Tell us more about yourself
Hi I’m Ali Long, after more than 13 years experience in retail as a Visual Merchandiser, ladies Buyer and senior sales rep, I decided it was time to gather up all of my years of passion, experience, dedication and extensive knowledge of fashion, and bring my beloved drive for selling and styling to a wider range of other like minded people. After my official first year out of the fashion industry with a new job description as a ‘Stay at Home Mum’ and with maternity leave quickly coming to an end, it was time to make F&N a reality and bring some of the most stylish and affordable trends to the market place.
Why did you start your business?
As my life got busier and busier with two little people under 2, I missed the convenience of being able to grab a great top quickly for an event. Or suddenly my old Rusty cut off denim shorts [yes I spent many awesome years working in the surf industry] just didn’t seem very ‘Mum’ appropriate at the parks any more. Plus seriously, … all that bending we have to do once we have kids, I just knew I had to bring the best possible high waisted jeans to the market & make them available for every new mama!
F+N was born from fire in belly to genuiely do what I had been doing for so many years for every employer I had ever worked for. I just knew it was time to keep working really hard in an industry I adore, but this time for myself & my own family. My aim was to provide convenience to the time poor, and make shopping easier, simpler and hassle free. It was about shooting & styling outfits professionally from head to toe so my customers wouldn’t have to go home with a great stripe pant for example & then find they had nothing to match it back with! I generally started my business because I really wanted women to feel great about themselves post baby. I wanted them to be able to actually afford to shop [a little, … or a lot] even while on maternity leave or on a single income. I wanted women to have the chance to make that one amazing feel- good purchase; be it a cardigan, or killer jeans, and then run out the door to the park or for kindy drop off feeling good about themselves! That is why I [and very passionately so] started F+N … and still to this day that is what I love about what I do the most, just generally making my customers feel a million dollars [… without having to spend it!]
What advice would you give to a brand new start up?
Decide on what your passion really is & go for it! Take a risk & [in my situation] beg your husband to borrow some money from your family savings to just ‘have a go’! Research, research, research! Everything from bookkeeping, to your competitors, to your dream website! If you have children, attempt to get two child free days a week [I started with only one] so you can pour your heart & soul into a whole day of uninterrupted work. Work hard, REALLY hard. My partner would send me off for a half a day ‘break’ on a Sunday arvo for example to grab a facial or a pedicure. Instead I would go to a cafe & work on my business. Write a business plan, [it’s ok if it changes a million times along the way]. Be true to yourself, don’t compete, be original, be kind, make as many contacts as you can in your industry. Increase your coffee intake or be prepared to take it up if you don’t already drink it & just GO FOR IT. If you are passionate about what you do, you’ll succeed.
What’s been your proudest moment?
Finally moving my business out of my inner west home in Seddon & renovating a run down old studio, & then being able to actually afford monthly rent! Our youngest daughter got her bedroom back, our house became a home again [… & not a warehouse]. My husband didn’t leave me because yet ‘another’ customer was at our front door step asking to pick up her order. [secretly I think he enjoyed seeing my little business grow a loyal following, … he would even greet a few husbands who would collect their wives orders on a weekend!]. Finally having a ‘space’ meant I could officially employ my first staff member & well, … that would also absolutely be up there with my proudest moment.
What’s been your most challenging moment?
The many million constant flood of ideas that flow into my head, but then the conflicting battle of ‘time’ to actually execute them. Like many new business owners it can be so incredibly challenging not being able to achieve everything you so desperately want to do. I’m absolutely hopeless at ticking off the tasks I don’t enjoy doing. It has taken me a while to really understand the importance of running a successful business is having to do some of the ‘boring’ [for me, it’s the admin] side of things to allow my business to move forward for the ‘FUN’ things like photo shoots & styling sessions!
Why did you decide to come to one of The Digital Picnic workshops?
I decided to attend TDP workshop from the moment two gorgeous brunettes so politely asked to borrow my studio for their first round of workshops late last year, haha! No seriously, … Cat & Cherie who were both customers of mine prior to starting TDP, & they just had these incredibly infectious personalities. They were driven, passionate, funny, & smart. They had come up with a brilliant business plan with all the right intentions to help small business owners kickstart their social media prowess, & I just knew from the minute I heard what they wanted to use my studio for I just HAD to be part of it!
… I’ve never looked back!
What did get out of attending our workshop/s?
A sense of direction, drive & an overall easy & clear breakdown of where I needed to invest my time [… & with strong social media strategies in place]. Since attending their very first workshop, I just knew I would be even more driven to work harder to allow for more budget in my business to reinvest with TDP’s services. I was quick to book in a follow up workshop for a ‘health check’, & I now outsource my email marketing campaigns with TDP. I also recently outsourced TDP to beautifully design an eBook about both my business & myself. Whilst I’m not even sure when I might need to use this yet, it’s been because of my smarter social media decisions that I actually now have time to think about getting things such as an eBook in place. So when the day comes that I need to present my business to a future client, influencer, or supplier I will have one ready to go! I work closely each week with private consultations with TDP to really keep my presence as strong as possible on social media. So I guess you could say that our relationship has had a very natural progression in the best possible direction. Plus, just quietly, … I think the girls are addicted to a little F+N in their everyday wardrobes!
Tell us about a recent social media success story you’ve had?
We recently collaborated with Claire Collected, & sent her some F&N product that we knew would look incredible on her. She took – quite possibly – the most beautiful series of photographs of her in F&N, & we subsequently attracted hundreds upon hundreds of new followers / sold out of everything that she was wearing, & basically … fell in love with Claire.
What’s your current favourite social media channel, & why?
Definitely Instagram! My followers are friendly, kind & funny! They generally get so excited about new arrivals. They are instant shoppers! A post usually almost always results in a sale, or a tag of a girlfriend who needs to know how fab our collections are. For me, IG is where my very large investment in professional photography is showcased so very beautifully in little colourful [… or as F+N is known for] monochrome squares. It’s where my personally handpicked product, styling & strong sense of practical, yet beautiful womenswear is showcased. Hopefully it’s the beautiful place that my customers love to go to for fashion & styling inspiration. Oh, … and a little purchase or two along the way.