Learn about Sarah Bibb, designer and owner of FOLLY, a local women’s clothing boutique! Sarah opened Folly in May of 2008. She designs her own line of clothing, and will proudly tell you about her “factory” located in the neighborhood. You will find her designs feminine, and very easy to wear. The SB line has grown over the years to include lingerie, and her vintage inspired slips are a must for everyone!
What is your company?
How did you come up with the idea?
I was making clothing in Los Angeles, and I really wanted to have a store so I could directly reach more people. Portland made perfect sense for my brand. It was the smartest move I could have made.
Where did you find your first customer?
I opened my doors in May of 2008, and miraculously, people just came. I thought they would, but it’s still sort of magic when something you dream about actual works!
How did you determine your target market?
I have never approached my business with a target market in mind. I make what I want to make, and it attracts who it attracts. I have a very broad customer base in terms of age and lifestyle, which I love.
What are you currently doing to reach them?
We do a lot of social media marketing. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, our blog, Pinterest, Tumblr, an email list, you name it. If it’s on the web, we do it!
We do very little print advertising. I think my best resource is giving a great experience to those who make it into the store so they will tell people about my store, etc. Word of mouth is still the absolute best advertising, and it feels great to have someone come in because they heard FOLLY was GREAT!
How much did you start up with?
I started with about 10k. It was serious bare bones. I am pretty good with a budget, so I really scrimped and scrambled for a while.
Did you bring on investors, get loans, or grow naturally?
I got a cash advance on a credit card. I know that sounds NUTS today! The banks have changed all the rules since 2008. At the time, with great credit, I was able to do it like that for a very low interest rate. It made the most sense. I knew I could build something great if I could just get started, so I took the risk!
What’s the best advice someone has given you?
Believe that you know best!
A great woman named Louise told me to “hang tough and not be afraid if there were days when no one comes in…” To stand tall and know what I know, and do what I do. She had her own business for over 50 years, and I took her words to heart. During those dark recession days, I would hear her over and over telling me to believe in what I was doing, no matter what.
What are your keys to staying productive?
I work 6 days a week in the store and have such a routine… sometimes I joke with myself, “It’s time to make the donuts” (remember that Dunkin Donuts ad?).
I love my work, and rarely struggle with being productive. If I have an off day or week, I kind of let it go and don’t beat myself up for playing online solitaire! Sometimes it helps me clear my head. If I am really struggling, I always refer to my original dream, and do a sort of “back to basics” thing. It helps put me back on track. I re-evaluate my business constantly and ask questions like, what is working? what is not working? why? why not?
When you started, what was one thing you wish you knew?
Well… I have no idea how to answer this question. I have no regrets, and have learned so much along the way. What do I wish I knew without having to learn the hard way? Folly is my spouse and my baby, and I am devoted to the success and growth of my business more than anything.
I guess I had no idea it would be so all consuming. But I am not sure I would have believed anyone if they had told me. Some things you have to learn the hard way.
What resources or books do you refer to regularly?
I love fashion, history, and fine art books. Reminding myself of the beauty that others have accomplished keeps me striving forward to bring more beauty to my world too.
Has your company experienced any close calls or lucky moments?
The recession of 2008-2009 was brutal. Absolutely brutal. I was a brand new business and there were days when no one would come into the shop. I cried A LOT! By the spring of 2009, things started looking up, and I began to dig my way out of debt. The following year when the broadway bridge closed for construction, I was so nervous that it would be another terrible blow for FOLLY. Luckily, after the initial adjustment in traffic, things seemed to stabilize.
I experience something like “lucky moments” all the time… magic encounters with just the right person at just the right time.
What does success mean to you?
haha I usually say that it means I can shop at Whole Foods without paying attention to the prices. It’s pretty great!
Where would you like to see your business 5 years from now?
Currently, I am really working to increase the wholesale aspect of my business. Trying to move the Sarah Bibb line forward and out of Portland. This is a whole new set of challenges. I would like to think in 5 years, I will be manufacturing even more and selling my clothing.
How can people find you online?