This interview was originally posted on She's Fit to Lead on January 22, 2019.
Who are you and can you tell us a little about yourself
My name is Jessica Phan, the woman behind all things Hathorway, a sustainable fashion accessories brand that focuses on using natural materials. Today, I do everything from designing products, building the website, packing orders, managing social content, photographing the items and more. My background is in design with an emphasis on graphic design, so you’ll see a lot of my style comes from playing with basic geometric shapes.
On the side, I am an independent design consultant and advisor, helping various startups solve next-gen problems in the San Francisco Bay Area. In the past, I had the opportunity to design for many brands and companies like Samsung, SAP, JCPenney, and Sequoia Capital.
And with any free time left, I enjoy thrift shopping, discovering new coffee shops, and traveling the world.
What exactly is Hathorway?
Based in Redwood City, California, Hathorway (www.hathorway.com) is a woman-owned, sustainable fashion accessories brand that gives back. It was founded in February 2018 as a brand to focus on quality, sustainability, and women empowerment.
As an advocate for sustainable and zero-waste fashion, all of the pieces are handcrafted with repurposed buffalo horns from her parent’s homeland in Vietnam. Hathorway uses buffalo horns as the primary material because it is a byproduct of waste, a chemical free process, an organic material, and a one-of-a-kind piece.
While all the horns are sourced and created in Vietnam, I design and assemble them myself to ensure the highest quality. And to encompass women empowerment, 10% of all profit is donated to organizations and initiatives that helps women through justice, science, education and other opportunities.
What inspired you to start Hathorway?
Once I turned 30, I reflected on my life and thought about what I have yet to accomplish. Then I remembered a childhood dream I once had; it was to be a fashion designer and have my own fashion brand. And so I left my career in tech in February 2018 to pursue this dream.
How did you come up with the name?
With upcycled horns being a key material in all of our jewelry and accessories, I wanted a name that could express that. I spent some time mindmapping to think of relevant words to horns and thought of buffaloes, cows, bison, and bulls. And then from bulls, I thought of Taurus, the second astrological sign in the Zodiac. I searched “Taurus” on Wikipedia and learned that this sign is known for being reliable, practical, ambitious, and have a great eye for beauty. And with a bit more research, I discovered “Hathor”.
“Hathor” represented the Taurus in Ancient Egypt. She is the cow goddess who represents love and beauty like Venus of Rome mythology and Aphrodite of Greek mythology. She was also iconic for her headdress, which was made of our primary material — cow horns.
Hathor was perfect for our brand because of what she symbolized and wore — love, beauty, and horns. We wanted to follow Hathor’s ways, thus we called our brand — Hathorway.
Portion of your profits are donated to organizations that help empower women, can you tell us about that?
When I created Hathorway, I wanted this business to be philanthropic; I wanted it to give back to people; I wanted to empower people — specifically to young, underprivileged women. When people ask why, it’s simply because of my mother.
My mother had a rough young adulthood, having to migrate to America without knowing English due to the Vietnam War and having to be a single mother of two due to being a victim of domestic violence. While she struggled through her adulthood, she made sure my sister and I had the best: a roof over our head, a meal on our plate and resources to feed our curiosity and mind. Because of this, I am truly grateful and owe it to her by helping other young women who are less fortunate.
Today, Hathorway donates 10% of the profit to organizations and initiatives that does this whether through justice, science, education and other opportunities. In the future, I hope to provide job opportunities, resources, and events to empower young women directly.
Is there a favorite product?
One of my favorite products that I designed last year was the Ninh Binh Rattan Donut & Horn Crescent Earrings. It was inspired by the rice fields of Tam Coc , a hidden gem of Vietnam where you can spot water buffaloes and farmers working together to harvest their crops.
What is your favorite part about running Hathorway?
My favorite part of running Hathorway is that I am giving the opportunity to learn something new and outside of my comfort zone and area of expertise — design. I love that I get to exercise my coding skills so that I can enhance Hathorway’s online shopping experience. I love that I get to learn how to market my brand to the right people who are all about sustainability and conscious fashion. I love that I get to learn SEO to figure out how to improve my Google ranking with little site tweaks. In general, I love that I get to learn just by doing.
What is your least favorite part about running Hathorway?
To be honest, it’s uploading products to my site. It feels quite tedious. I will have about 50+ products coming out this March and I’m already getting a head start because I haven’t found a great way to manage my products between platforms in a way that is easy and less time-consuming, but I will learn!
How do you spread the word about your company?
The main way I spread the word about Hathorway today is through instagram. Once a week, I try to tell the story about my product, brand, and myself to create authentic and engaging content. And everyday I spend at least 30 minutes to genuinely engage with people who are passionate about sustainable, ethical, and conscious fashion. I engage with them by liking and commenting on their content. Today, over 50% of my site traffic comes from Instagram.
Do you have any advice for fellow entrepreneurs?
Always speak up and ask. The saying “A closed mouth don’t get fed” is true; if don’t use your voice, you can’t expect people to know what you need and want. If you need feedback about your product, brand, business, then ask.
- If you need advice about your business and strategy, then ask.
- If you need people to help you spread the word about your business, then ask.
- If you need help in any part of your business, then ask.
- If you want to collaborate with other people and brands, then ask.
You never know how much people are willing to give and help you, so remember to use your voice to speak up and ask. Remember, questions are free.
Do you have a favorite quote or go to saying?
My favorite quote is by Aristotle, who once said… “We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.” It’s a good reminder that to be better and to be the best, we have to keep doing whatever it is habitually and continuously. It’s not something that you can expect to succeed overnight.
Is there anything else you would like to share with us?
At the end of the 2018, one of the lessons I’ve learned is to always be generous. I’ve learned that generosity is the key to success both in business and a fulfilling life because life will always surprise you and return your generosity in different ways. With that said, I like to over all the readers here 20% off your entire order on Hathorway. Simply use "SFTL20” coupon code during checkout. Don’t forget to follow my journey and process to building Hathorway at instagram.com/hathorway/