I’m sure you guys have heard about about Alice and Ames, you know, the twirly dresses that have taken the toddler world by storm? Stacie and Geoff, the cutest husband and wife team, are an entrepreneurial power couple and have created such a darling brand and community. They share about finding enjoyment in your individuality and creating an intentional company designed to your liking. I can’t wait to see what else is in store for them! Enjoy the interview.
Hello all! My name is Stacie Lang and I’m the owner and designer behind the girls clothing label, Alice + Ames. We’re a USA made, family-run company that focuses on comfort, playfulness, and styles that both parents + kids can love. My husband Geoff and I have three girls and live in sunny Arizona where we like to eat, play, and travel as much as we can.
#pressplay below to watch our recorded Skype interview, and check out her answers below in written format as well as pictures of her wonderful business.
What did you do before Alice + Ames?
Geoff and I were actually wedding photographers before running Alice + Ames. While we loved having a creative job that allowed us to work together, the travel and long weekends away from our girls became taxing. We made a hard decision to close up shop right before our third daughter was born, and very shortly after that, Alice +Ames was born.
How did you decide to start your own business?
I knew that I needed to have a creative outlet, I knew that I was happier when I stayed busy with work, and I knew that I’ve never liked being told what to do. So as far as jobs go, creating something and being my own boss was really the only option for me. That’s when pen hit paper and Alice + Ames became a reality. The idea for the clothing company was first born when I was helping my very opinionated, very stubborn two year old get dressed. It seemed like there were kids clothes made with kids in mind, and kids clothes made with parents in mind, but not a whole lot with both parents and kids in mind. I wanted to bridge that gap and help to avoid any extra morning-time battles we have to fight as Parents. I pitched it to my very supportive, equally crazy husband and the next weekend we were driving to LA’s garment district with a five week old and no idea what we were doing. The rest is history!
Can you give us a brief history of Alice + Ames?
A year ago today (happy birthday A+A!) we launched our website and it’s been a complete whirlwind of twirly dresses and learning curves ever since. We dealt with lots of growing pains and ‘learning some things the hard way’ this first year, but it’s been such an exciting journey and we feel incredibly lucky that we’ve been able to experience it.
How long have you been in business? What has your growth looked like? Can you tell us a story of some of the “unglamorous” moments just starting up?
We’ve been in business exactly one year to the day! Our growth ramped up fairly quickly considering it started off as a one-woman operation. Working from home and having three small needy children, there were plenty of moments that were far from glamorous—believe me! Some of which involved wrestling two big laundry baskets of orders, a stroller, and a mid-tantrum toddler in a long post office line. Some involved lots of tedious time stringing hangtags with Geoff on our bedroom floor while watching Friends on Netflix. And then there were chaotic moments of shooting product or packaging up orders with a baby on my hip. I’ll stop there before I vanish any sense of glamour our company may still have 😉
What’s your big picture WHY? What motivates you work hard and build your business? What is your ultimate lifestyle goal?
The big picture has always been quality of life for us. Working together, being in control of our own hours, being home with our girls, and spending as much time together as a family as possible—that is the lifestyle we’ve always wanted. For now we’re just taking it day by day and pinching ourselves every now and then to remind us that this isn’t a dream. Don’t think I don’t know how cheesy that sounds! But it’s true, we feel so fortunate we’re able to pull this all off.
Where did you find your mentors, or resources to help learn about entrepreneurship and running a successful business?
I promise I’m not just blowing smoke, but when I first started out I watched or listened to every ‘I’m Like Brave interview’ there was at the time! I asked questions, I tried to watch and learn from other big and small companies I admired, I read books like #girlboss, listened to cheesy podcasts, and truthfully I just Googled a ton as I went. One of my favorite little sayings has always been “I don’t know what I’m doing but I’m doing it anyway.” With nothing but ‘culinary school dropout’ and a handful of two-week long jobs I had in high school on my resume, I most certainly do not know what I’m doing… like, ever. So here’s to all the free knowledge out there– it’s pretty amazing!
Can you tell a story of a specific failure you encountered while building Alice and Ames? What did you learn from it? What would you consider are your strengths as a business owner?
I think a lot of the learning moments (See what I did there? Avoiding the word failure!) circled around growing pains and figuring things out along the way. In the beginning it seemed like we were facing something new each month that we didn’t know how to deal with. We changed our packaging after the fact to cut waste and extra costs, we switched the back end of our e-commerce site 6 months after launch, and we eventually changed our shipping method entirely a few months after that. Obviously doing all this from day one would’ve been ideal, but there’s a lot you don’t really think about until you’re in the thick of it. So I just try not to think about all the extra time and money we spent trying to figure it all out, and just be glad that we eventually did.
Do you currently have 1099s or employees? Or are you a onewoman show? If you have help, what advice do you have to give about scaling your business and outsourcing responsibilities through hiring to help grow? Do you have any advice on when to start scaling the business and hiring employees, bookkeeping… etc.
