April 1, 2020
Ep. 13 – How The Shopify Inventory System Adds Value To In-Person Sales – With Caroline Danehy

Ep. 13 – How The Shopify Inventory System Adds Value To In-Person Sales – With Caroline Danehy

And even just going and doing these trunk
shows still and seeing people’s faces light up when they see the possibility of changing
plastic and transforming it into this swimwear. Having people feel it and touch it for the
first time is still just an incredible feeling. And I don’t think it’s something that ever
is going to go away. Welcome to Honest eCommerce where we are dedicated
to cutting through the BS and finding actionable advice for online store owners. I’m your host, Chase Clymer. And I’m your host, Annette Grant. And we believe running an online business
does not have to be complicated or a guessing game. If you’re struggling in scaling your sales,
Electric Eye is here to help. To apply to work with us, visit electriceye.io/connect
to learn more. And let’s get on with the show. On today’s episode of Honest eCommerce, we
welcome Caroline Danehy of Fair Harbor Clothing, sharing with us her founder’s story. Hello everybody and welcome back to another
episode of Honest eCommerce. I am sitting here with Annette Grant my lovely co-host
and we are welcoming to the show today Caroline Danehy from Fair Harbor Clothing. And we’re
going to get an awesome inside scoop of her journey and her story as an entrepreneur.
Welcome to the show today, Caroline. Oh, thank you. Thank you for having me. I’m
excited to be here. I’m so excited to… I’m going to start doing
these founder stories more. I feel… I love reading it from the agency side of seeing
how people started their businesses and growing them up. So I’m sure that our listeners will love to
hear the story and the journey of these other eCommerce brands, their contemporaries. So
if we could, let’s introduce the audience to Fair Harbor Clothing and what’s the brand
about? What are you guys up to now? And then I guess we can go back to the beginning. Yeah, absolutely. So my brother and I… Actually,
I’ll kinda do the reverse. I’ll give you a little backstory and then go to where we are
now. Give you a better picture of our journey. So, my name is Caroline Danehy. And about
four and a half years ago, my brother Jake and I started Fair Harbor Clothing. We make
exceptional swimwear, made from recycled plastic bottles: An effort to protect the places that
we love and beach towns around the world and the ocean. So basically, my brother Jake was
a geography major at Colgate. He was a junior in college at the time. I was a senior in
high school. And just as a geography major, he was learning
all about plastic waste. Its impact on our environment and the oceans. And while sitting
in the classroom, he became frustrated by the issue and want to do something about it.
So he called me up at the time. I was a senior in high school. I was still passionate and
very interested in environmental issues. So he called me up, we started brainstorming
about ways to get involved in the issue. And we thought about starting with non-profit.
And then all of a sudden, we came across this polyester directly made from plastic bottles.
And with that, we really became fascinated with this new material that we found. When we thought about the different ways to
use this polyester, we thought back to the bathing suits that we wore –in a place called
Fair Harbor, Fire Island– growing up. It’s a small beach town off the coast of Long Island. During this time, it’s where we really learned
to love the ocean and connect with it. It’s where we learn how to surf and swim. And we
rode bikes on the island. And specifically in Fair Harbor, too because it’s such a small
island. It’s only about 100 yards wide, 20 miles long, so any plastic that turned up
on the island, in the waters, on the beaches, it really stayed there. So we connected both
what we’re learning in the classroom. Fast forward 20 years later to our childhood
experiences in Fair Harbor, Fire Island, and our brand was launched. With the idea to be
as sustainable as possible and to use our brand as a platform to speak about the mitigation
of single-use plastics. That’s what the core values of Fair Harbor stand for. And so since our first production run in 20…
I guess 2015 now, we initially got started by pitching in front of shark… A mock Shark
Tank competition through our university at the time through Colgate’s entrepreneurship
program called Thought Into Action. So we pitched in front of a mock Shark Tank,
with panelists such as Jessica Alba, MC Hammer, Neil Blumenthal, Jennifer Hyman of Rent the
Runway. And we used the funds that we raised in the Shark Tank competition to put towards
our first production run. And since then we’ve just been going from production to production
run, and constantly looking to improve the quality of our products and just go from one
production run and just go from there. And it’s been an incredible journey throughout
the past. Four and a half, almost five years now. (laughs) I’ve got one specific question. How many times
at the beginning were you guys… There was some challenge, some hurdle and you guys were
almost ready to give up but you pushed through it? Oh, there’s been a lot. This industry of entrepreneurship
is a roller coaster. As a geography major, Jake had no experience in the fashion industry
