Small Business Profile: Trang Dorris, Founder of Xinh & Co. - Nashville
Hi Trang! Tell us a little bit about yourself.
I'm Trang Dorris and I'm the one person behind Xinh & Co. Xinh & Co. is a brand that focuses on fair trade, handwoven goods from artisans from my hometown of Vietnam and around the world.
What is your background (i.e. education, previous jobs, experiences that led you to create)?
I'm originally from Vietnam and moved to the U.S. in 2007 as an exchange student. Then I decided to stay here for college, grad school, and eventually creating my own little family here as well. I went to school to become a financial auditor which I did for bit. Then I became a mother and everything changed. I felt this strong desire to be at home with my daughter. I was lost in the mommy world, the world I knew very little about. I had to learn everything on my own. Our families live super far away and most of my friends were on a different path at the time so it felt very lonely, yet beautiful in all the chaos. Anyway, I got deep into making things at the time. I taught myself how to sew and knit my own clothes and I was very into clothing, the art of making, and slow fashion. That is exactly when I felt deeply in love with handmade and I truly understood the difference between handmade and mass produced.
When and why did you begin Xinh & Co?
Right before Xinh & Co. I started making blankets and things for babies to sell on Etsy. I struggle with growing it because it is so so hard for me to sell what I personally made. I figured that I can't be the seller and the maker at the same time. I was stuck. We went to Vietnam to visit my family when my daughter was around 1 and I found some beautiful handmade baskets at a local boutique. I talked to my mom about it and did some research online. After a lot of time and effort, we stumbled upon a village of seagrass makers. After talking to them about pricing and such. I was surprised at how little they got paid, and shocked that their paid term is 60 days. If you know Vietnam at all, our country functions in a cash system and people don't own credit cards. I just can't imagine the thought of investing the money into the materials, time to make them, and get paid 2 months after delivery. That's when Xinh & Co. was born.
What are the mission and values behind your business?
Right now, we only focus on handwoven goods only but that might change in the future. Our focuses are handwoven fair trade goods, sourced directly from artisans according to the fair trade principles. We hope to be the connection between talented weavers and the end consumers.
How do you find the artisans that you work with? Do you work with specific groups or is that changing over time?
By a lot of trials and errors and establishing connections. The first group of weavers we found by pure accident. And a lot is just by asking around and such. Since we want to work with small groups or independent makers (not an organized company), there are a lot of trials and errors that are not formal.
Could you tell us more about your Consistent Income Program?
When we first established a relationship with the weavers, we learned that they might get a lot of orders one season and nothing the next season. That creates a lot of stress and inconsistency in their lives. Also, the quality of the products are not that great when a big order is placed. So we decided to make small, consistent orders to the weavers every two weeks. This ensures they receive somewhat of the same income every month and their quality can be a little more consistent. On our end, we decided to do wholesale to small boutiques and shops to keep the program going. We don't make much with wholesale (comparing to a traditional wholesale pricing structure), but this ensure the products flow seamlessly and it has proven to work fairly well.
The items in your shop are all woven in some way; what draws you to that art form and these products?
When Aili was born, I took on knitting as a hobby. I became obsessed with textures and fibers. I also understood the amount of work that goes on in making these products. That's why I am naturally drawn to handwoven goods with natural materials for my shop.
The visual imagery that goes along with your brand is beautiful. How do you keep that consistent and continuing to share Xinh & Co's story?
Thank you so much! That is so kind of you to say! Every picture in the shop is taken my me. I started Xinh & Co. with $500 so I didn't really have much money to spend on photography. I did hire my wedding photographer to shoot the first round of products. He charged me a very good deal, but then we moved to Nashville a couple of months later. I didn't know anyone that would give me the same price. So I asked my wedding photographer to give me a quick tutorial of how to shoot in manual mode. We facetimed once and I started shooting on my own from then. I used a nice DSRL camera that my husband gave me when we were dating because I had expressed an interest in photography at the time. I still feel like its a huge mountain to climb every time I have to shoot something, but seeing my skill develop is one of the most satisfying things ever.
What makes you passionate about what you do?
I'm a sucker for handmade beauties, so I feel like whatever I do in life, that will be involved in some shape or form. I remember when I was around 5 or 6, my family members had me picked out items for their shop because they said I have "good eyes". Unfortunately, I grew up and didn't believe in this unique ability of mine. I feel like I'm starting to unravel my potential though. Better late than never, right?
What are some of the setbacks or challenges you face?
There are so many on a daily basis. The biggest one would be time. I wish I had more time to build a new website. I also wish I could engage more on IG, creating more content on there. Instagram is really changing at a fast pace, and at the moment, it doesn't favor small business owners who wear all the hats. They want us to constantly engage which I can't do much of.
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? How have women supported you?
I believe this is crucial in the success of woman. I felt very lonely when I first started. I do have the best support from my husband and my family, but I knew no one who was doing something similar. I do have some women who I admire from the distance, but luckily I found this group on instagram of other woman doing similar things and that’s what helps me survive through some difficult times and grow Xinh & Co to where it is now. Knowing that there are people doing something similar and having similar struggles makes me feel empowered and less alone in this whole journey.
What women bring you inspiration?
Oh so many. I love Elle Rowley of Solly Baby. I don't know her personally but watching her growing family and her business has been such an inspiration.
Do you have a dream collaboration?
This is my weakness. I don't look for collaborations enough. I hope I have more time to think about this next year.
Do you have any resources that have been helpful to you that we should know of?
Check out your local small business center, they can be a huge resource. I used to help small businesses during grad school and I learned so much. I also love using google sheets to keep all things organized, plus it's free.
What are you trying to learn right now or what is something that you are wanting to learn?
I really want to learn more about marketing. It's very intimidating to me right now, but I hope to feel confident enough to take on this challenge in the upcoming year. I also want to learn to style and photograph more. I'm working on creating a space for me to do that right now so I'm super excited.
What are some of your favorite places in Nashville?
Nashville is such a beautiful and friendly city. I love High Garden and Fire Pot Chai for teas; Rolf and Daughters, City House, or Lockeland Table for food; Lemon Laine, Porter East, 12th South for shopping.
What's coming up next for you?
We are making a building in our backyard for me to work in and I think it will make such a difference for my schedule and efficiency. Xinh & Co. is mostly me with a lot of help from my husband right now. I do want to grow it to the point I can have a few part time employees and such.