The term #businessbesties has been on the brain a lot. My own business bestie Dani from The Clique is launching something very exciting for business besties soon, and we both know how important it is to have like-minded girl bosses rolling with you as you work towards your dream.
We totally got this vibe from the Ezzy Lynn girls. They’re making fashion better, affordable, oh, and they teamed up with the WWF to save animals while they’re at it.
So what do you do when you don’t know how to sew, but you want to start a fashion business. These girls don’t let little technicalities like that stop them.
We chatted with them on how they balance friendship, a successful business, and fighting gender-inequality in the business world and on campus.
Tell us about Ezzy Lynn…
Ezzy Lynn is a social enterprise fashion brand that Saving Animals and Fashions through WWF-Canada. All products are handcrafted from vegan and upcycled materials and 10% of all sales are used to adopt a species at risk. Sonja Fernandes, Samantha Laliberte, and Bianca Lopes Co-Founded Ezzy Lynn in May 2014 and are most proud to have adopted over 100 animals.
Sonja takes the lead on HR and Creative, Sam manages Marketing and Operations, and Bia handles Finance and Production.
The biggest focus right now has been integrating Ezzy Lynn and our personal lives into Toronto. Making the adjustment has been a ride but I’m so happy we’re taking the risk. Strategically, our business needed to expand to a larger city with diverse opportunities and populations. Personally, we are all in our mid twenties and feeling empowered and ready to take on the world. Toronto has been great for us so far!
What made you begin thinking about starting your own business?
I met Sonja and Bia while we were studying at Western University. At the time not many other women were starting businesses on our campus and making that observation truly planted the seed. We promised ourselves we would start something together one day and two years after meeting we came up with the vision for Ezzy Lynn. SL
How did you get started?
I had actually been working for another startup fashion brand and had learned so much from the opportunity but felt ready to put energy into a venture of my own. I rallied Sonja and Bia and after a few nights of wine and girl talk, we decided on a strategy. The model for Ezzy Lynn was a result of us combining our many shared passions: social entrepreneurship, fashion and wildlife conservation. SL
What inspired you to start on this journey?
We learned that women led only 20% of the businesses being launched on our campus. We felt compelled to change that. SL
What motivated you to support animals with every purchase?
We are all animal lovers and love the work that the WWF does to help conserve species at risk. They are seen as global leaders in conservation and climate change research. Who wouldn’t want to partner with them? SF
What keeps you going?
Our friendship. At the end of the day, we are empowered by each other and we want to inspire other young women to be their own boss. #girlboss. SF
How do you stay motivated?
Fun! We are all Orange Personality Types, so if we are not having fun, feeling creative or free, then something is wrong and we need to fix it. SF
Personally, knowing that I am doing something amazing and doing it with my best friends keeps me motivated. SF
What is one key factor in your business that makes you successful?
Social Enterprise. Because we donate 10% of gross sales to the WWF, customers would rather buy our product over our competitors. Knowing that their purchase leads to a greater good, is a feeling that is infectious. SF
3 things that someone who wants to be a start their own business should keep at top of mind:
1. Really understand your value proposition and place in the market.
2. Understand that fundamentally this isn’t a job. If you are looking for security and stability this isn’t
what you will get by starting your own business. If you are looking to push your every limit and see the
rewards and true change that can bring then go for it!
3. Know your numbers! Maybe this is my complete bias view being the finance and math background
on our team, but I couldn’t stress this enough to entrepreneurs out there. If you don’t truly understand
the costs associated with making a product, getting that product to your customer, marketing, etc. How
can you determine if it’s priced correctly? Or if your trade show was worth attending? Or if you should
have a physical store versus e-commerce? It’s truly imperative that you understand the ins and outs of
cash flow as it will shape your decisions and allow you to have a bright future ahead! BL
What were you doing before you started this?
I was working at a Bank, RBC. I was working structure senior debt lending for mid to large size
enterprises. Pretty much, I gave them money and told them how to manage cash flow… fun right? All
jokes aside, great learning and fantastic skill set to help us grow now. BL
What are some struggles that made it difficult to get from what you were doing before to this?
It’s certainly a challenge for anyone trying to start up life and save to give up security and charge ahead into change and uncertainty. I also think there is a concern of failure, whether people openly admit this or not. But being in a safe regulated environment, which the corporate world often provides, allows you to fail without notice.
When it’s you, your team, and product. And knowing that if you don’t sell, you make zero money: pressure is on! BL
Tell us a point in your life when you didn’t ever think you would make it?
Absolutely. I think we doubt all the time. And I also believe that doubting can be very healthy if you take it as an opportunity to self evaluate, and play your own devil’s advocate. I have been able to come up with better solutions or courses of action from doubt.
However, doubt and lack of belief can be destructive if you allow yourself to be paralyzed and caught by it. I am a firm believer that you can do anything if you set your mind to it. Trick here is the word mind, your mind is truly your biggest obstacle. So get used to change and doubt, because that is certainly the only constant I live with today!
Who told you no?
Oh lord, this would take the whole interview pages… It’s easier for us to tell you who told us yes. From friends, family to mentors, we have heard: “no”, “you are crazy”, “scrunchies, really? “ .. and our favorite to date would have to be. BL
as your turn-around point?
I think there was actually no turn around. We have such an amazing team, and we, I think, believed in the power of us together more than sometimes in the actual end product or model. United we feel unstoppable. So once we made the decision, there was actually no turning back. BL
Did you always have a dream to become what you are now?
I’ve always loved fashion and grew up with lots of animals in my life. I remember dreaming about becoming a veterinarian or working for a fashion magazine. I never anticipated starting my own business and finding a way to combine both interests though. It doesn’t feel like real life. SL
What was your yes supply moment?
My Yes Supply moment was at a music festival called Block Party in London, Ontario. We were at the festival and no one was visiting our booth. So, instead of accepting defeat, I decided to go into the crowd and offer social media cards and a free lollipop to girls in our target demographic if they tagged a photo about us on Instagram. It ended up being a great marketing opportunity and several girls came by our booth to make a purchase :D. SF
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Do you use any tools for productivity?
The most amazing tool we found that we use for productivity is Canva. It’s an online design maker that we use to design all print and online marketing materials. It’s free and easy to use and makes our business look super pro! SF
What is something that you do that gives you your yes?
I get my Yes from spending time with my dog, Babe. She is a Boxer and has the sweetest most loving personality, and she gives me lots of kisses every day. SF
Bonus: Watch our FREE masterclass with the Ezzy Lynn Girls.
We had some girl-chats with the Ezzy Lynn business besties (yes, right down to just chilling on the couch with a glass of wine) as they explain their business model, where they get their materials, how they launched their business, their unique way they did their market research, and how they ship their products out, all while staying conscious about how they help the environment.
If you’ve ever wondered about starting your own fashion business, they share all the details, and are totally candid about their journey: