Meet your neighbor... Ingrid Sarver, owner of Talaria Flats
DARIEN — The daughter of a lawyer and dentist who both had their own businesses, Ingrid Sarver knew what her goal was growing up.
“Being a business owner was my long-term goal,” Sarver said.
Sarver, who moved to Darien last year, is the founder of Talaria Flats, a shop that specializes in foldable ballet flats.
The 30-year-old Michigan native tells about her finance trajectory and venture as an entrepreneur.
You’re from Michigan. How did you come to the East Coast? Darien?
I went to Georgetown University, my first foray into the East Coast. I graduated in 2009 and instead of going back to Michigan, I went to New York City to work at a hedge fund for three years and then went to NYU Business School. New York City was great for fashion and e-commerce. My husband and I had a daughter and moved to Darien a year ago.
Since moving to Fairfield County, Darien has been very refreshing and it’s great to know how many women entrepreneurs are in the area. Coming out here near New Canaan and Stamford has been great (to meet) a network of working women.
We moved out here for the schools and for the house and it’s great to still have access to the city. I go in about once every two weeks to meet with wedding planners or event people.
How was working at a hedge fund?
Finance is a great career for when I started. I learned a lot about analytics and quantitative methods. But it wasn’t what I was truly passionate about. When I went to business school, I was exploring marketing and entrepreneurship and I wanted was to be a brand manager, which is really like the mini CEO of a brand. I had the quantitative accounting skills, but needed to learn marketing, and that’s what I did at business school.
Who is on your team at work?
I have one full-time employee who does customer service and operations. And I have a project manager who manages our inventory and shipments we order from the factory.
How did the idea for Talaria Flats come about?
When I started at NYU, I knew I didn’t want to stay in finance, and that was one of the reasons I went to business school, but I wasn’t sure if I wanted to start my own business or if I had the idea for it. I took marketing and entrepreneurship classes and in between my first and second year, I was at a bachelorette party in Chicago. Chicago has about two bars that go past 2 a.m. and all the girls are walking with high heels. We ended up at this bar and everyone takes their shoes off and is dancing barefoot and I was like “there’s gotta be something better.”
My original idea was to make ballet flats for bars, but upon exploring that questions like where do you stock them, how do you sell them, what sizes, came to mind. The first thing I thought about were weddings. I pivoted to that and during my second year of business school, I did all the project developing, the marketing, the research, everything. I gave free trials to friends at weddings asking for feedback and that I got enough good feedback and the margin and numbers all made sense, so I launched it shortly after I graduated in 2014.
What are the challenges of running your own business?
There are two big challenges that I deal with on a daily and broader basis. One is, as a full proprietor of this business, you wear all the hats. When a business is small, that’s OK, but it grows and you have to share some of that responsibility and start delegating it. You also start finding the people that will work well in that task or in that team, and that is a challenge of growing the business.
The second big challenge is making sure we’re working for our target markets the best that we can. Seventy-five percent of our sales come from events and weddings and the other 25 percent comes from people who have heard about us and just wanted the shoes for commuting or everyday wear.
The big chunk is for weddings. The millennial bride right now is about the guest experience and having a customized experience; nobody wants a cookie cutter wedding. We created a bridesmaid pack — you can have names added to the bag at a discounted price; it’s like a little gift you can give to the bridesmaids and it’s great because we want the shoes to last and so they’re gifts to bridesmaids to dance in and for future events.
Do you have a store or is it online only?
We have a warehouse in New Jersey that does all of our packing and shipping. We do 95 percent of sales through our e-commerce site, but we do have select retail through Kleinfeld Bridal boutique in Manhattan. And we also have a few bridal boutiques in Canada.
We knew we were going to be e-commerce because it didn’t make sense to open a brick-and-mortar store just with a few products. I started out with two colors. Nowadays, you see a lot of brick-and-mortar retail switching to more e-commerce, so we were lucky we decided to just do that.
Were you always a numbers person? What made you want to start your own business?
Both of my parents had their own businesses. My father was a lawyer who had his own law firm and my mom a dentist who had her own dental firm. I never really understood when my friends were planning for vacation and their parents had to ask for time off. I always grew up in a sort of entrepreneurial environment. I figured that business and economics was what I wanted to do. I did an internship at Capitol Hill while at Georgetown and realized it was not for me.
And the name?
The name is from Greek mythology. Hermes was taking messages from place to place. He had these impenetrable gold sandals. It was the perfect analogy because these sandals help women get from place to place, whether it’s dinner or the dance floor.