Today on the show we’re learning from Amy Voloshin, the founder of Printfresh.
A longtime lover of patterns and textiles, Amy founded Printfresh with her husband in 2016 as a way to combine a few of her greatest passions—quality fabrics, bold prints, and sustainable practices. What started as a tiny operation of Amy packing and shipping orders out of her house has since grown into a nationally recognized (and loved) sleepwear and lifestyle brand.
In this episode, we cover her major pivot from print studio to notebooks and pyjamas, how to get started with retail stockists, and bootstrapping her brand to $10m in revenue in 2021.
We also dive a little deeper into influencer marketing, and how amazing it has been for the growth of the business. It’s such a big part of putting our product out there. These days brands really have to figure that out, and it's been pivotal to Printfresh. Figuring out how you work with influencers, and how you want to pay them….There are so many different ways to navigate it. For Amy, their influencers have turned into some of our best advisors. It takes a long time to build. Some make fantastic partners, some aren’t right. But it's about navigating it, sticking with it, and figuring out who really aligns with your brand.
And incase you missed me talking about this last week, we’ve just launched our 1800 - hype girl hotline powered by Norby and it’s soooo fun. It’s something I’ve been dreaming about starting since the beginning of Female Startup Club to bring a little more sparkle to the week. The way it works is you sign up to receive texts from us and then every Monday you receive a dose of motivation and good vibes directly to your inbox. Whether you’re a student, working 9-5 or an entrepreneur it’s literally for anyone. And it’s totally free - so sign up by clicking the link in the show notes or our IG bio and pop your number in to get going. I’m so hyped for this!!
Let’s get into this episode, this is Amy for Female Startup Club
Please note, this transcript has been copy pasted without the lovely touch of a human editor. Please expect some typos!
Yeah, so I had originally studied textiles at the Rhode Island School of Design and so I always knew that I loved pattern and fashion and I moved on to work at urban outfitters and worked in design there for three people, urban and anthropology. So I got a really good background and all of those different things working kind of in a more corporate environment and then I wanted to do something on my own something entrepreneurial and that's when I started the textile design studio. And so it started very small, it was just me sitting in a room by myself creating designs and then it really evolved to something totally different with a large team and working with some of the top fashion companies in the US wow, what I love about this is like you've obviously gone through you know different iterations and different variations of what this business looked like. It started as a print studio and you're working with different clients all over the place and then you've kind of merged into what we know, Printfresh as today, which is a sleepwear company, home decor, clothing, all that kind of thing. I'd love to kind of get into the nitty gritty of what, decided what was the deciding factor for you to switch from the studio into creating a line of pajamas. Yeah, I think that, you know, like there was just so much like, that changed in the world over, like the last 15 years and we were originally like B two B so we were only working really behind the scenes, working with those fashion companies and we would go into their design offices and work with them there, but I felt like as things like social media started to happen and instagram became like a thing, we, we started to see that there was so much interest in what we were doing and our paintings in our process and that was kind of the catalyst to start to think about, like, could this be something that we could really switch to being more of a DTC business? And so like, did you, did you have to do anything to prove out the concept? Had you been speaking to people and they were asking you for pajamas? Like how did you know that that was the direction to take. Yeah, we would see an instagram comments, people would be like, where can I get this? And you know, it was kind of a convoluted process to try to direct them to like where they could purchase our designs and so it started with a ton of testing, I mean it took us years to kind of sort things out, figure out things that we could affordably started test into your self funded and didn't really have a, you know an experience in like doing a direct to consumer products. So there was a lot of fumbling around to kind of figure things out. But we started small and started with stationary because it seemed like something that was easy to dip our toes into and apply our products and like our patterns to it. So we just started with a couple of notebooks and it kind of evolved from there, wow. And so when you say like a couple of notebooks, you know, starting small, what were the M O Q s that you were kind of working with at that time when you were testing and learning Yeah, testing that out was hard because some people don't want to do anything that's less than 1000 for me. I kept on thinking, how am I ever going to sell 1000 notebooks? Like, you know, we didn't even really have an e commerce website or anything like that. And so we were lucky to finally, after a ton of research, find somebody that was willing to do a couple 100 we just had to narrow down to a few designs to begin with. And how much did you need to invest to kind of get your website up and running those few 100 orders and of units and kind of get yourself ready to launch the 2.0 version of print fresh. Yeah. In the beginning we just did everything ourselves that we could, we, you know, luckily decided to use Shopify and so it's very user friendly and a few of the people on the team had some experience in, you know, in doing some things online or have managing blogs and things like that. So we kind of cobbled, gather the web design initially on our own and we just kind of had to figure things out with how to get the products on there. And then we also decided to start to pursue a wholesale side of the business. So selling to boutiques