I’d like you to meet Danielle Salinas, Co-founder of Maison de Papillon. Maison de Papillon is Danielle’s 2nd venture and it started when she lost her sleep mask during her trip at the London Olympics. Yes, you read that correctly and that is what I love about The Startup Story. Our businesses are birthed out of a need in our lives, yet pivot as we learn more about where the opportunities really lie.
I’d like you to meet Danielle Salinas, Co-founder of Maison de Papillon. Maison de Papillon is Danielle’s 2nd venture and it started when she lost her sleep mask during her trip at the London Olympics. Yes, you read that correctly and that is what I love about The Startup Story. Our businesses are birthed out of a need in our lives, yet pivot as we learn more about where the opportunities really lie.
Maison de Papillon is not a sleep mask company but is a luxury clothing line with reach in most of the globally recognized resort brands, like Four Seasons.
In this episode, Danielle gets incredibly vulnerable and shares her story openly and honestly. Her journey includes the loss of a son, something that many of us will never have to process. But for those of you that have, you may just find some encouragement through Danielle’s transparency. Today you will also hear just how incredibly hard one’s journey can be, but it is far from impossible. This is Danielle Salinas’s startup story.
“Do not let anyone tell you that you are not able to accomplish your goals and dreams. It might be hard, but it is absolutely possible!”
—Danielle Salinas, Maison de Papillon
Connect with Danielle on LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/danielle-salinas-9b2a165b
Maison de Papillon: https://www.maisondepapillon.com/
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Special Guest: Danielle Salinas.
The Startup Story - Danielle Salinas
Danielle Salinas: This is Danielle Salinas with Maison de Papillon, and this is MY startup story.
James McKinney: Every wildfire began with a spark. Every superhero has an origin story. And every single startup has a moment that they point to as their beginning. And every founder has a purpose that drove them in the midst of all obstacles. THAT is The Startup Story.
James McKinney: Before we jump into this week's episode, I just want to give a little shout out to someone who's been incredibly supportive of The Startup Story since the very beginning. Entrepreneurs really do help other entrepreneurs, and sometimes the help comes with something as simple as a referral or introduction. With that said, I want to extend my gratitude to a listener of the show who has referred various founders that we've had featured in an episode. Patrick Bryant is a serial entrepreneur based out of South Carolina and has introduced past guests like Neely Powell and today's guest, Danielle Salinas. I love active listeners and those that understand the vision for the podcast and the community. Thank you so much, Patrick, and for all those listening please visit gototeam.com to check out one of Patrick's many startups. I hope you'll consider contributing to the growth of The Startup Story by leaving a review on Apple Podcast, dropping me an email with another featured founder suggestion, and if you have a product or service that would be of value to the entrepreneurial audience, please visit thestartupstory.com/advertise.
Now, let's jump into this week's episode. Our guest today is Danielle Salinas, co-founder of Maison de Papillon. Danielle's story is one of absolute determination. Maison de Papillon is Danielle's second venture and one that started because she lost her sleep mask during her trip to the London Olympics. That is what I love about The Startup Story. Our businesses are birthed out of a need in our own life, yet pivot as we learn more about where the opportunities really lie. Now, Maison de Papillon is not a sleep mask company, but is a luxury clothing line with a reach in most of the global recognized resort brands, brands like Four Seasons.
In this episode, Danielle gets incredibly vulnerable with us about her entrepreneurial journey, because it includes loss of a son, something that Lord willing many of us will never have to process. But for those of you that have, you may find some encouragement through Danielle's transparency. While Maison de Papillon is experiencing some incredible success today, her story is one that really does not make much sense given that she comes from incredibly humble beginnings in one of the poorest regions of our entire country.
Danielle Salinas: My grandfather was a builder, my father was a builder, and there was a lot of wins, and there was a lot of losses. In the sixties, my grandfather, sixties and early seventies, my grandfather was a very successful business man and he apparently spent a little bit too much money that did not belong to him, and got himself in trouble. Ended up filing bankruptcy early in the seventies and my dad really just had to work really, really hard to rebuild that name and take that business, and restructure it in a way where people would trust him again. My dad was huge into marketing. He believed marketing was the foundation for a solid business. So for as far as I can remember, he was always huge believer in the Yellow Pages. He believed in billboards. Yeah, super old school. He believed in billboards. He drove around his vehicle always wrapped, or had those magnets on the side of the vehicle. So it was old school marketing. I remember him having these older men going door to door, leaving flyers, and he'd give everybody a business card. But the number one thing that I learned about my father was customer service. His customers were his everything. So my dad was the guy that would just… he built solid relationships with his customers and they just loved him. He had a construction company so he made friends with the bankers, so when it came time to getting them to extend a line of credit to one of his clients or customers, it was not an issue. They did it because they trusted Danny and they wanted to make sure that he was happy, because he made this fabulous barbecue for them. He would literally roll up his barbecue pit that was hinged to his truck and he would have an outdoor barbecue for all the bankers, and he would slice up the brisket for them, make them some chicken. They were just happy as can be, and that was in a time where it wasn't so much about credit scores and there wasn't… you didn't really have the feds hounding your back on why you made this loan. They did it because, you know, they loved him. So building customer relationships were a big deal to him so that's definitely a huge part of my business.
James McKinney: How old were you during that season?
Danielle Salinas: I would say I was five.
James McKinney: Five. So there's a lot of memories that you have being so young. So you're having an awareness at five. You have quite a bit of memories of you entire childhood under this entrepreneurial umbrella from your dad, and there were some good seasons and some bad seasons in that journey, because you said this was early eighties. So the economy wasn't always great and so did you grow up wanting to be an entrepreneur, or did you observe the challenges of your dad and were like, "I do not want this"?
