Entrepreneurship 101: Q&A With Girls From Savoy

Allison Kade
Posted

At LearnVest we’re passionate about female entrepreneurship (both CEO Alexa von Tobel and Editor in Chief Maria Lin have been bitten by the entrepreneurial bug). And not to toot our own horn, but LearnVest was recently named one of Fast Company’s Top 25 Women-Run Startups to Watch.

Starting your own business (whether full-time, part-time, or as side project) is not only rewarding, but also a viable means to bring in more income and potentially increase your wealth, which many of you have expressed an interest in learning more about.

Pam Berick and Melissa Charatz of Girls from Savoy

To wit, it’s nice to be the boss of you.

So we’re launching a series on female entrepreneurship called “Entrepreneurship 101: I’m The Boss,” inspired by our first story on Alexa and her own tips.

To kick off our series, we sat down with Melissa Charatz and Pam Berick, friends and founders of Girls from Savoy, a clothing line sold at Anthropologie. After launching just under two years ago, the pair now produces 180 styles a year to 145 Anthropologie stores in the U.S., and their feminine, vintage-inspired threads have been seen on Glee, Grey’s Anatomy, and The Vampire Diaries, and on celebs like Taylor Swift and Dianna Agron (view the slideshow below).

They told us on how they got off the ground, continue to find their inspiration, and haggle with FedEx.

When did you first have the idea to start your own business?

P: We both had worked as buyers in the fashion retail industry, and had worked at Anthropologie together. We both had long commutes–I was commuting from Brooklyn to Philadelphia every day.

M: We wanted to make our own hours, be our own bosses. We went through our closets, pulled what we liked, started putting a financial projection together.

How did you get started?

M: At first we talked about it for months, going back and forth. We thought to ourselves, “We can’t accomplish this! Where do we begin?” So we broke everything down into small steps, and called on the strengths of the people we knew. We can design a logo. We’ll start there. When the big picture is overwhelming, just take it one step at at time. We put together financial projections–I wanted to make sure this was going to make money. Then we pitched our proposal to Anthropologie, and they went for it.

How did you save money as small business owners?

P: We learned to negotiate everything. For example, we were spending a ton of money on FedEx, so one day I just decided to call and ask if I could get a lower rate. I told them how much we’d ship every month. By calling and just asking, I managed to cut our rate by 50%!

What are the best and worst aspects of owning your own business?

M: My hours are flexible. I’m not on a 9-5 schedule, which as a mother is great, because I can do things like pick up the kids from school in the middle of the day. But, because the company is ours, we work much more than we expected.

P: Initially we thought it would be part time. [Lots of laughter] Instead, we find ourselves sending emails at midnight.

M: When the phone rings, my kids say, “Is it Pam?”

One thing you wish you knew before you started?

P: Just one? [laughs]

M: That it was unrealistic to think it would be a part time thing. How emotionally invested you become because it’s your own.

READ THE FULL INTERVIEW HERE

Pam and Melissa have generously offered to give away a Girls From Savoy Gull Wing dress (valued at $168). The persimmon-colored frock was inspired by a vintage halter the design duo found. (The dress is a size 6.)

For a chance to win, share in the comments your own entrepreneurial dreams or pursuits.

Congratulations to MIKAILA ROBERTS from Columbus, OH for winning this dress!

View Slide Show
  • Shannon

    This article really struck a chord with me personally. I am a recent graduate of college, and have been seriously considering how to start and promote my own clothing line. My interests lie in vintage style threads, and I just love the personal style that these ladies demonstrate through their line!

  • Shannon

    This article really struck a chord with me personally. I am a recent graduate of college, and have been seriously considering how to start and promote my own clothing line. My interests lie in vintage style threads, and I just love the personal style that these ladies demonstrate through their line!

  • Gorgeous dress! And just my size… :)

    My husband and I have started our own interactive design company. We both work in the industry and have a great deal of experience working for Fortune 500 companies. We found a niche – smaller businesses who want big agency service, design, and ideas, but have smaller (but not necessarily modest) budgets. By working out of our homes, nights and weekends, we can offer big agency design and service within their budgetary constraints. http://www.digital-plaid.com – it’s a work in progress :)

    I also have a blog – http://www.fleckbites.com – that I’m working on getting off the ground. It’s hard to find time for everything sometimes, but if you enjoy what you’re doing, it doesn’t feel like work!

