Atlanta Fashion Designer Abbey Glass on How She Finds Balance as a Creative Entrepreneur

Welcome to another episode of The Female Founder with Bridget Fitzpatrick, Co-founder of ASBN and the CBT Automotive Network. The Female Founder is a show all about helping women grow their businesses and reach their full potential. Each episode will highlight inspiring stories and advice from female entrepreneurs to help you build and grow your business. This show is designed to inspire and motivate other female founders to be the best entrepreneurs they can be.

Today’s guest is Abbey Glass, fashion designer of ready-to-wear and luxury gowns as well as the founder of Abbey Glass, a luxury women’s wear brand located in Buckhead Village.

Transcription: 

Bridget Fitzpatrick:
Abbey, thank you so much for joining us today.

Abbey Glass:
Thank you for having me.

Bridget Fitzpatrick:
So there are a lot of women who dreamt of being a fashion designer when they grew up. A lot of women into clothing and fashion, and your entrepreneurial journey started really as a young girl. Can you talk to us about what inspired you to start designing?

Abbey Glass:
Yes, of course. So I have always been a creator. I’ve always made things. I was just one of those kids who was always building something, even when I wasn’t allowed to be using power tools, I was making things. I just couldn’t sit still. And luckily, my parents were very supportive of me being a creator, and I became obsessed with a sewing machine when I was 10 years old. My dad took me to go buy my first sewing machine, and I just fell in love with sewing and really creating things for myself. And that’s how I got into the fashion. And I really wasn’t like the fashion magazines type of girl. I was more of the hands-on making kind of girl. And then those two things merged, and I became just in love with runway fashion, always following what was new and latest in Europe and all of these amazing designers that I idolized, basically their techniques and their amazing creativity inspired me to become a designer. So that’s how I got into it.

Bridget Fitzpatrick:
And you’ve worked under some very famous designers. Can you talk to us about that and how that helped you grow?

Abbey Glass:
Yes. I was very fortunate to go to a fantastic design school in Providence, Rhode Island, and got really incredible bosses in my internships. I actually took two semesters in school to work at some fashion companies in New York. And just being in the room with these people was they were larger than life personalities. I worked under the knitwear team from Louis Vuitton with Marc Jacobs when they were in New York and even, being in the room, getting Marc coffee, and listening to him ramble on about something that was in his head and trying to get it on to paper and trying to create it in a sample room. Just seeing that creative process was incredible. And the same, I was with Francisco Costa before he left, Calvin Klein collection before they closed, I was an intern there. And I mean, just again, being in the room, being in a sample room, playing around with fabrics, drawing things, it was an amazing experience. So those were very formative times for me.

Bridget Fitzpatrick:
Absolutely. Now, who was your biggest mentor during the process?

Abbey Glass:
I would say there have been so many mentors and from my perspective, when you’re building a business as a young person and not coming from another company where you had maybe a manager or someone who was your go-to-

Bridget Fitzpatrick:
Yeah.

Abbey Glass:
That can transition into your go-to in your own business. It’s really a lot of people. It takes a whole community. It takes your family. My husband’s been an amazing support system for me. He works in technology. So he really brings a completely different set of ideas to the table when I’m facing challenges. So it’s really been people who were helpful and encouraging in a certain season of my business. And then I would kind of graduate from those people. And there would be another person who was kind of more fitting for that moment than I was going through. So it really was this big mix of people that were involved over the last seven years. And a lot of people were paid consultants, and I feel like everyone thinks you don’t have to pay for advice, but you really do. Even if you have an amazing network, those are the people who are probably the best at what they do. So you got to get them on board.

Bridget Fitzpatrick:
That is for sure. Now, as an entrepreneur myself, there’s been a lot of challenges, learning experiences, and mistakes that I’ve learned from. Is there any advice that you would go back and tell your younger self?

Abbey Glass:
Good question. It is so hard to look in retrospect and say like, “Oh, I wish I knew this.” Because I was trained as a designer. I went to art school, I had certain priorities, and now I have very different priorities as I’ve grown as a business person. So mostly I would say you’re doing great and encourage myself, because I had so much self-doubt when I was starting. It’s kind of remarkable that I did start my business when I did, because I really didn’t know what I was doing to be honest. So I would give myself a lot of encouragement and say, just follow your gut. And I would also tell myself to double down on any business education opportunities that I had, especially as a creative entrepreneur. I think a lot of creative entrepreneurs underestimate how important business is and making money, and margins, and profit and loss sheets, and HR has been huge for us just getting the right people. So now that I’ve kind of gone through that education later in my business, so that I could catch up with this success of the business and be a good leader and be a good manager. I would give myself the advice to do that earlier than I did.

Bridget Fitzpatrick:
Great advice. Great advice. Now, being a creative and now a business owner as well, there’s that constant balance of how much time do I spend here and how much time, because you can spend 100% of your time on business activities and 100% of your time on designing, I’m sure. So how do you work out that balance?

