How the California Lifestyle Inspired a Successful Fashion Brand

Oct 19, 2012

Woman outside Stacia boutique

In 2004, entrepreneur Stacy Johnson made a momentous decision. Over the past six years, she had painstakingly grown Stacia, her retail clothing business, from a single storefront and design studio in Carroll Gardens, Brooklyn to a popular product line carried in 300 boutiques in the U.S. and abroad. Though the company had thrived in an urban environment, she had always found her inspiration in the beach and the ocean. So, working with her banker at Bank of America to help figure out how to transition her business, she headed out to Santa Monica and re-launched her line as a wholesale knitwear label.

Johnson, the president of the company, had worked with Bank of America since she started her original retail business. When she decided to switch coasts, her banker helped her figure out how to restructure from a retail to wholesale operation, a decision that triggered higher manufacturing costs and the need for more sophisticated cash management. The bank also provided a bigger line of credit so she could finance more inventory. And she investigated the bank’s global capabilities so she could market her products to boutiques abroad.

On the West Coast, Stacia continued to grow and expand. Their fashion lines are now available in over 300 stores across the country and overseas. In 2008, Johnson launched a new collection of sweaters and dresses made from sustainable fibers. She re-launched her online business. And she added retail back into the mix, opening a new storefront in Santa Monica.

To manage costs, Johnson runs a lean operation, with only herself, East Coast and West Coast sales representatives. As she says, “I'm a one-man show at Stacia, Inc.—designing, sketching, spec’ing, fitting, branding, styling, costing, inventory, packing and shipping, invoicing and bookkeeping.” 

While she loves the challenges of managing her own business, she’s fully aware of the risks. “Having your own business is like riding a roller coaster—with so many ups and downs. I moved from one state to another, changed the nature of my business, and lived through two recessions, a dot-com bust and 9/11. So I’ve ridden the wave and hopefully I’ve come out on top. As a designer, you may have great ideas. But executing them financially and getting your product made and in stores, that’s the challenging part.”

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