and as a senior in high school, neither did I. So this whole thing has been an incredible
learning experience. It’s thrilling. It’s definitely a test. You constantly… But you
gotta just always push through it and look forward to what’s coming next. Because you
never…You got to always be on your toes because you never really know what’s going
to come up the next day. But it’s definitely thrilling and exciting. But yeah, it’s definitely
(laughs) It’s a lot going on at times. Were you the grand prize winner of your mock
Shark Tank there at your university? Yeah, we were at that time. Just the experience
of… This was, as I said, four and a half years ago and no one had heard of turning
plastic bottles into polyester. Even Jessica Alba, who is a huge sustainability
advocate –and in the fashion industry– even she didn’t have the idea of turning plastic
into polyester. So this was really at the forefront before. Plastic had really become
a global conversation. So it was incredible to see the faces, and not only the panelists,
but also our peers and the students in the crowd who we pitch in front of; just the possibility
of turning plastic into products that people actually wanted to wear. Yeah, you guys have a fantastic brand that
you built here. Was this the first iteration of the brand? Did you have this vision in
your mind from the get-go or did it evolve over time? It definitely started because we found this
polyester and we wanted to turn it into something that our peers wanted to wear, as I mentioned.
But it has really become a platform to change the way people view single-use plastics and
to try to change that not only our generation but beyond that. We just recently launched our first women’s
line last summer. So we’re continuing to expand our products, but also stay true to why we
started it in the first place and our core brand values. We have… It has kind of expanded
a little bit. But at the end of the day, it has stayed true to the core goal of why we
started their harbor to begin with; To transform single-use plastics into new products and
give it a second life. Absolutely. So, if you could jump in a time
machine and go back to when you guys started this, what would be the number one piece of
advice that you gave yourself? It’s just something that we’ve learned is
to fail quickly, and then to move on and to learn from your mistakes. I think that part
of this industry is to test things and give new trials. But if they don’t work and if
things don’t work within our company, change them quickly. For example, we first had Velcro. But our factory actually didn’t sew down the
Velcro, they just glued-down the Velcro in the fly of our first iteration of board shorts.
And you can imagine when (laughs) you put the board shorts in the washing machine a
few times, the Velcro with the glue starts to wear down. So we had people having real
issues of the Velcro coming off. And it wasn’t great. But we realized, “do we need to change the
closure of our board shorts?” So, now we actually don’t have a closure that doesn’t even involve
Velcro or anything like that. It’s just automatic that no one even has to think about the closure.
So with that example just thinking back: Fail quickly and fail fast and to move on from
your mistakes and to learn from them. Yeah, you don’t want a wardrobe malfunction
on the beach. (laughs) That’s probably the worst-case… (laughs) Annette’s been giggling. (laughs) Yeah. Probably, I went to another space there
when I started thinking about that for your customer. Losing part of their flys… (laughs) Oh, trust me. That’s where our heads went.
(laughs) We took them back immediately and gave people their refund money. But then also
took them to our local seamstress and paid a certain amount of money just to fix the
problem –because we knew that was our mistake– and send them back with a brand new pair of
board shorts that were actually sewn in the Velcro. So yeah, it was definitely an interesting
hurdle. But one that we got back. I appreciate that. Because that pretty much
is worst-case-scenario. What happened to you and your customers, and you guys, you fixed
it. It’s something that’s going to happen there. You’re in swimwear… Absolutely. Look, we’re a young company, we’re
going to make mistakes. But I think that one of the most important things within our brand
that we’ve tried to incorporate into our brand values is transparency and honesty. And when
we mess up, we’re going to acknowledge it, we’re going to fix it and we’re going to pay
you back or help you reimburse for that mistake. Because we believe too, as a young company,
we have to do that. We’re trying to create these customers, these lifelong customers
and not just a single, customer for one product. So that’s incredibly important to us as a
brand and as a company culture. Did you sit down –often before you build
the brand– and talk about the type of community that you wanted to build? I mean, obviously
you’re gonna have like-minded individuals with your product, but how much time and energy
–not only went into the product– but thinking the brand all the way through and the community
that you were going to build? No, that’s a great point. Thank you for bringing
up that, too. So Fair Harbor, Fire Island, as I mentioned at the beginning of the podcast…
So Fire Island is basically an island and it’s composed of several different towns.