and like small lifestyle like sorts of stores. Oh my gosh! And how are you finding like, you know, getting stopped in those retailers, what was the process for you to find new retailers and and get yourself in there initially it really just came down to going to local stores and connections the places I had shopped before thinking maybe well if I like shopping at their store, maybe they'll like what I have to offer. And so it was just kind of like going door to door a little bit and seeing if somebody was willing to test out our prop And then we kind of set a big goal for ourselves and signed up for what at the time was called the national stationery show in New York and so that was like really where we started to see interest in the brand and then after doing that we had 30 stores that wanted to carry our things. Oh my God, Wow. 30 stores, that's a lot. Yeah, it was, I mean, I think it was like, it was really amazing to see so much interest in being able to gauge whether we had kind of stumbled across something that could work for us and something to pivot our business into. When you get like 30 stores kind of all at once wanting to work with you, obviously that requires a lot of working capital to place the orders to help kind of market and you know, the supporting things to keep those products selling off the shelves. How were you kind of funding the business at that point? And what was the, your kind of vision for the funding piece? Yeah, it was a little bit, I would say like confusing to figure out like exactly how we were funding it because we were essentially still like working our day jobs in our studio business where we were selling to fashion companies, so we're doing it concurrently. So we kind of just saw it as like a way to kind of do some research and development into like what maybe the business could turn into. So it was it was definitely challenging to kind of figure out how much to invest in the product and then being able to like manage inventory planning, I think it continues to still be probably one of my biggest challenges with guessing like what's gonna be the hot product, how much of it do we need and figuring out all the fulfillment and logistics of that was really challenging. Yeah, and I bet also the jump from notebooks to clothing which obviously has different sizes and fabrics and you know, fit and all that kind of stuff. What was that journey like and how did that go for you? Yeah, so it was kind of a very like interesting process with how we got from notebooks to pajamas but we had this one pattern, that bagheera pepper and that's behind me right now and we just loved the way that it looks, but it just didn't quite look right on a notebook and we kind of said to ourselves like what if we tried this on a pajama and I went to India and worked in the factory there and we just loved the way it looked and that was kind of like our moment for that product and then we knew that we could really translate our patterns so much more effectively onto that sort of category with sleepwear and luckily I had some experience from working at urban outfitters, infection design. So I was familiar with the technical side of things and I really love fashion design. So I had a lot to figure out there, especially since we have so many sizes, we do extra extra small to six X. We do petites, we do calls. So there's a lot of technical expertise that was needed there. And how did it go when you launch? Like how are you getting the word out that you were now like launching a pajama line and and kind of expanding the category range. Yeah, so by that point we had gotten picked up by a sales rep group. So she found us originally at that first trade show and then we eventually ended up doing business together. So she's really been helping us with all of our sales nationwide and that's like really been amazing to have that support. And so we took the pajama line too, the new york gift show and we pretty much sold out of our first initial order that we had placed and just through the boutiques that came to that show. So that kind of made us realize, wow, we have to get going with us, we have to invest more and get more inventory to be able to even like start to think about putting those online if you're an e commerce brand owner, you've probably thought about whether your product suits being subscription based, maybe you've got a beverage brand or a beauty product that has a high repeat purchase rate, join fast growing Shopify brands like athletic greens and rise coffee that are growing their commerce subscription and retention businesses on apps. Scribe scribe gives you the out of the box tools that you need to build, grow or scale your Shopify subscription and retention business, deploy a beautiful customer experience in minutes that treats subscribers like royalty and drives brand loyalty. Additionally, scribes knew reorder product makes it frictionless to capture reorders in a single click to help you increase your business's profitability and customer lifetime value, give your e commerce business the charge that it needs today by visiting up scribe dot iO slash female startup club to learn more and you'll also receive your first month free. That's up Scribd dot io forward slash female startup club. So it sounds like at this point in time it was very much a wholesale kind of play. And working with retailers first day to see how are you kind of making that transition to D. Two C. And building your direct relationship with customers. Yeah, I would say that the pandemic pretty much did it for us. I think that you know, initially we thought that our business would be mostly wholesale with a little bit of e commerce and when the pandemic began in all the small boutiques that we were working with were forced to close. We just were sitting in our studio there were just a couple of us that were still like working together and everyone else was working at home and we were just sitting there and all the packages started to return to like all of the orders that have been placed and they were just piling up around and that's when we really thought we have to figure out something like, you know, because we didn't know how long things were going to last that way. And so that's when we really started to realize we needed to focus our energy on e commerce and figure