Hannah Fastov, Founder of Dash Dot
We met Hannah through her mom at Capsule AW 2017 this year. I was quickly attracted to bag design and that was when Melissa, Hannah's mom, shared these wonderful insights about the brand and her amazing daughter.
Every mom is the same - saying how truly their kid is. Well, when we met Hannah, she was definitely worth the hype. A lovely young lady who had a problem and found a creative solution. Read about her #GIRLBOSS Spotlight on how she got started today!
What did you want to be when you grow up?
My Fifth Grade Yearbook says I wanted to be a Tennis Pro, and clearly that didn't happen. In 10th grade I went on a family vacation and after returning to our hotel in the evening, I discovered Project Runway on TV - and fell in love. My Grandma graduated from FIT and worked in the industry, so Art and Fashion were things I knew and liked. But watching Project Runway was it - oh my gosh, I need to do this! I started to take classes at FIT on the weekends in High School and tried to figure out which direction to follow. I wasn’t sure of exactly what I wanted to do, but I knew I wanted to do something in the art and design space.
Can you elaborate how you got into your day-job doing project development?
When I was applying to college, I immediately thought, fashion school. But then, you know - I went from wanting to become a tennis player to a fashion designer; clearly I change my mind very quickly. I didn't want to pigeon-hole myself so instead, I attended a liberal arts college and gave myself the opportunity to figure out what I really wanted to do.When I graduated and began my job search, my mother suggested merchandising. I found a job in Marketing, and I did that for a year – but I didn't like it. Then, I was really lucky to move into merchandising at Brooks Brothers. The merchandising role at Brooks Brothers was very unique - it was merchandising and product development so I really got my hands wet in development, which is where I found my passion and what I love doing. I then moved to my current company, which focuses on product development. My experiences in marketing, merchandising and product development gave me the skills I needed to create, develop, market and merchandise a product. When I discovered that I needed a better way to carry all of my “stuff” for a full day of work, exercise and going out with friends, I knew exactly what I needed to do and began to work on developing my line of lifestyle bags.
What inspired to create your brand, Dash Dot?
The full name is actually dash dash dot dash dash dash, which is morse code for "Go." Basically, living in the city, going out with my friends, going to the gym - I always had five bags with me. I hated it - I felt like The Bag Lady. I was always running and always sweating on the subway. I knew I had to do something to make my life easier.
I created a survey asking a few basic questions - I didn't ask what people want in their gym bag - more what they want in their life bag. I got over a hundred responses, all of which helped inform the development of my product line.
The concept of my products is basically a bag that will allow you to Go. Going on an adventure, going to work, going to the gym - doing all the above. You are ready for anything and everything - so that is where the name came from. And that is how I started my company.
What is your design inspiration?
In the survey - I asked if people prefer a Tote or a Backback and the results were 50/50. Well that was no help, so I went with the tote because I that is what I like to carry, and it has a more professional look for the office.
I wanted to design the tote with a cool, edgy, and modern look, yet classic vibe. If you're in a pantsuit from work and running to a client dinner, you feel stylish and elevated wearing your bag. If you are going for drinks after an evening work out, you feel trendy and up to date while carrying all of your belongings from a busy day at the office and gym. There are different compartments for key items like your shoes, yoga mat, laptop, and make up. The bag has a lot of cool features and a washable laundry bag for your sweaty clothes.
However, since so many people have asked for a backpack, we now have a backpack, with all the same great features, which will be launching in June 2017.
I don’t want to be just another gym bag company. Part of my mission is to work to empower women so all of my bags are produced by women on the assembly line. We have also partnered with different women’s cooperatives across the globe. The coops provide women with the opportunity to develop skills, establish financial independence, and build confidence. The South Tribe makes Kyrgyzstan crafts tassels that you can buy to accessorize our handbags. Sherab, a young woman in Bhutan, weaves belts for dresses, but we use them for bag straps. You can purchase these additional hand-woven straps to personalize your bag. We have given Sherab so much work that she has hired some of her friends to help her meet our demand for more of her beautiful straps. We give them a lot of creative control and that is part of the fun.
How do you live a balanced-life with having a day-job and launching an empowered brand?
It is definitely a challenge every day. I wake up and just want to cry and scream. Sometimes, I want to quit, but I've gotten this far and I can't stop now. You have to prioritize and use your time effectively. You can't just lie on the couch and say to yourself, “eh, I'll do it tomorrow.” It just doesn't happen. If you don't do it, no one will do it. It has definitely been a challenge. In the beginning, I was super motivated, but the work has been increasing so it is getting harder. However, I am so lucky - my mom has offered to help me and work with me and she is now my COO.
She is part of what keeps me motivated. If I don't do something, then she will have to, and that makes me feel badly. I don’t want to leave too much to her. However, she, and my family, have been a tremendous support and I love what I am doing. At this point, I really don't have a balance between work and social life. It is finding balance between this job and my day-job, but that's okay. We all go through different phases, and this is just the phase I am in now.
What is your advice for aspiring entrepreneurs and designers?
Definitely, don't think - just do. Because I feel like every time I've tried to plan something, I would end up saying forget this and doing something else. What works for me is to just go for it and follow my dream, Don't take "No" for an answer and you can't take it personally - it's so easy to be hard on yourself as everything you do means so much to you. You have to be tough and strong to weather the rejections.
What is next for you and Dash Dot?
What's next? For me, I would say, doing this full-time. For the brand, seeing the bag randomly on the street, carried by people I don't know. Essentially, I want to change the way people live on-the-go. I want to be the bandaid of on-the-go living. So when you say "Dash Dot" people would think lifestyle bag and say something like, "Oh the gym bag?" or "Oh the travel bag."
Interviewed by Chary + Emily