By Kalani Dantley
A few years ago, Jessica Couch and Brittany Hicks didn't know each other. Now they are business partners.
Couch and Hicks met in 2017 and together they founded Fayetteville Road, a fashion technology consultancy aimed at women in color. The Durham and Raleigh, NC locals had both worked in fashion technology and unexpectedly met on LinkedIn and found they had the same business goals.
Through their previous experiences, they soon realized that in fashion technology they didn't have enough access to women with color and tried to create a more inclusive experience.
With this in mind, they founded their company in 2018 with the name as an allusion to their beloved hometowns.
"We found that many of the women who are goalkeepers in the fields we've all worked in and who are trying to build our careers are women of color, especially black women," said Hicks, who has a degree in supply chain Owns management of North Carolina A&T and most recently worked at Amazon Fashion.
"We just didn't have that visibility to see where they were positioned in their companies and what they were driving and driving in the industry back then."
The first brunch
Couch and Hicks didn't originally plan to start a business. The two wanted to facilitate the dialogue about fashion technology and held a brunch for 35 women of color who worked on site at Ludlow House in New York in 2018.
The duo thought the brunch would become an opportunity for participants to collaborate and brainstorm. But it also developed into a networking opportunity where women hugged, hugged, and discussed business with one another.
Hicks and Couch wanted to have brunch in as many cities as possible.
"There's just one big gap between all women of color in this space and the way they can communicate with each other," said Couch, who started her own fit technology company, Luxor + Finch Consulting, which focuses on it Bringing people together products through technology integration.
"We have connected so many wonderful, amazing women," she added.
The following year, the couple hosted nine events in five different cities, each time improving the tenor of the brunch.
The success of the brunch eventually paved the way for the official formation of Fayetteville Road, and the two have spent the last three years building the brand.
Jessica Couch, Co-Founder of Fayetteville Road, Photo Credit: Fayetteville Road
What exactly is fashion technology?
Fayetteville Road helps brands and retailers match people with products using best practices and technology to create customer experiences for women with color and niche consumers.
The company achieves this by matching employees one-on-one with a product.
"The current missing part in the industry is for companies to make as many products as they want because they are trying to overshoot rather than focus on niches and create what is needed," said Couch, who holds a master's degree in digital innovation and Fit from Cornell.
Couch also said that the supply and demand balance in many areas of retail, beauty, fashion and consumer goods is unbalanced and relies on centralized, archaic production practices that are not centered on the consumer. In return, Fayetteville Road must focus on its technology in order to successfully customize the product.
The two rely on data mining, intelligent feedback loops, and in-depth analysis to achieve their goals. They provide the opportunity to talk to customers, listen, and use technology to gain valuable insights and critical information for actionable steps.
"A lot of technologies don't mimic actual behavior," said Couch. "The technology we are implementing is literally there to facilitate actual behavior, collect data and give the consumer a voice."
From there, Fayetteville Road works to create custom solutions that help create those innovative experiences and align people with products.
"We create bespoke solutions for our customers so everything we do really looks at a specific problem or issue that customers, brands and retailers have," said Hicks, who partnered North Carolina A&T and Amazon in 2018 it carried on promises to support diversity.
"All of these touchpoints in our ecosystem allow us to understand who the customer is in very niche and specific ways, and it helps us develop mechanisms by which brands can specifically connect with their customers," she added.
These tailor-made solutions characterize Fayetteville Road. The couple create a new trail by forcing companies to understand niche markets with an emphasis on diversity. Whether it's a variety of races, genders, or thoughts, Fayetteville Road makes it unlike any other business.
Tips for finding a compatible partner
Finding someone to start a business with can be a little tricky. But Couch and Hicks found out.
The most important components of their partnership are their complementary skills and their unified vision. They believe women of color need access to lawyers to work with.
Couch has been an entrepreneur since 2010 and has authored nearly 100 articles highlighting retail gaps. She has also advised companies, brands, and retailers on fit technology.
"As an entrepreneur, there were certain qualities that I understood about innovating, testing products, and mapping people to products," Couch said. "I may be more inclined to take more risks, but working with companies requires a less risky approach to problem-solving."
Hicks has more corporate merchandising experience at large companies, including Amazon, where she has worked with and advised major brands across the industry.
"We have completely different ways of working and problem-solving, and even the way we manage and build relationships are different," said Hicks. "But I think the beauty of it is that there is no challenge that we cannot meet and we both have the humility to postpone each other."
Brittany Hicks, Co-Founder of Fayetteville Road, Photo Credit: Fayetteville Road
Advice on starting a consulting agency or small business
Couch and Hicks are in their third year of partnership. And while the two have many years ahead of them, they already have some wisdom to share with those considering starting a business.
Entrepreneurship can be challenging, but the two have focused on being humble and staying patient.
"Do more than what you get paid to first," said Couch. "You will need a proof of concept, a proof of aptitude, and not despise those humble beginnings. Do it, try to be grateful for it and then learn to say no."
Hicks said, “Be patient and whatever you consider for your runway or timeline, just go ahead and double that. It will take more time than you think to get your first customer. It will take more time than you think to complete this first project, and so on. Everything takes more time than expected. "
Meet Jessica Couch & Brittany Hicks: The Duo That Create a Space for Women With Color in Fashion Tech, first appeared in Home Business Magazine.