Hey friends, I’m so excited to spotlight and introduce you to my friend Lorena Siminovich of Petit Collage. For those of you who don’t know Lorena or her company, she started one of the very first kids’ decor brand that focuses on modern design and eco-friendly toys. What was a niche market a decade ago is now a growing mainstream market, and Petit Collage successfully positioned itself as a global brand selling its iconic toys in 13 different countries.
This week Petit Collage celebrates 10 years (you may celebrate with her on Instagram by tagging #petitcollage10) and I cannot tell you how honored I am to do a Q&A with Lorena and her journey as an entrepreneur. Lorena was a Creative Director in NYC with little background in business, and I’m always amazed to meet someone who’s a risk-taker and an innovator in their industry. And as I enter my first year of doing a product business, knowing someone like Lorena is truly inspiring.
Lorena was one of the few I reached out to to let me buy her coffee and picked her brain, and till this day I still email her questions! She responds in between traveling tradeshows and I honestly cannot thank her enough. Of course I knew Lorena too before our coffee date. I’ve been a supporter of her brand and I frequent her retail kids shop in SF, Noe Valley, Mapamundi, to pick up very cute and stylish last-minute gifts. So it wasn’t unnatural for me to reach out to Lorena. But at the same time, she has just been so generous and helpful, and I am really lucky to know someone who started very small and had turned it into a global business.
I have tremendous respect for Lorena and I know her 10 years didn’t come without a lot sweat and tears. I love that she’s not an overnight success story, which I feel like we hear too often these days. So without further ado, here’s Lorena!
1) Wow, 10 years, congrats!!! When you first started Petit Collage back in 2006, what was your vision for the brand? Did it remain the same today?
I absolutely didn’t have the vision of who we are today. I was very short sighted and focused on my first product at the time which was a handmade collage on wood for nursery decor, then organically I expanded into more nursery items, and it wasn’t until late 2012 that we launched our toys, which are the core of our line.
2) Can you tell me some of your biggest business accomplishments? And your worst business failures?
I think my biggest accomplishment is being in business! Did you know 80% of small business fail within the first 18 months? The stats are crazy! And woman-owned businesses nationwide 90% have no employees other than the owner. As for the sense of accomplishment, I do feel it is always nice when an account you love picks up your line, it feels like a pat in the back, so I love that Anthropologie carries our products for many years, as does the SFMoma and many museums in the country. Our international distribution in thirteen countries is also something I’m proud of.
As for failures, what doesn’t kill you make you stronger, right? I can’t think of one giant issue but I would say that many times I put too much expectations surrounding an opportunity (a new account, a new country) and many times things are not as great as they seem at the beginning.
3) What kind of sacrifice(s) did you or do you still have to make in order to make your business work?
I think the eternal struggle of work/life balance, I never pick up my kid from school, or we didn’t have summer vacations because of my trade show schedule that type of thing.
For years (and years) I didn’t pay myself a salary so definitely that was a big sacrifice coming from a full time job as Creative Director back in NYC.
4) What top resources do you think it’s most helpful for young or starting entrepreneurs today?
I’m such a firm believer in asking and asking! Definitely valuable to find:
1) a mentor
2) training/business education
3) colleagues in the industry, via organized groups or simple networking
4) a fab team of people that can do things better than you
5) There are so many ups and downs when running your own business. Have you ever thought about giving up? Can you tell me how you keep yourself motivated year after year?
Of course the thought crosses every entrepreneurs mind in a dark day, when your product is late, there is a strike at the port or a big order falls through, you have an HR issue or cash flow problems (list can keep going!) but I never considered it for more than a quick moment because the business managed to keep me entertained and challenged so far! Having a great team makes all the difference, really. My main motivation is making beautiful things, in a nutshell. The design challenge, the white page, the potential of something new, the developing of the brand and see how it unfolds: I love it!
6) Do you feel successful? What does success mean to you?
Hmmm! Thats a tough one. I don’t put much thought into that. Maybe is because I haven’t had a family vacation in too long! ha! I recently heard a couple definitions of success from fellow woman entrepreneurs that I found fascinating, I will leave you with those while I marinate mine! Success, for these ladies was:
-Being able to buy everything you want in the famers market
-Work when you want
7) Your #1 advice to building a brand.
I had SUCH an organic process so I don’t have a mindful masterplan but these are good things to keep in mind:
1) Have a unique point of view, communicate it visually
2) really hone in whats your unique selling proposition
3) find your tribe
5) think lifestyle, connect with your core demographic beyond what they buy from you