The Founder of Eleven Bexley On How To Build Your Side Hustle Into Your Main Hustle

Estimated reading time ~ 4 min
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Images courtesy of Eleven Bexley.

I'm the Founder of Eleven Bexley, a women’s workwear brand with the mission to dress young women from first internship to first promotion. Along the way, we seek to empower the next generation of young women trailblazers.

I graduated from Stanford University in 2016 and seven days after graduation began my job at Goldman Sachs in New York. As with any new grad transitioning to working full-time, you realize that college is unfortunately not like the real world and ripped jeans and leggings do not constitute professional attire. I worked as a summer intern at Goldman Sachs for two consecutive summers, but I quickly discovered that my 10-week work wardrobe would not cut it- I needed to make a more significant investment beyond just a handful of dresses and blazers.

In this quest, it became apparent that work clothes for women fell into two categories:

  1. Affordable work clothes were either bad quality, inappropriate, or designed for older women.

  2. High quality and trendy work clothes were out of budget on an entry level salary.

I realized that I could build a whole work wardrobe off a few key pieces so I decided to look for sewing classes. I signed up for a class and soon found myself in the backroom of a sewing studio in Manhattan in the midst of a seven-year old birthday party. After that lesson, I realized sewing a skirt was not as simple as I had initially thought. It was more than just stitching together two pieces of fabric and I loved the creativity and technical work involved. I soon found myself at a Kmart buying a sewing machine and converting my apartment into a mini-factory, much to my roommates’ dismay as I’m sure they heard the hum of my machine at all hours. However, I was hooked- I loved the process of translating a vision into a tangible product I could wear to work.

I started by sewing skirts for myself as a way to save money and this soon evolved into jackets. Not long after, other analysts on the floor were asking me to sew them pieces. This is when I realized my pain point was not unique and that there was a whole cohort of female analysts in finance, consulting, and other business professional work environments who were struggling to find trendy, affordable work clothes.

When I had a jacket on in the office that I loved, I felt on top of the world. I want every young women to feel that confidence at the early stages of their career so I teamed up with a friend who was a year above me at Goldman Sachs and a fashion design student at Parsons and we decided to embark on creating a brand we wish existed when we joined the workforce. We are excited to roll out a more complete line in early fall and are creating a trendy, affordable, two-in-one work wardrobe and our mission is to empower the next generation of young women trailblazers along the way. There are plenty of work wear brands out there, but we’ve seen firsthand and know from talking to our peers that there is a share of the market that’s not being tapped. There are a lack of work wear brands that cater to the 18-25 year old demographic at the early stages of their careers, with age appropriate apparel and messaging. Eleven Bexley is a company for these women, by these women.

It has been exciting and quite the roller coaster to build a business, but an experience I would do time and time again. For anyone who has similar ambitions, here are a few tips:

1. Build a strong team, but the RIGHT team.

When I was at Stanford, I took a class called Technology Entrepreneurship. Over the course of the quarter, we practiced starting a business. We went from brainstorming ideas to conducting market analysis to see if there was a true white space, assessing the competitive landscape, developing our value proposition and an MVP, evaluating our most potent start-up risks, and more. Some teams even decide to launch their product after the class. It was truly a great hands on step-by-step guide of every stage in the process with a focus on the lean start-up method. However, the biggest thing the class taught me was how to pick a great co-founder and build a strong team. I was on the worst team I’ve ever been a part of while I was in that class and as a former D-I lacrosse player, I have been on quite a lot of teams. However, that experience was such a blessing in disguise as I saw firsthand that toxic co-founders and team members can kill a company even if you have the best product.

2. Don’t try to guess what your customer wants- ask, create, and iterate and do so until you have created something that solves a real need.

Before we ever sell a product, we have customers wear our samples for a full day at work, and provide us with feedback on design and fit so we are creating something we know they would wear.

3. Remember: You don't know, what you don't know.

While I have always loved fashion, I was entering an industry where I had no previous experience. I treated many people to coffee to pick their brains about choosing a factory, the production process, selecting a fabric mill, and more.

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