Small Business Saturday with BandaBeau

Owner Name: Melissa Cricks
Business Name: BandaBeau
Business Based in: CA
Website: www.BandaBeau.com

Social Media Accounts: IG, FB, Pinterest – @BandaBeau

Hashtags Used: #BandaBeau #tamethattowel #beachlife #poolside

What products or services do you offer?
BandaBeau is the ultimate beach towel accessory that you never knew you needed but can’t live without:

  • Cleverly wraps around the top of a lounge chair to keep beach towel from sliding down or blowing away.
  • Features a hidden zippered pocket for staching small valuables.
  • Make it easy to spot one’s chair in a sea of white resort towels.
  • Claims a seat at a crowded pool.

BandaBeau is made from high-quality swimwear fabric, is fully adjustable to fit varying lounge chairs and comes in your choice of fashionable prints and vibrant solids. Plus, the zippered pocket conveniently converts to a travel pouch small enough to make your vacation packing list!

How long have you been in business? We just launched 3.5 wks ago!

What inspired you to start your own company? I had an 18 year career in marketing but was feeling a bit stuck – i.e. wasn’t feeling challenged or inspired and didn’t feel like I was developing and expanding my skillset, so I’d tend to get bored after a year or two into a job (i.e. once I had “mastered” that role). At about the same time, during frequent visits to the beach and pool, I was continuously frustrated when my towel would slide down or blow off my lounge chair while trying to relax. (I still can’t get enough pool/beach time after living in NYC for over a decade!!). Tried to buy a product to solve this frustration and realized there weren’t any stylish solutions in the market, the only solutions were purely functional. A friend of mine, a fellow entrepreneur, recommended that I fix this situation by simply designing and developing a fashionable solution myself! At first I thought she was crazy – at that time I had never considered starting my own business. But the more I thought about it, the more I liked the idea and felt like it was something I could actually do!! So I found a fashion designer to sew the first prototype by hand in her small Venice apartment. From there I started to develop the brand vision, partnered with a branding agency to develop the brand name, logo, creative designs, etc. and partnered with Jen Galvin (current biz partner) who is responsible for the current product design (a more stylish and functional version of the original prototype). During the product development process + branding identity process I realized how much I absolutely loved creating a product and brand from scratch – and realized that bringing a completely new product to market (my own, not someone else’s idea) was the most rewarding thing I’d ever done in my career. I found the passion I was missing in my corporate career and had an “aha” moment, where I realized this is what is right for the next chapter in my career, so I decided to go “all in “ on the business and dedicate as much time/effort as possible to ensuring BandaBeau would be a success (so far, we’re off to a GREAT start!)

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Do you have a mentor or someone who inspired you? I was inspired by several friends who left their corporate jobs to start their own company and were very happy with that decision. I envied that they could be their own boss, set their own hours, work from home and they all seemed to have more passion and enjoy their “work” much more than I ever did as a corporate employee. Since I’ve started my business, I’ve relied on a handful of mentors to help guide me along the way and have used each of them at different points along my journey. My dad, who’s been an entrepreneur since I’ve been a kid, is the mentor I rely on the most, considering he’s a marketing consultant to small business owners – he’s my sounding board for a variety of topics from how to structure my partnership, how to manage our manufacturer, business negotiations, and of course marketing my brand. I also have two mentors that are more recent entrepreneurs so I look to them for guidance on things like fundraising, business plan development and financials; one of these mentors’ business is in the fashion accessory space and his product is sold online so I rely on him for industry info, eCommerce learnings, etc. And my final mentor is someone I connected with through Score.Org (a nonprofit association made up for volunteer mentors who are dedicated to helping small businesses get off the ground, grow and achieve their goals). I’m so grateful for each of my mentors, they’ve helped me so much more than I can ever articulate!

Favorite part of owning your own company? Building a brand from the ground up. In my 18 year career in marketing, I had always worked on brands that were well established in the market (i.e. Estee Lauder, Bumble and bumble, OPI, etc.) so it was more about nurturing the brand image and working to increase an already established brand awareness, and maintaining the momentum of a successful brand. With BandaBeau, I got to create a brand that didn’t exist before – from the brand name, to the logo, to the branding elements (fonts, colors, design elements, etc.). It was a bit nerve wracking and I sometimes felt unsure of the decisions I was making along the way, but in the end I feel so confident with the product and brand image that I’ve created – it’s been the most rewarding project in my career (BY FAR!)

