Today’s addition to our Small Business Success Series features Emily Lee from The Bow Next Door.
Emily purchased custom foamboard signs to display product images and the company logo.
Images of the foamboard signs used for advertising and logo display.
Tell us about yourself.
Most people create a small business around a trade they have experience in. Not me! I graduated from TCU with a degree in Chemistry, then went on to graduate school at Virginia Tech to study Polymer Chemistry. After five years of higher education, I realized that chemistry wasn’t my ‘thing’. I set my roots in Fort Worth and began a career in HR. After marrying my husband, we had our first child and decided that I would be a stay-at-home mom. I loved being home with our daughter but I also missed adult interaction and have a job outside of the home. Once our second child was born, I decided to do something for myself. I signed up for sewing and smocking lessons at a local fabric store and began to find my perfect fit. After smocking a dress for my daughter, I had leftover fabric so I sewed a (hideous) bow to match. I tweaked my pattern, played with fabrics, and perfected the perfect, classic bow.
What does your company do?
The Bow Next Door is a classic children’s accessories brand. We specialize in fabric hair bows, bow ties, belts, and bags. Unlike ribbon bows, we specially create each fabric bows to show their classic shape. We started small, selling to friends, on Etsy, and at local craft fairs. Within one year, our Etsy site took off and stores began contacting us about wholesaling. In 2016, we shut down our Etsy site, created our own website, and signed on with wholesale reps in both Dallas and Atlanta. Our growth is beyond my belief and continues to surprise me! Next month we’ll be opening LOCAL Design Studios + Gallery in Fort Worth with four other local businesses. The space will give us a storefront, work space, and warehouse space.
How did you come up with your company name, The Bow Next Door?
I was searching for a name that would convey the classic, all American, girl next door. My daughter joked and said The Bow Next Door and it was born!
What sets you apart from your competition?
The Bow Next Door is unique because we exclusively use fabric for all of our bows. We search our timeless fabrics and add twists like cording or lace. The result is a beautiful bow that can be worn for years.
What is one strategy for gaining customers that you have been successful with?
I think we’ve been so successful due to our customers. We don’t spend money on marketing so all growth is from word of mouth. Our customers are amazingly loyal. So many say that the bows look great on social media but once they get them in hand, they appreciate the craftsmanship and quality. I make sure to include a handwritten note in each order thanking everyone for their support. There are thousands of bow choices, but choosing TBND truly means the world to me.
A handwritten note with each order! That’s really cool. What led you to do that?
I just want customers to know that I appreciate each order. I want them to know that I have packaged each item and have taken the time to thank them.
How do you compete with the bigger competitors that are similar to yours but have a recognizable brand and large marketing budgets?
Slow and steady wins the race. Becoming a recognized brand is important but can only be done by creating a quality product. We pride ourselves on the fact that all of our products are handmade in North Texas. We work with other small businesses to create quality to pass on to our customers. Our prices may not be able to compete with our competitors but we’re OK with that. Each bow is hand-sewn in Dallas. Each belt is hand-crafted in Fort Worth. Keeping our manufacturing in the USA is important to us and to our customers.
What is one of the biggest challenges you have had with your business and how did you overcome it?
One of the biggest challenges has been the family / work struggle. Starting a small business, with small children, out of your home could be a recipe for disaster. Working late at night, during naps, and now during school hours has allowed me to grow at a manageable pace. I’m still very much a stay-at-home mom, shuttling to and from school, after school activities, doctor appointments, and picking up sick kids but I find time to get my work done. Sometimes that means bringing my computer to cheer practice, writing thank you notes in the carpool line, or emailing invoices in waiting rooms, I always manage to find the time.
If you had advice for other SMB owners, regardless of the industry, what would it be?
Do what you love. Love what you do. It will create a sense of pride that will take you far.
How do you “WOW” your customers?
I love connecting with our customers! When someone posts a picture of their little wearing TBND on social media, I get giddy! I love having that connection online but also in person. I’ve met so many great people along the way and look forward to meeting so many more.
I see you are on Facebook & Instagram, have you seen one or the other to be more beneficial in connecting with your customers?
Instagram has definitely been the most beneficial. I love seeing customers sharing their pics of their littles in the bows. Instagram has been the best way to spread the word about new products and sales.
What do you think the future holds for your business?
I hope to continue to grow our product line and look forward to our new venture in LOCAL. At this point, the sky’s the limit!
Without sharing detailed financials can you speak to your growth to this point and why you think it will continue?
In 2013, I learned to sew and had the idea of creating a classic bow from timeless fabrics. After launching our Etsy site in 2014, we secured our manufacturer in Dallas then began selling wholesale in 2015. We tripled our business in 2016 and are now opening a storefront in Fort Worth next month. Our growth has been manageable, organic, and unexpected and I wouldn’t have it any other way.
Where can you be found on the internet?
Editor’s Note: Thank you to Emily for taking the time to answer our questions and share your experience as a small business owner. Starting a small business isn’t easy, especially when juggling the daily responsibilities of raising children. Emily’s self-discipline and dedication to operating The Bow Next Door (TBND) have propelled the business to succeed online, leading to wholesale and storefront locations. Personalized notes and connecting with customers via social media opened the door to effective word-of-mouth marketing and impressive, online customer interaction. It’s not every day a business succeeds without spending anything on marketing but TBND has proven that sometimes all you need is high-quality products, remarkable customer service, and a visual presence on social media to grow a brand. Creating appealing posts on Instagram has given TBND an effective platform for marketing to its target audience, leading its success and organic growth over the past few years. Emily, we wish you and The Bow Next Door the best of luck in the coming years and hope to see the nation embrace your bows.