out digital advertising. And so how did you do that? How did you figure it all out? And kind of switch from going to essentially to zero to building your kind of, you know, huge trajectory that you're on now. Yeah, I think that some of it was just honestly like very good luck, I used to organize this artists like flea market sort of thing. And in december like of I guess 2018, a guy came up to me and he was like, hey do you sell things online? I was like a little bit anyways, I was super busy, he passed me his card and I didn't really think anything of it until later and I realized he did digital advertising. I didn't totally understand what that meant, but we ended up reaching out to him and he had a very small firm like doing digital advertising and kind of like really was the person that helped us get set up and gave us really great guidance like when we first began because it was something I don't have a marketing background, I was running a business to business situation like where I didn't really have a need to have those skills. So it was kind of very lucky that we met him at the right time and had somebody that could really show us the way Was he like the first kind of even though he was external, was he like the first hire to do with, you know, the 2.0 version of print fresh or did you have a team, you know, fully functioning at this point? And he was more like the first marketing hire? Yeah, we had somebody helping us with social media internally, so doing instagram and things like that. But yeah, that was the first real marketing higher. And then quickly we realized that we needed to also then work with an outside vendor to help us with email marketing because that was such a huge opportunity in terms of retention. So pretty quickly we realized that we needed to focus all of our efforts on digital marketing and advertising. Oh my gosh, wow. So did you then kind of keep the retail side of things when it started to open back up or you were just like, okay let's put that to the side now and 100% focus on d to c So we do both because I love working with the boutiques and they just have such lovely shops and it's so cute to see the stuff out in like in real life. So we continued our relationships with that, but I would say it's about 10% of our business now and the rest is e commerce. Got it, got it, got it. I read that you did something like $10 million 2021. If you were to summarize kind of like the last two years of going from essentially to zero to that point. What are the key milestones besides the hiring the guy to do marketing and hiring the agency to do email marketing? What are the key milestones that get you to $10 million dollars in revenue? Who? That's a tough one. I think that it was just, I mean I don't even know if I can look back on it because it was such a whirlwind in terms of like very like clear steps, I think that between my business partner and I dividing our roles and responsibilities really helped and really focusing on a key products like something that is like excellent quality and making sure that it's like photographs. Well like that really like started to be like the major focus for us and I think getting the imagery right? Really focusing on high quality images, like really helped us like progress very quickly in a way that I think if we hadn't done that, I think it would have been much slower to grow, especially given that we're e commerce for your kind of nation, the industry that you're in. Do you have to do a lot of new drops and new collections to expand through newness or are your prints kind of like these are the classics, we have the same prints over the long term kind of thing. I think that's something that we've been trying to figure out. I think that in terms of advertising and marketing, it definitely helps to have an evergreen product, like something that always sells and you can just keep doing in different colors or something. I think that that has really helped us to have a couple patterns that we can really lean into and then we kind of supplement that with newness and like what we're very excited about or just adding some fun new things in there, especially for customers that keep coming back. We always want to have something to surprise them with, totally, totally. How do you approach like partnerships or influencer kind of partnerships? Yeah, I think that working with influencers is amazing. I think that in the beginning of my business it was really challenging to figure out how to make it work. But but these days that's been just such a big part of showing our product out there and showing it in like such a variety of ways. So now we have a team member who focuses specifically on influencer partnerships and figuring out like, cool way to work with them to show new product and do different advertising campaigns. I think that it's just these days brands have to really figure that out and every brand I think has to do it a little bit differently depending on their product category, but it's been so important to us when you say, like, at the beginning it took you a while to like figure things out, like how to make it work, what was the kind of problem and how are you solving that for anyone else who's listening, who might just be in the early stages of building a brand and kind of wanting to go to influencer marketing but not sure how to kind of roll it out. I'd love to hear what your kind of experience was with that. Yeah, I think that it was just, it was such a new concept to me because I just never had really heard of that, I didn't realize that I was being advertised to in that way, like every day, I think it was just something I wasn't like, totally aware of. And then some of my friends started to like, explain it to me that they work in marketing and it was just so eye opening to me too to realize, okay, you have to give away your product, you have to, you know, like figure out, you know, like are there any parameters like that you don't want your product like used in a strange way or something like figuring out how you want to work with them, how much you would like to pay them or is it strictly gifting? There's so many different ways to navigate it and figure out what you might want to do with them in terms of advertising, video photography. But I think that our influencers have turned into