We sat down with Holly Xerri, Long Island mom of two and creator of the Camiband, to find out where she found her inspiration, how she juggles work and family life, and what's next for her business.
|Quick Facts: Holly Xerri lives with her husband Ray and daughters Alexa, 18, and Jackie, 13, in Oceanside, NY.
Holly Xerri's seed of an idea for an entirely new product took root in 2008 with the purchase of a pair of yoga leggings. This favorite pair of pants had a flap of fabric that hung down low from the waist to cover her. She thought, wouldn't it be great to have a band like that to go with other leggings and shirts? This band, she thought, could cover skin or bulges if a pair of pants was too low, or it could extend a shirt that was too short. The more she thought, the more possibilities there were: It could be worn under a low-cut top for extra coverage, over a bikini as a cute beach cover-up, or - thinking of her daughters - as a layering item to liven up teens' outfits.
Following a career selling Budget-Pak, her own direct mail coupon program, to stores around Long Island, Xerri sold the business in 2004, was retired, and never thought she'd sell again. With Camiband, she initially thought of creating an online-only business. But even with her marketing, advertising and sales skills, she faced challenges right away: She didn't have experience designing a garment, didn't know how to sew, and had limited computer skills.
The Camiband now sells online nationally and internationally (from Canada to Australia) to teenagers and women up to age 70. We talked with Xerri about how her family and the community helped her successfully get her business off the ground.
How did you find the fabric?
I wandered around the fashion district in New York City, trying to find the lace. Eventually I found an actual lace manufacturer. I found it wholesale. I went to a local tailor in Oceanside, who would sew it for size. I went into the dressing room in T.J. Maxx and had people try it on. The factory then made it from my sample sizes.
Tell us how you got orders and marketed the website.
In the beginning, I went and sat at street fairs. It was when the recession hit bad. It was a hard time to come out with a new product. Attendance wasn't good, but the people who did come said I should be on "Oprah" or QVC! I pushed and hired a website designer. My daughter made the video on the website. She's really talented; she's a wiz at computer graphics and editing. My kids were helping me for free, but now I pay my older one for modeling and my younger one for graphics.
So it's really a family business; how has your family reacted to your success?
In the beginning, my husband didn't take it seriously, but now he sees how many orders I get in. So he gets the Google ad words and the computer metrics. He does all my books, the inventory and the spreadsheets. And I come up with the ideas and the concepts and the vision. It's very funny. My family is tired of hearing about the business. I was in a store with my daughter shopping for a dress for a Bat mitzvah. I said, "That dress is way too low! You're only 13!" She said, "Mom, didn't you ever hear of a Camiband?"
What is your day-to-day like?
I try to make a schedule for myself. I pack orders Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays. The other days I spend online and try to get media attention.
Did you discover that any part of the business was harder than you thought?
Just getting factories to do it to the size that I ask for...the ordering and the time it takes to get something. Everything from having the lace sent, to having it cut and sewn - it takes months to get the garment. You have to make sure you have enough stock and estimate what you need. Already I want to gear myself up for Christmas!
What's your best piece of advice for other moms who want to start their own business?
If you have a vision, go with it and don't stop until you do it. Always go with what you know. Even though I wasn't in the fashion business, I knew how to do marketing, advertising, design and sales. And, I put all of myself into the website. You have one chance to catch someone's attention!
What do you think has been the key to your success?
I came up with this idea and I had to make it happen. I don't stop until I make something the way I want it. I'm a perfectionist. I have that drive to do it right.
What's next for the company?
I could produce for a big store. I'd like to build the business gradually, though. I don't want to overwhelm myself. I already did one business and sold it. I did all of the colors in small/medium and medium/large sizes. As I replenish my colors, I plan on making the Camiband available in a large/extra large size, as well.
|The Camiband is available in onyx, white, cream, navy blue, pink passion, and chocolate. For more information on ways to wear the Camiband and to order, visit www.camibands.com.