Custom Hello Holiday icon buttons. Photo by Hooton Images.
Pinterest has become a grown-up girl’s playground. We spend our waking hours pining for and pinning the prettiest of pieces. We covet colors, prints, and patterns. In between checking email and browsing the web, dazzling shoes and glittering accessories continuously catch our eye.
So we pin our favorites and further investigate the potential of ownership. Could I pull off that dress? Where would I wear it? More importantly, could I even afford it?
Reality sets in as we start clicking away, realizing that so many of these pieces are just beyond our pocketbook. What’s a budget-conscious girl (with style to spare) to do?
Enter Hello Holiday, a new online fashion retailer that is as cute as it is affordable. Ladies who seek a unique, fun wardrobe chock full of color can now not only wish for those special pieces, but thanks to Hello Holiday, they can own them and enjoy them, with money left over for, say, a proper holiday.
Hello Holiday isn’t just about pretty things, however; a big part of this small business is spotlighting emerging fashion designers.
Co-founders, Megan Hunt and Sarah Lorsung Tvrdik. Photo by Hooton Images.
COOP: What prompted you to launch Hello Holiday?
Megan Hunt: Sarah (Lorsung Tvrdik) and I met one night at CAMP, a workspace I used to own in downtown Omaha. We were both working on our own projects and we started talking about how we’d really like to do something more challenging, something bigger, something more meaningful for ourselves and other women. I think we’d both agree that the talk, the moment, was a personal crossroads in our lives. We began loosely discussing the idea for Hello Holiday, and continued meeting until we hired our developer and finally started building the website.
We wanted to create the online store that we couldn’t find: with lots of exclusive pieces from independent designers, clothes we can wash, clothes that represent the way we feel about ourselves deep down. A store that offers a friendly and accessible approach to fashion, and a store that really celebrates every woman in an industry that can be so closed-off and pretentious.
COOP: Explain what the name Hello Holiday means.
Megan: It was important to us to choose a name that represented optimism and approachability, and one that spoke a little bit to who our customer is. We created our store for women on the brink of a milestone in their lives: a graduation, a new job, a marriage, a new family member, a huge interview. These women have places to go, goals to accomplish, and ideas to share. Hello Holiday connotes arrival as we come into our own identities as women, and how we can use our clothing to make every day more festive, celebratory, and delightful. Wearing something we love is a way to escape the stress and monotony of our routines and lift us up. It’s a way we can go on our own little holiday and celebrate ourselves.
COOP: How do you decide what pieces to carry?
Megan: When we go to market to get our inventory from designers, we never pick something that we wouldn’t wear ourselves and pay full price for. We look for things that are washable, things that don’t require a ton of upkeep as far as steaming or ironing, and things that have a special detail or quality making them pieces our customers will pull from their closets over and over again. We want fabrics that feel expensive, designs that flatter.
It all seems like common sense, but how often do you leave a store or boutique empty-handed because nothing seemed right? Fabric too cheap, price too high, quality too low? Picking the right pieces to carry in the first place is how we insure ourselves against the nightmare of customer returns. We’re proud to say that our intuition here is working because our return rate is very low.
COOP: Explain the price point of some of your pieces.
Megan: We try to choose pieces for our customers that seem much more expensive than they are. Each designer we work with always has a few particularly well-made gems in each collection that we know will sell out. Those are the pieces we choose for Hello Holiday. Between our sale section and accessories, up to our most expensive party dresses and beautiful wool coats, we’re confident that we have options for every budget.
Logan Dress and Dear Diary Purse. Photo by Hooton Images.
COOP: We love your decision to feature emerging designers. What prompted this? And, what do you look for in an emerging designer?
Megan: When we work with emerging designers, they are people who have not had a mainstream retail presence before. We are working with people who are gaining experience in selling their work. There is some risk that we take, but with our backgrounds in design and retail we can offer some mentorship and help with wholesaling, as well as a lot of open communication and trust for these designers who are just building their first retail relationships.
We wanted to take this risk and help develop new designers because we believe in independent business and want to support other small business owners. We also benefit by having exclusive pieces from these designers not available in other stores, which our customers love.
We choose emerging designers just like mainstream designers–quality of product and intuition about design–but we also look for professional characteristics such as reliability, maturity, and confidence in their voice and vision as a designer.
We encourage people to apply to work with Hello Holiday as an emerging designer by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
COOP: You and Sarah were friends before you became business partners. How has this new venture impacted your friendship?
Megan: I never thought I’d say this because I’m such an intensely independent worker, but Sarah and I have found that we’re incredibly complimentary as business partners. Working with a partner was probably the thing that made me the most anxious when we started out, but I’ve learned so much from Sarah. She has helped me develop so much professionally and personally. It is everything you want a good partnership to be.
We’ve found that it is important to talk about our problems not only in our work but personally. There have been times that I carried her and times that she carried me. No matter what, we always have tons of great ideas to share with each other and we just get the work done.
COOP: You have used social media very creatively to build the Hello Holiday brand. Tell us more about the platforms you use, and how.
Megan: We’re incredibly deliberate about using social media strategically and intentionally. Our goal is to grow our sales by 7% each week, and we’re pretty much using social media exclusively to do that. We outline strategies on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram (a big one for us), Vine, Tumblr, Vimeo. Every channel can bring us value if we figure out the right message to send.
