Celebrating Women Entrepreneurs, 3rd Installment

This is the third installment in our series on women entrepreneurs, highlighting cool women who run their own companies. Throughout this startup journey, I have had the pleasure of meeting and working with some amazing women who have helped me bring my company to life. I love sharing their advice and journey with you.

In honor of Thanksgiving, I am writing about an entrepreneur who has been amazingly generous with her time and expertise as a mentor to me — Fleming Samuels. I was lucky enough to be introduced to this talented children’s clothing wear designer by a mutual friend. Fleming generously gave me advice, guidance and help at every turn, and I’m feeling grateful for all she has done for me.

The crazy thing is I needed tons of help. Here I was — this mom who could not even sew — and I was thinking of manufacturing women’s nursing clothes. Fleming gave me the run down. She walked me through it. She told me who to contact, where to look for resources and how to research made in the USA manufacturers. At one point when I was desperate to get samples churned out, she lent me her own warehouse, and I was able to hire one of her talented seamstresses to get the job done.

She did all this while she was busy running her own company and taking care of her own family. And the whole while she made me laugh. She made the impossible seem funny and manageable. She was honest, too. One of the very first things she said to me was “Think about how much money you think you will need, and then…double it.” I gasped. But, really, you need someone to give it to you straight. She saved me time. She gave me a map, so I did not spend years walking around in the dark. Every entrepreneur needs a friend and mentor who is generous with his or her knowledge and guidance.

I think Fleming has been on the receiving end of a few bottles of wine and some of my poor homemade cooking, but really that is a drop in the bucket for how she wholeheartedly helped me. Sometimes in life you are blessed with meeting just the person who can help you get to the next step. Serendipity? Yes. Fleming was that person for me. If you are starting a company, I hope you are blessed to find a Fleming for yourself. Find someone who is doing what you want to do. She is also a designer of darling children’s clothing. She does know how to sew, and she makes her clothes in her own studio right here in the good ol’ USA. Here’s her Q&A:

Fleming Samuels

Fleming with her oldest daughter

1. What is your business?

Fleming Clothing is a custom children’s clothing website specializing in handmade heirloom pieces that are reversible and express everyone’s individuality.

2. What inspired you to start your business?

My mother had passed away, and I was a very creative person my whole life. My grandfather was an interior designer in Wilson, North Carolina and I had grown up around amazing textiles my whole life. I think that grief needs an outlet, and Fleming Clothing was that for me. I poured my heart into it and have enjoyed all the things and people whom I have met along the way.

3. Are your kids involved in your business? How do they feel about having a mompreneur?

My children are the inspiration for a lot of my designs. I see what they like to wear — and what they don’t like — immediately about a design. As my daughter has grown up, it has been interesting to watch her tastes change. It’s also great, in terms of function, to try a design on your child before you produce it.

I have also really enjoyed using them as models for my photo shoots. I have watched my girls grow up through my website advertising history. It is amazing how time flies.

My six-year-old daughter is the only one who knows I work as I have been on hiatus for the last year with the birth of my youngest child, who is now 16-months old. My oldest has loved coming to work with me and sitting at the cutting table, helping me put pieces together. There is a creative buzz in the workshop that you have to be there to experience, and I am glad I’ve shared that with my daughter. She has been very proud of my work and loves wearing my designs.

4. What one piece of advice would you give another mom interested in starting a business?

Do your research, and interview as many people in the field as you can who are willing to give your their time. Go to conferences relevant to the industry that you are interested in, meet other people in non-competitive markets and ask them about what worked and what didn’t.

Also don’t be afraid to get a partner with more experience, even if all they can offer is human capital. Sometimes someone who knows more than you can save a ton of money in the long run and really help give you perspective when making hard decisions.

5. Which mom is your mama style icon?

I don’t know if there is a “mom” icon for me more than all my friends and family — male and female — who have struggled to balance family and entrepreneurship. I think that no matter whether you’re a woman or a man starting a business or whether you are in a family with children or just married and starting out…entrepreneurship is hard and grueling and unfair. Having a supportive life partner is so important.

So the role models I really look up to are couples who have made it work.