Bart Bradshaw: (00:17)
Hey builders, some of us have been entrepreneurs pretty much from when we were born. Others may have fallen into it. When the opportunity presented itself, Liz Findlay was close to getting her PhD when her circumstances suggested a different path, which she took. Liz and her husband Dave, were living in Guatemala working for a family owned factory. And when their clients began moving work to China, David says, did they stop waiting for clients and start a line of their own to support the factory? And with that, Albion Fit was born.
Liz Findlay: (01:01)
Liz, thanks for joining us today. Thanks for having me here.
Bart Bradshaw: (01:04)
So we’re excited to learn about Albion, but let’s go back a decade before you even had the idea. What were you doing? And more importantly, where were you doing it?
Liz Findlay: (01:14)
So about 10 years ago I was, we were actually living in Guatemala. I had gone through about four, four and a half years of my PhD program. I was at UCSD who wanted to be a professor. British literature. Yeah. 18th century female confessionals. I know all about it in case you have any questions. And my husband was killing it as a graphic designer in La Jolla. That’s where we were living and had a great life. And you were living in La Jolla, but yeah, I was at UCSD in Guatemala. Well, just before we moved to Guatemala and my mom got diagnosed with stage four breast cancer and the twins were just, when I was pregnant actually found out my mom had cancer and so she moved in with us to get her cancer treatment and we really didn’t know how long we’d have her for. It was really scary because my aunt had just passed away from breast cancer, her sister.
Liz Findlay: (02:07)
So it was just honestly a really, really hard time, just the worst time and we were just trying to figure out what we were going to do because we just didn’t know how long we’d have my mom and honestly the economy right about then was starting to shift, so this is probably like 13 years ago actually, and my dad had a clothing manufacturing company in Guatemala. That’s what my parents did when I was a kid. They worked together and they had a clothing manufacturing company. My mom’s from Guatemala and my dad’s from Salt Lake and growing up I didn’t want to have anything to do with that business. I didn’t want to work with my spouse and I didn’t want to have anything to do with the clothing business. That was like my two things in life that I didn’t want to anything to do with.
Bart Bradshaw: (02:49)
You had seen the challenges of that.
I had seen it and I just knew that you know, you wake up business, you talk about business at lunch and you go to sleep talking about it. It’s just all day long and, but I did learn a lot obviously during that process. So this was 2006 2007 timeframe. So we moved down to Guatemala cause my dad offered Dave a job and my dad needed help down there. If things are starting to change, the quotas were lifted from China and our factories, which were large. I mean we had about 2000 employees in two different countries. It was a, it was a thriving business, started to take a turn for the worse. A lot of the companies that we had been working with for over 25 years literally picked up and just left Guatemala and stopped working with outside factories and just started working with their own factories in Asia.
Liz Findlay: (03:37)
And that meant that the work that we were used to having, which was high minute high quality garments, swimwear and fitness, where all of a sudden was gone and we were scraping at the bottom of the barrel trying to find work. And you have to understand these are people who we had known since I was a little kid. Honestly, I’d known them since I was eight years old.
Bart Bradshaw: (03:56)
So you had spent a lot of time in Guatemala?
Liz Findlay: (03:58)
Yeah, we had moved there when I was eight, so I’d actually lived there until I was 15 and then I moved back to the States to finish up high school and college. And that’s where I met Dave at work ironically. So yeah, it was scary. I mean we went from 2000 employees to 1500 to a thousand to 500 and it just kept on dwindling. We were closing factories and I was trying to finish up my coursework.
Liz Findlay: (04:20)
I had gone and I’d pass my qualifying exams and I was about three months probably away from finishing. And you know, that’s when the first hurdle happened. My advisors told me that I should maybe come back once my babies were growing up because this wasn’t something that I could think about doing with two, six month old babies. And they wanted me to just be all in in that program. And obviously it would have been hard for me to do that. I thought I was doing it, but they kind of made that decision for me, unfortunately.
Bart Bradshaw: (04:49)
I wonder if that would be the same today.
Liz Findlay: (04:52)
You know, I don’t know. Honestly, the program that I went to there was great for a lot of different reasons, but my two advisors were, neither of them were married, neither of them had kids. And I think that they were part of a pre, a different kind of feminism where you really had to choose either your career or family. And I felt like I was trying to push the envelope a little bit and I really believed that I could do it all. And I don’t think that they liked that. They didn’t believe it. And maybe, I don’t know, I don’t want to say they were resentful, but it just wasn’t part of the program that they had designed for themselves, you know? Right. So you had a decision to make. So I had, yeah. Well, honestly, they took it from me, frankly. I mean, and if you have, you can’t change the decision about babies at that point. It really? Yeah, it was made and they were both going on sabbatical and so they were saying, you know, we’re not going to be around for the next three months and you’re going to need us to pass it off. And I had just lectured at Oxford actually two months before that.
