In addition to being your resource for practical and inspiring lifestyle content, Mon Amye is your friend, your sounding-board, your motivator. She’s the one you turn to for advice and to share your successes, and that’s just what this new Founders + Friends series will be doing each month. [Plus, I love hearing from entrepreneurs and now I have a reason to ask after my favorite success stories!]
Today we’re talking to Sarah and Steve, the sibling duo behind fashion retailer Harding Lane. I’ve been interested in their story since first spotting their adorably needlepointed accessories. I love that their items fit into that New England aesthetic but with a modern approach: they work hard to be environmentally- and socially-conscientious while also giving back to a Massachusetts natural conservation nonprofit each year. Read on to learn more about the sibling co-founders behind Harding Lane:
[Amye] The Basics: Tell us about Harding Lane:
[Sarah + Steve] We are an accessories brand based out of New England. We do our best to convey New England lifestyle in our products. We offer accessories such as hats with needlepoint stitching on them, and needlepoint belts and key fobs. Our customers are anyone who has an east coast, preppy, athletic style.
The BFFs: How did you originally meet and become friends?
We are brother and sister, so we met quite a long time ago!!
The Startup Phase: How did you first decide to go into business together?
We decided to go into business together when Steve was graduating from college and when Sarah left her job in New York. We both had always discussed how great it would be to go into business together, and the timing just sort of worked out perfectly.
We had a lightbulb moment when debating possible ideas for a product to sell; one of us mentioned hats, the other one mentioned needlepoint, and it just sort of snowballed from there.
The Now: Briefly describe Harding Lane as it stands today. Who manages what aspects of the company? Has that evolved as time passes?
Sarah manages more of the internal aspects of the company, while Steve manages more of the external ones. We both joke that we could do each others jobs, just not as well.
More specifically, Sarah deals with the manufacturer on a day to day basis, and she is also heavily involved with the creative side of H-L. Steve is more focused on business development, such as creating new partnerships and wholesale accounts.
The Hard Stuff: What is the biggest obstacle you have faced while in business?
Adequate capitol to sustain the growth of the business is the biggest obstacle that we have faced thus far. H-L has experienced some severe “growing pains” over the past five years. It is a good problem to have, but we are constantly sold out of inventory and need to replace that inventory as quickly as possible.
At one point a few years ago, we had to turn to friends and family in order to help us raise some working cash in order to keep up with the growth. That round of raising money was vital to our survival, and luckily, we have been able to handle the demands on inventory ever since.
The Network: Share the people in your network that have proven to be true friends. Who do you turn to for support?
We have certainly been lucky to have a wonderful network of friends, family, and contemporaries to rely upon for advice and guidance. A few that quickly come to mind are Fred Maynard and Marcia Hooper. Fred and Marcia both act as our financial advisors and have both helped us to navigate the financial side of the business.
Another great role model for us, and someone who is now helping consult us from time to time, is Taylor Llewellyn. Taylor started a belt company several years before we went into business, and he has provided us with invaluable advice and insight.
The Wins: How do you celebrate your successes?
We celebrate our success simply by being happy that we have started a company that has been in business for five years. We know how difficult it is to sustain the growth of a start-up company, so we do not take any of our success for granted. A few beers in the summer on the beach always helps as well!
Voila! Practical inspiration for your own big dreams, delivered to mes amies.
A huge thanks to Sarah and Steve for sharing the unique story of their sibling bond and how that developed into a blossoming retail brand. They’re honest about how hard the startup experience can be, but their true passion for making Harding-Lane a success shines through in each statement.
I especially love how they rely on each of their strengths to make the business function on a day-to-day basis. In any startup there is bound to be overlapping responsibilities, but knowing which realm you’re able to make executive decisions can help immensely to avoid conflict and keep moving forward.
Be sure to check out Harding-Lane‘s shop before summer – I spotted some great gifts for “grads and dads”!
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