DCF: So… Who Are You?
Leslie Wong and Alexis Jenkins are the co-founders of Burgundy Fox, an e-commerce brand on a mission to empower and celebrate all women. (DCF: Yasss to more of this in 2018!). After experiencing how uncomfortable and antiquated it was to shop for intimate apparel, they started Burgundy Fox to create an inclusive approach to beauty and a seamless shopping experience. They have a collective 15 years of background in marketing and customer experience for consumer facing brands and creative facing businesses including Rising Tide | HoneyBook. They are the hosts of a weekly iTunes podcast, Seamless, that shares the stories of women who inspire mind and body confidence in us all. Leslie lives in Chicago, loves listening to business podcasts and can finally handstand (on a good day). Alexis lives in NYC, is an avid follower of fashion and was a competitive tap dancer (as a child). Connect with them through @burgundyfoxco, @lesliewong15 or @officially_alexisjenkins.
DCF: Why do you love what you do? What makes you funemployment?
AJ: I love the opportunity to help improve someone’s day or life every single day. It doesn’t make sense in the year 2018 that women still wear uncomfortable bras. We’re saying no more! (DCF: Bras should be supportive not torture devices.) Building Burgundy Fox allows us to help women celebrate themselves from the underwear out!
LW: I love what I do because I get to create every single day. The fact that I’m creating something from scratch and impacting women’s lives gets me to work feeling incredibly excited and challenged. On top of that, I get to build this with one of my closest friends, which makes the experience a little easier and a lot more fun than doing it alone or with another person. (DCF: Having a co-captain is such a benefit because you can help drive each other and it doesn’t all fall on you!)
DCF: Who was your first mentor and how did you find them?
AJ: My first mentor was in high school. Growing up in a predominantly white area, there were very few black families in my neighborhood. My first mentor was a black woman who lived around the corner from me and my family. I remember asking my Dad what he thought I should be when I grow up and he said, you should be like Paula. And the rest was history! We spent a lot of time together, she helped me practice interviewing for colleges, proof read all 30 drafts of my college essay and so much more! (DCF: It take a village is something I believe more and more as I get wiser.)
LW: I’ve had a few mentors in my life, my firsts would be my mom and sisters, who showed me what it looked like to work hard and push boundaries simply by showing up and speaking out as an Asian woman. My first career mentor was a Director of Sales at Marriott International, the first company I worked for after college. She groomed me in many ways that I probably didn’t understand at the time. She was tough, ferocious, kind and hard-working. I learned two invaluable skills from her: how to sell and how to fight for what you want. She was also charming and likeable in business when women so often are victims of a double standard–the professional consequences of being too sweet or too aggressive don’t exist for men the way they do for women. I think she did things her way and didn’t mind the double standard much. (DCF: Sometimes you just have to ignore the wall, it’s easier said than done but some women know how to exist around the double standard)
DCF: What’s your happy place?
AJ: My happiest place is with my family. I love going home and spending time with my parents, brothers and husbands. There’s nothing that makes me happier than arguing, laughing and pulling pranks on each other. (DCF: Life is too short to not laugh as often as possible so this is great!)
LW: Truthfully, anywhere with people I love, eating something delicious. The ocean is also my happy place. (DCF: These all sound wonderful).
DCF: Where do you get your energy?
AJ: Sleep! Getting a good night sleep each night allows me to refocus. Each morning, I’ll write on the bathroom mirror a goal that I’d like to reach that day and then the goal of the week. This practice excites me about the work and opportunity that the day will bring! (DCF: Sounds like an amazing way to kick off the day!)
LW: Ideas. Nothing gives me more energy than imagining a possibility. I guess you could say I’m an optimist, but also a realist. I love seeing an idea come to fruition. Aside from that, I get my energy from people. It took me 3 months of working alone as a new entrepreneur to realize that I am undoubtedly an extrovert. (DCF: Ditto, I relate to this so much! I love being alone when I want to be alone but people recharge me). I get energy from having intimate conversations with people, seeing them face to face and seeing them smile.
DCF: What does balance mean to you and how do find it?
AJ: Balance is relative. I think it’s important to accept everyday, week, or month won’t necessarily be “balanced”. I know my threshold of needing me time. I love giving my time and energy to others but I also have a natural sense to know when it’s time to pull back and take care of myself. (DCF: Self care is essential, it’s the difference between giving and burn out).
LW: Balance is a feeling, one that is dynamic day-to-day and different for everyone as Alexis puts it! I think it’s being intuitive and knowing when you feel out of balance, in health, in mind, in spirit. Yoga has helped me be intuitive, to pause and process before I react. When it comes to the notion of balance, I think the worst thing we can do is punish ourselves for not meeting a societal standard of balance, the idea that we can ‘have it all’–a thriving career, family, friend and love life. In reality, all of those areas of life might ebb & flow at different times, being true to what feels right for you and adjusting (even falling and getting back up) is balance. (DCF: We are often far to hard on ourselves for things that are totally normally and relatable!)
