Founder Profile: Leslie Wong, Founder of Burgundy Fox - Boston
Hi Leslie! Tell us a little bit about yourself.
I grew up the youngest of 3 girls in a suburb outside San Francisco, raised by 2 hard-working parents from immigrant Chinese families. I was a classic 'latch key' kid who was raised just as much by my 2 sisters as my 2 parents. I was a close observer of all 4 of their careers and life journeys and those experiences were critical in shaping who I am today, the way I see the world and my work ethic. It makes me proud of where I came from.
What is your background (i.e. education, previous jobs, experiences that led you to create)?
My first official job was as a 'Toyologist' at the mall toy store when I was 14. I worked through high school and college doing everything from lifeguarding to assisting in offices to waiting tables. I went to college at Cal Poly Pomona and studied 3 majors-architecture, pre-law and finally business (I only graduated with a business degree and marketing minor). After college, I worked in hospitality sales, event management, marketing for a technology start-up and then started my own venture, Burgundy Fox. I've always been creative and independent. My mom has said my biggest strength is in coming up with ideas and quickly doing them, and mom tends to know best :p
What led you to begin Burgundy Fox? What steps did you take to build it?
Like many companies, the idea for Burgundy Fox came about from experiencing a problem first hand. I was browsing through a lingerie boutique in San Francisco and felt the same intimidation and discomfort there, that I felt at Victoria's Secret. I started thinking about why and realized the industry was fraught with intimidation and lack of inclusivity from marketing to merchandising. If you're a full-figured woman or a petite woman, I don't need to explain this to you. We also know that bodies are so different and many women don't fit neatly into a 'full-figure' or 'petite' box. Here are the first 3 things I did 1) Research. While I was still employed, I googled all about the lingerie industry, women's apparel news and talked to every woman and man I knew, about the problem and my solution. 2) Validate. The created an Instagram account and Facebook page for Burgundy Fox (some point and lots of GoDaddy searches later, I named the project) to test the message and market broadly. I would post images and captions to see how complete strangers would respond, favorably or not. Doing this was helpful to 1) see what messages resonated 2) organically build the brand 3) acquire my first customers. I continuously validate through surveys, interviews, a/b tests and ad platforms.
Could you walk us through how Burgundy Fox works?
Customers tell us who they are and what they want through a digital Style Profile. We use that information to curate lingerie items from hundreds of brands to find the item that's right for them. We package it, add in a bonus beauty or lifestyle product that encourages self-care (natural candles, lotions, face masks) and ship it to her door to try on and keep or exchange if it's not perfect. It's an online personal shopper for all your most personal items. Our partnerships with brands lets us carry 5x more bra sizes and 2x more lingerie, lounge/sleepwear sizes than your average retailer or brand alone.
What makes you passionate about the work that you do?
Knowing we can serve women who are currently underserved and ignored makes me excited. More than providing lingerie, we are offering empowerment and confidence; that you are included and valued. Confidence is powerful and can change lives. Working to create a world that places equal value and allows equal opportunities for all bodies, orientations, genders and races, makes this work meaningful and also challenging because there's always more to be done.
How do you find the brands that you have on your site?
Nearly all the brands we work with are ones we've met with face-to-face at markets or brands we've followed online. Our criteria for selecting brands is quality and style. We get extra excited to find brands that carry a more inclusive range of sizes (like XS-2X) and also brands that are creating less conventional designs that meet the needs of women. It's fun to cater to so many different styles and needs through this portfolio of brands.
When and why did you begin your podcast, Seamless?
We began our podcast, Seamless, in the summer of 2017. I give full credit to one of our interns, Nicole Fallert, for launching the podcast and naming it too. As I was launching Burgundy Fox, I had been meeting with a lot of female founders to talk about the challenges and lessons they'd learned and what they were currently working through. Every time I finished a call, I'd wish I had recorded it so others could benefit too. When I interview, I have candidates do an exercise. In this case, share 3 ideas to market Burgundy Fox. One of Nicole's ideas was to launch a podcast called Seamless. I loved it and she ran with it, calling some of those same founders I'd spoke with for a formal interview, registering the podcast on iTunes, and creating new content weekly. I hope you love the guest's stories as much as I do.
What is your relationship with social media?
