Work In Progress Podcast

WIPp 019 SAM & LANCE: from Advertising and Fashion to Conscious Shopping

April 23, 2020 Dana & Angela
Work In Progress Podcast
WIPp 019 SAM & LANCE: from Advertising and Fashion to Conscious Shopping
Show Notes Transcript



Alora and Veronica switched from advertisement and fashion to entrepreneurship. Their mission is to support ethically made goods and empower women creators through their curated online marketplace. We learned why they switched from their previous careers and how they make their partnership work across the globe between Canada and Singapore!

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Alora:   0:00
"I want to do some good in the world and wanted to do something that I really cared about and that I was really passionate about."

Dana:   0:52
Hi, everybody. Welcome back to the working focused podcast today. We're talking to the founders of Sam and Lance, and we have Alora here with us today; we were actually introduced by a common friend, Amanda, and you've already heard her story a few episodes ago. We're really excited to have Alora here today to tell us about their career change and they have previously had many different careers. Alora and Veronica are sisters and we're really excited to have them tell us about their career changes, but also tell us about how how these two sisters work together. And we really excited for you to learn more about her business as well. So without further adieu, this is Alora, and I think before we get into all the questions on the career changes, I was wondering if Alora would like to introduce herself a little bit to us and maybe tell us about what she did in the past and will take you from there.

Alora:   1:50
Hi. Thanks so much for having me. I'm really happy to be here. Unfortunately, my sister Veronica couldn't be on the call today as she is in Singapore and 13 hours ahead. So she is sleeping right now. So previously I was a producer, I worked mainly in advertising and then made a transition about a year ago into full time entrepreneur and start SAM & LANCE, which is an online marketplace of curated goods that are all created by women and are all sustainable or eco friendly.

Dana:   2:23
Yes! So I was actually on your website and browsed a little bit. And I really, really appreciate the fact that you can sort through that the products and then you can sort through them by values. That was really new to me, I've never really seen that on a website before. Maybe it's more common with websites that sell eco friendly products. But there's, like, categories where you could sort through, like, zero waste which is interesting and really popular these days, and, obviously the eco friendly and I just really think that it's a really cool concept.  So you said that before starting starting this company with your sister about a year ago, you were in production in an advertisement. Is that correct?

Alora:   3:17
Yeah. So my undergraduate degree was at University of Wells, which is about an hour away from Toronto. I minored in Fine Arts and Marketing, and I didn't really know what I wanted to do after that. So when I graduated, I found myself working for a digital design and production company. And that's where I learned basically how to be a digital producer and work on different websites and apps or everything within the digital space for advertising, ad agencies or for a brand. I left that career or that job in about around 2014 and I decided to travel the world. And so I got rid of my apartment, all my belongings, quit my job and traveled around the world for about nine months. So that was one of my passions is traveling and there, it kind of plays into whole story of SAM & LANCE is when you when you travel, one of my favorite things is to go to market places and local shops and artisans and finding all these beautiful products from around the world. And that's when my favorite things to support local communities and a lot of artists are actually women. So that's kind of how I started SAM & LANCE. But when I returned from traveling the world, I got right back into production. I started working with a colleague of mine and, and we freelanced lanced with different ad agencies as well as brands and started doing it integrated production, which involved commercials, same page visual that was doing before radio, all different types of advertising. And I did that till about 2018.

Dana:   5:04
And when you say "production in digital", could you give some more examples?

Alora:   5:09
Yeah. So a producer is someone who basically manages the entire project that we would take everything from concept to completion, we would put together the right team. So let's say ah client would come to us and they would want to create a a website and then also an app and then also an experience that would all go together for the one type of promotional idea that they had. Then we would put together this team that would make sense to create and run all about and see all that through while maintaining, and everything that goes along with it. So whether that was like I said, a website and app, banners, and everything in between.

Dana:   5:52
Well, I see. That's very useful skill set to have, I would say, in this day and age.

Alora:   6:00
Yeah, I think that was what was your everything about that job. But what it taught me was just kind of how to figure anything out. But a lot of times a client would come to us with crazy ideas, whether they said we want to hang a car from the top of the tower or we want to get custom bike made in Africa, we would basically have to figure out how to get that done without knowing or ever doing this process. That really taught me how to create something no matter what it was, whether I had done it before or not.

Dana:   6:33
At what point did the idea of starting SAM & LANCE really come to you? And why was that?

