Hello! Who are you and what business did you start?
Hi! My name is Jen. I left my full-time “have to report to an office every day” job in 2016 to start my first company, with the ultimate goal to work for myself from anywhere in the world!
I still have a full-time job BUT I can work remotely and it pays the bills, which I think is super important). I launched Sat Nam babe in Spring 2017, a mindfully made line of yoga-inspired clothing for kids under six and babies (think ethical supply chain, pants made out of recycled plastic bottles, fun prints and an overall uplifting message).
Early on, I thought my main customer would be Lululemon wearing, organic produce buying, millennial age yoga moms. While they may be my end customer, my direct customer is many times the woman looking for a unique baby or kid’s birthday, Christmas, etc type gift for the special kid in their life or the hip Grandma who has a disposable income and wants to spend it on her precious grandkids!
While Sat Nam babe is still a work in progress (I work on it part-time), I’ve learned a TON as a first-time entrepreneur and haven’t had to dip into savings once since launching over two years ago.
What's your backstory and how did you come up with the idea?
Sat Nam babe was born from a mix of learning about the injustices in the fashion industry during a class in business school and also completing my Kundalini yoga teaching training certification in 2015.
After researching the children’s wear industry and yoga industry in my graduate school library industry databases, both industries showed upward growth trajectories.
I felt confident that a socially conscious yoga-inspired clothing company for kids under six and babies could actually be a business.
I also wanted the freedom beyond the traditional "9-5" job. Being able to work remotely, even if it's still a work in progress, gives me a taste of the freedom that i yearn for, well before my retirement years.
I think people get too caught up in titles and moving up the corporate ladder and reporting to an office every day and before you know it, you're in your 60s and asking yourself, what did i do with my life? I'm actively trying to avoid that!
Take us through the process of designing, prototyping, and manufacturing your first product.
I hired my friend who is a fashion designer and has the technical expertise, to bring my ideas to life and get them ready for production.
I lucked out in that at the time I was living in New York City and access to people who know what they are doing is more easily available. By chance, I was a member of a coworking space at the time and a fellow member was working with a woman up in Harlem who enjoys taking new designers under her wing and helping them.
I owe much of my early stage prototyping, sampling, etc to her mentorship and support. The prototype/sample stage took some time to get right, not having the technical fashion background was a challenge.
However, with her help, I got through it and launched my business pretty quickly because i was diligent. It’s important to remember the company is YOURS, so you are in the drivers’ seat when it comes to dotting your i’s and crossing your t’s and staying on top of your vendors to ensure everything is getting done within your timeline.
One learning challenge was trusting someone to manufacture my first round of harem pants in India. It was a massive failure and cost me time, money and resources. I got through it and finally got the correct pants, several months late and over budget. I’m convinced the universe was screaming at me to produce in the U.S. moving forward, which is what I have done ever since.
I also lucked out with early stage legal and accounting help - don’t pay for this stuff early on if you can help it; i found resources within my coworking space and grad school entrepreneurship field center. There are plenty of things you will need to spend your money on, believe me, so try to get stuff pro bono early on when it makes sense.
Describe the process of launching the business.
I used iFundWomen to launch my company with a crowdfunding campaign, raising approximately 70% of what I needed to launch my business.
Crowdfunding is an excellent way to raise capital and test your market in a controlled and safe environment (aka friends and family) without draining your savings. I can’t recommend this avenue enough because since most companies fail, why would you want to drain your savings or take out a bank loan when you can get early buy-in, early-stage customers and early feedback through crowdfunding?
It took me about 8 weeks before my crowdfunding launch to shoot and finalize my crowdfunding video (I used a masters level student to keep my costs pretty much $0), tease friends and family on Facebook as to what i was up to, so they were READY to support as soon as I launched the campaign.
I raised about 40% of my goal within the first 48 hours because I was prepared, promoted heavily and had 100% of my energy in the game. If you go about it half prepared and not comfortable with self-promotion, raising money and launching a company is going to be that much more challenging for you. You need a TOUGH SKIN to launch a business, no doubt about it.
