#SWAAYthenarrative

Neely And Chloe: Continuing The Tory Burch Empire

People

Advancing from online sales to a fully operational Tribecca showroom in three years, sisters Neely and Chloe Burch operate their accessories line, Neely and Chloe, with the vitality and style of quintessential up-and-coming New York women. When the Burch sisters set out to create a luxury leather goods and accessories brand in 2015, they were striving fill a market gap that they were frustrated with.


And yes, they are Tory Burch's nieces.

Photo by Bridget Badore | @bridgetbadore

“I think Tory is very inspiring for the way that she reached the customer and spoke with them. So I think if we can get a little bit of that, it would be great," says Chloe Burch.

Getting into the Family Business

Growing up in the Burch household was what any outsider may already expect from the famed name. The girls flourished from design and aesthetic inspiration. Outside of their aunt's success, their father began his career within the fashion industry.

“I think that fashion has always been in our family. Our dad was in the fashion industry for a very long time, he started a women and children's knitwear business. My mom worked at the company as well and that's where they met," Chloe explains. “Our cousins have a company called Trademark, which is an amazing accessories brand as well. And then obviously we have our aunt, who is so helpful and so supportive of everything that we do."

Neely remembers sitting around the dinner table talking about design and aesthetic with her parents, and whether it was art or clothes, “it was something that my father in particular knows a lot more about more than your average dad," she jokes.

Without a doubt, the sisters' childhood influenced their determination to create their own brand. Neely and Chloe are born and bred fashion industry darlings, with fingers on the pulse of their millennial target audience.

“I think that it's something that we've felt, as consumers. You want to know more and you want to know why the brand came to be, and there's not always a great answer for that other than its an austere aesthetic or this concept," says Neely. “We've really worked to create a brand that allows our audience to connect with us in a way that feels really approachable, that's something we've tried to integrate into our brand as a whole."

A Millennial's Proclivity for Minimalism

When Neely and Chloe imagined an accessories brand, they imagined one for themselves. Their brand emulates what they believed was missing in the marketplace, something that sits between luxury and fast fashion.

“I think a lot of it just comes from being millennial women, being young women shoppers and feeling frustrated by the fact that the options at hand were skipping the Ubers or bringing your lunch to work so you could buy something that really you couldn't afford that felt elevated and sophisticated and made you feel special," says Neely. “Or the options were buying fast fashion that didn't last or something that felt mass produced or over consumed."

Scrolling through the Neely and Chloe website allows for an experience that is a comparatively bare alternative to brands like Coach and Michael Michael Kors, who's purses lie within a similar price range. The massive difference is that Neely and Chloe accessories exist sans massive logos, labels or signature patterns.

One of Neely and Chloe's best-selling bags, No. 19 The Mini Lady Bag. Photo Courtesy of Neely and Chloe

According to Chloe, the brand emphasizes customization on all of their products, and with customization comes the ability for consumers to view the products as an extension of themselves.

“What our hope was, and what this has really allowed for, was for women to leave our store or our website with their bag feeling more about them than it does about us," says Neely.

Procuring Funding

Neely and Chloe were able to raise 1.25M in friends and family convertible debt. Neely recalls focusing on finding investors throughout 2015 and 2016, learning as she went. She spent months running to meetings with potential investors, all with different inquires about every aspect their business - which they had to quickly adapt to. “Neither one of us have any history in finance or background in that," says Neely. “There was a very steep learning curve, but it's one that forced us to get really intimate knowledge of every component of the business and put us in positions where, at times, there were questions we didn't have the answers to."

Along the investment trail came the alarming realization that many female founders and business owners have faced. The sisters were given a list of contacts that had a history with investments. “You look down and you realize, it's a bunch of men. There's just no reason why a lot of these names shouldn't be women's names," notes Neely. “It's hard to sit across a table and talk about a product that doesn't resonate with you because you're never going to be the person to use it -if you're a man and we're talking about handbags."

The Burch sisters realized that they had to approach their audience and embrace women investors. They had to create a way to reach their target audience, so they hosted a get together with women from their hometown, women who knew them and saw them as capable business owners.

“It was our first stop on the fundraising trail," says Neely. “We wanted to present a product that was for women, by women, to women. We have a few investors that came out of that night who have become really great ambassadors for the brand."

Today, the Burch sisters operate Neely and Chloe from a sunlit showroom. Right now, their focus is on expanding their customer base while remaining true to their brand story. “We've really only scratched the surface of the consumers that are out there for this brand," says Neely. “I think there's a ton of potential for growth. We've just started dipping our toes into the wholesale side, working with very select specialty store brands to tap into great networks of women and really spread the word about who we are."