Alora:   6:40
In 2016 in between working as a producer, I decided to do my MBA, so I did an accelerated MBA at the pair School of Business, which is in Paris, France. It was only a year long program. So I went over and did that for a year while also working as a producer remotely in Toronto, they were long, long days. I knew that I wanted to do something something bigger, something on my own and become an entrepreneur. I didn't really have the idea while I was doing my Master's. But then, about a year later, in 2017 I kind of was playing around with the idea. I wrote a business plan while on vacation because I guess that's what everyone spends their time on. And then I forgot about it for about a year and then came back to it around 2019 last year.

Dana:   7:30
So how many years were you in the previous industry before you started?

Alora:   7:36
Six years, I'd say.

Dana:   7:38
Did you have a burning desire to switch? Or was it just kind of like a slow progression?

Alora:   7:47
Yeah. So some or a lot of people have on their side hustle and they have something that they're passionate about, that they're working on while they have a full time job, and then it starts growing and it becomes really successful, and then they make the transition from their full time job to this this passionate they have on this side project that is now becoming fruitful. I kind of did it be opposite way, which was a little bit of a struggle. So I decided to leave my full time job in September of 2018. I had just gotten out of a toxic relationship and I wanted to do something bigger. I was kind of done with making websites for advertisers or for companies that were just concerned about making money. I want to do some good in the world and wanted to do something that I really cared about and that I was really passionate about. So it was a really tough decision to leave and leave a really amazing job with great benefits, great pay to kind of just do some soul searching and figure out what's next. So from 2018 for about six months, I was just doing some soul searching, looking around and figuring out what would be a good fit. I did go to a lot of job interviews, kind of in the same space that I was in before, but nothing appealed to me. I didn't want to do a 9 to 5. I didn't want to be working for a company that didn't have the ethos and the values that were really important to me. And then I came across that business plan that I had made in 2017 and I was like, well, this is this is amazing and this is something that I'm really passionate about. So then I just started to dive in and I started SAM & LANCE and launched officially in April 2019 after about six months of just kind of figuring out what my next step would be. 

:   9:35

Dana:   9:37
Wow. Did your sister join you back then?

Alora:   9:44
So at the time she was actually living and working in Singapore. She's been there for about three years now. Her and her husband lived there and she was working for a subscription clothing company. So it was just a monthly basis and she did all the operations and managed the warehouse for that company. She was working there when I officially started SAM & LANCE. And then she quit that company and joined SAM & LANCE full time. I think it was June or July 2019 around the end of the summer there. So she joined just a few months later and have been working with me ever since.

Dana:   10:25
Wow. I have to say, you guys were so brave. Both of you, that you quit your job and then you just go in and she joined suit pretty soon after you started as well. So that's really amazing.

Alora:   10:39
Yeah. Yeah. So it's been definitely a journey, but one nonetheless.

Dana:   10:46
I see. Yeah, and it hasn't even - it's been a couple of months. Ah, you started in April and so it's It's February right now. So it's almost a year.

Angela:   11:02
So in 2019 when you found your 2017 business one, you read it again and you're like, Oh, my gosh, this is actually what I want to do. Like exactly you know what I want to spend my time on? Did you read that again and then feel like, oh, certain things he would have changed? Or did you actually just start with the version you wrote in 2017?

Alora:   11:25
So we started with that version, and I just kind of went full steam ahead. I I actually pulled it up maybe a week ago, and I hadn't looked at it in, like, a few years. Um, and when I was reading through, it was funny, looking at some pages and being like, Oh, wow, we're right on track and this is exactly what I had envisioned when I wrote this so many years ago. And there's other pages like, No, that didn't happen at all, that's not where we would go or that's not the right direction. So we kind of organically pivoted and didn't try to stick too rigidly to the framework that I had dreamed up of in 2017 we started or when we started the company with zero funding. So all of this was bootstrapped by myself as well as Veronica. So sometimes there's things that we wanted to do but have been had written but just weren't feasible in terms of finances. So we pivoted and made shift where it made sense and I think that we did make the right decisions going forward, but yeah, there was definitely some pages that were not what happened. And some pages were right on track with with where we are today.

Angela:   12:34
And when you first started, you decided, okay, this is what I'm going to do full time now, did you immediately think that you would make somebody else to step in and help as a co-founder? Or you thought maybe you could just do it for a little bit and see how it goes first?

