Interested in starting your own entrepreneurial journey in fashion but unsure what to expect? Then read up on our interview with Steve Dunlap, CEO of Meghan Fabulous, located in El Segundo, CA, USA.
What's your business, and who are your customers?
We are a women's fashion design and apparel manufacturing company. Our namesake, Meghan Fabulous, designs all our looks and has a devoted following of (mostly) women who love her funky, colorful, "fun happy fashion" aesthetic. Meghan has been in this business for over 20 years, and I joined her in 2018. We had a romantic relationship at first, which just organically expanded to encompass the business! Our customers are women who want to make a statement and show their personality. No boring black tops here! Meghan's designs ALWAYS turn heads and collect compliments - and never blend in. We are proud of the fact our website is littered with reviews raving about Meghan's designs and the entire experience of being part of ClubFab. From the apparel to the incredible packaging and fun customer experience to over-the-top-thoughtful customer service, we love our customers and work hard to show it!
Tell us about yourself
Well, when I was a little boy, I always said, "I want to run a women's fashion business when I grow up!" Haha! I kid... But seriously, as I mentioned above, Meghan and I met in the dating scene and noticed that our conversation often turned to business. Both of us are natural entrepreneurs, and we grind! We just didn't know any other way, so the conversation flowed... Soon enough, it became obvious that her business needed a professional business manager and some capital invested. I had sold my previous business and was looking for my next move. It was perfect! But it was quite a switch since I was in financial technology and wealth management before. I've been amazed at the extent to which "business is business." Much of my prior learning applies, but I had to learn specific new domain knowledge - such as mastering eCommerce and inventory management. It was a lot to learn, and I made some mistakes along the way.
But today, I'm having more fun than I ever have - while also working harder than I have since I was 25. Maybe ever! But when you OWN the business (Meghan and I own 100%), things are different. Every decision comes down to us and our partnership. Winning or losing takes on a whole new dimension when it determines whether your employees will have paychecks or whether you'll survive. But we've done well - and have never grown less than 65% in any year since 2018. Growing a business is like a sport or a hobby. It's all-consuming, and it's fun. Working hard comes naturally to both of us, and that's the only way a small business succeeds. We're well on our way to building a very large and very well-known business. We can feel it. We can see it in the numbers. And we can hear it from our customers. That is what gets us out of bed each day!
What's your biggest accomplishment as a business owner?
Figuring it all out. As a small business owner, there is no "grown-up table" in the next room waiting to help. It's ALL about us. If something goes wrong, you fix it. If you think an opportunity is real, you figure out how to chase it. If you're overwhelmed, you breathe deep and find a way to get it all done (and also, importantly, explicitly decide what you're NOT going to do). It's the daily fog of war that is our accomplishment. We come in and swing the hammer every day, and just every once in a while, we pause, look back, and admire how far we've come in just a few years. That is tremendously satisfying.
What's one of the hardest things that comes with being a business owner?
Never being off duty. When I worked in the corporate world, I had five weeks of vacation, a big salary, great benefits, and what most people call "peace of mind." But I always felt like I was in prison. I didn't like playing politics - all I wanted to do was focus on the mission and knock down walls to achieve it. That is what entrepreneurs MUST do to succeed, but it's also the hardest. Don't get me wrong, Meghan and I "work hard, play hard," - but there is no paid vacation, no time away from the job because you ARE the job. Heck, I just bought a Starlink dish so we could be connected when out sailing! It's hard as hell, but I wouldn't have it any other way, and the rewards simply cannot compare to holding down a J-O-B.
What are the top tips you'd give to anyone looking to start, run and grow a business today?
- Prepare to work hard, and then work harder. Read what I said above and then read it again. You cannot imagine what you will and must put into a business to make it successful. If you're not hungry for that, reconsider your options.
- Take chances and try new things - many will fail, and some won't. That's the only way you learn. Sometimes the tuition is expensive, but you have to learn and find new ways. Embrace technology and figure out how to apply it to your business. Always be curious, and never stop learning.
- Trust your business partner and embrace when they disagree with you. Learn to discuss disagreements without it becoming acrimonious. Of COURSE, you see things differently - you're human. You'll only improve the quality of each other's thinking if you embrace disagreement and learn from it.
Where can people find you and your business?
If you like what you've read here and have your own story as a solo or small business entrepreneur that you'd like to share, then please answer these interview questions. We'd love to feature your journey on these pages.
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