One of the biggest challenges Claire Borel faced in the launch of House of Borel LLC was the search for the right manufacturers for the business.
“Originally we had thought about having things manufactured in the U.S., primarily,” says Borel, the luxury handbag startup’s founder and CEO.
“As we got deeper into it, we realized we really wanted to go to Italy. The level and quality of work that comes out of there and the type of companies we were looking for were based outside of Milan. But building those relationships with them was challenging in the beginning.”
Borel and her team, including Charlotte Welch, the company’s executive fashion director, spent a lot of time in Milan trying to build a level of comfort and trust with potential manufacturers.
“I would say that was difficult,” Borel says. “We did meet with many manufacturers. We were really trying to go after a very specific market. We spent a lot of time traveling and going to trade shows. We kind of just jumped right in. There are pros and cons to having an approach like that. But we felt pretty confident about it in the very end.”
House of Borel launched in March and the company has plans to come out with a clothing line.
“We have goals,” Borel says. “We’d love to expand throughout Europe and South America at some point. But for now, we’re focusing on where we are and building from San Francisco, focusing locally. Nationally and internationally would be our long-term goal.”
Know your brand
One of the biggest challenges for any business is to make the decision not to pursue an idea that seems to have some potential for growth, but also generates concern.
“We wanted to develop a shoe line,” Borel says. “We spent a good amount of time on it and went through the process of having the samples made and I made the decision not to move forward with it. I felt it wasn’t in line with who we are as a company, the direction that we’re going.”
Borel says you need to always be thinking about your brand — what it represents and how potential customers will see products that might fit with your brand.
“When I saw the samples of the shoes, I didn’t get the internal feeling that I get with all of our products,” Borel says. “I didn’t feel that spark.”
Welch has been a big part of shaping the brand and developing the vision for House of Borel.
“As the project got bigger and bigger, Claire brought me on full time and we really started putting our heads together to build all the pieces we needed from manufacturing to operations to all of the different ideas that had to get put into place for us to actually build a brand,” Welch says.
“We really had a love for building a resource for women of this generation who were busy and had a love of high-end products, but wanted those products to live up to their lifestyle and need.”
Welch says she and Borel have built a high level of trust through open communication, which was helpful as the company looked to solidify its manufacturing partnerships.
“In my experience, what I really relied upon was we had spent enough time developing the collection, I knew what I wanted,” Welch says. “There is no wiggle room as to what direction we’re taking and what idea I’m trying to fulfill. It was very clear what needed to happen, what level of quality we needed and what price point we were going to hit. They needed to understand that from the moment they started working with us.”
Borel says you need to be clear about what you want.
“It’s very important to be direct, decisive and diplomatic when having those conversations,” she says. “There’s a level of respect that comes with that. You also need to be able to make decisions quickly and move forward quickly.”
Push beyond your limits
As they move forward in the growth of House of Borel, Welch says she’s always conscious of setting new goals for herself.
“If I’m not achieving those goals, I need to be clear and honest as to why or what’s changing or what’s happening,” Welch says. “Overall, it’s to be constantly pushing myself and leading by example to say, ‘Push yourself further than you think you can go and you’ll reach it and go further.’”
Borel aims to make each day better than the one before.
“For me, running this company, I have always strived to do better than what I did the day before,” Borel says. “I don’t allow myself to get truly comfortable, because each day I’m pushing that much harder for whatever level of success I am achieving that day or trying to achieve.” ●