Alora:   12:49
I think that at the time I thought that it would grow a lot quicker than it did. So I think that when I first started out, I was like like, oh yeah, I'm gonna have a staff of 10 in about four months thinking that that's how quickly things would grow. But that wasn't the case. Without a lot of funding or a lot of advertising dollars behind the company, we grew a lot slower and organically. So that's why it was helpful having Veronica come join, but now it's just basically the two of us and a few other contractors as needed whenever we bring someone else on, but the two of us are wearing all the hats.

Angela:   13:38
I'm so curious about how that first conversation you had with her, how that all went down, I could imagine for us, I think it's a lot easier of a conversation to have. And I have an idea that we can do in our free time  without any sort of financial risk of any kind 'cause we're just doing this on side, but for you, both of you guys, it sounded like you went very quickly from working for somebody else to working for yourself. And if so, how did that all went down? Like the first conversation when you had with Veronica? Or maybe she was already aware of what you were doing and was already interested in joining you.

Alora:   14:13
Yeah, I think that both the us it was more or about a feeling and for sanity. For myself. I wanted to get out of advertising and do something with a purpose and something that I really cared about on. That was the motivation behind my switch. And then for Veronica, she wasn't enjoying on her work at the company either. On that she was she working crazy long hours and wasn't getting kind of the advancement that she wanted or the control and kind of change that she wanted to be made in the company and they weren't interested in hearing her suggestions. So for her to come and and join this and have control and have autonomy and really make changes and see changes happen so quickly because we're able to - we're so lean that we're able to implement changes or try new things whenever we want. So for her, I think that was was really a feeling as well was that she could really make a difference. I think an impact on work on something that she cared about, that she was able to see different changes made that she believed in where she wasn't really getting that before.

Dana:   15:30
So in terms of the I guess the first couple of months, the day today, when you when you started SAM & LANCE, would you say is kind of similar to what you were doing before with the ad agency, or was it totally different? And he had to figure most things out on your own.

Alora:   15:47
I think it's a little bit of both. I took a lot of the structure and the way of doing things and kind of the production process, if you will, on where you do the research and kind of figure out the next step in your plan. And I did that for every single aspect, whether it was the creation of  my store or during our finances for anything like that, kind of going through that step by step ideation process was what I used, but everything else was a complete learning curve. I was figuring out how to create an online store all myself,  how to grow an instagram following, how to do all of these on my own without hiring someone to do it. So it was a lot of learning and growth at the beginning, for sure, and now I think that we have a little bit more of a process in place and more defined roles and have a routine. It was a lot of figuring out trying, trial and error and a lot of Googling.

Dana:   16:56
Google's our best friend. It's true. So you mentioned something that kind of caught my attention. You said, um, ideation process. What was that? Does not refer to something specific or you're just in general talking about just how you did how you did things.

Alora:   17:17
Yes, it's more than just figuring out all the possibilities. Mapping out, alternative solutions. Solution one, solution two, solution three. What is the cost. What the timeline is. All of those things. And we would kind of do that for each new step of our company.

Dana:   17:41
And how did you decide on sourcing? Where did you source your products from?

Alora:   17:47
Yeah. So we do a bunch of different sourcing methods, one is online. We'll look on Instagram, we'll look on Facebook, we'll get recommendations from our community, we'll have people reach out to us online.... So a lot of our connections are made that way. We source some suppliers while we're traveling like I mentioned before. And when we're going to local markets or you know, different communities around the world and then another one is local fares, whether it's a one of a kind show, whether it's a pop up shop that has locals know artisans. We go to those and really connect with people on and find out about new products. That's one of our biggest things and that we want to bring these amazing products that we find, and these amazing women artisans and bring their products to the forefront. And let other people and other consumers know about them. You know, they might not be able to have the roof beach, just one person by they bring them all together. We can help elevate that get their their product out to a wider variety of people.

Angela:   18:58
I'm curious when you first launched, what was the MVP version of your website and your set of products? What were some of the products that were on the website when you first launched?

