Working Capital — You have to have the cash to stay in business! This seems like a no brainer, but cash flow is so volatile in this industry, you must always be strategic about growth and spend.
As part of our series about the 5 things you need to succeed in the fashion industry, I had the pleasure of interviewing Mollie Burch.
Atlanta native Mollie Burch is the co-founder, CEO, and creative director of CROSBY by Mollie Burch, an Atlanta-based clothing line for women. CROSBY features bright custom prints and was founded with a focus on supporting organizations that aid victims of sex trafficking. Mollie created CROSBY by Mollie Burch in October 2015 and has rapidly grown her business ever since. Burch said CROSBY has exponentially grown every year since it began, and 2020 is already looking to be their biggest year yet.
Thank you so much for joining us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
I have always wanted to have my own fashion line and have been passionate about design my entire life. I knew I wanted to create a print driven brand that was playful, bright, and could dress women of all ages and sizes. It was also important that I find a way to use my designs to aid in the fight against human trafficking. My business partner, Taylor Montes de Oca, and I were roommates at the time we decided to start CROSBY. She had the business savvy that I was lacking and also had the itch for entrepreneurship. The timing and partnership were right, so together we founded CROSBY.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started?
When you’re an entrepreneur and own your own business, most days consist of interesting stories. There is always a new win to celebrate or a new problem to solve. One opportunity that was particularly special for me, was being chosen by Southern Living Magazine as one of their inaugural “Tastemakers”. I was selected among 12 other incredible southern, female entrepreneurs in creative industries to be featured by the magazine. It was an incredible year-long experience that resulted in many new relationships that have and will continue to better our business. I’ll cherish the opportunity for the rest of my life.
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?
In the early days of CROSBY, when it was just myself and our co-founder, Taylor Montes de Oca, we worked out of my one-bedroom apartment. In preparation for our first-ever shipment of goods, we placed a large order of cardboard boxes. Next thing we knew a freight truck driver was knocking on my apartment door ready to deliver a pallet of cardboard boxes. Well, my apartment was up two flights of stairs and there was certainly no freight entrance (ha!). It was a quick reminder that we were really embracing the “fake it til you make it” attitude and it might be time to invest in a real office space.
What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
See bio. We are known for our unique vibrant prints that I design and our strong social mission. Our collections made up of one-of-a-kind prints, unexpected color palettes, and abstract, nature-inspired patterns, each captures the essence of a time, place, or story. Every CROSBY piece is designed to be timeless wearable art and to make women feel confident and beautiful, no matter their age or body type. High-quality materials and close attention to detail ensure that the clothes are both beautiful and functional without compromising on price or its ethical, women-owned means of production.
Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?
Always stay inspired. Never stop learning, researching, exploring, and seeking growth. As long as you’re growing as a designer, you’ll be inspired to continue creating. I am constantly experiencing life through my own design lens. I also try to approach my work with gratitude, because ultimately, I’m able to create something that makes women feel confident and beautiful. The fact that the clothes I design empower women to go out into the world with confidence is truly humbling and inspiring. Women get dressed every day, and for them to choose to wear my designs is so rewarding. I could never “burn out” from that.
How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?
At the core of the CROSBY brand is a social mission: to empower women and aid in the fight against human trafficking. The CROSBY slogan, Shine your Bright, is a call to action inspired by the impact that one person can have on the world. Shine your Bright aims to empower women to be their boldest, brightest, most confident selves. We want women to shine their brightest in all aspects of life and to use their light to make a change!
By supporting the CROSBY brand, customers give back to organizations that offer trafficked women freedom, rehabilitation, and the promise of a brighter future. Founded on the desire to fight social injustice, CROSBY uses bright designs to support organizations that aid victims of sex trafficking. My hope is that my designs build awareness of this global humanitarian crisis through a partnership with nonprofit Wellspring Living, an organization committed to restoring the lives of women rescued from the sex trade. To this end, one Fall and one Spring print are designed to tell the story of a victim of human trafficking. Proceeds from these prints are donated to Wellspring Living and to date, CROSBY has raised over $30K for the organization in addition to hosting events for the Wellspring women. Our goal is twofold: to shine a light on the grave issue of sex trafficking in this country and to aid the organizations that fight it.
Do you have a favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share a story of how that was relevant to you in your life?
Believe in yourself and trust your gut. I recently read the quote from Rebecca Minkoff, “You have to trust your gut and be your own north star.” That mindset rings so true to me and how I’ve tried to handle my business since day one. It can be really hard when you’re getting opinions from so many different directions which can lead to questioning and doubt of your own judgment.
Choosing which advice to follow and not follow is one of the hardest things to do, but if you can try and tune out all of the noise, at the end of the day your gut is oftentimes the best thing to follow.
What are your “Top 5 Things Needed to Succeed in the Fashion Industry”. Please share a story or example for each.
- Identity/Authenticity: know yourself as a designer and know your vision for your brand. Establish your brand identity and stay true to that. Ultimately, what you bring to the table is something that no one else does. So don’t try to be like anyone else — that’s already being done. The fashion industry is so saturated, and certainly isn’t lacking in talent, so bringing something unique to the table and staying true to that is so important. Keeping your authenticity will give you the confidence to persevere, to resist the temptation of comparison, and to keep moving even if people are doubting your success.
- Creativity/Inspiration — Fashion is an art form. There must be a constant flow of inspiration and creativity to keep your brand innovating.
- Production — This can easily make or break you. Having a strong production partnership is key to success in this industry. We are fortunate to have an amazing partnership with our China-based production company. Beyond their incomparable quality and dedication, they’re also a completely female owned and operated business (like us!) which we are super proud of.
- Working Capital — You have to have the cash to stay in business! This seems like a no brainer, but cash flow is so volatile in this industry, you must always be strategic about growth and spend.
- Community — This was critical from the start for us. We built our business with a very grassroots approach, and our community of family and friends were the first to buy into the brand. Starting with this word-of-mouth marketing strategy, their belief in and love of the product was a catalyst for our growth. The loyalty from the CROSBY community we’ve built is integral to our success.
Every industry constantly evolves and seeks improvement. How do you think the fashion industry can improve itself? Can you give an example?
We’re in such a pivotal time right now with everything happening around the world as a result of the COVID pandemic. I think there are some major improvements the fashion industry is long overdue for and this could be a time when some of those changes finally get implemented. Fast Fashion and the mentality of “instant gratification” and “more is more” has taken over so much of the industry making it hard for smaller, slow fashion companies to compete. There has been so much talk about sustainability, and curating a closet with fewer, investment pieces for a while now, and I think we’re in a pivotal moment for consumers and companies to choose to make the shift from fast to slow.
With this less is a more, sustainable approach, I think there will come a seasonality shift. The fashion calendar is long overdue for an update and this pandemic is forcing that. I hope the shift sticks. We don’t need to be shipping Fall goods in July when it’s 90+ degrees and Spring in January when it’s snowing. Curating collections that transcend the seasons with pieces that can be worn year-round should be the new approach.
You are a person of great influence. If you could start 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. :-)
I would say that in line with our social mission, Shine Your Bright, I would love to create a movement pushing and inspiring women (and men) to be their brightest, boldest, most confident selves and to be a light in the lives of others. I think when people feel their best, they project that onto others and are in a place where they want the best for others too. If we could all Shine Our Bright, I think this world would be a much better place.
How can our readers follow you on social media?
This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!