DCF: What sacrifices did you have to make to get here?
AJ: We’re in the very early stages of Burgundy Fox, self-funding is a huge sacrifice. Other dreams have to be on hold in order to fulfill this dream. I have an amazing business partner and a wildly supportive husband. While the sacrifice is significant, it fuels me to work harder than I ever have in my life. (DCF: Self funding definitely sounds like it’s a strong motivator).
LW: I would agree with Alexis, it’s something that isn’t talked about often enough in the open: money and what financing a business looks like. With advances in technology, it is easier to start a business now more than ever before. Even if your business is one that can gain and requires outside funding (like venture capital), there is a reality that you could be bootstrapping (or reinvesting nearly all your net profit back into the business) for years or forever. So, prepare for that, prepare for a smaller or non-existent paycheck, prepare to focus on sales so that you can get to a point where you might not need outside investment. To get to this point though, you could say I sacrificed some sleep.
DCF: What struggles have you faced as a women in your industry?
AJ: Finding my voice has been my biggest struggle. Being a woman of color in e-commerce and the lingerie industry has a lot of layers to it. I want to be taken seriously, I want to be afforded similar opportunities that my counterparts receive but I’ve grown up in a world knowing that I have to work ten times harder. (DCD: Aint that the truth!). I want my voice to be clear and strong.
LW: As the CEO of Burgundy Fox, I can’t say that I have yet faced outright struggles because I’m a woman. The industry we work in is mostly fueled by women (our brand partners, social media influencers, members) but the two largest lingerie retailers in the US are operated by men, we hope to be that change. We hire not based on gender, but values. So, we seek colleagues, contractors and suppliers with similar values as us. In the past, I have certainly faced struggles in business as a woman. Women are faced with so many double standards in the workplace, which adds a great deal of complexity while navigating promotions and recognition, or even feeling physically and emotionally safe. As a teenager, I worked in a restaurant that was fraught with sexual harassment. From kitchens to boardrooms, overt and covert, seeing the powerlessness women endure has made me push back and try to influence these places any way I can.
DCF: What is the early advice you didn’t listen to that you wish you had?
AJ: Can you hear your mother’s voice… or grandmother, or that teacher that annoyingly got you. Save, save and save some more. When I was younger I loved spending money and took time for granted. Now that I’m older, I understand how important it is to have money in case of emergencies. You can never have too much in savings and you’re never too young to start investing. (DCF: Yes we need to do so much better in how we educate young people cause yes it’s never too soon!)
LW: I wish I had paid more attention to studies in high school and less attention on the social aspect or having a job. I started working when I was 14 years old, by choice, because I wanted autonomy to buy clothes, make-up, movies, etc. I worked most of high school and college, while I think it helped create a good work ethic, I think the opportunities created from focusing on studies and attending great schools has a good payoff, too.
DCF: What was your greatest failure and what did you learn from it?
AJ: My greatest failure is not trusting my gut and reviewing data before making a decision. I’ve learned that your gut can take you far and numbers do not lie. (DCF: The gut is a powerful and underrated tool that we should all listen to more).
LW: I can honestly say that I don’t consider any past action to be a failure, but I would say looking back with clear hindsight, I would have saved more money before starting a company and paid down any and all debt. Although nothing works quite like pressure and a shrinking savings account, financial constraints can be a slippery and dangerous slope and it’s best to avoid the stress by planning ahead. (DCF: It does light a fire but you don’t want to get burned).
DCF: What was your proudest moment to date?
AJ: Telling my parents that I’m a co-founder. It’s a privilege to work for yourself, and my parents wanted all their kids to be their own bosses. It was an amazing feeling to say to them that I’m doing it! (DCF: Proud moment indeed!)
LW: One of my proudest moments this year was when I ran our numbers at the end of the year. Somehow, someway, we hit the big number I had been shooting for in 2017. I believe it was because I kept thinking about, saying it, and built frameworks to measure the things we needed to hit, in order to reach it. I was so proud of Alexis and I for accomplishing that goal, and it gives me energy to strive for and meet our big goal in 2018. (DCF: Sounds like the hard work you both put in really paid off.)
DCF: What are you Currently Conquering?
We just launched a couple of exciting things! Ever wondered what your lingerie personality is? It might not be what you see on the catwalks. Go to burgundyfox.com to take the quiz & find out!
Secondly, we’ve launched our Valentine’s Day campaign! Whether you’re single, dating, or married we want to celebrate all women with something that makes them feel beautiful from the inside out! After that, it’s all bridal. Think bride & bridesmaids robes, honeymoon PJs, boudoir photoshoots! We know our customers like comfortable and stylish lingerie & sleepwear, so you’ll see a lot more of that for all ages and sizes. (DCF: Can’t wait to check it all out!!)
DCF: Let’s Get Social (Media)!!
All social accounts: @burgundyfoxco – Twitter, Instagram, Facebook
iTunes: Seamless podcast