Abbey Glass:
I heard this from someone like maybe a year ago, but balance is an activity, not a state of being. And it’s always something that you’re doing. It’s never you’ve achieved balance and you could check that off your list. It’s just a constant activity. So even this week, balancing having to cover for a full-time person, who’s my right hand. And we just got all of our spring product in, people are calling us on the phone. When are we getting this dress? When are we getting this dress? Just being able to prioritize. And actually my husband has taught me how to time block. Has been super important. That’s not a skill that I had before, but really prioritizing and feeling like you are doing what you should be doing, I think makes you feel balanced so that you are not sitting in bed at night saying, “Oh my gosh, I spent all my time doing this one thing. I didn’t even chip away at this other thing.”

Bridget Fitzpatrick:
Yeah. For sure. For sure. Now let’s switch gears a little bit. You do a great job marketing your brand. I get the text messages when you have the special promotions and things like that. And they’re great. I open up every one of them. Talk to us about the importance of that, and how that’s working for you.

Abbey Glass:
Marketing is one of the most important things in the digital age. There’s so much out there. You need to be able to find your people. And for us, it’s very visual, because we sell product and we have a certain look and quality that we are selling. So I think it’s just really having the right content and spending time on content that really speaks to your customer is where we’ve seen success in our marketing that has led to more conversions, less returns. Communication is everything. Allowing your customers to know what they should expect when they receive your product, whether you’re services or a product company is so important so that they’re not let down or confused when they get what you’re giving them. So there’s this great balance between communication, content creation that speaks to your customer, and clarity.

Bridget Fitzpatrick:
Yeah.

Abbey Glass:
Being a good writer and giving the details you need to give. So definitely.

Bridget Fitzpatrick:
Is that something that you have in-house or do you outsource your marketing?

Abbey Glass:
We do both. It is very complicated these days. So with omnichannel companies, so like we sell online, we have in store, we do pop-ups. We do have a small wholesale business. We used to be mostly wholesale, and we really kind of turned it on its head to be mostly direct now since COVID. And so we’ve got all of these different ways people are interacting with us. So we’ve got a team that does all of our Instagram ads, Google search ads, Google shopping, that they are excellent. We have a email marketing consultant who keeps tabs on everything that’s going on in email marketing, and SMS marketing is changing week to week. There are new apps you can use, new things to plug into your website. It’s just insane what’s going on. And then we have a full-time in-house marketing manager who produces our photo shoots and basically keeps all of the balls in the air with all of these different channels that we’re marketing on. So, it takes a lot to produce and kind of execute all of this content for a fashion company, because you just have to be everywhere all the time for people.

Bridget Fitzpatrick:
You do. And speaking of that, balancing all of these things, designing, running a business, managing employees, what do you do to keep from being overwhelmed? Or how do you manage being overwhelmed?

Abbey Glass:
I will just admit, I am always overwhelmed.

Bridget Fitzpatrick:
Me too.

Abbey Glass:
It’s like the balancing thing, it’s just a constant. It’s going to happen. You get overwhelmed on a daily basis. Something happens, somebody’s sick, and we can’t open the store, and someone has to go work in the store. Or our flight gets delayed or a piece of luggage got lost on our way back from Palm Beach last week, we were at a photo shoot. And we’re sitting there and we have four bags and three come off the carousel and Delta says, “Well, your four bags are…” I mean, it’s just constant. So, it’s really about kind of like, I don’t do a great job at this and this is something I’m working on, but just allowing yourself to put things in perspective a little more and maybe rating something on a scale of one to 10, how bad really is this. And usually it’s not as bad as you think it is. There’s a lot worse things that can happen.

Bridget Fitzpatrick:
That’s right.

Abbey Glass:
So like COVID.

Bridget Fitzpatrick:
Exactly.

Abbey Glass:
Or China shutting down DHL operations and we can’t get anything. It’s like there’s so many things that are out of my control, and there’s a lot of things that are in my control. Sorry.

Bridget Fitzpatrick:
Like a dog barking. You can’t control that. It’s okay.

Abbey Glass:
There’s a lot of things in my control that I can do something about, and sometimes I just say, “Oh, well, I could have done something about that. I didn’t.” Next time say I’m going to go step away from this. Yeah. It’s tough. There’s no clean answer for that.

Bridget Fitzpatrick:
No. And except for that, it’s a constant, right. It’s going to be there.

Abbey Glass:
Oh yeah.

Bridget Fitzpatrick:
Yeah. Do the best you can.

Abbey Glass:
Always. Yeah.

Bridget Fitzpatrick:
Yeah. Now what qualities do you think is required to be a good entrepreneur?

Abbey Glass:
I would say perseverance is key to taking on entrepreneurship, and self-confidence is a huge thing as well. Especially if you are trying to raise money or selling something, which I would imagine 99% of the people who start businesses have to sell themselves, doesn’t just fly off the shelves.

Bridget Fitzpatrick:
Yeah.

Abbey Glass:
So that’s hard for, I would consider myself more of an introvert, and I think it’s very hard to talk about out yourself and promote yourself. And it takes practice. And that’s also something that I am constantly working on. And there are a lot of people who do it well and just really understanding why they’re doing it well, and how they’re doing it. And if they do it in a really tasteful way, picking apart why you think it’s tasteful. I think it’s especially as a woman being self-promotional sometimes is seen as a negative thing or annoying.

