INTERVIEW | BRITTANY & ASHLEY OF DAUGHTERS OF SIMONE
Name: Brittany & Ashley Castanos
Age: 29 (Brit) & 28 (Ash)
Location: Brooklyn, NY (Brit) // San Francisco, CA (Ash)
Current Title / Company:
Brit - Designer & Business Management
Ash - Assistant Designer & Wholesale Accounts Management
What was your first job out of university and how did you land that position?
Ash: Before I linked up with Brit, I went from odd job to odd job until I realised my passion was in Fashion Journalism. Upon this realisation, I went back to school and got my masters. In between studying, interning, and eventually graduating I did some side work with Brit & the rest is history.
Brit: My first job out of college was at a trendy boutique in Costa Mesa, CA. I really didn’t know what I wanted to do and the 2009 recession made getting a good paying job very difficult. From here I skipped around various jobs until the idea of starting Daughters Of Simone began to blossom :)
What inspired you to create your business?
Brit: Four years ago, my younger sister and I founded Daughters Of Simone out of her tiny SF apartment. Turned off by the "princess" type wedding world we found ourselves in, we pooled the $30 we had left in our bank accounts (true story) to buy some thrifted lace dresses. From there, I began altering them with what limited sewing skills I could teach myself all the while Ashley (my sister) began hosting bridal fittings directly out of that same apartment. At the time, there wasn’t any “market research” to be done because literally no one else doing it. As word spread, we had brides & their families flying in to try on our dresses (still out of her teeny-tiny apartment, mind you). It was a rad time and we went with it full force. Fast forward 4 years later, we’ve had celebs, vagabonds, artists, folk singers, and many the starry-eyed brides dress in our gowns. Somewhere along the way a cult like following seemed to emerge and our efforts have since landed us in bridal boutiques all over the world. And since we’re living our dream, growing day by day, we're proud to continue to be all female lead, and owned. Something that’s important to us, and that we’re really passionate about.
Take us through a day in the life of your business?
Ash: Brit and I start our morning with hot coffee in hand, preferably brewed by our loved ones. We both work from our ‘home offices’, mine being in San Francisco, California and hers in Brooklyn, New York. First priority is answering emails and uploading content onto our social media platforms. I mostly work with our stores, conducting the on boarding process of new retailers, facilitating sample and bride orders, scheduling trunk shows, and writing our monthly wholesale newsletter. Brit is in charge of implementing our SEO & future business strategies, as well as designing the bulk of the new collections. After which, we both approve and tweak the final designs together.
We’re currently in the midst of designing our 2017 Bridal collection which means ample busy prep days. The process is a mix of stress and fun, we place new fabric orders, edit designs and oversee fit sessions. In other meetings we brainstorm upcoming photoshoot ideas and collaborate with similar artists for the final ‘new collection’ look book product. Once a week our team gets together to discuss sales numbers and other haps going on within the business. Additionally, this year we’ve also made it a point to attend various business seminars and tradeshows. If Brit and I have the chance to work together in the same city we tend to wrap up the day with a glass of cold Sauvignon Blanc and some First-Aid Kit beats.
Obviously, your business has grown! So, let's talk money. Tell us about the intimidating process of finding funding for your business. Any advice for women who need to find funding for their own startups?
Brit: To be honest, we started DOS on a major shoestring budget. As the story goes, Ash and I pooled $30 and bought some white vintage dresses and basically as the dresses started to sell we took the profits and just kept buying more gowns. Eventually, we realised that if Ash offered bridal appointments out of her SF apartment we could increase our sales potential. Maybe we didn’t know how to ask for a loan, maybe it was the only way we knew how to get started. Whatever the case, it was important to us that we understood how much the company was really making and that we didn’t bog ourselves down with debt before we knew what was really financially possible. We barely paid ourselves enough to get by which left us hungry to figure out the secrets and succeed.
Your business has developed quite a following. Can you tell us a little bit about marketing your business? How did you spread the word?
Ash: I’d like to think we study the industry as if we have a final exam tomorrow and our grade depends on us passing the class or not. In other words we're looking at everything. For example, specifically to Instagram, we look at how other account’s pictures are pleasing to the eye by use of like-colors or blank spaces (we achieve this by using an amazing app called plan.o.gram). We also utilise strategic hashtags on every post, in fact we had our interns create a google doc with hundreds of applicable hashtags so that all we have to do is copy/paste into the comments section directly after posting. We also really pay attention to what our followers like and do not like. Keeping with this alone has helped us tremendously. We read up on new techniques and strategies, we set up coffee dates (interviews) with people that have bigger followings than us…We’re always on the look out to learn more and flip out what’s not working. All of these techniques have aided in building our following and furthermore growing our business.
What do you think is the key to the success of your business?
Brit: Never giving up. After a year or so of half passing a goal, I had of getting in front of a specific buyer I put my foot down and said, ”I will accomplish this this year!”. From that point forward I made it my mission. I researched, I studied, I called upon friends in the business, consultants, read books…anything I could get my hands on. Then I created a plan of attack and went at it from all angles. When the lows got me down I let myself feel them and then used it as fuel for the next day. Four months into this I received word that I booked the meeting. Hell yea.
Best advice you ever received?
Brit & Ash: We’ve got 3-
1. "If you don’t ask the answer will always be no."
2. "If you really want something you’ll find a way to do it. If you don’t want it that bad, you’ll come up with excuses for why it can’t be done."
3. "Just try it."
What is your coffee order?
Brit - Vanilla Latte - LARGE!!
Ash - Mocha all the way
TV show do you wish was still on the air?
Brit - The L Word
Ash - Brothers & Sisters
Next travel destination?
Brit - Cross country road trip
Ash - South America
What advice would you give your 23 year old self?
Brit: No matter how big or accomplished someone appears one day they too started at ZERO. Don’t let the dream overwhelm you. We’re all still trying to figure it out, and would make the argument, we always will be. The key is to start with something; take classes, intern, work shitty jobs, live in big cities where the competition is tough but will shape you. Throw something up on Etsy, put together your own “photo shoot”, or create a blog. Learn and do as much as you can about what you want to do while you can. And then, mostly importantly, "just try it".