Alora:   19:08
Yeah, so actually, when I first was creating the site and sourcing suppliers, I had the idea that I wanted to launch everything by collection, I wanted to first have the question of clothing and then in a few months we would launch footwear, and have all of that could make it exciting. But when we were first starting, it was hard to get the vendors on board because we weren't well known, we were kind of a risk for them because, who is this SAM & LANCE company? So when we launched, we launched with a variety of products. Basically, whatever suppliers that we aligned with, that were agreeing to come on our platform, were the ones that we launched with because, we're like okay we're just gonna have products for people to shop at, who weren't able to launch in the collection series that we had first hoped to lunch with. So we had a pretty good selection at the beginning. We started with our swimmer supplier, Passion Fruit Beachwear, they're one of our suppliers that we had on our site. We had a few other small clothing suppliers, we had some accessories. Darzah, which is one of our suppliers that started with us from the beginning, they have hand embroidered goods that are only by Palestinian women refugees. So they have some beautiful shoes and accessories and purses on. So they were one of our other first suppliers. So we had some really great stories and some really great suppliers beginning, but it was much more wide ranging than we had thought, which was fine. And then I think we launched with maybe five or six suppliers. 

Dana:   20:51
How long did it take for you to start the company and then launch your first set of products? How long was that?

Alora:   21:00
That was around two months. I think some, like about February to April was when I really focused on the creation of our online store. Of course, they are for suppliers, and I mean, we've been tweaking everything, obviously, ever since. So our first version of our site looked similar to what it is now. But of course, it's gone through a lot more iterations, and refining and streamlining, even what our brand presence is. So they looked a lot different from what it is now. But it took around two months to get it up and running.

Dana:   21:37
I see. I really like how you're sticking with your ethos. Why is this important?

Alora:   21:46
Another reason that we started SAM & LANCE was because this is something that I wanted but couldn't find: I wanted to shop for ethical products, I wanted to support women-run businesses, but there wasn't one place that I could go and purchase everything, like an ethical Amazon, so this is another reason why I created it because it's something that I wanted. I mean, you can go and search and you could find local small shops and artisans and handmade goods. But I found that I was going from one site to another, from fair to fair to different marketplace in order to purchase all these products. And it's really time consuming so I wanted to create the space that other people could find a solution to what I found I was lacking. I find that especially right now, it's so important to support female founded businesses, to share their stories, especially ones that have such a great cause behind them. One of our values, like you mentioned the beginning, we have six different values that we've categorized everything, one of our values is purpose driven. Our brand really gives back and really have a mission behind them. So for example, we have one brand, Kind Karma, which is located in Toronto, they create beautiful jewelry pieces, but they're all handmade by homeless or transitioning youth in the city and really helping them get a secondary or an income if they don't even have one. So things like that where that really gives back to the community, is so important to us and we love supporting brands like this and giving them a wider platform to sell their goods zone.

Dana:   23:25
Is it easy to find suppliers?

Alora:   23:28
It's actually quite an extensive process. I'd say right now, maybe like 30% or more of both mind and Veronica's time is spent in supplier sourcing because we really want to make sure that we we find the right suppliers and that when people come to SAM & LANCE, they know that this brand or whatever product is on there has been ethically made that people are getting a fair wage, that we've checked out the product and can verify that it's good quality. So all of that does take quite a while. In terms of finding them, like I mentioned before, we do online, we go to different fairs and different marketplaces. But yet it's really the vetting process and the uploading process that takes a long time. Contacting people, really telling them about our story and creating those relationship before you bring them on board and and sell their products on our platform.

Angela:   24:27
When did you come up with the particular set of criteria saying that in order for SAM & LANCE to work with you, you have to meet XYZ certain things?

Alora:   24:38
We have our baseline criteria, which, of course, is you know that it needs to be ethically made., people need to be paid a fair wage, but that's also why we created these six values. We didn't wanna have criteria that said that everything on our platform needs to be fair trade because to get a fair trade cation doesn't make sense for a lot of companies, especially a lot of small companies on some products are zero waste because they're made of glass and could be recycled, but other ones aren't necessarily zero waste, but they're still eco friendly, and they're still make sustainably. So that's why we created these six different values that you can find on our website and find more prescription on them. But that's how we categorize each and every one of our products. So as you go for a site, each product page will have the icon of the values that it corresponds with, and every single one on our site has at least 1 to 2 of our values that it relates to. So as you mentioned, you can search, and if you think that eco friendly is your value and that's the one that you hold near and dear to your heart, you can search through the whole eco friendly collection and only purchase product that are eco friendly or zero waste or purpose driven. So we want to make sure that everyone has different values that they the hold dear to their heart, and we want all of these important values that are applicable to each of our products, but make it easier for people to be conscious consumers and shot for the values that they are finding what's important to them.