Danielle Salinas: Absolutely not. Absolutely not. I came from very humble beginnings and I remember there were days that we had our refrigerator was fully stocked with the freshest of everything, fruits, vegetables, breads, meats. There were days when it was very scarce and it was we had eggs and ketchup. It's like this is what you got kids, so we're going to figure it out. So I remember thinking I never want to live like this, I want to have a job. I want to make sure that I have a consistent income that's being generated that I can depend on. I want to see my money hitting the bank every 15th of the month, because that's what normal people do. But it's just in my DNA. It just kind of is.
James McKinney: So experiencing those challenges as a youth and knowing that is not, or thinking that is not the life you want to build, you want something that's more stable, more consistent, income that's reliable and therefore build a lifestyle that's reliable, as you were coming to the end of your high school years, what were you thinking that next step was for you? Was that college, because I'm going to get a degree and get a high paying job somewhere, get out of south Texas, maybe go somewhere else. What was your thought process at the end of high school?
Danielle Salinas: My high school years were really kind of funny. I didn't have the best high school career, to be quite frank. I had a very rocky high school career.
James McKinney: Can you expand on that without having an Oprah moment? Can you share a little more?
Danielle Salinas: Without having an Oprah moment, yeah exactly. My parents were just going through transition and they didn't really… they were in that time of their life. My parents were married for over 30 years and they were just in a time of their life where they were experiencing challenges. It was very difficult for my sister and myself. My mom ended up, she was pregnant at 40 and I had a brother who was born 15 years after I was born, so as you can imagine their life was very kind of volatile. But what my dad did do is he always made it a point to empower my sister and I to be these incredible women, and not be somebody who depended on a man.
He didn't want us to ever get stuck in the kitchen, because that's the culture. You get married, you get stuck in the kitchen, your man goes to work, and they make a household income of, if you're lucky, $60,000 a year but typically in south Texas being one of the poorest regions in the country, it's $40,000 for dual income. He didn't want that for us. So he made sure that he instilled college and a great long-term career for one another. He really instilled just hard work in us. At high school, I decided that I wanted to find a way to get out of the house and in doing that, I got married at a very young age. I got married at 18 and I decided when I got married that I wanted to have a child.
James McKinney: Right away?
Danielle Salinas: Right away, I was like let's go. I want to have a baby, I want to build a life, and I wanted… I really wanted a nurturing environment. I wanted to create a home. It's not that I didn't have a good home. I had a great home, but I wanted to create my home. I wanted to create a safe place for myself. I wanted to have consistency. I wanted to go to work. I wanted to have an income, and I wanted to be in control of all of that. So that was kind of what happened after high school for me. It wasn't the typical straight to college.
James McKinney: Yeah. So you get married at 18. You have your son, correct, little boy.
Danielle Salinas: Yeah, my son Devon.
James McKinney: Your son Devon, have a baby boy which now is probably in the latter part of high school maybe?
Danielle Salinas: My son's actually 21.
James McKinney: 21, oh my goodness that's crazy. So you have a son at 18.
Danielle Salinas: 19.
James McKinney: 19. Your dad instilled in you the thought that you could do whatever it is you want to do. This boldness and empowerment that he gave to you, so what did you think you wanted to do, because now you have a son and you didn't want to, I'm assuming, you didn't want to be a stay at home mom because you didn't want to be, I'm going to use your words so that no one gets upset at me, you didn't want to be stuck in the kitchen, right? So what was the transition the first five years of motherhood?
Danielle Salinas: Oh my God, I was such a hot mess. As quick as I decided that I wanted to get married, I was like what did I do? I had my son and three months later I said I can't do this, I can't be married. So my son and I moved out. At that time, my first job when I was 16 was working at a pharmacy. I basically worked my… I got the job because I called on Labor Day and I said, "I'm looking for a job. I am 16 years old and I'll do anything." This is at 16 and I remember the owner of the pharmacy said, "Well, can you come in today?" and I said, "Yeah, I can come in today." And he said, "Well, come over, come over and we'll hire you because nobody else is working on Labor Day." So I went in and that was my first day.
So when I was 19, I had already been working in a pharmacy for a few years. I became a pharmacy technician, and kind of put myself in and out of college with that money as a single mom, and I raised my son, doing that first the first five years, for sure I was working in pharmacy, going to school.
James McKinney: How challenging was that?
Danielle Salinas: Oh my God, it was so challenging. It was so challenging because I was also dating at the time and I was young. All my friends were hanging out and having a good time, and I just, I was like, "Sorry, I've got to work. I've got to be a mom. I can't afford a babysitter." So it wasn't something that was easy.
James McKinney: I'm going to buck the trend a little bit for how The Startup Story rolls, only because just hearing this small snippet of your journey where you were a single mom at 19, divorced after three months, working full time, paying for school, I'm assuming going to school at night probably, somehow managing being a mom, an employee and a student, I know that there are probably listeners right now that are currently on that journey that you were then. And obviously, you have the wisdom of perspective to look back on that. So can we speak to just those listeners right now? Those female listeners that are single, no support system, have a child, they want something great for their life. Whether it be school or they're trying to start a startup in the midst of this. Can you just pause for a moment and just give them some words of encouragement, having the wisdom of looking back on where you are now and where you were?