Complicated :) It's altered the way society functions for better or worse. Social media has helped the spread of ideas happen easier, it's up to us to decide whether the ideas we're spreading are positive or not. I think society also need to take social media in stride and work to prevent it from replacing connection with themselves and others close to them. As an online business owner, I work to prevent myself from becoming overly invested in social media personally, by placing boundaries around it. I plan blocks of time to create and engage with content.
What are some of the setbacks or challenges you face with Burgundy Fox?
One of the challenges I'm working to overcome is control. For me, control looked like being overworked and isolated. So many people have been supportive of my journey and of Burgundy Fox as a mission-driven company, it is silly to avoid expanding and bringing on team members because you're afraid to grow. At some point, I fully realized I couldn't do this alone. Building a team is imperative, the sooner you can do this the better. Your team might not look like full-time employees at first, which is okay. Mentoring interns, hiring contractors and collaborating with like-minded businesses is an excellent and cost efficient way to build your team out. Daily, I also work through the balance of urgency and rest. As an entrepreneur, it's necessary to have that fire and urgency to reach your goals. As a human, you aren't a machine and need time to refuel before your tank is on empty.
At The Glossary, we believe in women working together and helping one another. Why do you think it is important for women to support each other?
The reality is we are the underrepresented gender. It's important to support underrepresented groups, period. At best, lack of representation results in missed ideas and perspectives. At worst, it results in systemic bias, unjust policy and undue death. I think we can support each other in ways that are big and small. To me, some of the most important ways we can show up are through promoting the economic growth of underrepresented groups; buying from, investing in, hiring, mentoring.
What creative women do you find inspiring?
There are many. Honestly, I'm inspired by any woman who is building anything. Unsurprisingly, I'm particularly inspired by women who have come from humble places and are using their platform for good. A few notable people that inspire me are America Ferrera (actress, activist), Jennifer Hyman (founder, CEO), Natalie Franke (founder, philanthropist, community leader), Megan Jayne Crabbe (author, body positive activist), and Jessamyn Stanley (author, yoga advocate).
What have you learned from creating your own business that you think can apply to any creative endeavor?
Patience. I think success is in committing to doing lots of little things right, and keeping balance to not lose the joy of what you're creating.
Do you have any resources that have been helpful to you that we should know of?
There are many, but here are 5 on my mind right now.
- The Tim Ferriss Show podcast (productivity tips galore)
- You Are A Badass (inspiration to create any kind of change in your life)
- Profit, First (changing your money mindset. I'm currently reading this but I already know it's a game-changer)
- Founder's Dilemmas (if you're about to start a company)
- Any kind of in-person networking group in your city that you vibe with: Rising Tide, Ellevate (I just joined this), Six Degrees Society, NAWBO
How do you manage your time?
Through scheduling and bullet journaling. I block my days and weeks. Monday I block for marketing activities, creating and scheduling content for the brand and don't take any external meetings. Tuesday and Wednesday I block for business development and revenue generating activities. Thursday is the only day of the week I take non-revenue generating meetings like networking meetings or calls. Friday is for doing any housekeeping or catch-up and I don't take meetings on Friday either. Every morning, I write down a list in a journal, also known as bullet journaling. It helps me to see my goals and prioritize them by importance. Plus, I get so much satisfaction from crossing out the bullets I accomplish. Anything important I don't get done, I move to the next day.
How do you deal with moments of self-doubt?
I bring myself back to reality with positive self-talk and talking to someone I trust. The frequency of self-doubt I faced (and still face at times) as an entrepreneur was surprising to me. Having a support system, people who listen to you and believe in you, is mission critical. If you don't have that currently, it's important to create that by finding a group of people who understand what you're going through. It's also helpful to try to detach yourself from the doubt. Doubt in itself isn't bad, it tells you to find answers to questions you have. Don't attach yourself to that doubt, and think about how you can tackle a problem the way you'd help a friend or co-worker through it.
What are you trying to learn right now or what is something that you are wanting to learn?
I'm learning how to make quick decisions and trust my gut. Most decisions don't require procrastination and can be done quickly. I'm also working on being more frank in my communication. There's a common critique that women's communication style is more diminutive and less assertive than men's. I've removed the words 'just', 'maybe', 'I think', and other phrases that might seem polite but are diminishing. Reducing filler words and sentences will make your communication clearer, make you appear stronger in your intention and most importantly, save you time.