If Kyle Leighton’s success with Tapestry Girls tells us anything – and let’s be clear, when you’re bringing in seven figures in revenue within three years of launch, and have a cult-like social media following, you’re a success – it’s that to change an industry, you don’t need to be an expert. You just need to have an idea.
Tapestry Girls is the only United States-based tapestry company, and the company is quickly changing the way college girls decorate their dorm rooms and apartments.
Erich Rüthers: What inspired you to start Tapestry Girls?
Kyle Leighton: I’m a businessman and an investor and I’m always looking for new challenges and new opportunities. I used to teach business part-time at a college, and I knew tapestries were particularly popular among students. I noticed that there wasn’t a high-profile tapestry company that was based in the United States.
There were some small online stores here and there that offered them, and companies like Urban Outfitters or Poshmark offered a few, but no one was really dominating the tapestry market. It was almost as if tapestries were viewed as an accessory, not a prime business offering.
At the time, I didn’t know anything about décor, or tapestries or any of that. I just knew that there was a low amount of competition, and I also knew that the target market was mostly “girls”. So, I took the word “tapestry” and paired it with “girls”, and thus you have “Tapestry Girls”. The decision to name it that has probably been one of the best decisions I’ve ever made for the company. The name alone has done wonders for our SEO and organic search. Once the brand became popular, I trademarked it.
Erich Rüthers: What has been the biggest challenge and, on the flip side, the biggest reward of starting Tapestry Girls?
Kyle Leighton: Multichannel buying experiences. Not every customer wants to buy from our website. For example, maybe they might feel more comfortable buying from a site like Amazon with its A-Z Guarantee, or Walmart with its 30 Day Money Back Guarantee. These are companies that have a huge market share in the retail and eCommerce world. This year, we were able to expand from selling our products on our own website, to also being able to sell our products online on Amazon, Walmart, and Etsy. Forming those partnerships and selling on those platforms have their own technology challenges, and as each online channel is different, we have to adapt, which keeps things interesting.
As for the reward, it’s so cool to get online and see what customers have done with the products. There are literally thousands, if not hundreds of thousands of Tapestry Girls customer images on Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest. I love seeing that. I love seeing how the customers are enjoying the products and the styling ideas that they come up with. It’s very inspiring to me.
Erich Rüthers: How do you go about keeping up with new technology and trends?
We embrace them. As a business owner, it’s important to stay on top of changes in technology as they occur. One example of that is the introduction of social media. For young adults and college students, social media is a huge part of their lives. We are always looking for opportunities on social media to get in front of our audience, and that also entails the use of influencer marketing which is today’s “word of mouth”. Through our own Influencer Program that we developed, we are able to partner with accounts that cater to our demographic and endorse our products. This gives potential customers a chance to see our products in action before they buy them. Even if they don’t become one of our customers right then, it allows them to become aware of who we are and hopefully visit our website.
Erich Rüthers: What are your responsibilities as the founder of Tapestry Girls?
Kyle Leighton: In the beginning, I did a lot of everything. Now, I am definitely big picture focused. Growth, strategic planning, and investor relations are two key focuses this year, especially as I am looking to raise a round of financing. I am also actively involved in consulting with designers and strategists on brand development, lending myself to the execution of marketing strategies and campaigns as well as designing the Tapestry Girls private label.
Erich Rüthers: What advice do you have for other people who want to start a company?
Kyle Leighton: The best advice that I could give to someone running their own business is to give customers what they want. Some business owners get caught up in their own ideas, or want to offer services or products that they think are important. That doesn’t always work. What’s most important is that you are providing a service or a product that there is actually demand for. A product or service that makes sense, not just something you like. As long as you’re doing that, success will always follow.
Erich Rüthers: What is one thing that you wish you had known when you were starting out your career?
Kyle Leighton: I wish I would have realized how important the internet was when I first started out in my professional career. I mean before I was involved in any eCommerce. It’s had such a huge impact on modern times. There are so many layers to the internet and how search and algorithms work, and how web results work, and page rankings and so forth. It’s extremely, extremely important to embrace and grow with.
Erich Rüthers: What is the best advice you’ve ever received?
Kyle Leighton: I can’t think of a piece of advice that I have received from anyone person, but I am a big fan of the book, “Think and Grow Rich” by Napoleon Hill. There’s a chapter that talks about the point of great success occurring near the point of near failure. I think the lesson, or the advice rather, is to continue onward despite challenges, despite opposition, and even despite what is perceived to be a failure. If what you’re doing isn’t working, then re-plan, re-organize, and start again.
Erich Rüthers: What is your business advice for aspiring entrepreneurs?
Kyle Leighton: My business advice for other aspiring entrepreneurs is to start. Start now and don’t wait another day. It’s really that simple.