Danielle Salinas: I would absolutely say don't let anyone tell you that you can't do what you want to do. You just become a horse with blinders. Just hone in on what you want to get done and just make it happen. Find a way to make it happen. I've listened to a couple of your podcasts in the past and I know that several of the entrepreneurs that have been on have talked about Gary V. there really is a million ways to make it happen. There's no excuse for poverty. Obviously, there's some exceptions, but-
James McKinney: If you want to make money it's possible, period.
Danielle Salinas: If you want to make money, it's all possible. It's just a matter of it's all a numbers game. It's all about the tipping point and how much you actually get done. At seven years old, I was recycling cans. I was washing my dad's car. I was washing my neighbor's cars. I was selling peaches. I did anything that I could to make money. I was babysitting at 14, at 16 I was working full time. And then at 21, I started working advertising. I remember walking into my first job interview in advertising, and going through the interview. The last question they asked me was, "Do you have any questions for us?" I said, "Yeah, is there any reason why I wouldn't get this job?" And they said, "No." I walked out of there, got in my car, drove off, and two minutes later I remember my boss at the time called me, and she's like, "Are you still in the parking lot?" I said, "I'm driving off." She said, "Turn around and come back. We need you."
James McKinney: That's awesome.
Danielle Salinas: I come from one of the poorest DMAs in the country. At 21, I was making over $100,000. If I can do it, anyone can do it. It's just a numbers game.
James McKinney: And that's what I want the listeners that fall into that narrative, whether it be my life is too challenging, I don't have a support system, I don't have a college degree, I'm single I have child, whatever the narrative is. I wanted to just give that perspective from someone who is farther down the road than them at this very moment, to just say look, it is hard but it is not impossible. I love that you are able to give that perspective to that demographic of listeners, so thank you for doing that.
Danielle Salinas: Yeah. It's funny that you say someone that's farther down the road, because as an entrepreneur, you feel like am I really farther down the road because I mean, any entrepreneur will tell you, I feel like it's constant restart. It's that reset button, and no matter what it's every day is a challenge. But I wouldn't change it for anything in the world. This is an incredible journey and knowing that I'm building something for my son and for my personal legacy is what drives me.
James McKinney: I love it. So let's get back to your story. Thank you for allowing me to kind of jump out of the moment there to get some encouragement to some of the single moms that are out there that may just think that entrepreneurship isn't for them while their kids are young. Anything is possible. It can be challenging, but it's not impossible. So jumping back into your story now, you're going to school. You had alluded to the fact that you've got an advertising job at 21. Am I right to assume that was during your college years, or you had gotten a degree and now you're back in advertising?
Danielle Salinas: No, no, no. That was definitely while I was still going to school, and actually I took a long sabbatical from going to school during that time, just because I had a full time job and there was no time to go back to school. I really had to focus on going, and focus on making income for my son. I wanted a better life for him, and I wanted not to suffer so much. I'd have a slice of toast and coffee for breakfast every day because that was cheap, right? So it's what it was.
So I'm working in advertisement. I'm in a situation where I'm in another relationship. I have a child. And my child becomes very, very ill. Within a couple of years of his life, he loses a battle. He loses the battle of life, and I lose him at 22 months. That was an extremely difficult time in my life. It was a time that I really was able to put perspective into what was important and that was building a life for my son Devon and I, that I could control. Because I couldn't control what happened with my son Zachary. Again, I was looking for that stability. I was looking for that nurturing environment. I was looking for just being and spending some time with my son and so that's what I… I kind of took a sabbatical from life and worked really, really hard during that. I took an entire year off just to focus on my son.
Then after a year, I got married to somebody that I had met before, and in 2007 we started his business, and that was about seven years after being in advertising.
James McKinney: Okay. So I want to pause at 2007. Because you said in a very interesting statement when you were reflecting back on the loss of Zachary, you said, "It gave me perspective," and you wanted to live in that perspective. What was that perspective that you gained from that season?
Danielle Salinas: You know, I loss Zachary in 2003, so obviously there was a long time between 2003 and 2007 when I got remarried. I felt a loss of control. It was something I couldn't do anything about. Usually, I can do anything, and this woman who I set my mind to something and I make enough calls, and eventually the juice is worth the squeeze. You just keep squeezing and squeezing until you make it happen. I couldn't do anything. So I was looking for a way to control something. I don't know, I don't know what I was looking for to be honest with you, but it was definitely a nurturing home. Again, I go back to the nurturing home.
James McKinney: Thank you for sharing that, because again all these moments, I go back to Meghan Asha a few episodes ago. She talks about these breadcrumbs of life. All these moments lead and contribute to our story while we're on this crazy path of entrepreneurship. It's not sane. There's nothing that makes sense about wanting to put yourself into the struggle and challenges of entrepreneurship except that it's just part of who you are.
Danielle Salinas: And I'm going to go back. I know I'm at a loss for words when I talk about my son, and a lot of that comes from there's a big block that if, God forbid you ever lose a child but I know that there's going to be some listeners out there that have, it's very, thank God a very small tight knit community of parents who have lost their children. It's not something you really want to constantly think about. There are definitely some blocks there in coping and dealing with that, because it's just not natural.
James McKinney: Yeah, yeah. Thank you for being so vulnerable with that. I really do appreciate it. So let's jump back into your story again. 2007, you have your first entrepreneurial adventure with your husband.
Danielle Salinas: Yeah, that one's so exciting.
James McKinney: So what was that venture and what was the catalyst for starting that?
Danielle Salinas: I help so many local entrepreneurs… Excuse the… I told you about the firehouse that's across the street.
James McKinney: The sounds of New York City, I love it.