Liz Findlay: (05:47)
I mean I thought that I was, my dream of your professor was, was going to happen. And so that was really hard to tell you the truth. So that was the first thing that was, you know, it’s really difficult to wrap my head around and then, but it all happens for a reason. It seems like right in the factory needed me at that point. And so Dave and my dad and my mom just kind of brought me in and tried to get me to help wherever I could. And I had a business acumen just because I had grown up in the business, but when it came to, you know, engineering and the lines are just a lot of the processes I really didn’t understand. And that’s what Dave had been doing for about a year. It was just getting to know every single facet of the factory and our factories widdled down eventually to a hundred operators.
Liz Findlay: (06:32)
And I remember one of the first assignments that I had was go through payroll and my job was to figure out who we were going to keep and who we were going to have to let go. And I thought that I could be just great at it because I didn’t, I obviously didn’t know everyone. Obviously I didn’t know all 2000 people, but I knew a lot of them. But I was in my head, I was thinking, I’ll keep the ones that I know, you know, those are the, that’s the plan. That’ll be the easiest plan because obviously you had to give severance. I mean it was a very difficult process for all the people that we let go. And I remember getting a highlighter and highlighting names and thinking that I was being so helpful. And the next morning, um, went to work and we had cut those different operators and I get out of the car and this woman shows up and she’s holding her baby and she’s just crying.
Liz Findlay: (07:17)
And she just said, you know, you’ve got to give me my job back. If you don’t give me my job, I can’t, I can’t feed this baby. Right. What are we going to do? And just, you know, with tears on all of our eyes, we just get out of the car and we just give her a hug and just bring her in and we just tell her, we’ll figure this out. We’re going to figure this out. And thank goodness for Dave and for my dad because I feel like there were many, many points where I can think that I wanted to just throw the towel in and just give up. Cause it was just too hard with two little babies and living a life that wasn’t our plan. A, you know, just seemed like maybe we were doing it for my parents and it just wasn’t what was right for our family.
Liz Findlay: (08:01)
But my dad is not a quitter and neither is Dave. And I think, um, together, the, they just knew that if they kept doing what they felt was right and did what they did with integrity, that everything would work out in the end. And there were lots of moments where honestly it was bad. I mean Dave’s mom actually came up from Salt Lake once and bought us groceries and we were living with my parents and all my parents had left at that point was their house and they had lost millions of dollars just getting rid of cars and just selling machinery to try to, you know, pay for these people so that they could have something to lost them after having lost their jobs. And eventually Dave’s idea was we’ve wanted to start our own line. We’ve got to start our own company cause we can’t depend on other people anymore for this.
Liz Findlay: (08:51)
And so a couple of my girlfriends had an online business called Shabby Apple where they sold dresses and yeah, we started sewing for them first, which was very different work when before we had sewn hundreds of thousands of units of something. Now we were sewing 200 units or 300 units, right? But eventually we started designing clothes ourselves for them dresses and they weren’t under our label, but they were our dresses that we would get paid on consignment for. And Dave just thought, you know, look like we could do this ourselves. You know, we’ve been really good at doing swims and fitness for 30 years. Why aren’t we swimming? Or why aren’t we sewing our own swims and fitness and creating our own line? And at that point we had brought on, um, some other customer BB Sport who was really, um, trailblazer when it came to the, the leggings.
Liz Findlay: (09:37)
Like a lot of people weren’t wearing leggings until BB Sport showed up. Yeah. So they were awesome. They were a great client and they were paying a lot higher, but for a lot smaller quantities, which was a completely different program that went, my parents had been used to, but we had learned, you know, fabric mills. We hadn’t learned how to do pattern work. We had learned where to buy trims. We had learned just the whole process and had gotten some really great relationships and so it seemed like there was a potential there for us to do something ourselves. And a BB Sport eventually ended up closing their fitness division and at that point, same thing, you know, it’s like what are we going to do now? Because we were so dependent upon them. But luckily at that point we had started Albion and we had started selling things on consignment and there was a potential there.
Bart Bradshaw: (10:25)
So when you started LBN, did you immediately go to like creating a website doing all of that or did you think wholesale from the beginning?
Liz Findlay: (10:35)
Yeah, so at the very beginning it was just literally consignment and we designed, I think it was five fitness pieces is what we actually started out with. And a lot of people think we started out with swims, but we started out with fitness and probably within six months we added a swimwear division just because we knew that the fitness was doing well and we knew that we could do swims. So you had relationships where you could put product in store on consignment. Yeah. But it’s up to you. It wasn’t in store, it was just online. Okay. Yeah it was just online and so, but it was a great testing. I mean space for us, right. Like we could tell with pretty little liability, which was key for us.
Liz Findlay: (11:15)
Cause there honestly we had probably $100,000 on our credit cards at that point trying to help make payroll at the factory, trying to buy just the fabric. I mean we were 100% invested all in at that point. So these were websites where there was a fair amount of traffic, you know, you know, I think now we look a lot more into analytics. Who knows what was on there back then. I mean really that was, you know, about 10 years ago. So I don’t know what that was. But they did well. I mean we were able to sell probably 50 pieces a month, you know, and so it wasn’t a lot, but it felt like there was demand, there was a demand, there was an interest there. And they ended up adding, it did well enough that Shabby Apple ended up starting their own swim line. And at that point we had to make a decision and it was, you know, do we keep doing this because our product just wasn’t at the forefront anymore of the website.
