What does your current job entail? Is there such a thing as a typical day?
Talia Hancock: I don’t believe there is such a thing as a typical day for an entrepreneur. We ship and take orders daily, and managing our wholesale and retail relationships is a very important part of the business. We are in both national retailers and specialty stores, and keeping [everyone] equally satisfied is key. We would like our retailers to feel a personal connection to TH. I have found that sales increase when both customers and retailers know the story behind the line and feel “close” to it in some way.
What is the best part of your job?
TH: I love the fact that I am constantly traveling both for sales and manufacturing – the glamorous and quite unglamorous sides of owning a clothing line. From trunk shows and meet-and-greets to hours in a foreign factory, I love it all. Knowing that actual human beings spend their hard-earned money to purchase something I have designed is just awesome.
What was your first entry-level job in your field and how did you get it?
TH: I worked my way through college in Nordstrom’s progressive designer department called Via C and gained the product knowledge, consumer demand, and customer service techniques that I implement every day.
You were thinking about being a journalist! What made you decide that fashion design was your destiny?
TH: Yes, once upon a time, I hosted a few shows on a Christian television network. It was truly fun, but [my] love for business trumps my desire to be in front of a camera. My parents are television directors and producers. Going into television was the “normal” route, but I wanted something different. I spent a year living in Lima, Peru , where I spent much of my childhood, while I was in college and discovered my love for business in general. My aunt is an amazing businesswoman who runs one of the biggest gold mines in Peru—she was my inspiration to start my own line!
What is one thing you wish you knew about your industry when you first started out that you know now?
TH: Everything. When I started [my line], I had no idea what I was getting into. My first year in business was a crash course in absolutely everything. [When] showrooms asked if I had a lookbook, I would tell them it was being printed [and] then Google “lookbook” because I had no idea what they were asking for. Little by little, I found my way.
Who is one person who changed your professional life for the better?
TH: Without my business partner and my parents, TH would not exist. My partner is a chairman at Chapman University and offered me the opportunity to start a business right out of college—literally in my last class, on my last day, after my final presentation at Chapman. Our contacts and areas of expertise turned out to be dynamite, and TH was born. He has owned many successful businesses, and I have gained an infinite amount of knowledge from him.
My parents have always guided me while letting me think that I was free as a bird to make my own decisions – this is a sneaky science that only parents can master. [They] helped me be very independent while staying on course. When we first started, our warehouse was in my parents’ guest room. Then I began to overflow into the garage, and pretty soon there were TH goods all over the house. They have sacrificed so much for my brothers and I, but the biggest sacrifice for my dad was his beloved garage. When he let me fill shelves upon shelves with tees, I knew I was loved.
What words of wisdom do you find most valuable?
TH: “Listen more than you speak.
Always give a little more than you promise.
Never be ashamed of the work of your hands.
Love first and the rest will fall into place.
Do as much as you can yourself, in person.”
What is one mistake you made along the way and what did you learn from it?
TH: I have made every mistake in the “Do Not Do This” handbook. Learning from those mistakes, working through them, and not making them again is something one can really take pride in. My biggest mistake has been being too conservative with my sales projections. I am a realist and conservative in [both] business and finances, and that sometimes gets in my way. [Also], I once hired a model without seeing her in person, which was a horrible idea. As a result, I cultivated a very, very close relationship with Photoshop.
Where do you see yourself (and your brand) in five years?
TH: I would like to be in all major department stores and retailers without sacrificing my specialty store clientele. [They are] loyal, honest, and hard-working people.
I want my story and business to inspire other young people to start something. It is just so possible to make something of yourself when you are willing to work hard. And even when things don’t work out, you can walk away without regrets [and] know you did your very best. At TH, we give a portion of profits to charity and are focusing on projects in Peru. I hope to continue to build that culture of giving in my business.
What do you look for when considering hiring someone?
TH: I want [people] who feel a level of ownership and responsibility for my business. Because I started as a team of one, I know every aspect of TH and can tell my employees that I have done everything they are doing and know how exhausting or frustrating some things are. I am grateful to have lived it and pass on my knowledge. You have to be really willing to work hard, get disappointed, and start everyday fresh (or at least try to)!
What advice would you give to a 20-something with similar aspirations?
TH: Run! Just kidding… knock down doors. Try with all your might to not take “no” for an answer, but recognize that “no’s” that are [sometimes] a blessing in disguise. Showrooms that wouldn’t even let me in their doors when I started this business were offering me bi-coastal representation a year later. I must admit it is a strange (and amazing) feeling to be on the other end of that equation and say “no” to them now.