Hello! I’m back on this long weekend Monday and so excited to be kicking off a little passion project that’s been pulling at my heart for quite a while now. Having thrown myself head first into the world of freelancing nearly three years ago, I’ve found myself so inspired by the creative women and entrepreneurs that surround me.
I’m always so curious to learn how my fellow ladies in business got their start. Everyone’s journey is so unique and it’s inspiring to see the way these incredible women grow their brands, stay inspired and navigate the importance of self-care on career paths that puts a real pressure on being on all the time.
Cold Tea Chats was made with the idea of creating a space for open and honest conversations with the women who inspire me most about business, personal wellness and their journeys through entrepreneurship.
For anyone that isn’t already familiar with Lees + Alex, tell us a little about your wonderful brand.
We’re Toronto-based sisters who have a passion for accessories. Our name comes from Leesa (Lees) and my [Carina’s] middle name Alexandra (Alex). We thought Lees & Alex sounded perfect!
Scrunchies have made a comeback in the fashion world and we thought that would be the perfect place for us to start. We got the inspiration after travelling Europe last summer and seeing all the cute, but expensive, hair accessories that were available. We knew that we’d be able to create amazing products for everyone to enjoy at a reasonable price that made them more accessible. Leesa works for a mobile fashion boutique and always has an eye for up and coming trends and I’ve always had a passion for beauty and lifestyle content. With both of us having two very different styles we knew we could create something that appealed to a wide audience.
I have a bunch of your scrunchies and I’m so obsessed, where do you go for inspiration when you’re choosing new patterns and designs?
We find inspiration from many things, one of the main ones being our travels. At a young age our parents began taking us travelling and we find a lot of the patterns and styles we select have been pulled from those trips. For example our whites and blues are inspired by our time in Greece and the tropical styles are inspired by the Caribbean. Of course, we also look at what’s on trend, like animal print, which is a staple for many and our basic ones which appeal to people looking for a scrunchie to go with every outfit.
Lees + Alex is nearly in its second year of business, which first of all is so exciting, congratulations. I know from my own experience finding direction can be a daunting task in the early years of business. How have you navigated the uncertainties that come along with planning for the future and growing your brand?
Both of us have been very active on our personal social media and constantly learning about how to improve and find our own style. We want to make sure that we’re staying current but also classic. We realized when we started Lees & Alex how big the online market is and how much it’s constantly growing. We started out on Etsy and had the intent to only sell online, a month after launching we got an invitation to participate in a market in Toronto and decided to do it. It was important for us to not be pegged into one specific industry as we wanted to grow organically.
As business owners there are so many wins worth celebrating. What’s been your favourite moment so far?
For myself it was the day I got the call for us to participate in the One Of a Kind (OOAK) Show in Toronto. I remember I was at work (yes I have a full time job on top of this) and I had a voicemail. I listened to it at my desk and jumped out of my chair. I have been attending OOAK for many years now and never thought that we would be a vendor. Right away we started planning and getting everything ready. Unfortunately with everything happening it has been postponed to March 2021 but I cannot wait to get on the floor in the Rising Stars section next year!
For Leesa it was when we got our first wholesale purchase. Leesa is a buyer for a boutique and knows how important it is to support brands that you love. When we got the first call from someone who wanted to carry our product in their store, it validated that we had created something that other businesses valued enough to share with their customers.
Finding the time to disconnect and unwind can be challenging, especially when you’re a business owner. I know I’ve certainly grappled with this aspect of self-employment myself. What are your go-to’s when it comes to self-care and recharging after a hectic day?
I try to get creative in other ways. I have a YouTube channel (@illbringthelipstick) and love to create videos. Reading is also a way of helping me get away from my phone, so when I find a good book it’s always a great distraction. Recently I also got a PUPPY! Winston keeps me (and Matthew, my boyfriend) very busy, training and teaching him not to get into trouble. You can follow him on Instagram here!
Leesa loves to enjoy a few glasses of wine and watch some reality tv. She was a field hockey player and still tries to practice her skills when she has the time or take an Orange Theory class to keep active! On the creative side Leesa also started her own brand (@loubirdca) where she creates a range of hand painted jackets.
If you could go back to the very start of Lees + Alex, what would you tell yourself now? Any words of advice for the dreamers just starting out in the entrepreneurial world?
There are two things that come to mind. First, I think we should have put more thought behind actual collections and releasing them as the seasons change. We started out by releasing all our styles at once rather than logically launching products. And second would be custom orders. In the beginning, we were taking custom wholesale orders but the people reaching out had their own brand and style that didn’t fit well with ours. Over time we found we preferred for people to buy the product we already have created rather than trying to source something specific and specially made for them.
Words of advice, be true to your vision and know your target markets. Not everyone is going to like the things you like so keep an open mind. Work hard on your social media, when people find your business they want to know who is behind the brand and what your product is so show them who you are! Finally, great customer service is key. Everyone make mistakes, admit to them and do what you can to make it right. It will keep people coming back.
Let’s finish with a fun one. Favourite scrunchie in your collection right now…
Want to order some scrunchies of your own? Use the coupon code COLDTEA15 for 15% off your purchase!