and a charming and exuberant approach to style and online shopping.