Finding Founders of Anomalie Leslie and Calley Means - Helping women find a wedding dress just as unique as they are
Anomalie is the best idea to happen to brides since the wedding planner. You're engaged, YAYYAYAYYAYYYAY! So begins the elephant planning of your big celebration. And one of the staples of bridal lists is THE DRESS. Say you've tried on multiple dresses. You like the bust on one, the backlessness on another and perhaps the train of another. As I've learned, wedding dress shopping with a friend of mine, THIS becomes a major problem. I found most brides like 80 percent of their dress with "wishes" that a few details are a tad different. Sound familiar? ENTER Anomalie. They essentially cut out the middle people and started helping brides design their own dresses for a FRACTION of the price creating a unique cat-walk down the aisle. And to enhance the romance the company is founded (only a year ago I might add) by husband and wife, Leslie and Calley. SWOOOON.
You guys noticed an antiquated way of purchasing a dress and decided to change this. Tell me in your own words about Anomalie.
Anomalie came directly out of my personal pain points with wedding dress shopping. During my engagement in 2016, I couldn't find a dress that fit my size, style or budget. I was surprised that in an age where I buy almost everything online, 95% of wedding dresses were still sold in brick and mortar boutiques with insane markups, limited selection, and almost no transparency into the process.
Serendipitously, I stumbled upon a city that makes the majority of the world's wedding dresses and saw firsthand that dresses which sell for thousands in the U.S. boutiques costs mere hundreds to make. I made my dress in one of these workshops and was soon contacted by many other brides who wanted a more transparent, customizable wedding dress experience.
Over the past year, Anomalie has built an incredible team and been so lucky to work with women around the country to create custom dresses for such an important day.
How many dresses have you produced so far?
We just entered our second year of operation and are on track to deliver thousands of dresses this year.
What has been your biggest challenge?
A. To start this particular sort of e-commerce business (think no store and not all customers get to meet you)
Our biggest challenge is straightforward but also incredibly complicated: To build technology and processes to deliver an incredible experience and custom dress to every bride.
In regard to the question about difficulties of not having a store, there is an assumption in the industry that the wedding dress needs to be purchased in-store (which is why 95% of them still are). Our insight is that an online-first experience for a top-quality custom dress isn't only possible, it actually has some benefits over brick-and-mortar. Through our model, we're able to tap into a supply chain with nearly endless possibilities and give brides transparency into every step of the process.
B. Working together as husband and wife?
I think the challenges we face are what every founding team faces: we have found communication, role definition, and modulating emotions through the inevitable roller coaster are table stakes for success and things we work on every day :)
This was not the lowest stress way to start a marriage - there is never a time where we turn "off." But after taking the plunge, we couldn't imagine doing anything else. Launching a company stretches and tests you in amazing ways, and it is special experiencing this together.
Some of the most successful startups not have husband/wife team (ThirdLove, Houzz), and I think we'll see an increasing amount. I really identify with Paul Graham's insight that the best way to increase chances of success for a startup is to eliminate any backups plans, and that's doubly true for a married couple! We feel a significant obligation to deliver for the incredible customers who put trust in us!
Obviously you cracked the code because you just celebrated your one year and it seems like business is cascading in. You must be doing something right! How many people are working for you now?
We have a team of over 20 incredible women (plus Calley) between San Francisco and Hong Kong.
What where the both of you doing prior to designing custom dresses for ladies in love?
Calley and I never expected to launch a company together, but we've found that both from a personality + skills standpoint, we have complementary skills.
I've spent my entire career in product development and supply chain management. I received a mechanical engineering degree and Duke and went to work for Nike (my lifelong dream). At Nike, I managed factories throughout Vietnam, Korea, China and Indonesia (where I lived for two years). In 2013, I attended Harvard Business School (where I met Calley). While there, I was one of the first employees at M. Gemi (direct to consumer luxury shoe company) where I helped set up their supply chain in Italy. I then went to work for Apple, where I discovered the idea for Anomalie while in China overseeing production of the Apple Watch.
Calley brings more marketing and business operations experience. He started his career in politics (traveling with John McCain on the 2008 campaign), and spent his early career advising companies and startups on high-stakes public affairs/communications issues. He's launched several companies and managed operations teams at several startups including Zenefits.
And looking ahead what is one of your main business focuses this year? Any company launches or surprises you can give us a hint of or elude to?
A blessing and a curse of being a startup founder is there are a ton of ideas of where we should take the business. A big area people talk about is other product categories. We have made the decision to laser focus on wedding dresses for the near future - this is the most important/emotional garment a woman buys, and also the most broken industry.
Our goal over the next year is to give an incredible experience and dress to as many women as possible, while continuing to fortify our technology and processes for scale so we can make the industry more pro-bride.
Last but not least - I am a photographer shooting for companies like you. What kind of impact do good images have on your business?
Great images are existential for an e-commerce business in our business. We don't have a store, so connecting with customers visually through our website and Instagram is crucial. We are so lucky to have professional wedding pictures come from our events, and think our brides are by far our best models.
We have also been so lucky to partner with talented photographers like you and Reny Preussker (also an Anomalie bride!) to capture images of our team and office.
Do you instagram? Facebook? Twitter? Blog?
Follow us on Instagram and Facebook! We are constantly posting new pictures of Anomalie brides and updates from our office + workshops.
How many hours a week are you "working"?
With the exceptions of a weekend wedding or Vegas trip, we're working nonstop and loving it.
Biggest meal of the day?
Inspired by Warren Buffet, Calley and I stop at McDonald's for breakfast on our walk to work almost every day.
How do you get to work every day?
For the first 9 months of the company, getting to work involved walking downstairs because the business was run out of our loft in Lower Pac Heights. We recently moved into an office on Hayes and Octavia (6 block commute) - come say hi!
Where do you go to for creative or business inspiration?
Our customers - we are so lucky to speak to hundreds of incredible women every month and are amazed by their creativity. We also have a business where we can constantly innovate/improve our processes based on customer feedback. I also love home decorating / organization and always find great ideas on Pinterest.
Most used app this week?
Seamless/Caviar - I used to love cooking but don't have time now!
Last item you purchased?
Another batch of The Ordinary skincare (I'm obsessed with their scientific approach and it's SO cheap. My favs are the Retinoid 2% Emulsion and Niacinamide/Zinc serum.)
Thank you BOTH for taking time to let me cruise through your studio and chat the revolution of wedding dresses. Excited to watch the next turn in your already BOOOOMING company!
Summer Wilson - Creative Director and Photographer of Battle Cry
Photo by John Thatcher