  • Gorgeous dress! And just my size… :)

    My husband and I have started our own interactive design company. We both work in the industry and have a great deal of experience working for Fortune 500 companies. We found a niche – smaller businesses who want big agency service, design, and ideas, but have smaller (but not necessarily modest) budgets. By working out of our homes, nights and weekends, we can offer big agency design and service within their budgetary constraints. http://www.digital-plaid.com – it’s a work in progress :)

    I also have a blog – http://www.fleckbites.com – that I’m working on getting off the ground. It’s hard to find time for everything sometimes, but if you enjoy what you’re doing, it doesn’t feel like work!

  • Gorgeous dress! And just my size… :)

    My husband and I have started our own interactive design company. We both work in the industry and have a great deal of experience working for Fortune 500 companies. We found a niche – smaller businesses who want big agency service, design, and ideas, but have smaller (but not necessarily modest) budgets. By working out of our homes, nights and weekends, we can offer big agency design and service within their budgetary constraints. http://www.digital-plaid.com – it’s a work in progress :)

    I also have a blog – http://www.fleckbites.com – that I’m working on getting off the ground. It’s hard to find time for everything sometimes, but if you enjoy what you’re doing, it doesn’t feel like work!

  • Melissa

    Gorgeous dress! I would love to one day be my own boss, but I have to first know what business I’d go into!

  • Melissa

    Gorgeous dress! I would love to one day be my own boss, but I have to first know what business I’d go into!

  • Melissa

    Gorgeous dress! I would love to one day be my own boss, but I have to first know what business I’d go into!

  • Lovely words of advice.

    Currently, I am a Junior in my undergraduate year as an art major. As far as graduating and becoming a freelance artist goes, it is a rough way of living. I am a strong believer in hard work and achieving your dreams in order to be happy. In this, I have become interested in art therapy and the challenge it brings when looking to open a business with a friend who is a social work major. This duo gives me great hope in linking in the therapeutic and healing powers of art into counseling and guidance, while publicly exhibiting my own work in our space.

    Knowing that I have plenty of experiences ahead of me and time to plan accordingly prior to opening my own business, you guys have really influenced me and given me some excellent insight. For that, I thank you.

  • Lovely words of advice.

    Currently, I am a Junior in my undergraduate year as an art major. As far as graduating and becoming a freelance artist goes, it is a rough way of living. I am a strong believer in hard work and achieving your dreams in order to be happy. In this, I have become interested in art therapy and the challenge it brings when looking to open a business with a friend who is a social work major. This duo gives me great hope in linking in the therapeutic and healing powers of art into counseling and guidance, while publicly exhibiting my own work in our space.

    Knowing that I have plenty of experiences ahead of me and time to plan accordingly prior to opening my own business, you guys have really influenced me and given me some excellent insight. For that, I thank you.

  • Lovely words of advice.

    Currently, I am a Junior in my undergraduate year as an art major. As far as graduating and becoming a freelance artist goes, it is a rough way of living. I am a strong believer in hard work and achieving your dreams in order to be happy. In this, I have become interested in art therapy and the challenge it brings when looking to open a business with a friend who is a social work major. This duo gives me great hope in linking in the therapeutic and healing powers of art into counseling and guidance, while publicly exhibiting my own work in our space.

    Knowing that I have plenty of experiences ahead of me and time to plan accordingly prior to opening my own business, you guys have really influenced me and given me some excellent insight. For that, I thank you.

  • Nikolai Diana

    I’m currently a part-time yoga instructor and am currently working on my own start-up to bring stress reduction programs to clients who otherwise may not attend a yoga class (teens, seniors, underserved youth, etc), so it’s great to hear from other’s who have gone through some of the trials & tribulations I’m currently facing myself!

  • Nikolai Diana

    I’m currently a part-time yoga instructor and am currently working on my own start-up to bring stress reduction programs to clients who otherwise may not attend a yoga class (teens, seniors, underserved youth, etc), so it’s great to hear from other’s who have gone through some of the trials & tribulations I’m currently facing myself!

  • Nikolai Diana

    I’m currently a part-time yoga instructor and am currently working on my own start-up to bring stress reduction programs to clients who otherwise may not attend a yoga class (teens, seniors, underserved youth, etc), so it’s great to hear from other’s who have gone through some of the trials & tribulations I’m currently facing myself!

  • Thomasj3254

    I can add a couple of more reasons why Girls from Savoys is sucessful. They read the book on the success rate of this type of business and then threw it away. The other reason is Melissa is my very tenacious daughter. Congratulations Girls….from Savoy.

