This week, I'm excited to share my interview with Germaine Caprio, the Founder / CEO and Designer of MAJAMAS EARTH - an Eco-friendly, fair fashion brand made in the USA. Majamas Earth uses sustainable fabrics and low-impact production while giving back to those in need.
A woman after my own heart! One of the positives of 2020 was that it gave people more time to think about making their lives more sustainable. I loved the opportunity to learn more about her and her company, and I think you'll be inspired by her mission, dedication, and commitment to cultivating confidence.
Were you always interested in starting your own company? What inspired you to create your own business?
“Not really. I fell into it. I was an outside sales representative for a major watch line and had my first baby when I came up with the idea to design/invent the first tank top for new moms to wear. I had to go back to work four weeks after delivering her, and I wasn't sleeping because I was so uncomfortable wearing a bra to bed at night. So I designed a nursing tank that I could wear to sleep and under my business suits. I showed it to Nordstrom, and they bought it on the spot. That threw me into the garment business.”
K: Oh my gosh, that is so amazing. I bet a lot of working mothers can relate to your inspiration. It reminds me a lot of the Sara Blakely story. I love hearing about a department store buying something right then and there.
What was the beginning like when you started Majamas Earth? Did you have a hard time getting started, or did the pieces fall into place?
For Germaine Caprio, it was like driving blind!
“I had no experience in the garment world and did not major in design in college. My grandfather was a clothing designer, and I think I inherited his talent for design and making patterns, but running my own business was new. I had to learn the industry as I went along.”
K: Trust me; nothing happens unless you make it happen. PERIOD!
Getting Started: I worked hard to produce and make Nordstrom's orders and to get new customers. This was way before the internet and all while working my full-time job and raising my two little girls, who were only 2 and 3 when we launched.”
K: I bet that was so much work. The internet has made it a lot easier for entrepreneurs to succeed with all the tools it offers. Becoming a success story while doing everything yourself and raising two little girls sounds next-level challenging.
Was it scary when you first went out on your own? How did you get started?
“Of course! Change is always "scary," but it's a part of life. My husband quit his job, and we started full-time in Majamas Earth together, so yeah, it was nerve-wracking realizing we were responsible for all the expenses like buying fabric, finding and paying contractors, and traveling to the apparel markets across the country to acquire new customers. Those bills and all the bills we had just owning a house and having children were all on us. It was up to me to generate 100% of our income, and that was terrifying.”
Getting Started: “It wasn't overnight. I wore my tank for two years before I brought it to market, and I worked on my business plan for that amount of time too. I had samples made and got input from buyers and friends before I quit my full-time job. Still, no matter how prepared you think you may be, not knowing an industry before jumping into it always brings surprises, and even if you do know the industry, you can't predict the future and know what to expect all the time.”
What is the biggest failure you've experienced in your business? What did you learn from it?
“We were selling into three very big retailers in 2015, and our sell-thru with them was amazing. We were having our best year and selling some of our most popular pajamas fast. So instead of waiting for official Purchase Orders from these retailers, I went ahead and cut triple what we were selling in the best pajama-style, assuming we'd be prepared when the orders came thru. Instead, all three closed a few months later, leaving us with three times the inventory we needed in that style. I think we still have some of it on hand.”
What She Learned: “Never invest in or hold your customer's inventory and anticipate orders until you have the Purchase Orders in hand. Not doing that set us back tens of thousands of dollars, and it took a long time to recoup our losses from that mistake.”
K: Ohhh ...I feel the pain of this. This is one of the biggest problems early brands face. Figuring out the right amount to buy and not putting the cart before the horse.
In one of my design roles, we had ordered inventory of a particular style that was super successful when we first ordered it. When we re-ordered 8x the amount we usually ordered, it did well initially, but the interest dropped off after a month or two of returning to stock.
At one point many months after it returned to the site, I remember looking at the inventory projections for this style, and we had 78 months of inventory left. So it would’ve taken us almost seven years to sell through at the rate it was selling. Thank goodness for semi-annual sales.
What's the best advice you've ever been given in life or business?
“I wasn't given this advice but learned from watching the movie A Bug's Life when my girls were little. The mean grasshopper, called Hopper, was upset when the ants didn't have his winter food supply waiting for him, so he entered the anthill looking for who was in charge. Princess Ada was taking over for her mom doing the work as the Queen Ant. When he asked her why their food was missing, she said, "It wasn't my fault."
