Hillary France, the CEO and co-founder of Brand Assembly, wants lesser known designers to be able to flourish. Now in its fifth year, the company mission remains the same: to help emerging fashion brands grow their business by creating a community that leverages resources and provides a platform for brands to support one another.
With that purpose in mind, it's easy to see why Hillary is a woman to watch.
What does it mean to you to be a "woman to watch?"
Even though Brand Assembly is in its 5th year, I feel that there is so much potential for us to reach our ultimate goal of being the go-to resource for emerging and even established fashion brands. Over the last year, I feel we have accomplished so much to get us to a point where we can really take off and tackle some exciting projects as well as dabbling in different categories such as beauty and lifestyle. It is important for me to get the work of Brand Assembly out there. We are mostly a B2B company, but we think as a B2C business with our aesthetics, social and marketing... we love to celebrate and promote all the businesses we touch, both brands and boutiques. I hope being a “woman to watch” can teach young entrepreneurs to think that having a consumer-facing company is not the only way to be truly successful, and helping other people or businesses achieve their dreams is another way you can value success.
What is the most important part of your work?
The most important part of what we do is connecting people. When we launched the Square, our co-working space, we wanted it to be a place where brands could transact and display their product. Now, we have transformed it to be a community where fashion professionals can network and work together, from designers to production freelancers, to stylists. With our tradeshows in Los Angeles, Dallas, and New York, some of the happiest moments are when a buyer discovers a new brand and places an order. It’s extremely gratifying!
What do you hope people take away from it?
We really want our community to work together and further their businesses. We have fostered many successful relationships within the fashion community. The world of fashion has changed over the last decade and there are more brands and less market share. I am so happy to see that people in the fashion community are changing to be more open to working and collaborating with each other.
"The rewarding experience of being a business owner is something I never want to give up!"
What's the most engaging part of your work?
For me, the most engaging part is actually a component of our business that is the least visible. I am a self-proclaimed operations and analytics nerd. I was the 7 year old kid in the grocery store asking my dad supply chain questions about how milk got on the shelves and how they planned how much and how often to buy! Our “back office” services help young brands with their logistics and accounting needs. We help analyze and execute the most laborious and time consuming parts of the business so the decision makers can focus on what is most important... their brand.
If you could go back in time and change anything, what would it be any why?
I hate to admit it, but I feel I was pretty naïve when I started my business regarding the structure and set up of the company. If I could go back in time I would have definitely done more research in forming a business that includes partners. What are the benefits and drawbacks, equity distribution, officer positions, and the ins and outs of an operating agreement? I would not take any of it back though, as I have learned so much through the process, and if I were to ever start another company, I know exactly what to do, but especially what not to do.
Can you chat us through a career obstacle and how you overcame it?
We have been pretty lucky in the 5 years of business to not have run into many obstacles until... launching a new city for our tradeshow last year. Dallas had been on our mind as our first expansion city outside Los Angeles and New York for a while. We thought we had it all down to facilitate a great opportunity for our brands to reach buyers in such a strong market like Dallas. We have a very loyal following of brand participants and we really wanted it to be a success for them. Unfortunately, the buyer attendance was not what we were expecting, and additionally there might have been a golf cart mishap and a run-in with the Dallas Police Department! For the first time since forming the business, I felt I had to apologize to our brands! I was embarrassed and really down. Needless to say, we are still forging ahead with Dallas and still learning about the market and how we can make it better each time!
Who's a woman you're watching? AKA an awesome lady you have your eye on?
I draw inspiration from many places. The idea of the underdog is something that I really gravitate to. Women who are defying the odds or that have overcome obstacles. With the Olympics just ending, I was really inspired by Jesse Diggins. Not only is cross country one of the most physically challenging sports (I know from first-hand experience), but she and her teammate Kikkan Randall won the US their first Olympic gold in the team sprint in 42 years! Plus, anyone that crosses the finish line with glitter face paint is an automatic winner in my mind!
What do you want women watching you to know?
I really worked extremely hard my entire life. Before my career in fashion, I played tennis at the junior, collegiate and professional level which gave me the foundation of working hard to achieve the results I desire. I really truly believe in mastering the hard way (my team is probably laughing reading this right now). I put in overtime to understand all parts of the business and industry and have an extreme sense of ownership when it comes to pushing the company forward for my team to have a safe, exciting, and satisfying work environment. If I could give advice about having your own business, it would be that there are long days, stressful situations, and it’s hard to disconnect from it, but on the flip side, the rewarding experience of being a business owner is something I would never want to give up!
If you like Hillary's watch, click through below to check it out for yourself!