Anu Orgil is a San Francisco transplant who was born and raised in Mongolia. She grew up in a household watching her father make leather goods. After graduating from BYU-H with a degree in Political Science and while working at non-profit consulting firm in San Francisco, Anu decided to partner up with her father to launch her ethical fashion brand,Anouk & Co. Her vision for Anouk & Co. was realized when she became aware of the current market, saturated with fast fashion and brands lacking social responsibility. With ethical consumers in mind, Anu is dedicated to bringing beautifully crafted, high quality leather goods at an affordable price. Anouk & Co. was launched in May 2015.
Name: Anu Orgil
Location: San Francisco
Current title | Company: Founder / Anouk & Co.
Education: B.A Political Science from BYUH
Website / social media pages: www.anoukandco.com
Can you give us brief outline about your background, the first job you landed and how you got it?
Now that I think about it, I was very self-driven and started working and “hustling” at a very young age. Starting from 8th grade I translated articles geared towards students and kids from English to Mongolian and submitted them to a local children’s newspaper. They really liked it and I started translating content for them for a fee. Using my English language skills, I also used to work as a tour-guide during my high-school summer breaks. But the most fun “first job” I did was translating the early 2000’s hit teen drama “The O.C” with my best friends and we were able to sell it to a local TV Channel.
Can you tell us about Anouk & Co?, how did you get the idea and how did you start? (Please go into detail here as much as possible)
Leather making runs in my family. My father has been making leather goods for decades now and honestly I never really thought I would be part of it. When I came to the US I wore leather bags designed and handmade by my father and everyone would compliment me on it. Friends and strangers would I ask me where I bought my bags from and went on to explain that they had a hard time finding a durable leather bag that’s also stylish and affordable. With a lot of people’s encouragement I decided to take a risk and start Anouk & Co.
What makes Anouk & Co so different from the other fashion brands?
Anouk & Co.’s strictly a family owned business that operates on a small scale and we intend to keep it that way. As a family owned business we directly deliver the products straight to our customers and avoid all the brick and mortar expenses. One of our core values is to make our bags in a sustainable way, that’s why we only use surplus leather for our bags. A small batch of bags can be made with a single hide of surplus full grain leather. Each hide has a different pattern and makes each bag is truly unique. This ensures our customers get a truly one of a kind bag.
How has it been working with your Father?
It’s great! There’s total trust and transparency between us and I can attest to the quality of our products because my dad keeps me informed on all the little details and the step-by-step process of the production. I feel comfortable just picking up the phone and calling him to make special requests or adjustments to an order. Although the downside is that most of our calls have become about the company and business which can get stressful at times. So now I’m keeping in mind to distinguish between business talks and family talks.
What challenges have you faced since starting?
As a first time and solo business owner, everything was a big question mark in the beginning. From creating an LLC to getting all the necessary seller permits, web development, trademark issues, marketing, and branding… it all seemed like a big challenge for me. But I’m still learning as I go and tackling one thing at a time.
Did you start with any funding?
I started with about $6000 that I saved up from my day job. About half of it was spent on a web developer to build the website and the rest was spent on getting licenses, permits, having the Anouk & Co. name trademarked and other miscellaneous expenses.
What’s a typical day for you on the job like?
There is really no typical day. I work for a non-profit during the day so I mostly work on Anouk & Co. in the evenings and weekends. Right now I’m working on updating the website with a new layout. So teaching myself how to work on WordPress and also concentrating on Facebook Marketing.
What do you love most about your job and what do you dislike the most?
It’s really rewarding to get thank you e-mails from satisfied customers. That gives me motivation and makes me love what I’m doing even more. As a solo founder with no previous experience it can get challenging without a designated mentor/colleague to brainstorm with and bounce off different ideas. But my fiancée is extremely supportive and pushes me forward when I feel like I’m stuck.
What inspires you, what drives you to get up each morning and push?
Having a weekly and monthly goal, and getting up each morning thinking that I’m getting one step closer to accomplishing my goals pushes me and gets me going every day.
What is the future for Anouk & Co?
We’ve been seeing slow and steady growth during the past 2 years since our launch and have gained a very loyal customer base. Our goal is to keep this growth organic and stay true to our core. We don’t aim to become a fast fashion brand that every other store carries.
Can you share a recent success story that makes you proud?
We have doubled our revenue from last year and successfully attended a number of west coast craft shows over the past few months. It was a proud moment seeing several of our customers stopping by our booth still wearing their previously purchased Anouk & Co. bags.
What advice would you give to ladies wanting to start an ethical fashion brand?
I would say be really transparent with your idea and talk about it with everyone including your friends to people you just met. I found that people have amazing insights and each time you talk to someone you get fresh ideas and a new perspective. That’s going to help you a lot to get an overall picture of what you’re trying to achieve and help you to decide whether your idea is feasible or not. If you still feel strongly about it after that, trust your gut and just go for it. You don’t have to know everything about ethical fashion or ins and outs of running a business but you’ll learn a lot as you go and start figuring out how to put the puzzle together.
If you could go back and make any changes, what would they be?
I started fairly small with Anouk & Co. But I realize now that there’s no such thing as starting too small. If I were to make any changes, I would start even smaller and perhaps begin with an Etsy website and go from there.
What’s the most important advice you have received that you would like to share with other ladies?
Don’t let anyone tell you that what you’re trying to achieve is impossible.
What would you tell your 20-year-old self?
I’m little envious of people who have very specific skill sets and knowledge. I would tell my 20-year-old self to choose my major wisely and try to gain a skill set that not a whole lot of people possess.
One thing that makes you | your business ” Younique”
I think with Anouk & Co. what makes the experience unique is, it’s like you’re shopping with a friend. That’s how the business was started in the first place, making beautiful and unique leather bags for friends. We still listen to each and every one of our customers, take their feedback and incorporate it back to the products.