Pinch me. Ele Story turned FOUR today, on a Good Friday! Woohoo!!!! Happy Birthday, Ele Story! Some of you may know that Hubby and I consider Ele Story to be our second child, although unlike our firstborn, its growth may sometimes be more sporadic and unpredictable (sometimes undetectable). But nevertheless, it is growing, and we are so excited that it just turned four! Be prepared for a blog filled with old pics of Ele Story designs & our humble beginnings...
As I reflect on the last four years of Ele Story's life, I'm still in awe. This first blog post I had ever written about our trade show experience really reminded me of how far we have come. The last four years, we have poured our hearts into Ele Story every day, nurturing it in the hopes that it is becoming the very best version of itself that we could possibly ever imagine. If you talk to any business owner, you probably already know that owning your own business is HARD work. But it can also be one of the most rewarding experiences as well.
Just the other day, a friend asked me how many hours I put in per week, and I was surprised that I had never thought about that. "I would venture to guess 80-90+ per week?" I told him. I realized at that moment that it never even crossed my mind to calculate the hours that I spend on Ele Story because I love it -- even with the challenges and the stresses that come with it. And for that I am so grateful.
So -- what does FOUR look like, you ask (or not, haha)? It has been an immensely busy year for us, a period which I describe as a "very tiring, but happy time". And well, I'll let you in on a little secret, if you promise you won't tell: we are actually in the process of re-branding -- re-designing the logo, packaging, re-shooting products to give our shop a nicer feel (I am no photographer and I am OK admitting that hah), etc.
I literally had 4 months to get this clothing line off the ground before our first trade show, so the logo design had to happen quickly. The blue elephant with polka dots has stuck around, and it will always have a special place in my heart. But, as my clothing design aesthetic evolved with June growing up, and even the age range that we cater to has gone from 6 yo being the oldest to now 12, the "baby blue elephant" feels somehow out of place.
Here's the concept for our logo BEFORE that I did, followed by a VERY ROUGH IN PROGRESS logo a friend of mine is working on:
I want to explore the relationship between mother and child more in the future of Ele Story. A Mommy-n-Me collection was always in my mind since the very beginning. As a little girl, I had always wanted to dress just like my mother, and now my little girl asks to dress like me. So as our brand evolves, I hope to design more mommy-n-me pieces that are tastefully done, classic, and flattering on both women and children.
Traveling down memory lane a bit: SS 2014 Collection was our very first collection that we took to New York's ENK trade show. I cut and sewed about half of these samples, and hired help to finish the rest. I suffered major back pain after making these...
I still remember when I first left a good job in making animated films to take on Ele Story full time, July of 2014. As soon as I left, I dove head on into running production, designing, sourcing materials, sampe-making, shipping, taking orders, customer support, photography, social media, basically EVERYTHING you can think of, I did. And I quickly burned out. But somehow, we produced this Fall collection that year. Who needs sleep anyway? Totally over-rated.
(This was my last craft fair at my work, showing my first Ele Story collection)
In 2015, we also made the very hard decision to leave the wholesale market at the time when we were actually gaining traction, because it simply wasn't sustainable for us. Since everything is made here in San Francisco, our costs are quite high (and only continue to go up), and we just were not able make enough margin to sustain our business (a reason hubby has had to keep working). But on the positive side, leaving the wholesale market also meant that I could design anything that I wanted, including one-of-a-kind pieces (and not have to worry about needing more of the same fabric to fulfill our bigger orders), and have more frequent releases. But, it was a scary move because it meant we had to figure out how to find our own customers, since we only exist online, advertising and marketing had to be our bread and butter. By the end of 2015, I was exhausted, discouraged, and wanting to quit (yet again). I still loved to design, but I told hubby that there is no way I would continue on with Ele Story if I was to do the exact same things all over again. I was not happy, and was (not so secretly) job-searching...
So, beginning of 2016, hubby proposed that we took a really big "gamble" and hired our first Ele Story team members -- all part time, and he told me that even if it meant our business had to break even, that it was worthwhile to see if it would help me not burn out, and scale the business. Lo and behold, it took a while to get there, but I am so glad we did. I could not be more thankful each day for the help that we have, the team that we have built.
June, too, has grown the most. ;) She was 18m when we started, and modeled a lot of mommy's designs. Now she's a precocious, sweet little almost-6-year-old who continues to encourage me and write me notes every other day that light up my world and keep me going:
Thank you for reading this crazy long novel! But most of all, thank you for keeping this little business and dream alive for us. Thank you for supporting #madeinUSA.