December 12, 2020

Cover Charge: bunglo’s Shay Spaniola

3rd + Lamar
bunglo pillow

In 2011, Austin artist Shay Spaniola began printing her designs on fabrics after teaching herself to sew. Soon after, her bunglo brand signed wholesale agreements with national retail chains like Bloomingdale’s, Neiman Marcus, and West Elm.

bunglo founder Shay Spaniola. Credit: Shay Spaniola

In this episode, we talk to Spaniola about how she scaled her business, why she forgoes advertising, when she got her first purchase order, and what she wants to sell her business for.

Listen to the podcast episode below. Subscribers can check out the full transcript of our conversation. For past “Cover Charge” episodes, click here.

Cover Charge: Episode 8 Transcript

[restrict] [00:00:21] Nick: [00:00:21] What’s up, everyone? Thanks a lot for joining the latest episode of the Cover Charge podcast. It’s been a while. We have Shay Spaniola here. She is the founder of bunglo, which is a home goods and decor brand. There’s a few reasons why I wanted to bring Shay on. When we first started 3rd & Lamar, and I was thinking of  the types of business stories that we’re interested in.

[00:00:43] I was thinking about  people who have Etsy stores or Etsy side hustles, or they re-sell fashion and they make $5,000, $10,000, $15,000 a month off of that, those are really interesting stories to me. If you’ve watched our Beardbrand content, Eric Bandholz, the co-founder of Beardbrand, he mentioned that the barriers to entry to launching your own fashion or goods brand is lower than it’s ever been. And so I want to talk to Shay about her business and advice she has for people launching their own fashion brands, lessons she’s learned about taking on investors. Some of the biggest challenges she’s faced about wholesale, and a whole bunch of other stuff. She’s, uh, an open book. So Shay thank you so much for joining the podcast.

[00:01:36] Shay: [00:01:36] Thank you so much for having me. It’s become a huge passion of mine to help others do this because it creates so much freedom and flexibility in our lives. And that’s more important than ever right now, especially in 2020. So thank you for having me.

[00:01:51] Nick: [00:01:51] I gave a brief description on what bunglo is, but for people who’ve never heard of bunglo before, why don’t you talk about what it is, what you sell, how it got started, et cetera.

[00:02:01] Shay: [00:02:01] So bunglo is a home decor brand, and I sell a variety of hand-painted fabrics by the yard, pillows and artwork that I create. I started it around seven years ago in my apartment, actually very close to where we are right now. And I just started turning my watercolor patterns – or watercolor paintings – into patterns and loved how they looked on fabric. So I started making pillows. I bought a sewing machine and started learning how to sew off YouTube.

[00:02:37] And I created a website and an Etsy shop, and it was a slow start, but I was loving what I was doing and I was getting a lot of good feedback and I sent some of the samples to my favorite stores, being Anthropologie, Neiman Marcus, Bloomingdale’s, and West Elm, and within a few months of starting the company, they all placed purchase orders and the company exploded overnight. 

[00:03:04] Nick: [00:03:04] First of all, how did you know the right people to send your materials to you at each of those huge department stores?

[00:03:12] And then also like when you look back now, you know, what distinguished your brand that really caught their attention, you think, and gave you the ability to get those purchase orders?

[00:03:25] Shay: [00:03:25] Well, when I wanted to contact them, I was looking on LinkedIn and calling their 1-800 numbers and just really picking up the phone.

[00:03:36] I found the best way to contact the buyers is to call them, because they’re getting hundreds of emails a day. And it was a way I actually didn’t think about because I’m so, uh, into email with my generation, and I was talking to my dad. I was like, ‘I really want to get into Anthropologie, but they’re not responding to my emails.’

[00:03:55] He was like, “Just call them and ask to speak to their pillow buyer.” So I did, and they picked up the phone and I just, it was so easy. Um, so I answered, I asked them for their address and sent them samples and they got back to me. And I think they really liked it because the patterns are bold. And a lot of stuff that is out on the market right now is, um, solids and very neutral and basic. So these are really fun patterns to accent.

