Dagne Dover is a practical luxury handbag and accessories brand that solves women’s biggest handbag problem: the fact that your bag quickly becomes a black hole.
You know it’s true.
Can’t find your keys? Your water bottle tipped over and ruined everything inside your bag? Your laptop got scratched from all the many things rolling around in that black hole of a bag?
CEO and Co-founder Melissa Mash conceived of Dagne Dover while attending business school at Wharton, where she saw her peers doing the “two-bag schlep” to haul all of their gear, or struggled with their BHBs (black hole bags). The company’s thoughtfully-designed interior pockets include a water bottle holder, laptop sleeve, iPad sleeve, keystrap, metrocard holder, wallet and sunglass pocket and more.
Here’s what she figured out about getting investors to write checks.
Who were your investors?
Our investors are angel investors with e-commerce, fashion and retail expertise. Notable investors include David Bell (an investor in Warby Parker and Bonobos), David Williams (of 2020 Ventures, whose portfolio includes Rent the Runway, The RealReal, Bow & Drape and Zady), Fabrice Grinda (an angel investor in more than 150 startups including Adore Me) and Dominic Cioffoletti, (former VP of Sales for Coach North America).
What was the funding process like?
We were in the very fortunate position of being way oversubscribed. We went out for $750k at the end of February 2014, and ended up taking in $1.25MM out of $2.5MM of investment interest when we closed our round at the beginning of April 2014.
What are the biggest challenges that you faced while raising capital?
Some people who hear that we’re e-commerce assume that that means we’re tech – but fashion businesses are very different from tech business. You may have different funding sources, different entity structure, different growth timelines, etc. Investors who invest in retail or fashion have to be familiar with the brand-building process and of doing things “right,” rather than doing things fast. We’ve had to learn nuances between tech and ecommerce, or fashion and ecommerce, and educate investors during the fundraising process.
What factors about your business led your investors to write the check?
What gave investors the most confidence was that our founding team comes from the retail and handbag industry and has expertise covering different parts of the retail business – from operations and planning to design and sales and management. Additionally, our early traction – not just in sales but also in our followers’ enthusiasm on social media – showed them that women went crazy for our handbags. The fact that we were able to get as far as we did on virtually no marketing budget showed that there was so much opportunity once we actually had money to put behind user acquisition, collaborations, and other marketing initiatives.
What advice can you offer companies in New York that do not have a fresh injection of capital in the bank?
We hustled for a long time. We got by on a small amount of friends and family investments that allowed us to have traction numbers that attracted angel investors. Don’t be shy about asking for favors. You have to keep trekking along, pinging everyone you know and asking them to ping their networks. A lot of this is a numbers game. Stay in touch with everyone – someone is bound to know someone who will be the perfect angel to help grow your business and to help get your round together.
Where do you see the company going now over the near term?
We’re just excited to have inventory! Now we can not only fulfill orders based on customer demand, but we can also turn on marketing in a major way – starting with PR, partnerships, collaborations and other business development opportunities. We no longer have to be afraid of selling out any time soon.
By the end of 2015 we also intend to have a presence in major cities so that people can come touch, feel and try on our products.
Besides your smartphone, what’s the one piece of electronics you never leave home without putting into your Dagne Dover bag?
My camera! Ya gotta constantly be creating content…