What started as a one-woman show has now turned into a one-woman, her husband, and a fulfillment center show. Geoff decided to end his job as a commercial real estate broker a few months ago and join the Alice + Ames team full time. We have our own unique roles within the company, but together we handle all things social media, photography, bookkeeping, customer service, design + production, and emails. We have the most amazing fulfillment center here in Arizona who ship out all of our orders for us and we have no idea what we’d do without them! Truthfully I was so anxious about letting go of shipping when we first realized we couldn’t keep up on our own.We started using them about six months after we launched and we haven’t looked back once. To anyone nervous about adding to your team or delegating some of your responsibilities, don’t be! It will only allow you to grow and focus on the stuff you’re passionate about.
How many hours per week do you work? How do you balance family life with work?
Ha! Balance?! You’re funny Hillary. We’re still trying to figure that one out, but what has worked best for us so far has just been an open line of communication and sticking to somewhat of a schedule. After school drop off, one of us will take the little girls somewhere fun while the other works, and then we’ll both try to get some work done during nap time. We really try to make our time count so we can be wrapped up for the day before school pickup. Most every night we need to catch up on email till pretty late, but that’s just the name of the game when you clock out before the final school bell rings.
I’m Like Brave is about creating an uncommon life. What does an “uncommon life” you love look like for you? How does your business help create this ideal lifestyle?
I’m probably sounding like a broken record here, but having a more untraditional lifestyle where we can work together, be in control of our own success, be home with our girls, and have a flexible schedule has always been our version of the American dream. Our business could not be more ideal for helping us accomplish this and that is not lost on us. We feel very lucky to say the least!
What has been the most exciting thing to happen to your business so far?
We’re so new it feels like exciting things are happening each month! Some moments that stick out have been going to events and meeting our sweet customers. Personally meeting people that believe in you and your product is an amazing, reassuring feeling. Another exciting and kind of funny moment that I’ll always remember happened last year. Joanna Gaines had purchased some dresses from our shop earlier in the month and we didn’t even realize it until she posted one on her Instagram. It was on Christmas night and it’s safe to say it was one of the better Christmas gifts I received that day—who doesn’t love Chip & JoJo?!
What is your ultimate vision for your business in the coming year? Where do you see Alice and Ames in 5 years?
I’d love to maintain growth, expand our product line, and keep providing comfortable, timeless pieces that are made in the US. I try to never say ‘never’, but I’d like to keep working from home as long as possible. That said, five years from now doesn’t look too different from the outside. I can definitely see us outsourcing work to other remote employees some day to help with things like customer service emails and what not, but we’d like to keep it running within the walls of our own home (and our fulfillment center!) as long as we can.
What’s holding you back from where you are now and your end game?
I like to blame any setbacks we may have now on time and experience. I feel like we’re learning so much every month, I can’t wait to look back in 5 years and see how much we’ve learned and the growth we’ve made—not just in sales and numbers, but in doing things more efficiently and effectively.
What is it that you need help with right now, and if you could get free advice that would solve your problem right now, what would it be?
Bookkeeping and accounting has never been my strong suit. In fact I’ve been one to call any bills, invoices, or receipts “junk mail.” Luckily when Geoff came on board he added that to his list of responsibilities. With the help of an amazing accountant and Geoff’s organizational skills, they’re looking out for us and making sure we’re taking all the right steps to avoid any mistakes or hits in the future.
If you could sit down with any entrepreneur for a 2 hour lunch and pick their brain, who would it be and why? What would you ask them?
Mickey Drexler! He’s creative and quirky, stays very hands on with everything, and seems to genuinely love what he does. While I’d love to ask him a million questions about the empire he’s built, I don’t think I’d even open my mouth in fear of wasting a minute where he could be the one talking.
What advice would you give your “just starting a business” self knowing everything you know now?
Slow down, take your time, do your research! I know you’re so excited about your new idea that you can hardly sleep at night, but make sure you’re doing everything now to avoid re do’s in the future!
Jamie Tardy, podcaster at “The Eventual Millionaire” says millionaires share 2 habits: they all journal and they all have a morning ritual. What does your morning ritual ideally look like?
I should probably not admit this but my morning ritual usually includes a very unhealthy breakfast of cookies or a donut and staying in my PJs way longer than I should. In a perfect world it involves me waking up before the kids and going out for a run before even checking my phone or emails, but what are you going to do?
If you could do anything in the world, with no possibility of failure, what would it be?
Without a doubt, own a bakery! I’ve always loved baking and I can’t think of anything better than surrounding myself with delicious treats and clocking out by 3:00 pm every day. Then again, I guess that’s pretty close to what I’m doing now anyway. 😉
What’s your favorite success quote and why?
My favorite quote is and always will be “Work hard and be nice to people.”
Closing thoughts to other entrepreneurs or those on the verge of starting a business:
Have fun with it, don’t compare yourself or take things too seriously, work hard, and work smart!
(In the video interview, Stacie mentions the book “#bossgirl.” You can find it by clicking the link).