[00:04:24] Nick: [00:04:24] So were you like in parallel to filling these purchase orders at these department stores, you were also selling direct-to-consumer through Etsy?

[00:04:33] Shay: [00:04:33] Yes.

[00:04:34] Nick: [00:04:34] Okay. And for people, maybe they’ve heard of Etsy, but they don’t sell there, maybe they’ve bought stuff, but like, talk about the terms when you’re selling stuff on Etsy, you charge whatever your price is, how much does Etsy get from each sale?

[00:04:48] Shay: [00:04:48] I’m not exactly sure, but it’s a few percent. I mean, it’s very little. And actually when I was starting Etsy, the company started Etsy wholesale, and they launched with me being their cover person. And that was a really big boom in business for wholesale as well.

[00:05:08] I don’t think Etsy wholesale exists anymore, but it was a big deal cause I was a part of their trade show and it really exposed the brand as well.

[00:05:17] Nick: [00:05:17] So I’m imagining as someone, a creative person like yourself that designing the products, that’s fun, it probably comes easier to you than most people, but it takes a whole different skillset when you get a purchase order to like, think about all the logistics that go into filling those purchase orders. Like how challenging was that? What was that like for you?

[00:05:39] Shay: [00:05:39] It was a nightmare, you know, I had always thought it was going to be the point in my business where everything would just work out. It’s like I have a purchase order and I’m gonna make all this money. And then, you know, they hand over this like 500 page shipping and logistics document, and you’re like, ‘Oh my gosh, you know, I’m a painter, what am I going to do?’

[00:05:59] And so it was very overwhelming. And I thought I could ship it out of my apartment. And we had 3,000 pillows going out to Neiman Marcus. I was shipping them in the driveway on pallets. It started to rain. We had to cover them with tarps, and within like a week of doing this, we were a little ahead of schedule, I was like, ‘We need a warehouse.’ So I signed on a warehouse that week, moved all the goods over there, learned how to pack pallets, how to do all the cartons to ship it.

[00:06:29] And there’s so much logistical information that is needed. So it was very overwhelming, but it was fun. I learned a lot, and I feel like that experience taught me that I can get through anything.

[00:06:44] And, um, but the production part was really hard, too. We started doing production in India, which was very interesting because I would be up in the middle of the night talking to people in India. And we went there a few times to try to figure out some errors and to build new collections. And at the end of the day, it made sense to move production back to Austin and really make sure everything was in alignment with our company’s goals.

[00:07:15] And we had some bad experiences working abroad, even though it’s saved us a little bit of money.

[00:07:21] Nick: [00:07:21] What’s a little bit? Like what percentage did it save you on your costs to outsource it to India?

[00:07:26] Shay: [00:07:26] Maybe like a couple of dollars per unit, and they’re expensive pillows. So that’s not much at all.

[00:07:32] There’s a lot of fees you don’t think about with importing goods and shipping goods and things getting stuck in customs in other countries. There’s a lot of bonds you have to pay. So at the end of the day, it doesn’t make sense unless you’re shipping thousands of goods a week.

[00:07:52] Nick: [00:07:52] And did you market – or do you continue to market – like made in Austin with your, with your goods? Or is that not something that you necessarily promote?

[00:08:03] Shay: [00:08:03] Yeah, totally. It’s on our tags and I’ve had this amazing seamstress. Her name is Rebecca. We met off Craigslist years ago, and she came to my house and taught me how to sew. And she sews so much of her products and she has a home studio, so she can work from her house.

[00:08:18] And, you know, when we see each other, we hug and she comes over to my house and she was actually – walked in on the birth of my daughter. Like she’s just part of my family now. And I have other seamstresses that work throughout the town. So if we have a really big order, we’ll scale up and she also helps me scale where necessary with her friends.

[00:08:38] Nick: [00:08:38] Okay. Let me step back for a second. You just said that your seamstress walked in on your home birth. Explain that.

[00:08:48] Shay: [00:08:48] Well, we attempted to do a home birth and that didn’t work. So ended up at the hospital. But during my three-day home birth experience, my seamstress Rebecca, who was dropping off pillows for that weekly order, knocked. And my midwife answered and she’s like, “You know, Shay can’t come to the door, she’s giving birth.” And Rebecca was like, “Oh my gosh, let me see her. Let me see her,” because Rebecca had done a home birth with her first two children, and she’s in her sixties now. So she came in and gave me some pointers and a hug.