And something incredibly unique about this island is it brings people from all walks
of life. You can be… All the houses are basically similar from one another. And it’s a place where firefighters living
next to bankers from the city and families and single people just looking to go into
the island to have a good time together. Basically, it brings people from all walks of life. It’s
this incredibly inclusive culture. And we try to bring that to our brand as well.
So we’re based-off of inclusivity and trying to find a way to bring in people from all
walks of life. What that does… We’re not trying to look just to bring together like-minded
people, but also people from different walks of life. Come together around the brand of
Fair Harbor and this timeless, endless summer mentality, too. But also the idea that we want to conserve
and preserve these beach towns and that also brings another community of activism around
these beach towns and actually creating change. Picking up waste and plastic and trash wherever
you see, an effort to create a cleaner future. So I think there’s two components to that
community: Both the inclusivity of the island and also the community around… Actually
the activism of picking up plastic and trash in the places that we love. So I’ve been a fan of the brand. We’ve talked
before. There was another iteration… Before the podcast, there was an interview and that’s
actually how we met. But I’m glad it’s a podcast now because we definitely get a lot more out
of it. So I’m on the website right now. These shorts, The One Short… This looks so comfortable. No, they are. They’re actually one of our
best-selling products. So we call it “The One Short For Every Sport.” It’s actually
a cotton and poly blend, so it feels like a normal cotton short when you pull them on.
Super soft. Just lends itself for every type of thing throughout the day. You can swim
in them, you can work out in them, you can go to dinner them, sleep in them, (laughs)
you can really do anything. They’ve been great for us, and they’ve been a huge hit. We’re
actually… Sneak peek, we’re coming out with three new
colors this upcoming season two, which we’re really excited about. That’s fantastic. So I this is actually a
good tipping point here. So hopefully those of you following along, hopefully you’re not
driving, go to the website, check out The One Short. And there’s some cool stuff on
this webpage here to get a little more nerdy. Yeah. So I see that you have 105 reviews here
on The One Short. How do you find that social proof helping you guys out with your business? Absolutely. Reviews have been incredible for
us. Because at least, from myself, as a consumer too, I want other people’s validation that
they like the product, the fit is good, the quality of the actual fabric is there. And
I personally want that validations and our customers want that, too. And I think we can
speak to the exceptional swimwear that we produce but I think it just brings so much
more validation, too when our customers write a review. It’s really exciting to actually
see these reviews pile up. And my brother, too, he just constantly –and
our partner, Jon– he gets their views constantly coming into their emails. It’s exciting for
us to see, too, as a small brand, the validation of our customers both the customers that we’ve
had for years –that have seen the improvement of the product and kind of the lifeline of
them– but also the first customers to buy a pair board shorts the first time and love
them automatically. So it’s cool just to see the 2 different types of people do that right
the reviews. Simplr Ad
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email and live chat around the clock was Simplr specialists. Start your free seven-day trial at simplr.ai/honest. So I’ve got a question. Do you know, when
you guys launched, the review campaigns for these products? Was it when the product went
live itself? Or was it… Did you add it in after the fact? I just kind of want to set
some expectations for our listeners. You gotta start somewhere. Absolutely. We just actually installed the
review, I believe, last spring so they’ve only… It’s only been live for about a year. Yeah, absolutely. That’s the one thing that
I find a lot when talking to brands. They’re like, “Well, we want reviews but we don’t
want our products to not have reviews. We feel like that is doing a disservice.” I was
like, “Well, there aren’t reviews now. It having no reviews is the same amount of disservice.”
You gotta start somewhere. Oh, absolutely. Yeah. And those are just compiling
up throughout the year. And we definitely… We wanted to, as I said before, that validation.
We wanted to give that validation not only for ourselves but for other customers to see
the product. It’s worked very, very well in our benefit. I’ve been looking forward to
continuing to grow that platform as well. Absolutely. I also see here that you guys
have a… What is the proper term here? You got this QuadPay on here. So it breaks the
price of the short into 4 interest-free payments. Have you found that to help the business as
well? We haven’t seen as much engagement with that.
