As anyone with children knows, shopping for well-made, well-priced basics can be challenging. Galyn Bernard and Christina Carbonell, both moms themselves, formed Primary with the mission of providing attractive and affordable clothes for kids. The endeavor took off, and now, Bernard and Carbonell lead a talented team of designers and marketers in bringing the best in childrenswear to your little one’s closet. I got a chance to talk to these superstars about their professional journey, as well as the ins and outs of the clothing industry.
How did the idea for your business come about?
We founded Primary after spending four years working together at Quidsi, the parent company of Diapers.com. During the company’s inception, we saw a huge gap in the kids’ fashion market, and wanted to shop for basic baby/children’s clothes the way you’re able to shop for diapers—with evergreen styles, affordable pricing, and home delivery. When we started Primary, it was crucial to never discontinue styles, allowing parents to replenish pieces in the next size up as their children grew.
What is the most rewarding thing about being your own boss? The most challenging?
The most rewarding part is getting to bring our vision for Primary to life every day. We also get to build an amazing team from scratch, and a company culture that makes coming to work every day fulfilling and fun for everyone. The most challenging aspect is the full and total accountability for the success of the business (but that’s fun too).
How has running your own business changed your outlook on life?
Having our own business has taught us a few very important things. One, that anything is possible. Two, that focus is critical. Three, that it’s not about being perfect. These are all-important lessons that help us to run our business successfully, as well as our personal lives! And they are lessons we hope to impart on our children. We want them to know they can do anything if they focus on it, with a goal of learning and improving, not trying to be perfect.
Best part of the job:
We love coming to work every day! We love working with incredible people to solve problems, tackle challenges, and make things awesome for our customers. Nothing beats a happy customer who tells us that we’ve made a difference in their lives in some small way. We are fortunate to get a lot of these notes, from customers who appreciate that our simple styles are free of logos and embellishments; whose kids like our super-soft and tagless clothes (especially kids with sensory challenges); and who are grateful for easy shopping and our commitment to great service.
Most surprising part of the job:
How much time hiring takes. It’s so important, so it’s worthy of the time commitment. But it’s challenging when you’re also trying to run the business and keep up with the day to day. At times when you’re making key hires, it can take 25-50% of your time.
Your best-selling product:
We sell classic styles, not trendy fashions, so everything sells pretty well. Customer favorites include great basics like babysuits, tees, leggings, and simple dresses, as well as unique styles like our reversible skirt and cozy sweats. Customers also love our babysuit gift set—seven babysuits in awesome colors packaged for gift giving!
How do you come up with new products?
We start with our own intuition as parents and what we hear from our customers. Our goal is not to identify the next big trend. We want to offer the styles that parents will need and want for the next five years, not the next five weeks. From there, our small but powerhouse team of experienced clothing designers, including Patrick Robinson who formerly led design at the Gap, work together to create the best version of each essential style.
What goes into your product marketing?
A lot of our marketing comes from happy customers who spread the word. Of course, that’s the best kind of marketing! We also market on Facebook and other social media, and have found that parents really respond to the vibrant colors of our clothing, as well as the simplicity of our clothing—without all the logos, slogans, and sequins. We have an amazing in-house creative team, which is critical to building our brand.
Advice you’d give to other female entrepreneurs looking to start their own companies:
Start personal—think about where there is a void in a market you participate in and what your perfect solution would look like for the things that you want. Then just do it. Don’t get caught up in perfecting it—you will learn as you go. And surround yourself with people who are not only talented, but people you want to spend lots of time with. Starting a business is filled with ups and downs, and having an amazing partner, team, and advisers makes a huge difference.
Motto you live by:
Be true to yourself.