From $500 to a Fashion Empire: The Inspiring Journey of Kandi Kouture's Founder
Humble Beginnings: A Dream Born in a Bedroom
All riches have their origin in ideas, not money. This is exactly what the journey of Kandi Kouture’s founder proves!
It all began in the middle of Southern California, a little over ten years ago. The founder Sari Lopez, a mother of three daughters and a special needs son was struck by a thought. It was an idea that would change everything in the years to come – a voyage from rags to riches!
Drawing from her obsession with dance, she created a unique dancewear line. It was the birth of a fashion brand that will wow millions of women around the world.
That was the day when Kandi Kouture was born!
The journey began modestly. No assistance, no loans from families or friends; only $500, and a beautiful dream she believed in.
She shared, “I literally started my company with $500. I didn't have funding. I didn't get a loan, I didn't have a family to help me, but I made it work.”
With her conviction to make the dream of today into a success of tomorrow, she resolutely pushed forward. Regardless of the odds and challenges, she was stubborn in turning her creative idea into a booming fashion empire.
In the following years, she did!
And she achieved massive success with self-belief and years of hard work. Let us share Kandi Kouture’s business owner, Sari Lopez journey with you.
From an at-home mother to an affluent brand owner of Kandi Kouture, she achieved it all, all by herself!
Commitment Over Comfort: Consistent Resilience
Creating a brand out of nothing isn't for the faint of heart. It calls for a day-in-day-out perseverance and invincible determination for several years. You have to be willing to go out of your way at times. The founder of Kandi Kouture, a recognized entrepreneur in the dancewear industry, is particularly familiar with this reality.
In that early period, when her business was taking off, she was in a constant race against time. 16 hours a day for seven days every week was her normal routine for many years to come. But she had stars in her eyes… She was fixated on the future.
In her own words, “You have to be really invested in your company. I used to work seven days a week, 16 hours a day, every day for years.”
Until a time came when her business hit the ground running. She struck gold and profits started pouring in.
So as Kandi’s business mushroomed, she engaged more creative people to support her with her business goals since she couldn’t manage all that by herself.
With a sigh of relief, she expressed, “Now I feel like it's finally getting easier because I have more employees. People are more trained, things are more seamless. We have more systems in place. So as time goes on, my schedule is a lot different which is nice after working hard for so many years.”
You have to give up comfort for commitment when starting a brand, but it's also the beginning of an adventure that gradually heads in one direction.
“I don't give up easily and I don't stop even if I'm tired. A lot of people, they give up super short, but I don’t. You have to be persistent. Discipline is everything. I'm disciplined to get up and work every day.”
Reaching for the Spotlight: Kandi Kouture's Ascent
The path to success is often paved with struggles and uncertainties. Kandi Kouture underwent the same challenging journey. However, Sari Lopez sailed through the rough seas and stayed consistent on her course to success – eventually making it to the shores of fashion sensation.
In its initial period, Kandi Kouture produced all of its products in Mexico. Yet as orders for their dancewear increased, they were hard-pressed to produce enough. They refused to drown under this obstacle and decided instead to grow wings; to meet the production demand, they adapted.
In the next couple of years, the company shifted its strategy to become a clothing manufacturer located in Southern California. However, this move was not without its challenges. The scourge of the pandemic and the dearth of contractors to this new location posed major troubles. Nonetheless, these obstacles spurred Kandi Kouture to undertake the challenge.
As a result, today 95 percent of their manufacturing is carried out in the States. They truly are an exemplar of perseverance and strength. Not only have they been able to scale their production volumes up in line with demand, but also developed a whole new range of products aimed at boys and women. Innovation became their forte with time.
Kandi Kouture had also previously worked with Discount Dance, a major dancewear company, which Sari considers an important branding experience. The partnership was discontinued, however, after considering the costs involved in a post-pandemic world.
In addition, Kandi Kouture is also hoping to invest in more brick-and-mortar stores. At the same time, to enormously expand their online reach, they’ve signed up for Amazon as well.
Sair explained, “We recently started selling on Amazon and we're really excited about that too. It was our busiest time of the year. But we really want to go full force with working and selling on Amazon for sure. That's super exciting because none of our competitors are on Amazon.”
For Sari, she’s still not there yet. She’s still chasing her dream to reach the top of the dancewear industry.
Embracing Emerging Trends
Dancewear fashion is a rapidly evolving industry. Every other month brings new trends and styles. This compelled Sari Lopez to always stay ahead of the tide and adapt to changing trends.