Angela:   26:15
Did you feel like any one of these particular value really stood out? or was particularly easy to find? For example, women made products over other like maybe sustainable products or anything like that?

Alora:   26:29
Yeah. I mean, everything on our site needs to be created by women or by brand that is 50% plus women-owned. So that's one of our biggest differentiators from other platforms that sell sustainable goods. So this is something that we kind of a struggle with or finding suppliers because sometimes we'll find amazing supplier, it is doing great things, but it's founded by a man, and that's great and amazing that they're doing such good work, but we're holding on true to to our value prop, and that we only source products that are made by women. So we've had to turn down quite a few suppliers because we want to stick to supporting women and have our platform sell only women-made products or women owned brands.

Angela:   27:19
And are there any tips that you can give people that also want to work with smaller businesses? Because it sounds like it really is a very time consuming and intensive process because you have to come up with a proper way to vet all of your suppliers and then you know what I'm thinking about, for example, if you want to start a store and work with a local business, how do I know that? You know, the supplier will continue to supply the product that I'm now putting on my website. What if I get my first order and then they called me and said, actually, we no longer produce that how do you like the mitigated these risks? And what are some tips?

Alora:   27:52
Yeah, So, actually, when they didn't mention is we actually run SAM & LANCE as a drop shipping model so we don't hold any stock. The reason for this is to keep our costs lower, of course. And then also because you want to save on shipping. So obviously, with online businesses, the shipping is an environmental concern, and we want to try to negate our environmental impact as much as possible. So with drop shipping the parts only ships once instead of twice. So instead of it being shipped to us and then we ship it to our customer, the parts are being shipped directly from the supplier to the customer. And with every order that place on SAM & LANCE, we plant a tree. So we have an organization that we work it with called and  we do that to even more off set be the cost of shipping. We really need to make sure that everything goes to the customer in a right way. So on top of the vetting process, we asked them to relook at all of their shipping materials, make sure that everything is shipped using eco friendly. We make recommendations for eco friendly shipping suppliers that we work with and help them improve their their shipping boxes or paper or tape that they used to make sure that they are eco friendly. That's one thing that we do, but we also include a branded insert that explains what SAM & LANCE does and that  gets sent to our customers as well. We also asked them to set aside whatever inventory they feel comfortable setting aside or us, whether that is 5 items, whether that's 20; that really varies from supplier to supplier and we're happy to accommodate and work with whatever that is and that's kind of how we track inventory to make sure that they're not gonna be sold out of an item when a customer purchases on SAM & LANCE. So that's how we kind of keep track of everything.  

Alora:   29:51
And then your question about having to find and vet suppliers and for someone that wants to work with small businesses: I think it's really just making a conversation, making those connections, taking the 15 minutes to chat with him on the phone, having a list of questions, everything that you find important to you, to really go through it with that, whether it's some eco friendly packaging, whether it's from how they create their products, what are the materials that they used, where did they source everything from. Just talking to them and finding out what their story is. And if it aligns with but what you want to carry forward.

Angela:   30:25
And it sounds like in addition to having those conversations, maybe you needed some kind of legal guidance so that when you actually formally have that relationship with your supplier, things are still kind of like following and going the same way as you talked about in your conversation. So did you need any legal consultation and had to spend some time and hire lawyer, as you were working with you are all of the suppliers?

Alora:   30:53
We didn't hire a lawyer, but we do have a quite extensive on boarding form that we send to each supplier prior to them joining SAM & LANCE and become a part of our community. So this on boarding form basically has a whole bunch of questions that they have to click and agree to and go through and it basically are online contract bad verifies that they're going to do everything that we discussed and make sure that everything's ethical. It has all of our return policies, who is responsible for shipping costs, everything like that that we kind of discussed. We have this all in our on boarding form and they have a copy of it, that's kind of our legal agreement every supplier needs to complete before they are officially a part of our community.

Angela:   31:47
Wow. And did this part like, did you already think about this part and have it all outlined when you were writing your business plan or this was kind of like somewhat of a learning process, where you feel like you need to have this much structure and kind of be this prepared when you're working with suppliers?