What is an obstacle that you found you were unprepared for? The start-up costs! I underestimated the cost (by a lot), so the only way I could afford to support the brand is to do it slowly (took 1.5 years to get to market), which meant I could spread out the bills over time. Considering how expensive a start-up can be, most entrepreneurs (like myself) have no choice but to work a full-time job while managing their business “on the side” (nights/wknds), so it’s important to learn how to be an impeccable multi-tasker and ensure there is time before/after your day job and on the weekends to focus on your business. I’ve sacrificed a lot of my free time to dedicate to the business, but I’m confident (and hopeful) that all the blood, sweat and tears will pay off in the end!! : )

BandaBeau

How do you put your business out there? I’ve talked to everyone and anyone who will listen about my business – from friends to neighbors, to co-workers, to classmates, to family, and every person in my vast professional networks. I also go to a lot of networking events where I have the opportunity to spread the word about my product; I also participate in as many entrepreneur opportunities as I can as a student at USC (i.e. fundraising competitions, demo/tradeshow days, attending entrepreneur seminars/workshops, networking with current students and alumni in the Business Entrepreneur program, etc).

What mobile apps/online resources help your business the most? Instagram (we reached 1k followers before our product launched!!), Facebook (80% of our site traffic at launch came from FB), Pinterest (where we source all lifestyle UGC content for IG/FB posts), ColorStory (a filter app we use to ensure all images on social feed has consistent photo filters), and Shopify (our eCommerce platform)

What are your favorite tools to help with workflow and organization? Dropbox for sharing large asset files with freelance designers, web developers, copywriters, photographers, etc. My business partner and I use Google Drive to track all our projects and worksheets (i.e. COGs analysis, ordering worksheets, inventory management, etc.) which is incredibly helpful to see live changes, access the files anytime/from anywhere, etc.

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How do you maintain balance in life? For the 6 months prior to the launch of our website, it was very hard to maintain balance in my life – during that time, I started grad school full time (first time as a student in almost 20 yrs, so it was quite an adjustment), transitioned from working on BandaBeau “on the side” to full-time and started a new full-time consulting job to pay the bills. Now that we’ve launched and my grad school scheduled has lightened during the summer semester, I’ve found it a little bit easier to maintain balance and have had more free time to work out again (has always been extremely important to me but was something I had to give up as there just weren’t enough hours in the day) and re-connect with friends who I didn’t have much time to see before. And while I’m incredibly busy between school, my consulting “day job” and my business, I continue to try to keep it all in perspective and enjoy the incredible journey I’m on. After an 18 year career I found it difficult to feel challenged and to learn/grow – as an entrepreneur, I have the amazing opportunity to learn something new every day (literally) and participate in opportunities that take me far beyond my comfort zone (in a good way!)

Any words of wisdom for people looking to launch a business of their own? One lesson I’ve learned that I think others would find helpful is that you can’t trust any of your vendors to treat your business as if it were their own. I would often times give too much creative license to vendors like a photographer, videographer, graphic designer, web developer, copywriter or even a manufacturer because I considered them the expert in their field (vs. myself). But I learned the hard way the while they may be an expert at what they do, as the business owner, I’m responsible for communicating my business or creative vision to ensure they’re providing assets or content or product designs that are “on-brand”. When that vision isn’t clearly communicated upfront and as a result, the delivery isn’t what you were looking for, it costs time and money to re-work it (and often times takes several revision rounds before getting it right). Sometimes the deliverables (i.e. photos from a photoshoot) can’t be re-done and you’re stuck with the assets, even if it’s not what you envisioned. I’ve also learned that it’s best to have checkpoints along the development process (when possible) so the deliverables aren’t finalized before you realize it’s not meeting expectations – it’s much easier to re-work something that’s a “work in progress” vs. something that is already finished.
Also, having mentors that are/have been entrepreneurs is crucial to your success – as I like to say “you don’t know what you don’t know” so having mentors to share their lessons learned can save you so much time and money. At the very least, I recommend networking with other entrepreneurs who are farther along in their business than you are so you can learn from their mistakes and their big wins!

Anything else you would like people to know about your business? BandaBeau was conceptualized by Melissa Cricks (Founder & CEO) and designed by Jen Galvin (Product Designer) and is produced locally in downtown Los Angeles (made in America!!). Melissa and Jen met at a beach workout, as members of the same fitness and social club in Los Angeles. Within a few short months, the pair parlayed their friendship from running on the beach to running a company together. Melissa’s business acumen as a veteran marketing executive and Jen’s fashion design expertise resulted in a professional partnership and the creation of a must-have brand for the discerning beachgoer. Having grown up on the water—Melissa in Florida and Jen in Northern California—the duo shares a passion for the beach that is translated into every design.

Tame Your Towel

Why BandaBeau?
The company name is Melissa and Jen’s playful wink to their favorite strapless bikini, the bandeau. The timeless wraparound silhouette, not only influenced their sleek BandaBeau design, but it also proves that something small and stylish can make a big impact.

Our Vision:
The BandaBeau vision is to design luxurious and attainable goods for style conscious beachgoers and pool lovers. While the one-of-a-kind BandaBeau towel accessory is the company’s first must-have item, future collections will feature beach towels, beach totes, swimwear and chic cover-ups.

Is there a coupon or discount code you would like to provide for readers to use? Sure! I can offer a 10% discount – Use code BBREALITY at checkout on www.BandaBeau.com

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