Danielle Salinas: The sounds of New York City, yeah. There were so many entrepreneurs that I worked with. I worked with dentists, I worked with eye doctors, I worked with furniture stores. These entrepreneurs that wanted to advertise. I worked with the CVS network. I also worked for a company called Entervision before I worked in television. I was working with all these entrepreneurs and I was looking for ways to get customers in the door. I would always go back to I can only get your customers here. I can only get your phones to ring. It's really up to you what happens after that.
We forget that when advertising. We can only get them there. Now, what are you going to do about it? You have them. Do you have the customer service that you need to get them to move forward, to convert, to spend that very valued disposable income, especially in south Texas, my hometown. It was very difficult to get people to move when it came to spending money, because they didn't have it. I helped build these great personalities and I remember working with this one particular doctor and they had like a $750 budget for advertising. Then that $750 budget moved to $1,500, then $3,000. By the time I got done with them, they were spending something like $20,000 a month, I mean crazy money.
James McKinney: That's awesome.
Danielle Salinas: Back then. And that was just because, "Danielle, the phone stopped ringing." "Well, you're not advertising right now. What do you expect?" so we started building these personalities, and in south Texas these doctors are so very successful, and they're still personalities. A lot of those, I'm very proud of especially I go to the airports and I see their signs everywhere, and I'm like the very person they first bought advertising from was me.
James McKinney: That's awesome.
Danielle Salinas: So I remember them saying things like, "If I can just get two patients to come in a week, I'll be super happy," and then it got to like, "Well Danielle, I need 20." I'm like, "Dude, what happened to the two that you needed?" So eventually when it was time for my then husband to move on and buy his practice, because he's a dentist, he said, "I just don't want to do this, I'm too scared. I don't want to run the business aspect of it." I said, "Look, you be a dentist, I'll run the business aspect, and we can make this happen. We can blow it out of the water," and we did. We really then.
James McKinney: That was in 2007. When did you and your husband split?
Danielle Salinas: We split in 2016, yeah about four years after I moved to New York City. We're still great friends, though I should say, and I still run the practice.
James McKinney: I was going to ask you is what happened to the business in that process? You still run the business together.
Danielle Salinas: Yeah. We actually built it to a super fruitful practice. Six months after we opened it, we expanded to another four operatories, then we opened another location a year later, and then a year after that opened a third location. We've sold one location since then, but it's been a great ride. And it's obviously, again, challenges. Like any business, challenges and changes in medicine.
James McKinney: So as that business was growing though, you mentioned 2016 you split but you said four years after you moved to New York, so that puts you in New York in 2012, so five years after you started the business you were in New York. What drew you to New York?
Danielle Salinas: So my son I decided in 2012 that I wanted him to go away to school, and I was interested in him exploring boarding school, which is funny right? Here you have this girl who had a child at 19. I was lucky if my son was going to graduate from high school, right? But no, my son went to one of the best boarding schools in the country, and that's what I really wanted for him was just a solid education because again, things to prove to myself, I needed to make it happen.
James McKinney: Got it. So were you running the dentistry business while in New York or was there a new business you were starting?
Danielle Salinas: Yeah. I still fly down to south Texas every four to six weeks and I spend anywhere from two days to five days there, and I run the practice. I still run all of my staff meetings. I still run all the HR and I deal with all… pretty much anything that has to do with the administrative side of the practice.
James McKinney: So you're running, still, that business in Texas from New York, but you're starting now, or you have started a fashion venture in Maison de Papillon. When did you start that?
Danielle Salinas: I started Maison de Papillon in 2013.
James McKinney: Incredibly soon after you arrived in New York, you started, for the sake of the rest of the episode we'll refer to MDP. You started MDP in 2012. Why did you decide to start this venture? Because again, I'm thinking back to your narrative of stability, right? Now, you're in New York. Your son is at a boarding school. You're running a Texas company from New York, and now you're starting a fashion business which up until this point, no experience in fashion. So what was the catalyst for that?
Danielle Salinas: In 2012, I went to the Olympics. I flew out to the Olympics. I used to use these little night shade. You know, those little night shades that they give you on the plane when you're going to take a long flight. Well, I used to use them to sleep just because I was very sensitive to light when I slept. When I flew to London for the Olympics, I forgot my nightshades so I'm like running all over London, looking for these nightshades all over the place, can't find them, can't find them, can't find them. Have a horrible sleep for about a week and then I'm back in Texas. I wake up after having a 14 hour slumber and my husband at the time had gone to work, and I tell him, "I just had a dream. I need to manufacture nightshades. Not enough people sell these." And he's like, "Okay, baby." Like you do that, like you should do that, I'm sure it's not going to be difficult. So he goes to work, I jump in the shower, and I'm taking a shower and I'm like start a company of nightshades. I don't even know how to make them I don't even know how I would manufacture them. Would I go to China? What would I do right? So then I'm like I can't do that. I have to go to fashion school. I've got to learn how to make them.
James McKinney: Oh my goodness.
Danielle Salinas: So I call him. Yeah so I call him and I'm like baby, I can't just make these nightshades. He's like, "Oh, that's okay. You don't have to work. You don't have to do anything. You're fine. We're fine." I said, "No, no, no, no. I have to go to fashion school." He's like, "You what?" and I said, "I have to go to fashion school. I need to learn how to make them." He's like, "Where would you go?" and I was like, "I don't know. I've got to look for the best fashion school in the country," and he's like, "Okay."