But you can get past this with feeling prepared to launch your business, which is where crowdfunding coaches come in extraordinarily handy. I believe in crowdfunding and iFundWomen so much, that I am now a part-time crowdfunding coach with them, helping women entrepreneurs raise on average 4.5 times more than trying to go at it alone. Reach out and I’m happy to chat about coaching services.
Since launch, what has worked to attract and retain customers?
This is the $1000 question. I’m still learning. Attracting and retaining repeat customers is really hard with no budget. I do pop up markets when I’m available on weekends and really enjoy those, meeting customers in real time and it moves inventory quickly.
Meeting customers in person helps connect with people when you are in front of them in real time and able to meet them, answer questions about the company and self promote. I find popups to be an easy sell, versus online when you're competing with the rest of the world.
I’ve tried a lot of organic stuff on Instagram, but their algorithms are challenging. I’ve put a halt to much of my Instagram work at the moment. I’ve tried it all - mom influencers, commenting on others posts, posting regularly, doing giveaways, but it’s still challenging with no budget. It’s probably been my biggest challenge.
I am working with a class of marketing and promotions students this semester, so am excited to see what ideas they come up with to help support my ecommerce work.
However, a positive is that i have a PR background, so getting press when I put the effort in, comes pretty naturally. Sat Nam babe was in Yoga Journal magazine, a national yoga magazine, so I got some sales from that PR coverage. I would not spend money on a PR person as a new company. Teach yourself how to do it or get an intern, again, figure out what are the essentials you need to spend money on early on and stick to that.
How are you doing today and what does the future look like?
My best distribution is still through pop up markets in the local community where i live. I’ve dabbled in some wholesale accounts which is always exciting to see your clothes pop up in yoga studios and am certainly open to yoga studios and kids clothing stores carrying my product, it’s not currently a priority though for me for outreach and how i spent my time. Most of my time will be spent continuing to hone in on the e-commerce piece of growing the business once i listen to those class presentations!
The company is expanding its product slowly but surely. I just came out with a few new pants designs which are beyond adorable, so am exciting to start selling them at pop up markets in the near future. I’m proud of what i’ve learned thus far around entrepreneurship; it’s all about being gritty and barebones, being resourceful and smart. I plan on continuing to run Sat Nam babe for as long as I enjoy doing it and see a need in the marketplace for a unique, conscious product for our littlest citizens.
What platform/tools do you use for your business?
I use Shopify and swear by their basic version which only costs me about $30 per month. Don’t spend thousands of dollars to hire someone to create a website for you, when Shopify has clean, modern templates that you can go in and edit any time you wish. They also have a safe and secure POS system that is great when I’m at pop up markets, to charge people’s credit cards. The POS system on my phone even updates my Shopify inventory, it’s great!
Other than Shopify and the basic version, I’m really bare bones and cheap still with my business (where i can be). I spent my money on a good quality manufacturing process and skimp everywhere else right now. It’s important for me to stay within the financial means of the business.
What have been the most influential books, podcasts, or other resources?
The Lean Startup book - read at least the cliffnotes online. I think it’s important to not spent all this time on a super formal business plan because it’ll take you months to launch your business, just delaying you from doing what you should be doing, which is launching your company. This book solidified that it’s best to launch, test and pivot as needed. A must read or skim at the least.
Also Side Hustle School podcast - shameless self promotion because I was a guest on it last year. Check out the podcast, as it really brings my company and journey to life in an (audio version)[https://sidehustleschool.com/episode/427/].
Advice for other entrepreneurs who want to get started or are just starting out?
Use crowdfunding such as iFundWomen to test your concept in a safe and supportive environment.
If you do your market research and realize that perhaps the industry data or research doesn’t support your business idea, it’s ok to pivot or fail early and often and move on.
Where can we go to learn more?
@SatNambabe on Instagram and Facebook
If you have any questions or comments, drop a comment below!
Hey! 👋 I'm Pat Walls, the founder of Starter Story.
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