What a great time for female entrepreneurs: We are delighted to share with you features and essays written by super women with inspiring careers and businesses that are reshaping our economy and the way we consume. They share their journey, the process it took them to get to where they are now and what they’ve learnt along the way. Welcome to Modern Mentors.
We’re two sisters who really, really like being together and working together. As the co-founders of EcoTools makeup brushes, the working together part is something we’ve done for two decades. We knew that if we were going to start something new we’d do it together.
An idea that changed everything
We had been getting more into our homes, doing renovations and interior design, and we started tossing around ideas in that space. But it was an email Stacey got from RefugeeOne that gave us the idea. The Chicago-based organization helps people fleeing war, terror, and persecution, settle into their new lives. The email was looking for work for graduates of its Sewing Studio, which gives refugee women a marketable skill and a potential way of earning income from home. That was the missing piece.
When we thought about starting a new business, we knew we didn’t just want it to be about two sisters slinging goods. We needed a mission that had meaning and purpose, and the mission for EVERAND had finally become clear: to support women who are driving change in their life. Setting Up Shop, we funded the business ourselves—almost 100% of it went into buying fabrics and paying for the seamstress to create items based off samples our mom had sewn for us.
What happens backstage
It took 6 months to source the fabrics, sew the products, take photos, build a website, design our logo and packaging, and set up an LLC. When we picked up our first samples, it was a powerful moment, and not just because we were excited to see our concepts come to life. We had brought with us a check for Don, the woman who had crafted them all, and the entire studio stopped working and clapped for her. It meant everything to us. We launched with a ‘preview party’ at Stacey’s house in November 2018 and were worried that no one would come. Our expectations for how much we would sell were low, and our plan was to launch online a week later. But the response we received was overwhelming. We sold almost all the inventory we had, which delayed our launch as we had to buy more textiles and quickly have more goods sewn.
Challenges and learning
The nuts and bolts of running a small business has been the easy part—it almost feels like it’s in our blood. Creating beautiful products feels like second nature to us, because that’s what we’ve always loved doing together. The tougher part has been having the patience to grow our audience. We’ve spent the past year learning how to introduce EVERAND to new people in a digital space that’s already filled with amazing influencers and brands with hefty marketing budgets. We’ve learned it’s not just enough to create beautiful content.
Following other people that we consider leaders in this area (Amber Interiors, Studio McGee, Danielle Oakey, Kate Marker) and seeing how unique and engaging their content is, helped guide us our content strategy. We’ve also learned that there’s something pretty awesome about starting a business in your 40s. We have a lot of amazing friends who are truly experts in their field. One of the biggest changes from going from part of a large company to starting our own business was doing everything ourselves—which was something that really appealed to us.
We’ve always believed that you need to do good to feel good, and so for us, being successful requires more than great products.Stacey Bingaman and Jenny Ball, Co-Founders of EVERAND
We wear so many hats each day, most of which we were unfamiliar with, from being the CEO to handling the shipping, accounting, and marketing departments. But we also have so many people to lean on and learn from. A friend’s mom who has been a collector of African textiles for more than 40 years was visiting and took the time to meet with Jenny, sharing stories, and personal photos of fabrics being woven on looms in villages during her travels. Our favorite local coffee shop, Backlot Coffee, had us create a series of beautiful seat cushions that are on display at the shop. Interior designer friends styled entire rooms with our pillows. Multiple friends gave input on our website and legal needs. We met new, like-minded creators at our first show. Friends and friends of friends purchased and came back to purchase our creations again and again.
The kindness and support seems endless and has given us such great direction in just a year. We can’t wait to see what the second year brings.
Stacey Bingaman and Jenny Ball, sisters and co-founders of EVERAND have worked together for two decades. Their newest venture, EVERAND, offers a brilliant range of pillows, decorative home accents, and accessories featuring beautiful artisan-made textiles from around the world. Partnering with RefugeeOne, they commission women who have recently resettled in Chicago to sew all of their products. Through a living wage and a flexible work environment EVERAND offers these women meaningful employment as they begin to rebuild their lives. The sisters have also co-founded EcoTools, 100% cruelty free makeup brushes, and love creating products that are beautiful, useful, and good for the environment.