We love meeting women who are living the skills we teach our students each day. We sat down with Jessica Kremen and Lily Brown, co-founders of Baltimore-based Worthy Threads, to find out what it takes to build a business and a brand.
Worthy Threads is a new line of children's clothing that highlights the individuality of our children and inspires the people who dress them. We are pairing vintage inspired designs with unique and quirky prints that appeal to moms who appreciate fashion and enjoy dressing their children in clothes that reflect their personalities.
Congratulations on your launch, ladies! As you know, Invest in Girls helps high school girls learn about business, finance and entrepreneurship. Did you always have entrepreneurial aspirations, even as teenagers?
Jessica: I have always been interested in business and the idea of entrepreneurship, but was too scared and honestly didn't have the confidence in myself to really trust my gut and start something. I majored in Culture & Communication in college which was really just advertising and public relations, both were extremely appealing to me. After college, I began my career at advertising agencies, specifically in the media department which is very focused on numbers (budgets, reach and indexes). My last position before leaving the corporate world nearly 4 years ago to stay at home with my daughter, was at an advertising software company where I managed all of our portal clients, as well as, one of our major advertising platforms. I had been toying with the idea of starting something since then. I own quite a few domain names for the different businesses I quietly thought about starting. It wasn't until my son was born and I was having difficulty finding him unique, comfortable and cool clothes that fit our life, style and wallet, that I had the idea to start a clothing line.
For me, it took finding something I was really interested in (fashion & my kids) and the right partner (Lily) to give me the courage and the motivation to push forward with Worthy Threads. Prior to our launch, in the very early days, there were a few times I thought "what am I doing?". Constant communication with my partner and our mentors was crucial to pushing through those barriers. I am always reminded of one saying, “A year from now, you will wish you started today”. I think entrepreneurship takes a great deal of courage and a lot of hard work, but so far it's been well worth it. I wake up excited each morning to continue growing with Worthy Threads. It is incredibly rewarding.
Lily: I actually never pictured myself becoming an entrepreneur and starting a business. I really enjoyed math and science in school, got a degree in mechanical engineering, and turned that into a career as a defense contractor. When my daughters were born I took time off to take care of them and found that I enjoyed in sewing the same aspects that I enjoyed in engineering. Understanding the way things are put together and seeing a project through from ideas to completion really appeals to me. It wasn't until I partnered up with Jessica that I considered doing this on a larger scale. I have much more confidence in myself and am much more passionate about what I do now that Worthy Threads has come to be.
Your fabrics and prints are so unique. Can you tell us how you found them and what the creative process looks like at Worthy Threads?
Thank you! Ironically, I stumbled upon these fabrics while working on a separate clothing concept. I was planning to attend a fabric show in New York and while researching the various attendees and their textiles, I found the Barbershop print (the men with mustaches and beards) and I thought, "I have to put my children in this!". I went to the show and made contact with the Barbershop vendor, among others, and we have built our collection from there.
The patterns aren’t ones you’d typically see on children. Not because they are provocative or too mature, but because they aren't childish. Which brings me to the creative process and the core of the Worthy Threads style, which is to create clothes that we would want to wear ourselves. We design vintage silhouettes which pair unexpectedly well with avant-garde prints. Additionally, we love being comfortable, and comfort is key for children, so we’ve included loungewear in our capsule collection that incorporates the funky prints with super soft and worn in cotton blend sweatshirts, t-shirts and (coming soon) sweatpants.
What types of skills would you recommend young women acquire while still in high school if they want to launch their own small business one day?
Definitely computer skills, specifically coding! If you have a great idea and you can navigate the web, you can launch your own business with little to no overhead. I wish I had taken a class on coding. Luckily there are many companies out there now that make building your own website fairly user friendly, but to have familiarity in coding makes it much easier and less daunting. Marketing and communication skills are extremely important for creating any material, whether it's online or printed. And finally, what's probably been the most crucial is budgeting. We both went into this business venture with an agreed upon amount that we would be OK losing if the business didn't get off the ground. We meet weekly to discuss updates on materials, sales and budget to make sure we are both fully aware and comfortable with the state of the business. We have also started working with an accountant to make sure we are complying with our financial and legal obligations such as paying state, local and sales taxes as well as have all the necessary permits and licenses to operate legally in the State of Maryland. It's very easy to get carried away with the more exciting parts of business like buying materials and paying for advertising, but keeping a close watch to stay within our budget has been of the utmost importance.
One of the key components of our workshops is encouraging our girls to develop short and long term goals for themselves. What are your short and long term goals for Worthy Threads?
Our short term goals are to develop consistent organic growth. We plan to add to our team just enough to sustain a strong online business. Eventually, we hope to expand into larger sizes to fit older children, and add additional pieces of clothing and accessories to our collection. We want the Worthy Threads brand to resonate with our customers for years to come. Long term, we hope that we will be attractive to larger retailers, though we also plan to continue to maintain our direct to consumer approach. Many other fashion forward retailers have expanded into children’s clothes while other brands and retailers have not, like Anthropologie or Free People. We think Worthy Threads would be a great addition for a retailer that does well with our target mom market, and we'd love for those customers to be able to buy cool clothes for themselves, and also their children, all in once place.
How do you balance the demands of motherhood with being entrepreneurs? Any tips for the woman reading this right now who wants to take the leap and finally write that business plan...but just doesn't know when she'll find the time?
It's definitely a tricky balance and truthfully, it's one that we are still trying to figure out. The good thing is, we are fortunate enough to both be able to do this from home and to work around our children's schedules. While I do feel like I am constantly juggling both and there aren't enough hours in the day, I really love it. Being an entrepreneur has given me a lot more energy and excitement which spills over into how I interact with my children and husband. The times I am setting aside to spend with them feels a lot more concentrated. As the days definitely seem packed between calls, meetings, errands, pickup/dropoff, making meals, etc... I am less likely to take things for granted, as it all feels fleeting.