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April 25, 2024 12 mins
Melissa Mash Co-founder & CEO, Dagne Dover | CEOs You Should Know
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Welcome to if CEOs. You shouldknow Today I have the pleasure of sitting
down with Melissa Mash, the cofounder and CEO of Dagney Dover. So
excited to have you. Thank youfor having me. I'm a fan of
the brand, But for our listenerswho may not be too familiar, can
you give us an overview on whatyou do and your products. Sure,
Dagney Dover is a performance based accessoriesbrand, and what we do is we

try to make products that are reallyorganized and help you feel put together,
make you feel really confident for whateverthe day throws at you. So,
whether it's a baby bag, agym bag, a work bag, a
fanny pack running around town, youknow, Dagney has you covered. And
I feel like that's exactly what Iget when I go to your website and
I look at the brand. Whatyou may not know, Melissa, is
before I was in media, Iworked in the fashion industry and I was

in wholesale, so I know howcompetitive and challenging the industry is, especially
when it comes to handbags. Thefact that you've broken through the clutter and
created this brand is incredible. Canyou tell us a little bit about your
journey and how you got to whereyou are now. I used to also
work in the fashion industry. Iworked as a coach. I was also
on the wholesale side. Lots ofsimilarities there, but you know, so

I managed and grew sort of brickand mortar wholesale businesses and then helped launch
a wholesale e commerce channel at CoachAnd in my last role, I was
brought to the UK where I wasput in charge of turning around its first
European and UK location at Heathrow Terminalfive. And it was through that experience
of speaking with customers every day inthe terminal and really looking at what was
kind of like a micro you know, microcosm of all the long standing European

brands. Of course there was alsoMichael Kors. There was to me,
everyone was on the terminal, andyet people were coming to our store looking
for something that didn't already exist.They wanted something that could flex between the
various parts of their day, whetherthey were running to catch a flight,
going to meetings, going to thegym, going to work, dinner,
and look appropriate for all of thoseoccasions, while also making sure that their

tech was protected, whether they werecarrying a laptop, an iPad, a
tablet, a phone or two phones, et cetera. And they had like
a lot of bottle in their bagand they didn't want it to tip over
and ruin their thousands of donars orof tech. And there are all these
problems that I was hearing every daywith no brand that was addressing them.
And this was two thousand and nineat the time, and digitally needed brands
had just started to become a thing, and I wanted to create one that
was really generationally appropriate, irrelevant forthe lifestyle that we were living, where

again, we were carrying all thistech, but we wanted something that could
be cool and flex between these differentparts of our multifasted days. And I
also wanted to create a brand wherethe products didn't have to be five hundred
to one thousand plus dollars in orderto get a high quality bag. And
because of my experience having worked atanother reputable bag brands, I knew that
it was very much possible to createa high quality product. And again,

if you didn't have all these veryexpensive wholesale partners and other sort of capecks
that you're putting towards all these storesthat are not even necessarily making money all
the time. You could pass thatsavings onto the customer and provide a really
high quality product at a very sharpprice point. Wow, your lines,
your product, I mean you seeit out and abound, and just the
quality is there. My sister inlaw this weekend she brought her diver bag

and it was dagnied over and justthe neoprene fabric. You spell a bottle,
you spell something, and it typicallyhave to chuck your bag. Yours
is just so useful and sustainable.So kudos to you for creating. SA's
an incredible line. What advice wouldyou give to somebody who's trying to figure
it all out right now? There'sa lot of advice to give. I
think that first of all, ifyou are interested in entrepreneurship, I think
just starting small is really important anditerating off of that. You don't have

to have the best idea or theperfect idea or something like that. You
just need to start getting into thehabit of being able to figure out things.
So, for example, say thatyou want to start a business.
You don't have a great idea,but you're like, you know what,
I make these really cool earrings.I'm going to sell them on Etsy.
Just through that experience of understanding customerservice and understanding pricing and understanding what your

assortment otso look like what are theones that you have a higher margin on,
You're going to learn so much aboutLike, Okay, the next time
around, when I have the greatidea or how this, however this evolves,
I'm going to know how to doit better. And so I think
that sometimes people get really caught upand they think that like they have to
have some billion dollar idea, butthe truth is that they just need to
start somewhere and it's going to evolveso much. Also, you know,