A Mommy and Me idea is another one of the trends that Kandi Kouture has focused on, a trend which began emerging several years ago. Aware that a large part of their market is also young people, they are preparing to introduce lines for matching mothers and daughters.
And this is where Kandi Kouture has been excellent. They see change as an opportunity and come up with their version of the classic. Currently working on yoga and athletic lines for both mother and daughters, like matching outfits.
She optimistically informed, “By summer, we want to launch the women's line. Like a yoga athletic line, like a “Mommy and Me” type of line – something that you can match with your daughter because obviously, we do cater to the younger crowd. It would be nice to have the mommy and me kind of trend like the matching leggings, matching bra tops, matching jackets, cute things like that.”
The point is not selling clothes, but using fashion to create lasting impressions and foster stronger ties.
In fact, this new endeavor suits the brand's overarching philosophy of recognizing its customers’ changing needs while remaining faithful to traditional dancewear. This is an excellent case study of the brand harvesting new trends and naturally incorporating them into their products.
Moving ahead As Kandi Kouture continues to grow and flourish, it looks like they are not only embracing fashionable fads – they're creating them.
Understanding the Market: The Secret Behind Kandi Kouture's Longevity
Many fashion dancewear labels have come into being but soon withered. Nevertheless, one brand has managed to pass the test of time without wavering from its mission and quality – Kandi Kouture. During more than ten years in operation, this stalwart brand has seen competitors rise and fall but still manages to maintain its own place.
She added, “I've seen a lot of companies come and go, but we're still here. A lot of our competitors have switched owners numerous times, and we have not.”
Kandi believes that it is the master of its own fate. Every day, its goal of landing on the moon, kept it moving forward.
The key to Kandi Kouture's success and longevity lies in two things. Most importantly, the company has always retained its original owner who offer a long-term vision and insistence on quality. This has kept Kandi Kouture focused in the right direction.
Secondly, Kandi Kouture has established a major market niche for itself by being strongly oriented to young girls (6-10). This section, however, makes up a good portion of their market; sales in this category run five or six times greater than others.
Again, intelligently bridging the market gap with the target audience in mind.
Likewise, eye-popping prints and styles make Kandi Kouture truly stand out from the crowd.
Sari added, “We also offer a lot of super cute, unique prints and styles at really great prices, affordable prices, unlike our competitors.”
They also realize that dance is not just another kind of sport, but one which puts parents through a financial challenge. This especially applies to those with kids in competitive dance classes. With registration charges, costumes, and accessories sometimes cost an arm and a leg.
The founder of Kandi Kouture has been a dance mom herself, and she is extremely aware that many parents work hard to advance their children's interest in dancing. For that reason, the objective was always to produce inexpensive but quality clothing for dancers. In addition to being reasonably priced, all Kandi Kouture products are fully lined and designed with an eye for quality.
After all, raising kids is priceless, but it costs a fortune at times.
Sari feels that success in business is a matter of combining determination with curiosity & adaptability. This is exactly the tale of Kandi Kouture.
Not giving up despite insurmountable challenges and fighting tooth and nail were the biggest factors that contributed to Kandi Kouture's success. Though Sari had no previous formal education in the fashion industry, she didn’t let it weigh her down. Instead, she turned it into an advantage and worked even harder and creatively to outperform her competitors.
She learned everything from scratch, becoming her own mentor in the process. As the saying goes, formal education will make you a living, but self-education will make you a fortune.
And Sari Lopez did exactly that.
She emphasizes, “I learned everything from creating and cutting to design and manufacturing. It's been a fun challenge to learn exactly how to manufacture from start to finish without actually going to fashion design school.”
The journey was undoubtedly challenging. But rather than feared, the challenge was seized upon as a source of enjoyment and learning. Normally, people would go to fashion schooling and study in a regular academic environment. However, the road to Kandi Kouture has taken another direction. That road was lined with real-world experience, testing, and failure.
The story of Kandi Kouture is an inspiration for many. This demonstrates that success is not necessarily the result of the right qualifications and experience. Sometimes this is just a matter of attitude, willing to learn and never giving up.
Personal Growth Through Entrepreneurship
Being an entrepreneur, it's all about transformation – both for the business and yourself. The founder of Kandi Kouture talks about how starting her own business has been transformative, and what it takes to be an effective entrepreneur.
She first says that she has personally grown in so many ways. This growth focuses on learning new things in the fields she did not formally study. However, growth is not limited to learning new skills. It's also about a change in thinking.
