Describe a day in the life of Chloë-Lynn Ordoñez:
I wake up and snooze for 10 minutes. Before my alarm goes off again, either I’ll sleep or I’ll check Instagram, see what’s new on Feedly, and lightly scan my emails. I get out of bed and immediately make it — I feel that accomplishing something so small and insignificant first thing in the morning prepares me for whatever else the day will throw at me (which hopefully will be bigger and more significant things).
When it’s time for me to begin my day, I put on some music and take a look at my to do list from the day before. I jot down whatever I wasn’t able to complete (along with new tasks) onto a fresh sheet of grid paper. While doing this, I’m checking emails and scheduling my day in half-hour or hour blocks on Google Calendar. This helps me split my time between all my projects, since I tend to be the type of person who has to start and finish something immediately, which isn’t always a good thing. A typical day for me in terms of my freelancing, office work and actual manual labor (sewing, cutting, gluing, etc.) for Clo Hair Bows can be from 9AM to 12AM, so my Google calendar will be pretty with lots of colors.
However, if I am freelancing for an agency (read: day job), then my usual 12-15 hour days will be split up further between the weekdays, squeezed into the hours of 6PM to 1AM, and take up most of my weekends. I couldn’t really get into the specifics of my day, as it would bore the hell out of you — but you should definitely know that while I try to plan my time ahead and write everything down — nothing, and I mean NOTHING goes by how I schedule it! Wearing many hats and doing it all on your own doesn’t give way to the comfort of normalcy.
What’s the history behind Clo Hair Bows – what propelled you to start it (how did you come up with the name) – and how does Clo Hair Bows reflect your personal aesthetic?
Long story short, in the winter of 2010 when I lived in San Diego, California — I had set out for my “IT” accessory for the upcoming new year. I played around with the thought of accent jewelry or an article of clothing that people could associate me with, but those just weren’t things I was able to keep up with in terms of trends and funds. I woke up one morning and decided on hair bows. I went to the mall but the options were slim not to mention, poorly made! I inspected what the big name stores made and thought — hey, I could make this. So I left the mall, bought a travel sewing kit and a spool of ribbon from a craft store. The rest, surprisingly became my current side hustle!
Clo Hair Bows was actually not the first name I had conjured up (it’s the third!). One evening, I mentioned this random thought of making and selling handmade hair bows to my friends, and someone had called me Clo Bow… If only other things came as easy as that.
As a person, I am all over the place — my thoughts, my ideas, my opinions — I am an array of so many things which is why my hair bows are really my perfect accessory. I offer many options in styles and colors that I can literally pick a bow for any outfit, any mood, or any message I am trying to convey.
What were fundamental steps you followed before starting your business?
Experimenting with what I already had was my very first step. I measured, cut, sewed, and jotted down notes on everything I did until I had my bows looking exactly how I wanted them to look. You cannot build a business on something that you do not know the in’s and out’s of.
The next step was seeing if people were even into hair bows anymore, because I know the last time I had worn one was in ’86! I celebrated my birthday [in 2011] with a bunch of girlfriends and as a thank you, I mailed each of them a handmade hair bow. The response was so tremendous and my friends were so encouraging about my newfound venture that I created an Etsy account and began selling them.
Looking back three years ago, it was easy to get caught up in the idea of “hey I’m gonna sell this and money is just gonna poooour in” — but that was definitely not the case. I learned about photo styling, did research on how to write better product details, I read about how to promote your business in social media sites, all the while balancing an internship and going to school full-time. So it was important for me to know exactly how to make Clo Hair Bows work for me, rather than me work for it — by using what I had available to me in the time I was able to devote to it.
What challenges did you face when building Clo Hair Bows from scratch? How did you overcome such challenges?
The first challenge I faced was that I had no idea how to use PayPal or even shop on Etsy, let alone make a store! But thankfully they were easy to learn and get accustomed to. My second challenge was overcoming the negative feedback I had received in terms of the pricing of my bows. While many people may think buying a $1.50 pair of bows from an accessory store at the mall is good enough — My product not only is handmade but it is a symbol of my time, my effort, and the devotion I have for my brand. I would not sell you something that I thought wasn’t good enough, as I am a perfectionist by nature. And the people that purchase my bows know this — which is why I can overcome any feelings of defeat when someone chooses not to purchase from me.
It’s empowering to see women making moves in the scene like you — how have the women in your life been instrumental in developing your hustle?
I’m very thankful for the many women who I’ve come across who tell me they love Clo Hair Bows. Hearing their stories and their requests for new styles of bows, or even seeing their pictures and hearing how they use my product is what really motivates me to keep going.
A huge part in what helps develop myself and Clo Hair Bows has been meeting other women who are making their marks into the world. To know there is someone else out there who is working hard at doing what they want (or in my case, something I didn’t even know I wanted), in addition to going to school or tending to their families, along with rushing for that morning coffee to survive 8 hours in a cubicle, only to come home to work even more — is sort of a superhero trait I admire. It’s the fact that these women work literally 20+ hours a day with the desire to be discovered, that makes the struggles and failures all worthwhile.
What do you think it takes to make it in this business, especially for women?
Have faith in yourself and your message. Surround yourself with people who not only inspire you, but encourage you to do better and provide you with support. Stay grounded and in tune with why you began doing what you do in the first place.
Cultural trends constantly change. What do you do to stay relevant, connected, and ahead of the curve?
