Hello, Gorgeous! Today’s post is part of my mini series called #BlushBoss. I love to get to know the readers of Blush & Camo and through talking to many of you I quickly found out all of you are a total #BlushBosses! You are driven, follow your goals, and know how to #sidehustle like no ones business. You have dreams and aren’t afraid to work hard towards them. Each of you inspire me everyday and so this series is a celebration of strong women who dared to follow their dream and make it a reality. I hope this mini series gives you a little inspiration to continue to go after your goals and never give up!
In this #BlushBoss series I’ve teamed up with CEO’s of amazing companies, asked them to share insight on their business, and give Blush & Camo readers insight as to what it takes to be your own boss.
Today’s #BlushBoss is Chloe from doublehighfive brooklyn! Her resume is amazing (like working at Alice + Olivia!) and I fell in love with Chloe’s company instantly. When I interviewed Chloe her answers are so honest and real! She is the total definition of a #BlushBoss and I can’t wait for you to read all about her below:).
#BlushBoss: Chloe from doublehighfive brooklyn
Name: Chloe Thompson
Current Title/Company: Founder, doublehighfive brooklyn; Consultant, Retail Branding & Strategy
Past Education: BA from Brown University, MBA from The Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania
What was your first job out of college?
I was Personal Assistant to the founder of Alice + Olivia, Stacey Bendet, back when the company was 7 people. The team was lean, so I did all of our PR and celebrity admin work, and then got promoted to sales rep. Man, it was brutal! But it’s experience I still draw on 12 years later.
What inspired you to start your own company?
It’s not very glamorous – I was bored at my day job. I found myself itching to do something more challenging. People were always asking me about my crazy stack of colorful bracelets and where they could get them. Since the answer was complicated (gifted to me from my sister from a small fair trade store in California, so they weren’t easily found online or nearby) I decided to start curating them and selling to friends at work. Once my whole floor seemed to be wearing my bracelets, I decided to make a brand and a website.
What advice would you give to Blush Babe readers thinking about starting their own business?
No start is too small! People think they need a business plan or a fully-fleshed out concept before testing the waters, but experimentation is a great way to see if you’re up for the long haul without tons of risk. With great marketplaces like Etsy and easy website creators like Shopify and SquareSpace, you can start small and scale up if you find something that clicks with customers.
What was your biggest fear in starting your own business?
Probably that my idea was too small. I have friends who have started companies, raised venture capital, and built out large organizations that are now well-known. Business school can create this weird mentality where unless it’s in the Wall Street Journal, it’s not real. I knew from the start that I only wanted doublehighfive brooklyn to be a side business – something that helped me be creative, run my own thing, and not as my whole life. But I judged myself for not wanting to pursue some groundbreaking offering and instead selling something I love and wear every day, when that distinction ended up being key to my success!
Take Blush Babe readers through your journey of starting out your company. How did you ensure doublehighfive was a success?
Truthfully, I didn’t have a way of ensuring success – I’m pretty sure my friends thought I was just looking for a distraction (I love distractions!) and it would be a flash-in-the-pan hobby. That kind of helped, though. Because it was just for me and not my only source of career satisfaction, I took things slowly and have relied heavily on my instincts and personal style. It makes things so much easier. I work with brands as a consultant all the time, helping them craft their brand story, core customer, their voice, and their aesthetic. With doublehighfive brooklyn, I don’t have to be academic or formulaic – it’s just my gut – which is what makes it such a perfect counterpoint to my day job.
What were some of the biggest challenges and greatest rewards you faced while starting your business?
The first time I tried to go on vacation for more than a weekend was a rude awakening! I didn’t think through the fact that I had to find someone to take over when I was gone…which seems obvious. Doing everything myself also means that I am sometimes unprepared for demand.
I remember getting a huge opportunity to work with a national retailer while also working 12-hour days preparing for a board meeting at my day job. I was waking up at 4:30 am to count and tie stacks of bracelets so I could hit all of my deadlines, and I had friends over one night to help, plying them with wine and pizza. Then some weeks, business is dead.
It took me a while to understand what things I was doing triggered upticks in business, and having the restraint to NOT do those things while I was slammed at work or on vacation. I still struggle with that. The biggest rewards were, and still are, the notes, emails and Instagram posts I get from fans.
What does a typical day look like for you?
I wake up early – 6-8 AM is my dedicated time for doublehighfive brooklyn – it’s when I pack and ship open orders, respond to customer emails, and wash and sort new inventory that comes in from Mali. It’s my zen time in the morning, and if I’m doing something super-repetitive, I watch old seasons of Full House on my iPad like a weirdo. It’s my favorite way to start the day. Then I head off to my day job, answering customer calls and emails as needed, of course.
Give Blush Babe readers an idea of how the bracelets are made …
In certain villages in Mali, plastic and rubber footwear is what most people wear, and sadly, discard frequently. Our artisans collect this “trash” from the Niger River, where it often ends up, and take the rubber thong part of flip flops to make the bracelets. They start by melting the rubber down over a small charcoal fire until it has a taffy-like consistency.
Then they stand and swing the glob of taffy back and forth so these looooooong strings are created. Next, they wrap two colors of the long strings around a metal rod and melt them together over the fire before using a hot, sharp knife to form into a bracelet. It’s pretty incredible! These women are able to take this trash and turn it into a living for themselves and their families, and I feel so lucky to be a part of that.
What is the best moment of your career to date?
Hm, good question! I can’t pinpoint one – it’s been a lot of really special small moments. Getting picked up by Cole Haan for their stores, the first time a stranger posted about #doublehighfivebk on social media, whenever I get thoughtful emails from customers, the first Instagram fan account (@doublehfan) and then the second (@doublehighfivefan). Those were all pretty great.
What advice would you give your 22-year-old self?
Man! I’d start by telling her, “girl, you have no idea what’s in store!”! I was an overachiever and a perfectionist. I assumed that if I just put my head down, worked hard, and did what I was told, I would move up some sort of ladder. I think I’d tell myself that there might not be anyone truly telling you what to do, there is no ladder in most businesses, that there are a lot of steps to the side, that failures are part of the plan and are what make you an interesting person. I’d also tell myself to enjoy drinking since hangovers in your 30s are no joke.
Chloe is a total #BlushBoss…
What is your best entrepreneur advice?
Hire an accountant! Taxes are stressful and complicated. It’s a worthwhile (and surprisingly reasonable) investment to find a good small business accountant and it will likely pay for itself (or at the very least, save you lots of anxiety).
You wish you knew how to…
French braid. Whistle super-loud with two fingers. Do the Worm.
What is your favorite way to unwind?
I love live dance and theater. I’m lucky to have some friends in New York City Ballet, so I can often get last minute “friends & family” tickets and I just go alone after a rough day. I go to PJ Clarke’s at Lincoln Center, eat a cheeseburger, and then sit and enjoy the beautiful orchestra and dancers. I also love that there are 3 intermissions so you never have to brave the ridiculous bathroom lines like at Broadway shows!
If you could have brunch with three women who would they be?
Tina Fey, Patti Lupone and Michelle Obama
Thank you so much for stopping by Blush & Camo!