At Kent State, creativity is cultivated in the minds of both faculty and students. We recently spoke with Siera Terry, a Fashion School alum and current Masters of Fashion Industries student, as she shared her experience being a student entrepreneur.
Q: Tell us a little background about yourself. What brought you to Kent State?
A: I had a campus visit in seventh grade with Upward Bound and saw the Kent State program. The fashion program was always something I had been thinking about. At Kent State, I could be a fashion major or go into international business. I liked that. I could have the option to switch if needed. I also always wanted to study abroad, and all of the options they had through the Fashion School was another reason I decided on Kent State.
Q: It’s been a long journey for you. First undergrad, and now you’ll graduate with your masters degree in May. What has been your favorite part of your experience at the Fashion School?
A: Senior year, I was able to be Dr. Kim Hahn’s assistant. It was the first time she had a student assistant and at that time, she was an associate director. During that year, I got to help put the Study Away program application into an online format. Throughout my senior year and the first year of my masters, I worked to streamline the Study Abroad process. I was then appointed to the Advisory Board by J.R. Campbell. I got to go to Fashion Week and be a VIP guest for the fashion show, something I always wanted to be a part of. I got to be around Macy’s CEO’s, executives from Chico’s, Saks Fifth Avenue, and higher-ups from Kent State. It’s nice to be able to be in a boardroom with all these people. It’s probably one of the coolest things I’ve gotten to do.
Q: Any specific pieces of advice from a professor or mentor that resonated with you?
A: Working with Dr. Hahn, I realized that there is so much you can do in a day. She has shown me that you just have to get it done. You don’t stop to think about all the individual steps, you just keep going. I love her mentality that you just need to get work done and not dwell on the little things. Instead, focus on the outcome and how you can make it happen. Not a lot of people are able to think like that.
Q: How and when did you come up with the idea for Bougie Bands?
A: The idea first came when I was working at Nordstrom. I tried on a Lele headband. It was a beautiful, $150 headband. I couldn’t get it out of my head, but I didn’t want to spend that kind of money on a headband. Since I had been talking about doing something creative, my friend mentioned that I should start a headband business. I went to Hobby Lobby and picked up the supplies to make a headband. In the line of Hobby Lobby, I was thinking about a name and decided on Bougie Bands. It all started with that name and the pearls and velvet that I bought to make my first headband.
Q: How has your experience within your major/minor helped you with your business?
A: The day, I bought the supplies to make the headband, I went home and made a logo for Bougie Bands, which was a skill I had learned to do through the Fashion School. I can figure out my markup because I’ve taken classes for financial accounting and merchandising classes. A lot of the skills I learned were not only the elements that go into creating a business, but also having the connections to expand the brand. I ended up getting invited to do a fashion show with one of the professors, Trista Grieder. She has a wedding line and let me style the headbands with her pieces. Then when I was doing my practicum at Fount, one of the girls there started taking pictures of my headbands that I had brought. The whole network that I made within the Fashion School has helped build the brand. People will say how Bougie Bands looks so professional, and that’s because I learned how to market effectively. I only started Bougie Bands in October, but it’s a full-fledged brand because of the skills that I had to make it look more professional, which is more appealing to customers.
Q: How did you use social media to further your brand?
A: Everybody believes social media. I began by posting inspiration photos on the Bougie Bands Instagram (@bougie_bands) and then posted pictures of some of my products. I went to the tagged page for Nordstrom and started following those girls and liking their pictures to gain brand exposure. From October to now, I have over 700 followers and over $500 in sales, which in that span of time, is a lot. There have been people who have reached out through social media to ask me when I’m doing a pop-up. The fact that I have people messaging me about doing a pop-up is something I never expected.
Q: What kind of things have you done to promote Bougie Bands beyond your online presence?
A: I contacted West Elm and did a pop-up there during the holidays. I sold over $100 in headbands in the span of a few hours, which was really good for my first pop-up. The fashion show with Trista Grieder was really good brand exposure as well. Someone had also reached out to me to do a bridal show, and she now has two of my headbands that she uses for styling at her bridal boutique.
Q: Which businesses or people in the industry have served as role models for you and your own brand?
A: I’ve been looking at all of the expensive fashion brands that do headbands. I like to draw inspiration from LELET NY. They have really beautiful headbands, but they’re expensive. I’m not the kind of person that asks why something is so expensive, but I wanted to make girls feel like they’re wearing an expensive headband when they try on one of my Bougie Bands.
Q: How has your brand grown and what have you learned since you started it?
A: The first thing that I really like to do is set my focus. It’s shifted over time. First, it was going to be Marie Antoinette inspired, and then it became a goal of simply wanting to make girls feel pretty. Now, I’ve learned that I want the brand to be about women’s empowerment and inclusivity. What I’ve always liked about fashion is that you can change peoples’ moods, and I want to use Bougie Bands to do that. I try to make sure that the girls featured on my page are all different ages and races so that everyone feels like they are a part of the brand.
Q: You recently made a line of headbands called Bougie Hijabs. What was your inspiration?
A: I met a girl at Forbes. I told her about my business, since I was wearing one of my headbands. She mentioned that you can’t really wear headbands with hijabs and I told her that maybe I could fix that. I went home that day and started trying to create a headband that would work with headscarves. The first attempts were horrible, but I finally found thin headbands that would fit under the hijab and connect magnetically with a hairband overtop. It was a long process and I had to troubleshoot a lot, but that’s something I’ve learned from this business.
Q: How do you see cultural diversity’s importance in fashion? As someone with their own business, what do you think an entrepreneur’s role is when it comes to inclusive fashion?
A: I’m black, Mexican, and also a woman; very much a minority. Because of this, when I go into a business that is supposed to be diverse, I want to see the portrayal of people with different ages and races. If brands aren’t willing to influence others to see diversity, you don’t get that inclusive aspect. As a corporation, if you aren’t able to be an example of diversity and possibly lose customers for being more diverse, then you aren’t inclusive. The positive thing about being diverse is that you have to show, not tell. Every time I post a picture, I think about how I can make everyone feel represented by the brand.
Q: Any advice you would give to those looking to create their own brands?
A: Be very open to change and not too hard on yourself. That was the biggest issue for me. The first thing that I messed up was accidentally charging someone shipping off of my website when it was supposed to be free. It was such a big deal at the time, but it was a fixable solution. If something bad happens, you just need to focus on what you can do to fix it. It’s important to be solution-oriented instead of focusing on the problem.
Find Siera’s products on the Bougie Band website, where you can also apply to be a brand ambassador.