Who are you and what business did you start?
I’m Marialuisa Garito, CEO and Founder of Affordable Chic, a fashion start up
What’s your backstory and how did you come up with the idea?
Growing up in Italy, I was surrounded by beauty and quality. But when I moved to the United States almost 15 years ago,I had trouble finding that unique European combination.
As a consumer, I was looking for high-quality items at an affordable price, but I could not find them. That’s why I founded Affordable Chic®, a NYC based fashion start-up , offering stylish Manhattan women’s high quality clothing for under $100.
Our clients are smart women who want timeless – not faddish – clothing. After the pandemic, we women are even more financially prudent, but still, we all love to feel chic and beautiful.
Now, more than ever, with the disappearing middle class, I believe quality fashion must be affordable for all. There is too much disparity between rich and poor.
Affordable chic wants to help women look and feel their best – without taking away from what they spend on their families.
Describe the process of launching the business.
We launched the business first by forming an LLC, buying the domain and trademarking the company’s name. We also tested the concept through live gatherings while collecting feedback as we sold our products. In this way, we were able to steer the company toward the right path, gaining a deeper understanding of our who our target audience would be and also generating making revenue from our pop ups.
Since launch, what has worked to attract and retain customers?
Definitely writing weekly newsletters and monthly blogs helped us to stay connected. But also we try to provide a special relation with each of our clients by sending handwritten notes when they buy our products, and warmly answering customers emails and social media messages.
How are you doing today and what does the future look like?
Today I am more confident about our concept. We saw in 2018 a shift in the shopping culture, and when launching Affordable Chic, we bet on it. Market and new data is proving we were right. So we can see our company and mission of closing the gap between luxury and price is needed and will be desired even more so in the future.
Through starting the business, have you learned anything particularly helpful or advantageous?
Yes, many people suggest that the most important thing in launching a new company is branding. while this is true, it is not the whole story. What is also true is that you don’t need to wait to have tons of money to pay someone to spread your mission. You can and should start raising brand awareness from Day One. No one, no matter how seasoned the person is in business, can know your brand better than you. So I tell other aspiring entrepreneurs to start to use all tools they can access and manage, like Canva, to express in a short sentence or through an image what you do and which problem you solve. Don’t wait for the expert to tell your story.
What platform/tools do you use for your business?
For Affordable Chic’s website I use Shopify. It makes it very easy for a small company to manage its business, and most of the time you do not need a developer to fix technical or coding issues. Also, a Shopify subscription includes substantial discounts with the major shipping companies, thereby facilitating delivery which is a very important aspect of an online retail business. We also use Facebook to run campaigns, but it doesn’t work for every business. Every company needs to make sure, before throwing money away, that their audience can be found on that specific social media platform. Another important tool I use is QuickBooks. It is a great tool because Quick Books is connected to my bank account and to Shopify, so it tracks each sale and updates financial information that is needed to file taxes and track the progress of the company.
What have been the most influential books, podcasts, or other resources?
The Hard Thing About Hard Things, by Ben Horowitz
Advice for other entrepreneurs who want to get started or are just starting out?
When things get bad, you are often the only one that can fix it. Follow your instinct and keep trying and failing til you make it. Success is mostly about persistence.
Where can we go to learn more?
Please visit our website www.affordablechic.com