[00:09:16] And it was just so funny that she was there. And of course I was thinking about packing orders. When I was in labor, I was packing orders, making sure that they were all good to go so that I could take like three days off.

[00:09:30] Nick: [00:09:30] That’s incredible. But also when you, a lot of people may not realize how wholesale works. I didn’t necessarily realize it, but you have to fill those orders. All those costs are coming way before you see any of the revenue. Um, so I have a few questions on that. Number one, when you were looking at the terms with each of these big retailers to fill the purchase orders, did you negotiate on those payment terms and recognize that like, your costs were going to come months before you’d see the revenue?

[00:10:02] Um, and then also, like how did you handle the funding situation to fill those purchase orders? Is it as easy as taking a purchase order to a bank and getting the loan?

[00:10:12] Shay: [00:10:12] Well, I didn’t realize all of those terms, either. And I think a lot of people thought since I was making all these big orders, that I had a lot of cash flow and the issue is you need cash flow in order to make the cash flow.

[00:10:26] And I didn’t have that. So the terms are net 30, which is, um, 30 business days after the goods hit their warehouse, you’re paid. And if it’s not done perfectly, then they deduct a bunch of fees, which are very small fees for small mistakes, like if your sticker is less than an inch away from the bottom of the box, you get deducted a dollar per box, and it really adds up.

[00:10:52] So that was overwhelming. And I needed a lot of money to fulfill these orders, which, you know, it was in over my head. So I did try to go to my local bank and take those purchase orders and get the money to make the orders. But since I was a new business, they wouldn’t even look at me. They basically said you needed to have about 150,000 net profit for three years in order to get a purchase order funding.

[00:11:20] And I was young. I was 23. I didn’t have any debt to my name other than like a little tiny credit card with nothing on it. So they didn’t take me seriously. So I ended up getting three investors to help float those orders and then to grow the company, because I needed to hire people to help pack the orders, to help market it, to do the shipping and logistics. A lot of jobs emerged out of me selling these pillows to bigger stores.

[00:11:47]Nick: [00:11:47] Did the investors find you? How did you find the investors? Explain that process?

[00:11:52] Shay: [00:11:52] So my dad is an entrepreneur, so I went to him saying this is a really cool opportunity. And he was into it. He’s always wanted, he’s always supported us to be, uh, entrepreneurs.

[00:12:05] And so, um, he helped, my aunt helped, and then, um, I took them on as the first round. And then as we grew and continued getting larger orders – specifically from Bloomingdale’s – they were really big and were putting us like in the main fall catalog and putting us at all the stores. It was just booming. I ended up, um, networking with a friend who I knew from college in Houston, and he set me up with some meetings with friends, and one of them, um, I met with a family and they had some experience in home decor and really wanted to help. So they were a great partner.

[00:12:42] Nick: [00:12:42] And total amount you raised?

[00:12:44] Shay: [00:12:44] Around $500,000.

[00:12:45] Nick: [00:12:45] Okay. And how much dilution was it for the company?

[00:12:50] Shay: [00:12:50] So I own 67% now.

[00:12:51] Nick: [00:12:51] Okay. Um, and then in each of these retailers, for every sale, what percent did you get versus the retailers? Like what was the rev share?

[00:13:03] Shay: [00:13:03] Um, some of them it’s 50%. So wholesale is standard 50%. But when you’re working with these large stores, like Bloomingdale’s, where they have multiple stores in every city or state, um, they were taking around 60% leaving me with 40%, which is really small margins, um, to scale a company. So some of the first orders we did, we didn’t even make profit because we were scaling our inventory, and on the production end, I have my own minimum. So they might not purchase a hundred of every style. They might purchase 10 of one style, 200 of another, but I have to make my own minimums.

[00:13:43]Nick: [00:13:43] So you’re in these retail stores, you get some investors, you scale up your business. Are you still selling through Etsy or did you whip up your own site to sell a direct-to-consumer?

