This is the latest entry in a series called Who Owns That? We ask readers on our LinkedIn group to identify their favourite small businesses from across Canada, and we track down the owners so they can tell us their stories.
Introducing Samantha Laliberte, co-founder of Ezzy Lynn, a London, Ont-based company that sells premium hair accessories.
1. Let's start with the basics. Can you briefly describe your business, including when it was founded, what it does, and where you operate?
Ezzy Lynn is a premium brand of trendsetting hair accessories. All products are handcrafted in Canada and each product's design is inspired by a unique endangered animal. For every 25 units sold, we symbolically adopt that animal through the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) – Canada.
Along with Sonja Fernandes and Bianca Lopes, we launched Ezzy Lynn in May 2014. We taught ourselves to sew on YouTube and a week later began selling our product at large music festivals. After selling over 1,000 units in our first quarter, Ezzy Lynn was first in the region to receive Starter Company Funding through the Small Business Centre.
We now sell our accessories worldwide at ezzylynn.com, in person larger events and through wholesale partnerships with private fitness studios and salons within Ontario.
2. What inspired you to be an entrepreneur and to branch out on your own with this idea?
Our team met as students through Western University's Entrepreneurship Centre. Each co-founder was pursuing a different business venture and we found ourselves both disappointed and inspired by the lack of female representation within the startup space. We bonded over our many shared passions: social entrepreneurship, fashion and wildlife conservation and soon after conceptualized the model for Ezzy Lynn.
3. Who are your typical customers, and how do they find you?
Ezzy Lynn has found customers all around the world who are passionate about wildlife conservation and excited to have a unique way of celebrating it – hair scrunchies. Many of our customers have organically become advocates for the Ezzy Lynn mission, providing social media marketing on our behalf and referrals within their large networks of trendy, wildlife conscious young adults.
4. What are the roles of you and your co-founder in the business? Do you have any employees?
As a retail startup that's in peak holiday season, we each end up wearing many hats. In order to streamline the many moving parts, we each take ownership over a defined area of the business.
Sonja is our head of sales and human-resources. She manages our wholesale program, leads a team of enthusiastic brand ambassadors and conscientiously protects our company culture.
I run marketing and operations, and focus on controlling inventory levels and fulfilling all orders. I also manage our external communications, ensuring there is a consistent positive buzz around Ezzy Lynn both online and offline.
Bianca is the finance and tech lead. She is on top of our numbers, ensuring every activity is turning a profit and our scrunchie margins are sound. She also manages relationships with our mentors who actively provide insights into our digital marketing and e-commerce strategy.
5. You've been identified by one of our readers as a standout business. What do you consider the key element of your success?
Being lean. We've said from day one, this is a work in progress. We have made testing and the ability to pivot a priority. We live and breath by a lean model and minimum viability as a mean to survive and quickly implement new ideas.
Our first scrunchie, our first landing page, our first wholesale call – all of it has been improved tremendously since they each went live. We put attention into every aspect of our business from inception to delivery; however, we are very aware of how much time and resources we allocate to tweaking the details of each. Having a visual reminder of where we want to be and reflecting along the way of how far we have already come, has been most effective in keeping the Ezzy Lynn team motivated and our fantastic customers back for the next phase of our brand.