Looking back on the road she traveled, she points out that when you work hard and you trust yourself everything can change before your eyes. “If somebody had told me in a word where I'm standing today ten years ago I would have considered them crazy.”
But this hasn't been an easy road. Yet there were also times when it was just not worth continuing. Her indomitable spirit, however, would not let her give up. “That's just me, I believe. I feel that you don't just quit.”
She never gives up. Yet she thinks this single-mindedness is the all-important factor for success, particularly in a competitive industry where only two percent of firms have made it because most people quit too soon.
In addition, her experience has strengthened and made her more independent. She has to shoulder the entire responsibility alone; for her beautiful daughters and an adorable son. She wants to become a beacon for women – to encourage them that they can find success despite numerous tribulations.
She concludes, "It's really inspired me to encourage other women to really, really, become what they want to become regardless of what their situation is."
A Veteran's Advice to Aspiring Fashion Entrepreneurs
Creating a new fashion brand is as good as walking into the darkness. Starting one's own clothing brand, whether it be for a line of fashion wear or dancewear, is often an intense and even treacherous undertaking. But Sari Lopez shares some golden wisdom on how to climb the ladder of success.
Their first piece of advice is to find a mentor. With an industry as multifaceted and rapidly evolving as fashion, it really is a place where you need someone on your side who knows their way around. To go through all of these steps, a mentor's insights and experiences are priceless. Because the costs of formal education in fashion and design are so great, one can imagine that having a mentor is even more important.
“If you can find somebody who can mentor you through these steps, you could save a lot of time, a lot of money, and you could have full direction if you find the right person. So that's like the most important thing.”
According to Kandi Kouture’s founder, “School is definitely overrated. I don't think you need $100,00 in order to learn anything! But if you can find a valuable mentor, they are able to provide practical knowledge that gives urgent direction and will save you time and money.”
Another important suggestion for potential entrepreneurs is about commitment. Running your own company is no nine-to-five job. One must be extremely dedicated, working seven days a week with long hours.
But it gets easier as time goes by. Of course, things are more fluid as the company grows, employees join and systems fall into place. This arduous schedule slowly evolves into a more typical one.
Lastly, you have got to believe in your idea. Give your business the worth and time that it deserves. Sari revealed, “For Kandi Kouture, I treat it like it's it's my baby. You have to give it attention and time and it requires a lot of energy at times, but it's worked because obviously, we're growing.”
From Entrepreneur to Coach: Empowering Others to Start Their Own Journey
Sari believes that if you have knowledge, let others light their candles in it. And the candle loses nothing by lighting another candle, in fact, it kindles even brighter.
With this blissful conviction, besides her high-flying business, the founder of Kandi Kouture is now also taking on a new role – a coach who will pass on knowledge and confidence to young aspiring entrepreneurs. She is taking her experience as an entrepreneur and using it to promote others, especially women who wish to start their own businesses.
“If I did it, anyone can do it!”
She says that you don’t have to save up a lot of cash in the bank or wait for things to be perfect.
In particular, she would like to see many more women get involved in entrepreneurship. She observed, “I go to a lot of business conferences and there's a majority of men. Unless it is an all-women conference, the majority is men. So I want to encourage women even if they feel defeated because they're stuck at home, they could literally start their company from home.”
She hopes she can touch people, tell them her story, and convince them of their ability to succeed. But by doing so, she hopes to prove that with the right determination, one can overcome all obstacles and conditions when building a business.
If you are an aspiring entrepreneur aiming for your startup, Sari’s words may provide just the inspiration you seek for taking that first step.
“I really encourage people to start their own company to take the initiative. Because I know a lot of people are limited by fear.” She lamented.
Reflecting on the Journey…
“The success of Kandi Kouture just made me a stronger, definitely more independent woman because I have been doing it myself. I haven't had like a husband to take care of me or to support me financially. I did everything myself.”
Imagine the hardships a single mother had to go through: from taking care of her special needs son and catering to her daughters’ needs to toiling day and night to build a dancewear brand from scratch – she proved her mettle all along.
Her journey from 500 dollars to a million-dollar dancewear brand was fraught with struggles – she had to wrestle with mountains and navigate a sea of storms but never did she doubt her vision. She knew difficult roads lead to beautiful destinations.
With a sparkle in her eyes, she beamed, “So we just celebrated our 10th anniversary in August and are really happy about it.”
Rightly said, the longest and toughest journeys are normally the most rewarding…