Better Together with Kosta Yepifantsev

Start Where You Are with Kellie Fitzpatrick

May 29, 2023 Kosta Yepifantsev Season 3 Episode 2
Start Where You Are with Kellie Fitzpatrick
Better Together with Kosta Yepifantsev
More Info
Better Together with Kosta Yepifantsev
Start Where You Are with Kellie Fitzpatrick
May 29, 2023 Season 3 Episode 2
Kosta Yepifantsev

Join Kosta and his guest: Kellie Fitzpatrick, Founder and Creative Director of Lenny and Eva – and Founder and Co-Owner of The Monarch in Baxter, TN.

Better Together with Kosta Yepifantsev is a product of Morgan Franklin Media and recorded in Cookeville, TN.

Find out more about Kellie Fitzpatrick and The Monarch, and Lenny and Eva:
https://www.eventsatthemonarch.com/
https://lennyandeva.com/

Find out more about Kosta Yepifantsev:
http://kostayepifantsev.com/

Show Notes Transcript

Join Kosta and his guest: Kellie Fitzpatrick, Founder and Creative Director of Lenny and Eva – and Founder and Co-Owner of The Monarch in Baxter, TN.

Better Together with Kosta Yepifantsev is a product of Morgan Franklin Media and recorded in Cookeville, TN.

Find out more about Kellie Fitzpatrick and The Monarch, and Lenny and Eva:
https://www.eventsatthemonarch.com/
https://lennyandeva.com/

Find out more about Kosta Yepifantsev:
http://kostayepifantsev.com/

Kellie Fitzpatrick:

As an entrepreneur, when you you are the product or you're creating a product, it's your baby. You take things personally, and I think that you should, but the balance between taking it personally enough that you care about it, and you see opportunities to improve, but also not so personally that you can't sleep at night.

Morgan Franklin:

Welcome to Better Together with Kosta Yepifantsev, a podcast on parenting business and living life intentionally. We're here every week to bring you thoughtful conversation, making your own path to success, challenging the status quo, and finding all the ways we're better together. Here's your host, Kosta Yepifantsev.

Kosta Yepifantsev:

Hey, y'all, this is Kosta. And today I'm here with my guest, Kellie Fitzpatrick, founder and creative director of Lenny and Eva, and founder and co owner of the monarch in Baxter, Tennessee. Kellie, thank you for joining us today, you took the idea for an inspirational bracelet line and turned it into a multi million dollar brand. I think some form of the sentence is what every entrepreneur dreams to hear read after their name. So where should we begin?

Kellie Fitzpatrick:

First of all, thank you for having me. Absolutely honored to be here. Yeah, my story is not like any other entrepreneur. It didn't start out my degrees in English, okay, a high school English teacher, I didn't enjoy that you were a teacher. I was. Yes, I did that for about five years, okay. And then got my first taste of entrepreneurship. When I started a photography business with a fellow teacher when I was able to replace my teaching salary with that she wanted to continue teaching, I was ready to be out. So I did that for a while. And that was fun. And then I'm married and have three children. And after the birth of our son, who is a surprise, I got the idea for the jewelry. And I didn't really know what I was doing. But I just started researching. And I bought this book, which is super cheesy title, mommy millionaire. And my husband and I had a weekend trip to Vegas planned and I read the whole book. And I knew then that I wanted to go the wholesale route with this jewelry. So that's really kind of where it started. And I booked a booth at a trade show in Atlanta and made some sales paid for the booth. And then I was like, Okay, what was that? 2009?

Kosta Yepifantsev:

Okay, so Lenny Eva started in 2009. Yes. Wow. When did you know like, obviously, you know, you sold some some of the items and products at the booth? And when did you really start to sort of feel like okay, this is actually going to turn into something special. Did you have like a moment in time.

Kellie Fitzpatrick:

So the original bracelet design was really unique. Okay, I think it came on at a time. This was a leather bracelet, very shabby chic, which was in at the time, and it was inspirational. And so I think it just came onto the scene at a time when women were looking for that. And it was unique enough that it kind of went viral before things go viral was a thing. Yeah. So we joined with a showroom in Atlanta. And they really helped us to promote the brand. And, you know, within a couple of years, we had hundreds of retail stores that were carrying our brand across the United States. And it was way easier, I think, than it would have been to do like a direct to consumer kind of sale where I'm setting up at craft fairs. So that business model worked really well for me where I was at that point my life.

