As part of my series about the “How Business Leaders Plan To Rebuild In The Post COVID Economy”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Amy Voloshin.
Amy Voloshin is a fashion designer and entrepreneur. After 14 years of designing prints for the fashion industry with Printfresh Studio, her Philadelphia-based textile studio and vintage archive, Amy took a leap and created her own lifestyle brand. Printfresh is a collection of sleepwear, stationery, and gift products that reflects her loves and passions. Amy is an alumnus of the Rhode Island School of Design with a BFA in Textiles. She lives on a vineyard by the beach with her husband (and business partner) Leo, their two children, and their rescue pup Meemo.
Thank you so much for your time! I know that you are a very busy person. Our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your ‘backstory’ and how you got started?
I studied textiles in college and started working in design at URBN (Urban Outfitters, Free People and Anthropologie) after I graduated. I loved working with textile vendors and decided to take the plunge to start my own textile business, for the last 14 years I’ve been selling print designs to the apparel industry. Four years ago, we decided to start a stationery + sleepwear brand, Printfresh featuring prints and embroideries.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lessons or ‘take always’ you learned from that?
Manufacturing is one of the hardest things to figure out when you start a line. Our first pajama design was a disaster. The fabric was far too lightweight, the buttons kept popping open, it didn’t launder well, the elastic twisted after a few minutes of wearing it, I could go on and on. I still have that pair, and find it oddly endearing — and it’s the style that helped us develop a much better design which solves for all of the things that were terribly wrong with our first go at it. If we hadn’t tried that design and believed in it and persevered — we wouldn’t have built the business that we now have today.
Is there a particular book that you read, or podcast you listened to, that really helped you in your career? Can you explain?
My absolute favorite podcast to listen to is Second Life which is all about female entrepreneurs and how they have made it to where they are now. It’s really helpful to hear about how so many people who you think have it all figured out had missteps, and that it was a slower process than social media would have you believe.
Extensive research suggests that “purpose driven business” are more successful in many areas. When you started your company what was your vision, your purpose?
Our purpose has shifted as our product assortment has evolved. As I learned more about the industry and women’s needs, I realized that we had a huge opportunity to provide very high-quality sleepwear in inclusive sizes. We really focus on creating beautiful patterned sleepwear that is available in inclusive sizing and features diverse models and influencers. I believe that all women are beautiful, and more fashion companies should show a much wider range of women, bodies, and colors.
Do you have a “number one principle” that guides you through the ups and downs of running a business?
Do the right thing. Since we are a sustainable brand ethics, people, and economy are all incredibly important to our brand. This shows up in how we behave as a team, who we partner with, and who we are as a company.
Thank you for all that. The Covid-19 pandemic has affected nearly every aspect of our lives today. For the benefit of empowering our readers, can you share with our readers a few of the personal and family related challenges you faced during this crisis? Can you share what you’ve done to address those challenges?
Well, we have 2 small children (my daughter is 6 and is in kindergarten and my son is 8 and is in 2nd grade). We send our kids to public school and live learning has not been an option from the school district. My husband (and business partner) and I work with the kids every day to do their assignments. We also had to relocate our distribution center to our weekend home and have personally been shipping every order. It’s been a whirlwind having to move our warehouse and to do order fulfillment. On upside it’s been nice to be really hands on with the brand and it’s been fun getting to work with our children in a way that we never were able to before.
Can you share a few of the biggest work-related challenges you are facing during this pandemic? Can you share what you’ve done to address those challenges?
Balancing homeschooling and working have been really challenging. We were really struggling with both my partner and I having the time to accomplish our work. Waking up really early and taking an hour to myself has really helped me feel positive, and to tackle anything that is urgent for work.
Many people have become anxious from the dramatic jolts of the news cycle. The fears related to the coronavirus pandemic have understandably heightened a sense of uncertainty, fear, and loneliness. What are a few ideas that you have used to offer support to your family and loved ones who were feeling anxious? Can you explain?
Everyone processes things in such dramatically different ways, some family members benefit from more conversations or ‘driveway’ meet ups to be together even if we are wearing masks and sitting apart. Finding what raises family members spirits and planning activities around supporting them as really helped.
Obviously, we can’t know for certain what the Post-Covid economy will look like. But we can of course try our best to be prepared. We can reasonably assume that the Post-Covid economy will be a trying time for many people across the globe. Yet at the same time the Post-Covid growth can be a time of opportunity. Can you share a few of the opportunities that you anticipate in the Post-Covid economy?
I think a lot of brands that were online or were doing about half of their business online are going to really come out strong in this strange time. I feel very fortunate that online sales were increasing for us in the beginning of the year and we had a team that was familiar with social media and ecommerce. I think there is going to be a lot of jobs that can be done at home that we never thought would be possible. Office spaces may be downsized, and we may see more team members working from home more frequently.
How do you think the COVID pandemic might permanently change the way we behave, act or live?
I think we are going to see a lot more people using technology that hadn’t embraced it before. Those who were apprehensive about using apps or shopping online will be more comfortable purchasing and will find retailers and brands that they enjoy the process with online and will continue to purchase. I have so much respect for the restaurant industry and how innovative so many restaurants have been to be so fluid with changing business models overnight.
Considering the potential challenges and opportunities in the Post-Covid economy, what do you personally plan to do to rebuild and grow your business or organization in the Post-Covid Economy?
We will continue to explore our direct business model. A lot of our boutique wholesale business may be challenged to stay open, and our hearts go out to all of those beautiful small businesses that may not survive this economic downturn. I do think that focusing online we will find ways to grow a lot of initiatives we’ve been wanting to do but wholesale didn’t fully support. We believe in inclusive sizing — something that most retailers don’t purchase. Most stores don’t even order large or extra-large sizes, we are using this opportunity to expand our sizing up to 4x, as we have been thrilled to find out (and have collected a lot of data on our website) that many fuller figured women are excited about our offerings and we firmly believe clothing should be made for a much broader size offering than what currently exists from most stores and online retailers.
Similarly, what would you encourage others to do?
I encourage other businesses to be open that by selling more online and direct to your customer to embrace diversity and inclusion in their product offerings, sizing, and brand imagery. Businesses need to be held more accountable to featuring POC and with different bodies and abilities. When you have your own website and are able to sell directly you are able to control your brand’s appearance and values very clearly — I think all businesses should and can do better.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
“Let the beauty of what you love be what you do” — Rumi. I love being creative but easily get pulled away from it for other things that I have talents for — I find this quote to be a guiding principle for happiness — to keep myself accountable to what I love to do, and to make sure my life is full of the things and actions that I adore.
How can our readers further follow your work?
Please follow along on Instagram @printfresh and on our website printfresh.com.