We also work with lifestyle, design, and fashion bloggers because they work just as hard as we do. The bloggers we have relationships with are incredibly supportive. These days, a good blog post reaching a million readers pays off more than an ad in any of the top fashion magazines. The internet is forever, and the more reviews, photos, and other content we can inspire our customers to share, the more reach we can have.
Hello Holiday Studio. Photos by Hooton Images.
COOP: What has been the customer response to Hello Holiday?
Megan: Our customer response has been the icing on all of the gloriousness of starting this business over the last year. Positive feedback is the thing you always hope for but can’t ever count on until you launch the product and start dealing with customers in real time. I think we’ve done a great job meeting customers’ needs and they’ve repaid us for our effort with loyalty in spades!
COOP: The online fashion world is very competitive. What makes Hello Holiday a unique retail website?
Megan: We got the advice early to not compare ourselves to our competitors, and those words have served us well. We don’t really pay attention to what other websites are doing, because we have to trust our own intuition about what our customers are looking for. Sarah and I have a generally similar fashion aesthetic, but there are enough differences in our individual styles that we’re able to serve a diverse range of customers who are all on a search for exuberant, whimsical, yet classic fashion. As time goes on we will be rolling out more features on the website that will continue to differentiate Hello Holiday’s brand from other popular retail sites.
COOP: What have you done to create brand loyalty among your customers?
Megan: One big thing we do is give our customers an incentive to share their purchases. In each package, we include a card that offers a discount code on each customer’s next purchase if they share their purchase on Instagram. Customers have responded really well to this, and we’ve also been able to source photos of a diverse range of women wearing our clothing that we can use for promotion and product photos. They all respond really well to being able to see different women in our clothing. The fact that each woman is a “real” customer builds trust and loyalty.
Ginger, Sarah, and Megan at the Hello Holiday Studio. Photos by Hooton Images.
COOP: Managing Hello Holiday must be much more than just looking at pretty dresses. How do you stay motivated to tackle all of the other work involved with the business?
Megan: Frankly, the operations and management side of business is my passion. I feel like I am good enough at fashion, and I have an eye for aesthetics, but I’m always the first one to get exhausted when we go to market. The “shopping” side of our work can really burn me out! That’s where Sarah and I are so complimentary. With her background in styling and fashion history, and my background in operations and marketing, we both share these interests but respect each other’s strengths.
COOP: What has been your greatest challenge since launching in 2012?
Megan: Our biggest challenge has been watching our growth like a hawk to make sure we’re getting the profit returns we need to meet the milestones we want to reach this year. We need funds for more inventory, we need funds to keep developing our website, to keep building our team, to buy advertising. We know none of this can happen unless we’re making that sales margin and moving clothes. Our sales are great but my biggest challenge personally has been finding creative new ways to expand our reach to new customers so we can continue to grow and meet our goals.
COOP: Who are your style icons?
Megan: I love Nancy Sinatra, Sophia Loren, all those sirens of the ’60s. I love the big hair, the winged eyeliner, and the casual style. I also love anyone in a uniform. I wear the same dress every day and I’m very inspired by the idea of looking your best every day because you have this consistent look that you always feel confident in.
Sarah relaxed in the Wintergreen Wiggle Dress. Photo by Hooton Images.
COOP: What is your personal style?
Megan: My personal style is a little intense. I do hot rollers most days and a red lip, and I wear the same shift dress every day with tights and Mary Janes from our store. I just love unfussy clothing. I love clean lines, and I love feeling like I always have something to wear that makes me feel put-together.
COOP: What was the last book you read?
Megan: The Gender Knot by Allan Johnson. I love reading nonfiction, mostly textbooks.
COOP: What is your favorite late-night snack?
Megan: Eggo waffles with peanut butter.
COOP: What is your favorite color of lipstick?
Megan: MAC Vegas Volt! It’s the perfect coral/orange/red hybrid.
On Styling for Hello Holiday
COOP contributor Ginger McCandless explains how she paired various Hello Holiday pieces to style three distinct looks.
Look #1: “I like to layer and I like pops of unexpected color. This outfit combined both of those ideas, using the Black Cherry Peplum Top and lime tights. I layered not only the necklaces, but also texture, using the the Spot On Loafer Heels and their pattern.”
Look #2: “I love that Hello Holiday carries vintage pieces. I’m not usually afraid to make bold vintage choices, so the Groove is in the Dress caught my eye immediately. I added a pop of color by pairing this dress with the Whiskey Wedge.”
Megan wearing the Bubblegum Phosphate dress, COOP contributor, Ginger, in the Root Beer Float Dress, and Sarah wearing the Block Party Blouse. Photo by Hooton Images.
Look #3: “The Root Beer Float Dress, by Hello Holiday emerging designer Jane Round, pushes me out of my comfort zone a bit. I usually steer toward more edgy looks rather than sweet ones. But I was pleasantly surprised when Megan asked me to try it on. It worked, and it was super comfy. I could wear this dress running errands or meeting friends for brunch.”
Visit Hello Holiday at hello-holiday.com.