some of our greatest advisers and always have so many like interesting ideas and feedback for us. So it's, I think it's just something that takes a long time to build and there's certain influencers that really makes fantastic partners and other people that might not click for their audience. And so I think it's just navigating it and sticking with it and seeing who really is your, like your best sort of partner. Yeah, it's really that long term approach and you know, you might do something once it might not work, but you should still try again and again and again until you find those ones that really do work. And you can see the results as you gear up for fall. You need to find the right people on your team to help your small business fire on all cylinders linkedin jobs is here to make it easier to find the right people you want to talk to faster and for free if you follow me on linkedin or you're a subscriber to our newsletter, you already know how often we're sharing jobs that are coming directly through linkedin. It is so powerful. You can create a free job post in minutes on linkedin jobs to tap into the world's largest professional network with over 30 million people in the UK alone. It's why small businesses rate linkedin jobs number one for delivering quality hires verse their leading competitors, then add your job and the purple hiring frame to your linkedin profile. So your network can help you find the right people to hire simple tools, like screening questions, make it easy to focus on candidates with just the right skills and experience. So you can quickly prioritize who you'd like to interview and hire linkedin jobs helps you find the candidates you want to talk to faster and you can post a job for free. Just visit linkedin dot com slash F S C. Again, that's linkedin dot com slash F S. C to post your job for free today and see supply. When you were saying earlier that you had the studio kind of on the go day to day and then you were launching the notebooks and you had kind of both on the go. Was there a point when you stopped doing the studio altogether? Or is that still kicking along in the background? Yeah, we pretty much stopped with doing that. That was pretty much like really like the pandemic. Really stopped that business. A lot of the major retailers said, hey, you know, we can't afford to paper invoices and it just, and they do, nobody was taking in person appointments, which was always how that business works And most people were working remotely. So it just, it dried up instantly, which was just really upsetting and shocking because you know, we had been doing that business for over 10 years at that point and to see it disappear overnight was really heartbreaking. Do you think that in hindsight it actually helped propel your business now forward because you kind of had to focus and triple down on what was working? It definitely did. I mean it was incredibly stressful because also like my business partner is also my spouse. So both of us were really in that together under such an incredibly stressful time, you know, in the world and but luckily he's a great partner to me and we were just able to totally just put all of our energy into making this work. But it was definitely not easy. Yeah, I bet gosh, when you like look back at, you know, the challenges that you face in the beginning and trying to sort everything out of how to start kind of this label and what you're facing now, what are the kind of challenges post covid world and the covid era are you facing as a brand in the fashion and apparel space? I think that just figuring out like especially in the sleeper category? Like is this a category that lasts? Like I think that there was so much interest in sleep and loungewear and I think for those of us that have products that were really popular during that time, I think it's just kind of like the unknown of like how to evolve our product categories as the world changes and becomes more comfortable. So some of the things that we've been layering in our things like bedding, wallpaper and dresses, because we're trying to kind of expand a little bit out of the home and give our customers like those beautiful patterns that they come to us for but in dresses instead. So it'll be like a combination. I love having all of the categories. Absolutely! Wallpaper is just so much fun as a product. Yeah, we are so excited about it. I'm actually moving homes this week tomorrow and I've been so excited about which room I'm gonna put our wallpapers and it just I think it just makes a home so cozy and comfortable. Uh Huh 100% agree. What is your key piece of advice for founders who are in that early stage building in the fashion and apparel space? There's I mean there's just so many things that I could say for advice. I think that I would urge anyone who's doing fashion to strongly consider size inclusion into the product line. I think that it's such a great opportunity and I just think it makes your brand so much more accessible to others. Did you have size inclusion from day one or was that It was really important to me from day one. So for our full sail launch, we only went up to Excel, but it was more of like a proof of concept to test that out, make sure that the fit was correct, but our intention was immediately after that to then start adding in additional sizes. So we went to two X. And then we went to four X. And then we went to six X. So we kind of had to course that out so that we could make sure that the fit was correct because we needed to get a lot of feedback to make sure that we had it worked out. Yeah, I feel like that would just be like navigating different sizes is like already complicated, but then navigating like so many different skews across so many different like products just seems like such a such a big challenge. Yeah, it's been incredibly important like for the like inventory planning to be able to figure out how many of each of those sizes we need to be able to get more of an even sell through, but it took a little bit of time and reviewing like how we were doing with each size to figure out the popularity for each one but now we kind of have like a better formula in place for when we're placing our guys but it definitely took some experimentation at first. Yeah. Gosh I can't even wrap my head around that goodness me.
