This month we are excited to introduce you to a good friend, Dana Spinola. Forbes called her “one of the five great American Entrepreneurs you haven’t heard of yet but should know” because of her dedication to not only building a growing fashion brand but for inspiring a culture of people to weave purpose into their companies and their life. Dana has taken this message not only onto the pages of her book, love what you do, but to stages across the country. She has been voted Business Person of the Year, Women Making a Mark, and has appeared in dozens of publications from Wall Street Journal to Elle.
David: Welcome Dana, I’m honored to have you here today! Between the 40 fab’rik stores across 13 states, your two non-profits, writing a book, and your family life, we know you are a super busy person so let’s dive right in. As 2020 began, you mentioned you had a playbook for fab’rik and thought 2020 was going to be the best year yet. Then March hit with the COVID-19 pandemic. The company you have built up over the past 17 years came to a halt in a sense. Can you talk about what that looked like and how it felt?
Dana: Absolutely. I’ll start with the high. We created this 2020 playbook and with the idea of 20/20 vision – you can’t get any more exciting than that. That’s what so many leaders were focused on: the idea of laying out a crystal-clear vision for this year and maybe the next five. That’s what I was working on, and my team got behind it to the point that we made this playbook. It was beautifully done, we put maybe too much effort into this book because we were so excited. Inside we had everything from how to crush profit goals to how to make culture the greatest it’s ever been. It had every month, every holiday from National Ice Cream Day to what you’re wearing to your best friend’s wedding. It was our playbook which we roll that out at our conference every June. And then March hit. I remember looking at it on my desk in this moment of pause, thinking ‘there’s nothing in our world right now that’s going to translate into a playbook that I wrote in January’. It was this moment where I realized that we truly aren’t in control. I can be the CEO and the founder of my company, but I’m not truly in control.
I wondered if the business that I had created for 17 years was going to potentially end. I’m getting calls from all my stores asking: “Are we closing? How do we close? What’s happening?” I normally am so forward thinking, but that had to turn into only thinking of the next time period ahead which included reentry and reopening. I started reaching out to my wise counsel for guidance and learned pretty quickly everyone was feeling lost and unsure.
David: It is typically in moments like this when businesses have to scrap their playbooks, just like you mentioned, and focus almost entirely on the ‘why’. What is fab’rik’s why? Why did you start this business in the first place?
Dana: I started fab’rik for that woman who doesn’t believe she is beautiful. I wanted her to be able to walk into a place, regardless of how much money she has, and walk out feeling beautiful. As a child, my family didn’t have a lot of money; I always say we were rich in different ways. My parents would always say, “oh, we have everything we need”, although I didn’t have soccer cleats or shin guards I needed for example. That was our life and I always felt happy, but there were things I would never be able to do such as go into a boutique. It seemed like this other world. So, I wanted to create a boutique for everyone that made each person leave feeling better than when they came in. That’s what I would tell my team and that’s how I would hire new team members.
Although there are hundreds of thousands of women who love fab’rik, it’s a really hard time to figure out how you’re going to market a business when people are terrified and they’re just trying to stay healthy and not get sick. It’s hard to say in an email “look at this adorable dress” when the world is in crisis. It made me realize we had gotten a little bit farther away from our mission of high style with heart. We were leaning too much into the high style part, and we needed to get back to sending marketing messages with a lot of heart. For us, we got straight back to that ‘why’.
We had hospitals for example call and say, our nurses need some love. So, we brought food, flowers and encouragement and asked them what they needed. Their answer much to my surprise was fab’rik. They said they get off these long shifts and they felt the need for some retail therapy. They asked for free online codes and we said ‘absolutely!’ It was cool to realize that even during crazy times, your core business is still your core business. You just have to think “how do I do business in a way that people need”? We care about people and we do it with clothing through the power of an outfit. I hope you look good on the outside, but I also hope you leave feeling good on the inside, like you can tackle today, whatever lies ahead for you. We believe whether it is tackling carpool or a cancer diagnosis, we’re the place a woman comes to help build her up to go handle it all.
David: One of the things we love to talk about is the word “Remarkable” and how do we make your business “Remark-Able”. Dana, I know you have a unique way of making Remarkable moments in your own business. You call them WOW moments, and I know they are a big deal within your company and you have everyone in your company creating these WOW moments daily. Can you tell us how WOW moments came about and how you reinforce them?
