Milan Harris knows a thing or two about maintaining the faith while working to build a brand from the ground up.
As the CEO and founder of Milano Di Rouge, The Womanaire Club, and the Mamanaire Club, Harris has envisioned a future of wealth and abundance not only for herself but for those around her and the Black community as a whole.
Making Dreams Reality
The luxury streetwear brand, which translates to “Making Dreams Reality” in French, started with Harris selling T-shirts out of the trunk of her car in her hometown of Philadelphia, PA.
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What’s more, rather than filling up her own pockets when her Milano Di Rouge brand began to pick up traction, Harris recalls some of the vital business lessons she learned along the way.
After a client walked away from the warehouse that Harris was operating from because he felt it was unsafe, the Philly native took it as a lesson to move her business further into the future.
“Because of his reaction, it made me realize like, ‘Okay, it’s time for us to get a store because this is not the best environment,’” Harris told AFROTECH. “In 2016 we opened our first brick-and-mortar. In 2017, I moved to Los Angeles. I knew that I did not want to work in my store. I didn’t want a mom-and-pop shop. I knew that I really wanted to grow my brand.”
Prior to the move, Harris wrote herself her last paycheck and placed it in her Bible to prepare for what was to come in terms of the success she believed her brand could achieve.
Maintaining The Faith
“I put it in my Bible and I said, ‘I’m not gonna pay myself. I’m gonna literally grow my team,’” the entrepreneur said. “So, that’s when I started to grow and hire different people to expand my brand. I moved to Los Angeles in 2017 to carry the vision even further.”
The move out West came with an even higher demand for Harris. It was the first time that she was away from Philadelphia, which was responsible for 80% of her Milano Di Rouge sales.
On the other hand, 20% of the sales were being made online, and she took this as an opportunity to leverage social media promotion, ultimately exceeding the first money goal she put in place for her business.
“Instead of us doing $30,000 in sales, we ended up doing $50,000,” Harris explained. “From there, I was like, ‘I need us to be selling more online than in-store.’ And I just continued to have sales goals and come up with different social media strategies.”
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An influx of sales increased the demand for Milano Di Rouge.
It also gave Harris insight into the ups and downs of running a business.
Lessons Learned Along The Way
“The biggest lesson that I learned early on was the H&M situation,” Harris said.
As she was looking to scale by launching various products like sweatshirts and T-shirts, Harris was purchasing things from wholesalers and placing the Milano Di Rouge logo on the products to continue to push for brand visibility.
An idea to do the same for collared shirts backfired.
“We wanted to go into button-up shirts,” Harris explained. “We were buying it from the wholesalers, but we could not find the perfect fashion fit and the quality that I would wear, so I started to buy them from H&M and place our logo on them.”
For Harris, this dug more into her pockets than she liked because the cost was roughly three times higher than purchasing them from wholesalers.
“I was spending more money, but I wanted to provide our customers with a quality experience and a quality product,” she said.
After consumers quickly discovered that the shirts were coming from H&M, Milano Di Rouge went viral — and not for the reason Harris had hoped.
“It was a big deal and it was a big lesson to me because I didn’t look at Milano Di Rouge as big as everyone else looked at it,” she shared. “It was a lesson for me because it was something that I did not want to be exposed, but in hindsight, it was a blessing.”
She continued: “The blessing was, it taught me what I needed to fix. I took the criticism constructively and fixed the problem. From that point, all of our stuff began to get manufactured.”
Today, as previously reported by AFROTECH, Milano Di Rouge is a million-dollar company, recently hitting $60 million in direct-to-consumer sales.