In Conversation with Elle Wang of Emilia George
Describe your business in a few words?
Emilia George is redefining the traditional concept of maternity wear by providing mothers-to-be with professional silhouettes in sustainable eco-fabrics from niche producers around the globe.
What made you take the leap to start your own business?
When I recognized a huge gap in the market for professional workwear that was also sustainable for expecting mothers, I was inspired to create a line of professional mom-wear with thoughtful details using innovative, sustainable fabrics to empower women. Pregnancy is a beautiful moment when femininity is blossoming, but expectant (and postpartum) women informal work environments are often forced to sacrifice quality, comfort, and style.
What was your background prior to starting your own business?
I am currently still the Strategist for Partnerships, Business Development, and Stakeholder Management at the United Nations in New York City!
Did you always know you wanted to be an entrepreneur?
Absolutely, 100%, yes! My father is a self-made entrepreneur and his own journey has inspired me my whole life. It does take a certain personality to want to become an entrepreneur because it’s not champagne and strawberries for a very long time. I always knew I could take it as long as I’m building something that combines my passion and positive social impact.
Take us back to when you first launched your business, what was your marketing strategy to get the word out and did it go as planned?
I first tried following a typical digital marketing strategy, using ads on social media and email campaigns, but unfortunately it didn’t go as well as we wanted. When COVID hit, we completely stopped all digital ads and pivoted to organized webinars. I wanted to offer pregnant women relevant resources and insider knowledge from doulas, OB/GYNs and other parenting experts that could speak to the challenges pregnant women face, especially during a pandemic.
This really helped target my audience in a better and much more meaningful way. We’re now utilizing some print ads, but have been very selective and strategic in our methods and the outlets we choose. We’re also planning to start advertising on pregnancy apps soon.
We always learn the most from our mistakes, share a time with us that you made a mistake or had a challenging time in business and what you learned from it?
My biggest mistake was having no patience at the beginning, and jumping on exciting opportunities without doing my research. About a week after our launch, I decided to sponsor a fancy mom event and it was a disaster. I should have paused, attended the event as a guest, and looked into opportunities for the following year. Instead, I barely got half of what the organizers promised and the other vendors and I had to request for them to rectify the issue.
Now, I always tell myself and other entrepreneurs to pause and let your brand grow organically at the beginning so you can avoid wasting time and money.
What is the accomplishment you are the most proud of to date?
I’m most proud of my success in building successful wholesaler channels and relationships so quickly within the industry, because I started with absolutely no contacts in fashion. I began cold calling and messaging buyers on LinkedIn, hoping someone would be kind enough to point me in the right direction.
Because of my persistence I’m now in Neiman Marcus and scored a huge contract with the National Institute of Health to make masks for their employees, which is incredibly rewarding.
When hiring for your team, what is your go-to interview question? Please share any hiring tips you can share from your experience?
Our team just started expanding. My go-to interview question is, “What kind of work do you find boring?” We can’t like 100% of any job, so it’s like matchmaking for me to find that ideal candidate who is not going to consider what they will do boring. It’s OK if one needs to grow into a role, but it’s hard for one to grow passion out of boredom. That’s very important for me to build my dream team.
How has your business or industry been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic?
COVID-19 has created a lot of stress for business owners, myself included, but I remain so grateful for my health, and how we’ve been able to utilize our resources to produce sustainable face masks for consumers, several preschools, and the NIH!
What’s next for your business? What can we expect to see over the next few years?
My immediate goal is to get Emilia George into relevant stores, namely Nordstrom and Saks.
Over the next several years, I want to create a sense of community among moms and translate that into something physical after COVID, because I believe businesses should have some sort of social impact and provide services that go beyond just transactions. When it’s safe, I’d love to meet potential customers in person and organize mom-friendly and kid-friendly events to provide a wholesome and mutually beneficial community.
I also have plans to begin investing in more startups created by mompreneurs. There is incredible strength in someone who can multitask and go after their passion, and I want to do my best to help other moms jumpstart what they want to pursue! We will fund mompreneurs’ efforts via Mother.Funder by Emilia George®, and we will soon announce our very first investment in a startup that is built by a group of awesome moms and dads!
What is the biggest lesson you have learned in 2020?
Pivot and continue. Don’t be afraid to change your course temporarily. The path to success is always zig-zagging, and you never know which turn could be meaningful. You simply have to keep going so that you can arrive somewhere.
What do you know now that you wish you knew when you were first starting your business?
Let people do the job they are hired for. This was definitely a lesson I had to learn more than once because of the little Type A/Control Freak inside me. When I first opened Emilia George’s social media accounts, I wanted to work with this amazing mom/fashion blogger and hire her to manage our social media. I messed up by questioning her — asking her to explain why she follows and tags certain people, what her strategies were to do this or that, etc. before really seeing what she could do for Emilia George. It wasn’t long before we had to stop this collaboration — amicably thankfully! It was definitely a good lesson for me in handing over control of certain aspects of my business.
How have you managed to stay grounded this year?
I started small and stayed nimble from the beginning, and it’s helped us manage financial distress that came from lack of sales. We pivoted to making face masks when there was a shortage and donated to schools, daycares and other people in need. It’s helped us stay humble, determined, and made us even stronger.
Do you believe in work/life balance? What are some of your best tips?
Absolutely, and it’s why I’m successful. I’m not afraid to ask for help and delegate tasks. It’s important to know your limit and respect your own boundaries.
I know so many women, especially mompreneurs, who have such strong will and care for others, but sometimes they shoulder everything on their own. I’m always in awe of their strength, but I feel asking for help has been helping me to juggle everything — my day job, being Founder and CEO of a clothing startup, being a mom to a toddler and being pregnant.
I ask my collaborators to step in at events on my behalf when I can’t shake a headache. I ask my husband to help take care of our son when I feel completely exhausted. I ask my boss for some additional flexibility when I feel working during certain hours is the most productive for me. I ask my vendors for discounts, and I ask my customers to be more patient about fulfillment speed during COVID. I never try to overextend my limits. I consider it a very helpful approach in order for me to survive and thrive even during times when I felt nothing was going my way. I strongly recommend this to other female leaders.
What’s something our audience would be surprised to learn about you?
I actually auditioned for a reality show about “second chances” earlier this year, but production was halted due to the pandemic!
What are your top 3 tips to stay productive each day?
- Make a list.
- Stay laser-focused and don’t get distracted on a whim. Easier said than done, but if something comes up during your day and it’s not urgent, pause and reassess today’s priorities.
- Take frequent, short breaks. Recognize when you’re feeling burnt out and take a breath.
What does being an Entreprenista mean to you?
I have a responsibility to inspire other women who are considering an entrepreneurial journey.