Kosta Yepifantsev:

Two questions. First one is did you actually enjoy Vegas? Or did you sit in your room and read your book the whole time?

Kellie Fitzpatrick:

Always enjoy Vegas. Okay.

Kosta Yepifantsev:

But the second question that I have is like this is a multimillion dollar company. And you know, you and I have been in so many different rooms together. We sit on the chamber board together. I had no idea that you had a multimillion dollar company. I just thought that you ran the monarch, you know. So do you get that a lot?

Kellie Fitzpatrick:

I do. I do. Or people think that Leonie and Eva is just a local brand, or they get something that's just happening here in this area, or maybe just Tennessee and don't realize how far out it actually reaches? And how far out does it reach? We're in all of the states, the UK, we have a few international accounts, certainly more in the United States than anywhere else. So

Kosta Yepifantsev:

nice. So for anyone listening who thinks the only way to build success, wealth or recognition is to leave the upper Cumberland, what is your advice? And how did you leverage your local community and network to build Lenny and Eva?

Kellie Fitzpatrick:

That's a good question. So certainly their careers where you would have to relocate if you want to be an actor or an actress, you're gonna have to go to LA, but for this particular business, I was able to Google research most of the information that I needed, and find the materials and vendors that I needed and then from there So I was able to network with those vendors. So maybe I had a manufacturer for this component. And I was looking to figure out how to do this other thing. So I would ask them, and so they would say, oh, yeah, you need to call this company and they can help you with that. Also worked really closely with Maura and Marlene at the market who are business owners. That's, that's the customer that I was looking to gain. So being able to talk with them and say, What do you need from a brand, and they were able to share that information with me and really helps to set us up for success from the very beginning. So I'm very, very thankful for them. But I do think that you can really research and especially now, everything is so accessible, it's easy to promote your brand from wherever you are. And as far as skills that you need a lot of that can be outsourced. So if it's not something, and I'm certainly guilty of trying to teach myself how to do probably more things than I should, but if it's not something that I can figure out, there's certainly someone out there in another state, or maybe locally that has the skill that I'm looking for. And I can find them and just hire them out.

Kosta Yepifantsev:

Did you have to raise money? No. Okay. So you you bootstrapped it all yourself? Okay. So very excited to ask this question. You have to watch your bottom line, like very closely. You're obviously an English major, and you taught English. Was it hard for you to learn that aspect of your business? Because when you're bootstrapping it all the money that you're making, you're then turning around and spending it on sort of the scaling of your company. Yeah.

Kellie Fitzpatrick:

So my husband is in business with Lenny Neva as well. And he's definitely the finance numbers guy. And he jokes that, that he just puts me in a corral. And the corral is either you know, this wide or this small, and I don't really like I do know what's happening within our business. But I prefer to just know, these are what my operations guidelines are. Yeah,

Kosta Yepifantsev:

yeah. Nice. So I want to talk about your newest venture the monarch, how did growing up in Baxter influence your approach to development and renovation of this building? And did you think you'd ever come back to the wedding industry,

Kellie Fitzpatrick:

so my Baxter roots are very deep. I live on Bruce Ridge Road. And so after the birth of my grandson, because my daughter lives on Bruce Ridge Road as well, he is the seventh generation in our family to be like, not born literally on the road. But I like to start their life, the Bruce rich, so I love the town at Baxter. I just love everything about it. The people there the scenery, it's just it's home to me. So when this building went up for auction, we bought it not really having a plan for what we would do with it, adjust that it was a beautiful building, it needed a lot of work. And we demoed pretty quickly, and then just kind of sat on it for a while and didn't do anything. But I think that it's really important to think about, like every skill that you learn along the way, or every job that you have, or interaction that you have is never done. And so with weddings, like when I thought about what my skill set was or what I had knowledge about, like having been a wedding photographer, I knew what I would look for in a venue if I were a photographer. And so those skills, I think really kind of shaped like that. And also, it being just a weekend kind of thing made it a good fit for us.

