“I don't like using the word “journey” when it comes to entrepreneurship because that indicates you have a beginning, a middle and an end. But when you start a business, you’re never really sure where you’re going and whether or not there will be an end.” - Celine Hakoun, Founder of 3-2-1 Framboise
One of the most important weeks in U.S. fashion happens in February at NY Fashion Week. To celebrate, the WIN Lab is highlighting fashion entrepreneurs who are adding their own unique flavor to the industry. Here, we talked to Celine Hakoun, the founder of 3-2-1 Framboise, a fashion startup that sells high quality baby clothing. Determined to change the very fabric of the baby clothing industry in the U.S., Hakoun provides a mutually beneficial platform for both foreign brands and domestic consumers. Read on to learn more about her ever-growing business, 3-2-1 Framboise.
Q.1) What is 3-2-1 Framboise?
3-2-1 Framboise sells high quality European baby clothing directly to the American consumer. It’s currently very difficult for foreign brands to break into the U.S. market. Our goal on the brand side is to remove all the hurdles and help foreign brands gain access to the U.S. customer, while also providing parents in the U.S. access to quality products they can't find anywhere else.
Q.2) Why European brands? Why is there a need to pull those into the U.S. market?
I started with European brands because I want to provide high-quality apparel, and the European clothing industry is uniquely focused on fair trade. With organic cotton, for example, they are ahead of the curve. I'm also originally from France, so I understand how the culture works and what to expect. I know how to work with these brands and form a relationship.
Q.3) Was there an ‘AHa’ moment where you decided to launch your company? What was the driving force for you to get the company off the ground?
I decided to launch 3-2-1 Framboise based on my own personal experience. I got pregnant and received a ton of boxes from my family in Europe, filled with awesome clothes and toys. When I ran out, I went to the store but found myself underwhelmed with what was available to me. I wondered why I couldn’t find the same high-quality apparel that I had received from my European family.
I started talking to other parents who were spending a lot of money on luxurious brands. But even when I went to check out these fancy places, I would touch the product, and what I felt did not match the price tag. I knew there had to be a better way, so I decided to learn more about the industry and attended the largest global trade show for kids clothing, which happens to be in Paris. I went around and touched everything and talked to the 500+ exhibitors. I found the beautiful pieces I was looking for, and the pricing was actually competitive to the low-quality apparel I was finding in the U.S. I was inspired, and thus 3-2-1 Framboise was born.
Q.4) Your goal was to bring high quality products to the states. How did you pivot throughout your process in order to successfully sell these products the way you wanted to?
My vision has always been the same. I had access to great products, and I wanted to put them in a box and make it super easy for moms. They would receive the box with six to eight items that they could try out, and return anything they didn’t like.
After I went to the trade show, I came home and started building the website. I quickly realized there wasn’t a readily accessible platform where customers can just put in their credit card to purchase the box, receive the box, and then get charged later for only the stuff they've kept.
After a three-month intensive tech building process talking to people at Shopify, Cratejoy, and others who had built apps, I was able to make the product I wanted to build. The website you see now looks really simple and beautiful, but really there's a lot going on in the background.
Q.5) As an entrepreneur, is there something you look to as a reminder of why you’re doing this when it gets particularly difficult?
I have a note posted on my wall that says “don't get intimidated, you have a really great product.” What really gets me down is being intimidated. The minute I get intimidated by something, even if it's completely made up, I really have a hard time restarting. So I’ll sit, breathe, and take the time to realize how big of a thing it is that I'm trying to do. That's really helpful when reminding myself that I've put in all the work. You have to believe in your concept and test it out so you have proof that it's going to work.
Q.6) On those hard days, what would you tell an aspiring entrepreneur?
You just have to do it. This is technically my third business. While building my first business, I would write all these business plans on a piece of paper because I thought it was so comforting. But what really counts is getting out there, even if it’s scary. I flew to Paris for a trade show and I barely had a website and a business card. In three days, I learned how the fashion industry works and what questions to ask. If you don't go, you won’t learn and grow.
Q.7) Why did you want to join WIN Lab?
Finding the WIN Lab kind of happened by accident, and I am so happy I did. I had created the entire concept and platform by myself. Now, I really need the support network. I need people who think like me, or think differently but have the same general energy and desire, so I can talk on a higher level and bounce ideas around. I have this experience of building a business and I want to share it with other people who have my back.