[00:13:55] Shay: [00:13:55] I had my own site from the beginning. I’ve always been a web designer as well. So that was like the first thing I did. And I had a lot of fun with it, and I kept Etsy going, I still have Etsy up, and we get maybe an order two a day from there right now.

[00:14:07]I started focusing primarily on my personal bunglo website when I stepped away from a lot of the retailers, because it wasn’t working. We had a few purchase orders canceled right when we were about to ship. And that was just because a buyer moved and that product didn’t work with the new assortment.

[00:14:26] So that’s another issue. You can have purchase orders be canceled, and they can also return your goods if they don’t sell. So that would mean, they send the products back and then they have a credit of how much product they can order from you in the future. And I just realized it was dangerous.

[00:14:45] And, um, so the only store I sell to nowadays is Anthropologie. And we’ve moved towards a drop-ship model where an order comes in, I get an email, and I send the order directly to the consumer. It’s so amazing because I’m able to scale inventory with what’s actually selling. I’m not gambling if it’s going to sell, and I’m able to offer a lot more products because they don’t house the inventory.

[00:15:09] Nick: [00:15:09] Got it.

[00:15:10] Shay: [00:15:10] And they give us way more margins.

[00:15:11] Nick: [00:15:11] Okay. That sounds like a good relationship. What’s your ad budget to support your sales either through Etsy, direct-to-consumer even. I’m sure you need to spend some money to support what you’re selling through Anthropologie wholesale?

[00:15:25] Shay: [00:15:25] We don’t spend any money on advertising.

[00:15:28] Nick: [00:15:28] Have you never? Or you just don’t now?

[00:15:30] Shay: [00:15:30] Um, I’ve spent probably like $3,000 in Facebook ads and that was over a course of a year, and they just didn’t convert. And I think I’ve learned a lot since. I’d like to implement it. I haven’t spent any money in about six years on any type of advertising.

[00:15:46] Nick: [00:15:46] Okay. So it’s funny that you say that because we’re in like the day and age where these direct-to-consumer brands, whether it’s, I mean, direct-to-consumer mattress companies, for instance, like they’re burning so much money on ad spend growing. How are you building awareness and driving these sales then if you’re not spending anything on advertising?

[00:16:07] Shay: [00:16:07] It’s all through Anthropologie. The customers find us through them and we have a huge return rate, too. So most of our customers are interior designers or people with multiple homes, or really into decorating. They’re changing their pillows out every season, or redecorating their rooms because they love doing it.

[00:16:26] So it’s a retention rate that’s amazing. They just keep coming back, and they’re sharing it with their friends. And I feel like we’re at a good place right now. I don’t even think I would want to scale it too much more.

[00:16:39] Nick: [00:16:39] Why? You think there’d be like trade-offs by scaling more?

[00:16:43] Shay: [00:16:43] I think so. I’d have to maybe scale production, too. I really like working with a few seamstresses in Austin, and I think if it got a little bit bigger, it would be too hard to manage and I might have to pull in some more people, and with a baby and maybe wanting to have another one, I’ve just, you know, I make good income. I love what I do. I have good balance. And so.

[00:17:05] Nick: [00:17:05] Got it. And your biggest demo is interior designers, right?

[00:17:10] Shay: [00:17:10] Yeah.

[00:17:10] Nick: [00:17:10] And so people who work as interior designers, like what percentage of your business do you think they account for?

[00:17:17] Shay: [00:17:17] Probably 60%.

[00:17:18] Nick: [00:17:18] Okay.

[00:17:19]Shay: [00:17:19] And it’s amazing working with them because they take pictures of their finished product and then put it on Instagram, giving us free content and advertising with their clientele. So a lot of times when you’re selling a product, you can’t expect them to take a picture and share it. You kind of have to encourage them to. These people are doing it naturally. It’s their job.

[00:17:37] Nick: [00:17:37] Yep. .Okay. Let’s talk about investors, too. You took on investors, you had to fill those purchase orders. You did something that a lot of people don’t like to do, which is mix business and family, because you got two, two of your investors are family members. So I want to hear your thoughts on that, but then also, in general, If somebody is listening to this who wants to launch their own fashion retail brand. And they’re thinking about investors, what do they need to be careful about?