Kosta Yepifantsev:

I mean, I've been to two events at the monarch and they were fantastic. And the space is beautiful. What was it before it was wedding space? It

Kellie Fitzpatrick:

was so it was built in 1920. Okay, so originally a hardware store. And then for most of my youth, I remember it as WT Seoul, which was a like an institutional wholesale grocery place. Okay. I think that close in like the 90s. The city bought it and was using it as basically storage. There was a tree growing out of the back of the building. Wow. Yes. Yeah, it was a mess.

Kosta Yepifantsev:

Well, yeah. I mean, have you ever lived anywhere else but Baxter, um, lived in

Kellie Fitzpatrick:

Cookeville. For about a year. Well, our house was being built my in laws had an extra housing Cookeville. And we lived there and for a few years and like the beginning of our marriage, we rent it in Cookeville. And outside of that now, and so

Kosta Yepifantsev:

Tennessee Tech debt. Yes. Okay. So you are like, Mrs. Baxter. Are you the bat? Are you like the official representative?

Kellie Fitzpatrick:

Baxter has so many great people that have been there? Well, yeah.

Kosta Yepifantsev:

I mean, I honestly didn't spend much time in Baxter until just recently when we did the mural with leadership on them. But yeah, I mean, like going down there and seeing the downtown and meeting the mayor who is John MacDonald. Yes. Such a nice guy and he's got this energy about him. Yeah. And I just thought, okay, like, you know, Baxter's really positioned for really great things and quite surprising that it's taken Longer than then I would expect given that it's actually closer to Nashville. Do you think the growth is becoming even more exponential in Baxter than it is in like Cookeville and other areas?

Kellie Fitzpatrick:

I'm on the Beautification Committee, we had lunch today. And the mayor was sharing that. I think there are 350 townhomes being built on highway 56, right between 70 and the interstate. So I think that area is really going to start seeing quite a bit of growth.

Kosta Yepifantsev:

Wow, that's a lot. So as we've said, long before the success of Leonie and Eva or the monarch, you started a part time photography business that would eventually Eclipse your salary as a teacher and bring you into the world of entrepreneurship. If you could go back, like all the way back and tell yourself one thing about business, what would it be?

Kellie Fitzpatrick:

I think it's such a delicate balance. And I think I'm still honing those skills. But I think as an entrepreneur, when you you are the product, or you're creating a product, that's your baby, you take things personally, and I think that you should, but the balance between taking it personally enough that you care about it, and you see opportunities to improve but also not so personally that you, you know, can't sleep at night, yeah, or you hustle, obviously, you're gonna hustle, you're gonna work your butt off, but not so much that you can enjoy the fruits of your labor. So finding that balance between all of those things, bad reviews, you're gonna have them like, how do you respond to that in a way that doesn't cause your mental health? To struggle?

Kosta Yepifantsev:

Like your first four or five years? And just speaking candidly, it was very difficult for me trying to scale this business. I mean, we were growing 20 25% A year and you know, it was just it was insane. What about for you like, did you find yourself trapped in a dark dungeon and metaphorically speaking, of course, and you were just literally just like, okay, product product, product, sell, sell, sell, optimize, optimize, optimize, grow, grow, grow,

Kellie Fitzpatrick:

I was very fortunate that straight out of the gate, the the people that I brought onto the team were the right choices, and had a really, really strong team during our biggest stages of growth. It grew so quickly that I think a lot of the problems that maybe some new businesses face financially, those weren't obstacles for us nice, because it was just happening all so quickly. So we were able to scale pretty easily, as I'm

Kosta Yepifantsev:

sort of listening to you describe your business model and some of the positives that you've experienced, and assuming that it was a high margin business from the very beginning, and you hit a stream of revenue, and you hit it at a perfect time, and you obviously made a quality product, and it was kinda like the perfect storm. It was, it's so awesome. It was, and I'll tell you this, you have a perfect demeanor for being a executive because you're never like, too intense. And you're not like super docile, you're like very balanced person. And so I think when people go to work for you, they're like, gosh, I can find peace. People go to work for me, they're like crawling up the wall, you know, they're like, Oh, my God, I'm running away, then I pull them back. And I'm like, No, don't go.

