How to start a lingerie brand with Beverly Hills Lingerie Co-Founder Joline Nehoray
Today I’m chatting with Joline Nehoray, Co-Founder of Beverly Hills Lingerie.
Sisters Celine & Joline founded Beverly Hills Lingerie in 2018 with the dreams of growing & maintaining the ever-evolving streetwear lingerie industry. Pioneered by the likes of acclaimed icons Cher & Madonna, lingerie as streetwear was a developing trend in the 1980s. Taking note of the trend which has been fading in & out for decades, Beverly Hills Lingerie is in pursuit of preserving its special charm. “Lingerie as streetwear is a fun & flirty way to toe the risqué & dance around the delicate line of controversial & elegant."
In this episode we’re chatting about the key steps to starting a lingerie brand, how guerrilla marketing activations were the foundation of the launch plan and what kind of MOQs you can expect for the lingerie industry.
Please note, this transcript has been copy pasted without the lovely touch of a human editor. Please expect some typos!
Can you start by telling us a little bit about who you are and what your business is. Of course I'm born and raised in L. A. I'm 22 years old. My sister and business partner is 27. We're so lucky to have each other to be honest and and to be working together and our sisterhood is really the foundation of our business and funny enough I was a pre med major at the time that my sister pitched this business idea to me, she had graduated USC where I just graduated and was issued to start a business and we both always loved entrepreneurship and fashion and although I was going to med school route, I have always had a creative and stylish side.
00:05:09Edit And not only did we both want to create and innovate and be leaders in our careers, we always have that passion and entrepreneurial spirit. We both had such a strong desire to spend our days together as the true best friends we are and it's just the two of us and my parents and and again we're born and raised in Beverly Hills, we live with them and really have like a true bonded life together and it was only natural to want to work together and spend more of our time together and build ideas together and create a brand that felt true to both of us and to women as a whole. Oh that is so cool, I love that when you say that she came to you with you know the pitch for the business, what was that conversation like what did she actually say to you and why lingerie. Yeah, I remember so clearly I was out at USC. It was like, late night she was home with my parents having dinner and she called me again, I was out with friends. It was like loud, like party in the background and she was like, Daddy finally accepted a business idea to support a son.
00:06:11Edit He finds a laundry industry to be, it's a $40 billion dollar industry annually first of all. But it's also, it's trending, it's always a classic in addition to being trendy and it would be a good business to go into given our style and us being the target audience of, of what we wanted to do with andre just make it trendy and it really spoke to our style and it wasn't either of our passions necessarily, but we're really businesswomen and we figured out how we can tailor our style to this and bring in all of our knowledge and resources and Children resources. So around this same time at USC when she called me, girls were beginning to wear like lace bodysuits, lace bra, let's with blazers and leather jackets and going out to clubs and looking like this. I'm sure you've noticed in the past probably like 5 to 10 years, kind of the girls around you would be doing the same and the trend of streetwear laundry was so hot and we just wanted to bridge the gap between laundry brands, like a classic laundry brand and girls who felt confident rocking laundry outside the bedroom and encourage the confidence and the streetwear styling of all of our products and wanted to give laundry an edge an edge that we had and it just seemed kind of perfect, It seems seamless.
00:07:22Edit It seems supernatural. And again, the name was supernatural drive from our hometown and where were born and raised and working together was natural and we just kind of learned along the way. Amazing. It makes it sound like you had a few different business ideas that you're pitching to your dad. What was some of the other ones When I was pre med? I, I wasn't really thinking entrepreneurially. Again, it was my freshman year that I was sitting medicine, but since my sister had graduated five years before me, she was constantly pitching ideas to my dad, she was like doing her home, giving him all these things, what would you invest in, what would you like, what do you think I should pursue? And actually this was, was something my dad suggested, he was like house laundry and he's super corporate, he's in the tax world, he does accounting and international tax. So this had nothing to do with anything with him. It was just something that he was like, this sounds like a good idea and then they kind of just like came up with it and finally to my sister, it was like something that she felt my dad's support in and something that we could do together and something that spoke to her that she was her own target audience and like all of her, she was like Uber for boats, Uber for helicopters, like things like that.
