“Empowering women through design” is core value Raven + Lily uses to guide their business. I was introduced to R+L and their Ops Director Cameron Crake via our mutual friend Katy Roth down in Austin, TX. Their mission resonated with me so asked a few questions about how technology and social media have helped them grow. Here are Cameron’s thoughts:
Q: Tell us the story behind Raven + Lily, and how you got involved?
Raven + Lily is a socially conscious lifestyle brand dedicated to empowering women through design. We work with groups of at-risk women around the world to make our collections of apparel, jewelry, and accessories. The women we work with come from various at-risk backgrounds- some are HIV+, some formerly trafficked, some from extreme poverty. Our company started several years ago when our founders, Kirsten Dickerson and Sophia Lin, noticed that non-profits were training these women in design skills. They were learning to sew and make jewelry, but they lacked market access and design input. So Raven + Lily was born.
I joined the team a couple months after R+L became a company as their first hire. I had just moved back to the US from living in Uganda working with an artisan group, and was thrilled to find a brand here in Austin that so perfectly aligned with the kind of work I wanted to continue doing.
Q: I’m sure lots of technology vendors pitch you about their new products. What’s the most effective way for a startup to sell into a business like yours? What information helps you make a purchase decision?
We are a startup ourselves, so cost of new technology is always a big factor for us. Being able to pay on a month to month basis is always helpful, since staying on budget is so important. Free trial periods are always the best case scenario, so we can make sure the technology is actually a good fit for our business and team. We want to make sure that the expense is going to be worth it before we invest. We like to actually experience how the new technology will save time or money or add value to our business before we put resources into it.
Q: How have you approached social media for R+L?
We want our followers to get a good look at what is happening behind the scenes at our company and feel connected to our brand. We like to give them previews of upcoming products, show them how we are wearing our pieces, and also give them an inside scoop on special deals. We run discounts and contests every few weeks through Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Instagram.
Q: If an entrepreneur’s product was going to solve one problem for you, what would it be?
There are a lot of great apps out there that our company utilizes for different purposes…. We have a system for taking wholesale orders at trade shows, a POS system for our new store, an e-commerce platform, and an inventory management system. The problem we keep encountering is that many of them don’t sync. I would love to see some kind of technology that could sync all our systems together. The cost of both time and money to learn and implement a new system can be so consuming. As our business grows and we have needs for new apps, it would be so helpful to have someone develop a way for all these new technologies to communicate to each other and work more effectively for the businesses.