TABS founder Rebecca Hanson has just returned after a week at Rachel Roy’s design house in New York.

She didn’t hesitate when the Bermuda Fashion Festival presented the opportunity. Ms Hanson’s maxim?: Good opportunities don’t come around twice — take them.

The experience helped her move forward with plans for a line of children’s clothing and assisted as she developed TABS merchandise for the America’s Cup. Read more about her experience below …

Q: You’ve recently completed Rachel Roy’s accelerator programme. Can you tell us about it?

A: It was very doors-open. Any question I asked, they would answer to the best of their ability. That was the biggest eye-opener for me, that openness they had. Rachel Roy and Amy Rapawy [the company’s senior vice-president of marketing] pulled together a schedule for me.

I told them what I was interested in learning about and they completely superseded my expectations. The schedule was everything a two-year brand could possibly need; one-on-one meetings with the head of technical design, marketing and the head designer.

Q: Did you feel going in that there would be some holding back? Some trade secrets they didn’t want to share?

A: I did. I’m protective over my brand. I wouldn’t go into huge amounts of detail about the work that I’m doing, partly because I live in a small place. The programme they’d set up was all about helping me. It was amazing. They literally took me in and gave me access to all of the heads of department and answered any questions and gave me any contacts I needed or wanted.

There are cycles you go through when you start a brand and I’m definitely at that next hurdle and to have all of that expertise and knowledge in a room, for me and a two-year-old brand, it was perfect timing. I can’t even put a price on that. It made my year — no, my decade. It’s the best thing that’s happened to me since I started my business.

Q: What’s the “next hurdle” you’re facing?

A: I can’t go into too much detail, but we’re expanding the line.

Being out there was so refreshing because they were so open about what they were doing and it really invigorated me and inspired me and redirected me. It made me want to help other people. I’m planning on doing a paid internship with TABS this summer.

The way that Rachel Roy runs her company is so inspiring. There are no airs or graces. Everyone is incredibly welcoming. Everyone made time for me. At one point I was sitting next to the owner of the group. He was hot desking next to me and he owns everything! It was just that open door philosophy. Everyone’s asking “how was your weekend?”. They really cared about each other. It made me think “I want a company like this”. I want to run a business like that, giving back. The way they took me under their wing, I felt very much part of the team for that week.

Q: In what ways are you looking to expand?

A: I’m doing a children’s line and I’m looking at employing this year, so looking at how I want the energy of my team to be and what I want to achieve — that was an overarching takeaway.

The one-on-one was great for me. I sat down with one of their fabric guys and he could feel a piece of fabric and tell me the weave density and everything about it; how heavy it was, the quality. Same with the technical designer. It’s amazing to watch.

I’ve been doing everything myself, but to see experts in the field and how good they are was invaluable. Do what you love and outsource what you don’t — Denise Johnston, the president of the company told me that. It’s not just about Bermuda, it’s about expanding internationally and there are platforms and people who will help you. I know what I need to do next and I think my biggest feeling at the end was, I can actually do this. Getting all of their feedback and hearing how excited they were about what I was doing was a great feeling. It re-energised me.

Q: Did you feel you were losing focus?

A: I was feeling a bit overwhelmed. When you’re in Bermuda, it’s easy to forget about the rest of the world, but that was the first time I really felt “I can do this”. I can make this company and I can build it out of nothing. Because I’ve seen Rachel do it.

Everyone says you’ve got to be hard in business — but you don’t. It was refreshing. You do your best and you try to be honest and truthful and help people where you can. It all sounds very nicey nicely, but it was! It’s surrounding yourself with experts and talent and people who inspire you and people you respect. TABS is now starting to be what I envisioned. Two years ago I knew nothing about technical design or fabrics or how to run a company, and now all the hard work and many sleepless nights have paid off. It was great to be in that environment with a pool of experts and be able to hold my own.

Q: Tell me when you decided to quit your day job

A: I left a year ago. That was hard because I actually liked my day job. I was working at AAC Saatchi. They were good to me there and they really supported my business, which I think is such a great asset to have as a boss.

I learnt so much through them that I’ve been able to apply to my business, so I’m forever grateful to them for that. They continue to support me today.

Q: Do you have any advice for budding entrepreneurs?

A: In Bermuda there isn’t a kick-starter programme or investment programme, but you can definitely do stuff. It would be great if they could create an accelerator company for small businesses for people in Bermuda to help them take that next step because it’s hard and it’s scary and financially, it’s difficult. As you grow you have to invest more and it becomes very scary. I still don’t pay myself very much. I’m very frugal with it.

I think the last six months I’ve definitely turned a corner and I feel much more comfortable where I am — the fear pushes you, and now I feel the confidence kicking in, which is a really good feeling. I can meet those dreams. As much as I would like to say starting a business is so exciting, it takes years to get where you want to be and it takes a long time to break even and you’ve got to do a lot of relationship building.

We’ve got a women’s entrepreneur group in Bermuda. We’ve just started meetings up and are hoping to grow it a little more in the next few months. It’s just a space where women can get together and support each other and share ideas. At the moment there are eight of us, but we want to grow it and bring in people from different disciplines — accountants, bankers, lawyers. That’s what you need as a business. It’s not just about talking to people in the same industry as you.

 

From: Royalgazette.com