Dobbin Clothing is an online women’s clothing store that launched in April 2012. Dobbin’s styles are made from the finest European and American fabrics, manufactured in New York City and meant to fit and flatter women sizes 00-16.
‘Ah ha’ moment that led to launching this business: It was more like a long thought process that lead us to eventually jump in and start. We thought a lot about the customer we wanted to dress, and the kinds of values we wanted our company to have, the kinds of products and level of customer service we wanted to provide. It all kind of came together when we launched.
Ideal customer/target market: Women 25-70 ( a big range, we know) who typically wear our clothes in a business casual environment.
First customer or client: Our first real client found us when she looked on Facebook at who shared a piece Fashionista had written about Kate Middleton. Facebook has been key to our growth in general.
Measuring success: In terms of numbers, we’ve quadrupled our business since our first season. In terms of customer satisfaction, our customers are very much repeat customers who love our product and customer service and continue to rely on us for their wardrobe needs. We have a very loyal fan base.
Biggest struggle: We encounter struggles every day, from being on a slightly different schedule than the traditional fashion calendar, to our sheer size and budgets as a startup, to how to grow our business and our team. But it’s one step at a time in terms of solving any problem a small business has.
Surprise!: How rigorous and time and labor intensive it is to produce clothing. Jessica had always been on the business side, while Catherine came from design and production.
Promoting sales: We use Facebook as a place to share successes, relevant articles, blog posts, sales and more. It’s a place that our customer can catch up with us when she has time. It’s our strongest social media channel by far.
Two things you wish you would’ve known: We wish we had known a bit more about the design and production processes, and to expect a steady growth and not overnight success. (Steady turns out to be better at this point.)
What keeps you up at night (business-wise!)?: How to get in front of new customers, how to stay on calendar with production and how to make sure our current customers are happy.
Ever tempted to throw in the towel and just get a job?: Of course. Starting a business is not glamorous and often it’s not even fun. But in the end, to hear a customer say how much she loves our dresses makes it all worth it.
Biggest business goal over the next year: To grow our team to include a more robust shipping, production and marketing team and to find a small warehouse for our inventory.
Pricing/advice on getting it right: Pricing is about perceived value. With clothing, there’s so much on the market at all price points. But what does our customer think is a reasonable starting point for a dress, a blouse, a pair of pants? We’re constantly learning and finding our groove. But with data and with intuition, we price our garments in a way that is very fair for the value we’re giving. Our margins are really slim in order to provide the customer with a great product at a great price.
A few tips specific to your industry: For packaging, don’t go over the top. You want your packaging to look identifiable and pretty, but it doesn’t need to rival LVMH. Manufacturing: Don’t jump in without at least having some knowledge or guidance. Ask as many people for help and resources as possible. They may not offer direct information, but they may point you in the right direction. Prototypes: Try your samples yourself and never settle for less than the best.
The absolute best part of owning our business is: Making customers happy.
If we had to start over again, we would have: Learned more about production and the fashion calendar.
We never imagined: Production and fabric sourcing would be so difficult.
If standing on a rooftop facing crowds of aspiring or struggling small business owners, we would shout: “A few of us will make it, many of us won’t, but it’s all worth a try.”