So I get online, Google "best fashion in the United States." Parsons, New School of Design. So then I call him back and I say, "I'm going to apply to Parsons," and he's like, "To where?" I'm like, "Only the best fashion school in the world. Haven't you seen Project Runway?" He's like, "No, not really." I'm like, "Okay, well I'm applying." He's like, "Okay." So needless to say, I do my application. I submit my letter of intent. Not realizing how difficult it actually is to get into Parsons.
James McKinney: Yeah.
Danielle Salinas: Yeah. But I got in. So I got in, I got into Parsons. I did their two year program, and that's where I met my business partner, Shriya.
James McKinney: So let me ask this, though. So again, no fashion experience. For the few fashion entrepreneurs that I have had the great fortune of meeting, there has been a lifetime desire to build something in this. So it's something they were building towards. You get into Parsons, which I assume there are many people that were in your class at Parsons that had long desired to go there. You just discovered Parsons off of a Google search but knew about it as soon as you did discover it. So you're surrounded by people in class that had long desired to be a part of fashion. Was there any part of you that had this imposter syndrome, like what am I doing here? Because I needed to know about nightshades? What was your thought process, surrounded by these people that had been living for this moment?
Danielle Salinas: Well, I was lucky that in my particular program, there was a lot of very similar women to me, and gentlemen. There were some men there too, mostly women. I did have a different approach because most people that were in my program were doing stuff that was a lot cooler than me. I wanted to design pajamas that were cool, and nobody else even cared about pajamas that were cool. Everyone was making like the next great couture gown or some really beautiful wedding gowns, or a custom tailored suit. I literally remember sitting at Parsons and we had our round tables, introducing each other and what we were interested in doing. I remember saying I just want to make a lot of money. I just really want to make women happy and I want them to not have to get dressed to the nines, and still feel fabulous in beautiful, silky pajamas that they can wear out. So that was the initial idea is pajamas that you could wear out, and that was the time that Marc Jacobs presented his runway show of all silk pajamas on the runway, so it was wild. Selena Gomez is walking in her pajamas, J Lo's walking out in her pajamas, like everyone's walking around in pajamas. I'm like damn. They're taking my concept, they're running with that. And so that's, it started with sleep shades. Went on to pajamas, and then it became from the sheets to the streets.
James McKinney: that's awesome. So you met your cofounder there and when did Maison de Papillon start formulating into your mind, whether it be yours or as a collective with your cofounder? When did it start taking shape?
Danielle Salinas: Shriya and I met like our first semester at fashion school and we had one of our initial classes was together. That summer, I studied abroad. I studied in Paris and Shriya studied all around Italy. We really got grounded in where we wanted to go. When we came back to Parsons, we kind of just connected on she had invited me over to her house to have some tea, and we just connected on what was happening, what we each experienced overseas. Shriya wanted to develop this travel line that was just necessary in the industry and that women would just be able to pack, roll and go with these garments, and I wanted to create these garments that were just completely transitional and timeless, and super comfortable. Together, it became Maison de Papillon.
James McKinney: When do you consider the beginning of Maison?
Danielle Salinas: The beginning of Maison was September of 2013.
James McKinney: So we have past the six year mark, six and a half months we'll say. So what was that first year of MDP? Because listeners, don't forget, she's running a business in Texas as well. So what was that first year of Maison for you?
Danielle Salinas: So crazy, yeah. I was in Texas, still trying to run this business, rebuild a business. I was going to school still full time. Both Shriya and I were going to school. We decided to launch the brand. It was a lot of speed bumps for sure. Designing, we started with a very basic capsule collection, which was more for a little I would say just to test the market and see how people would react to the collection. It was a lot of trial and error. We made a lot of pieces that maybe we probably shouldn't have made at the time, but in general we had some core pieces there that are still in the collection today that have been phenomenal.
The first year, I would say the first year is all about learning how to work with one another, because both Shriya and I are very strong personalities, but absolutely yin and yang. She's incredibly talented. She's an artist and the truth of the matter is I really look to her when it comes to the initial inspiration and design of the brand, of the collection I should say. I really am just at this point more about the colors and what are the pieces that we need in the next collection, and what women are looking for, what the market's looking for, what we need to add to the collection. So together, we really are a perfect balance for one another.
James McKinney: When you guys were brainstorming around what Maison was going to be, did you project into the retailers? Were you thinking direct to consumer brand? What was your thought process in we're going to build Maison and here's what it looks like? And I don't mean looks like from the fashion sense, I mean from the business sense.
Danielle Salinas: I think when we initially thought about Maison, we knew that we wanted something that was very travel friendly, so when we started doing these trade shows because that's how we launched the brand was trade shows, that was something that always came out in our two bit of what we want, kind of buyers were looking for. And so this one trade show that we did that was very important to us, they ended up working on a hotel program. They were bringing these luxury hotels around the show floor. This one buyer came to our booth and absolutely loved the collection. We had only heard about her, so we'd been warned that the Four Seasons Beverly Wilshire was going to be on the floor and that we need to look out for them, and make sure that we were extra nice to them because they were a really big deal.
So in comes the buyer who today is one of my best friends. Mostly because I just feel like she really opened up this entire business for us because she really believed in the brand and still does today. Vivian walks into our booth and she just, she saw something. She saw something special in the brand and said, "I love it. I love it for my property. I think that you guys will do very well, and I think that my guest is going to love it, and I want to bring something really special to my guests."
As much as I knew that we wanted to go into travel, I don't think that we ever in our wildest dreams thought that we would be sitting at so many luxury hotels of the world like we are today. We're in most Four Seasons across the country, and that's so humbling.
James McKinney: That's awesome.