Liz Findlay: (12:07)
So we actually started doing wholesale, like JMR, I dunno if you guys remember them, but they started carrying our line. They were out of Salt Lake and I think they had two stores that carried our product. But also this was not like the majority of our work at this point. We started working with Callaway doing a lot of like golf jackets and just a full package program. So again, Albion total side hustle. We didn’t have our own website, we were just selling, you know, a couple of hundred pieces a month. And just trying to figure out what people liked and what people were returning and you know, how we could make it better, but still keeping the factory alive. Yes. Just what do we do? And even what was so interesting is that that point is we were so desperate for work that just having a couple hundred pieces made all the difference.
Liz Findlay: (12:51)
You know, it meant not sending people home. Interesting. Oh, that’s fantastic. Yeah. Yeah. It was a good side hustle. Yeah.
Bart Bradshaw: (12:58)
How long did it take for Albion to kind of become a thing?
Liz Findlay: (13:02)
So I would say we worked with Shabby Apple for about a year and a half, and then we moved back to Salt Lake when our twins were three.
Bart Bradshaw: (13:08)
So that was in 2009 so when you say you worked with Shabby Apple, are you saying that they sold LBN products?
They did, yeah. They sold Albion. It was under the Albion label and we still did dresses for them. But that was under the Shabby Apple label. And so grateful to them, honestly for that opportunity. They were so wonderful to help us. Yeah. So interestingly, we moved back and that was right around when City Creek was starting to get built. And I had a friend, and this must’ve been 2010 just around 2011 when City Creek was just about, you know, finishing up, getting ready for the grand opening.
Liz Findlay: (13:43)
And my friends knew the head manager at City Creek, her name was Linda Wardell. And just for the sake of people that don’t know what City Creek is, this is a mall in salt Lake city mall. And it was, it was going to be a huge project and at a time when nobody was building malls, right? And so it was the largest project, I think that had been built within five years, the largest project in the West at the time. And so there was a lot of buzz, a lot of hype, and they wanted a local fitness company.
Bart Bradshaw: (14:14)
And you were like, pick me.
Liz Findlay: (14:18)
So they brought us up and Linda met with Dave and, and I, and we just chatted and they had a space that needed to be filled and they offered it to us and they said, okay, well what do you want to pay?
Liz Findlay: (14:32)
And we had no experience in this whatsoever. None. You know, first of all, no experience in retail, let alone in leasing or anything like that. And luckily Dave’s dad was a real estate attorney and so, you know, he helped us look over the lease, but the whole negotiation was kind of a joke because you know, they came to us and said like, okay, well this space is $30,000 a month and we’re like, we don’t want to pay that. Sorry. And I honestly think we just did an answer back at that point. We’re like, okay, that was fun, you know, just to kind of think about. And then they came back and they said, no, no, no, no, this is where you negotiate. And we’re like, Oh, okay. And you know, we threw out another number and they declined it and we’re like, well we tried and then they come back again like, no, no, no, no.
Liz Findlay: (15:14)
This is where we keep negotiating. And we’re like, Oh, okay. So we were so naive, so, so naive, but same thing, City Creek, just, I can’t put into words how much they have helped us in our journey. So they, yeah, we figured something out for pretty cheap and we moved in this space and it, unbeknownst to us, it was a, I mean we knew that the lease was a year, but it was, there was a clause in there that essentially when the person that was supposed to be in there was ready, we would be kicked out. Right. And we failed to notice that part of the lease. And so after being there for about three months, you know, maybe bringing in $10,000 a month, I mean, it wasn’t anything to write home about. The permanent people came in and what was crazy was, um, totally caught us off guard.
Liz Findlay: (16:00)
It was right for the holidays, I remember is right around Halloween, but City Creek came to us and they said, Hey, we think you’ve got potential. Do you want a permanent space at the mall? And um, he was like, I thought we had one. I was like, Oh wait, this isn’t a permanent space. And yeah, Dave and I prayed about it a lot and didn’t make sense. Honestly, when I look back on it now, it made no sense whatsoever why we decided to do it. I don’t know why we did. It wasn’t proven, wasn’t proven. It was a longterm commitment, a lot of labor, five years, a huge liability. I mean it meant bringing on a bigger staff. It meant having to really go all in with Albion.
Bart Bradshaw: (16:42)
And this was a new thing. It wasn’t the factory, it was awful promotions.
Liz Findlay: (16:47)
Yeah. So, uh, yeah, we did it. We just took a chance. And I think we were really naive about it, but it felt good. You know, it didn’t make sense, but it felt good.
Bart Bradshaw: (16:57)
Sounds like the beginning of a lot of good adventures.
Liz Findlay: (16:59)
Yeah, exactly. And honestly, we love it like, and we still do, but we loved doing it. We loved working with the team, we loved working together, we loved being able to create things. And just kind of being our own bosses though, really, when you own your own business, every customer is your boss, you know? But it was, it was worth it. It was fun.
