I have been trying to remember when I first met Molly, it was probably back stage at a Food & Wine festival somewhere that I was chef-ing at, I can’t be sure. But let’s just say wherever it was, it immediately felt like we were old pals. Whenever we’re together, there are serious belly laughs and all kinds of shenanigans and I was honored to take her on her very first hunt way back in the day. Molly has worked in so many aspects of brand development for other people, and so I was very excited to learn that she had built a new brand of her own with some friends called Namakan, an amazing faux fur solution for weathering the cold, cold days. Since so many of us are huddled up under a blanket right now, I thought there was no better time to interview Molly and hear about her incredible new product that will help us weather the cold, not to mention the entrepreneurial lessons she’s learned along the way.
Meet the Modern Pioneer: Molly Mogren of Namakan:
How did you come up with the idea of Namakan Fur?
My best friend, Maggie, actually came up with the original concept. She owned two winter coats, one with fur around the hood’s trim, and one without. She was waiting at the bus stop on a cold winter morning and realized she was so much warmer when she wore a parka that had the ruff. Her engineer’s mind started thinking of ways that you could move a ruff from one hood to another and came up with a concept that used magnets to attach a ruff to any hood or collar.
I’m a writer and have more of a marketer’s brain. Our third partner is a seasoned fashioned editor and stylish. Between the three of us, we have the perfect Venn diagram of complementary strengths.
What’s your favorite part of running a small business?
Where to start! Setting your own schedule, seeing ideas come to fruition, reaping the benefits of your own hard work, and the alerts that pop up on my phone whenever we make a sale. I still do a happy dance every time.
What has been your biggest hard-won-lesson in pioneering your own business?
Where to start! Taxes, accounting, and learning just how broken the clothing manufacturing system is in the USA. At our onset, we were really committed to using US-based manufacturing. We still are doing everything in the USA, but can’t believe how challenging US manufacturers are to work with!
What motivates you the most?
Our product didn’t exist in the marketplace before we invented it. There’s a definite learning curve when it comes to people “getting” what a ruff is. Whenever we do markets and events, I can’t tell you how satisfying it is to see the look in people’s eyes when the concept clicks. It’s like, “Oh! It clips on your hood with magnets! It’s so cute and cozy! I need this!”
Who/what inspires you most?
Minnesota winters and our fellow Minnesotans. People who aren’t from here often can’t wrap their head around why anyone would want to live somewhere so cold. But there’s a sense of comradery around the cold and the snow. Minnesotans genuinely get excited before a snow storm (go into any grocery store in the hours before and just listen to the conversations), and we Minnesotans love our quality cold weather gear.
What would your number one tip be for a creative person starting their own business?
Don’t expect to be an instant success. This stuff takes a long time. Maggie had the idea in 2014. We wrote our business plan in 2015. We didn’t have product in-hand until late winter of 2016. It’s easy to get discouraged but keep at it.
Also, tap into your community. We’re so lucky to have met other entrepreneurs in the Twin Cities who get what we’re doing. Don’t think of other makers as your “competition.” Think of them as an asset. Share creative ideas, contacts, your wins, and fails. Volunteer to trade skills with other small businesses. For example, I wrote copy for a friend’s website and she (a clothing designer and former buyer for Target) helped us nail down our textile sourcing. Everyone wins. If you think you need to learn everything from scratch, you’ll spend a lot of time spinning your wheels.
If you could send a Namakan Fur to anyone, who would it be?
Oprah, of course. She knows a thing or two about cold weather (hi, Chicago!), plus I hear she’s super influential or something.
What is a typical day like for you?
Namakan is a side hustle for our entire team. My typical morning starts with me getting my 17-month-old daughter ready for the day. Once her sitter shows up, I usually head to the coffee shop to write for my clients. Often over lunch, I end up doing something for Namakan—like social media or dropping off product somewhere. My two other partners are super-busy as well—one is in nursing school and works as a freelance stylist; the other works full-time at an IT company. Most of what we do happens before or after work and on the weekends.
I often feel like all I do is work, eat, sleep and mom (< a verb I made up). And that’s because that’s essentially all I do. I constantly remind myself this is a phase and as our business ramps up, I’ll be able to dial back my other client work.
Are you a morning person or night person?
Morning for sure. I swear I can get more done between 6-8am that I could be working a 9-5 at a traditional desk job.
What is your number one productivity hack?
It seems counter-intuitive, but take breaks. Maybe it’s because what I do tends to be creative, but I always find that if I get stumped or blocked on a project, I need to close my computer and do something completely different—like take the dog for a walk, go grocery shopping, whatever. When I return to the project, I’m usually impressed by how much I already have done and see what I’m working on with fresh eyes.
When you set out, did you have any strategies for growing awareness for Namakan or has it been all organic word of mouth?
I wish I could say we were very strategic, but it’s been more fly by the seat of our pants. Or, as you kindly say, “organic word of mouth.”
I guess we were strategic in that we launched a Kickstarter campaign in the fall of 2016. The reason we opted for this is A) it essentially allowed us to take pre-orders before we pressed go on our first manufacturing run. B) it offered us a great opportunity to market our product. We were successfully funded (raising nearly $2,000 over our $30,000 goal), and still, reach out to our backers to keep them up to date on progress. It was a lot of hard work, but I love how the community rallied around our idea.
What are you reading now? Or what is the book that taught you the most?
Both Maggie and I enrolled in a course called Studio/E. It’s an ongoing Twin Cities-based course that meets four times over a year. It’s designed to encourage entrepreneurial thought, and ended up being a great networking tool for both of us.
One of the books we read is Just Start: Take Action, Embrace Uncertainty, Create the Future. Honestly, I don’t remember a whole lot about the specifics of the book (ha!), but the general concept coincides with the best advice we were given: Just start. Who cares if you don’t know how to tackle every aspect of your business. Quit talking about it and just start.
What projects are you working on right now that you’re most excited about?
We filed for a patent on our magnetic ruff design in September (Shark Tank, here we come)!
So not only can we say “patent-pending,” but it also gives us the opportunity to license our idea. Know anyone at The North Face, Patagonia, Columbia or REI? 😉