Career Spotlight: Dale Janée // Savvy Sleepers
Dale Janée is not only one of the nicest and most stylish fashion bloggers we know (she blogs at Savvy Spice) she is also the genius behind Savvy Sleepers. Savvy Sleepers is the world's first unisex satin pillowcases. We were first introduced to Savvy Sleepers over a year ago and were amazed by the benefits it provided to our skin and hair. We are thrilled Dale agreed to answer a few questions for us. We hope you enjoy her story as much as we did.
What is your background?
My educational background is actually in journalism and I was a Public Relations major at California State University, Chico. I wish I would have majored in business, but math scared me away.
My parents always encouraged creativity and entrepreneurism. When I was in elementary school, my mom taught a program for 'gifted kids' called GATE. I never tested high enough to make it in, but I always hung around her classroom and loved a little 'Popcorn Business' lesson she taught. In 6th grade, my friend and I launched a little jewelry company. I talked my mom into giving me a corner of her classroom to make a boutique. We opened during recess, breaks and after school for teachers to come shop. I loved it and knew from that moment, one day I wanted to start my own business.
What is the story behind the concept of Savvy Sleepers?
The story behind Savvy Sleepers actually came during a low point in my life. After 8 years working in tech while dealing with dating drama and a crazy landlord in San Francisco, I was ready for a big change. The hustle and bustle of city life took a toll on my locks and my Aunt Jean, a stylist, was highlighting my hair a few years ago and noticed the stress and damage I clearly couldn’t hide.
‘You should really be sleeping on a satin pillow case,' she said and passed over a hand-sewn pillow case. After my first night, I woke up with calmer hair and my skin looked more refreshed with no crease marks.
‘Why aren’t we all sleeping on a satin pillow case?’ I thought. After researching, I was so disappointed with the quality of what was sold. I traveled the world and tested hundreds of samples against my skin until I found the softest, most luxurious blend of satin with the highest-quality stitching which I designed with a secret pocket.
When did you know it was time to launch your business and what steps did you take?
After creating a prototype at an LA Factory and sleeping on it a week, I had my ‘Aha moment’ as Oprah would say and decided if I was going to do this, I really had to do it! I launched my own business and Savvy Sleepers was officially born in November 2012 after a year of planning, researching and finding a great manufacturer.
What are the biggest lessons you have learned since launching your business?
The biggest lesson I learned is that while a little luck may help us all, it takes total dedication and hard work to start and run a business. More importantly, you truly need to care about your business and believe in it. Starting an online business is less risky, but it’s also a huge learning experience.
When I clicked the ‘publish’ button to make my Shopify store live, I figured sales would just start pouring in and customers would find us on Google easily. I was so wrong! It takes time, SEO strategies and constant dedication to churning out fresh content. I also feel so lucky I have friends I've made through blogging who have been willing to test my product and share their thoughts on their own personal blogs. I will be forever thankful to any blogger who has taken the time to write about Savvy Sleepers.
What has been the biggest obstacle you have had to overcome?
The biggest business obstacle to overcome has been living in Zurich, Switzerland while running Savvy Sleepers which is based in San Francisco. I met my husband the same month I launched and he was living and working in Zurich so we moved there for now. Of course an online business can be run from anywhere in the world, but the time difference can get tricky – I’m 9 hours ahead of California so I stay up very late to make phone calls and connect with potential retailers. I’d love to be available in the US year round to attend trade shows, or just have the face-to-face meeting which isn't possible with a 12 hour transatlantic flight in the way.
What is the best part of your job?
The best part of my job is knowing I created this business and have put so much work into it and seeing how far it's come from just being an idea to turning into actual business.
And to keep it real, what is the worst?
The worst comes hand-in-hand with the 'owning' part. Owning a small business can be very stressful because you are responsible and play the role of every position in the company. It's easy to be hard on yourself if your company has a bad month or you don't get the results you expected with a new advertising campaign or product idea.
What is a goal you have for your business that you hope to accomplish in the next year or two?
One goal I hope to accomplish in 2015 is to get into a major department store. Nordstrom, Bloomingdales or Dillards would be a dream come true. My marketing director, Brittany, located in the San Francisco Bay Area has been amazing and helped close deals while managing Savvy Sleepers social media.
Being a busy business owner how do you stay organized?
I like my workspace to be bright so I usually work from our kitchen table with background music or the Sirius Radio. It's so important to organize your day so you don't get distracted and while my desktop is a nightmare with images and folders everywhere, I stay organized by making a list every day. I usually have 20-40 tasks and some are simple and some are time consuming. Also, take breaks to clear your head whether it's a walk, a coffee break or painting your nails. A 30 minute break is often when I can think about new ideas, write the drafts for blogs in my head or brainstorm.
What has been one surreal moment you've experienced since launch Savvy Sleepers?
One surreal moment for me happened last year when I got an email from the corporate operations manager at Blo Blow Dry Bar interested in carrying Savvy Sleepers in their locations - over 40 worldwide. The deal took six months to close and we had to create new packaging, but it's been a very exciting experience to have our first real retail opportunity and gave us the confidence to move into retailers like salons, spas, and now hotels.
What is your best piece of advice for others who hope to someday be a business owner?
My best piece of advice is to never give up through the tough times, especially in the beginning stages of starting a business because there will be very difficult moments you may feel like asking yourself 'is this worth it?'
Also, be careful with overspending as a new small business and explore all advertising options. Expenses add up fast so make sure you exhaust every social media tool you have. I come across so many small businesses who are not active on twitter, instagram or Facebook. Twitter is one of the easiest free marketing tools you have to search hashtags for your exact industry and find out who’s talking about your product, discover potential influencers and most importantly to learn about your competitors.