Bart Bradshaw: (17:19)
So at this time, you know, these days people question whether to even do any retail back in, was this 2011, 2012 so at that time you were saying, you know, City Creek was going against the grain and really building a mall where most malls were struggling.
Bart Bradshaw: (17:38)
Right. Did you have any like feeling that you should just stay digital, stay online or?
Liz Findlay: (17:46)
We werent even online at that point? And that’s what’s so crazy is a lot of people think that we’re digitally native, but we aren’t. I mean, we did do that deal with shabby Apple, but I kind of didn’t consider that own digital. Yeah. It wasn’t because it wasn’t our website, you know, it was them and it really was just wholesale. So when we close between October and January, we had three employees and we thought to ourselves, we can’t lose these girls. What are we going to do? So we started just kind of putting it in a warehouse in our garage and we just started organizing everything. And Dave started building a website. Okay. So Dave’s background is in graphic design. And so he graduated from year shy of Utah. And that is such a huge part of the story because without him and without him really establishing our aesthetic and doing all of the backend stuff with a website, all of that and then of this would have been possible.
Liz Findlay: (18:34)
And so we were really lucky obviously, to have the factory to have Dave. I mean, it really was the perfect storm in a lot of ways. And it was a time when nobody was investing in marketing because there wasn’t any money. And that’s one of the first places that people cut, you know? And so we looked at that as an opportunity. And so we said, okay, well over these next three months we’re going to build a website. Dave got it up January 1st and I think, honestly, I think within one day on the website, I think we had made more than we had in two weeks at this store. Wow. And there’s something here, there’s something here. So let’s keep these girls busy. So we started fulfilling orders from our garage and we have three girls and that’s what we did. I remember they’d come into our kitchen and I’d make smoothies for us for breakfast and we would just power up and get packing and we would ship everything at the local post office that was just down the street.
Liz Findlay: (19:27)
And we did that for three months while we did the build out. And we had a friend help us with the build out. But there were days where to save money. Dave and I were onsite. You always had to have one person on site. So some days Dave and I would be, one of us would be the person that stayed on the building site, you know, for 12 hours. Just monitoring everything and making sure that everything happened the way that it was supposed to. And totally bootstrapped it crazy when I think about it. But so how did you start seeing traffic to your website initially? Like did you get the word out in some way? Yes. So Facebook wasn’t really, Facebook was around, we had a Facebook page, but really it was Instagram and say, I think we just hit that right, that the perfect moment and very early days.
Liz Findlay: (20:13)
Events, early days. And you know, shabby Apple had had a lot of experience with influencers and so we had learned a lot from them and just with working with them for the previous year. And there was two things that we knew that we needed to do and one of them was to create awesome content and the other one was to get the word out and Instagram was pretty much free back then. I mean you could send someone a swimsuit or a pair of leggings and they would post about it for free for an exchange for the product. And it was a win-win. I mean we weren’t a well known company. A lot of these influencers that we were working with, that term wasn’t even around back then. They were bloggers cause most of them had blogs. Right. And we, we traded and we promoted one another. We did a lot of stuff with blogs.
Liz Findlay: (20:52)
I would say initially for the first year, mostly blogs. And then we started incorporating Instagram. So for a solid two or three years, that’s really how we built our presence on Instagram. Early days of quote unquote influencer marketing as we know it. Yeah. Yeah. And I think that that has helped us so much because we’ve been able to foster these relationships. And from day one it was all about finding the perfect fit. And that’s what I do love. You know, our, our name Albion fit has a lot of different connotations. You know, he could talk about the fit with the clothes obviously, or you want to be fit, like have a fit lifestyle. But it also is about how different people fit together to build a community. And it was just about finding women that were the right fit, who understood who we were, who understood our purpose and our mission and who really represented as well.
Liz Findlay: (21:40)
And honestly, some of these women today, six years later are some of my best friends. That’s amazing. Yeah. So tell us a little bit more about like, you know, you, you started growing this brand. What did you try to grow the brand into? What, what does LBN fit mean to you? And obviously it was helping to keep your factory alive. You were growing a business and, and it was this big commitment and something more than you had been doing before. Yeah. What did you grow it into? Well, I think as soon as our girls started kindergarten, a lot of time opened up, right? Like we were able to really put more time and effort into it and I feel like that was a big changing point for us where we recognize that this could be full time work for the both of us. Yeah. So the store initially was, I mean, once we saw that the website was doing well, the store seemed like it would just be kind of a sales floor, like a showroom for us, right.
Liz Findlay: (22:37)
Where people come in and see our product, but we didn’t really expect people to shop very much at the store. I think very early on we were like, this is going to be an online business. But what was so amazing was as we brought in these different girls who loved Albion and who were so passionate about it and who understood that we were trying to build, not a company but a community. Yeah. Everything changed. And our stores started killing it. We did so well in a 670 square foot space that nobody could believe it. People at city Creek couldn’t believe it. Nobody. We were one of the highest, I mean up there with Apple really with how well we were performing per square foot. We were killing it and we ended up having to get a warehouse across the street and because we didn’t have an a space where we’d have to restock during the day, and at that point I think we realized that what our mission was was not just to share who we were online cause we were doing that.
