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2018. was. a. year.

Posted by Leslie Wong on

I know...it’s just about that time when end-of-year recaps are no longer relevant but I think I’ve snuck in right under the wire. I can promise you this isn’t going to be a generic, fluffy highlight reel. I’ll do it right and share a real recap of 2018: raw and specific. 2018...was a year. For Burgundy Fox, 2018 marked our 1st birthday as a company (February 7, 2017) amongst many other meaningful events. Similar to raising a one year old human, I see how Burgundy Fox has been one of the most tactically challenging, emotionally trying, gritty (as in no lack of grit necessary) and yet rewarding things I’ve ever done. I remember those first few months launching like it was yesterday. The adrenaline, the butterflies, the pressure, the ‘keeping up’- a lot of things that in the end don’t matter when it comes to running a business. Let’s just say, I learned a lot.

I will share some of the highs and lows we experienced this year. Even writing the word ‘low’ feels unnatural because we are always supposed to be high; moving and shaking, jet-setting, made-up with ‘no make-up’ and capturing it all with good lighting (I’m guilty of all the above sometimes, too). While I won't say I felt lucky for those low moments, I am thankful in hindsight because I learned so much from them. My then fianceé, now husband, imparted this wisdom that I always return to in moments of doubt, “you make the best decision you can with the information you have at the time”. I realized not long after starting Burgundy Fox that being a business owner is like getting a PhD in decision-making (and keeping money in the bank). It’s a long, evolving, difficult and sometimes thankless process.

Can you tell I’ve got some scars? I’ve seen enough Ariana Grande memes to know we’re all optimistic and eager to start anew. Don’t worry, this recap is not all hum drum! Last year had a lot of good too. Grab a coffee, tea or celery juice and join me in a recap of 2018 and a brief preview of what’s to come in 2019.

We went to NOLA for the Rising Tide Leader’s Summit

Nothing says new year like a fresh beignet. Alexis and I had the honor of speaking on diversity & inclusion to the most generous, passionate, empathetic and creative individuals you could put in one room together. I’m talking about the Rising Tide Society regional leaders. They volunteer to build ‘community over competition’ amongst creative professionals and small business owners in regional chapters all over the world. Building a legacy through your business is HARD AF (the only time I will use AF and mean the heck out of it), but this community makes it more efficient and less lonely. Highlights include group-sobbing at 10 in the morning during Justin & Mary Marantz’s fireside presentation. She is pure heart & soul.

Degrees North Images

Degrees North Images

Alexis announced her pea in the pod!

Cue more tears. We couldn’t have been more excited for the gorgeous miracle that is now the cutest baby, Xavier Stephen Katz. See for yourself.

Degrees North Images

We were on TV

This was one of those moments when you think you’re being pranked. I got an email and 3 days later I was in the ABC Chicago studio downtown, across from ‘the’ Chicago sign, about to appear on Windy City Live. Yes, LIVE. This was a little sweat-inducing. I appeared on the talk show's inaugural ‘Chicago Start-up Roundup’ which highlighted 3 growing technology enabled businesses in Chicago in every episode. Besides Burgundy Fox, they featured a start-up which had just appeared on Shark Tank and a piece of marketplace software for hourly contractors and businesses. We were a motley crew: 2 co-founders straight out of HBO’s Silicon Valley, a ‘seasoned’ and quite aloof CEO, and me. Oh yes, and Bob Saget (yes, that Bob Saget!). There you had in a greenroom, 4 men and me, 'business as usual'. Watch our segment here.

It was a simultaneously amazing and annoying experience. Having started my business a year before, I was a bit ‘out of practice’ when it came to being around other work environments outside my Burgundy Fox bubble. All the things that frustrated me about ‘office culture’ in the past came flooding back. Like "harmless" and yet overtly misogynistic jokes, feigned interest in something big and important you've been working on, and overhearing myself being referenced as “the lingerie girl” by another founder. If you watch the entire segment, you might agree, I even had less air time than my counterparts.