  • Thomasj3254

    I can add a couple of more reasons why Girls from Savoys is sucessful. They read the book on the success rate of this type of business and then threw it away. The other reason is Melissa is my very tenacious daughter. Congratulations Girls….from Savoy.

  • Thomasj3254

    I can add a couple of more reasons why Girls from Savoys is sucessful. They read the book on the success rate of this type of business and then threw it away. The other reason is Melissa is my very tenacious daughter. Congratulations Girls….from Savoy.

  • Lillijill

    This article was inspirational to continue thinking and planning my own business. Thanks for the extra push today. And, great dress :) Congrats to the both of you!

  • Lillijill

    This article was inspirational to continue thinking and planning my own business. Thanks for the extra push today. And, great dress :) Congrats to the both of you!

  • Lillijill

    This article was inspirational to continue thinking and planning my own business. Thanks for the extra push today. And, great dress :) Congrats to the both of you!

  • Krystalyon

    I am in the process of starting my own businesses. I am at the “We can’t accomplish this. Where do we begin?” place. I started breaking the project into smaller pieces and am trying not to look too far ahead. It is definitely overwhelming to step out on a limb of your own making. But once you have the idea, I believe it is impossible not to. Thanks for continuing to post entreprenuer articles they are to encouraging!!!

  • Krystalyon

    I am in the process of starting my own businesses. I am at the “We can’t accomplish this. Where do we begin?” place. I started breaking the project into smaller pieces and am trying not to look too far ahead. It is definitely overwhelming to step out on a limb of your own making. But once you have the idea, I believe it is impossible not to. Thanks for continuing to post entreprenuer articles they are to encouraging!!!

  • Pru

    I’m still in the phase of brainstorming and trying to figure out what business I could start… I have so many interests but not one particular stands out as a business opportunity right now. I’m sure it will come to me…

  • Pru

    I’m still in the phase of brainstorming and trying to figure out what business I could start… I have so many interests but not one particular stands out as a business opportunity right now. I’m sure it will come to me…

  • Janelle

    I am in the process of starting my own jewelry business with the help of Etsy.com. I hope to make mix-and-match pieces out of crafted bobby pins. This article proved invaluable for it’s inspiring mix of realism and ambition. Several months ago I left a stable job in the financial sector and have been reading, saving and brainstorming like it’s a full time job. Thanks, learnvest for keeping me going in the right direction!

  • Janelle

    I am in the process of starting my own jewelry business with the help of Etsy.com. I hope to make mix-and-match pieces out of crafted bobby pins. This article proved invaluable for it’s inspiring mix of realism and ambition. Several months ago I left a stable job in the financial sector and have been reading, saving and brainstorming like it’s a full time job. Thanks, learnvest for keeping me going in the right direction!

  • Ashley

    Thank you for this article! I have always wanted to start my own children’s party planning business. It’s great to see Mom’s who took the plunge and have worked out the successful business/mom balance. That’s what I’m most intimidated by.

  • Ashley

    Thank you for this article! I have always wanted to start my own children’s party planning business. It’s great to see Mom’s who took the plunge and have worked out the successful business/mom balance. That’s what I’m most intimidated by.

  • Ashley

    Thank you for this article! I have always wanted to start my own children’s party planning business. It’s great to see Mom’s who took the plunge and have worked out the successful business/mom balance. That’s what I’m most intimidated by.

  • Molly

    I completely agree with the Girls from Savoy. I started my own business a year ago, and never thought that it would take up as much time as it has. You get so much more emotionally invested when the company is our own, rather than when you’re working for someone else. Knowing that the success and mistakes are all yours is big. But, I am far happier this way!

  • Leah

    Bravo bravo! I am just starting to adapt my family’s business to the new generation. In the process of balancing my work and the ‘rest of’ my life, I realise that this is my life’s work, and I like this. Everything seems so much more real, and everything matters. There is a beautiful sort of transparent integrity in entrepreneurship. Bravo to all the self-starters out there (in business or any sort of project)!

  • Leah

    Bravo bravo! I am just starting to adapt my family’s business to the new generation. In the process of balancing my work and the ‘rest of’ my life, I realise that this is my life’s work, and I like this. Everything seems so much more real, and everything matters. There is a beautiful sort of transparent integrity in entrepreneurship. Bravo to all the self-starters out there (in business or any sort of project)!