Alora:   32:05
Yeah, This is definitely something that came up along the way. Once we started onboarding suppliers, we needed a simple way to kind of gather all the information instead of sending emails that people would just kind of happened on to. It was really easy to have this online form. So certain sections of the forum, for example, has, like, upload a high res image of the company logo or of the founder. In that way, we could have everything there, and it's easier for us and it's user for them on. So, yeah, they came in part of by need versus on something that we had thought of previously in the distance plan.

Angela:   32:38
So I want to go back to when you first decided to start this whole journey. Did you tell anyone, like in your family, and did you tell any of your friends?

Alora:   32:48
Yeah, that's a great question. When I started it, when I was really building the website, I told my family, I told Veronica and then my parents - my family is really close. Just the four of us. And actually the company I named it after my and Veronica's grandmothers. So Sam was my dad's mom and she used to sign all of her cards and all of her embroideries SAM because it was her initials Shirley Ann May. And then Lance was my mom mom's name, and it was a nickname given to her from her brother when he came back from the war because he was a Lance Corporal. So he kind of gave his name to her as a nickname. So I named it after my two grandmothers and told my family about it. But I kept it within my family. I didn't tell any of my friends or any other people close to me for about six months. I felt like I had some serious imposter syndrome going on. I was like, OK, I will tell everybody once my instagram page has 500 more followers, or I'll tell them once I make these tweaks on the home page and I just felt that it was never good enough. I'm a perfectionist that was just like, oh, knowing you have 10 more suppliers before I can tell anybody because then it'll look like we're successful. So I really didn't want to tell my friends, which was a bit of a shame and something that I have rectified now. But it really took a long time for me to tell people and be proud of what we're doing. Yeah, that's a great question, because I kept to myself for a long time.

Dana:   34:31
At what point did you start telling people?

Alora:   34:36
I think last November. So it was about six months from our launch when I started telling friends. And they were like what? I didn't know that you were doing this for this long, and they were just why didn't you tell us earlier? I really was not being confident in myself and that I was doing something that was great.  

Dana:   34:57
I see. What made you feel comfortable telling people? Was it because you already makes in sales or or something like that?

Alora:   35:13
Yeah. I mean, we made some sales throughout the last six months of the company. But it was kind of getting over my own fear of people saying that that's not good or that you shouldn't be doing that. It was just getting over my own hang up more. The company, I think, was a success from when it started because we went and made the leap and created it and whether it became wildly successful in the first year and made millions millions of dollar versus not even five sales. It didn't matter, it was the fact that we we did it and it was something that I should have been proud of. But instead I was waiting for that next milestone to tell people or that next hurdles to overcome in order to to brag about something. So I think that I was looking at it from the wrong metric instead of just telling people and then having them be champions for the brand and having them tell their friends and tell and create that community of work like that word of mouth community, which something that  obviously is so valuable. But I held off on talking about it until three months ago.

Dana:   36:27
That's amazing. I feel like, I don't know about you, Angela, but I definitely feel very nervous about telling people because we just started with not long ago. And I don't feel very confident telling people yet. So I've told some people, but not a lot, not everybody. And so I understand what you're talking about when you said that you had all these considerations. I think with time I will change and like and I think the longer I've been in it, the more I feel like yeah I should start telling people but I think it's all just I don't know. I think it's gonna happen soon. But I understand that the pain that you were going through

Alora:   37:16
I think some people struggle with with that. And it's something that I think, especially as women we we find it hard to to brag about ourselves or talk about our achievements or accomplishment. You know, when when we should be saying the great thing that you did or talk about something that your friend is doing that's amazing. We should really just be champion for each other and as well as ourselves, which is a struggle. Bu it's important.  

Angela:   37:40
That's absolutely true. I think you guys actually really should be super proud of yourself, says I'm very impressed. The fact that you guys got no funding to begin with and sounds like up until now you still are completely just growing this on your own without any funding from anyone. That's amazing. And I think that's what scares a lot of people when they think about starting something on their own. They feel like, Oh, maybe I need, like, a bunch of money where I need to find funding and then I need to talk to the investors and then all of those things that sounds super hard and scary so they don't even start. But it's amazing that you're able to do this all on your own right now, and I mean, I'm just curious, did you have to kind of dip into your own savings a little bit to get things started? Or you are able to get started and just have all of those contractors, suppliers, lineup without a whole bunch of your own funding going into it?

