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Lemons into Lemonade: Emily Kelly

What can I say about Emily Kelly? As it turns out, quite a lot! Emily started as one of the very first clients that I took on as I built my design agency, krstn ndrsn. Emily Kelly is the Owner & Co-Founder of Mentionables. Mentionables a lingerie brand making undergarments less intimidating to shop for and wear!

When Emily started her company, she wanted to make lingerie that was approachable and empowering. With promises of classy styles, model-free photos, pretty prices, and inclusive sizing for all shapes and sizes. We started designing her own collections beginning in April 2019 and never looked back!

Emily is not your average founder or a business owner. Two summers ago, she collaborated with an Olympian, Gold Silver Medalist, and DWTS Champion Shawn Johnson East. Let me tell you. Emily and her team put together an incredible collaboration and product launch in record time while pregnant with her second beautiful baby!

Working with her has truly inspired me! When I look at everything Emily has accomplished, I remember why I started working with startups. To help early-stage entrepreneurs create their own opportunities and share their vision with the world. I am so happy to introduce you to my client and friend, Emily Kelly!

founder of Mentionables lingerie Emily Kelly

Were you always interested in starting your own company? What inspired you to create your own business?

“I've had a lot of jobs throughout my life, and I was always taught to work hard. I loved finding new ways to make money. I always thought it would be fun to start something of my own, but to be honest, I never thought it would be lingerie! I originally had plans to start my own candy business but then starting Mentionable’s fell into place, and it seemed like the right time, so I put that on pause and pursued this one.”

Sometimes we don’t find our dreams, sometimes they find us.

It’s not unusual for me to hear that Emily didn’t intend to start a lingerie business. A lot of entrepreneurs start somewhere else before they end up running a successful business. Sometimes it happens that your first venture is a bit like an experiment of figuring out what works and what doesn’t. I’m sad the world never had the chance to try Emily’s tasty candy shop. Still, I imagine many women were quite happy that she started a totally different brand altogether.

What was the beginning of starting Mentionables like? Did you have a hard time getting started, or did the pieces fall into place?

“I did everything myself and also had a full-time job. I shipped orders out early, dropped them off at the post office before work, and handled customer service, marketing, inventory, etc.”

I’d be lying if I said I was surprised by this. SO many of us start with our business as a side hustle before finding the courage to take the leap and go all in. Even I started my business this way, and now I have a team of seven working alongside me. So, don’t worry, it may seem hard at first, but the price of success is hard work and dedication.

“Getting started was slower than expected. I remember that I was super excited on launch day, but there were barely any orders at all. Then after that, for a while, there were many days where it was super slow. Staying consistent and not giving up has helped the brand slowly grow to what it is now.”

Consistency is what it’s all about! If you keep working toward your dream with an unbreakable desire to see it through, you can make magical things happen.

Was it scary when you first went out on your own? How did you get started?

“The only scary part was that I started a lingerie business and didn't know what friends or family would think of me for it! In the beginning, I invested very little into the business, just enough to get it going and get some inventory to test it out. When the feedback was positive, I continued purchasing inventory and putting that money back into the business.”

Oh, I know how scary that can be, especially with something as provocative as lingerie. It can be hard to talk about what you’re doing when it’s somewhat risque to the general public.

Truthfully, though, in ANY line of business, people may not have nice things to say or think negatively about your ideas. Part of it is usually some form of jealousy. People will try to tell you not to try because they didn’t try to go after their dream, or they did, but it floundered.

Don’t let that or anything else stop you. There will always be people around you who have your back no matter what. There will always be people who don’t like your product or your message. However, those people aren’t your customers (or your friends), so don’t let them decide your fate.

inclusive lingerie sizing for women

What is the biggest failure you've experienced in your business? What did you learn from it?

“I don't like to call anything a failure, just a learning lesson, and I feel like I have those every day. When something doesn't go right, I use it as knowledge in my decision-making going forward.”

Emily’s response reminds me of a favorite quote from Nelson Mandela, reignited in recent years by Marie Forleo… “I never lose, I either win, or I learn.”

What's the best advice you've ever been given, life or business?

“The best advice I've been given was from my dad. He told me to "hire people that are smarter than me," and I've always tried to follow that. When looking for people to join our team, I look for people who have strengths I don't have and who I can learn from. “

Preach! I believe in hiring people that can help you grow. Hiring experts that can teach you what you don’t already know. Let them do what they do best so that YOU can focus on what you do best.

What's the most recent lesson your business has taught you?

“Trust your gut! I feel like I learn this lesson over and over again, but 99% of the time, your intuition is right.”

Emily and I always have this thought before and after a successful new collection launch. It always feels like we didn’t buy enough of the styles we knew would sell out first, but we’ve been getting SO much better about that lately. It’s also quite lovely to see how fast our styles sell out -- it gives us the confidence we’re continuing to move forward in the right direction!

What advice would you give to aspiring female entrepreneurs?

“I'm not sure I am one to give advice yet because I'm still figuring things out myself. If I had to share one thing, it would be to look at another woman's success as inspiration for your own and that everything is negotiable!”

I feel this on a spiritual level. I’m always looking at other women's success and constantly being inspired by it daily. Some people look at others and think, ‘Why them and not me?’ but I like to look at them and think, ‘Why not me?’ and it always puts things in perspective.

model-free shopping at Mentionables

What's your favorite part about being a business owner? What's the most challenging part?

“I love being able to sell a product that actually changes women's lives by making them feel more confident in their own skin. Hearing and seeing those messages every day is my favorite. The hardest part is that the work never ends, so it's hard to separate work and family life.”

Work-life balance is always a struggle for new entrepreneurs. There’s so much to do and never enough time to do it all. So once your business is turning some good revenue, and you’ve got the room to hire, I suggest hiring a Virtual Assistant, VA, for short. That way, you can delegate some of the less primary tasks you need to be done.

What is something you have accomplished that you are most proud of?

“Before meeting Kristen ( psst guys she’s talking about me), I found a factory to work with in China, so I took a trip there to visit the facilities and make sure it was a good fit. I met with them not knowing anything about the manufacturing process (and not knowing a word of Chinese) and built a relationship that has grown and helped our business.”

This is a fantastic feat for an entrepreneur! Especially considering that we still use this factory, Emily hit a home run on one of the most challenging decisions an apparel brand can make. This momentous task can fill the average entrepreneur with dread. Many worry if they make the wrong decision, all can be lost...and it can be. Kudos to Emily for doing her due diligence and finding a supplier that can create products at the volume she needs and a quality product that works for her brand.

What are the most important skills or traits you've found helpful in entrepreneurship? Are there any traits you've discovered that make it harder to succeed if you don't keep them in check?

“People often say that kindness is a weakness, but I've found that it's been a strength for me and helped me succeed and better connect with people in business.”

Kindness is essential in my book, too! So many people downplay the effect of a good relationship, but being kind and thoughtful can prove to be a strength when you yield it well. Being kind to your business partners allows them to see you as the HUMAN you are. It creates a connection that will enable work to feel more like a united team effort.

What's your favorite 'game-changer’ tool that you can share with everyone? (ie. hellobonsai, airtable, later, etc.).

“Canva!! It's great for all of us who don't have graphic design experience.”

As I’ve said once before, CANVA is life over here at KRSTN NDRSN. If you don’t have it already, you need to go sign up -- it’s a huge timesaver!

Where can we find you if we'd like to learn more about you?

“In my bed with my laptop working or watching Dateline. Jk! The best way to reach me is probably through Mentionables Instagram @mentionables_ “

Go check out Mentionables the next chance you get -- our latest fall collection is selling like fire!!

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