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January 19, 2012 | 12:00 a.m. CST
Hannah Cusack, 21, gestures toward the door to her bedroom closet. It creaks, and the white paint is beginning to peel. “This is it,” she says. The closet opens to reveal about 30 hangers displaying white lace dresses and swingy crop tops. “We call it the Yan closet.”Related Articles
For Cusack, “Yan” isn’t just what her 3-year-old sister calls her. It’s also the name of the independent clothing line, Yan by Hannah Cusack, she cofounded with her friend and roommate Linzee Safron, 20.
The two MU juniors complement each other well. Cusack, a textile and apparel management major, has been sewing since high school. She handles much of the designing and pattern making — not to mention sewing each garment by hand. The business side of Yan falls to Safron, who was a marketing major before switching to strategic communication.
“I would always make stuff, just for myself,” Cusack says. “After a while, you might as well start making things for other people.”
Cusack and Safron began planning last February and launched the line’s Facebook page in early April. Together, they formulated a budget, registered Yan as a business with the state of Missouri, opened a company bank account and even ordered custom clothing tags.
“We would go to Hot Box Cookies a lot and have professional meetings,” Safron says with a laugh.
Although being college roommates is convenient, being college students isn’t. “Honestly, we picked the worst time to start because right when we were doing all of this stuff — and it was getting crazy — we had finals and projects due,” Cusack says, jumping in. “It was a really hectic time that we launched it all, but we were just excited.”
Cusack and Safron juggled full course loads, part-time jobs and internships, in addition to running Yan last fall.
“It’s really hard when you’re a student. You work, you go to class, and you get all this homework,” Cusack says. “You’re a lot busier than you think you’re going to be.”
But as students running their first business, part of the struggle is that most of the work is trial and error, Cusack says. That explains why a few changes have been made to Yan since its inception.
Originally, the two planned to create and sell five garments each season, but the business’ small size transformed its purpose. Cusack and Safron have decided to focus on custom work because many of their customers, who currently consist of family and friends, request them.
“Now, custom is what sells,” Safron says. “People want something that no one else is going to have, and they’re willing to spend the money on something they designed or helped pick out.” With this new focus and plans to publicize the line locally, the two hope to see growth in sales and profits.
Yan focuses on flirty, feminine pieces, and dresses are the biggest seller. Prices range from $30-100, depending on fabric and design. Shoppers can view Yan designs on their Facebook page for more information. “We haven’t really gotten to the point where we’re getting paychecks — we want to be at that point, but we haven’t grown enough to do that yet,” Cusack says. “Everything we make we’re putting back into the business.”