Danielle Salinas: Yeah. We're in several other hotels. Obviously, we're in New York City, we're in the Plaza Hotel, we're in the Baccarat Hotel, we're in the Four Seasons downtown. I mean we're in some pretty spectacular properties in New York City. So it's very humbling, but there's still a lot to go. We need more.
James McKinney: But let's go with that moment where Vivian walks into your booth. Because I think part of the entrepreneurial journey are those moments of validation. Those moments where it's like okay, we're now not the only ones that believe in what we're doing. We have validation because we have a buyer. So what was that moment like for you when Vivian from the Four Seasons Beverly Hills approaches your booth at this event and starts giving you her perspective, and now issuing a purchase order if you will? What was going through your mental process at the time?
Danielle Salinas: it's the Beverly Wilshire. It's like the crown jewel of Los Angeles. It's the crown jewel of the Four Seasons in the United States. It was extremely surreal and very humbling, again because I think at this point we were maybe in our third season. It became reality. I remember working with a consultant at one point. She said, "Unless you're producing X amount of garments, it's a hobby." All of the sudden, it wasn't a hobby anymore. This was happening. We were going to sit at the Beverly Wilshire. We were going to sit on Rodeo Drive, on Wilshire Boulevard I should say. And it wasn't just that. It was the fact that I knew that if we did a good job for her, we were going to open more doors. We needed to make it a point to build a story for her to take back to her peers. This was one of her first things that she did as the director at the Beverly Wilshire, so she was taking a huge leap of faith with us. So there was no way we were going to let her down.
Again, I remembered rolling up that barbecue pit to the back of that bank and I remember how important customer service was and so we just made it a point to do that. We did trunk shows at the Beverly Wilshire. We did blogger events there. We did everything we needed to do. I remember her calling me one day and saying, "Hey, for my 30th birthday I want to go skydiving. Would you go with me?" I mean, a fear of heights like you cannot imagine, and I'm gulp, and I said, "Vivian, I will fly across the country to LA to jump out of a plane with you on your birthday." That wasn't because of Maison, that was because she became a friend of mine but that's how… I think when you are able to treat your customers with that type of respect, it becomes something different. It unfolds to so much more.
James McKinney: I think it speaks to the fact that, and a lot of people, a lot of entrepreneurs need to understand this. People may become interested because of the product, but they buy because of you. People want to do business with people they like, period. I don't care what it is.
Danielle Salinas: That's true. If they don't trust you, they're not going to buy from you. They don't have to. People buy from people they respect, and if you're that annoying sales person like the first thing out of your mouth is like, "Oh, I've been trying to get a hold, I've been trying to do business with your company." They just literally run. And I've seen it, because I've become close friends with some of my buyers. All the sudden, they're no longer even a person. They are a store.
One of my best friends, another one of my really good friends and my best friend, is based in Miami as well. She, I can't tell you how many people and I hope I don't throw any other designers under the bus when I say this, but how many of my friends that are designers that ask me to put something in front of her and she became my friend because she believed in the brand. So no matter what you do, if the product is not good, they're not going to buy it. So you don't have to… I feel like as entrepreneurs we have to remember that the first thing that we need to do is put up and shell out a good product. Once you shell out a good product, then it all happens. But the first step is not jamming it down somebody's throat. The first step is just putting something out there that is creative and it, and needed in the market.
James McKinney: Yep. So before we get a great summary of the current state of MDP, I want you to look back on your journey. What were some massive learning lessons that you stepped through because of how painful that lesson was?
Danielle Salinas: I would say getting us noticed. It goes back to what I was just saying about getting in with the buyer. You've got to have something special and until we realized what was special about the brand and how we were different, we had huge challenges because we were just kind of going the same road that everybody else was. We're just trying to sell a brand, but we weren't able to distinguish what was special about us. So that was a huge challenge for us is figuring out the fact that we needed… and we're still going through that. We're still trying to find out who we are, and we're still trying to figure out a way and ways to tell our story.
One of the things that I've also heard mentioned on your podcast that I think is excellent is I don't do a very good job of telling my story on Instagram. I don't do a very good job of allowing my customer, my followers, my client to follow that journey. I think that stories definitely sell. If I could do a better job of telling my story, that would make a huge difference in my business, which is why I'm completely vulnerable to you today, because I really want to share my story. Because I do feel like it's the moment of the female founder. My customer is the female founder. That's who she is. She' a female founder. She's an executive. She's a mom. She wants to be comfortable. But she's special. My customer is special. She wants something that makes her feel good and rich. And I'm not talking about financially rich, just something that's rich on her and worthy. Honing in on that and understand that, and realizing that has helped at least overcome that challenge. We have lots of other challenges. We've had many, many challenges but that I would say is one of our largest challenge.
James McKinney: You know, I think it's interesting because that challenge and that pain point is not uncommon to the entrepreneurial journey. Partially because as the entrepreneur and for those that are listening that are contemplating entrepreneurship, they're the reluctant entrepreneur kind of sitting in a 9 to 5, thinking they want to move on an idea, I want you to hear this very clearly. As an entrepreneur, you are birthing something from nothing. So there are a million things that you have got to focus on. Maybe your initial focus is, if it's technology it's proof of concept and because it's proof of concept, it's investors. If it's fashion, then maybe catalog and design, or whatever it may be. But there's so many things you're thinking of that you forget about the story side.
In 2019, if you are not telling a story about your product or service period, and the way it makes your customers lives better, you are going to get passed by because everything is story driven. So that is, while the listeners might have thought that's not very painful, it's not like she lost $1 million. No, it's not about how much money did you lose or how many clients you lose. It's about the missed opportunities and you're right, that is a huge missed opportunity. It's because the nature of entrepreneurship is that there's so many things that have to get done. So thank you for sharing that and bringing that lesson to the table here.
