We talk about failure like it’s normal for entrepreneurs—which it is—but just because you fail doesn’t mean it’s not painful. And the bigger the failure, the harder it is to bounce back.
April Scott started a clothing business six years ago and shut it down because she could barely make a sale. But her desire to have something of her own never went away.
“I started wanting to [create a business] a couple of years ago, and I was scared to take that leap initially,” Scott says.
In December 2021, Scott launched her new business, The Villa, but she could barely keep her products stocked this time. Within two months of launch, she sold $12,000 of products and was in the top 5 percent of Shopify stores during her launch week.
So how did Scott find her confidence and overcome failure?
“I just decided that I would stop giving myself those excuses,” Scott says.
Scott’s excuses are real. She’s still juggling long days in her full-time day job in mining and putting in the hours for her side hustle in the evenings and weekends.
“It is really how bad you want it. And I want it really bad.”
The Villa is a luxury sleepwear brand for women that will make them feel feminine, fun, fierce, and comfortable. It’s a stark contrast from her day job as a mining superintendent, where Scott spends her time in the field managing people, overseeing million-dollar budgets, and making high-pressure decisions.
“I think it has prepared me for running my own business,” Scott says. “I mean the fundamentals of having a business—I’ve done that in my current job.”
But her successful career in mining never connected to her passion: fashion.
“Whether it’s pajamas or if it’s everyday clothes, it gets to be an expression of your personality.”
“And I just love that you can change your look and feel completely different the next day from what you did the day before and how the clothes you wear can change the overall comfort you also feel within yourself,” Scott says.
“Going through the course gave me the confidence to really give it a go and to understand a blueprint of what you actually need to do to start up a successful business and get you on to the right path,” Scott says.
The course instructor, Gretta van Riel, inspired Scott that she could be successful even though she wasn’t a fashion designer.
“It was just really this moment where I was sort of thinking about what actually makes me happy in life,” Scott says.
Weaving in the Frameworks
With the frameworks of Start and Scale, Scott began taking steps toward building a brand that expressed her love for fashion and the empowerment clothing can provide.
During the Covid-19 pandemic, people were stuck at home, prompting default casual fashion choices. So Scott started brainstorming how she could create a product that helped women feel good during times when they were feeling “meh.”
She narrowed her niche down to sleepwear, intending to make affordable products that could also enhance special moments for women, such as weddings, maternity photo shoots, and girls’ trips.
Scott started on Alibaba, sourcing from manufacturers to find the perfect products she could customize for her brand. Her final decision came after balancing factors like minimum order quantity, customer service, customization, and, of course, fabric quality.
“I would definitely suggest people looking at sourcing on Alibaba, [to] go out to the market and at least try three to four different manufacturers. But I was actually quite lucky that I found [my] manufacturer in the first slot that I ordered.”
Next, Scott focused on building her brand. She hired a freelance designer through Fiverr who helped create a design that reflected a luxury feel while being approachable.
For any fashion brand, photography is critical. But it was a significant learning curve for Scott.
“It’s probably the bit that made me the most nervous,” Scott says. Her photographer said not to be nervous and walked Scott through the steps of a successful product photo shoot. “It’s really great when you find other creatives in the industry that all sort of help each other out, and that’s been amazing.”
Now, the photo shoots are Scott’s favorite part of the job. She says that the most important factor in a successful photo shoot is sending the team a 30-minute increment schedule and a mood board ahead of time.
“I think that adds so much, and obviously, I send that out to all of the models as well,” Scott says. “So they get a good understanding of what you’re looking for in that shoot. And I think that really helps.”
The final step to launching The Villa was building a presence online via Instagram and TikTok. Even though The Villa’s products weren’t live, Scott started growing the brand’s digital presence four months before launch.
“It’s a huge market, and the aesthetic of your Instagram plays such a big part in getting people to your website,” Scott says.
With products, photography, and presence, Scott was ready for launch. And this time, making a sale wouldn’t be a problem.
A Brand of Confidence
Scott followed the launch formula from Start and Scale and built a prelaunch mailing list of 500 people by offering a 20 percent sign-up discount via Instagram. She would have been happy with 20 responses.
“I still remember, like before I pressed the active button on all the products, I was really nervous,” Scott says. “We launched, and there were minimal hiccups.”
The Villa was in the top 5 percent of Shopify stores that launched in the same week and, within two months, sold $12,000 of products. Scott says the best driver for revenue is user-generated content on Instagram and TikTok. Customers resonate with everyday people who utilize The Villa’s products for events.
“It’s actually been really exciting to be a part of people’s special days,” Scott says. “Seeing the stories that they share through the socials has been amazing, especially the wedding ones.”
Because of the demand for special events, Scott offers an after-pay option. That way, brides and party planners can lock in orders before their events.
“I would say a majority of our sales now actually come through after-pay,” Scott says.
Scott’s current challenge is keeping stock and balancing minimum order quantity with demand. In April and May 2022, Vanity Fair UK featured The Villa as a recommended product. The press drove more demand and validity for the brand.
Throughout her first year in business, Scott’s has expanded The Villa’s product offerings to robes, makeup cases, and slippers. But the growth of the business hasn’t stopped Scott’s instinct to learn new skills like working with influencers and TikTok ads.
“I think it was really just taking each step as it came,” Scott says.
“You’ve just gotta have the confidence to think, no matter what comes, that you can deal with it, you can find the solution.”
Scott’s advice for fellow founders is not to overthink it. She says it’s easy to get overwhelmed with every single little task, especially if you have a day job.
“But I think you just need to go for it and write yourself a checklist and just tick it off day by day and work through it,” Scott says. “And you’ll be amazed in a month’s time where you’re actually at with your list.”
The fear of failure never goes away for Scott, but she’s found confidence through creating a brand built on her passion. That assurance lives through Scott’s daily mission to make luxury sleepwear that will empower women. She hopes her products convey the same confidence she’s gained from her entrepreneurship journey.
You can access the same course that helped Scott launch The Villa. Click here or below to learn more.