At Behere, we travel often and are always looking for brands and products that are great for travel, and the world. That’s why we were excited to connect with a female founder giving back – and creating a brand with a philanthropic focus! We caught up with Elle Draper, founder of Lemonelle, to learn more about her initial idea for her company and how she’s giving back through her passion.
Elle shared her initial ideation for Lemonelle
“I’ve been sewing since I was very young (mainly self-taught), and I’ve always had an entrepreneurial mind. I moved to NYC right after college, and having studied/ practiced art and design my whole life. I knew I wanted a career in the creative space, but I didn’t have the guts to start something on my own until I had spent a few years working at and learning from other companies.
After two years working as a graphic designer at a female-founded startup, where I was creating relationships with hundreds of small unique retail brands, I realized I was ready to BE one of those brands. To initiate my creative brainstorm, I thought back to my childhood and the days I spent playing around on the sewing machine.
I dusted off my machine and started tinkering with small accessories, simple dresses, and scrunchies. I saw scrunchies coming back into the high fashion world, and that was the idea that I ran with. Like a mad scientist, I started creating scrunchies of all sizes and materials, testing out different elastics until I landed on the *perfect* pattern, which is the one I use for all my scrunchies now.
The name came next. I didn’t want to limit myself by putting ‘scrunchies’ into the brand name, so I thought back to the old adage, “When life gives you lemons, make lemonade” and ‘Lemonelle’ was born! Another reason I like the ‘lemon’ concept is the phrase can have different endings – lemonade is just one of many options.
Cool! Tell us more about the scrunchies
“Everything is made in the USA, and I hand-pick all the fabrics myself from a variety of sources. I choose fabrics that make sense for the season, and the product. I have to consider what material(s) will look and feel good even after they’re all cinched up. Stretch velvet works nicely and has been a popular style for fall and winter. I like satin/silk combos with beautiful prints, and for the summer collection I’m using a lot of fun spandex/swim-friendly fabric.
Recently, I’ve been designing my own *custom* fabrics (also manufactured in the US). Early on, I was sewing all the scrunchies myself, but once I had perfected the product design and packaging, I decided it was best to outsource production so I could spend more time on marketing and website design.”
Being a first time founder is never easy, Elle shared some of her journey
“Finding the right manufacturer is a trial and error process. I cold-called a long list of NYC based manufacturing studios, and found three different spots that agreed to do small batch production with my original pattern. After a few rounds with NYC based production, I decided the costs were a bit high, so I expanded my search into the rest of the US. I found a studio in Kentucky, and one in LA.
I still sew all the initial samples of each style myself when I first pick out the fabrics, but then I send the fabric to those production places for the rest. Everything is made in small batches because I think it’s special to create scarcity with limited editions. It also helps me figure out what my customers are drawn to the most.”
Not only does she hand-sew each initial sample, but Elle also focuses on having a social impact
“A portion of every sale goes towards a charity called Sew Powerful, an organization that teaches women in impoverished countries how to sew.
I chose to give back because I wanted my brand to have a social impact. Sew Powerful was my charity of choice because when I considered the skills that made it possible for me to start a company, sewing was top of mind. I realized how grateful I am to have been exposed to a sewing machine at such a young age. I want to give other women the opportunity to create things with the same versatile skill and hopefully enable them to provide for their families or themselves.
In certain cases, my donation will go towards another charity. For example, I collaborated with a musical artist, Anjali World, on a specific scrunchie style (a green one called ‘Nani’, based on her nickname). Anjali founded a non-profit called Jaws and Paws which aims to protect wildlife. The proceeds from the ‘Nani’ style go towards her organization, and I plan to expand my donations with other collaborations later.”
With so many hair accessories now, what makes Lemonelle unique?
“Oh so many reasons! The philanthropic aspect of Lemonelle is one piece of it, but also the product design and the whole brand-experience is different than most. The packaging is very thoughtful; each scrunchie comes in a small clear cylinder (a pillow shape for the three-packs) with a citrus candy (lemon!) because I want the ‘unboxing’ experience to be as special as the product.
Delighting the customer is really important in creating loyalty, so I also include a circular ‘thank you’ /informational card about the company and the cause within each package. The plastic containers can be repurposed as cute little catch-alls, and the aesthetic just feels more luxurious than the typical cardboard hanger that we see for most scrunchie displays. Each scrunchie style has a fun original name to suggest a more dynamic ‘story’ beyond the color, and in each scrunchie we sew a signature yellow satin ‘tab’ for an added flair and brand recognition.
As a solo female founder, I am quality assuring every single scrunchie before I send it out, and I produce all my own social media content/ website designs (for now).
Lemonelle is also very collaboration friendly! I’ve worked with a few other small brands to create cross promotional opportunities and make special ‘bundles’. For example, over the holidays I partnered with a cosmetic brand. We created a bundle where her lipstick color matched the Lemonelle scrunchie and sold it as a duo. I have more exciting collaborations in the works too.”
And of course, why are Lemonelle scrunchies so great for travel?
“They are debatably the best travel accessory! They fit anywhere, they’re light as a feather (won’t weigh down your suitcase) and they’re incredibly versatile. Scrunchies can be dressed up or down, and unlike certain jewelry they won’t get impossibly tangled up in your travel bag.
They’re also comfortable and beneficial for hair-health. Regular hair-ties can cause split ends and unwanted kinks; scrunchies are gentle on your locks and, in my opinion, way more fun. They can be worn on the wrist like a bracelet, or in an updo for an effortless flair.
They’re perfect as travel GIFTS too; I’ve gotten amazing feedback from customers who have gotten Lemonelle as bachelorette party gifts or a bridesmaid goodies. Suitcase-caused fabric wrinkles are a non-issue as well. I never go anywhere without my scrunchies!”