Liz Findlay: (23:35)
I felt like we’re building that digital community through Instagram, through Facebook, through our website. There were a blog, but we felt like where we could make the biggest impact was actually seeing people every day. People come into stores for a reason. And I think we knew that from day one. You could obviously just shop online if you wanted to, but if you’re coming into a store it’s because you either need the product right away, right? Or you actually want to have some kind of human contact and experience. And so that was at the heart of what we were trying to do. It’s how do we multiply this experience not just in store, but through community events, through sponsoring races, through doing, you know, events like a retreat. We started a retreat called solstice retreat and you know, it was just this idea of how do you bring women together?
Liz Findlay: (24:23)
How do you show women that if you support one another and listen to one another, that at the end everybody can win that their space for all of us. And it resonated and I think it resonated at a time when not a lot of people were talking about it, but that’s, that’s been our goal from day one, not how many stores can we open, not how many sales can we garner doing X, Y, and Z. It’s how many lives can we touch with this message and how can we see it just multiply. Yeah. So on one end, you’re saving your own factory and people’s jobs in Guatemala and on the other, you’re finding a way to improve people’s lives. Create a community. I love it. What also I would say, and the other part is to talk about Dave’s contribution again, was how could we push the boundaries of what fashion was doing at that time.
Liz Findlay: (25:17)
A lot of what we saw with, you know, Lulu lemon or Athleta coming on stage at that time was these women who, you know, if you looked at their ads, it was like women bench pressing 300 pounds or doing all these crazy yoga moves or you know what I mean? I don’t know. 300 pounds is a lot. Maybe that’s not a lot. I don’t know. But you know what I mean? It was like just all these like contortionists like these amazing things that just seemed so out of touch. And what we wanted to do was to create a brand that said, Hey, you could feel good and look good and it’s okay if you’re not running, you know, a three hour marathon. It’s okay if you’re just taking your kids on a walk. You can have that ability to be able to do whatever you want but still feel cute and still feel confident and still feel like everything is being held in where it’s supposed to be held in and you just feel confident.
Liz Findlay: (26:10)
So that was really, really important to us from the very beginning to, you know, introducing the importance of being feminine. That’s okay, we can celebrate that. But you could of course be ambitious and you can, you can put those worlds together as well. So I feel like you a few years ahead of the rest of the world in that, like that’s a thing now for many, many brands. And that’s a thing for a lot of influencers and to be more kind of supportive of whoever you are right now and, and I think it’s fantastic, but do you feel like, yeah, I do. I, but I feel like I love it. I love that that has resonated and you know, and I don’t, I’m not like, you know what, we started it, I’ll be in, but I feel like that might’ve been a scary thing to share at first, but to some people.
Liz Findlay: (26:57)
But to us it just seemed natural because that’s how we found success. There’s no way I’ll be in, would have found the success that it had if it hadn’t have been for core women and men who really had supported us from the very beginning. I mean, from friends introducing us to, you know, the managers at city Creek to friends, giving us an opportunity, women giving us an opportunity to be able to sell our product on consignment to friends and family showing up every single week buying product even though they didn’t have to, you know, just to support us. Yeah. And I dunno, I mean it’s part of our story, you know, and I don’t see how we could have ignored that.
Bart Bradshaw: (27:38)
Yeah, that’s fantastic. By the way, we never finished is your mother. Okay? Okay.
Liz Findlay: (27:44)
Yeah. Thanks for asking. Yeah, she’s 14 years cancer free. They gave her a year to live and she just got too busy taking care of those babies with me. So,
Bart Bradshaw: (27:54)
Oh, that’s awesome. And how old are your kids now? They just turned 14 Oh wow. Yeah. That’s fun. Yeah. Okay. So I want to explore that omni-channel idea a little bit more. So you have four locations now, right? And Utah and Arizona and Texas and Texas. Great States. I’ve lived in all three. And you know, I think a lot of builders right now or whether they’re already in it or they’re thinking about what to do, trying to figure out whether to go digital only retail only. Probably not retail only, but you know, kind of a website, but mainly retail or potentially omni-channel. Can you speak a little bit more about maybe some of the challenges as well? I mean, you’ve talked about the community and the experience, but I’d love to hear like is that really sustainable? Are you worried at all about the retail locations struggling? Like many have? Tell us more about that.
Liz Findlay: (28:56)
Yeah, I mean, I’m not gonna lie. When I see a lot of companies that are smaller than us open up stores, I do get a little nervous for them because it is so scary. I mean, I’m not gonna sit here and act like every single store you open, you’re not holding your breath. I mean you’re making, you know, multimillion dollar decisions and commitments, you know, with lease space. And those are longterm. I mean, when you think of, you know, what you could do with, you know, $300,000, you know, if you’re talking about building out a store and in leases, what you could do with a physical space versus what you could do if you’re putting that money into digital marketing and just the how quick of a return that you would see. I mean, yeah, I don’t think that there’s one way of doing it and you really need to be aware of what your brand focus is and what works for you because retail does not work for everyone, right?