00:08:37Edit It was really, I didn't speak to her like something that we do now. Obviously rebels andre and again we are the girls that we are marketing to. Yes, amazing. That's a great one. The founder product market fit, I think that's what they say. Exactly. So you get the green light from your dad, he's bought into it. He loves it. What are the key steps to actually getting started? How do you start bringing this brand to life and caveat, are we talking about 2017 here or 2016 It was 2017. So if I can just get into the like raising capital and start up and how we, how we did this, it will have a lot to do with how we started. My dad gave us the green light to support us, thank God we were very fortunate enough to have him and lucky that he believes in us so much to invest his own money and allow us to use our family money to pursue the business and start the business and with that we began going to trade shows all the way from las Vegas to new york and a bunch of laundry trade shows just learning about the fashion industry and business and I think that was a really critical thing that we did that a lot of people may not do.
00:09:49Edit They might like sit behind a computer all day and start launching their business, but going out and learning everything that we may have not learned in school or just a life experience helped us so much by talking to people, networking, kind of just seeing how the fashion industry works at trade shows like this, how the buying industry works, because we didn't want to be in retail, we wanted to be you know, sold at all the retail stores we are now, so that was helpful. We also, we reached out to our network of like female founders and I mean we could talk to to learn more and gain all the knowledge we could and it was a lot of hands on physical experience and using our tools and resources to learn how to launch the business that I think were the most helpful things. In addition to of course doing all of our research online. Again, sitting behind a computer is, is always something that has to be done in general. And listening to podcasts like this about female founders and reading articles about interviews, just like this, hearing all the same kinds of questions and answers that really helped us?
00:10:52Edit Amazing. When you say your dad was able to help you with the startup capital, you needed to get the brand off the ground, are you able to share what kind of capital you actually need to, you know, get your first order place to get your, you know, travel to the trade shows, attend the trade shows and build a brand, of course, of course. So I'm gonna add inventory onto that because unless you're on a made to order basis, you do invest a lot of capital into inventory. And with fashion, it's, it's not, you know, you don't get like one piece per order when you do with the manufacturer, there are lots of minimum order quantities. So in the first year we invested about 50,000 and that was able to get the brand going. And, and I do have to say that again, if it's a product or service or fashion or something like that, it's very specific to each individual entrepreneur. It's a case by case basis, what you kind of need to get the ball rolling. If it's a service, you may not need anything. If it's a product that's made to order, you may not need too much. And a lot of our starting was a lot of trial and error.
00:11:57Edit A lot of meeting new entrepreneurs, investing in products that weren't classics and we're very trendy that we had to just, you know, forego and avoid at some point and it really depends what you have, of course. Again, we're very fortunate to have my dad on board and to be an investor in this and kind of just let us have the freedom to not give away any equity and not look to outside investors for capital. But it truly, yeah, truly it truly depends on the product or service that you need to start. I don't have to answer your question. Sorry. We were just, yeah. Yeah I know you did. Me too have that amount of course to invest in inventory to travel to trade shows too. Meet with whoever we needed. Start our website. That was that we hired a web designer for example. I'm trying to think of what else we invested in in the beginning besides traveling like that. And yeah pretty much web designers and any other designers, freelance graphic designers that we needed photography and videographers for shoots and models all the fun stuff the creative stuff, fun stuff of course all the good stuff.
00:13:05Edit How was your finding of the factory and actually getting the sampling done and getting that first inventory order placed. Yeah. Good question. This is super difficult. And again very specific. Change entrepreneur or fashion designer. We were really lucky. We met so many great manufacturers at the trade shows we go to and we really just gravitate towards the L. A. Based ones and downtown and like Boyle Heights area and the fashion district in L. A. And we kept in touch with them. We would go to their facilities and factories all the time and kind of showed them what we wanted and they were they played a big role. We got really lucky with them being so established and had such a big role in our design and again, we had no we had no knowledge in this. We had no background a design or manufacturing and production. So all the producers that we met at the trade shows, we got really lucky enough to just continue working with and they worked with us so so patiently and very helpfully and we didn't need to hire any technical designers necessarily because they were very established with their design team and could help us a lot with what we needed when you were going through that process of you know, you met them at the trade show, then you're doing the designs, you're working on the technical aspects of the, of the project or you know, the pieces.