  • “…..How emotionally invested you become because it’s your own.”
    Preach on sister! In six months my business is picking up dramatically (I have a pet services company). While there never seems to be enough hours in the day and there are many nights of staring at the ceiling wondering “should I hire X?… Do I want to exhibit at Y?….I needed to get marketing stuff to Z yesterday!” I was just talking about this – that when ever I’m running around feeling stressed and wondering why I decided to turn my life upside down – I look down at my dog fur covered Chucks and smile. I’m the boss, I wear the chucks and there is nothing that will stop me from living my dreams and calling the shots.

  • “…..How emotionally invested you become because it’s your own.”
    Preach on sister! In six months my business is picking up dramatically (I have a pet services company). While there never seems to be enough hours in the day and there are many nights of staring at the ceiling wondering “should I hire X?… Do I want to exhibit at Y?….I needed to get marketing stuff to Z yesterday!” I was just talking about this – that when ever I’m running around feeling stressed and wondering why I decided to turn my life upside down – I look down at my dog fur covered Chucks and smile. I’m the boss, I wear the chucks and there is nothing that will stop me from living my dreams and calling the shots.

  • “…..How emotionally invested you become because it’s your own.”
    Preach on sister! In six months my business is picking up dramatically (I have a pet services company). While there never seems to be enough hours in the day and there are many nights of staring at the ceiling wondering “should I hire X?… Do I want to exhibit at Y?….I needed to get marketing stuff to Z yesterday!” I was just talking about this – that when ever I’m running around feeling stressed and wondering why I decided to turn my life upside down – I look down at my dog fur covered Chucks and smile. I’m the boss, I wear the chucks and there is nothing that will stop me from living my dreams and calling the shots.

  • “…..How emotionally invested you become because it’s your own.”
    Preach on sister! In six months my business is picking up dramatically (I have a pet services company). While there never seems to be enough hours in the day and there are many nights of staring at the ceiling wondering “should I hire X?… Do I want to exhibit at Y?….I needed to get marketing stuff to Z yesterday!” I was just talking about this – that when ever I’m running around feeling stressed and wondering why I decided to turn my life upside down – I look down at my dog fur covered Chucks and smile. I’m the boss, I wear the chucks and there is nothing that will stop me from living my dreams and calling the shots.

  • “…..How emotionally invested you become because it’s your own.”
    Preach on sister! In six months my business is picking up dramatically (I have a pet services company). While there never seems to be enough hours in the day and there are many nights of staring at the ceiling wondering “should I hire X?… Do I want to exhibit at Y?….I needed to get marketing stuff to Z yesterday!” I was just talking about this – that when ever I’m running around feeling stressed and wondering why I decided to turn my life upside down – I look down at my dog fur covered Chucks and smile. I’m the boss, I wear the chucks and there is nothing that will stop me from living my dreams and calling the shots.

  • “…..How emotionally invested you become because it’s your own.”
    Preach on sister! In six months my business is picking up dramatically (I have a pet services company). While there never seems to be enough hours in the day and there are many nights of staring at the ceiling wondering “should I hire X?… Do I want to exhibit at Y?….I needed to get marketing stuff to Z yesterday!” I was just talking about this – that when ever I’m running around feeling stressed and wondering why I decided to turn my life upside down – I look down at my dog fur covered Chucks and smile. I’m the boss, I wear the chucks and there is nothing that will stop me from living my dreams and calling the shots.

  • “…..How emotionally invested you become because it’s your own.”
    Preach on sister! In six months my business is picking up dramatically (I have a pet services company). While there never seems to be enough hours in the day and there are many nights of staring at the ceiling wondering “should I hire X?… Do I want to exhibit at Y?….I needed to get marketing stuff to Z yesterday!” I was just talking about this – that when ever I’m running around feeling stressed and wondering why I decided to turn my life upside down – I look down at my dog fur covered Chucks and smile. I’m the boss, I wear the chucks and there is nothing that will stop me from living my dreams and calling the shots.