Because your business is prone to expanding once people discover you, you need to multitask, keep organized, and above all… do research! And the way I like to research is by reading blogs! Bloggers are HUGE right now, no matter if your blog is about food, fashion, or your art… having a space for what you like and what you do will always be discovered and taken into consideration by someone like me. I live off RSS feeds!
How has social media shaped Clo Hair Bows? What’s your favorite platform? Why?
I’ve done them all — Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, and Instagram but my favorite (as of right now) is my blog (www.clohairbows.com) which is run on WordPress. It seems to be the easiest way to get my message across all spectrums thanks to their ‘publicize’ option, and easy is always better when you’re busy!
How do you keep track of personal & business goals, prioritize projects, and stay creative at the same time – even when you’re exhausted?
I try to be as organized as I possibly can! I stay on top of my projects and goals by writing out lists (in multiple places). The three main things that have helped me prioritize and keep track of my daily to-do’s are 1) my 5×8 inch three-ring binder (complete with grid paper), 2) scheduling my day in Google Calendar, and 3) writing down a single task on a Post-It, then sticking them on the nearest wall in order of priority.
To stay creative, anything goes: an impromptu trip to NYC, perusing my RSS feeds or repinning things on Pinterest (this is probably the one thing I tend to do while laying in bed), creating mood boards from images I find on the internet, and flipping through the pages of a Japanese fashion magazines.
What are your must-have tools or apps to run your day-to-day grind? What kind of gadgets would we find on your desk or in your bag?
My must-have tools on my workspace are my iMac, sewing machine, scissors, sewing kit, P-Touch labeler (geek!), double-sided tape, and rotary cutter. In my bag, you’d find a pen pouch stuffed with fine point ball point pens, Staedtler pens and markers, a Moleskine expanding pocket portfolio (for collecting small, random items), and my iPhone charger. The apps that keep me going are WordPress, Gmail, Feedly, Camera+, USPS Mobile, Pinterest, and iHeart Radio.
In a fast-paced industry where last-minute-anything can happen, what’s your fail-proof, go-to outfit that will last from morning meetings to evening events?
I’d have to go with a pair of dark denim Uniqlo leggings, a pair of comfortable flats, a not-too-loose-fitting solid tee dressed up with a light cardigan (that I’d hopefully be lugging around in my Madewell Transport Tote). And a Clo Hair Bow!!!!
How important are mentors? Who is your mentor?
Mentors guide us in all aspects, I believe in one way or another we’ve all served as a mentor to someone and in turn, someone (unknowingly) has served as one for us. The number one mentors in my life are, of course, my parents. My father has been my strength and financial teacher, while my mother has been my nurturer and personal fashion icon (don’t tell her that though!). Another mentor — not really in terms of guidance but in terms of someone who I can learn with, is Hazel (of Sewbie). We have both jumped ship into the deep ocean of heading our own businesses. She keeps me motivated, encourages my ideas, is honest with me, and is always by my side when I need to go out and look for inspiration by either taking a class or just roaming the city.
Define your idea of success:
I don’t know what my idea of success is. I’m still trying to catch my big break in whatever creative outlet allows me to be myself and do what I do, how I want to do it. I’d imagine that “success” wouldn’t be so much of a lifestyle I’d be attaining from all my hard work, but rather the sense of accomplishment from completing the goals I’ve set for myself, then grabbing a pen and paper so I can write down what goals to work on tomorrow. I guess in a sense, success is a destination to me… a pin on a map that I look at and say, “I’ll go there some day”. Destinations don’t really mean shit — it’s about the journey you take to get there.
What were Clo Hair Bow’s top achievements in 2012? What should we expect from Clo Hair Bows this year?
Having started Clo Hair Bows in 2010 and finally making the move to make a name for myself in 2011 — 2012 was incredible! I made new friends and connections with people who were discovering my bows. I began the hashtag #clohairbows on Instagram, which to this day still gives me goosebumps whenever a new picture shows up in the feed! I buckled down and got serious with more projects: offering bows as party favors, creating special orders, experimenting with fabric, and attempting to try getting my name out on social networks (which I’m still trying to do!).
2013 is already more than I could have ever anticipated — I’ve begun selling my bows in person at personally hosted brunches and birthday parties (Clo Bowtiques!). I’m coming out with more and more styles of Clo Bows to choose from, and finally will be introducing new products this coming Spring and Summer. This year also brings collaborations with other small businesses, so watch out for those!
What’s your advice for other women entering creative fields or starting their own business?
Do your research. Stay inspired. Know your competition. Grow with your business. Always keep learning and improving. Don’t be hurt by those who don’t support your brand, and always be thankful to those who do.
About the brand, Clo Hair Bows:
Chloë, the designer and maker of Clo Hair Bows began making hair bows in the winter of 2010 out of the sheer need for them to be her IT accessory for the upcoming year.
She searched high and low, but nothing was what she wanted: too expensive, glued together, and poorly made. After much thought and a little money in her pocket, she went to the local craft store and bought some ribbon. Needless to say, she made herself a hair bow — but what to do with all that extra ribbon?
She used up the rest of the material, making more hair bows and giving them to her girlfriends who later encouraged her to sell them on Etsy.
She loves sharing her bows with those who enjoy shopping handmade. To know that someone has spent time on something you own, and packaged it especially for you is a whole other experience than shopping at the mall!
Please visit official blog for Clo Hair Bows — there you can subscribe/follow her on WordPress to find out what’s new, what she’s up to, and see some things that give her inspiration to make more Clo Bows for you!