So right now, as MDP stands, you are in some of the largest luxury brands out there. Places that I'm sure some fashion entrepreneurs listening if I have any, and actually you know what my sister is a fashion entrepreneur so I know I have at least one listening.
Danielle Salinas: There you go. Tell her I said hi. Tell her to call me.
James McKinney: So for the fashion entrepreneurs out there, they're hearing the brands that you have your product in and think, "Man, that is incredible. She's made it, she's there." I'm confident that is not the narrative that's in your head.
Danielle Salinas: No, no, no. not at all. I haven't made it yet. We haven't made it yet.
James McKinney: Even with the success that you have experienced so far, is there any part of you that still wonders can I truly pull this off?
Danielle Salinas: No. I can honestly say no. This is the first time in six years that I can honestly say I feel pretty good about where we're going. We're in a good place. We're gaining some great traction. We talk about being something that all of my hopefully future entrepreneur, female founder women, we want to end up in that place where they can all attain a piece of Maison. We're excited to say that we're getting ready to hit Rent the Runway which is an excellent way for everyone to touch the brand and feel the brand. We did that because there's so many women that have said in the past, "You know, Danielle, we love the brand, can't afford it."
That for us was a huge pill to swallow, not because we wanted to take their money, but because how do you build something that's made ethically well, in an ethical way, in a sustainable way, and have a low price point ? It's very difficult. It's very expensive. People think, "Oh, well you're making some of your pieces in China." China's even more expensive right now. I think China's the leader in fashion right now and in 2019 they're technically the leader in fashion. So we wanted to find a way for everyone to be able to hit Maison or get their hands on Maison so I think that for us, that's a huge part of the future. I'm feeling really good about it.
James McKinney: So Rent the Runway is a huge part of the future, but if we were to project now, let's say in four years we have you back on for kind of a where are they now episode, what do you… let's put that story into the universe right now. It's in four years from now and I'm like, "Danielle, how's MDP going? Where are you at now?" What is that story?
Danielle Salinas: I think for us in four years, we would have already had a few brick and mortars because that's definitely in our next… I should say, in our initial round of funding because we haven't gone through any funding. At this point, we're still self funded.
James McKinney: Oh, good for you.
Danielle Salinas: Yeah. Yeah. So it's been exciting. Shriya and I-
James McKinney: I sense like a small like little bit of a trepidation in there because I know you're thinking I really wish I had some cash flow right now. I get it. But I mean-
Danielle Salinas: That capital dough.
James McKinney: That capital helps for sure, but you've gone so far bootstrapping it. That is kudos to you. Celebrate that.
Danielle Salinas: I love that, yeah.
James McKinney: One of the things that entrepreneurs have shared many, many times on this show and I truly am bringing this into my own life, is that we are so bad at celebrating the victories in our entrepreneurial journey.
Danielle Salinas: It's true.
James McKinney: Because it's always about that next milestone, that next thing. So I am giving your permission to celebrate the fact that you have bootstrapped this up to this point with the success you've had. So that when it comes to those brick and mortars, get that investment money. If you can bootstrap it for that too, do it. In fact, Neely Powell in one of our earlier episodes, Charleston Shoe Company, had bootstrapped the entire thing up until I think she's on her, oh I hope I don't misstate this but I think 25th store.
Danielle Salinas: 26 I think is whatever I heard. Yeah I know. She's definitely inspirational. I've heard a lot about Neely Powell and what she's done for Charleston Shoe Company. She's definitely inspiring. I'm very impressed with her and I love listening to her story on your podcast, obviously. So yeah, brick and mortars is a huge thing. Expanding sustainability within Maison de Papillon is huge for us in the future, because sustainability is the future. And working with materials that are recyclable or we're able to use in a variety of different ways, I think that's super important. We're already doing that in a lot of different ways as well.
And then giving back globally is a huge part of our goals. Right now we work with a foundation… we've been working with Indian Dreams Foundation for several years. They're doing some really cool stuff and so we are working very closely with them on educating young girls to learn how to sew and focusing on hygiene for them. Just general education. I think it's super important to give back.
James McKinney: That's awesome. That's so good. You know Darbie Angell was a past founder that was on the show and she, designer dinnerware, and she employees 3,000 women in Bangladesh, and just improves and empowers their life in such a significant way. It's an amazing story as well. I love hearing about contributions at a global level like that, so thank you for what your vision is for that. But as our time comes to an end and we could go on for, I feel we could go on for a whole other hour, but as our time comes to an end there are two questions that I ask every founder.
I ask the first one because I truly believe that if we forget all the people that helped get us to where we are, we'll begging to isolate ourselves and think that we did it on our own, and inevitably that will lead to our failure, because the entrepreneurial journey is not one that can be done solo. And so in the years of my life, there's so many people I can point to, but I'm asking you. When you look upon your entire life's journey and your entrepreneurial journey, who are the people that you point to with such immense gratitude for how they've contributed to your journey?
Danielle Salinas: I have four. I have my father. My father was a huge inspiration to me. I think he's my backbone. Obviously my number one, my son because without him there's no light at the end of the tunnel. He is everything that I aim to work hard for and build for. I just everything that I do is to prove to him that he can do more than me and do better than me, but he can't do less than me. I need him to remember that he's got to do better than me. We can only get better, right? So he's probably going to say, "Enough with the pressure." He's studying for his LSATs right now so he's probably like, "Mom!" No, but I always say he's never let me down. He's an incredible, incredible person and I'm already extremely proud of him. He's already surpassed me in so many different ways.