As the MeToo movement had reached a fever pitch at the time, you could say my senses were heightened. The question I ask is: shouldn’t we ALL have had heightened senses? Shouldn’t we ALL have reflected upon our past and current behaviors, sentiments and words during that time? While I was frustrated that I felt I'd permitted these minor violations to take place, I didn’t share this back story then because 1) I was grateful for the opportunity and 2) I wasn’t physically harmed and just merely peeved AKA "it wasn't that bad". I caution against this thinking because as we know, both are slippery slopes.

It’s important to tell these stories in hopes that it causes men and women to think about the ‘little things’ we do or say and instead decide to be intentional. Additionally, sometimes it’s only through hearing the stories of others that we have the time and space to think about how we'd react to a figurative knock in the gut. So, if and when it does happen, we might be more mentally ready.

Burgundy Fox got a whole new look

We overhauled the website from top to bottom with a simpler design and fresh new photos, making it easier to see cute lingerie and get a box sent to your door, stat. We shot one of my most favorite campaigns with Olivia Kohler Photography and 4 gorgeous models from Chicago: Bella, Pat, Amey and Natalia. I obsessed over Olivia’s commercial photography for months on Instagram and then finally reached out to see what she thought about collaborating. The idea of celebrating diversity in fashion was right in line with Olivia’s goals as a photographer and the rest is history. I am obsessed with Olivia and am so thankful the Instagram gods led me to her!

We 'consciously uncoupled'

Apologies in advance for this shit sandwich. After an exciting period of time that will always feel bittersweet for us both, Alexis and I decided to part ways as co-founders. It was an incredibly difficult decision that was based around preserving and prioritizing our relationship as best friends. Before joining, we both read a 400 page book called “The Founder’s Dilemmas” to help us understand and manage the potential pitfalls of working with friends and family. It’s a complicated rope to walk that can be even more difficult with geographic distance.

'Breaking up' proved to be one of the most emotionally draining experiences I went through, personally and professionally, last year. There was no 'blowout'. We are still best friends who are truly there for one another as we continue our individual journeys. Looking back, I see our decision to uncouple as a reflection of our personal values; people first.

We spoke at Ulta Headquarters

One of the coolest events I’ve been a part of this year. Ulta in partnership with McCann Global invited us to ‘The Truth About Age’ an event which featured a global research study on society’s perception of beauty as it pertains to aging. Half a million respondents weighed in from Norway to the Philippines.

As a panelist, I shared my truth on ‘aging’, that we should stop focusing on fighting women aging and start celebrating the positive aspects of aging (like slowly figuring out what the eff you’re doing). Case in point below, our gorgeous model, Susan. This is the stuff I live for.

I should mention this was also the first time I truly experienced ‘imposter syndrome’. I saw the other speakers on the panel and was immediately intimidated. For the first time, I felt it in my bones. "Why did they pick me?" I played over in my head. Prior to the event we had a conference call. Even when I worked for other companies, I loathed conference calls. They require a special type of skill to manage and 'own' the call. Confidence? Arrogance? Either way, I didn't have the special skill. I hung up from the call feeling like an amateur because I felt my voice being drowned out amidst the other callers. Have you ever felt that way?

What I didn't realize at the time, is that I didn't NEED to be the 'alpha' on the call. I didn't need to lead the call or prove anything on it. Inherently, I was enough and I didn't need to speak unnecessarily to show it. This realization came full circle on the day of the event. I spoke my truths that day and made sure to share the stage too, knowing that I didn't need to 'dominate' anything to prove my presence there. In fact, I realized that showing up to 'show off' can easily be perceived as insecurity or lack of self-awareness. That day, I found comfort in being myself; bad at conference calls, observant and concise, and overcame feeling like an 'imposter' where I was meant to be.

Burgundy Fox moves to Boston

My husband began his own entrepreneurial journey which took us from Chicago to Boston. Chicago will always have a piece of my heart and stomach. It turned out to be the perfect place to launch Burgundy Fox in more ways than one (check out our first photo shoot in our old apartment). The city is dynamic and yet manageable, creative and diverse, smart and for the most part, really kind. After an opportunity we couldn’t turn down, we picked up and moved everything East.

