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FOUNT is…

A design and production house creating fine leather handbags and accessories. The definition of FOUNT is “an abundant source of desirable quality,” and that is exactly what we are striving to be as a brand – from the materials we source, the products we construct, and the work culture we create in our studio and storefront.

My husband and I started FOUNT because…

We are very passionate about reviving American-Made fashion. We strongly believe in quality over quantity and therefore set out to make affordable luxury products that are heirloom in nature. Furthermore, it is our daily goal to create a workspace that we all enjoy coming to each day!

Reinvesting in Cleveland is important to us because…

This is a beautiful city, mainly because of the people that live here! The artist community is unbelievably collaborative and team oriented. We all know that if we support one another, we all win because Cleveland wins.

Ways our supply chain supports the local community…

Beyond the doors of our FOUNT Flagship storefront and our design-house where we make all of our products, we try to extend our positive impact on our city by working with local businesses as much as possible. Our dust bags are produced by a local refugee group and screen printed by a local printer. Our marketing materials and packaging are printed locally, and we work with local photographers and models. These relationships with other local businesses are so important to us because they fuel our local economy to make Cleveland a thriving city again. People used to call us the “mistake on the lake” and they are now referring to us as “the city of champions” – thanks LeBron!

The early days of FOUNT were…

Run on ample amounts of passion and adrenaline! We started Fount out of the spare room in our apartment, while we were simultaneously working our 9-5 jobs.

I first developed a love for design when…

My mom says it was when I was 2 or 3-years old. I absolutely loved styling my own outfits. Then, as a young teen, I discovered my love for vintage clothing. I was fascinated by the intricacies and quality that went into each design. I would visit the local thrift stores and run my fingers down the racks to sift out high-end fabrics, and then take them home to take them in, up, or adapt them all together.

And my first entrepreneurial venture was…

Actually quite comical and was the only time I was ever sent to the Principal’s office. I was in seventh grade and running a booming jewelry business out of my locker. People would stop by and make a bead selection. I would then draw a mockup for them, give them a quote, and have it macraméd and ready for pick-up in just a few short school days.

The best part is that my husband has a very similar story of getting “busted” for selling his hand-sewn beanie babies out of his locker in fifth grade. When we shared these stories while we were dating, we knew we were meant to be together forever.

How being a second generation entrepreneur has influenced me…

Growing up watching my parents launch their business is what shaped me to be who I am as a business woman today. The abundance of advice and wisdom that they have shared over the past few years, as my husband and I took the leap into starting FOUNT, has allowed us to navigate so many important decisions and pitfalls that we could have potentially fallen into.

When we first found out about Cleveland Hustles we…

Thought it seemed too good to be true! The concept of LeBron James promoting small businesses by having them join forces and simultaneously open storefronts in order to revive struggling neighborhoods was an ideal fit for FOUNT.

 

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Jackie & Phillip with their furry canine friend

Being one of the winners on Cleveland Hustles has allowed us to…

Share our brand with the nation, open our flagship location and learn the value of taking risks. We often joke that our FOUNT team ran the iron man of small businesses while we were on the show!  In addition to opening a storefront in less than 4 weeks, we prepared for the airing of the show, as we grew our team from 9 to 24. It was a big risk to multiply our team so dramatically, but it enabled us to grow our product inventory so that we were able to keep our online customers happy with prompt deliveries, have enough product to keep our new Flagship storefront stocked. 

The most important lesson I’ve learned since launching our business…

Always seek the wisdom of those who have gone before us. Other entrepreneurs, even if they are not in our exact field, are such a great wealth of knowledge, and seeking their advice before making big decisions for our business has become a strong practice of ours. 

My advice for entrepreneurs opening a storefront…

I truly believe that opening a brick and mortar is a “go big or stay home” type of endeavor. You want your customers to come in and be blown away by their experience from start to finish. Furthermore, I think that having a great location is extremely important. A question to ask when considering a site is, ‘Are there other like-minded businesses around that will allow me to network and support driving foot traffic to this neighborhood?’

Our hiring process is …

Quite thorough, because we want to be very conscious about the work culture and team that we are creating here at FOUNT. When we hire new employees we want to make sure they are not only detail oriented, talented in their field, ambitious, intrinsically motivated, and flexible, but most importantly they need to be team oriented. 

Ways we encourage team building and unity at FOUNT…

Throughout the week, we look forward to the moments we get to spend together as a team. Every Wednesday, during lunch we have “Life Club” where team members take turns teaching our staff about an interesting topic, such as their favorite author, interesting science phenomenon, and so on. It’s an idea that one of our staff members came up with to make sure that at least once a week we all take the time to eat together no matter how busy we are. 

And we wrap up each workday at our studio with an hour of “Club FOUNT” where we listen to rap and hip-hop.

Songs on the FOUNT team playlist are…

  • Awake – Tycho
  • Stephanie Says – The Velvet Underground
  • Red – Houses
  • Open – Rhye

…to name a few!

My responsibility as an employer is…

To make every FOUNT employee feel valued. Furthermore, we want to provide our employees with a work environment that allows them to thrive at their jobs. We strive to implement the structure and systems that enable us to run like a well-oiled machine so that we can all be as productive and stress-free as possible.

How my previous life as a teacher influences my current work…

I still utilize my teaching skills as we train new employees how to construct each of our products with the utmost attention to detail. The quality of our bags really is in the details and training in such a thorough manner is what allows a new hire to thrive.

What is next for FOUNT…

Our flagship storefront just opened in late August and we are absolutely blown away by how well it has been received. We are now in the process of signing a lease for our next brick and mortar location in Columbus, Ohio’s beloved neighborhood – Short North. 

Cleveland celebrity I’d like to spend time with…

LeBron James (of course) and thank him for being such a positive role model in Cleveland! He has a work hard – play hard attitude, but more importantly, he is a devoted father and husband. Even with his unbelievably busy schedule, he makes it apparent that his family is at the top of his priorities. 

Embrace ambition means…

Moving forward with gumption and a positive perspective as you make your vision become a reality.

This holiday season we will…

Every year, we close our production facility from December 25 through January 2 so that all of our team members can celebrate with family and friends and unwind after the busy season. Then a few weeks into January we have our annual holiday party where we get together with our team members and their significant others at our studio for food, some karaoke, and we dance all night to kick off the new year. 

Must read business book…

John Maxwell’s 5 Levels of Leadership was a recent favorite of mine, as it helped me unpack what it really means to be a leader. It goes far beyond your title, as you strive to inspire your team members to rise to levels of leadership where they are thriving and then they can, in turn, teach to other team members to rise to leadership