Trend-setting, memorable, and affordable: That’s how Towne & Reese Co-Founder and McIntire alum Christi Pack (McIntire '01) describes her company’s popular accessories. Her success story dates back to her time at McIntire, concentrating in Marketing and Management while she completed McIntire’s innovative undergraduate program. The keen interest and sharp knowledge that fueled her studies took the Virginia native to positions with top advertising agencies McCann and Grey Global Group for nearly half of a decade, before becoming a Marketing Manager with HanesBrands Inc., in Winston-Salem, N.C.
By 2007, the agency world lured her back. Pack took a position with BooneOakley in Charlotte, N.C., where she met fellow Account Manager Jessica Stanfield. The two shared a workspace and discovered that they both had entrepreneurial leanings and a love of fashion. Two years later, the pair formed a women’s fashion accessories business named after their daughters (Pack’s is Towne). Garnering attention from fashion magazines, online influencers, and TV shows, their unique line of jewelry took off and is now carried by retail locations throughout the United States and Canada.
We recently spoke to her about carving out a space in a crowded market, her career, and how McIntire impacted her professional accomplishments.
You used to be an advertising executive. How much of what you did in that position carries over into your work at Towne & Reese?
My advertising background played a significant role in Towne & Reese’s initial success. My business partner and I understood the importance of branding and marketing, so when we launched Towne & Reese, we presented ourselves as a very established, aspirational brand that customers gravitated towards. Much of what I did as an advertising executive, I still do daily. Instead of managing campaigns, I manage overseas production. Both involve working under deadlines, being able to multitask, and being very detail-oriented. Account managers must also build and maintain strong relationships with their clients, as I do now with our customers.
What does it take to maintain a successful brand in your area of economically priced jewelry?
It’s important to maintain an aspirational brand. We want our customers to walk away feeling like they’ve just received a $100 pair of earrings for $30. To make that possible, we must curate great quality and design while also maintaining great branding and marketing. This starts with our digital touchpoints (i.e., emails and website) and continues all the way through to product delivery—each item arrives in a branded zipper pouch, making each style and customer feel special. Social media and partnering with like-minded boutiques and brands also serve as important ways to create meaningful connections with customers.
The most critical piece of maintaining a successful brand, however, is staying on top of and ahead of design, production, business and consumer trends, and innovations. As those evolve, we have to adapt and then excel in those adjustments.
In what ways did you rely on your McIntire experience when you established your jewelry company?
Before launching the company, we worked through a significant amount of forecasting and budgeting in order to make smart decisions. Oftentimes, I felt like I was working on a case study at McIntire. The School teaches its students to be self-starters, so diving into starting a company and all the unknown factors that come with the territory was less intimidating than it would have otherwise been. I had the necessary confidence needed for this type of endeavor.
What’s surprised you most about starting and promoting your own company?
I think one of the biggest surprises is how quickly trends, industries, and economies can change and how businesses have to adapt to survive. We focused 100 percent of our business on consumers and independent retailers for the first several years. Since then, we have diversified, and now we do the majority of our business with department stores like Dillard’s and boxed subscription programs like Stitch Fix. When we first launched, boxed programs didn’t exist, and now this is a large and rapidly growing business. It will be interesting to see what the fashion and retail industry looks like in 5-10 years, and how we adjust ourselves accordingly.
Many new fashion-based company incorporate charitable elements, and Towne & Reese is no different. What do you think might set your philanthropic efforts apart from others in your industry?
Like a lot of brands, we love to give back whenever possible. We mainly focus our efforts on women and children’s charities, as these hold a special place in both of our hearts. While most philanthropic efforts may be monetary contributions, we particularly love the times when we’re able to use our jewelry as a charitable gift to lift someone’s spirits during life’s toughest moments.
Speaking of giving back, any advice could you give any current McIntire students interested in launching their own fashion start-ups?
Go for it! As the industry is rapidly changing, the opportunities are endless. But you must bring a strong work ethic and unrelenting drive to succeed. There will be ups and downs in your business, and times when you question what you’re doing. Don’t let them overwhelm you or overshadow what you’re working toward. While it’s very hard, it is also a very rewarding experience to own your own business. You won’t know how successful an idea can be unless you try!