COURTNEY KATES // MAISON DU SOIR
Maison Du Soir is an L.A.-based luxury sleep and loungewear collection designed for the women whose fashion sense doesn’t get left at the front door. Each MDS garment is crafted with practicality and silhouette in mind and that the transition from day to night should be seamless and that sleepwear should echo your daywear style.
How did you come up with the concept behind Maison du Soir?
Maison Du Soir was born sometime after I purchased my first quality, matching set of sleepwear. I was a VP of Merchandising and Design working a high stress job, settling into my 32 years and really coming to understand how to treat myself well and own the powerful female role I was playing.
That first set was purchased after looking into my sleepwear drawer and thinking, “I have to get my pajama game together.” How can I be sleeping in pink plaid flannel, old tees and sweats when I’m using my hard earned money on Helmut Lang leggings, Maje blouses and a splurge on great shoes here and there? How does a holy tee and random flannels with ties that don’t really function, make me feel better after working grueling hours?
When I slipped on that first set, I looked better which made me feel better and consequently helped me sleep better. I was hooked and wanted more. I had money to spend and after looking online and heading to some favorite department stores, I realized there was not much out there that I really liked. I’m not a lace and bows girl, lingerie is uncomfortable and most of the classic sets that are somewhat affordable have wide legs and boxy tops. Being in the fashion industry, I didn’t understand why it seemed the sleepwear market wasn’t paying attention to our changing needs and trends. Everything seemed dated, boxy or cheesy sexy. The wheels started spinning as I envisioned what would be so much cuter to sleep in and became obsessed with so many designs in my head. Maison Du Soir took flight and I haven’t turned back since.
Once you knew you wanted to launch Maison du Soir what steps did you take to make that a reality?
Launching Maison Du Soir was so exciting mainly because it was the blissful beginning stages — like when you have a new boyfriend! The work was intense. I kept my VP job and worked on my obsession at nights and on the weekends. It was all-consuming. I basically worked two jobs for a year and a half. There was constant defeat in the beginning — people not supporting the idea, vendors not wanting to work with someone new, lawyers who charge way too much — but I made my way through it. I developed a business plan, set aside some money, went through the proper legal channels, made a calendar, and did my research. I worked and worked and worked, every weekend and every night.
What lessons have you learned along the way?
I’ve learned so many lessons I don’t even know where start. The lesson I actually learned well before (that prompted me to start MDS) was that even if you have tons of money and resources, you are still going to be a mess at times and make mistakes. You have to tackle them head on, learn from them, be humble, and keep going. What’s essential to know is that nobody knows what goes on behind closed doors. Making mistakes doesn’t mean it strikes against you. If you present a consistent brand image, that’s all people will see and remember. They don’t know that you just miscalculated your fabric yields and you are 60 yards short. You resolve it before they know and you deliver, no matter what.
What has surprised you about starting & running this business?
I think the coolest thing that has surprised me is there is always an up after the down. It just somehow happens that way and it keeps you going, sometimes surviving on fumes.
Do you have a daily routine or certain rituals you do?
Just recently I added some rituals because for the past two years my health has come last. I now start my day with hot water, coconut oil, and lemon. Of course there’s coffee after that. I’m trying to bring meditation back into my life and taking supplements catered specifically to my needs. I handle every aspect of the business. Keeping the machine running well is crucial. Getting sick is not an option.
What hardships/obstacles have you had along the way?
Obstacles are constant, some are big some are small. Financial obstacles are ever present, planning properly, and handling the unforeseen. Remember those Helmut Lang pants and Maje blouses I referenced before? Well I have long given up those obsessions. I’ve had to make a lot of sacrifices for my business — personal spending being one of them. It’s actually been an awesome experience.
Partnerships always present obstacles as well. Finding the right fabric vendor, patternmaker, lawyer, or photographer — you don’t always get it right or your vision or personalities don’t mesh. I know I will continue to encounter many more obstacles but I will never let them slow me down. I always find a resolution.
What do you wish you would have known going into this?
I wish I would have known more about Quickbooks and accounting. My biggest mistake in 2013 was not using Quickbooks. My biggest mistake in 2014 was screwing up all my Quickbooks entries. For 2015, I’ve hired a bookkeeper. I had no idea they were as affordable as they are!
What have you found works for you as far as organizing your business and time?
I write everything down. I handle so much there is no way my brain can hold it all. Prioritizing what is most important helps when I’m overwhelmed.
Honestly, I don’t know how else to say this but I don’t have any formulas or organizational tools. I’m certainly organized and have a lot of spreadsheets but ultimately, I get sh*t done. I research, plan, and execute. Done. Next.
Highlight of your career so far?
My InStyle Magazine feature in the September issue was definitely an exciting acknowledgement. I have some big opportunities coming up that might surpass that pretty soon! Fingers crossed.
Looking back, what would you do differently?
It’s hard to say what I would do differently. I feel like every mistake, turning point, or revelation was a lesson that needed to be learned at the time it came. I obviously should have taken a few Quickbooks classes — clearly, I’m not letting that one go. But to my point, it forced me to learn something I didn’t have time for nor any interest. I think it’s important to have a good understanding of all aspects of your business. If it’s through failure, then so be it.
Best advice you’ve been given? Any advice that you’d give other entrepreneurs?
Best advice was that every large company has started from an idea and some with very little money. If you have the passion, tenacity, and work ethic, anything is possible.
In a CNN interview the founder of Spanx, Sara Blakely, spoke of how her father encouraged her to fail. When she would come home from school, he would say “what did you fail at today?” What an amazing role model to have, to encourage your kids to face fears of failure and try new things. I love that.
My advice to aspiring entrepreneurs — it’s a roller coaster — you have to hold tight, be patient, and be willing to go for a sometimes exciting and sometimes very scary ride.