00:14:26Edit How long did it actually take to get the samples that you are happy with back? I'd say about seven or 8 months. We, we came up with the idea April 2017 and we couldn't have our first shoot until You no longer than you're actually June 2018 was our first shoot, July Maybe event. So over sorry, over a year. It takes a while. It definitely takes a while to perfect it and want to when you launch a business for the first time. The first impression is it you don't get a redo especially to your network of social and um family and friends. So we've spent our time perfecting each and every product and making sure the collection was cohesive with a good amount of products. Not too many, not too little. So that definitely took a while. Yeah, absolutely. Just one last question on the manufacturing side of things I ask every woman around minimum order quantities and what it's like in your specific industry, What are the kinds of minimums that you have to place when you're producing laundry? Right, good question. Because this is tough and this is something that we we had difficulty working around to.
00:15:31Edit We'd get quoted like 100 to 200 which was pretty low in the fashion industry to start out with. So we were good with that with around over 100 per crystal in the very beginning. And yeah, we've kind of just stayed around that. So we got really lucky with that. Mm That's really interesting because You know hearing people from different industries, it can be minimums of 10,000 or it can be minimums of 100 and it's just unless you have someone telling you specifically this is where we kind of sit around. It's hard to know what the answers are and where you can start and starting out this is exactly what I would want to know and listen to Like this female founder just staring genuinely totally. You mentioned around the launch. So I want to go into that marketing piece of the puzzle. What were you doing in the lead up to launch and how did you launch? Yeah, of course. So uh sarah launch was really made successful by the help of friends, family and our existing social network. We have a really strong supportive community and the sense that we shared about our business before we launched it.
00:16:35Edit We really got the hype around, it builds up around our family and friends and social network just in Los Angeles. And when we did launch we hosted a lot of in person events. We had pop ups, we had, trying to think of what else we did. So many things to really get the word out. We had fliers. I was still at USC at the time so I was able to really do like Guerilla marketing in college and around my family like that. So that was helpful and it really does take a village to spread the word but I do have to say that word of mouth is the most valuable and useful marketing tool, especially in the beginning of the business. Yeah, absolutely. Your product needs to have that word of mouth marketing inherently built into what you're doing. When you say you did guerilla marketing, can you go a bit deeper about those, you know, initial kind of efforts that you were doing in the beginning. Of course, yeah. We printed out postcards like flyers with um my sister and I on on one side and our model photoshoot on another side with our website, our instagram handle our email on that and we kind of just like even my mom, my mom, she's like, I'm the kris Jenner for my daughters, it's so funny, she's like are like manager marketing, that she's so cute mom, aja, she's ok.
00:17:49Edit Our Momager, she was out there handing out flyers, telling everyone about it. My dad would, would reach out to his network and say these are my daughters, they've launched a brand. Um we've used all of our social networks from like Lincoln of course, professional network and facebook and instagram anywhere we could, we created any social media network that we didn't have an account for and spread the word there. And um again at USC, my my sister, she ended up becoming um a teacher's assistant in the entrepreneurship program at USC and I was her student and there, we were told all the professors about our brand and then we get asked to speak about it and other classes for example. And so yeah, and it was kind of just like a word of mouth in the entrepreneurship program at USC in college that it just got spread around like that to very, very fortunately. But again, if you don't tell these people about what you're doing in your brand, then it's just yourself, it's just a personal thing and it's not sustainable that way. So I really encourage female founders and people starting a brand, not be shy or nervous or hesitate to, to be their own marketing and their own influencer because that is where the value is, one person tells another, that tells another, that tells another and it's just that is the chain.
00:19:07Edit But if you don't start with telling one person or multiple then it can't get anywhere. So true. You got to shout it from the rooftops. Exactly. You are your own best influencer. Absolutely. What was the impact like in that first week, first month of launching the brand? We were so overwhelmed. I was expecting maybe people to like learn especially in social network and I'm very lucky that a lot of our first orders came from family and friends and our support network, but I wasn't expecting, I was expecting more more so people to like first learned about the brand and then think about a purchase maybe over a week or two time because that is what is pretty much normal in the fashion industry, usually it takes a customer. I think the average number is seven, I think that's like the scientifically proven average amount of website visits before purchase. But again, feel so blessed and overwhelmed by the support we had in just the first like 48 hours of orders pouring in from family and friends and friends and family posting about it on their instagram and stories and sharing about it and telling people about it and that was that really set the tone for the business in the first two days, the first even week of launch, I'd say set the tone of feeling confident and having the confidence to keep going and share and spread the word and as that kind of started To snowball and you know, pile on top of each other.
