Alyson Mull created #CatholicChic from a desire to build a community of modern Catholic women and to ignite their faith on a continuous basis. She rediscovered the joy, vivacity, and exhilaration of the Catholic faith at a small church in Savannah, GA – St. Benedict the Moor Catholic Church. Each week, she left Mass renewed and inspired. What could be better? She wanted others to experience these same verbs on a consistent basis, and she wanted to be a force that helped reignite the Catholic faith in other women like herself. In her search to make it happen, Alyson realized there was a striking lack of resources and products for modern, fashionable, Catholic women. Thus, #CatholicChic was born. Read our interview with the lovely Alyson below…
What motivated and inspired you to start your own business?
God. I’m not being sappy. I’m being literal. This was not something I had always dreamed about doing. I had this idea for about two weeks and just started moving ahead with it. I couldn’t think of any obstacles or reasons why it wouldn’t work or couldn’t happen. Then, as I was applying for my LLC at about 5:45pm one night, I realized I needed $500. I didn’t have $500 to spend. It was my first (and only) obstacle. I said a prayer in that moment, and it went something like this: “God, if you want me to do this, please let me know what to do or if I should start saving for it. If it is Your will, show me a way.” I kid you not… at 7pm that same night, my cell phone rang from a number I didn’t recognize. It was a man from an insurance company asking me if I had received my reimbursement check for $500 from an accident I had been in a year earlier. They were concerned because it hadn’t been cashed. I had not received it. He told me they would reissue it and mail it to me right away. Since that phone call, I have not ever questioned myself or this business. I have gone forward with confidence in and because of God.
Tell us about your business.
#CatholicChic is a subscription box for women who want to ignite their faith each month with fun & fashionable items for the mind, body, and soul. It is also a community of women who encourage, support, and pray for each other. They are linked together each month through prayer requests, called “Paper Prayers.” The requests are written on paper and mailed into #CatholicChic by women in the community. Then, one prayer request is included in each box for that month, strengthening and connecting the women together through prayer.
Are you currently running any promos/contests/giveaways that you would like our readers to know about?
Yes! We are running a special for the new year. Take 25% off any subscription plan. Use code: 2017.
Where is your business based?
Lombard, IL (Greater Chicagoland Area).
What were the first few steps you took to get your business up and running?
Being an online business, it was mostly about research. I wanted to make sure I wasn’t jumping into something that only had the ability to sustain itself for a few months. I laid out a plan for the first six months, and then asked myself if it had the ability to keep going. It did, so I got to work. Once I received all the paperwork making it official, I set up my website and social media channels a month before taking orders for the first subscription box.
What has been the most effective way of raising awareness of your business and getting new customers?
Social media. Hands down. We have had overwhelming response, especially from our Instagram followers.
What have been your biggest challenges so far?
Building a brand that connects to people without pushing them to buy… but still wanting them to buy! I have a M.S. in Integrated Marketing Communications, and using this with established brands is much easier. Building something from nothing, with zero brand recognition, is quite difficult.
How did you overcome these challenges?
To be honest, quite a bit of trial and error went into it. I’ve used Google Analytics from the start to understand what has worked and what has not worked. For example, I ran a giveaway on Instagram a few months ago, and I saw a spike in traffic to the website. I also gained a few extra subscriptions after the giveaway was over. My goal for the giveaway was to increase brand awareness, but it also resulted in conversions. Because of it, I will run another giveaway in the future, even with the brand gaining more stamina.
How do you keep motivated through difficult times?
Prayer. I also remind myself of why and how I started the business. I know there is a reason and a need for it.
How do you distinguish yourself from your competitors?
Distinguishing the business from the competitors was one of the original reasons for its creation. There are so many AMAZING Catholic businesses, groups, and blogs out there; however, most are targeting an older or much younger demographic. Many speak to married life, and some speak to youth. Young (18-35 year old) Catholic women don’t have many relatable platforms out there. I wanted to create a business through which this demographic could get excited about Catholicism and see that they are not alone. Most people do not equate Catholicism with “fun,” “modern,” “fashionable,” or even “exciting.” But it can be! As one of the women in the #CatholicChic community said… “Catholics need swag, too!” Amen. Hallelujah. That is our brand.
What is the best advice you have received recently?
I was told not to sell myself short… “to talk the talk because I already walked the walk.” This advice instantly reminded me of watching a TED Talk a few years ago about how it is natural for many women to downplay themselves and their successes under the disguise of modesty or humility. Understanding the difference between bragging and speaking of my accomplishments/my company with enthusiasm has been a true game-changer.
What advice would you give to other entrepreneurs?
Don’t be afraid of trial and error. That’s what you’re doing anyway! Also, people have told me that it’s OK to fail, and I’ve looked at them like they are crazy and that they must have plenty of money sitting around for those times of failure. I give that advice with a slight caveat… It’s OK to fail as long as you know how to pick yourself back up and can be assured that you won’t lose everything.
What is your favorite business tool or resource?
I would like to whisper this… Canva.
What social media outlets do you use? List them below.
What is a good article or book you have read recently?
It has absolutely nothing to do with my business, but I read “The Invention of Everything Else” a novel by Samantha Hunt, and I recommend it to EVERYONE!
What are you currently learning about for your business or looking for help with?
I am always looking for products to put in the boxes! I also feature a different Catholic-owned shop each month. I love to network and partner with other small businesses to discover ways we can mutually support each other.
What are your goals for the next few months and how are you striving to achieve them?
- I want to connect with more Catholic businesses. The cool part about the subscription box business is that you are also able to help others expand and get exposure for their businesses simply by putting their products in your box. There are some unbelievably talented and underrated business-owners out there, and I am striving to connect and talk with as many of them as possible.
- I want to start a consistent blog. I started talking to an incredible writer, Sarah Zentner, a few months back. I never guessed the conversation would turn in the direction it has, but she will be joining the team as our official blogger at the start of 2017. She has been the biggest blessing for the business thus far.