[00:18:03] Shay: [00:18:03] Well, there’s an amazing book called ‘Profit First,’ which I highly recommend anybody starting a business, thinking that they need a cash infusion, to read. And basically that model is to scale on what is selling and what is working.

[00:18:17] If I would have started this company and started running it the way I’m running it now, I would have never needed money. Because I would have maybe pulled in some of my own money to get the first few things going, but I would have never sold to big stores. And I think in this day and age, department stores and big stores, aren’t going to be where they are now in five, 10 years. When I started, they were even in a different place. Most stores are completely drop-shipping. I’m not exactly sure, but it’s over 50% of the products online are being drop-shipped, and you don’t really know it. So you could start drop-shipping right now without having to pull all that money into ship large quantities to the stores.

[00:19:03] So I think taking on investors is also – it’s a big decision, especially with family. I don’t know if I would take on investors again in general, or with family. It’s caused a lot of tension because there have been some setbacks with finances where it didn’t go as planned. And I felt I was letting people down and it definitely put tension on relationships, but at the end of this year, my aunt will totally be paid off, which is, feels so good because that was a very big stressor for me. And, um, yeah, when you take on investors, you can’t turn back, either. Like, if you want to close, you can’t, and I think that’s been a good thing for me, because there might’ve been points where I would have just stopped when it got hard. Or maybe when I had a baby, I was like, ‘I’m done.’ It’s like, I can’t, and I’m not going to let these people down. They invested in me and I’m going to do anything it takes to make this a really good investment for them, wherever it turns. I’ll just keep following that path.

[00:20:09] Nick: [00:20:09] Yeah. And talk about, you know, the reason why you’re able to pay your aunt back by the end of this year is because you just stumbled upon this goldmine with masks when COVID hit. That’s an amazing story. Why don’t you explain how that all went down?

[00:20:27] Shay: [00:20:27] Crazy story. So, you know, Trump comes on, he’s like COVID, the world’s shutting down. The first thought in my mind was my business is going to close. Who’s going to buy pillows in a pandemic when people are going to hoard their money? So I just figured, okay, well, I’m in this ride, whatever happens, happens. I’m going to keep an open mind. And, um, Anthropologie had sent me an email saying, “Hey, do you have any face masks you want to sell?” And I was like, well, I have all this cotton in my garage. And I had read an article that the United States was struggling to get cotton because the borders with like China, India, and Pakistan were closed.

[00:21:06] So I had all of these bedsheets that were high-quality cotton that wicked away moisture. They were organic. And I was like, this is perfect. So I turned them into masks, put them on Anthropologie and they went viral and I couldn’t even click the accept button for the orders fast enough. I had four people all day just clicking accept.

[00:21:25] And it was like, uh, it was crazy. So. I was going to have my seamstresses make these, and I had three seamstresses in my front lawn, all wearing masks, six feet apart. We’re trying to like plan how we’re going to manufacture thousands of masks by Friday. And they were like, “We can’t do it. We can’t do it.” And they just freaked out, and I had all these orders, and I just prayed. And randomly, a friend I knew from years ago, who has like the world’s largest meditation company, called me.

[00:21:52] And he said, “I saw you’re making masks. I’m making masks in L.A. and helping my uncle, who has a huge manufacturing company, and it’s shut down, but we’re making masks. Can I make them for you?” And I said yes. And I overnighted him all the bedsheets, and he was shipping them out two days later, and they went viral for about six months.

[00:22:13] Um, the first month we made over a hundred thousand dollars in mask sales .

[00:22:17]Nick: [00:22:17] And it cost you like $3 to make one. And you were selling them for what? 22?

[00:22:21] Shay: [00:22:21] Yeah. So it was, it was awesome. And I knew it was short-lived, but I was like, this is such a blessing because when you take on investors, you have to make a lot of money to pay them back.

[00:22:33] Just not even to give them their equity. So it’s hard to get big chunks of money when you’re scaling a company because you’re constantly putting money back in. So it’s like Amazon, they still don’t make profit. Most companies don’t make profit for a long time because they’re growing. And I think that’s like the catch 22 of an investor.

