Hi there! We are Emily Quinn and Molly Frankle, the owners and makers behind Smiling Eyes Sisters. After years of working as a professional chef, Emily decided that aprons needed an upgrade. Together we decided to collaborate on developing a comfortable and adjustable (but still chic!) apron. Since the launch of the apron, we have expanded to include cloth napkins, kitchen towels, and kids aprons. We both live in Los Angeles and hope to continue growing our business to offer cute, personalized, sustainable, and high quality kitchen essentials.
Was starting a business always in your plans or did a specific event or opportunity inspire its fruition?
Neither of us ever thought we would open a business! But at the beginning of the pandemic we both decided to grow already existing hobbies, and a small business was born. Once we came up with a concept and name, the rest fell into place rather quickly.
Emily started an Etsy shop featuring caramels and cookies, but never took it very far. In May of this year we decided to collaborate and expand into aprons and kitchen wears.
How did you determine your target audience/customer?
We created a product and hoped the right audience would find us. Luckily the use for our product is rather wide, so as a result so is our audience. Although our customers skew mostly female, our aprons are made to be unisex. And they can be used for any number of projects: cooking, gardening, crafting, etc.
Did you have any challenges in the early stages of your business?
We decided to launch our apron during the pandemic - which had its ups and downs! The benefit was that we both had plenty of free time to brainstorm and develop our product until it was exactly what we wanted.
Production was easy as we both had the skill set in place to create our original product, the apron. Packaging is minimal, really only what we are mailing it in which we get from USPS. There is definitely competition on our sales platform, but our product is unique in multiple ways: the straps being adjustable with buttons and the personalized embroidery option.
What marketing tactic has been the most profitable for you revenue wise?
We decided to use an established platform to set-up our shop, which of course came with their own marketing tactics and an established audience in place, which has been great. We’ve also been promoting ourselves on instagram.
Our aprons have a simple but unique design - we really haven’t seen another apron quite like it! We think the unique style, along with the personalized hand embroidery, has made us stand out in the crowd. We also try to be active on social media as well, interacting with other brands when we can!
How do you create appealing imagery or videos to showcase your products?
We are photography and technology amateurs, so all of our photos are taken on a smartphone. The motto, practice makes perfect, has definitely been true for us. We rely heavily on portrait mode, and are consistently impressed by how professional photos taken on a smartphone can look!
Do you feel your first year of business was planned well, initially, or did you learn and make adjustments based on your experience?
We felt very prepared when we launched our shop. I think we are both people who generally-speaking do a lot of research before making any important decision, and we certainly did that while planning our business. Even as we’ve added items to our shop, we are always thoroughly researching the market before we list an item. We want to make sure our product is unique and that our prices are competitive. We have not adjusted our marketing strategy, but we have made changes to our shop offerings based on customer feedback and inquiries. We started with a one size fits most apron, and have expanded to offer 3 sizes now.
What has been your biggest accomplishment so far?
For us, having a repeat customer was a big accomplishment since we’ve only been in business a few months. We actually had a customer come back 3 times to buy aprons!
How has having the right fabric supplier made the difference in your business?
Having the right fabric supplier has allowed us to develop and produce our products much more quickly that we anticipated! The variety of colors in our chosen fabric would not be found in a brick and mortar store, and we love having so many options. Especially with storefronts shut down, we were so relieved to have an easy and predictable way to procure our supplies. And we love the affordability and perks offered by the Fabric Business Program.
What is the most unexpected way fabric.com has helped your business operate or blossom?
For us, consistency is key. We want to make sure all our aprons and kitchen products match what we’ve posted online. Shopping in person makes this challenging because we can’t always find the exact same fabric we previously purchased! With fabric.com, we’re able to have peace of mind in ordering and know that we’ll get the exact fabric we’re expecting, and that we can order again.
Which fabrics do you recommend to owners in your field and why?
We’ve been working exclusively with Robert Kaufman’s Washer Linen and we are in love! It is a linen-rayon blend. We truly have not found anything else that compares. It has the great structure and durability of linen and the rayon adds a lovely drape.