Abbey Glass:
And I think a lot of times for men, it’s kind of like a given for an entrepreneur, just always be talking about what they do, and you’re at a dinner party and you’re talking about, “Oh, I invented this thing, or I own this company.” And I think as a young entrepreneur, I was never really encouraged to be like that. I was more encouraged to be like, oh, make friends with people first. And then you can talk about your business, because that’s more appropriate, but I’ve gotten better at the self confidence piece, and it’s necessary. It really is. It’s a make or break. It is. So I’ve had to accept it. Yeah.

Bridget Fitzpatrick:
Yeah. I feel there’s a lot more pressure I feel, or maybe we put it on ourselves, but as females, there’s a lot more pressure on us to get everything perfect, whether right down to what we’re wearing and what our hair looks like and how we’re speaking. And so there’s a lot that we have to deal with that goes along with being an entrepreneur, being in front of the public eye, and managing a team, and leading a team. And so maybe let’s talk about that for a little bit. Talk about the culture that you’ve developed at Abbey Glass.

Abbey Glass:
That’s a great question. Culture is one of the most difficult pieces to define for me. I would say we’re definitely more team over self. And we feel like a family. I’ve tried to create a community where everyone feels very supported and in their personal and their professional life. And I would say that our culture kind of reflects what we are selling to women. So confidence for any occasion. We want all the women who work for us to feel very empowered as a woman and dress up and feel feminine and have that be part of the reason that they feel powerful on a daily basis.

Abbey Glass:
We also want women to feel like they are more important than a box that we would put them in. So it’s really more about their personality, their sense of self and style rather than, oh, I’m preppy or, oh, I’m girly or I’m minimalist or whatever. It’s really just like, who are you? And let’s dress you.

Abbey Glass:
So those are all values that I think are seeping into our company culture as we build a team, but culture is something really that we are now kind of working on and addressing as like a major defining factor of our company, because it will help us higher and scale, because when you don’t really know your culture, it’s hard to know like if people are going to be a good fit. So we’re-

Bridget Fitzpatrick:
That’s right.

Abbey Glass:
-really working on that right now. Yeah.

Bridget Fitzpatrick:
That’s great. I love what you said there. And then it is constantly evolving the culture depending on what’s going on with the company. Right. So what’s next for Abbey Glass? Where do you see yourself in the next five to 10 years as a person and for the company?

Abbey Glass:
Yeah. Great question. We are really doubling down on the mother of the bride and groom market right now. That is a very un-serviced customer that is always looking for dress up clothes, things for rehearsal dinners, family get-togethers, weddings, all the things associated with your son or daughter getting married. And we have seen so much traction over the last six months with launching a mother of the bride and groom styles.

Abbey Glass:
And honestly, we’ve launched some bridal, like pre-bridal, post-bridal, honeymoon pieces. And with our styling and price point, we’re finding customers out there that are just hungry for what we’re offering. It’s just a really kind of simplified, easy, elegant, timeless look that feels like you’re not wearing something super trendy or skimpy or revealing. It’s just this really… It’s like, I always say, it’s like something your grandma would love.

Abbey Glass:
If you showed up to your rehearsal dinner, your grandma would be like, “Oh my God. You just look amazing.” It’s like very Grace Kelly, Audrey Hepburn styling in these beautiful luxury fabrics, very simplified to hit that attainable luxury price point. So that’s really where we’re honing in.

Abbey Glass:
And I would say in the next five years, we would love to launch a digital platform that further helps women get dressed for special events. I think it’s a huge pain point for this demographic that is people who aren’t fashionistas necessarily, they love fashion, but they’re lawyers or doctors and they have busy lives and they’re not always shopping, but they love clothes and they love fashion. It’s like they need a go-to space to help them plan their outfits for these special locations. Because if they’re stylish, people expect them to show up looking amazing, but they are not going to take like an hour every day to browse the internet and look for something to wear.

Abbey Glass:
So with the success we’ve had with our products, we want to really create something that’s a tool to help up women kind of plan their outfits and buy our products and products that we love to recommend to customers, like earrings, shoes, wraps, camisoles, underwear, like we really dress from head to toe, but we’re not doing it online. We’re just doing it in store. And we’re writing down on a piece of paper, “Oh, go to Stuart Weitzman and ask for these shoes at this heel height, blah, blah, blah.” And they go take the sticky note, and they take it to Stuart Weitzman. And it’s this kind of archaic thing. And we’re like, why aren’t we doing this at scale? So that’s really what I’d love to do in the next five to 10 years, and really own that space for women and be the go-to brand, when someone gets invited to a wedding, they say, okay, I’m going to check, see what Abbey Glass has first. That would be my dream.

Bridget Fitzpatrick:
That is exciting. And I see you doing that and I wish you much success, Abbey Glass. Thank you so much for talking with us today. And viewers, if you want something that’s timeless and elegant, a dress, clothes, and soon to be entire wardrobe of shoes and everything, go to Abbey Glass boutique at Buckhead Village and online as well.


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