The question number one is, what's your, why? Why are you spending every day building this business? I love patterns and I love joyful colors and patterns together. And so I really wanted to bring size inclusive pajamas into the world. I love that. So cool. Question number two is what's been your favorite marketing moment so far? We've had so many, it's hard to pick one, but I think that, that I love sean taylor from the circle and she's just so amazing. And I was just so thrilled when she really connected with the brand and started wearing our pajamas. So, um, that has been really significant to me. I love that. Did you see like a direct impact after she was wearing your pajamas or was it more like a slower approach to receiving new, like followers and things like that on instagram. Yeah, we noticed right away. Everybody was asking her where it was from, there was just so much interest and she's one of those people that has really turned into a very long term partner for us and we do a lot of advertising with her. Oh my gosh, that's so cool. So what does that look like? Does that look like ongoing kind of partnerships where she's like an official ambassador? I've gone off, I've gone off on a tangent here from the questions, but is she like a long term ambassador or how does that work? Yeah. So we've been partnering with her on different content that she'll take and we'll run ads with it and we just see her photography just outperform so many images that we would create otherwise. So yeah, it's been just great to have somebody like her to work with. Oh, that's so cool. Question # three is what's your go to business resource if you had to pick like a book or a newsletter or a podcast. I always read Women's World Daily, which is great for the fashion industry. And I also like taking courses like through Coursera is like a great website for learning about things that I don't know about. Like project management. That's so cool. And so is it all around like in Coursera, is it, are they courses that are around fashion specifically or it's like just random topics and you're just learning for like the joy of learning. There's a huge amount of topics. But but right now I'm actually taking like google has made like a very long course on project management and I've just been trying to like up my skills there, especially as we're doing so many different product categories. I realized I needed to learn a little bit more about how to how to keep track of everything. So yeah, there's just so many different topics that you can take courses through and they're really high quality. That's so cool. I'm gonna like dig in there and see what, see what I can learn. Question number four is how do you win the day? What are your am or PM rituals and habits that keep you feeling happy and motivated and successful. Yeah. So I like to start my day early even though I'm not a morning person at all. But I try to because it totally sets the tone for the day. So I like to get up before the rest of my family has before my kids are awake and I like to have my coffee and journal and then squeeze In like a short 30 minute workout and then I feel like my head's clear and I just have such a more positive outlook on the day. I love that. I wish I was a morning person and I don't think I ever will be. It's very challenge. Yeah, I feel like it's one of those challenges I've always tried to conquer and I just cannot become a morning person. But anyway, a last question number five, what has been your worst money mistake in the business and how much did it cost you? I think that probably just over ordering inventory has been our constant challenge and I think initially we did not have our sizing figured out and really over ordered some styles and sizes that just like we're not the ones that we should have. So I mean I think that that probably cost us hundreds of thousands of dollars like all in but in the end it worked out fine like we were able to sell through everything. It just took more time. So it took a lot of patients to be able to figure out navigate that mistake. Oh my gosh, like how much time, I think that it means with some of the things that would take us about a year to sell through some of the things, but in our product category it's not as big of a deal as it may have been for something that's more of like a trendy fashion sort of product. So it ended up being okay. And last question question # six is just what's a crazy story from the process of building this business that you can share? Good or bad. A crazy story. Oh, I don't know if I didn't think of one um something that's been like, it could be something good, it could be a good customer review or it could be something, you know, that was a real pain in the neck. Oh yeah, yeah, I think one of the things that I just totally did not expect when starting business was just all of the amazing comments and like emails that we would get from customers, like sometimes we have customers like that don't use social media, but people will email photos of themselves wearing stuff and telling us these amazing stories of how our pajamas, like just make them feel so much happier and like really helped them and like in certain times in their life and like that is just so amazing, like it just really makes all of us, especially the customer service team. Like so happy to hear all of those heartfelt things because I just never thought that people would share that with us and I just love it. I think that that's really fun. Heart warming fills the cup fills the cup. It really does. What do you want to shout about that's upcoming for you, What's happening in the future, What do you want to shout about? We have a lot of new fun bags coming up so we've been really into accessories and we travel a lot for work and so we wanted to kind of create a little collection of travel bags and so we have all of these cute quilted tote bags that I love. I think that those are really fun. Oh my gosh I love that. Gonna keep my eyes peeled for them when they come online. Amy this is so cool. Thank you so much for taking the time to join female startup club and share your journey with print fresh. Thank you for having me.