[00:22:53] You have this money, they want you to scale, but they want their money back.

[00:22:57] Nick: [00:22:57] So, and had you not paid your aunt back – or you’re planning to pay her back – the way that it was the loan, the money was structured as you’d be given up more equity in your company. So you get to maintain your percentage of the company, 67%, by paying her off.

[00:23:15] Shay: [00:23:15] Exactly, yeah.

[00:23:16] Nick: [00:23:16] And you knew that it was gonna be short-lived – why?

[00:23:19] Shay: [00:23:19] Well, I knew I was hitting at a point where there was no masks for sale at Anthropologie. This is where all the women go for accessories. I knew they were going to fly off the shelves, or there were no shelves at that point. Online.

[00:23:33] Um, and I was like the first one to launch with them. And it, it went into all the large news outlets. It was showing up everywhere. So, um, I knew that people weren’t going to be writing about where to get masks for long.

[00:23:47] Nick: [00:23:47] Sure. And your masks were the only like organic cotton masks, is that right? Or like very few people were making organic cotton masks?

[00:23:56] Shay: [00:23:56] Well, we started testing out both,and the organic ones did really well.

[00:24:01] And what we found out too is, you know, when you’re breathing in and all these chemicals, it’s so important to have organic cotton. And a lot of these companies are spraying their masks with chemicals. If it’s, if the cotton weight isn’t heavy enough, they have to be sprayed basically with flame retardants, and then people are breathing this in.

[00:24:22] And so our cotton was like, 0.01 over the requirement. It just like aligned perfectly. So, um, yeah, for all those people listening, buying masks, make sure that you’re buying organic cotton masks because they’re not sprayed with harmful chemicals, especially for children.

[00:24:43] Nick: [00:24:43] Yeah. Yeah. That is important. During that period, you know, right when COVID hit, you were talking to a major retail store about possibly buying your company, right?

[00:24:54] Shay: [00:24:54] Yeah. Which clearly has not happened because all the stores are closed. Um, but hopefully that picks back up in the new year. And, um, I have a few other people interested too, so I’m excited to see where it goes.

[00:25:08] And if somebody wants to take it to the next level, I would love to stay on and kind of help it get there. But I’m really focused right now on helping mompreneurs build brands. I’ve been doing web design and branding on the side for 12 years, and I’ve never even had a formal website for this agency I have created behind the scenes, but it’s something I’m growing to love even more to support women to work virtually and to have their own sustainable income from online courses or drop-ship products or virtual services.

[00:25:43] Nick: [00:25:43] So you just like had a realization one day that like, operating the business wasn’t as much fun to you as like helping other entrepreneurs with their businesses and building brands? Is that kind of how it happened or were there other factors that made you think like this would be a good time to sell?

[00:26:03] Shay: [00:26:03] Well, I’ve always thought of myself as an artist. I never really thought of myself as an entrepreneur, but I think I’m really a serial entrepreneur, because I like the idea of creating and building brands and online experiences. And customer experiences when they receive something, they have a certain feeling, and building products, but I don’t like maintaining, and I’ve just had to come clear with it. That that is what I’m good at is building brands. And I like working with people, but I don’t want to be invested in a company long term.

[00:26:37] Nick: [00:26:37] Sure. Do you have a number in mind that you want to sell your company for?

[00:26:42] Shay: [00:26:42] I don’t know. My dream number would be like over 3 million.

[00:26:46] Nick: [00:26:46] Okay.

[00:26:46]Shay: [00:26:46] It’s complicated with product-based businesses. I don’t know how they’re valued because they fluctuate so much. And, um, yeah.

[00:26:55] Nick: [00:26:55] Okay. Over 3 million, if you’re listening to this.

[00:26:58] Shay: [00:26:58] I’m just going to put it out there.

[00:26:59]Nick: [00:26:59] Yeah. Just put it out there. Okay. So let’s talk about the people you coach, and the brands that you create. It’s not just any type of brand. You have a specific segment. And why is that segment appealing to you?