Alora:   38:41
Yeah, that's a great question. I think that at the start I put in a couple thousands of my own money because when I first started, there's even simple things like paying for our domain or paying for Shopify account things like that that we just need to pay for, Veronica has put in a bit of her own money as well. Um, but that's about it. I think that's the biggest thing. Like you said, people are scared to start and to not have funding or to try to find investors or anything like that. However, there's a lot of things that you can do on your own. But then there's also a lot of things that there's paid version. So, for example, okay, hundreds or thousands of dollars for someone to create and manage your social media accounts. But you can also do it yourself same with creating a website, you can pay again hundreds of thousands of dollars to have someone do that for you and design and develop. That would be great, and I'm sure it will look beautiful. But then you could also do it yourself. Also, a lot of other platforms you can use, there's where you can exchange services. So let's say you're really great at doing X, and then you can get a graphic designer to help you while you help them with something else, but there's a lot of other ways around it. I'm asking friends and family for favors and just trying to do as much as you can with little money as you can and is all well. And there are gonna be times where you need to spend money. So, for example, we spend money on our bookkeeper and are confident because that's something that we can't really do ourselves. And we want to know that it's done properly. But we do all of our social media ourselves. We do our entire website ourselves, all of that stuff. We make sure that we keep on and how quickly we can spend our money on other things that are important or that would grow the business 

Angela:   40:45
So when it comes to working with your sister, how do you guys divide and conquer or you don't? Do you guys try to be involved in everything or you try different things?

Alora:   40:56
So we divide and conquer and we have our separate set of responsibilities that play into our strength. But we do help each other out every way possible or everywhere that's needed. We used Slack for communications, so we have a slack channel that we also have other people on. We have interns and sometimes we have other contractors that we put everything into a slack channel. In that way, we can kind of throw everything there that we need help with questions on or advice on, but because we have 13 hour time difference, it's really hard to you get answers within the moment, so we just put everything there. And then it's easy to see what she's looking on that she might need some help with or I'm I need input on something that she can then answer me when she gets around to it in her working day, and then every Tuesday morning are my morning her night, we have a status callI think it's nine o'clock or 8:30 in the morning for me and 9:30 at night for her and then that is when we just talk face to face just go over everything and our goals for the next week or month and set everything out that way.

Angela:   42:08
I like that. It sounds like that even though you guys work for yourselves and work from home but there's a lot of structure and definitely check in points that serve to make sure that you guys work towards the same goal. That's wonderful. Great tip for us. 

Alora:   42:25
Yeah, I really want to put those things in the calendar just to make sure that you have that touch base because it's like you mentioned, it is hard working for yourself. You could go down the rabbit hole and I know I do sometimes. I just tweak like 10 things on the home page and I'll send it to Veronica and she's like okay, that's great, but that's not what we're focused on right now.

Angela:   42:47
And how did you find your first clients? Or how did you make that first sale?

Alora:   42:52
Yeah, that's a great question. I'm trying to remember. I think it was I think it wasthrough Instagram. So I think  we have put in place a lot of our products on Instagram. So I believe our sale was either through that or it could have been my mom supporting us.

Angela:   43:11
Okay. And then from there, did you do anything like paid advertising or it was mostly word of mouth or friends and family?

Alora:   43:23
Yeah. So friends and family and word of mouth of course, we did do quite a bit of instagram ads and Facebook ads last year. They didn't give the return that we're hoping for. So this year we're gonna be focusing a lot more on partnerships with sustainable or women focused influencers, and we get out of the community more into a lot more talk or partnership and focus on that instead of just being online so more about the talking and not hiding behind a screen and telling people about your story and something like I mentioned before that I started with and really over something that this year and getting out into the community more instead of just online ads or instagram.

Dana:   44:09
Okay, when did you start? So, um, I'm assuming you sound more like me where I'm not very comfortable with showing my face to the public and just things like that. And at what point did just start to feel more comfortable doing that?

Alora:   44:25
Yeah, I think I was around November/December of 20 19 the last year, and I don't know what the shift was. I think it was more working on myself in and personal developments and having the confidence to talk about what I'm doing

Alora:   44:44
and talk about the great women and the great brands, what we're supporting and it's something to be proud of. And it's something to to really have a sense of pride and tell people the stories of the products and the purpose behind our company. But I think I was just really having the confidence to do that and start small, like, 30 with really close friends and then went to networking events and talked to those people. So just kind of starting where you're comfortable and then and then moving to scarier conversations.