you might think that you're you're interestedin selling one thing, whether it's a
service or a product, but thenyou may find out that there's actually all
this opportunity in this completely different marketfrom that experience of speaking with customers.
So for us, we had surveyedand focus Grip one thousand women and men
to begin with to make sure thatwe were really making products that hit on
people's biggest handbag frustrations and bag frustrations. So we would literally measure the what

we call the drop length of thedistance between the top of a handle as
it's sitting on your shoulder and whereit hits below, so that you could
make sure that you were putting abag over your shoulder even if you were
wearing a heavy winter coat, andthat it would not be a friction full
you know. That's a but likeyou know, all those tiny little moments

are like moments of like, ohthis feels right versus like, oh this
is annoying, you know, Andthere's so many different pieces of a bag
that that applies to it really isa big deal. You want to be
able to put it on, Youwant to feel comfortable, You want to
feel secure and safe with what youhave and your belong is. That is
genius And I feel like that's justsuch a thoughtful approach to creation and probably
a real testament onto why you wereable to cut through the clutter and really

build this brand that has become soprominent. Yeah, I think thoughtfulness is
the word that comes to mind interms of everything that we do, in
terms of how my co founders andI, you know, put in workplace
policies, in terms of how wedesign products, in terms of who we
interact with, in terms of ourpartners and who we want to associate ourselves
with that's amazing kind of leaning intothat a little bit and leaning into your

staff. I feel like you hadthis growth being at coach and then growing
into your own brand and being afemale founder. What do you have in
place to kind of help growth withinyour own company and take those who are
just starting their careers to the nextlevel. We definitely promote people from within.
I think that a lot of levebrands at our stage and our peers
tend to like to. First ofall, they definitely, you know,

raise a lot of money and areinto hiring guns, you know, to
come in and just get the jobdone. And that's never been how we
operate. You know, we're acompany that has raised comparatively a lot less
money definitely by design, but alsowe believe in investing and promoting people from
within and giving them the tools tobe able to go into senior leadership roles.
At this point, we have Ithink four or five vps. Half

of them started as interns with us, and it was just about that they're
a capable person, they are ableto take this, have complete ownership of
it, prove themselves and why wouldwe give that role to someone else or
give you a promotion to someone elsewhen they've been building with us since day
one, So I'd say promoting fromwithin is definitely a big one. Another
one is that we support all parents, whether it's people who are giving birth,

whether it's those who are not,and making sure that we have a
parental lead policy that supports equal parenting. So we have three months of full
paid leave of being completely offline.We have another three months that's part time.
You're integrating back into some meetings,but you're still able to be present
for us with your child, doctor'sappointments, just general bonding. And the

idea is that if we want tomake sure that we're creating a company that
really is a new standard of whatcorporate America ought to be like and feel
like and look like, then thatmeans that, of course our workplace policies
have to be able to promote equalparenting as well too. So those are
just a couple examples of what wedo to support women. It's so important
I have an eighteen month old youare in it is that I am in

the thick of it, and honestly, I had no idea until I became
a mom like what that entails butlike to be honest, I think sometimes
it's looked upon women having children asit could be a disservice to their career.
But if anything, I feel likeI'm better at my job with having
a child. So the fact thatyou lean into that and you understand that
this is game changing. Anyone listeningright now, this is a game changer,
and this is someone who's setting thetone and something we should all look

at and we should all embrace becausethat's the direction that it should be going
in and starting this company, wewere so excited to of course create a
brand that has products that really solvespeople's problems. But at the same time,
there was so much that we sawin our corporate backgrounds of what needs
to be fixed in the workplace andwhat leadership ought to look like. If
your company is selling seventy percent ofits products are being sold to women,

if you're if if seventy percent ofthe people who work there women, why
are all leadership men? That's amajor disconnect, you know, and that's
not a very motivating environment for us, as you know, young women in
our twenties to see. And also, if you can't have a family without
being penalized but you know, that'sa very strong message that you're sending to
your employees. So for us,it's always been really important that we're that
we're supporting our staff and not justthe norm, you know, not just

what the average experience is, buttruly everyone on the tabe that's inspiring.
Sure. So I know I mentionedbefore my sister in law and her bag
and the state and sustainability and howit's just I mean, it's it's the
bag that keeps on giving, especiallyin that realm of diaper bags where you
go through like one, I feellike every month, tell me a little
bit about your favorite bag, orlike the differences and nuances in your product.