Hopper replied, "The first rule of management, Princess, everything's your fault."
Truer words have never been spoken. Yet, they are what every entrepreneur, manager, and leader should live by. Never blame anyone else when something goes wrong. Instead, take responsibility for everything in your business. It's the only way your employees and your customers will learn to trust you.”
K: As I get older, I’ve noticed how super WOKE kid movies are! I love movies that teach you a life lesson. While also making you laugh, cry, and scream! Disney & Pixar will do that to you.
I can totally relate to Hopper’s reply. Everything is your fault when you’re the boss, and owning up to it is a much faster path towards fixing whatever it is.
What's the most recent lesson your business has taught you?
“No matter how long you've owned your own company, always expect the unexpected. Look at what Covid did. So many businesses faced incredible challenges, and even though our business improved due to loungewear becoming more popular, it was and still has been hard on our supply chain. So many of our suppliers are struggling, which becomes challenging for us. Regardless of the industry, it only takes one bump to disrupt it.”
K: I hear you there. Everyone has had major disruptions, even if business has been good in your category or industry.
What advice would you give to aspiring female entrepreneurs?
“Be kind and supportive to other females in business regardless of whether they're entrepreneurs or not. For some reason, women can be incredibly hard on other women, and it only makes the old boys' clubs stronger. We need to support other women and be kind to them, not mean, exclusive, and nasty to each other.”
K: I agree wholeheartedly with this statement! We are all a work in progress. How can we NOT be kind to each other? Women putting other women down is like telling the world that you are more worried about your competition than your own progress.
What's your favorite part about being a business owner? What's the hardest part?
“Favorite Part: Making all of the final decisions, ultimately, I get to decide what prints to use, what fabrics to develop, what customers to work with, and so much more.”
“Hardest Part: Making all of the final decisions. Just as Hopper said, ultimately, everything's my fault, and when things go wrong, I am the one responsible for that.”
K: It’s the worst, but I also think there is a time and a place for feeling bad, and then moving on is the critical next step. Don’t punish yourself, but if you have to feel the pain or hurt, do it. Then move on and don’t look back.
What is something you have accomplished that you are most proud of?
“Inventing a tank top and patenting it. That's unheard of in the garment world. I'm pretty proud of our adaptability too. We went from making one tank top to creating three ethically, sustainably, and USA-made clothing for Women, Men, and Baby. After all these years, we're still incredibly relevant. I mean, we were producing sustainable clothing with a lower impact long before anyone ever heard about Climate Change. Finally, I'm proud that my husband and I have managed to keep our business and our family strong after working together all these years. When you spend 24/7 together, it isn't always easy, but I couldn't imagine working closely with anyone else.”
K: That is truly amazing. It’s nice to be at the forefront of something you feel passionate about, and doing it with someone you love is even better!
What are the most important skills or traits you've found helpful in entrepreneurship?
“Being flexible, not taking myself too seriously, and always being willing to accept change. “
K: Don’t be afraid to live in the discomfortzone! I promise once it’s a great place to be.
Are there any traits you've discovered that make it harder to succeed if you don't keep them in check?
“Confidence is very different from arrogance. Not listening to those around you and putting yourself above others, even if you're their boss, is a big mistake. No one can succeed alone, and your team is your connection to your business. Working with them is the only way to empower your staff and help them grow, so your business grows.”
K: Absolutely 100%! Teamwork makes the dream work.
What's your favorite 'game-changer' tool that you can share with everyone? (ie. hellobonsai, airtable, later, etc.).
“The selling platform we use. We switched from selling our collection on a Magento platform to a Shopify one, and our sales improved almost immediately. Shopify makes it easy for anyone to be a computer genius, although having a savvy nephew who's fantastic at coding doesn't hurt either.”
K: Hah, I have some experience with both, and Magento is a much more complex solution by far. Shopify is smooth sailing for online business owners.
Where can we find you if we'd like to learn more about you?
“You can find us at www.majamas.com. Also, read our blog at www.wearemajamasearth.com.”
“Follow us on Pinterest and Instagram at Majamas_Earth and on Facebook at Majamas Earth. You can even hear our podcast on Spotify, where we interview guests and discuss how to lower our impact on the planet from products to food at CareWhatYouWear and so much more by Majamas Earth.?
Thank you, Germaine Caprio, for sharing your founders’ Story! Stick around for more Lemons Into Lemonades with new and amazing Founders!! See you soon!