Luckyleo Dancewear is a dance apparel company founded by Karen Saari and her two daughters, Chelsea Early and Heather Walker. Launched in 2015, the company now has customers in more than 50 countries and ships hundreds of orders a month.
Hearing Karen talk about the dynamics of a family-run business is delightful. Today, she runs just about everything behind the scenes of the growing apparel company — from customer service to shipping and fulfillment. Her daughters manage all of the design and production while building the company’s robust Instagram following. Together, they’ve built a team of 13 that prioritizes a culture of love and patience.
“We care about the people who work with us. Happy individuals in a safe place.”
Taking the Right Steps to Start a Business
Chelsea and Heather both had their starts as professional ballet dancers but injuries forced them to retire from dancing. At the time, there weren’t many options for leotards or the colors and patterns they came in. The two dancers saw an opportunity to create beautiful dancewear in a wide array of colors and prints; hand-cut and sewn in the US.
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The early days of the company were simple: they started from scratch without any outside funding. They rented a small house in Phoenix (they’ve since relocated to Denver) to begin their production, and once they started getting enough orders, the team made their first hire to help out with the volume.
Believe it or not, the idea of innovative dancewear was not always twirling around in front of them. The three co-owners of Luckyleo started out in bridal wear until one day, Heather — the younger of the two sisters — concluded that it just wasn’t scalable. They need immaculately spotless facilities to maintain the white fabrics and there wasn’t much flexibility in creativity.
The lesson? “Listen to what your talents are and make sure your business is aligned with what your skills are.”
Leading with the Customer’s Voice
Karen’s most valued advice? “The customer needs to guide what the market is. The customer needs to be the leader in what you provide to them. Everything we do, even the giveaways on Instagram, is in an effort try to read what the market loves. We shape the company and product in direct response to that.”
So what does the market love? Luckyleo’s top-selling leotards include hand-drawn floral artworks the two sisters have created using ink and watercolor. Then they are printed on fabric before they are hand cut and sewn.
“What we provide is what the customer wants, not what we want. Sometimes we’ll want to include our own, creative designs but the truth is, they might not sell well,” says Karen.
The ethos behind their success has more to do with innovation than beautiful dancewear on its own. With two twenty-something co-owners at the helm, reinventing what business means was imminent.
“They’re not building a business according to the rules of what my generation has established. The thing that hasn’t been invented yet is what to go for. It’s not in front of you. It’s always around the corner.”
Seeing Customer Service as an Opportunity Rather than a Challenge
No matter what type of business you’re in, customer service can be a challenge. But by having two young entrepreneurs at her side, Karen was often led to see things with a pair of fresh eyes.
“When I started doing customer service, I looked at customer issues as a problem. Chelsea, my older daughter, always saw it as an opportunity for discussion and a time to connect with that person. Now, customer service is a joy. It’s about being tuned to what your customers really feel and acknowledge that with grace. Then, it’s going to go like a dream.”
Loyal Luckyleo customers are always asking about what’s coming next. This year, Karen and her daughters are looking to restock a wildly popular line of skirts that sold out almost immediately and continue sharing beautiful hand-drawn prints and new innovative mediums with their social media followers.