Liz Findlay: (29:53)
It doesn’t. And I think of course in this world, like you really need to have an online presence. You know and you want to make sure that you’ve got a good CRM system and people that can look, you know that are really good at taking care of the back end front end. You can make it as complicated as you want, truth be told and really it’s up to what your risk level is like how comfortable you are with risk. Dave and I for some reason are not risk averse. I will never, it it, it’s really funny if you ask me, I like, I don’t like going to Las Vegas, like I wouldn’t bet money at a casino because for me that is like completely out of my control. But if it comes to betting on me and Dave and our partners, I would put money on us any day because I know that we have full control over that.
Liz Findlay: (30:40)
I’m willing to put in the long nights, the long days and I know that our team is and I feel very comfortable with who we are and what, what our capabilities are. So I would just say that if you’re opening up stores, you need to recognize that those people who are working in those stores are an extension of you. And as long as you feel comfortable that they’re representing you the same way that you would represent yourself and go for it, you know, why not? Yeah. But if you have any hesitation about that, I would definitely hold off because as we’ve opened up each store, we’ve found it very important to stay very close tabs with them. We’re very conscientious of where we’re opening locations and it’s so much more than how much you know, the lease is going to be, how much the build out it’s going to be.
Liz Findlay: (31:24)
You know, it’s what the community is like. What does the workforce look like? We have sent girls from salt Lake to live in other States to open stores because we want to make sure that the culture is right in those stores. And I know that we’ve nailed it when we get DMS come in that say, Hey, I was at legacy West yesterday and those girls made me feel like a million bucks. Whether it’s I bought a swimsuit or I didn’t buy a swimsuit. Our job is to make every single woman who walks in there feel like gold and feel like they’re the potentially the only customer that walks in the door that day. And we need to make sure that they know that they feel loved and that they feel appreciated and that there’s so much more to life than um, what most of the world is telling them there is. So, yeah. I don’t know if I answered your [inaudible].
Bart Bradshaw: (32:08)
Yeah, that makes a lot of sense. And it sounds like one of the things, there’s two things that I’d like to unpack, unpack a little there. One is, it sounds like you’re saying that your risk tolerance is high in some ways, but it’s not that you’re just like willing to gamble on things. It’s more that you have confidence that you can make it work through hard work, through understanding, being smart about the rest of you take things like that. Right? Yeah. Yeah.
Liz Findlay: (32:36)
But also bar we have, we have been through so much hard stuff. Yeah, it sounds like it. You know, and just stuff that we went through. And Guatemala. I mean I feel like there was a time when we moved back to salt Lake where I didn’t even want to go back to Guatemala because I had a little PTSD, you know, just some really, really hard times. And so I feel like we’ll be okay. Yeah. We’ve gone through so many hard things. We have faced the abyss and you know, every day has its ups and downs too. And I feel like those hard experiences only work in your favor if you let them make you stronger. And I feel like we have done that. And so when I say that I, you know, I have a higher risk tolerance. It’s not just because I feel like, you know, I can conquer the world and I’m not scared. It’s more like we’ve been through hard things and if we, if we go through hard things again, which I know we will and be okay.
Bart Bradshaw: (33:35)
Yeah, I love that entrepreneurs need that to recognize that there will be legitimate hard things. I think anyone, yeah. And that it will be okay. It’s going to be okay. Yeah. The second thing I really liked that I think I can kind of get from what you’re saying is that these stores, these in person visits that people make, that whole part of your company is really to build that community and it’s kind of a longterm investment. It’s a, I mean you could be digital only and probably higher margin. I don’t know, depends on how your stores do, but in general, digital only is higher margin because you don’t have all the overhead of retail locations and all that. But with that retail location, with women coming in, in person experiencing it, feeling like is there, do you feel like there’s more of a true long-lasting conversion in that process? 100% they become part of your community.
Liz Findlay: (34:42)
Yeah. But you have to be willing to give them that experience. And so I think that’s goes back to like what are you willing to do to make sure that your customer feels that? Because if you’re not willing to go above and beyond and train your team, I mean we have weekly trainings with our team. We spend so much time training our girls to make sure that they are doing things the Albion way. And what’s so cool is that each one of these 10 team members have added to it. Right? It’s not anything that’s coming from the top down. Like we’ve been able to create this system where team members are actually building the culture and making it stronger. They are 100% bought into it because they’re a part of it. Right? And so if you don’t have your team engaged and coming up with ideas, then you know, what’s the point? They’re not gonna, they’re not gonna want to do it like they need to believe in it. And so I feel like that’s the key to making that retail space successful is making sure that your team members love it and want to share it too and believe it.
Bart Bradshaw: (35:47)
Yeah. So you’ve mentioned, um, sending down somebody who is trained that you trust to make sure that, that a new location as well. Can you talk a little bit more about what you do to invest in a new location? I know you’ve recently, I think it’s Scottsdale, you opened a new location there. What are some of the things you do to invest in that to make sure that it’s successful beyond just the people that you place there? Maybe from an advertising marketing or a grand openings perspective? You know, how can people look at those kind of opportunities as a way to invest in, in, in what you’re doing?
