These Boots Were Made for Selling
Can you imagine turning your DECA competitive event project into a real business with products sold around the country? For two former DECA members, this dream became a reality that turned into TwoAlity.
The Stansberry twins, Brynne and Bailye, started their entrepreneurial journey when they were just 17 years old. Their DECA advisor, Sonda Stuart, suggested they participate in DECA’s Advertising Campaign competitive event. Rather than designing a campaign around an existing product, the twins decided to design a product and then build an advertising campaign to support it.
They first started with a new product development brainstorming session by asking themselves, “What do we love and how can we make it better?”
The answer was Boots by TwoAlity, a design concept that consists of transparent boots with interchangeable liners. Their product solved many problems associated with the common boot: lack of versatility, fashion and comfort, but it also added to the value of boots. For example, Boots by TwoAlity can be used throughout three seasonal elements: snow, rain and muck.
With their product and advertising campaign in hand, Brynne and Bailye pitched their idea to a judge in DECA competition. Through the various stages of competition, the twins carefully took note of the judges’ feedback, comments and advice. They began to think that their DECA project actually had potential.
The twins won their association DECA competition, and the idea of TwoAlity becoming a real business started materializing. However, taking their DECA project and turning it into a real business was no easy job.
The next step in creating their business was to develop a formal business plan. During the twins’ time at Columbia College (Mo.), Brynne and Bailye built upon the foundation created in DECA and expanded their business plan to be more encompassing and complete.
“To make our plan more complete, we added production costs, financial projections, a business management structure and an exit strategy,” Bailye explained.
“We created a very detailed layout for what we thought it would take to build a successful business and a strong business structure for the future. We use our business plan to guide us, not constrict us,” Brynee added.
Protecting Their Idea
With faith in themselves and their product, the twins turned their attention to patenting and protecting their idea. The girls started the patent process as seniors in high school, and received their patent at the age of 19.
“The patent process is not as overwhelming as it might seem,” the twins reassured.
The process involved various steps such as research and design, initial patent search, drafting and then patent filing. Next, the girls waited 18 months during the patent pending stage until they finally received the good news that their patent had been accepted. The twins’ patent number is US D623, 385 S and protects their designs for 14 years.
Financing a Venture
The first amount of seed capital Brynne and Bailye obtained was through a local business competition they won out of sheer persistence and a little good luck.
“We entered a local Idea Bounce competition in 2011, and at first, our application was denied, but we decided to go anyway for the networking opportunities,” the twins said.
By lunchtime, someone had dropped out of the competition and Brynne and Bailye were asked to take their spot. With just 60 minutes to prepare, the girls gave their pitch. Brynne and Bailye ended up taking first place in that competition and the prize money went into TwoAlity to take their business to the next level.
The twins’ second amount of seed capital was an opportunity through their college. They were awarded the very first Steve and Barbara Fishman Award for Entrepreneurship, which granted TwoAlity $10,000. Again, this money was put toward taking TwoAlity to the next level.
After these two opportunities, the twins decided not to approach a venture capitalist or angel investor.
“Brynne and I did not want to lose control of our company by giving up majority ownership for money,” Bailye said. “We started a business so that we could run it together; not to have an investor tell us how to run TwoAlity.”
So instead, the twins and their dedicated team bootstrapped to make things possible, until they were able to obtain a Small Business Association loan.
Currently, TwoAlity uses a new model for obtaining collegiate partners. Brynne and Bailye reach out to college bookstores, both on and off campus, and embroidery shops that cater to the TwoAlity market. Brynne and Bailye see major opportunities for TwoAlity in both of these areas because they use Boots by TwoAlity as a vehicle for versatility, expression, and customization.
Instead of TwoAlity having to secure and carry licensing agreements, the twins allow the shops to purchase boots and liners, and then the stores can embroider or customize the liners how they see fit.
TwoAlity recently teamed up with “The Monogramming Trendsetter,” Marley Lilly, to produce monogrammed boot liners. This exciting new venture is sure to take Boots by TwoAlity to an entirely new level of success.
Currently, Boots By TwoAlity sells its products in several different ways. One way is through the online store (www.thetwoalitystore.com), a full functioning e-commerce website where customers can browse the online catalog, select their size and liner colors, and then place an order.
Boots by TwoAlity also sells its products through trade shows by obtaining retail partners that purchase Boots by TwoAlity from TwoAlity, at wholesale prices, and then offer the boots in their stores. In other words, this is a direct business-to-business sale.
Another way TwoAlity sells boots and liners is at “cash and carry” shows. “This is a show where all sorts of products are being sold and customers can shop the entire show throughout a weekend,” Bailye explained. “At these shows we are selling directly to the customer, or in other words, business to consumer.”
TwoAlity also utilizes social media, such as Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and LinkedIn, to promote their products. “These accounts offer a free opportunity to spread the word about Boots by TwoAlity to the entire world and makes us very accessible to future and current customers,” Brynne added.
The Big Picture
Along their journey, there have certainly been obstacles to overcome. For example, the twins had a difficult time sourcing a quality product to actually make the boot overseas, so they turned their focus to being made in the United States, which was their original dream for the company. The entire footwear industry told the Stansberry’s that they would not be able to produce this boot in the U.S. Despite being told “no” by the industry, they proceeded and found a way to produce their boots domestically.
Another major hurdle for TwoAlity was obtaining their SBA loan. The twins were turned down by multiple local banks until they met with a bank that helped educate them on what it would take to secure an SBA loan. In doing so, TwoAlity and People’s Bank have built a strong relationship that translates into a solid financial foundation for the future of TwoAlity.
“What helped us [keep going] was that we always kept the ‘big picture’ in mind, but set little goals along that way that would help us reach the big picture,” Bailye said.
“If we had only looked at the big picture, then the task ahead of us would have seemed really overwhelming, but breaking it down into smaller goals made the process manageable,” Brynne added.
DECA is all about creating opportunities for its members to take advantage of, and the Stansberry twins know that DECA members can always achieve the impossible. The girls’ hard work paid off, and since sales launched in May 2013, boots and liners have already been sold in 19 states.
Next time you sit down to work on your competitive event project, take a minute to brainstorm the possibilities that are in front of you. Could your project be the next DECA success story? It’s up to you to Make It Count!