Diane Prince has launched several successful businesses over her 19-year career. With Winnie & Kat, the women’s clothing company she founded in 2012, she is leaving her legacy.
Named for two integral women in her life, her mother Winnie and her cousin Cathy (Kat), Winnie & Kat is a fast-growing social selling company headquartered in Westlake Village, California. It provides an opportunity for other women entrepreneurs to join as Independent Stylists and earn commission through selling contemporary clothing to others.
The direct sales industry has been going through a rapid evolution with the introduction of tech tools that allow professionals to directly engage with their audience. Prince, 45, introduced Winnie & Kat to the market at an opportune time.
“You have to treat social media not necessarily as a sales platform but it enhances your ability to keep relationships with your team, customers and hostesses. It can really [help] word of mouth,” Prince said. “As many lives as you can touch, the more successful your business is.”
A stylist can join and get a business kit at either $199 or $649 – the price difference is in the clothing samples. Winnie & Kat offers financing options where a stylist can pay for her kit over 60 days. The kit includes samples, as well as business supplies, order forms, training and signs. Sales are made through trunk shows, person-to-person sales or the stylist’s customized e-commerce site. The brand offers contemporary, versatile and comfortable clothes in women sizes zero to 16.
Prince started learning about direct sales and fell in love with the business model. Coming from a background in temp staffing, she felt both industries had similar characteristics, so she immediately began to surround herself with the right people to help her launch her dream business. She wasted no time in getting Winnie & Kat off the ground. In fact, from idea to execution was seven months.
“A lot of it was just going for it. As far as direct sales, I hired people to help me understand it and design our compensation plan. I self-funded from the sale of my last company and now we are at the point where we are ready for our next boost, to add to the team, improve on technology and branding and talking to [new] vendors,” Prince said.
Winnie & Kat currently generates a half-million in annual revenue. The brand continues to catch fire with consumers and currently has over 230 stylists and is sold in more than 46 states. When Kim Zolciak Biermann, formerly of Bravo TV’s “Real Housewives of Atlanta” and the current star of the network’s “Don’t Be Tardy,” posted a picture of herself on social media wearing Winnie & Kat, it was another phenomenal boost to the brand and Prince knew it was time to scale.
“It’s sort of a level of gut and pain points when scaling. You need to know that you have traction to take to that market place,” Prince explained. “I wanted to stay focused on building the company and brand. Everything in our company is about the independent stylist’s experience.”
The winnieandkat.com website has more than 250,000 users and Prince is in the process of hiring a sales leadership manager to provide more support and training for stylists. She was strategic about adding staff because she did not want to end up managing people more than her business.
She explained that entrepreneurs need to make sure they spend and manage their time effectively. When she first launched the company, they were doing everything which included making clothes. “I realized it was not effective. I didn’t need to spend my time learning how to make clothes,” Prince said. “I’ve been sourcing vendors now. We work with different vendors, talk about what I want and they design it. We make the clothes in LA and have one factory in NY. We are incredibly streamlined. There are only three of us in our home office where at one time we had four to six people. We totally streamlined and quadrupled stylists.”
Prince is now looking to court the right investor. She recently participated in Chick Launcher, a virtual accelerator that connects women building high-growth businesses with the tools and resources they need to achieve success. Winnie & Kat was one of the 15 semi-finalists who competed in their October 2014 Fast Pitch competition for $15,000 in cash and $45,000 in professional services.
“Chick launcher has been absolutely amazing,” Prince beamed. “We were assigned a pitch coach. It really helped me to get my pitch together and business plan solidified. Everyone had five minutes with a room of CEOs and investors.”
While she didn’t win the competition, Prince has come back for the win as she jokingly refers to herself as the Jennifer Hudson of Chick Launcher. Since participating she has been approached by a serious investor looking to invest a half-million into Winnie & Kat.