5 Min Read
Career

How Fitness Saved My Life and Became My Career

Sometimes it takes falling to rock bottom in order to be built back up again. I learned this many years ago when the life I'd carefully built for myself and my family suddenly changed. But in those times, you learn to lean on those who love you – a friend, family member or someone who can relate to what you've been through. I was lucky enough to have two incredible women help me through one of my lowest moments. They taught me to love myself and inspired me to pass on their lessons each da

If it weren't for the empowering women who stepped up and brought fitness back into my life, I wouldn't be standing – in the door of my own business – today.

In 2010, I was a wife, a mother of three, and had filtered in and out of jobs depending on what my family needed from me. At different points in my career, I've worked in the corporate world, been a stay-at-home mom, and even started my own daycare center. Fitness has always been a part of my life, but at that point being a mom was my main priority. Then, life threw a curveball. My husband and I separated, leading to a very difficult divorce.

These were difficult times. I lost myself in the uncertainty of my future and the stress that comes with a divorce and found myself battling anorexia. Over a matter of months, I lost 40 lbs. and felt surrounded by darkness. I was no longer participating in my health and all efforts to stay active came to a halt. I didn't want to leave my home, I didn't' want to talk to people, and I really did not want to see men. Seeing my struggles, first my sister and then a friend, approached me and invited me to visit the gym.

After months of avoiding it, my sister started taking me to the gym right before closing when it wasn't too busy. We started slow, on the elliptical or the treadmill. This routine got me out of the house and slowly we worked to regain my strength and my self-esteem. When my sister moved away, my good friend and personal trainer started working out with me one-on-one early in the morning, taking time out of her busy schedule to keep me on track toward living a healthy life once again. Even when I didn't want to leave the house, she would encourage me to push myself and I knew I didn't want to let her down. She helped me every step of the way. My sister and my friend brought fitness back into my everyday routine. They saved my life.

I began to rely on fitness, as well as faith, to help me feel like myself again. My friend has since moved away, but, these two women made me feel loved, confident and strong with their empowerment and commitment to me. They made such an incredible impact on me; I knew I needed to pay it forward. I wanted to have the same impact on women in my community. I started by doing little things, like running with a woman who just had a baby to keep her inspired and let her know she's not alone. I made sure not to skip my regular runs, just in case there was a woman watching who needed the inspiration to keep going. These small steps of paying it forward helped me find purpose and belonging. This gave me a new mentality that put me on a path to the opportunity of a lifetime – opening a women's only kickboxing gym, 30 Minute Hit.

About four years ago, I was officially an empty nester. It was time to get myself out of the house too and find what I was truly passionate about, which is easier said than done. Sitting behind a desk, in a cubicle, simply didn't cut it. It was hard to go from an active and chaotic schedule to a very slow paced, uneventful work week. I felt sluggish. Even when I moved to another company where I got to plan events and travel, it was enjoyable, but not fulfilling. I wanted to be a source of comfort to those struggling, as my sister and dear friend had been to me. I wanted to impact others in a way that couldn't be done from behind a desk.

I began to rely on fitness, as well as faith, to help me feel like myself again.

When I heard about 30 Minute Hit, I was nervous to take the leap. But the more I learned about the concept, the more I knew it was the perfect fit for me. Opening my own gym where women can come to let go of their struggles, rely on one another and meet new people is the best way for me to pass on the lessons I learned during my darkest times.

Kickboxing is empowering in itself. Add to it a high energy, female-only environment, and you have yourself a powerhouse! The 30 Minute Hit concept is franchised all over North America, acting as a source of release for women who are just trying to get through their day. I see women of all ages come into my gym, kick the heck out of a punching bag and leave with a smile on their face, often times alongside a new friend. 30 Minute Hit offers a convenient schedule for all women, from busy moms to working women, to students and senior citizens. A schedule-free model allows members to come in whenever they have a free half hour to dedicate to themselves. Offering certified training in kickboxing and a safe environment to let go, 30 Minute Hit is the place for women empowerment and personal growth.

Through my journey, I have learned that everyone is going through something – everyone is on their own path. My motivating factor is knowing that I can touch people's lives everyday just by creating the space for encouragement and community. It's so easy to show people you care. That's the type of environment my team, clients and myself have worked hard to create at our 30 Minute Hit location.

Fitness saved my life. If it weren't for the empowering women who stepped up and brought fitness back into my life, I wouldn't be standing – in the door of my own business – today. The perfect example of women empowering women – the foundation to invincibility.

This article was originally published September 12, 2019.