But it’s a nice offer… Nice featured offer, as well. Absolutely. It seems like a hot topic these
days. We’ve talked to quite a few people about those alternative payment methods and how
they empower the customer, their buying power to be able to split it up. But it definitely,
I think it’s marketed at younger people. College students don’t really have credit cards. They
just have checking accounts, sometimes. Right? (laughs) Yeah, definitely nice to give
that option for sure. Absolutely. Go ahead, Annette. Besides selling online, where else do you
sell your product? Do you have wholesale accounts? Or… Yeah. So we’re actually in about 40 wholesale
accounts, primarily in the Northeast and up and down the East Coast. And we’ve been continuing
to grow our wholesale, but our main point of sale is our website. So that is where we
do most of our sales and everything. Our retail business, our wholesale business is still
kinda young, but we’re looking to grow that in the future as well. You know, primarily too, Jake and I, we started
the company on trunk shows. So, we have done, basically about 150 trunk shows, a year since
we started this company. And that was extremely helpful, too, in just getting the word out,
meeting new customers, getting feedback face-to-face, and just kind of growing the brand organically.
And as we expand the company, continuing to grow, our website has been our main channel
of commerce. Yeah, I’ve got a note here from you. You said
that Shopify and its ability to sync that inventory for you at those shows was like
a game-changer. Oh, absolutely. That’s primarily why we switched
to Shopify, to begin with. We’re using another platform before, which didn’t have the inventory
and just between our website sales and what we’re doing in person, it made it basically
impossible to keep track of our inventory. So this was incredibly helpful and useful
for us as a young company, constantly going in many different directions. So that absolutely
was a game-changer. And it helped us out tremendously just to be more organized. And yeah, absolutely. Do you think that getting on the ground, doing
the trunk shows has really catapulted the brand much quicker than just having an online
presence? So basically, Jake, and I would go to small
towns and do trunk shows and pop up shops, in surf shops and retail spaces, and really
just tell our story. Tell why we started it, where it’s going, explain our product. And
I think that it really did bring the brand to life for people who had never heard of
us. Which for as a small brand, was many people. Yeah, it definitely was instrumental in starting
the brand. And you know, as we grow, it’s still always going to be a part of our business,
maybe just not as big, but it will always be part of our business model for sure. Absolutely. I mean, I just want to point that
out, you got to put in the work. I mean, when people launch brands and they push it online,
and then they just don’t do anything. No one’s going to come to find you and just give you
money. You got to put in the work somehow. And you guys getting out there and actually
hitting the pavement. I applaud you for that. That is definitely putting in the work. Oh, thank you. Yeah, we had a lot of long
days you know, in the sun and in retail shops and stuff but they definitely were worthwhile
in the end. Exhausting at times but definitely worthwhile. I mean, you guys picked an awesome niche though.
I’m not going to complain about going to visit a bunch of cool beach towns. (laughs) No, absolutely. We had fun while doing it.
And you know, Jake and I and our partner Jon, too. That’s why we all started this company
and continue to push it forward is because we love what we’re doing. We love the places
that we go and the impact that they’re having, the people that we’re meeting. And it really
is just inspiring to see the change start to happen not just within our own company,
but outwards. And even just going and doing these trunk shows still and seeing people’s
faces light up when they see the possibility of changing plastic and transforming it into
this swimwear. Having people feel it and touch it for the first time is still just an incredible
feeling. And I don’t think it’s something that ever is going to go away. Oh, absolutely. Now, we spoke about this last
time that I talked to you. You had quite a few book recommendations and I’ve –actually
since then– I think I’ve read one or two of them. But let’s share those with our audience.
What are you reading these days? I actually just finished the book Swell by
Liz Clark. And I don’t know if any of the listeners have heard of it, but it was amazing.
So basically, it’s about this female captain and she set sail to travel the world on her
own sailing boat. And she basically… She has a few crew members come on and off the
boat just when she’s going from point A to point B or B to C. But basically, she’s doing this world trip
by herself and the experiences that she has and the people that she meets, just kind of
how she develops this relationship with nature and her surroundings is incredible. And you
know, not only that, but how she discovers herself and these times of turmoil where she’s
at sea for days, and she’s stuck in a storm. It’s just really inspiring. And I think too, with modern-day culture,
where our senses get diluted a lot of times and we’re just kind of numb to not only just
like the weather around us but how we feel internally in our bodies and our breathing.
