Who said bestfriends can't make a business work would have to think twice and i guess once in a while you get that perfect story of a start-up business, Ashley and Danielle are two bestfriends after graduating from the university of washington quickly found success and fame after starting their clothing line.
Can you quickly give us some brief background information about yourselves?
Ashley Cook - I grew up in Colorado and graduated from Washington University’s Olin School of Business in 2008 where i double majored in Marketing and Spanish with a minor in Drama. Instantly fell in love with fashion at a very young age. As a little girl i would cut and sew any and every article of clothing i could get her hands on.
Danielle Dankner- I was born and raised in New York and graduated from Washington University in St. Louis with a major in English Literature and minors in French, Psychology and Modern Dance.
Firstly, how did you both meet?
As fate would have it, the two of us were set up as roommates at Washington University in St. Louis freshman year. We lived together for all four years of college and became best friends. After graduation in May of 2008, we both moved to New York City and soon thereafter started our company, ash&dans.
Did you both have any entrepreneurial background, how did you know that you wanted to start a business together?
Ashley was a business major at Washington University. We knew we loved spending time together and knew we wanted to figure out a way to involve each other in our daily lives.
I hear a lot of people complain about working with friends and family, was that a worry when you decided to go into business together?
Not at all. After living together for four years we knew each other so well, both strengths and weaknesses. We are very different but extremely compatible. We balance each other out well. We are both creative, self-motivated and extremely hard workers; we knew that if we set a goal and put our minds to it, we would do anything and everything to make it happen. And we did.
How have you been able to make it work so far?
Through dedication, perseverance and creativity. Our business has become our number one priority. For right now, we know that to make it work we have to put our heart, soul and time into ash&dans. That’s why it has been so successful thus far.
What would you say has been the best quality you’ve developed so far?
Dedication. We are both extremely dedicated to our business. We have developed a line that we are proud of and have the confidence to put it out there and share it with the fashion world.
What is an average workday like for you?
Varies from day to day. Typically we begin the day at the computer, returning emails and filling orders. We spend a lot of time in the garment district- we get a lot of our materials and inspiration walking around there. Our manufacturer is also in the garment district, so our days are very full and hands on.
What is the most interesting part of your job?
We do everything “in house” right now, so everything from design to marketing to PR to sales to accounting we do together on any given day. Every day is full and interesting because we do it all.
If you were to start again, would you do anything differently?
No, we are very happy with how our business started and how it has grown.
How do you market your products or services?
Our creations are original and easy to wear. We built our collection on the concept of embellished jersey- taking simple jersey in chic bodies and adding unique brooches, chains, lace and other unique pieces to dress it up. Our pieces appeal to a wide range of women and ages.
What has been your most effective marketing tactic or technique?
People love our story- two best friends moving to New York and seeing their dream come true. From the beginning, sewing our own pieces on the bedroom floor to now having our collection professionally manufactured and sold in such renowned stores as Bendels and Harvey Nichols, ours is truly a success story for the ages.
They was a lot of buzz when Leighton Meester decided to wear your brand, how did that happen and how did you find out?
We gifted Leighton the scarf last winter and about a month later one of our friends emailed us saying that she saw a photo of Leighton on one of the websites and she thought that she might be wearing one of our scarves. It turned out to be our “Niki” scarf, the navy wrap scarf with black lace trim.
What else do you girls do outside work?
Ashley- I am a actress and play competitive tennis.
Danielle - I am a dancer and writer; I have performed jazz, West African and modern dance.
What was the most difficult period so far in your entrepreneurial journey and how did you bounce back from that?
Luckily, the most difficult part was simply learning to block out the non-believers. There were people in the beginning who did not believe our business would take off. If we listened to all of the pessimists and gave up on ourselves, the business would not exist today. However, we are both extremely determined and motivated individuals. Once we set a goal for ourselves, we do anything and everything in our power to make it happen, no matter what people say. We knew from the beginning that we had a great concept and the personalities and work ethic to make it happen.
What are the most crucial things you have done to grow your business?
First and foremost, perfecting the quality of our product was crucial to our success. Second, developing our website with ecommerce capability was crucial to online sales and reaching the online consumer.
What plans do you have now to expand your business further?
We aim to continually create original concepts and designs that are both beautiful and wearable. For now we are known for our accessories, but we plan to expand into women’s apparel. We have a line of embellished jersey tees and cardigans coming out in Spring 2010.
What should we be expecting from you both in the future?
Our hope is that ash&dans will be a recognizable brand and we will have the freedom to expand our line to include any designs that we create. Hopefully we will have a consumer base with brand loyalty that keep wanting more and more ash&dans.
Thanks ladies,To get your hand on one of their collection, check out their website