00:20:31Edit What were the key kind of moments where you kind of took those leaps forward in the years following, that if you're thinking about kind of 2018 launched two today? Yeah, of course, of course, I'd say it was a lot of internal behind the scenes things that built the confidence, it's not something that maybe our customers or our followers would see that we share about it, it can be to them, it may be like, oh that, you know, when we got interviewed by Forbes and we have a full article and and it's all those question answers, but it's really, it's more about waking up and having the feeling of that day of feeling so confident and ready and brave and like motivated and ambitious and driven and I can't pinpoint it to anything specific, it really is just an internal feeling, it may have been like a built up of like a couple successful week of sales and of course, there were, there were times in the beginning and nothing is like this and in the entrepreneurship field, nothing is a direct straight line upwards, there is a zigzag and entrepreneurship world and um it was really, it could've just been a build up of the feeling of a few weeks of feeling successful or I'm gonna round up of press hits where we were featured in a few articles or something like that and I do have to say again, going back to family and friends, sorry that I keep bringing up, but it is such a strong, supportive feeling to feel that the people around you believing you so much are so proud of, you are so impressed and that's what helped me keep going at least because it's, I I value them more than a name that pops up on my Shopify that I don't know uh I value people that I respect highly and I are mentors and I look up to and people like my friends and family are very much that so that definitely built and maintained the motivation that we had to keep going, I love that.
00:22:24Edit So important, so important when you think about now, you know over the last few months or over the last six months, say what are the things or what are the drivers for growth at the moment? What's working for you in the brand? Yeah, of course, if I can contrast this to what was working in the beginning of the brand, if I can just go through um kind of like our marketing. Yeah, yeah, of course, so in the beginning of our brand, 2018 Instagram was hot influencers are hot, they were valuable they were working for brands. They were really racking up sales with when they would post. But the market became a little more saturated. We kind of diverted our marketing from instagram influencers. We still do we still do a lot of gifting but it doesn't bring us the same ry that google ads, Pinterest ads, facebook ads instagram ads, other social network odds Bring us right now we found a lot of success in S. C. O. Growth and really just having you know the top four pages five pages of google when you google our name and brand and new customers come from all of these kinds of channels recently verse influencers that again we don't see the return on investment in but in the last six months I'd have to say our press again with the S.
00:23:40Edit E. O. Combined with the S. E. O. Has given us a lot of traction and brand's credibility and establishment on top of that point that I do want to touch upon. That was very important for us. Uh less so in the beginning of the branch. But once we hit the two year mark hiring for your weaknesses is very important. That is something that's very valuable and as much control as I wanted over business and tasks and you know what we put out there because it's a representation of me as well as the founder and again I want everything to be perfect putting out there. Hiring for weaknesses is something that changed our brand a lot and having the like, fresh ideas, fresh perspective after two years of my sister and I just having our own ideas and our own perspective and our own taste, having different tastes to combine and kind of having another brain to bounce ideas off of was really important. And so who were the people that you brought into kind of higher for those weaknesses that you speak of?
00:24:45Edit I have to say people with an impressive resume, but it's more so someone that really connected with me and my sister and had a mutual brand vision and had the same kind of bubbly outgoing personality that would do guerilla marketing and offline kind of Yes, that that was super helpful. So really, really just having, it felt like friendship, it felt like bringing people in that we're like friends and friendly and um vibe with my sister and I and made it like a creative, fun collaborative work environment for someone with just you know, something impressive on paper. I love that it's so important, I think to have the right energy have that right vibe. Exactly, you understand, that's exactly what he's getting at. The girls have impressive resumes. Again, they've worked at fashion brands and high levels and um we're super successful in what they did and um it was more so about the energy. We've we had interviewed people with, again, amazing points on paper, but if they didn't buy with my sister and I then the collaborative energy wasn't there, and that's what I look for every day I want the girls we work with to feel like founders to feel like they're partners in the business to feel like they are investing their own money and everything they do, They're putting out there their name on everything they do.
