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Baby Got Bling: Female entrepreneurs defining ‘girl power’ with purpose, passion and power

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“I wish more women entrepreneurs supported each other,” Summer Harris says. “It doesn’t need to be as competitive as people make it. We’re all working hard, and there’s room for us all to succeed. Let’s be creative. Let’s be different. Let’s succeed. And let’s learn from each other.”

Summer Harris (right), founded Baby Bling in 2005 with her mother. Since then her business partner Cyndi Lowry (left) and sister Millie DeGraff (center) have joined the team. “I wish more women entrepreneurs supported each other,” Summer Harris says. “It doesn’t need to be as competitive as people make it. We’re all working hard, and there’s room for us all to succeed. Let’s be creative. Let’s be different. Let’s succeed. And let’s learn from each other.” (Photo by Dave Blackhurst/UV BizQ)

Baby Bling is all girl.

From the three owners to their 10 employees to their 60 locally-contracted seamstresses, this bow business is the literal definition of girl power.

“When a man walks in, it’s kind of hilarious. It’s like, ‘Who’s here? Is that a man? We can smell him!’” laughs Summer Harris, founder of the Lehi company. “Most of the men get a little intimidated by all the bows and all the women, so we feel like we should have a sign out front that says, ‘Warning! Estrogen overload.’”

But the $1.8-million company is in no danger. It has nearly 50,000 followers on Instagram, and its popular inventory is sold online, in 600 small boutiques, and at Nordstrom stores all over the country. In 2016, it ranked No. 5 on BusinessQ’s UV50 list of Fastest-Growing Companies.

“It’s empowering to work with all these women,” says Cyndi Lowry, co-owner of Baby Bling. “In addition to running the company, we do everything ourselves. We move warehouses, we climb ladders, we drive forklifts. We go girls.”

It’s empowering working with all these women. In addition to running the company, we do everything ourselves. We move warehouses, we climb ladders, we drive forklifts. We go girls. —Cyndi Lowry, co-owner of Baby Bling

School of work

All three owners of the company took a non-traditional path to entrepreneurship.

“It took me 87 packets to graduate from Orem High,” jokes Harris, who started the company in 2005 with her mother, Debbie Zenger. “I got married at 18, had a baby at 19, and I wasn’t really into college. I wanted to be a mom from day one. But I was always interested in retail and fashion, so that’s where Baby Bling started for me.”

Harris and Lowry went to high school together, and Lowry was in a similar school situation.

 “I barely graduated from high school. Then I went to college everywhere and majored in everything,” Lowry says. “But I always loved working. I always loved working hard. When this opportunity came along with Summer, it was a no-brainer.”

As for Millie DeGraff, who is Harris’ sister, she watched her sister and mother run the business for almost a decade before joining the team.

“It’s always been fun watching it grow, and now it’s great to be part of the family business,” she says.

Ultimately, passion and hard work have been the keys to their success.

“We’re all doing work we love — work that excites us, challenges us and drives us,” Harris says. “And we feel blessed. Not everyone gets to say that.”

Dynamic trio

Each owner brings different skills — and different passions — to the company.

“We really balance each other well,” Harris says. “It’s usually me being really bossy, and these two being really passive.”

“You control me without me knowing it!” Lowry laughs. “But seriously, Summer is the boss and we are A-OK with it. We are all so different, and no one outshines the other. We’re a team.”

While they all work on the overall vision and direction of the business, they each have different “babies” at Baby Bling. Harris heads up the Nordstrom account. Lowry focuses on the website. And DeGraff pushes the social media.      

“We’re fighters. We’ve fought for everything we’ve ever earned, and we’ll keep fighting. And of course we’re going to have fun while we’re at it.” —Summer Harris, founder of Baby Bling

Credit where credit is due

The hardest part of being female entrepreneurs?

“There’s not enough of us,” Harris says. “And it’s especially hard when you’re in a female-driven industry. Sometimes it can be hard for men to understand a business about baby bows.

“I remember three years ago, we went to get a business credit card at a bank — a $10,000 limit credit card, so nothing too extreme. At the time we had a couple of employees, low overhead, lots of cash — and they wouldn’t give it to us without our husbands’ signatures. We were a legitimate business making a profit, and our husbands don’t have anything to do with the company. It was a real eye opener — and completely frustrating.”

“But now that bank is calling us for our business,” Lowry adds.

Power to the people

For Baby Bling, the female empowerment theme is more than a catch phrase.

“All these women depend on us,” Harris says. “The women we employ are able to financially contribute to their families — with flexible schedules and a supportive environment. How cool is that? It’s about so much more than money to us. Every decision we make, we make for our girls.”

This is one of five stories featured in the “Boss Ladies” section of Utah Valley BusinessQ. 

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