Kellie Fitzpatrick:

I would hope that they would think that, um, I know that I have my moments for sure. But yeah, I tend to be more of an observer, and don't really say a lot most of the time. So I think I mentioned this, even this podcast is uncomfortable for you. But I tend to observe and take notes, and then formulate a plan and then come to the table with whatever it is, I think needs to happen. All

Kosta Yepifantsev:

right, passion, storytelling, and love is at the center of everything you create, as a business owner and leader. How have you used these values to responsibly and ethically scale your business, provide opportunities to women and honor the value of every employee? I

Kellie Fitzpatrick:

think empathy is such an important quality to have as a business owner and as a leader, as an entrepreneur. And I think the more times I can put myself into someone else's shoes and say, Okay, well, if this was a purchase that I made online, and you know, my package was lost, or it was broken or whatever, like, how would I want to be treated in that case, the more times that you can put yourself in someone else's shoes, I think the better your business will be. Actually on the way here we have a wedding at the monarch today, and the AC unit in the brides and grooms suite was not working properly. So we called the the heating and cooling guy but until he could get there I was like it's probably steamy in there. So I went to the dollar store and bought some fans and took them over and I think they appreciated that but again, if it were my daughter's wedding, and The AC was out, I would probably not be happy.

Kosta Yepifantsev:

I mean, I am I can you know, Morgan's also wedding or was a wedding photographer, you know you're in the wedding business, the stakes are so high, it's the

Kellie Fitzpatrick:

most important day, I don't know how you can tell them the most important how

Kosta Yepifantsev:

do you run a bit? Like how do you meet the expectations of somebody on the most important day of their life? Sounds like a very stressful business to be in.

Kellie Fitzpatrick:

You try to think think of every circumstance and then have an answer ready. When it comes to vendors, we try to just give them all the details, probably more information than they want to know. So that when they arrive, they know what our expectations are. And we'll have meetings with our brides a couple of times. Obviously, we're always available to chat with them, we have open hours one day through the week so that they can come and just hang out. So the more times that they can get in the space and feel comfortable with it and ask lots of questions. And the more times our vendors are in, I think it makes it a smoother process for everyone.

Kosta Yepifantsev:

How many employees do you have for Lenny and Eva?

Kellie Fitzpatrick:

So Lenny and Eva? There are five of us. Okay, great. And then at the monarch, they're just three?

Kosta Yepifantsev:

Nice. Yeah, I mean, I just love the fact that you've been able to build such a huge business with five people.

Kellie Fitzpatrick:

So throughout the years, we've gone from doing manufacturing in house, now we have manufacturers in Rhode Island that we use, and so our materials will go to them, they'll put it all together, and then it comes back into the warehouse, and there may be some finishing. And then of course, like the packaging and fulfillment happens there. But there have been times when we've had more employees after COVID, we had to downsize quite a bit. And that was super sad. But I think now the business model that we have is actually working better than before. So have you

Kosta Yepifantsev:

had to change your style from what you originally like the leather brace? Yeah. Okay, so you're constantly adapting your style constantly.

Kellie Fitzpatrick:

Yeah, yeah. And that's another challenge, I think being in fashion is that the trends do change so quickly. But our mission has always been to inspire women. So no matter what we do, no matter what it looks like, we always want to make sure that that mission is being fulfilled.

Kosta Yepifantsev:

Like so many working mothers. Throughout your career, you've had to find a balance in your role as an entrepreneur, a mother, a wife, and a community leader. Are there any specific lessons you've shared with Stevie and Brady that all our daughters can learn from?

Kellie Fitzpatrick:

That's a good question. Probably, I do not fit the narrative when it comes to this topic. Because while I am a woman and a business owner, I've always taught my girls that the fact that they are women should not define who they are. So yes, you are a woman. But the moment you let that be an obstacle for you, or the moment you allow yourself to tell yourself, that's the reason why I didn't get this job, or I didn't get you know, this opportunity wasn't given to me because I am a woman. Well, you know, that's what you are. So I just encourage them to just take everything very personally like, whatever that challenge is, like, how can I just personally overcome this and not look at it as something that's an obstacle for them, because they're a woman, obviously, we have different challenges if we're moms, and hopefully you have a partner who's helping out. And I had not only a great partner, but a whole village of family members who helped along the way. So that wasn't so much an obstacle for me, but I know that that could be for some women, and you just we figure out how to work around those things.