[00:27:14] Shay: [00:27:14] So I started focusing on women’s centric brands, and then I had a baby and I realized how grateful I was to have sustainable income and to be able to work from home and not to be working on my computer and neglecting my child in front of the television.

[00:27:30] It was me being present at the park with my baby, looking at my phone, making sales and being like, this is – I have chills right now. Like I’m so grateful that I figured this out because putting my daughter into daycare was a very challenging thought for me. I always knew I wanted to be a stay-at-home mom, but I also wanted to have financial freedom.

[00:27:51] I want to help women have that opportunity. And I think that’s the future. And then COVID hit and everyone’s working at home, and my branding and web design company’s really been booming because I think women see that opportunity. And I think all women have a gift they can share online. People are really connecting to personal stories.

[00:28:11] So everyone has something to teach through a course or a product they can sell or a concept they can share.

[00:28:18] Nick: [00:28:18] Yeah. I feel like there’s more opportunities now, whether it’s – we talked about Etsy, there’s Poshmark, there’s Mercari, even Facebook Marketplace. Like there’s so many outlets to sell items that I think that presents like, yeah, plenty of opportunity, but at the same time, how do you differentiate yourself? And I guess that’s where you come in. Like, what are like the building blocks, if someone’s like, ‘Yeah, I want to do this ‘? It’s not like ad spend’s the answer. You don’t even spend any money on advertising.

[00:28:49] Is it the story behind the brand that is like the thing that stands out the most?

[00:28:53] Shay: [00:28:53] I think building a community. And a coach that I have used has always said, if you have 40 people that are your cheerleader, that’s all you need to launch a product, because those 40 people have 40 people. And really just like what we were talking about earlier before this call, the importance of building a community, not just numbers.

[00:29:14] And I think that’s where we’re shifting right now in the world is a smaller community is okay. I don’t even have many followers on my personal account, but I’m able to continually have people to work with. And it’s just because I have strong relationships.

[00:29:29] Nick: [00:29:29] Part of the community, I think building a community, is like being authentic and putting yourself out there.

[00:29:36] And like you go to bunglo, it says bunglo by Shay Spaniola. Um, and you know, your story is a big part of the brand. We’re living in a day and age where like there’s so many like social media influencers who are doing these selfie videos, talking about themselves or the product they’re selling, their brand, what they ate for breakfast. And, um, it just seems like for a lot of people, it comes naturally to them. For you, do you do that type of stuff? Does it come naturally? Do you feel like that’s a necessary aspect of people or maybe women building their own brands now? That the really have to put themselves out there?

[00:30:10] Shay: [00:30:10] I do. I struggle with this a lot and named the company bunglo to kind of hide behind it. I probably should have used my name. But I didn’t want to do that. Because I’ve always liked to be in the background. And that’s why I like to build the websites, build the brand. I don’t want to lead it. And when I hired my first press team, they were like, you need your own website. You need to show your face more. And it was a struggle and I had to practice doing it. Now it feels natural. I’m sharing my authentic story. I’m sharing my day-to-day of working at home with my baby and running multiple companies and what it looks like. And half the time, like my hair is messy and I have mascara all over and the house is a disaster, but it’s like, this is life.

[00:30:51] There’s so many bloggers out there like drinking their green juice, like perfectly in shape. Their house is perfect. And I want to show like the real side of what this looks like. Like sometimes I have to put Lily in front of Sesame Street and lock myself in the closet for a client call.

[00:31:07] Be like, I’m going to watch her through the monitor and make sure it’s okay. But it’s not everyday, but it happens. And I want to have people feel supported and seen in that situation.

[00:31:17]Nick: [00:31:17] I want to ask you two more questions before we wrap up. Um, do you remember, besides the purchase orders, was there a specific moment in bunglo’s history where it’s like, maybe it was Black Friday when you had your single-biggest day of sales ever, that like stands out in your mind?