James McKinney: That's awesome.
Danielle Salinas: My sister. My sister's been like a second mother to me. She's incredible and she is who gave me the first opportunity in advertising because it was for her company that I worked, and it was her recommendation that they speak to me that got me into that business. That just helped me go from being an hourly employee to somebody that they took serious. My sister's always believed in me, and as a matter of fact, before doing this with you we kind of recapped on what our childhood was like, and she just reminded me of so many memories that I'd forgotten.
And the last is my best friend Giselle, because she jams all these self help books down my throat and reminds me how important it is to tell my story and document, and how important social media is, and how important it is for me to share my journey and share my story. I think she's the one that's been the most excited about this. So Giselle is a huge, huge part of just pushing me out the door with sharing my story. So yeah. And of course, my friend who really thought that I would be an interesting story.
James McKinney: That's awesome. I love that question so much because we don't often take time to think through our life's journey and all the people that have kind of poured into us, and how significant that's been. But I love it because for you in particular, with the people you listed and in particular your ad and your sister, so many times throughout your story when you talk about customer service and your buyers and they're friends now and they're family now, I saw every time you were talking about those stories, I saw going back to how you treated customers. I could see the immediate connection and how that changed the way you are doing business now. Talk about your sister, how she helped you get that job. I'm such a believer in that as entrepreneurs, we need to look back sometimes and extend our hand to the next entrepreneur up. I love that there's someone that reached back and helped you.
As our time does come to an end now, we've been talking to tens of thousands of people. But right now, I want to give you an opportunity to speak to one entrepreneur. Whether that entrepreneur is someone who is an existing entrepreneur and they're just really frustrated at the lack of traction or starting to get discouraged at cash flow issues, or whatever the case may be. It's not where they thought they would be. Or maybe it's the reluctant entrepreneur who has a 9 to 5 and a book full of dreams, but maybe it's because they're a single mom or a single dad, and they have a mortgage, or maybe they're 60 and they think they're too old for entrepreneurship. But there's some narrative they have in their head as to why they can't start their own thing. Or maybe you want to talk to the defeated entrepreneur, the one who's been kicked in the gut multiple times in both entrepreneurship and in life, and they've just given up hope. I'm just done with taking risks, I'm done with the challenges. I just want to sale off into the sunset and ride it out. Of those three personas, I'd like you to speak to just one of them right now. What do you have to say to them?
Danielle Salinas: Well, I have one specific one that I'm going to mention. I know your questions, so I knew this was coming.
James McKinney: I love that.
Danielle Salinas: Right? So one of the persons that I didn't mention in gratitude is the one I'm going to bring up in my words of encouragement, but he has huge, huge place in my heart and he has all my gratitude which is my ex husband, Rocky. I want to remind him he's … I've never met anyone with the dedication that he has. I want to remind him to continue to love every second and live every moment of what he's doing. I really have never met someone so dedicated to his job. He literally is up at 3:30 in the morning and at the office by 6:30 every morning, and he's always the last person there. He never takes a lunch. So love every second of it, because I know that's what you love. For everybody else, I think when you get excited about where you work, it isn't work. So don't do something that you're not excited about. Because if you don't love it, then it's not worth it because it's life. You spend a third of your life at work.
James McKinney: How many of you listening to this episode have allowed your lack of expertise in an area to stop you from moving forward? That was the thread that ran throughout Danielle's life. She did not know advertising, but that did not stop her from applying to a job that enabled her to provide for her son when she was 22 years old. She knew nothing about fashion design, yet leveraged the Google search bar to get all the answers she needed as to where to attain the best training. And she had zero background in fashion, and yet applied and got into Parson's School of Art and Design. All this to say that my largest takeaway from Danielle's startup story is that the journey may be incredibly hard, but it is far from impossible.
If you find yourself making excuses not to move forward in a specific area of your life, then maybe, just maybe that is the area you need to start pushing into and get beyond the excuses or hurdles that you have placed in front of you. Entrepreneurship is hard, but the challenges of the journey will provide you opportunities of growth that nothing else in life can.
I hope you found value in Danielle's transparency and authenticity. If you've been around The Startup Story for any length of time, then you know how much emphasis I put on the idea that entrepreneurs support other entrepreneurs. So if you find any value from Danielle's startup story, then make sure to connect with her on LinkedIn. She loves supporting other entrepreneurs. And another way you can support her startup is to visit maisondepapillon.com and use the discount code "startup20" for a 20% discount on your purchase. Now, I'm not going to spell maisondepapillon.com here. The link to her site and the discount code will be posted in the show notes. Entrepreneurs support other entrepreneurs, so let's make sure to show up for Danielle and Maison de Papillon in a huge way.
And now for my personal ask. The Startup Story community has been so incredible about sharing our podcast with others, but we have more stories to tell and more people to reach. We too are a startup and word of mouth is everything, so please follow us on Facebook and Instagram @TheStartupStory or on Twitter @StartupStory_. If you're on LinkedIn, please search for The Startup Story and follow our company page. LinkedIn is a really powerful way to raise awareness of the show. But the most impactful way you can help us grow our audience is to leave a review on Apple podcasts. Or if you listen to the show via Spotify, then please simply share the podcast directly from your Spotify app or wherever you listen to the show.
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If you like this podcast and are thinking of creating your own, consider talking to my producer Danny Ozment. He helps thought leaders, influencers, executives, and authors create, launch, and produce podcasts that grow their business and make a real impact in this world. You can contact him today at emeraldcitypro.com/startupstory.