  • Nicole

    I can really relate to Mellisa and Pam’s being overwhelmed by the big picture… and they’re so right about breaking things down into small steps. About a year ago, I decided to start a small artist development company for local musicians. Unfortunately, I’m putting myself through business school so not only was working to pay the bills getting in the way, so was studying and hefty class schedules. I felt like I would never be able to get things up and running. Knowing school and work had to come first, I realized the only way I would see progress was to accomplish small goals when I could, even if it took me a little longer. So, I spent my lunch breaks and any time off from school formulating my business plan, drafting up promotional tools, working on my website, prospecting local musicians… everything in moderation, a little bit here, a little bit there. Over time, I got closer and closer to seeing the project come to fruition. Now I have a handful of artists and hopefully, as time goes on, I’ll tack on more to that roster. Definitely a stressful and emotionally taxing endeavor, but fulfilling nonetheless!

  • Nicole

    I can really relate to Mellisa and Pam’s being overwhelmed by the big picture… and they’re so right about breaking things down into small steps. About a year ago, I decided to start a small artist development company for local musicians. Unfortunately, I’m putting myself through business school so not only was working to pay the bills getting in the way, so was studying and hefty class schedules. I felt like I would never be able to get things up and running. Knowing school and work had to come first, I realized the only way I would see progress was to accomplish small goals when I could, even if it took me a little longer. So, I spent my lunch breaks and any time off from school formulating my business plan, drafting up promotional tools, working on my website, prospecting local musicians… everything in moderation, a little bit here, a little bit there. Over time, I got closer and closer to seeing the project come to fruition. Now I have a handful of artists and hopefully, as time goes on, I’ll tack on more to that roster. Definitely a stressful and emotionally taxing endeavor, but fulfilling nonetheless!

  • Tanyamc

    i have so thought about turning a few of my passions into a business, but the uncertainity really freaks me out. Being single, without a trust fund, if it were to fail, there would be no cushion anywhere. How did you two get over that and did you keep your fulltme job while starting your business.

  • Tanyamc

    i have so thought about turning a few of my passions into a business, but the uncertainity really freaks me out. Being single, without a trust fund, if it were to fail, there would be no cushion anywhere. How did you two get over that and did you keep your fulltme job while starting your business.

  • LAURETTA CYPHER

    Have tried 2x 2 start my non-profit 2 help others & offer a safe haven where people r able 2 relax, meditate, eat healthy foods & drink fresh juices, talk 2 others 4 support, etc. 3rd x is a charm. just looking 4 the right location now.

  • Evans Roberta01

    MOHUMBEY

    First of all I must say, I Love Your Clothes. 
    I am creating my own business as I go along.  I am a Nutritional/Spiritual Coach.  A Massage Therapist for twenty-seven years. Like a bar tender listening to all the issues and needs of my clients. I became a minister, respiratory therapist and a hair analysist.  All these things plus being an amateur dancer have helped me put together WHOLISTICWHEELSOFWELLNESS.COM. I create wellness plans for my clients. It is so rewarding and I love it. 

  • Rg100577

    While I would like to say I have this brillant plan all figured out for my own business, the reality is: I don’t. Honestly I am very interested in design and one day hope to create a business that somehow involves that. Like designing T-shirts, or the outside of cups, or anything you could think of: skateboards, CD covers, etc. Graphic Design would seem to be the logical choice…but anyway as of right now I design bookmarks.

  • Claudiadubuque

      After relocating the family, business as I knew it changed and I was out of a job and on my own.  My choices were to find another job or go out on my own, so I found a partner in my husband and we created our own commodities brokerage, which we are lucky enough to work from home. People think that working from home is code for working part time, or semi retired but au contraire.. we work around the world so our hours are + 40 each and varied.
      We are not interested in creating yet another behemoth of a company.  We are interested in serving investors and in our free time enjoying our family and friends, doing great things in our community, and sailing. 
      Yes it was a leap. Our risks were both financial and personal.  It is challenging everyday but these challenges are worth the freedom we gain to work in our industry, on our own.
      
      
     

  • Beth

    after relocating to Phoenix from Florida due to a new job offer my handsome husband accepted, I had the opportunity to choose what I wanted to do…and I wanted to work for myself so one day…in the future, I could be a mom who was able to be home with our kids…the ones we had yet to conceive at the time :)

    it’s been three and a half years, and one and “a half” babies later (due in July) and I am getting ready to hire my fifth employee! 
    the business I started is a house cleaning business, but with the passion and goals to bring something new to the table…to give my clients an experience that goes beyond a clean house. I love working for myself, and I love being home with the little man as much as I am! 

    I am almost to the point of strictly managing, with the occasional days of being “in the trenches” with the rest of the team :)

    we just launched our new website and are excited to see what else 2012 has in store for us!

    http://www.pamperedhomeAZ.com