[00:31:40] Shay: [00:31:40] One day I woke up and there was  hundreds of orders and, um, an article. Oh no, I was in Thailand. We were getting married and it was amazing because that was like one of the best months ever. And I wasn’t working. And that’s when I realized this virtual business thing really did work. Because I stepped away and had planned. And it worked. So I opened up my Shopify to all these orders, and then I looked at my phone and there was a huge article in Better Homes and Gardens on our products. And so we just made a ton of money that month chilling on the beach for five weeks. And I was like, it’s worked.

[00:32:19] Nick: [00:32:19] That’s the life. Yeah. I think what that one guy – he lives in Austin – Tim Ferriss talks about the four hour workweek. I think that’s like what he professes.

[00:32:29] Shay: [00:32:29] Oh, I followed his book.

[00:32:30] Nick: [00:32:30] Oh, all right. There you go.

[00:32:31] Shay: [00:32:31] Step by step.

[00:32:32] Nick: [00:32:32] All right, Tim, if you’re listening to this, you got a disciple here.

[00:32:34] Shay: [00:32:34] It really works. It’s amazing.

[00:32:37] Nick: [00:32:37] Uh, you said like if you didn’t have those outside investors, that there’s times that maybe you would have just like said that this is enough, like when it got really hard, what’s the, what’s the single most difficult moment when you think about that?

[00:32:53] Shay: [00:32:53] Bloomingdale’s had submitted this order, and in order to send the packing list to them so the shipping company can pick it up, you needed to use a Microsoft 97 computer. I’m not kidding you. I had to use the public library down the street, and there was only one public library in Austin that used that computer.

[00:33:12] And I had to submit all this data. And it wouldn’t go through. And I was like sitting in the car, crying, being like this, what have I done? I don’t have a Microsoft 97. This isn’t going to work. And I just really wanted to give up, but as I’m saying this, if I would have never taken investors on, I would have never accepted that order. And I would never be in that situation.

[00:33:33] Nick: [00:33:33] Yeah.

[00:33:33] Shay: [00:33:33] But I would’ve always wondered what it would have been like. And I think that idea of selling to big stores would have dangled in front of me. That I probably would have gone that route no matter what. I had to learn that the hard way.

[00:33:46] Nick: [00:33:46] Yeah. At 3rd & Lamar right now, we have a lot of different parallel projects going on simultaneously. And, um, yesterday I was in my office just thinking about it and, you know, as I tend to do, I talk to myself, um, and my wife walked by and she thought I was talking to her. And she goes, “You know, did you say something?” And I was like, ‘No, I was just talking to myself, please don’t interrupt me when I’m talking to myself.’ She was like, just started dying laughing, but it’s like, it’s true sometimes. Like just to sort through everything that’s going on, like it’s therapeutic. I just, sometimes I just, you know, have to talk to myself.

[00:34:26] Um, and so, yeah, I can imagine being in that situation, trying to find Microsoft 97 at an Austin public library, I would have been definitely having some conversations – internal monologues that might’ve been external. Right?

[00:34:38] Shay: [00:34:38] Well, I do talk to myself quite a bit because I find that, you know, it’s just me and I have some virtual assistants and it’s like, well, I need to work this through. So I do, I’ll record myself and I’ll talk and I don’t ever listen to it again, but it helps to just speak it out loud.

[00:34:54] Nick: [00:34:54] And mad props to you for like starting it solo. Um, I tell Tony and Heather, the other co-founders of 3rd & Lamar all the time, like the fact that we can like, you know, shoulder this burden together,  makes such a big difference for my mental health. I don’t know if it’s for them, if they feel the same way, but for me it does, like going down a lonely road of solo entrepreneurship, I think would be 10 times harder.

[00:35:17] Shay: [00:35:17] Oh yeah. I signed myself up for therapy very quickly after starting my company.

[00:35:20] Nick: [00:35:20] I would’ve, too. Well, cool. Last thing, where can people find more information on bunglo and you?

[00:35:28] Shay: [00:35:28] The website is And our Instagram is really dreamy, little bungalows from around the world with our fabrics being used. So you can follow us at thebunglo.

[00:35:47] Nick: [00:35:47] Got it. Cool. Well, Shay, thank you so much for joining. I really appreciate it.

[00:35:51] Shay: [00:35:51] Thank you. [/restrict]

Get Updates

  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.