Just know that people will always try and knock off your product — it’s a compliment. Do your homework about how you can protect it (trademark, patent). But also know that it’s going to cost you a lot of money. So weigh your options and talk to people who have gone through the process. You have to pick your battles or trust that established customers will stay loyal. This happened to us in one of our global territories; ultimately our product was successful due to the “made in the USA” story.
As a part of my series about strong female leaders, I had the pleasure of interviewing Dani Juhala and Amy Radich of Fringe Shoe Accessories. Dani and Amy were introduced more than 15 years ago by a mutual friend! These friends spent their younger years on different continents; Amy in the USA and Dani in Europe. Amy grew up in Southern California — spending days surfing, roller skating and cutting up scrap fabrics to create clothes for her dolls and Barbies. Dani, a native Austrian, grew up in beautiful downtown Vienna where she spent holidays traveling by car to every country imaginable and sewing exclusive bags for all her family and friends. Each started in Public Relations — Amy in technology and Dani in consumer products. It wasn’t until Dani and her family moved to Germany with her husbands job did the fashion world collide with their PR background. Dani began her international career with an established and cult favorite handbag company; she helped to establish the brand beyond Germany and grow their social following on a broader scale. And this is where their worlds collided; Dani looped in Amy on this growing brand to help grow the brand in the US. After 5 years of working across a 9 hour time-zone and traveling around the world together supporting and growing the handbag companies business Dani and her family were moving back to the states. The friends were together again and it was time for something new and their own! This is when they launched ELLA+RUBI — an online and pop up experience where savvy consumers can experience the latest fashion finds from around the world. The goal of ELLA+RUBI is to curate the unique from around the globe; this goal of course enabled Amy and Dani to do two things they love most — travel and find the latest fashion trends. Travel lead us to FRINGE. A little buying trip to PARIS is where it all started!
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
After years in Public Relations, Fashion Sales and as owners of a very trendy and stylish Fashion Business specializing in Fashion goods from foreign countries both Amy and Dani thought it was time to create a fun, modern and completely unique never before seen shoe fashion accessory.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company?
When we first created FRINGE it was mostly for our own private use and for our fun fashion boutique. One day a group of girlfriends came in and bought matching FRINGE for their girls trip and they received so much attention with their fun matching sneakers and FRINGE that we suddenly received numerous calls to carry the FRINGE in boutiques all over the state.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
Well, at the time we did not think it was all that funny. We packaged 1200 FRINGE orders for our first big national customer and suddenly realized that none of the FRINGE had proper labels sewn in. With the shipping company confirmed for the next morning in order to meet our delivery deadline and avoid late fees we had a serious panic attack together! We had to call 12 of our closest girlfriends and their kids, bought Pizza and wine and had an all night repackaging party to get the FRINGE out to the customer on time:)
What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
There is currently no product on the market that can help you customize and personalize your lace up shoes like FRINGE. For years we have watched the sneaker market explode — we live in Portland Oregon where everyone wears Nike, Adidas and specialty sneakers. We loved the idea that you can update an old pair of white trainers or color match your golf shoes to your outfit with our FRINGE!
Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?
We have always loved carrying fashion goods in our own store that have a give back story so we are currently developing FRINGE that will provide support to various charities.
What advice would you give to other female leaders to help their team to thrive?
It sounds so cliche but if you do what you love, you will never work a day in your life. There sure are challenging days (and nights!) as business owners but if you are able to work on your dream it is all worth it in the end. Stick with it even if it is not always easy!
What advice would you give to other female leaders about the best way to manage a large team?
Since our team is still pretty small and currently growing we are still learning every day. Open communication and the ability to really learn every aspect of your business so that you understand what your employees are dealing with seems to be an important part of growing your team. We also love the idea of surrounding ourselves with a network of women who have been in our shoes learning from their successes and mistakes has been enlightening!
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
Each other. We could not do this alone. We support one another daily — when one needs a day off, the other picks up the slack. Nobody loves this business as much as we do. Dani recently supported Amy as she ventured to South Africa for 2 weeks on a mission trip. It was a crazy time for production schedules, tradeshow planning and managing all things FRINGE on her own.
How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?
We are working on that now. We want to have a collection of GIVE BACK FRINGE; so when a particular color is purchased it will help support a cause near and dear to us. Most recently we launched a RAINBOW FRINGE in June for Pride Month. For every rainbow FRINGE purchased proceeds will benefit the TREVOR PROJECT. We are working now on a few other collections to support education and mental health awareness.
What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started” and why? (Please share a story or example for each.)
1) Don’t do something because you believe it might help your business succeed quicker! Our first PR hire was a big mistake, huge! She over promised and never delivered! We waited patiently and hired an independent PR expert to help us with social media first, build an audience and then moved to an agency as a way to grow the brand. Baby steps are OK!
2) Just know that people will always try and knock off your product — it’s a compliment. Do your homework about how you can protect it (trademark, patent). But also know that it’s going to cost you a lot of money. So weigh your options and talk to people who have gone through the process. You have to pick your battles or trust that established customers will stay loyal. This happened to us in one of our global territories; ultimately our product was successful due to the “made in the USA”” story.
3) Do you manufacture in the US or go outside to decrease your costs? We chose to keep it close to home as a way for us to control the quality of our product. There have been just a few instances where this came to be our advantage when we had to send product back as it didn’t pass our QA test. Additionally some of our best overseas customers buy FRINGE because 1) they love the customization it gives consumers and 2) it is USA MADE.
4) Take time off. Travel, shop local, read a book. You will never know when inspiration will hit you and a well rested, happy CEO is a much better leader than a stressed one that is “company-blind”. Both of us have taken this to heart and feel it is helping us grow both personally and in our business.
5) Be ok if not everyone loves your product. Terribly hard lesson but know that for everyone that LOVES you and your product there will be customers that do not understand it. THAT’s OK. Once we had a woman tell us that there is NO WAY we will ever make it in the old fashion golf market. Especially enjoyed it when her own mother ordered our product as stocking stuffer for all her girlfriends:)
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
We truly believe that consumers appreciate the chance to put their hard earned money towards a cause that means something to them. If we can create a FRINGE for a CAUSE following that impacts just a few important foundations and we are able to GIVE BACK, then we would consider our company a success! And you will look SO amazing doing good:)
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
Hard work beats talent when talent fails to work hard. There is no reason to go half way in life…you only live once, so put your best foot forward everytime.
We are blessed that some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them 🙂
Wow…what a tough question!! We are great admirers to so many amazing entrepreneurs, especially women. We love the AWAY luggage story…how they took a necessity product and made it fashionable, more durable and highly sought after! The S’WELL or SPANX founders and of course, ELLEN or OPRAH as they are just amazing women doing amazing things everyday! As a matter of fact — too many amazing women that we admire — you would have to rent a HUGE ballroom to fit all of us:)
Thank you for all of these great insights!
About the author:
Chaya Weiner is the Director of branding and photography at Authority Magazine’s Thought Leader Incubator. TLI is a thought leadership program that helps leaders establish a brand as a trusted authority in their field. Please click HERE to learn more about Thought Leader Incubator.