Liz Findlay: (36:25)
Well, for us, I would say partnerships are key, right? Who are you bringing along with you in order to promote the store? And so from a marketing standpoint, we have mavens. So those are like our ambassadors that we have. And yeah, these women are not huge influencers. You know, they’re micro influencers and some of them aren’t even influencers. They’re just women who have good relationships in their community. Maybe they’re fitness instructors or PTA presidents or you know, whatever it may be. But their job is to make sure that they get the word out. Right. Yeah. And then on top of that, we have partners that sponsor the grand opening event. So that’s a big part of it to make sure that when people come to our VIP events or come to our grand openings that they know that they’re going to just get a bunch of swag.
Liz Findlay: (37:13)
Right. And I think that’s important. People want to have an amazing experience. Like you have to give them a reason to show up. Right? And so those partnerships are really, really important. Um, you know, yeah. Digital ads obviously to make sure that people know that there is a grand opening going on. So target different audiences. We always reach out to our clientele like are our best customers, right. That are really invested and want to be a part of these events. And just to kind of give a thank you back to them as well. And we sat down about 15 people from salt Lake to be there too. And each grand opening is a party. Like it’s hard work but it’s a party too. You get to be with your favorite people, your best friends for three or four days. And so we had four different groups of people go down over this past week.
Liz Findlay: (38:02)
We had like the build out team, go to make sure that everything was going like it was supposed to. We had our managers from salt Lake went down and our area manager went down to make sure that everything was going okay from just a merchandising perspective. We had our logistics guys there to make sure that everything was going well with the back end. And then we just brought, you know, marketing team members. We brought just team members that have been with us for years just so that our team in Scottsdale knew that we had their back 100%. We bring our kids, our kids have gone to every single opening. Really? Yeah. And Dave and I, we have our, our partner and our best friend, his name’s Mike and he brings down his kids and we all do the ribbon cuttings together. And that we were commenting about how funny it was that, uh, the first couple store openings, you know, it’s like me and Dave are we, you know, we’re in front and center.
Liz Findlay: (38:54)
We’re like cutting the ribbon. And then the next one it was like, you know, our kids were doing it and we were kind of on the outskirts and the next one we were kind of more on the outskirts but our kids are in the front. And then this one we were all just in the windows. It was just all of our team was in the front and you know, it was a wide picture but we’re just kind of in the windows just smiling like mannequins because space has been created for a lot of team members and it’s just as much theirs as it is ours, you know?
Bart Bradshaw: (39:20)
Yeah. That’s beautiful. Yeah. You know I mentioned to you up front, like you guys kind of have the perfect story. It didn’t come from a perfect story. It sounded like a lot of challenges and hardships before Albion, but Albion has been very successful. Are there any things that as you look back, you know, you think, Oh man, we didn’t do that right. Or you know, things that are builders can, can identify with as they go through the challenges. Cause you talk about, you know, it’s hard work and anything that stands out like that,
Liz Findlay: (39:56)
I mean our story isn’t perfect, but at the same time it’s our perfect story. You know, like I don’t know what to say. I feel like we’ve, everything that we’ve done has been from the bottom of our hearts, like, and if it was a mistake, we’ve moved on from it enough that it’s not anything that haunts me. Do you know what I mean? Like I feel like we definitely follow our gut with a lot of the things that we do with everything that we do. And you know, we didn’t really look at analytics to be honest until about two years ago. Like what our analytics, you know what I mean? Like it was not part of what we did, but I’m glad that that was it because I felt like we were just really trying to figure out what resonated by seeing how our community was responding to it. You know? And,
Bart Bradshaw: (40:47)
and a lot of the time you start to look at analytics when things aren’t going as well as you hope. Yeah,
Liz Findlay: (40:53)
no, but, but I feel like, you know, you know, six months ago for example, you know, we did start looking a lot at like what should we be producing more of? What’s more successful? You know like okay let’s focus on this. And you know, if we had had that mentality four years ago, a lot of our bestsellers today wouldn’t even be around because we would have given up on them within a couple of weeks because the numbers just weren’t there. So you know, analytics are really important but you definitely can’t let them drive your business because without that heart and without that gut instinct, you are going to miss out on so many opportunities and you are going to be completely risk averse and you have to be willing to take chances, you know, if you’re in business.
Bart Bradshaw: (41:33)
For sure. That’s interesting. I think a lot of people would have a hard time with the idea that you can’t just follow the analytics because analytics are so safe. Right. If the analytics, if the end, like it justifies decisions, it makes you feel like it’s data-driven and, but what you’re saying is there’s a certain amount of heart, there’s a certain amount of trust, there’s a certain amount of investment that can prove to be better or complimentary, let’s say to the analytics.