There's so many to choose from.I know, it's like telling you
to take your favorite child right andjust to like choose, just to like
give a moment to the indie diaperback that you're talking about, because we're
certainly not only a diaper bag brandy, but a lot of people get to
know us through the indie and thatis a very good depiction of what we
do and why it's so successful.It comes with all the bells and whistles.
It anticipates your needs before you evenrealize you need them. It comes

with the the diaper bag straps sothat you can attach it to a stroller.
It comes with a changing you know, a little a little changing pad
inside, so if you don't wantto buy an extra one, there's there's
one there. It comes with alittle shoe bag. But also you just
put all the spilled on gross thingsthere because of course that's going to be
geppen on top of all of thedifferent key leashes for either your own personal

things or binkies to attach to it, and of course it works for you
after also you're out of the phaseof needing to use it exclusively as a
diaper bag too, so of courseit's protecting all the tech, whether it's
iPads for children or whether it's youknow, your own laptop. There are
multiple spaces for your own water bottlesor baby bottles, and it's really just
a one stop shop and that's reallywhat we what we hope to do through

all of our products. In termsof our My favorite, the Indian is
fantastic. Plenty people who don't havechildren carry it. I love the Ace
fanny pack. That's something that Iwear almost every day. It's just on
my body. Even when I'm driving, it's like there I'm pulling out my
chapstick, you know, like it'sa seamless experience. I also love the
Maraphone sling. That's a small ones. Really it's really again something very small

and it doesn't even feel like you'rewearing anything. I also love the Sloane
water bottle holder. It is sonot just for a water bottle, but
it's just like the perfect shape ofa cross body to carry exactly what you
need and a water bottle and thenof course the land and carry all.
That's what you see at the airport. I mean, if you look on
any flight here in the US,you'll probably find two to three of them
on any flight, yep. Andit's just a huge duffel that you can

convert into, you know, alarger tot if you need more space.
Of course it's a cross body aswell, and it's just soft and it's
beautiful and it has all the pockets. So I'd say, those are my
face amazing again, fan of thebrand. Such a great brand. Is
there anything else you would love ourlisteners to know or anything you want to
dive into? Something that people haveoften brought up in the past has been

like, oh, like how doyou marry like fashion with function? Like
how do you make something that's sopractical also like really visually appealing? And
I think that, honestly, thatconcept of those two things going together has
been very foreign up until at leastin the backspace, up until we came
around, and maybe some other playerstoo, and we even in our early
days we had like a Shark Tankpitch session where one of the people said,

like, oh, but but dofashionable women really want to carry like
do they really care about being organized? As if like those things are completely
incompatible And obviously that's ridiculously ridiculous organization. Just because it hasn't existed, it
hasn't been focused on up until thatpoint in time, doesn't mean that there's
not a huge market, you know. So, I think in general,

just because it hasn't been done orisn't popular now doesn't mean that that there
isn't a huge opportunity to pursue anidea and see how it resonates and see
how product market fit response response isvery cool. I was a fan of
the brand before having this conversation,but now I'm an advocate for the brand.
I think the way you talk aboutyour team, the way you talk
about women, the way you talkabout the product. It is and I'm

going to use this word again.It's inspiring and it's refreshing. So with
that, thank you so much forsitting down with us today. This is
another episode of CEOs you should know. For those of you that are looking
for a new bag or looking toone to add to your collection, please
check out Dagney Dover. Obviously youheard from Melissa firsthand on the quality,

the thoughtfulness, and everything that doesgo into creating this incredible female co founded
brand. Thank you so much forjoining us today. We really appreciate it
and wish you the best of luckand continued success. Thank you so much
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