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.
Emily Santamore, who began her activewear brand Rune NYC while pregnant with her son, started in the fashion industry immediately after moving to New York. We talked to her about starting her brand out of her own necessity, getting funded, partnering up with her brother.
What was your background before you started Rune NYC? Did you have any experience in the industry?
After graduating from Art School at Tyler School of Art I packed my bags and moved to NYC. I started my first company when I moved to New York. It was an eco-friendly t-shirt company where I would silk screen my drawings onto the tees which were made of corn fiber. We found early success but ultimately we were ahead of our time and what we did not know about the industry and business lead to us closing the company down. So I decided to get a job in fashion learning the sales/business side of Fashion. My first job was working in a multi-line showroom working as a sales representative. From there I worked my way up to Sales Manager and Sales Director for Fashion brands. When the time was right I decided to try again but this time with plenty of industry experience and connections.
Why did you decide to start Rune NYC?
I decided to start Rune NYC out of my own need. I was pregnant with my son and I could not find a pair of maternity leggings that fit right. They would always fall down or they were too sheer. I wanted to create a collection of leggings that had a great fit, look and did not break the bank. So, Rune was born.
What steps did you take to get started? Did you find a mentor or seek out any education?
My first call was to my brother who wanted to leave his investment banking job and do something of his own. He was happy to front the initial start up money and to be my COO/CFO. Which was great because I knew that was not my area of expertise. Then my second call was to an industry contact who was very experienced in sampling, and production management. I asked him if he wanted to help me develop a line of leggings/ partner with my brother and I. He said yes and we were working on our first 12 styles within a week. My brother and I both have mentors and their expertise and wisdom definitely helped us not make some big mistakes. Mentorship is highly valuable and I would recommend all young entrepreneurs to find one.
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 City besides being my favorite city in the world is a city filled with some many resources for young entrepreneurs. There is a large community here and everybody is eager to help out if they can. We were fortunate enough to be granted one of 6 grants by the New York City Production Fund in 2015. They really helped us fund a lot of larger orders so that we did not have to take from our own cash flow. They really helped us to grow and to keep our company financially healthy. For us being made in NYC is something we take pride in. From the business perspective it means we have more control over our product and quality, for our customers, it means shorter lead times so I can react to trends a lot faster than our competitors. To the vendors we work with in the city means they get to keep their factories and mills open. I love the idea that we are all supporting each other to keep the Fashion Industry alive in this great city.
How did you find your factory and what kind of relationship do you have with them?
We found the factory through our production manager, he had worked with them in the past. They went through a lot of changes as they lost their lease and their rent went up 3x so they were forced to move their factory outside of the garment district. They are based In LIC now. We have been with them almost from the start and never plan on leaving them. They worked with us when we were small with only promises that we would eventually do volume. We have a great relationship with our Factory, cutting room and Fulfillment center and we hope to continue to grow with them.
What are some of your plans for growth for Rune NYC?
Our plans for growth involve a push for E-commerce/ digital marketing as we are primarily B2B and not B2C. We are expanding our wholesale team and growing our volume business as well. We are working hard on creating the internal structure so we can keep up with the demand and take on more volume. This involves hiring new people, training, and software that can better integrate all of our systems so we can handle growth. We started out with regular basic to fashion leggings and Maternity leggings. Now we have launched Plus size leggings as well as lounge bottoms and tops.
Do you have any advice for entrepreneurs looking to start a business specifically in New York City?
My advice would be to find a partner that knows how to do what you are not good at. If you are doing it alone find consultants or companies that can help you with these areas. Find a mentor in the industry that can help you/ guide you. Network a lot- get yourself out there and start building your contacts. Keep cash flow tight, in the beginning, have realistic projections from the onset and really do your research before jumping into anything.
What’s your favorite thing to do in the city?
My favorite thing to do in the city is to eat! I love food and trying out new restaurants.
What borough does Rune NYC call home?
Rune NYC’s corporate office is located in the Garment District on 38th street. This is where all of our development/ design and operations take place from. Our factory, cutting room, fulfillment center are all housed in the same building in LIC.
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