It’s All About the Lens with Dionne Ellison: Founder of Vuliwear
Hello Dionne! Please share a brief introduction about yourself and your business:
My name is Dionne Ellison, and I am the Founder/Creator of Vuliwear. Vuliwear is an exclusive line of luxury eyewear inspired by nature that exposes hidden beauty unseen with the naked eye; specifically the awesome colors and patterns of insect eyes. Each custom design is transformed into colorful mirror coatings displayed on quality, polarized, UVA/UVB protective lenses. It’s all about the LENS! I am a mother and new grandmother as well as a self-published author of three suspense-thrillers. I love fashion and like to think outside the box. Success for me is when the fruits of your labor are produced for you and others to enjoy. I would like people to know that I’m trying to exercise all of the God-given talents I’ve been blessed with in this lifetime.
So Dionne, what excites you about being an Entreprenista League member?
I’m excited to network, learn and connect with other women who are in business so we can exchange ideas, resources and customers.
Some business ideas stay in the “dream” stage forever… what made you take the leap to turn your dream business into a reality?
I got laid off from my job in 2009, and didn’t like the way it felt and wanted to be in control of my own destiny. So I took some time to reflect on what I enjoyed, and discovered I had a talent for writing and self-published 3 suspense thrillers. Once that door was opened, I tapped into my creativity, educated myself on becoming an entrepreneur and the rest is history.
Did you have a background in activewear prior to starting your own business?? Please tell us what your background was prior to starting your own business.
I come from a family of fashionable and talented women. My mother was a seamstress who could sew without a pattern and whip up an outfit in 30 minutes. My sister is a fashion designer and her specialty is evening wear. We hosted several fashion shows and I modeled. I also have 12+ years of IT background and have been an Executive Assistant in the insurance industry for 20 years.
Did you always know you wanted to be an entrepreneur?
Not always, but both of my parents were entrepreneurs, so it was inevitable. My father owned two ice cream parlors and a commercial cleaning service. My mother was a seamstress with a book of clients, so I grew up watching them both run their businesses successfully.
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 launched Vuliwear on June 27, 2017, which is also National Sunglasses Day. Back then social media and brand ambassadors were not what they are today of course. I sent out an email blast and posted on Facebook and Instagram. Honestly, I didn’t have a real marketing strategy, which in retrospect was a big mistake. Word of mouth with friends and family was good initially, but not sustainable I quickly learned.
Entreprenistas face daily challenges. What is the biggest challenge you have encountered along the way and what did you learn from it?
Finding our target audience and raising brand awareness in a saturated (eyewear) market especially if your product is unique and considered a luxury item. Learned that “luxury” is about a feeling. How does that luxury item make you feel? (confident, accomplished, part of an elite crowd, etc) Your advertising and marketing must convey those feelings in order for potential customers to gain confidence and loyalty in your brand. Marketing and advertising consistently is expensive and so that in itself is a big challenge.
What is the accomplishment you are the most proud of to date?
Every day is an accomplishment. I’m proud that I have created a unique, quality product. I’m also proud of myself that I have not given up and am continuing the entrepreneur journey despite the obstacles and challenges.
Do you believe in work/life balance? What are some of your best tips?
Yes, there must be a work/life balance or you will burn out quickly. It’s okay to get some rest and do nothing business related if you’re feeling drained. You need to have some fun because its a journey with peaks and valleys. Consistency and patience are key.
Learning from tenured entreprenistas is a key to success! What’s a piece of advice you can share that you wish you’d known when you first started your Entreprenista journey?
I wish I had known how vital B2B for sustainability in fashion retail, specifically the luxury eyewear industry because it is so saturated and visibility is very important.
Dionne you have lots to celebrate! What have you achieved recently that you’d like to celebrate with our community?
I went to Dubai to introduce Vuliwear to the market, and we are know in-store at Boutique 17 in the Yas Mall in Abu Dhabi.
Last but not least, what’s next for your business? What can we expect to see over the next few years?
Once establish some key partnerships with wholesalers, we an expand our product line and add some actetate (plastic) frames to the collection. Additionally, I’d like to be able to hire a sales rep and content manager.