Today on the Material Blog, we’re excited to feature Darbie Angell, founder of CRU Dinnerware. CRU has been featured on Good Morning America, and is sold at Dillard's, Bed, Bath & Beyond and Macy's. Darbie won our store spotlight contest on Instagram, and we think y’all will love her products just as much as we do!
I’m a dreamer and believer that is driven by this adventurous life. Whether it’s working to grow my company or soaking up every ounce of sun I can on a boat, I find joy and am blessed in this life. It is impossible not to live life to the fullest daily! Here are some lessons I’ve learned from my journey:
Be open to where life takes you. My company, CRU, is a tabletop company that strives to produce and offer bold, fashion-forward designs that are not only high quality and affordable but also have a positive impact on those that create the pieces. We began six years ago without a single contact in the industry. I was working at one of the country’s largest law firms and went into labor with my daughter when I was five months pregnant. I was put on bed rest for four months and decided I wanted to start a company by combining my passion to impact the world with my knowledge of design.
Your journey will be filled with challenges. Being a new mother when I started CRU was the first challenge. My daughter Gianna had colic, and for those who don't know what that is, I hope you never have to find out! She would cry from 6 PM to midnight some nights. There were many nights I had my factory on Skype, trying to decipher through her cries what was wrong with the current samples or shipment lead times.
The next challenge was with our factory in China. They decided not to ship my goods, when we had just landed floor space at Macy's. Determined to keep going, my brother and I set out to Bangladesh that same week and set up a new factory with the same existing molds and designs. We got our first shipment out in 25 days! That should have been IMPOSSIBLE! I still don't know how we pulled it off, especially since everyone else thought the company was over at that point. There were many days I was barely keeping the business together, but we worked through it and are blessed that our retailers believed in the brand enough.
Find your inspiration. I’m blessed that so many different inspirational people surround me. I’m inspired by our factory workers, some of who have become some of the best friends I could have asked for. Many of them started at the same time that I did, so we have grown together in this journey.
Kendra Scott is also one of my biggest inspirations. Not only is she killing it in the office, but she is a mother first. We have similar stories, in that we were both on bedrest when we started our respective businesses. We both had roadblocks and failures that most would see as an excuse to fold the cards and go get a "normal" job. I’m blessed that she is there to walk me through some of the processes so that I can avoid pitfalls.
Every day is completely different…and I love it! There is no “typical” day at the office, and being able to adapt quickly has allowed me to keep living my dream. The only guaranteed things in my day-to-day routine are waking up, eating and going to bed. (And perhaps working again once in bed!)
I like to be a part of everything that goes on in my company, whether it’s traveling to meet with new distributors, working on designs or pushing forward to make sure that we are making a positive impact through CRU. Each and every day is a new adventure for me. I'll never ask an employee to do anything that I haven't done, and that’s another reason why I like to be so hands-on. Whether it is getting on the forklift and lifting and loading the FedEx truck with a shipment, to answering difficult questions in a boardroom, I’ll do the job. This girl is blessed each day!
Having grit is an asset when breaking into an industry, especially when you’re working with well-established brands. Take what others see as a disadvantage and use it to make your mark. Being on the outside gives you an advantage: you can objectively look at a problem and see a clear solution. When I set out to launch my own line, I was unencumbered by being inside the industry. I was able to look at it in a more simplistic way, and figure out how I was going to create a line that would stand out and fill a niche that was missing.
You must be extremely passionate about your startup. There will be dark days, and the motivation you get from your passion will see you through them. Those hard times are what are actually going to make you and your company stronger. Being naive is OK, and can even be an asset. Don't dwell on what you don't know! Find all of the tenacity and perseverance that you can and be prepared to use it. You will learn how strong you are pretty quickly in your journey.