Dana: The cool thing about WOW moments is they happen naturally throughout all the stores. As a leader, you need to be able to understand how they’re happening, how consistent they are, etc. The only thing is, nobody really picks up the phone, says “Dana, guess what I just did!” So, these moments were ingrained into our culture, but I couldn’t tell if there were a lot happening in one store and hardly any happening in another. I couldn’t have certain stores help other stores learn to do WOW moments better. We already had something in place called a ‘daily status’ where every store every night sends in their daily numbers, which includes mostly sales goals, best sellers, etc. I believe WOW moments are so invigorating and it’s very important to keep inspiring people with them, so we simply added WOW moments as a KPI in the daily status.
Every night when each store fills out their daily status, they include their best WOW moment of that day. Interestingly, we’ve had to train on what a WOW is because sometimes people would tell us something like “this sweet lady came in and I found these two perfect dresses for her.” We believe that for example is just what our job is, not necessarily a WOW moment. So we started providing more training on what makes up a WOW moment at it’s core to help take things to the next level as a company. Our Experience Manager, who’s in charge of curating all the WOWs, creates a WOW list by priority so stores can learn from one another. We have a WOW book with all these different categories. Categories for example are a “recovery WOW” or a “heart WOW”. We now reward stores monthly by picking the best WOW in the entire company for that month and we make it a really big deal.
Then annually at my house, we have the “WOW Awards” and we have everyone in the company come. There are lots of wonderful stories and tears and it is amazing to hear what happens inside our store’s doors. We consider it our biggest event. We honor WOWs more than we honor the number one store or the number one stylist. We know it is a great WOW when we have employees say, “are we allowed to do that?” And we respond with “yes, we encourage it!” For example, maybe someone comes into one of our stores to find the perfect dress to go to dinner on a first date. That store might send a bottle of champagne to the restaurant to provide a WOW moment. What’s great is these moments become so commonplace within our company that now employees are thinking “How do I one up that WOW?” It might be a woman who is coming to Georgia for personal styling appointment and the stylist knows she loves this lemonade that’s only in Auburn. The stylist will drive to Auburn, get the lemonade for her and have it at this woman’s styling appointment. These WOW moments are happening every day. By making it a KPI, we are now able to better understand how to train on it. It can be hard to give a definition of a good WOW, but you can train on a WOW that isn’t up to our company’s expectations. WOW moments have really become a fun part about the job with employees thinking “I hope my WOW moment is the WOW of the day!”
I think it’s important to point out that we also have customers come to our WOW Awards and tell stories from their point of view. What’s interesting is most of our WOWs that we celebrate are not at all the ones that our customers celebrate. We are often blown away by the ripple effect one little thing that we’ve done can have. For example, there was one woman who came and talked about how we just slipped a little hope necklace in her bag, having no idea that that was probably the hardest day that she’d been through with her medical diagnosis. Realizing that these moments give people inspiration and a little bit of fire to keep going is a purpose we can all stand behind. We have to use the heart part of our mission statement and exercise that heart muscle so much more right now because we don’t have the budget flexibility.
David: I love stories which inspire the way the world does business and you have definitely shared one of those stories with us today! You certainly created a WOW moment for us. Thank you for sharing your insights with the Spark A Revolution community!
About Dana Spinola
fab’rik Founder & CVO
Born and raised by entrepreneurs, fab’rik Founder Dana Spinola has been taught from a young age that if you love what you do you will never work another day in your life. This mantra inspired her to leave Corporate America and open her first boutique in 2002. Since then, she has carried out her mission of High Style With Heart nationwide with over 40 locations and growing. As Chief Visionary Officer, Dana’s vision for her company is to make women feel beautiful inside and out, one piece of fabric at a time.
Forbes called her “one of the five great American Entrepreneurs you haven’t heard of yet but should know” because of her dedication to not only building a growing fashion brand but for inspiring a culture of people to weave purpose into their companies and their life. Dana has taken this message not only onto the pages of her book, love what you do, but to stages across the country. She has been voted Business Person of the Year, Women Making a Mark, and has appeared in dozens of publications from Wall Street Journal to Elle.
Dana has always believed that clothing has the ability to change lives. In 2009, she launched the brand’s nonprofit, free fab’rik, which provides free shopping sprees for women in need. Each week the team and a group of volunteers bring racks of clothing into safe houses so the ladies can experience the thrill of boutique shopping, without the pressure of price tags. Dana’s mission is to remind them they are clothed in strength and dignity and can laugh without fear of the future. In 2011 Dana launched fab’rik’s in house clothing line, Asher, named after her daughter. While designing a clothing line has been one of her passions, the purpose behind the line is the real driving force. Proceeds of the line support the adoption process for children in Africa. Each store that carries Asher is matched with an Asher Baby to pray for, share their story and fund their needs until they find a forever home.
Learn more about Dana by visiting DanaSpinola.com.
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Together, we can Spark a Revolution of brands more defined by meaning than money, brands that achieve success in a manner that redefines it.
Founder, Spark A Revolution