Drexel University - B.S. in Business Administration
Babson College - M.S. in Management/Global Entrepreneurship
After studying entrepreneurship in both her undergraduate and graduate classes, Erica Hession decided to put what she learned in the classroom to test with Reincarnation Outfitters, a costume and clothing boutique specializing in nature-inspired women’s wear. It quickly became her main focus as Erica found herself selling her product through booths at outdoor fairs, art shows, music and renaissance festivals and more.
Days can grow hectic when you're stocking inventory, balancing the books and making sales entirely on your own, but Erica points out it's hard to feel down when you're wearing a shimmery tutu and fairy wings. "I love putting little girls in pink tutus and reminding grown-ups to pay attention to their inner child," Erica says.
Rarely do we regret the things we’ve done, but we usually always regret the things we passed up the opportunity to do.
What inspired you to start Reincarnation Outfitters?
Reincarnation Outfitters originally began in 2008 as a partnership between myself and my housemate, Tabitha Siviy, a fashion designer. Our mission was to create unique, one-of-a-kind outfits using recycled fabrics.
In 2010, after graduating from Babson, I revisited the business concept and established a sole-proprietorship. I wanted to test the clothing in a real-world setting. I wanted to know what held true, what worked and what didn’t compared to what I learned in school. I also wanted to be able to keep up with my wandering nomadic ways. I love to travel.
What is it about your job that makes it the right fit for you?
This is a great fit for me because I like to think with both my analytical and creative brains. Navigating the business world appeases my analytical side, while exploring new product designs, developing new merchandise displays and even choosing new locations appeases my creative side.
Does your schedule change at any point during the year?
One of the things I love about Reincarnation Outfitters is that every day’s different! During spring and summer, the fair season shifts into high gear and I'm away from my home base for six to eight months straight! Of course, I bring my sewing machines on the road. After October, my show schedule slows down. Although I could look into Christmas and winter markets, right now, my products are more appropriate for warmer weather.
In the winter, I get caught up on things that slip when I’m on the road. I try to build up a surplus stock of inventory, work on new designs, update websites, etc. Or if I'm really lucky, I use the slow winter as a time to travel abroad. Just me, my backpack and an epic adventure.
What is the most rewarding part of your job?
My clothes are very adjustable. It’s really touching when a more buxom woman lets me dress her up, even though she thinks they won’t fit. I love seeing that same woman then delighted with the flouncy, fun way she looks—tutus create a remarkably flattering silhouette! But the most rewarding part is making a sale, and not because it brings in money. When a customer chooses to make a purchase with me, that tells me that out of all the wonderful and amazing things they've seen that day, they're choosing to spend their hard-earned money on my pieces that I’ve made by hand. I feel a lot of pleasure and respect for myself knowing that I worked so hard on that product. It’s a very honest, real and rewarding way to earn a living.
What challenges keep you awake at night?
No two festivals are the same, so I'm constantly revising my display to work with the resources I have. Knowing what to put outside the booth to catch the eyes of the customers and knowing how to group and display products within the booth can make or break a sale. It's especially hard to maintain a pleasing display while still protecting my products from the elements. Outdoor festivals are crushed on rainy days. Nobody wants to walk around in the rain and open-air tents aren’t the most weatherproof shelters.
Is work/life balance ever a problem with you? If so, what is one no-fail tactic you use to create balance?
For the most part, I’ve specifically designed my work and life to work together. That said, on busy weeks, I'll emerge on Friday night and realize I've been hunched over a sewing machine, hot glue gun and ironing board for 60+ hours that week. On those weeks, I make a resolution to get out more the next week and explore the place that I'm temporarily calling home. A good day hike always helps me find my center again.
Where do you see your company five years from now?
Growth is always a tricky subject with lifestyle businesses, because at some point your business will outgrow your lifestyle. I really love that my products are handmade in the United States and that I’m surrounded by people with similar values. I don't want to sacrifice that for growth. I would love to grow the costume business enough that I could justify hiring seamstresses to take some of the production pressures off my own shoulders, as well as hire sales help. Then I could be a vendor at more than one show at a time or free up my time to focus on other things, like exploring more opportunities for my travel blog.
Do you have a mantra to live by?
"Follow your heart." It’s smarter than we think it is.
What is a piece of parting advice do you have for our readers?
Give it a try! If you have an idea, a passion or anything you’d like to try, then do it. The worst that can happen is you fail and that’s OK. You're no worse off than if you hadn't tried at—and you'll probably be better off for having tried. No experience is wasted. Rarely do we regret the things we’ve done, but we usually always regret the things we passed up the opportunity to do. Above all, open yourself to trust, love and adventure.