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How many times have you struggled with snaps or buttons on your littles’ clothing while they writhe around beneath you only to think…why is this so hard?! Enter Rachel Nilsson, CEO of Rags to Raches to solve the problem. Wanting to make a little extra cash, Rachel started selling her kids’ used clothes on Instagram, only to discover the ones she had made herself sold the quickest. So, Rachel did what any entrepreneurial mama would do: she got to work and created the first RAG™ out of her husband’s old T-shirt. Her design had no snaps, an expandable neck to easily slip on and off, and was designed using the most kid-friendly fabric. Now, Rags to Raches has been featured in Vogue (American AND British!), named one of the “Top 15 Coolest Kids Brands in America” by the Huffington Post, and was voted one of the top ten pitches of the season on Shark Tank (yeah, mama!). Read on to see how Rachel created the most adorable line of rompers that sell out in a flash.

Never take advantage of the “little guy” to benefit yourself, and always treat people with kindness and respect and it will come back to you, times ten.

Rachel, we are obsessed with RAGS! Congrats on your huge success. Tell us, what was your background and how did you start your business?

Well, thank you! It has been a crazy ride. I never went to a “fashion” school or had any proper training, but I have always had an interest in fashion and made my own clothes from the moment I learned how to sew. When I was in college I realized that I could make some money doing this! I designed a shirt line and sold them in a local boutique chain which was rad. They were the only high-end store around and I was stoked to have my clothing there. Much to my surprise, they ended up selling out every single week. Keeping up with the demand became too much and I wasn’t having fun anymore, so I stopped making them. I learned a lot through that process, one being I shouldn’t be caught behind a sewing machine and the other that I should get to manufacturing sooner rather than later. So, fast forwarding to now…I started RAGS on Instagram. My husband and I were broke, as he was going through an intense grad school program, and I was home raising our three boys. We literally had no income and our student loans were running out – I had to do something to make an extra buck. I started selling my kids’ hand-me-down clothing and soon realized that the things that were selling for the most money in the shortest amount of time were the things that I had made for them! It dawned on me early one morning that I should start making clothing again and sell them through this amazing channel. It was free and I had no overhead. I got out my laptop at 4am (I couldn’t sleep because I was so excited), drafted up a plan, and here were are today. It is crazy to think that all this began only three years ago!  

Who was your first hire when you realized your demand was exceeding what you could manage yourself? Do you have any tips for making hires?

I realized fast that my demand was higher than I had expected, and I knew that I needed to first get a manufacturer because of my past experience. I didn’t want to sew them all and I couldn’t keep up. The next thing I needed to do was hire a customer service/shipping person. I hired Becca, my sister, who still works here today. I remember being so scared to hire someone! Not just because of the overhead, but because I was now responsible for someone else’s livelihood. Scary. Sales tripled the following month which I think was due to the extra help, but also because of how I changed my mindset – I knew I could handle more business and I was hungry for it.

RAGS to Raches

We talked a little bit about how you just started to work on growing Facebook and how it’s been such a big growth area. Why do you suggest people don’t “neglect Facebook”? What kind of results have you seen there?

I neglected Facebook for a long time as I just wasn’t very familiar with it. We just started delving into it and the growth has been insane. It is a great platform for more conversation and ad type material — it’s been working great for us.

What is the best career advice you’ve ever been given?

My dad told me, “Don’t step on soft heads to get to the top.” And he’s so right. Never take advantage of the “little guy” to benefit yourself, and always treat people with kindness and respect and it will come back to you, times ten. This has been a great reminder throughout.  

How did you take your business from a startup to where it is today? Can you share 3 things that were integral to scaling your business?

  1. Constant HUSTLE.  I think anyone can do anything, and what will make or break a person is their hustle.
  2. Figure out what you are really good at and hire the rest. I knew I didn’t want to do customer service and ship. I knew I was better at creating and marketing, so the first thing I hired for were the things that were holding me back from growing my company.
  3. Know your consumer! I am my own consumer and that has been really nice. If you don’t know what your customer wants or likes, it will be a lot harder to grow and scale. Stay tapped into your market and always keep your head on a swivel.

RAGS

I believe in quality over quantity and staying consistent. It is a hustle but we keep at it.

Your products are made in the USA. Why is this important to you and what should consumers be conscious of when making purchases for their family?

We do make things in the USA. I love that we get to do that and support other Americans in what they love to do. It has been really cool to see the effects our small business has made on so many vendors that we work with. Being able to support hundreds of other families has been really rewarding.

Tell us about your experience on Shark Tank.

It was insane! I think it was one of the craziest, scariest, most stressful things I have ever done. It was a great experience for our company for multiple reasons, but it was also really great for me personally. I literally feel like I can do anything now. I have been baptized by fire!

You have over 190k followers on Instagram (wow!). How have you utilized social media to make an impact for your brand? Any out of the box things you’ve done? Do you have any tips for mamas wanting to grow their following?

Staying authentic. We have never bought followers, likes, comments, etc. I believe in quality over quantity and staying consistent. It is a hustle but we keep at it. I always try and make sure content that we post is on brand and relevant as well.

What would our readers be surprised to learn about you? Any hidden talents?

Umm…I don’t know if I have hidden talents! I was a college soccer player. I love being outdoors. I love to ride mountain bikes and I am an adrenaline freak — I think all entrepreneurs are to an extent. Running a business is a constant adrenaline rush!

How has community played a part in your life and business?

Community is everything. I started my business through my Instagram and that is a massive community. Since then, I have met so many other business owners who have inspired and supported me along the way. I could have never done what I did without the community I’ve built.  Relationships are key and are a huge driver of success. Always, always treat people the way you want to be treated. Such a great lesson.

What is your least favorite part of running your own business?

All the admin work. HA! I love creating and designing. The other least favorite is being away from my kids. I genuinely hate that as I love them and I love being with them. I am working on a way to spend more time with them because they are little and I don’t want to miss those precious moments.

You are a busy mama to three boys. Do you have any time-saving hacks that you’ve incorporated into your daily life?

I don’t know if they are time savers, but maybe “throw in the towel-ers”? I just have to let go of certain things I used to really care about — like organizing their toys, for example. I know I don’t get to be with them all day, so when I am with them, every minute counts. I don’t want to waste those precious moments cleaning. So instead of a time hack, I learned to let go of some things so that I can spend good quality time. This was harder than it sounds but I know I won’t regret it.

Do you have plans to expand your line? What can we look forward to this Fall?

Yes! My kids are getting older, and as they grow I realize there is such a hole in that market as well. I am so excited to start expanding. We are going to start with accent pieces and go from there. Fall is going to be a goodie. Can’t wait to show you all what’s in store!

3 pearls of wisdom

1.

Make sure your kids know they come first before anything else.

2.

Love unconditionally.

3.

Have fun. Life is no good if it isn't fun.

xx Rachel Nilsson

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