00:26:00Edit And we always make it feel like a partnership, We never make them feel like they're employees are just working for us and doing my list tasks. So that was definitely something that I wanted to bring the environment for going into this mm Empowering them and having that entrepreneurial spirit that everyone can have within them kind of flourish and bring it out. That's so cool. If they wanted to go off and start their own brands, they would have all the tools and resources at this point and have the confidence and have the bravery and feel like they definitely could take on the world and do that themselves. Which is what I wanted to do because that is what I would have wanted to feel if I was working for someone in this kind of position. I love that That's such a such a key insight. I think to be able to have that energy where you're happy to lift others up as as we all should be, lift others up within your business. So when they're ready to go off and fly on their own, they can, if they want to of course, Exactly, exactly. If they want to, they want to, you're like, please don't leave. I love them so much.
00:27:05Edit What are the kind of challenges that you're facing now? You know, a few years into your business, you've built a team, you've, you've obviously had some highs and lows, what are the challenges of today currently? It's really more so just marketing the business more and more, getting the word out there more and growing as much as we can just flying and more brand awareness. And in terms of product and, and the, the products we have would be finding the balance between timeless and trendy. So it's definitely important to stay up to date on all the latest trends, but there's a fine line between like fast fashion and fashion to date. And we always want to stay within the sweet spot of like classic and trend setting. So that's something that's always a challenge and fashion, I think cause you really do want to cater to the customers and what they want right now, but what they want right now and the time you can like produce the product and might like the, you know, the style might be out of style at that point or might not be a trend or something.
00:28:08Edit So finding that sweet spot, but also, again, not just having like basic boring pieces, making them classic timeless, but also trendy and something that I will contrast with the challenges we faced in the beginning of the brand. We didn't feel these things at all. We didn't feel like marketing or, or like products we had an issue with were really business minded, but also more so sister minded. So in the beginning, transitioning from a sisterhood and a sister relationship to a professional relationship was definitely a challenge and we've overcome so much and we there were highs and lows and we went through a lot too make certain that we didn't lose our sisterhood and that was the foundation for our business and that nothing would get in between it and that is what really kept us strong and going. We're best friends or business partners and finding the balance between sisterhood and professional relationship was a challenge we face in the beginning to contrast how we're going now. How did you navigate that and what were the kinds of things you had to do to be able to move forward with that relationship on the business side.
00:29:14Edit Yeah. Yeah. Again, putting our sisterhood as the priority versus the business is the priority was the driving factor of that. And we're in a space in L. A where we've heard a lot of sibling founder like disasters and we never wanted to be that way and we really made a deal to ourselves and the business to never be that way. And again, we were raised with that kind of energy and those values and the genuine authenticity to just be sisters and to have the friendship and that nothing, you know, no money, no business, nothing comes above that. So the strong family ties were really what brought us to the position to be able to overcome any like arguments over there was an argument over our labels and what fabric they were going to be and what the tax we're gonna look like and logos, all those things, the strong family values that happen instilled in us and what we were raised by really helped us avoid any conflict or disaster. Again that we, we hear about all the time living in Los Angeles unfortunately, but it's really where priorities lie.
00:30:17Edit And I imagine you also have to keep that big picture mindset. It's like, yes, we might disagree on this logo, but in the big picture, both options will be great. We're just being like nitty picky kind of thing. Exactly. Uh well the joys of being sisters and having a business together. I know, I know it is a blessing like she got to work towards. It requires effort. Just like a relationship. I think just like a romantic relationship requires effort. Anything that you want to succeed and requires effort. So it's definitely not effortless but things feel very organic and natural. That's so cool. I love that. What does the future look like? What other fun Things that you can shout about that's going to be happening, say over the next 12 months. Yeah, of course that we're working on a lot of new styles. I'm super excited to kind of expand our collection and our product range. We're going to go into a lot of sleepwear and just just more more products that I'm so excited to share about. And um we have a lot of retail partnerships in the works.
00:31:21Edit Thank God, because a lot of our retail partnerships obviously fell through in the pandemic, a lot of stores closed and then um partnerships fell through and they didn't have the budget to buy into product anymore. So really excited about that. I'm just more excited to keep hiring when the hiring process again. And yeah, who are you looking for? Maybe some listeners can, can apply. Absolutely, we're looking for. Again, this sounds super vague but interest, passion and enthusiasm and the brand and bringing value and finding your own benefit that you could bring to the table is what I love to see. It's very unconventional. It's not a traditional process of hiring, but the best like product of work that we've seen has definitely been from people just interested in the brand as a whole and then finding their own value and benefit within them to help us out. And again, it's like a position to feel like a partner to feel like a founder and to be alongside my sister and I and everything we do.
