It’s Made in NYC week here at Maker’s Row and we are celebrating the brands that prove that New York City is a great place to start a business! Every day this week, we will be sharing interviews with New York City factories and brands and giving you insight into what it’s like to be an NYC creative.
Beata Henrichs started home decor brand Hedgehouse out of her garage in LA before moving to New York with her new business partner (and best friend) Jodi Lahaye, who we talked to for this interview! Jodi touched on moving the brand to New York, forcing her friends to be consultants, and resrouces for entrepreneurs in New York!
What was your background before you started Hedgehouse? Did you have any experience in the industry?
I came from the film & TV business, which contrary to popular belief doesn’t have a lot of parallels to the home textile industry. However, I did work as a photo editor for Elle Décor in the early 90s for a few years.
Why did you decide to start Hedgehouse?
I can’t take any credit for starting Hedgehouse. That was all my best friend and business partner, Beata Henrichs.
Beata started Hedgehouse in her LA garage five years ago. She invented our signature product, the Throwbed because there was nothing like it in the marketplace—there still isn’t. Beata, who has always been wildly creative with great style, wanted something that was chic, portable, comfortable, multifunctional, and could hide in plain sight. She found inspiration by way of a photo of a stack of old horsehair mattresses in World of Interiors magazine. Even though it was a contemporary photo, it had a feel to it that was a throwback to the 19th century but was also fresh and modern. The aesthetic and sensibility of the Throwbed was born of this marriage of old and new, of utility and luxury.
As her best friend of twenty years, I’ve always taken an interest in whatever Beata does, but when she sent me the prototypes for her Throwbeds five years ago I was incredibly impressed. I couldn’t believe how perfect the Throwbed was for my lifestyle. It immediately became an essential for sleepovers, trips to the beach, or just lounging around the house. My kids were small then and we beat those Throwbeds up. They were washed and dried dozens of times, but they always looked fresh.
So even before I partnered up with Beata, I was Hedgehouse’s biggest fan. It’s such a joy to be part of your brand’s demo.
What steps did you take to get started?
Quite simply, Beata removed the words “I can’t” from her vocabulary and refused to hear the word no. Even though she had no experience in the industry, she knew she was onto something. She funded everything on her credit card. Her office was the garage (or her car.) What she lacked in experience, she made up for with vision and sheer tenacity.
All of this effort was validated in 2013 when, at our first trade show (NY NOW), the Throwbed won Best New Product in its category .
Around this time, Beata moved back to New York, I quit my job at MTV and we became partners.
Did you find a mentor or seek out any education?
One of the best things about starting or owning a business when you’re older (don’t get me wrong, we’re not OLD), is that you, hopefully, know yourself a little better and have less ego. We’ll talk to anyone who is willing to share his or her experience. And likewise, we’ll share any knowledge we have with brands just starting out. We’re never afraid to ask questions or seek advice.
For instance, I forced a couple friends in the apparel business into a consultancy role where I asked advanced questions like, “What’s a ‘collection,’” and “What does COGS stand for?” Then I met an amazing woman at one of our pop-ups who told me about Goldman Sachs’ 10,000 Small Businesses program for entrepreneurs. I applied and got in. The program was a great overview of basic, yet necessary, entrepreneurial skills. I learned what I didn’t know and, just as valuable, I learned what I DID know—that I had a lifetime of skills that are universal and definitely applicable to our venture. I strongly recommend taking some classes to familiarize your self with the basics and to meet others in the same boat. You can never have too many resources.
Why is New York City a great place to start a brand? What does it mean to be “Made in New York City?”
New York is a vibrant city, full of resources and opportunities. A simple walk down the street can provide daily inspiration. When people ask us where we manufacture, I get a kick out of saying, “The Garment District.” We’re strong believers in the community and this is a logical extension of that ethos.
How did you find your factory and what kind of relationship do you have with them?
We used to cut and sew in North Carolina but have come to prefer working with factories close to home. It’s important to us to develop a relationship with companies we work with. Being new to the industry, this is much easier when we can meet face-to-face. Our factory knows who we are, what we need and what our big picture is. However, production is definitely not our core competency so, as we expand and look for additional vendors, it’s important to have a stamp of approval from a company like Maker’s Row.
What are some of your plans for growth for Hedgehouse?
We’ve always considered Hedgehouse a brand—not just a Throwbed company. We make six products other than the Throwbed (pillows, cushions, towels and a tote bag) and are in the process of expanding to other categories. The common thread is that all of our products, whether home or apparel, share the same versatility and easy style and are on-brand. When we use our brand as a filter, the development becomes a natural process, almost logical.
Do you have any advice for entrepreneurs looking to start a business specifically in New York City?
Know your brand.
Know your customer.
Know where you’re going.
New York has a tremendous amount of resources like the SBA, NYBDC, SCORE, various associations and programs like 10,000 Small Businesses. Take advantage! Owning a small business can be lonely and frustrating. So have a support system of resources.
What’s your favorite thing to do in the city?
I own a small business and have two teenaged kids. I don’t have time to do anything else. Just kidding. Not really, though.
What borough does Hedgehouse call home?
Have a Product Idea? We’ll Help You Get Started!
On Maker’s Row you can learn process, organize and manage your product development and find a manufacturer. Learn more!