And just reading this book, I think, is a reminder of why we need to be in tune with
nature and our surroundings. And, just what we do with our bodies to and on an individual
basis, as well. That goes to what we eat, what we drink, what environments we put ourselves
in. And I think it’s just like a really great book to become in tune with that again. So, I definitely recommend it. It was extremely
exhilarating, I finished it within, I think, a day and a half. I was talking to all my
family members about this trip on vacation. So this is a great book. I definitely recommend
i.t It sounds like it. I personally am scared
of the open water. I mean of the ocean. I’m not scared of a lake. Because I don’t know.
That’s a me problem, though. Sharks?… It’s not even sharks. It’s like more of the
void. What’s down there? (laughs) I get that. (laughs) It’s actually funny too,
because I get extremely seasick, which is awful. I hate it. And I think this book was
also very romanticized as well because I would love the idea of sailing in these open waters.
But literally, looking at a glass of water jiggle. I get seasick. Whenever I go surfing.
I take like Dramamine before I go out. (laughs) And stuff like that. So it’s really unfortunate
owning a swimwear company and getting seasick literally just swimming in the ocean. Yeah, that is such a hilarious juxtaposition.
Awesome. So let’s get back to entrepreneurship. Your guys’ journey is fantastic. Were there
any other parts of that journey that really stand out for you that you think that you
could share with our audience? Yeah, absolutely. So when Jake and I first
started, as I mentioned a few times, neither one of us had any experience in the industry/knew
what we were doing. But we knew we had something and we knew we wanted to kind of push it through.
Because at the same time, we started this as a school project since essentially, within
the entrepreneurship incubator at Colgate. And we didn’t really have anything to lose. You know, we were both in school. We didn’t
have a lot of money invested at the time, but we want to see what we could make of it.
So, I think a memory that really sticks out, in my mind, is the first time where Jake and
I actually created our first sample. So as I mentioned earlier, neither one of us had
any experience in the fashion industry/knew what we’re doing.
But we knew we had an idea. We wanted to see where we could take it. So we ordered our
initial sample fabric, we took it to Garment District in New York City. We were running
around from sample factory to sample factory, trying to just convince someone to make us
a short. We finally did when we gained a stupid amount of money, but it was a little too expensive
for what it should have been. But you know, that’s okay. We placed our order and a few weeks later,
we received a package with the first sample. And I think holding that concrete and actually
in our hands was such an incredible feeling. To have an idea and create something with
it. And so that night actually, Jake tried on the sample in the shower. And he can even
come out of the bathroom that night because he’s like, “Carol…” He yells from the bathroom
like, “Caroline, you know, it’s way too see-through. Can’t really do anything about this but let’s
find a way to make this work.” So we did some more research, we found a fabric
that (laughs) weren’t transparent when it got wet. That was a good thing. But that was,
it was just so… The experience of it entirely, of having an idea going to the factory, having
a sample made, testing the fabric, and then just kind of improving. It was just kind of
this whole process. But it was incredible, just to kind of see it come into fruition.
That was the toughest part of the journey that I think will always stand out in my mind. Awesome. Yeah, that story is amazing. So before
we let you go here, is there anything else that you think would be fun to share with
our audience? Any last-minute tips or tricks that you’ve picked up along the way on your
journey? Yeah, I think just a lot of the time… And
I think, growing up, my parents just always taught me that if something didn’t work, that
didn’t mean you failed at it, it just meant to find something… Find a way for it to
actually succeed. And I think I’ve kept that lesson with me. And I know Jake has, too.
Try something, if it doesn’t work, fail fast, and look to improve and find a way to make
it work. That doesn’t mean to stop. And it doesn’t mean that you’re a failure
if it just doesn’t work the first time. I think that’s something that we’ve brought
to our business model. And just to kind of find a way to keep improving and changing.
And I think that’s just something that is always kind of stuck close to us. It’s been
an incredible journey. We’re excited to see where Fair Harbor takes us in the future.
And yeah, I’m really looking forward to the upcoming months. We’ve got a lot planned.
So stay tuned. And where can our listeners find Fair Harbor?
What’s the best place? Yeah, so our Instagram handle is @fairharbor
or just fairharborclothing.com. Awesome. Thank you so much for joining us. Yeah. Thank you for your time. Thank you for having me. We can’t thank our guests enough for coming
on the show and sharing the truth. Links and more will be available in the show notes.
If you found any actionable advice in this podcast that you’d like to apply to your business,
please reach out at electriceye.io/connect. Please make sure to subscribe to Apple Podcasts,
Spotify or your podcast app of choice.

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