Small Biz Q&A: BONMOT

4 November

The best part about blogging is all of the incredibly accomplished, driven, and inspiring creatives that I’ve met along the way. I grew up with a father who owns his own business and works hard every single day to make the magic happen around his office. I’ve seen the time and energy that goes into it and he has always instilled in me a strong work ethic and entrepreneurial spirit. This past spring / summer I made it my mission to talk to as many small business owners as I could before leaping into SYLLABUS. And you know what? So much great advice! I’ve decided to start a new series revolving around inspiring individuals who have started their own businesses because all of their advice is too good not to share!

To kick things off you may remember this marble tee from my girlfriend Becky’s line BONMOT (which by the way–she will be recutting!). Well Becky quit her day job at Piperlime just a couple weeks ago to focus on her luxury staples line: BONMOT which is made locally in San Francisco.

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 Who are you?

Rebecca Rauth.  I just read about a better way to introduce your friends at parties — telling surprising qualities or anecdotes instead of listing their resume.  I really like that.

I’m a fast walker.  Apparently, in college I was known as “the fast walker.”  I guess if I’m going anywhere I am going with a purpose!  I love pickles.  I’m obsessed with Off Duty.  I really like the saying “to be interesting is to be interested.”

 What’s your business?

BONMOT – a San Francisco-based women’s fashion and lifestyle brand.  Our focus is on luxe wardrobe staples — think effortless, classic silhouettes with an irreverent twist like an unexpected color or kicky print.  Quality is paramount — I source some of the finest materials in the word and manufacture everything in San Francisco.

The ultimate goal is to expand beyond clothing, to really dive into and celebrate the customers’ lifestyle — what’s important to her, what motivates her.  Bon mot translates to “good word” in French but is commonly used as “good one,” as in a clever remark or witticism.  I love that.  The BONMOT girl is sophisticated but fun, elegant but sometimes irreverent. She’s fashionable, savvy, and has brains to boot.

How long have you been in business?

I’ve been in the fashion/retail industry doing product development and merchandising at Gap Inc. for almost ten years, but BONMOT is a new venture.

What motivated you to start BONMOT?

If left to my own devices, I would always buy the statement piece over the practical one.  It’s hard for me to get excited about a basic grey sweater even though I know I would get a ton of use out of it.  From a cost per wear standpoint, buying a statement piece is a terrible idea.  How many times are you going to be able to wear that fringe maxi skirt?  But it’s so hard for me to resist!

But I am also all too familiar with the feeling of standing in front of my closet, fringe maxi in hand, and not having the proper top to go with it.  Because rather than buying that elegant, classic white blouse, I bought the fringe skirt instead.  I created BONMOT because I wanted to celebrate those classic pieces, and infuse a little fun into them.  I wanted to make elegant (non boring!) staples in quality, luxe fabrications but at an incredible value.  Our garments are beautifully made which means they are the perfect accompaniment to the most dramatic of statement pieces or your favorite jeans, but because of our business model, our price points are accessible so that you can have both.

becky-bonmot-01

What’s your biggest risk?

By any measure, starting a self-funded clothing business is risky.  So that’s the obvious answer.  But perhaps the biggest risk would have been not doing it.  I’ve always wanted to start my own business.  I don’t think I would have forgiven myself if I hadn’t done it.

What do you wish you would have known when you first started?

In tech people  talk a lot about a minimum viable product – getting something up and learning and changing as fast as possible.  If you’re a perfectionist that can be hard.  You want it to be beautiful and perfect from the start.  But it doesn’t work that way.  It takes time.

What has been the most challenging / most surprising part about working on BONMOT?

It’s been liberating getting to focus on BONMOT full time, but I definitely put a lot of pressure on myself.  At a corporate job if you take a long lunch or leave early on a Friday, you still get paid.  Now every minute I’m not spending building the business means something isn’t getting done.  I still make time for fun, but I anticipate the pull to work continuing to build.

What’s your most effective way of reaching customers? Word of mouth, advertisement, etc.?

So far it’s really been through word of mouth.  Product is everything.  If people are happy with our clothing they’re going to pass along our name.  I’ve had friends tell me that they’ve been stopped on the street and asked about their blouses.  I love hearing that, but then always follow up with, “Well, I hope you sent them to the site!”  Customer service is also really important; it’s that personal touch that can set you apart.  Things like hand-written notes, following up with customers after packages have arrived, cleaning and care tips, etc. can really go a long way.  I’ve even sent a customer who was planning an upcoming trip to San Francisco some of my favorite places in the city!

Photography Courtesy of BONMOT.

  • This was an interesting read!

    http://www.FashionSnag.com

  • I love this interview! I want to take the plunge into making my side business full-time work. Maybe soon I’ll be as brave as you two 🙂

  • What a great series of articles you have launched! I will eagerly be waiting for every single installment. The tech phrase “a minimum viable product” was very interesting to me — as a perfectionist I’m afraid to launch anything too soon, but I have to learn that something is “good enough”, so I can get things off the ground. Things can always be tweaked later. Thanks for the inspiration!

    http://tallgirlsfashion.no

  • Ana

    Such an inspirational post! As someone who works for myself I can identify entirely. If you not a self starter it probably better is you work for someone else. Its a hard work and sometimes there is an anxiety because I don’t know where my next cheque is coming from, but oh so worth it. I wouldn’t swap it for the best paid job in a corporation!
    Ana
    http://www.champagnegirlsabouttown.co.uk

  • I am always intrigued to read the experience and tips from other entrepreneurial types. Congrats for taking the leap into doing it full time. Your pieces look fabulous and really fill a niche. I’m still working at my day job nearly full-time (as a school psychologist) and look forward to someday working my business full time. Great post!
    xx, Heather @ stylemindchic lifestyle

  • Interesting interview! thank you…

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