In Conversation with Iwona Ordon of TØY
Describe your business in a few words?
TØY baby clothes are the softest, most comfortable, and functional baby clothes and accessories made without sacrificing our planet. I’ve merged minimalist Nordic design with the highest quality material to create baby clothes that parents simply can’t help but love!
What made you take the leap to start your own business?
While I had a great time working at Google and other companies before starting TØY, after a few years I realized that I wanted my life to be more purposeful and meaningful and that I wanted to start something on my own. With the support of my husband, I decided to quit my job, move to the US, and take a few months to figure out what my next step would be. I thought I had to get an MBA before venturing into the real business world, but before I knew it I saw a gap in the market too obvious to pass on and that’s how I knew I just had to start working on it right away.
What was your background prior to starting your own business?
I worked with all kinds of digital marketing before starting TØY. From programmatic buying & branding at Google to e-commerce and performance marketing at various marketing agencies.
Did you always know you wanted to be an entrepreneur?
Yes! Seeing my mom run her own business when I was growing up definitely inspired me to go down that path myself, but since I had seen how tough it can be I wanted to have other work experience under my belt before starting something on my own.
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?
Ha, that’s a good one! Even with my previous marketing experience, I underestimated the launch. I had initially planned to just sell everything through my own website, do some branding ads, send a few free products to influencers, run a bunch of good performance ads and business would bloom overnight. As you can imagine, it did not go as planned.
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?
Building on the previous answer, I recall overestimating how excited everyone would be to purchase high-quality organic baby clothing from a brand with a funky Norwegian name they can’t pronounce (btw, it sounds like “TAY”) and a brand new website without any reviews. The fact that in order to help parents find the perfect fit for their baby, our clothes are sized by height instead of months also brought a lot of confusion as well. So, I learned that even though I had created awesome clothing that my feedback groups loved, I had to be much better at presenting the quality and functionalities of our products to those who didn’t see the products in person or didn’t get a chance to read our long explanations of why TØY is better for them, their babies, and our planet in order to convince people to try our products.
What is the accomplishment you are the most proud of to date?
Starting TØY and coming this far despite all the different challenges along the way!
When hiring for your team, what is your go-to interview question? Please share any hiring tips you can share from your experience?
I don’t have a go-to interview question, but what’s always important to me is figuring out the person’s overall attitude towards the role and their field of expertise. Skills can always be taught, but you can’t enforce the passion on people and if they don’t enjoy what they’re doing more often than not you’ll both be wasting your valuable time.
How has your business or industry been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic?
COVID has been both good and bad for us. Good in the sense that more people started shopping almost exclusively online, so just like the rest of the e-commerce industry, we’ve seen our revenue continue to grow despite the pandemic. On the other hand, COVID-19 has also been more challenging because of production delays, travel restrictions, and other issues we weren’t prepared for.
What’s next for your business? What can we expect to see over the next few years?
We are working on so many exciting things! While we want to make sure that we always stay true to our mission, you can definitely expect to see more variety in our offering in the future, both in terms of our meaningful (not seasonal) collections, essential products, and extended sizing. We get plenty of requests for adult clothing made with our buttery-soft 100% organic cotton, so who knows if and when that collection might drop!
What is the biggest lesson you have learned in 2020?
Stay open-minded. With all the different challenges 2020 has brought on all of us, I’ve learned that some new problems often can’t be solved with old solutions, so you really have to get out of your comfort zone, see them from a new perspective and be more creative with your workarounds.
What do you know now that you wish you knew when you were first starting your business?
So many different things! I feel like I learn something new every day and if only I started TØY with all of this information, my life as an entrepreneur would have been so much easier. For example, I wish someone had told me to create separate email addresses for the different business purposes from the very beginning to be more organized.
How have you managed to stay grounded this year?
Regularly talking to my friends and family all around the world helps me put even the most challenging situation into perspective. Also taking the time to work out a few times a week to clear my head and do something just for my own pleasure helps me stay grounded.
Do you believe in work/life balance? What are some of your best tips?
After growing up in Norway I’d say that work/life balance is now part of my DNA, but as a founder even I struggle now to just take my mind off of work. I always feel like there is more I could be doing with my time, so taking any break feels counterproductive. Unfortunately, at this time, I don’t have any great tips other than just forcing yourself to take a break when you feel like you don’t have time for it – that’s probably the time when you actually really need it!
What’s something our audience would be surprised to learn about you?
One thing that almost always surprises people I meet through TØY is that I have designed their favorite baby clothes without having a baby myself! Most people think that you need to have a baby in order to create products that make parents’ lives easier or to launch a brand that is better for babies. Instead, there is a ton of research, interviews, surveys, and product feedback rounds that have gone into the process (and continue to be the case). Plus, I’m lucky enough to have my two goddaughters and my nephew as an added inspiration.
What are your top 3 tips to stay productive each day?
Start the day with a clear head, at least no email checking before I’ve written down my priorities for the day
Write down 2-3 of your most important tasks for the day, before getting distracted by all the new emails, calls and problems to solve
Drink enough water – I find that being dehydrated decreases my productivity
What does being an Entreprenista mean to you?
I struggle to pronounce this term, but I really like what I think it means. To me, it feels like the fashionista of the business world, in the coolest possible way! Being a big believer in gender-equality I don’t think it’s a gender-specific term. To me, an Entreprenista is someone who is not afraid of taking risks to create something they believe in. Someone who leads the way with their business and creates their own trends that others can follow. Also, someone who – just like a fashionista – looks like they are born perfect, but deep down you know that it’s just the visible tip of the iceberg and there is so much work and dedication that went into creating that perfection.