It all starts with a "why?"
It all starts with a "why?"
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When life took a turn for the worse for Diane Prince a few years ago — there were problems with the business she ran with her husband and problems with their marriage that led to divorce — she saw it as a chance to reboot.
“I thought about what I wanted to do,” said Prince, 45, who suddenly found herself a single mother of three girls. “I realized then I could create something that would be my legacy business.”
That something is Winnie & Kat, a casual, contemporary clothing line with a Tupperware-style business model, known among cognoscenti as multilevel marketing (MLM) or direct sales. It’s named for Prince’s mother, who died at the age of 69 from a rare form of blood cancer, and her cousin, who lost her life to breast cancer while in her 40s. Before Prince decided on a clothing line, something she had no experience in — her previous business was in placing temporary workers — she decided on a direct sales business model.
“The party aspect is a real way for women who might be in a similar situation [to me] to create something for themselves,” the Agoura Hills resident said. “I realized there are so many other women, maybe divorced, maybe their husbands got laid off or they got laid off or they stay home with their kids and they’re really smart.”
For the uninitiated, the party aspect refers to festive gatherings during which merchandise is sold. The Winnie & Kat representative, known as an independent stylist, takes a cut of the sales, and the party hostess often scores free merchandise. When a new stylist comes on board under the tutelage of a veteran stylist, the veteran benefits from that new person’s sales.
Prince was especially inspired by the wild successes of the jewelry company Stella & Dot and of kitchen tool company Pampered Chef. Both rely on direct sales representatives. And while there may be a part of the population that looks down on MLM, in some cases mistakenly associating it with a pyramid scheme, Prince said, “There are just as many people who love it because of what it does for people. It changes people’s lives.”
It’s certainly changed Prince’s life since she founded the company in her garage in 2012. (It just moved to an office in Westlake Village in June.) She may not design the clothes, but she busies herself motivating her troops via Facebook and phone. Every Monday, she does a live webinar for the stylists, and she pens a weekly newsletter.
Prince oversees the business side of Winnie & Kat, including financial projections, and she takes a very hands-on role with the fashions. She creates the collections, determining, for example, that each season there will be so many pants, so many dresses, and so on, and collaborates with her designers.
All Winnie & Kat clothing is designed and manufactured in the United States. (Prince tried one season in China but did not see any savings.) And all of it is “soft,” to use Prince’s term.
“Everyone’s wearing soft clothes now,” she explained. “Instead of wearing yoga wear all day, you can look really put together and cute.”
There are T-shirts and leggings, simple raglan shirts and little black dresses. The color palette tends to be mainly neutrals with pops of colors each season. This fall, for example, there are aurora red dresses and sea fog (aka lavender) long-sleeved shirts. Prince doesn’t rely on costly forecasts from color experts; she just uses Google.
Most items are under $100. The exceptions are very few dresses and winter coats, including one yummy, knee-length, shawl-style fleece coat priced at $128.
Winnie & Kat’s stylists range in age from 19 to 72 and are located throughout the United States. There are even a couple of women in Saipan. As of mid-September, they numbered 219 individuals. It certainly didn’t hurt when Kim Zolciak Biermann from “The Real Housewives of Atlanta” recently posted a picture of herself on Facebook in head-to-toe Winnie & Kat — one of the company’s reps sent some pieces to Biermann’s assistant.
Stylists pay either $199 for a starter kit, which gets them seven clothing samples, or $649 for a business builder kit, which gets them all 22 pieces from the current season. They also get a unique website.
Most people don’t think about their “legacy business,” but Prince, who was born in Illinois and grew up in Dallas in a Reform Jewish household, said she’s always had “an unusual tenacity and strength.”
Even her college professors recognized something special about her, though it came in the form of a very mixed message. Prince had just completed her master’s exam in French literature at UCLA when she received a call from the department chairperson.
“They said, ‘We think you are better suited to business. You shouldn’t pursue your Ph.D.,’ ” she recalls. “I knew they were right. Still, you don’t want to hear that.”
Right now, Prince, who has three full-time employees, is looking for investor support to take Winnie & Kat “to the next level.” They are also launching a Kickstarter campaign to find a new designer; currently they use several individuals. And Prince, who lives in Winnie & Kat attire, is spreading the word.
“It’s more about sharing and what you can do for someone else than it is about selling a product,” she said. “We’re an empowerment company that happens to sell really amazing clothing.”
--- Leslee Komaiko | Tribe Magazine
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Below are select members of our great Style Team that help to grow W&K.
Cindy is a consistent top sales earner, has an incredible work ethic. She truly is an example of how transformational it can be to find your own path to personal fulfillment.
Ellen has found a new life with W&K and truly shines as a consistent top sales leader. Her dedication makes her a perfect example of what W&K stands for: integrity, class, style and strength.
Mary is a consistent top sales leader. With her eyes on the prize, she exemplifies what W&K stands for: empowering women to create their own personal freedom and enjoying the fulfillment that experience brings.
This is really big…very few direct sales companies work within the US. Most clothing companies export so the prices can be competitive. I love that Winnie and Kat is able to keep prices competitive with a great product! Having a complete US company is a HUGE plus!! I look forward to building my team with a great product and being able to boast “American Made”.
"I was so excited to learn about the Winnie & Kat clothing line from my long-time friend, Lila. I've been to LOTS of home parties and have bought and experienced all sorts of products but I can honestly say I was VERY impressed with the quality, versatility, style and price point that Winnie & Kat has to offer. The party was a blast…Lila did EVERYTHING…it was more like a trunk show and my girlfriends had such a good time trying on the garments and giving each other their input…there was something for EVEYONE no matter your shape, age or style…from casual to dressy…I think everyone found something they loved. I would highly recommend the clothing and of course, Lila. She is a Girls' Girl and a true FASHIONISTA with loads of experience in this industry. Am looking forward to hosting my next party!"