Angela:   45:28
What is it like working with your sister?

Alora:   45:32
It's really fantastic. I think that we are so close because of age were 18 months apart. I think even though we're such close friends, we are very different and we have very different personalities. And I think that one of our biggest strength is that she is much better a lot of things that I am not in, and she really kind of rounds out everything that I'm lacking. So I think that it's a really great partnership in that way and also that we're not afraid to to tell each other the truth. So I think that that's really powerful because you could have a business partnership where you tiptoeing around each other and then you know that's not great for the the overall health of the company. So I think that being able to be really honest with each other and really trust each other makes our business partnership so strong.

Angela:   46:44
So what are some things that you primarily take over and do? And then what are some things that you kind of just pass it on to your sister because she's better at them?

Alora:   46:53
Because of my background in fine arts, I'm much more visual and she's more copy heavy, for example, for Instagram or any of our social content, I'll create all the visual and she's the one who will write the copy. In terms of supplier, onboarding and reaching out to suppliers, she will do all of the upload onto the website and make sure that everything is perfect and all the copy and  the story is told there, and I'll do all of the outreach and talk to everybody and make those relationships and the once we have all the information I'll  pass along to her. And then she'll do the full upload and posting of the the products and the story. So even though it's kind of the same vein of the company and the company task, we even subdivide those in terms of where our strengths are and what we're good at and how we can help the other person and their strengths.

Angela:   47:53
And what are some resource is that helped you the most when you were initially trying to start the company and to learn about a bunch of different things? And what are some resources are continue to help you stay current and be updated?

Alora:   48:09
Following different accounts or companies or people that are within the space is something that has really helped us. So whether it's someone on Instagram with a sustainable lifestyle and they might post about things that are important to them. And then that really helped us with our customer, almost like customer market research. So that way we can find out about what people are looking for and what's important to them. So you know where the trends are and where everything's moving, because I think everything is just swiftly so quickly. So just really keeping our fingers on the pulse and knowing what's happening is something that I think has been really, really helpful to us. Also, subscribing to different newsletters from other sources that gives you tips on sustainable businesses or women empowerment. All of those are things that has really helped with our business and give us a strong foundation of where where we're at. And in terms of tools, because we're all online and we're all digital, I think that having little things to help each other, as I mentioned slack, because she's in Singapore and I'm in Toronto and then anyone else that we bring on. It's really easy to have everything there. We have a shared to do list, that way we can assign different tasks to each other. We use or Instagram scheduling, again that's an easy way for me to pull in all the imagery and for her to just add the copy and then we can schedule it and forget about it. Just finding different online tools that really help your productivity, in that way you can work smart and not hard and you can set yourself up for success.

Angela:   50:08
Wonderful. I like that you mentioned imposter syndrome and also you talk about women empowerment. What are some things that you can share with women that are thinking about starting something of their own, but they don't really know how or they don't know where to start and they don't have the confidence?

Alora:   50:26
I think it depends on the city, but I know especially in Toronto, and I'm sure worldwide, there are so many amazing women focused events on Google, Facebook,, or Eventbrite. There are so many and, a lot of times, free events that support women, and if you go on those communities, you can tell them your story and tell them I know what you're looking to get into what you're looking to start, and  guaranteed you'll meet people that are interested in the same thing and you can grow that community and get some advice and insight and and make those face-to-face connections which are so important 

Angela:   51:08
Wonderful. I love that tip.

Dana:   51:10
What do you think your next career could be like if you were to change again? First of all, do you think you would ever do something different than this? And if you see yourself potentially doing something different from this or expanding to different areas of the online space, what do you think that could look like?

Alora:   51:32
I think that I definitely love being an entrepreneur, having the flexibility, having the creative control over making things and creating a company the way that I I want to. So I think that if I were to ever switched away from this and I'll still be doing something online, something founded by me and something within sustainability and women supported. So I definitely be in the same vein, but I'm not sure what it would look like, but I absolutely love what I'm doing and I love what Veronica and I have built. So Yeah, just growing this, then, taking over the world

Dana:   52:13
Our last one is: where can people find you guys online?

Alora:   52:21
Our online platform is and our social is at sam.and.lance and that's for both Instagram and Facebook.  

Dana:   52:37
Thank you so much! It was wonderful talking to you.