Regine, I love a good serial entrepreneur, so thank you for taking time to answer a few questions. As the creative mind behind Waggo and now Bunglao Home, you have a knack for filling a niche in the market. Could you tell us the impetus behind the creation of the home goods at Bungalo? What was the moment or the turning point that inspired you to move into the home accessories market?
When I started Waggo, I felt like there was a gap in the pet market — modern, friendly, high quality dog products that actually fit into your home without being too much of an eyesore. As the business grew over the years, we started getting more and more questions and comments from customers asking us if we would ever do similar products for them in addition to their dogs! I can’t tell you how funny it has been to have customers tell us they have bought our dog bowls to use as casserole dishes! I knew when I heard that (time and time again), it was time to start building something for humans as well. Bungalo takes cues from Waggo’s modern aesthetic but definitely has a little bit more of a grown up voice while still being playful. We have been so happy with our customer’s reactions to the brand and are excited continue to expand the offering of modern essentials.
Marc Jacobs, Adam Lippes… those are impressive fashion houses to have on a list of experience. What key lessons did you learn from that industry that helps shape your businesses today?
There are two key things that I think about a lot that I brought from my past experience. The first thing is brand focus — you can’t be everything to everyone . At every fashion house I have every worked at, there was always a push and pull between what the customer is asking for and what designers and merchandisers develop. There is a happy medium in the middle where you can be both focused on the vision and future innovation of the brand while still satisfying customer needs. The other thing I learned a lot about was the importance of customer service. After all, you can have great product but if your customers aren’t satisfied, you have no business. I take a tremendous amount of joy in talking to our customers, making sure that their comments are heard, issues are resolved and that they understand we value them. There is nothing better than a customer that is happy at the end of an exchange.
Design is obviously a key aspect that sets your products apart from other brands. Your cool, modern offerings are the stuff of Scandinavian dreams. Can you share when and where your appreciation for that signature minimalist-yet-warm aesthetic emerged?
I’m not sure to be honest… I have always been someone who wanted to love everything I own — I would rather have less and better. I think for me, when I come home I just want it to feel like a breath of fresh air and minimalism, classic stripes, beechwood, white with pops of color, all of that really does it for me. It makes me feel happy and light.
I’m always interested in morning routines for high-output entrepreneurs. What does your typical workday morning look like?
On a good day, I am up around 7 and my husband and I normally have breakfast together. I’ve gotten really into tea lately so I’ve been trying all sorts of weird flavors in the morning. I’m a big fan of CBS This Morning, that’s normally how I get my news for the day (I love that Charlie Rose) so I will have that on in the background as I get ready for the day. After my husband leaves, Benny (the Schnoodle) and I will catch up on emails that were received overnight — many of our factories and retailers are overseas so things are around-the-clock! I typically leave the house around 8:30 and Benny and I are lucky enough to walk to work just 15 minutes away!
Most creative types have a voracious appetite for travel and visual stimulation. What is a favorite escape for you? Where do you love to (or long to) go?
I do love travel and I have found that to be more and more important as the business grows and I am in the office a lot. It is so important to get out into the world and be inspired by your surroundings - that’s how all of the best ideas come. One of my favorite places locally outside of NYC is the Dia:Beacon — it is a former Nabisco factory that was converted into a contemporary art museum. The space itself is breathtaking — beautiful light wood floors, vast factory windows, beautiful but simple art at every turn. My husband proposed to me here almost 7 years ago inside a Richard Serra sculpture so it also has a sentimental meaning to us. We try to go once a year together. There are so many places I long to go – I would love to go to Vietnam or travel the beautiful countryside of Scandanavia — my list is very long!
Best book you’ve read recently related to business?
I really liked the Checklist Manifesto. It has a really basic premise but organizational structure at a small business is so important and I enjoyed learning about how the simplest things can sometimes make a significant difference in the productivity of a business.
Advice you wish someone had given you at the start of building your brand?
Slow down! You can’t do everything at once, pick and choose what you are spending your time on and have a long term vision for the brand, short term thinking can be overwhelming.
And finally, what item (or items) are you currently wild about on Bungalo (I’m personally loving the gold flatware!)?
I love the dipped storage bins – I have a few at my house because I LOVE LOVE LOVE to hide clutter.