This week in our ongoing Meet the Maker series, we’re getting to know Lizzi and Mary Bradley, the sister team behind Little Minnow – a line of accessories that are hand screen printed and sewn in Austin, Texas. Welcome, ladies!
LBC: What inspired you to take your leap as entrepreneurs?
Lizzi and Mary: We both had been working full-time jobs (Mary as a high school teacher and Lizzi as a Graphic Designer) plus working on Little Minnow at night and on the weekends. The holiday season was approaching and we both didn’t feel like we could go through another one not being able to fully devote our time to Little Minnow. So we made the leap and have never looked back!
LBC: When you first got started, how did you envision your business would be defined?
Lizzi and Mary: Our business started, well… not as a business. It really started with an idea to make some scarves for ourselves and our sisters. After sewing up a few, we thought it would be cool to screenprint some of our designs on to them. It was right around the time that Etsy was first gaining a lot of attention, and after listing and quickly selling out, we started exploring craft shows and really building a brand around our scarves. We really had no idea it would grow the way it did. We define ourselves now as a women’s accessories brand, but who knows what the next five years will bring!?
LBC: How would you describe what you create?
Lizzi and Mary: We are most known for our screen printed infinity scarves but our twist hair scarves are a close second. Each of our products is handmade from start to finish – the fabric is cut, then printed, heat-set and finally sewn. The last step is packaging and shipping it out the door!
LBC: Where can we find your products?
Lizzi and Mary: We are stocked in stores all across the country. I think the only state we currently don’t have any stores is in Utah. (If any of you reading this are from Utah and own a store – you can be our first!)
LBC: Walk us through your typical work day.
Lizzi and Mary: Our days usually start with a quick look at e-mail (we wish we could be those people who only look at their e-mail once or twice a week, or even once a day – but really, how can you resist?) and going over anything we need to get done that day. Mary spends most of her days handling wholesale/retail orders, managing finances, and making sure production is on track. Lizzi is in charge of a majority of the printing, anything we need designed, and snapping photos for social media.
LBC: What are 3 things makers should think through when they initially decide to start a business?
Lizzi and Mary: Well, I don’t know if we are the best about giving advice on the topic since we started our business somewhat on a whim, but we’ll give it a go…
1. Do your research. Have a great idea? Awesome! Just make sure it’s not already being done.
2. Make sure you are setting your prices correctly. You might have to ask your finance major friends, or even just someone who is good with numbers… but make sure you are covering your cost of materials, time and overhead. Don’t just set your prices to what your competitors are doing – people are willing to pay more for higher quality items.
3. Don’t be afraid to evolve or make changes a long the way. We were so nervous the first time we had to make changes to our fabric colors. We were convinced there would be a flood of emails from angry people saying “the fabric use to be cream and now its ivory”. The truth is that nobody noticed, and life went on!
LBC: When you’re overwhelmed, what brings you back to focus?
Lizzi and Mary: We are both list makers. Mary takes it a little more seriously, often making lists about making other lists.
LBC: Tell us about a few of the best business decisions you’ve made to date.
Lizzi and Mary: Our decision to quit our day jobs is pretty high up there. We were fortunate enough that our business was able to support us by then, but it would have been really hard for Little Minnow to grow if we weren’t able to focus completely on it for a few years.
A second decision that really impacted our business was hiring help and teaching our processes to other people. As our business grew, we realized that we couldn’t do it all on our own. Having extra hands has allowed us to focus more on the business and less on the day-to-day production.
LBC: Please share one mistake or obstacle from your business experience. How did you bounce back/overcome it?
Lizzi and Mary: People often say that you shouldn’t mix family and business. And the truth is, sometimes we fight. It’s just the nature of being sisters and working in close proximity together. But it is often for the best. We get frustrated, we need to vent, and the next day we are always back at it, working hard (and usually with a little more awareness of each other’s needs – although neither of us is good at admitting it.)
Being honest is important in any business relationship. You don’t want to tell your business partner you like their ideas (when you don’t) just because you are afraid of hurting their feelings. You won’t feel good about the outcome or be fully on-board about where the business is going. As sisters, we have been brutally honest (and I mean really brutally) with each other since we were kids. Things haven’t changed. She will still tell me if a pair of pants make my legs look short, and I will tell her if I don’t like her hair. But in business together, we feel entirely comfortable to voice our opinions without hesitation, and even get a little bossy every once in awhile.
LBC: Is there a cause or organization that you contribute to that you’re particularly passionate about?
Lizzi and Mary: We donate to Healing Haiti, an organization that helps to bring clean water to the poor and vulnerable people living in Cite Soleil, the poorest city in Haiti.
LBC: What are 3 essential resources in your business toolbox that you can’t do without?
Lizzi and Mary: 1. Our friends who also own small, creative businesses. They are so great when we have questions, need help, or just need to vent. It is such a blessing to have friends who have similar experiences and are willing to share and help out – together it is way more fun, and we’ve all found more success.
2. Our iPhones. They help us stay connected and get work done on the go, or from bed.
3. Square credit card readers – remember when you could only accept cash or had to make a carbon-copy of someone’s card and prayed it was legit? Ancient history.
LBC: Suppose we had a time machine. If you blasted ourselves forward a few years, where would we see your company?
Lizzi and Mary: This a very timely question, as we have been having some major discussions about the future and how we see Little Minnow growing. We both agree we want to continue to grow our brand, add more stockists, hire more employees and maybe even start a new line. We both really enjoy the design aspect of our company, so getting to a place where we can be full-time designers with a staff that helps with all of the production would be really awesome!
LBC: What’s one thing you would eat, if you could only eat one thing for the rest of your life?
Lizzi and Mary: Cereal – it is such a guilty pleasure for both of us!
LBC: Your musical playlist is full of…
Lizzi: When I need to focus, it’s all Banks and Adele.
Mary: I’m not ashamed to admit I love country music.
LBC: Share one of your guiltiest pleasures.
Lizzi and Mary: Eating candy when working. Sometimes we look at each other (especially when we are feeling stressed) and say “I can keep going, but I’m going to need a sweet treat,” and then someone heads to the gas station for some Hot Tamales and Peanut M&Ms.
LBC: If you could hire someone to do just one thing that you sort of loath doing, what would it be?
Lizzi: Resizing images for the web and convincing Mary to take pictures of me for social media.
Mary: Typing up wholesale orders and taking pictures of Lizzi for social media.
Thank you, Lizzi and Mary, for sharing your talent with us! We absolutely love what you’re doing with Little Minnow, and we look forward to all the wonderful things ahead for you and your company. We’re cheering you on!
Want to see your brand featured in our continuing “Meet the Maker” series? Drop us a line: hello AT luckybreakconsulting.com. Please use “MEET THE MAKER” as the subject line and be certain to include your web address. We look forward to hearing from you!