Dressed to Impress: Molly Bingaman and The Ladybird Style Lab
Molly Bingaman has always known how to put a look together. What she didn’t know: how to put a business together.
That’s why, when she wanted to take Ladybird Styling from a one woman fashion consulting business to a brick and mortar Style Lab, employing other stylists and meeting clients in a space of her own, she turned to the Urban Business Growth Initiative and its suite of courses and counseling aimed at helping entrepreneurs like Molly test their ideas, validate their instincts and set a path toward business success.
“There’s a direct link between what you wear and how you feel. There’s also a link between what you wear and how others perceive you,” Molly says. In 2010, she realized the gift for communicating personal identity through styling solved a problem for others. While most people grasp the concept—as you dress you communicate who you are—they didn’t always know how to execute it for their body type, lifestyle or in a particular situation. A client might recognize that what they wear influences how they look and feel, but they didn’t always know what to do about it, or how to make choices that would be correct for them.
“For some people, it’s truly tortuous,” she adds.
And so, Ladybird Styling was born.
Think of Ladybird Styling as a style consulting company, plus some. Molly started by helping people understand how their clothing choices communicate for them. Getting a hold on what, in particular visual terms, expresses the inner qualities of an individual. From closet raider to personal shopper, she helped her clients, one-one-one, navigate the world of style and what that meant to them, on their terms.
Though she started her business in 2010, a little over a year ago she started thinking about how she could service her clients in better ways and that developed into a business idea that was much bigger. With her eyes on creating a one-of-a-kind “Style Lab”, she first turned to the Ice House Entrepreneurship Program. Thanks to scholarship for KCMO residents and business owners, she walked her business through Ice House’s revolutionary learning program designed to help participants find their entrepreneurial mindset and the unlimited opportunities it can provide—and all for just $75.
“Before Ice House, I was running on pure intuition, not business knowledge,” she says. “I wanted to know if my business idea was viable and if it was something I could pull together.”
Ice House helped her develop her entrepreneurial mindset, how to test a business from all angles, how to make sure it resonates with people other than just your family and friends, how to differentiate your product from what your competitors offer, who those competitors are—and how to think like an entrepreneur.
“I wouldn't have called myself an ‘entrepreneur,’ but that’s exactly what I am and through Ice House I found that that comes naturally,” she says. “Ice House gave me the confidence to trust that identity and to trust my instincts. Like my clients, I’m building something new, exploring new possibilities which is both exciting and scary, but ultimately what I meant to do.”
After she tuned her mind to her entrepreneurial possibilities, she decided to continue her education with the nuts and bolts provided by the 30-hour FastTrac® NewVenture™ program. With FastTrac, she dug deep into her business plan with the help of peers and the one-on-one counseling of a business coach, who has since turned into her go-to mentor.
“Getting an actual space, and thinking about filling it with inventory and employees—that’s a giant thing I was about to do,” she says. “Pure intuition can get really expensive—especially if your instincts are off. I wanted to be armed with strategic, sound business advice.”
The big lesson she learned along the way: start as small as possible and allow the market to invite you to grow.
“As much as you may want to, you can’t jump in at the end. You can lose so much,” she says.
Her advice: “Start at the beginning. I’ve been in business five years, and now know the market has invited me to grow. With the help of UBGI, I’m ready to accept the invitation.”