00:32:23Edit I love that. Well shout out to anyone who's in L. A. And looking for some vibes can hit you up, wait let's reach out. What is your key piece of advice for women who have a big idea and want to start their own business? Sure sure. We touched upon empowering each other empowering woman. My favorite quote to live by is collaborate. Don't compete especially in the women's world and to go for it, be confident, take lots of risks and say yes more than no and again choose who you work with wisely but don't be afraid to hire for your weaknesses. I love that collaborate. Don't compete. It's so important I think especially when it comes to women sometimes it can be a bit competitive but when we collaborate and lift each other up there's just so much magic that can happen. Exactly. I always finish every episode with a series of six quick questions, some of them we might have already touched on, but love to do, do the wrap up, do the summary, let's go for it. Great. Okay Question number one is what's your why? Why do you do what you do to lead a happy passion fulfilled and love filled life?
00:33:37Edit Oh I love it. Love it. Question # two is what do you think has been the number one marketing moment that made the business pop? I know I touched upon this as being not super valuable, important and marketing but a personal accomplishment and a marketing moment would have been our sister founders interview on Forbes, that was a full full interview, my sister and I and it was a couple months in the work and establish credibility and was a goal that we are working towards for a while, so that's definitely a self and career accomplishment. It was a really great interview, loved it. Thank you. Question number three is where do you hang out to get smarter? What are you reading or listening to or subscribing to? I hang around, I think smart, inspirational and motivating people, that's important, but in my own time I listened to a lot of podcasts, like I said a lot of podcasts like this, I've been loving clubhouse because it's like real life podcasts and a lot of founders and entrepreneurs have had amazing sessions, recordings that I've been loving their rooms and what else I have read a lot of books, my sister more so she reads like an entrepreneurial book, probably a week I'd say, and I kind of get all the notes from that and I'm I'm if anything, I'm more of the podcast listener and my sister is more of the reader so we just combine our tools and resources to find divide and conquer exactly um any particular shows that you want to mention hm it really, I don't subscribe interestingly enough, I don't subscribe to shows, I kind of just like follow a ton of founders on instagram and whenever they have a podcast with could be random show where a group is how so that's why I Oh yeah, all those things I listen to.
00:35:27Edit Yeah, amazing 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 successful and motivated. So am definitely um, waking up happy doing my skin carriage, doing my stretching, putting my phone away. Um, having some moments of gratitude and self and meeting with myself and visualizing uh, my day forward. But I also do that night I visualized for the next day just going through the motions of the day, going through my to do list. Seeing myself do all of the things that I do. And those are definitely super helpful and that's when I feel most like fulfilled and to hear. Mm I've recently started meditating in the morning as soon as I wake up before I look at my phone and the last thing I do before I fall asleep. And it's something that I've really tried to do this habit for like literally ever. I feel like for the last 10 years I've been like in and out of dabbling with meditation and things like visualization but only recently have I actually started forming the habit and it's such a A Key 1 to Nail.
00:36:38Edit And I really like that idea of visualizing like what you're following day looks like. I'm gonna give that a bit of a try. Yes. Yeah. You can include that in your meditation. That can be part of it. It just visualizing it is is so so key. Mm Question number five is if you only had $1000 left in your business bank account, where would you spend it? That's such a good question. Such a difficult question. I'm super like return on investment minded. So I would say facebook ads You'd see at least two times. Ry on on that a $5,000 left to spend. I would just need to make more. Love It. And question # six, last question, how do you deal with failure? I love that. My favorite calming mantra is rejection is just redirection. I love that. That's so cool, rejection is just redirection. Yeah. Need more of that in my life. That's a really good one. Thank you. Don't forget it.
00:37:45Edit I will not thank you so much for taking the time to share your journey and your learnings from building your business. I'm I'm so thrilled to have met you. Thank you so much. I was so nice to meet you. Thank you so much for having me. It was an honor to be here with you and chat through and share my experience.