Kosta Yepifantsev:

I mean, it's hard to start a business, grow business, make it successful, have children. I mean, honestly, it's really, it's, it's almost impossible to do it and be successful and are proficient in all those categories. If you don't have family around, you know, and I feel for some of the people because the people who are really stretched really, really thin. They always sort of emphasize the familial responsibilities that they have and how important it is, versus like their own significant accomplishments. Because I feel like when you look back, at least I do when I look back, and I think of like how far Jessica and I have come in the last decade. Like I wonder if I mean, well, I don't wonder I know that we probably couldn't have done all this if her parents didn't live in Cookeville Linnaean Eva jewelry has resonated with women worldwide, helping them honor the many seasons changes and celebrations of life. How does it feel to know that your designs have impacted so many people on such a personal level?

Kellie Fitzpatrick:

Yeah, so that's bananas. It's so strange for me to see someone else wearing like just to see someone out in public wearing something that I've designed. It's surreal. but also like, so awesome, because that's why we do what we do. That's our mission is to inspire women. So I think every time we create something, and we put a message on it, we're always thinking about which specific woman or girl is going to see this on a store shelf. And whatever that message is, they're gonna say that that's what I needed to hear today, or they're looking for a gift for a friend. And they read that message. And they're like, oh, yeah, that's exactly what she needs to hear. So I'm just so grateful that we've had the opportunity to hopefully inspire hundreds of 1000s of women over the years, and help them to maybe achieve a goal or overcome an obstacle or just feel better about themselves.

Kosta Yepifantsev:

What are you going to do next? With Lenny and Eva? I mean, just in general, I mean, you've got so many things going on.

Kellie Fitzpatrick:

So I'm actually just started a book, I'm only a few pages in from strength to strength, which is about managing the second half of your life. And it's written for entrepreneurs or like, high achievers. And so I think I got to that point where like, I did this, and I did this and it did this and this and this and this, and then I'm like, Okay, what's next, but there doesn't really have to be something next. And I think you're ready to hang you have no not retire. But I think learn how to just enjoy this season of your life. So my oldest daughter and son just had a baby. So I'm a grandmother now and gradually to explore the season.

Kosta Yepifantsev:

Isn't it incredible that you guys all get to live on the same road? Are all of your kids gonna end up living on the same road? build houses?

Kellie Fitzpatrick:

I mean, that I talked about, I mean, would you like I may have a sketch of a compound. May it may be an existing?

Kosta Yepifantsev:

Yes. Are you thinking about maybe another wedding venue?

Kellie Fitzpatrick:

I don't know. Whatever skills I have, if they lead me to something, some new opportunity, for sure. Down to explore whatever. But right now, I'm not like actively pursuing another thing. I just want to enjoy. I'm gonna enjoy my grandson right now.

Kosta Yepifantsev:

We always like to end the show on a high note, who is someone that makes you better when you're together?

Kellie Fitzpatrick:

Yeah. So I can't just pick one. I can't, I can't. It's just my family. Like, that's Sophie's Choice. I have three kids and a husband like there's no way and a grandson now. If honestly, I had to cast the vote. Right now he would. But every Thursday, so Stevie and Ben obviously don't live at home anymore. Brady doesn't live at home anymore. It's just dude and John and myself. But on Thursdays we get together and I do family dinner and everyone's in the house and we just laugh and they're really loud. And you know, the dogs barking and it's kind of chaotic, and it's just, it's just perfect. It's my family. They're all of the best parts of me.

Morgan Franklin:

Thank you for joining us on this episode of Better Together with Kosta Yepifantsev. If you've enjoyed listening and you want to hear more, make sure you subscribe on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or wherever you find your podcasts. Leave us a review or better yet, share this episode with a friend. Better Together with Kosta Yepifantsev is a Kosta Yepifantsev Production. Today's episode was written and produced by Morgan Franklin post production mixing and editing by Mike Franklin. Want to know more about Kosta visit us at kostayepifantsev.com We're better together. We'd like to remind our listeners that the views and opinions expressed during this episode are those of the individual speakers and do not necessarily represent or reflect the official policy or position of this show its producers or any related entities or advertisers. While our discussions may touch on various topics of interest, please note that the content is intended to inspire thought provoking dialogue and should not be used for a substitute for professional advice. Specifically, nothing heard on this podcast should be construed as financial, legal, medical or any other kind of professional advice. We encourage our listeners to consult with a professional in these areas for guidance tailored to their specific circumstances.