Transitioning Burgundy Fox to Boston was surprisingly simple and just like Chicago, Boston has a great creative, entrepreneurial, professional and academic scene. Tip: Never underestimate college students. If you’re a business owner, most universities have junior and senior level entrepreneur, consulting and marketing courses that need real companies to work with.

Colleen Bies Photography

Colleen Bies Photography

We were featured in Forbes

I barely believe it myself. As an entrepreneur you learn to not get too excited before something happens. Truthfully, the interview came about from a cold email. I was researching a female founder I admire and started reading articles about the new company she started, O.School. A contributor caught my eye so I reached out and introduced myself. I interviewed and then filed the whole thing away. Ironically, I was on the phone with friend for PR advice, when he said “that piece in Forbes is great!” WHAT!? It had published the day before and I had no idea (tsk tsk Google Alerts).

Seeing your name in Forbes can be flattering, but what mattered to me most, was being able to speak on the importance of representation in media and in leadership. You can read the article here. I believe this growing movement towards diversity isn’t just a trend, it’s been an underlying simmer inside many of us our entire lives. Voices and time have brought it to a boil that is going to forever change the way we live, how we think and what we do.

I got hitched!

It was the perfect way to end the year after all the ups and downs. I wrote an article for one of our partners, Wedgewood Weddings, to share what is was like planning a wedding in an awkward stage of life, when your fantasies don’t meet your reality. I think we can probably all relate to that a little. Read it here, especially if you’re planning your own wedding right now!

Throughout 2018, I learned to refocus on what’s important, in all areas of life. It can be easy to neglect parts of your life when you’re focused on a big goal, including your health, relationships and shocker – your wedding. Entrusting a local wedding planner in a faraway destination turned out to be the perfect way for us to minimize the latter’s demands. With gentle reminders from my husband, Mike, I learned to prioritize myself over my business and to detach my feelings of self-worth with the current status of the company (and as Virgos often do, I’m constantly striving for better and better).

That brings us to 2019 and drumroll...my word for the year is…

Simple. A return to basics. After a year filled with lots of experiments and change, I've learned (the "hard" way) that simple is better. When you find something that works, don't be tempted to complicate it. Learn to walk before you try to run. As a business owner, this meant drilling down into the most critical piece of the business, and that is quite simply, you. In 2019, we are laser focused on:

Making EVERY experience a "12/10", as one customer just put it.

This involves thinking through every point of your interaction with us, by having simple buying options, delivering excitement and value in every box, and being there for you if something doesn't go as planned. We've simplified and restructured the boxes so you can pick between getting a smaller monthly surprise for $79, a larger box of seasonal items for $99 or a bigger one-time 'gift' for $119. It's simple and aligned to bring you the right amount of things at the right time. As always, we include a 'treat yourself' bonus product in every box and are excited to expand these self-care offerings in every box.

Being the change we wish to see in the world

You always hear that you should 'remember your why'. I couldn't agree more. I created this business because I grew up in a society that devalues people based on their looks, and it took me decades to clear some of those hurdles to find true confidence. That society still exists and I am still, more than ever, on a mission to change that through inclusion and representation. Read more about 'my why'.

Uncovering your stories

As women, we go through a lot. Our bodies are complex and capable of so much change that I’m still learning. Through friends and family, I’m seeing how our bodies can amaze us and also betray us when we least expect it. One of the most enriching parts of what I do is having raw, emotional conversations with women about these experiences like their journeys to and through motherhood and battling with breast cancer at what is supposed to be the prime of your life. In 2019, Burgundy Fox will become a vehicle for telling these stories and providing support for you through all the different phases of your body. Stay tuned and hand me a Kleenex!

Thank you for hanging with me this far. Excited to see what’s next? Don’t miss a thing. Subscribe to our weekly email series right here.


Yours Truly,

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1 comment

  • Wow that was quite a year! I’m happy things are working out! Congratulations on your many successes and on ur big moves. I wish you all the success in 2019!

    Danielle Samuels on

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