Liz Findlay: (42:04)
Well guess what? The analytics aren’t going to tell me unless I did some big survey, which you know we could do, but like does this swimsuit make you feel more comfortable? Does this swimsuit make you feel more beautiful? Does this swimsuit make you feel, you know, or do you feel like you’re being a part of a community? Like that’s, we’re not gathering data to look at that. That’s what the reviews tell us. Or that’s what customers who are smiling come in and tell us whether or not they buy a pair of leggings or a swimsuit. But you know the analytics too. I just, I have 11 hate relationship with them. To tell you the truth, I really do because I just feel like sometimes when I think of analytics, I, it always comes, obviously it comes down to numbers. Right? How much are you making? What’s your best producing product? What’s your least performing product? And it makes it so that it is so much more about the money. And this is not about the money
Bart Bradshaw: (42:55)
built this business for reasons of the heart for leading people and [inaudible].
Liz Findlay: (43:01)
It’s not about the money. And I’ve read, I read a quote the other day that you know, if you’re doing this for the money, you’re doing it, you’re never going to find the success that you can if you’re doing it just for the money. Yeah. We always say at Albion that this is a journey and that’s what’s so great. Like all these different people are coming into our lives and Albion is a part of some people’s lives for three years or four years, it’s been a part of others for six years. It might be a part of some, you know, employees for just six months, but at the end of the day, like we wouldn’t be where we are today without every single one of those person’s input and, and their love and their experience and everything that they brought to the table. And the analytics, they don’t show us that, you know?
Bart Bradshaw: (43:42)
Yeah. Interesting. I like that perspective. It’s, it’s not just quant, it’s qualitative. Quantitative. It’s hard. Yeah. So unfortunately we’re, we’re uh, almost at a time, but I did want to just ask you like, you know, if you had, when you talked to entrepreneurs, when you talk to people that are a little earlier in their journey than you are, what is the advice that you give them? What do you tell them? Either words of encouragement or words of advice given your unique journey and what it’s taught you?
Liz Findlay: (44:17)
I think there’s two things. One, I think is be kind. I feel like you need to be kind in your relationships with the people that you work with. You need to be kind to your customers. You need to be kind to yourself, you know? And I think that sometimes we can be really hard on ourselves and that makes us so that we’re really hard on those people around us too. And I’m really grateful for the opportunity. We’ve had to be able to meet a lot of really amazing people and I’m really grateful for all that they’ve given me in my life and whether or not things ended up the way that I thought they were going to, it doesn’t really matter because there’s good feelings there and I feel like you always really need to remember that their relationship is the most important part. The other thing that I would say is you got to go all in.
Liz Findlay: (45:10)
You just have to, if you want to give yourself a shot to find true success, you got to go all in. There were other things that Dave and I had tried to do. We had a letterpress business when we were in college where we did wedding invitations and it kind of was a side hustle too. While I was going to school and Dave was, had his job in San Diego, but we were so scared to go all in, so scared. But when I look back on it now, I think if we had, we would’ve made it. We would found that. So yeah, don’t be scared.
Bart Bradshaw: (45:42)
So people who are doing a side hustle, when’s the right time to go all in?
Liz Findlay: (45:49)
Oh, that’s a scary question to ask. Do I put the leg of the, do not try this at home? Like, I don’t know. I feel like if it brings you joy, work is so much work. You go to work, why do you go to work? Do you know what I mean? Like why are we doing the things that we’re doing? And I feel like if you’re passionate about something and if it’s more than just about you, like if you feel like you can really make a difference in a lot of people’s lives than do it, you know, if you feel like this isn’t just about you, if you feel like you’ve got partners and friends and, and you’ve got something that can make a difference, then I say try it. You know? And the numbers aren’t going to be there at first. If they are, you’re so lucky. But that doesn’t mean that the numbers are going to be there always and forever either, you know? Yeah. So I would just say
Bart Bradshaw: (46:37)
Sooner rather than later.
Liz Findlay: (46:39)
Yeah, sooner rather than later. I mean, I’m trying to think. I was 30 and Dave was, yeah, 33 when we really went for it, which is kind of later in life too. You know what I mean? I feel like I see a lot of people doing stuff in their early twenties and I’m just like, good. That’s when you should do it, you know? Go for it. Yeah.
Bart Bradshaw: (46:59)
Yeah. That’s a hard question that I think a lot of people struggle with is when to go after it, when to go after what you really want to do, your side hustle or your dream. And I like the sooner rather than later. I liked the idea that, you know, you look at do you have the right motivations? Is it something that you’re going to be able to sustain? It’s going to be a lot of hard work and you need those motivations.
Liz Findlay: (47:24)
I mean, do you have the time, you know, and that, that’s the thing too. And I feel like for us it was key that our girls were going to school like that. They were going to be gone all day. There’s no way what we did, and we’ve literally chose not to do anything like that until they were in school because there’s just no way we could have balanced family life with that. You know? Right.
Bart Bradshaw: (47:43)
Then all of a sudden you have seven, eight hours a day that you didn’t have before. Yeah. That’s fantastic. Well, this has been awesome. Liz. Thank you for coming in today. Thank you. Yeah. Builders, check out builttostay.com for links to Albion as well as downloadable content and show notes that, uh, we’re going to summarize some of the things that we’ve learned today. Definitely go check out one of their stores if you’re in one of the States, Utah, Texas or Arizona.