The Saurette clothing line emerged in 2009, with a modern take on children's fashion. We sat down with founder and mom-of-two Lisa Kanouse to find out howshe got the collection started, how she manages a work/family balance, and what's next for Saurette.
|Quick Stats: Saurette founder Lisa Kanouse lives in Manhattan with her husband of 14 years, David, and their sons Dakota and Ryder, 7 and 3 respectively.
After more than 18 years working in merchandising and product development roles for such retail giants as Macy's, Polo, and Saks Off 5th, Lisa Kanouse decided she loved what she was doing - but she preferred to do it on her own. In 2009 Kanouse launched Saurette, a contemporary collection for girls that is rich in detail and inspired by the latest runway fashions, yet comfortable enough for the playground. Already the line is sold in 75 stores across the United States and abroad, and has attracted a solid base of mom fans and their little fashionistas.
Why did you launch Saurette?
After I had my boys, things got so hectic, trying to balance work and home and be involved in their school. I wanted to have the flexibility to go on field trips with them and be involved in their lives as much as possible. I was tired of the corporate world, and I had learned some really amazing things. At that point I was at Saks and I was developing their women's private label collection. I was getting a lot of positive feedback and I thought: I can do this on my own; I know how to do it from start to finish. I also had a friend who had a children's wear business many years back and, so I had someone to bounce the ideas off. She had done it before, and so it didn't seem so scary.
I was also tired of seeing all of the typical character shirts. I wanted something that had a more modern flare and that didn't look like what everyone else was wearing. It was important to make sure the quality was there, it was soft and comfortable and it was appealing to both girls and their moms.
Was there a niche?
Yes, at that point I didn't see a lot of modern collections. There were brands that were doing pieces, but there wasn't anyone that was doing a full collection with all of the pieces.
What were the initial steps for getting your line off the ground?
Getting together what the collection was going to be about. I wanted to focus on the modern, contemporary feel for little girls. Also, I had to figure out who was the best manufacturer that could meet the small minimums. I also needed to get a sales team and find someone who could go out there and represent me to all the department stores so that I could then focus on the design and production.
Did you have financing?
We were self-financed. Between personal funds and business loans, my husband and I have funded the entire business.
What is your process?
I put together the color palette and the prints, and then I design the bodies. I then combine the measurements for the bodies along with the sketches and send over tech-packs to the factory. I tell them the fabric, if there's a specific wash that needs to be done, the colors it comes in, the types of trim, and then they make the first proto-sample. I get them back and do a fitting on live models, send fit comments, and then request samples. The sample line then goes out to all of the showrooms, and then the fit process continues until it's perfected. We then go into bulk production.
My business has grown, and so now I'm trying to figure out how to keep up with it. I now have larger orders and sometimes the factories negotiate better pricing if I can give them 50 percent upfront at the time of the order; the other
50 percent comes at the time of shipment. So there is a lag between the time I have to pay the factory and when I actually get paid.
Can you offer one piece of advice to other mom entrepreneurs?
Start building a network and reach out to people. Talk to the customers and find out what they want, and learn from that. I think that's how you become successful.
What do you wish you would have known before you launched?
That I needed help! I'm reinventing myself every single season because I have to re-create an entire collection-styles, colors, prints, everything. It's difficult to manage the production of the current season while also working on new development, accounting, PR, photo shoots, look-books, costing, plus following up with the factories.
How do you manage work/life balance?
I work 14-16 hour days. There's not a lot of 'me time.' It's either about my job, the kids, or my husband. I just try to do my best to make it all fit in. I'm so passionate about this business and I love what I do. If I didn't have that, there's no way I could work those hours. I try to make specific time for my children, but they understand that I'm trying to build a business for our family.
I'm exploring the investor idea and am looking to expand into the overseas market. Also, I really want to land a department store account in the states so that I can take it to the next level - and have Saurette become a household name.