Laurie Felt / Women Owned Business
Tell us a little about yourself and your childhood.
I grew up on the beach in Palos Verdes in Los Angeles County. I’ve had a love for denim since I was young. Growing up in a “beachy denim culture” can do that! I used to live for Chemin de Fer and Dittos jeans -- the hot denim brands of the 70’s! Outside of my love for wearing and designing denim, my family is my everything. I have four children and while they are all so different, they have beautiful hearts and a zest for life. My oldest Jillian is a little love bug. She’s passionate about film (like my husband) and works at one of the studios in LA. My second daughter, Maya, just started college in Philadelphia at the University of Pennsylvania. She is so smart, and we’re so proud of her. My oldest son, Jack, is reserved and as sweet as can be, and my little guy Chase is outgoing, social and an excellent athlete! My husband, Jon, is an incredible business leader, a loving father and an amazing husband. To say I am in awe of him would be an understatement.
Laurie Feltheimer CEO & Founder of Laurie Felt - Los Angeles
The line is currently available on QVC® www.lauriefelt.com
When did you decide you wanted to start your own company?
I knew I wanted to do something unique in fashion, but I also needed to have flexibility, as being a mom has always come first for me. In 2000, I started my own fashion line and took it to the Home Shopping Network. It was the same year my husband, Jon, started Lionsgate Entertainment!
Was there a specific moment when you knew this was what you wanted to do?
Yes. Right when I finished my business plan, I had butterflies. I remember the feeling so clearly. I knew bringing beautiful fashions to all women, of all shapes and sizes, at a fair price was part of my mission in life, and I could feel it was needed. After my line was successful for 10 years, I felt a desire, and saw a white space in the market, to focus on denim. I started exploring fabrications that were much softer and more flexible than most denim out there. Going jean shopping for women was (and still can be!) like going bathing suit shopping. I wanted to change this. I wanted women to fall in love with the way they felt in denim but more so, the way they felt in their own skin. When I updated my business plan with a true focus on denim, I felt those same butterflies.
What was the best thing you did to grow your business?
Invested in an amazing girl squad!
Do you feel it was more difficult because you are a woman?
No, not in this industry, but I have felt this in other industries that I have worked in before.
What advice do you wish someone would have given you?
That it’s okay to invest in yourself.
After you made the decisions, what steps did you take?
After I refocused my strategy, my first step was to find a VP to help build a brand that supported this new mission at large: to help women find and feel like themselves. Denim is a rapidly growing industry today. Women don’t need another jean -- women need an exceptional jean, and brand, that can support them in their life. The next step was hiring a few more key team members, creating a small but incredibly talented girl squad! In the past, I always kept my business small, so it was a big step to hire top talent. Another big step was putting in the time and resources to support a strategy where customers were truly front and center. This brand is not just for our customers, but meant to evolve with our customers, by our side. Recently, we made our first “customer” full-time hire, and in the future, we plan to continue to grow from within the talent of our customer base. We believe in walking the talk. While some brands call their key phrase a tagline – ours is our byline; an acknowledgement that this brand is a co-creation with the customer. “We design everyday glamour, inspired by you.”
How did you fund this project?
When I started my line, I had $10,000 to invest. I never borrowed money or spent more than I had. I knew that if I had investors, I would have opinions, too. I knew what I wanted to build very clearly. And I also knew the danger of too many voices when you know in your heart what you want to do. As I grew my business over the past 17 years, I saved money and used my revenue to help fund the next phase of the brand.
What were the hardest hurdles?
I had my first big show when my youngest son was five weeks old! I was breastfeeding between live TV appearances over the course of 24 hours. I think this was the hurdle, haha! Managing a very busy, full life and feeling successful in all buckets was certainly a hurdle, too. Nowadays, as my children are grown, my hurdles are more in business. Specifically, trying to drive change and innovation in a world with unique opportunities to change the customer/brand relationship. Not everyone wants to embrace change and take risks for the potential of creating an amazing customer experience. We do. My team and I believe in staying true to our values and mission and always taking leaps that can win the customer’s heart. It has been a hurdle getting others on board with taking vulnerable risks.
Did you have a mentor?
Jon, my husband, is truly my mentor. I was inspired by his initial model to bring movies to underserved audiences. I based my initial business plan off of the same concept and it still holds true. We believe denim is for ALL and we are committed to designing a jean at a fair price (for all shapes and sizes) and building a brand in line with this mission.
At any point did you want to give up?
Yes. There have been many times I wanted to give up – especially when it becomes more difficult than fun! But I don’t give up. I just start over the next day, trying to learn and work through challenges with a clear mind and heart.
What made you keep going?
Honestly, right now, it’s two things. First, I really feel we are building something that is beautiful and special, from the product and the community to bringing people together through this fabric that has been woven into our culture since the beginning of its time. Second,, a lot of people are counting on me and depend on me. It’s not just me by myself like it once was, and I want to help us find incredible success. I want to see everyone who works for me (and who is part of this brand) lead beautiful, empowered lives.
How long did it take to become profitable?
I was profitable right away, but profitability is relative. Now, my brand has become successful in a whole new light because it’s more meaningful. We are able to inspire women through fashion, but also touch their lives and empower them in other ways.
Do you think social media is important?
Yes, definitely. These platforms are tools and it’s what you do with them that matters. In today’s data-driven world, it’s easy to focus on specific, niche audiences. We are focusing on not what divides, but what connects us. We are betting on our similarities and bringing diverse audiences together. We want to celebrate our differences and help our customers learn from one another, by getting to know each other through vulnerability, kindness and our mutual love for #nicejeans! We have a closed community on Facebook called Heartfelt By Laurie Felt that’s a core connecter for our brand. Not only is our team directly conversing with the customer as individuals (not just behind the brand name), we’re connecting them to each other and beautiful friendships are forming every day! We have seen many incredible relationships emerge and situations where these platforms have helped women empower one another in just a short time. It’s been amazing to watch. We’re continuing to explore how we can leverage social media in innovative ways as we grow.
What is the happiest memory from this journey?
There’s been so many! I think that all of the letters from the customers saying how we made them feel, these are so special to us. We really get a lot of positive feedback from the people who shop our denim and join in the brand community!
Where do you see your company in 5 years?
Every day, we are working to create a successful and kind business. We believe we can do both. We’re laser focused on moving the ball forward daily in the direction of this vision. In 5 years, we are we going to be in a great place.