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Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen, Venus and Serena Williams and even Cameron and Tyler Winklevos have proven that great initiatives can arise from sibling relationships. In contrast to business relationships between parents and children, sibling initiatives are much more likely to be partnerships between equals.
While mobility can be smooth or rocky (or a little bit of both), the chemistry of sibling partnerships can sometimes be magic. Sustainable lifestyle brand Fair Harbor, for example, is a sibling-owned business started by Caroline and Jake Denehi in 2014 when Caroline was a senior at high school and Jack was a junior studying geography at Colgate University.
The idea for Fair Harbor was a bit simple – use recycled plastic bottles to create a super-soft fabric for a fun family-friendly brand of clothing that will evoke the feeling of summer spent on Fair Harbor Beach on New York’s Fire Island. The pair were inspired by the effects of plastic waste on the shores of their favorite beach town, so they turned that frustration into inspiration. They have decided not only to prevent plastic bottles from contaminating the water but also to find a way to honor their special community at Fair Harbor and preserve those places for future generations.
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In the early years, two-handled perfection, with the help of their family and hired friends from the family garage, 1,000 units of hand shipping per day by 2019. Revenue in the epidemic in 2020. The company’s gross e-commerce sales reached $ 45.1 million in 2021, thanks to the increase in comfortable wear and the brand’s experimental approach to advertising. Swimwear now appears in multiple retail outlets, such as Nordstrom, Sax5.M Avenue, and more than 250 specialized retailers, although for the time being, the company maintains its own retail presence entirely online.
Although the line has been based on men’s swimwear for its first seven years, 55 percent of its customers are women, buying suits for men in their lifetime. In March this year, the business launched its first national TV commercial. And in April, the brand will launch their first women’s beachwear line with 25 extra pieces. This month it secured a strategic investment from Broad Sky Partners to accelerate its expansion into new product lines, new retail expansion and sustainable ventures.
Everyone in the family
In a joint interview with Jack and Caroline, it was clear that I had spoken to them that the initiative was a completely family affair. While supply and production were outsourced to various factories around the world, the initial fulfillment came from the family home with the help of several hired interns. The two occupied the garage. The kitchen table became the company’s headquarters. Folding tables in the living room create assembly lines to meet, a designated driver runs the consignment between the table and the post office. By 2019, the group would sometimes be shipping as many as 1,000 orders a day. On Friday, the team will pack up for the weekend trunk show; Then every Monday morning the operation will start again
Several important lessons were learned during this time, Caroline says:
- “Grit will take us forward.”
- “No work was too big or too small.”
- “Trunk shows will be unable to scale the size they want to be.”
- “We officially left our parents’ garage.”
The two relocated to a shipping facility and a New York office space in September 2019 and have continued to grow in the two years since. Today, the company has grown to 25 employees and occupies the loft-like floor of a building on Soho Gunjan Street in lower Manhattan.
Some of the challenges have turned into timeless memories. To celebrate their first production of the 500 unit, for example, Jack and Caroline hosted a Fair Harbor launch party for family and friends on the Delancey rooftop in Manhattan and set up a table to sell shorts at the event. The first challenge of the night occurred when Caroline – not yet 21 years old – almost refused to enter the facility.
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The second crisis occurred when Jake went to a restroom and tried on a pair of new shorts, only to discover that the factory had glued the velcro closure instead of sewing. At least in some pairs, the velcro was peeling away from the shorts. It was an imminent disaster for which the team had to hire a local seamstress to take back all the suits they had sold and sew velcro on each side.
“That night we learned the importance of customer service, quality testing and treating every customer like a family,” Caroline said.
Which sibling is the hardest to work with?
During the joint interview, the two shared many advantages, especially since the family is close and the siblings’ interests – Caroline in fashion design and Jack in business – line up nicely. Both are interested in sustainability and the environment. It has been beneficial to have separate areas of focus and clear boundaries.
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For the most part, the two could share some of the work in a “back to back” way, they comment. However, Jack admits that the 4-year age difference caused some friction between the time he graduated from college and Caroline was working 100 percent of her time by the end of her college years. Caroline admits she missed as many classes as she dared during the business rush and felt pressured to carry the full weight of her business role while respecting the demands of her university degree.
Where to go to Fair Harbor from here?
2021 as well as admirable 26 fast growing private companies and no. Incorporated 5000 retailers include 2 fast-growing private companies, Denehi’s prestigious EY Entrepreneur of the Year Award and Reuters Responsible Business Award. The company hopes to achieve B Corporation status in 2022. Based on an early TV campaign, bathing suit chaffing, and an old sailor’s humorous story about the destruction of salt, sand, and provocative mesh fabric, ESPN is appearing on Food. Network, truTV, VICE, and Comedy Central and still seem to be performing well.
Climbing into this wave of momentum, the company has a strategic plan for the future, including the expansion of new segments and the opening of a retail position next year. But for the family business model, the founders have no regrets and they are grateful for creating a thriving business that has not only a financial legacy but also fake experiences and memories that have filled them with joy.