Pink, Personal and Poised for GrowthJanuary 18, 2019
Customer care & company culture drive Marleylilly’s success
Weddings, bridal showers and bachelorette parties are seen as a rite of passage for many women in America.
As Clemson University graduate Kelly Owens watched her growing stack of invitations – and costs for associated gifts – she fashioned a solution.
“As a broke newlywed, she wanted to find a way to give special gifts to her friends without breaking the bank,” says Marleylilly administrative manager Allie Munafo. “She was pretty crafty and had experience with sewing, embroidery and T-shirt design, so she decided to buy a small embroidery machine to monogram hand towels or T-shirts.”
The gifts were such a hit that her recipients began to ask Owens to customize additional items they could pass on, prompting the Upstate resident to open a shop on Etsy in 2010. She named it Marleylilly after her two Jack Russell terriers.
Nearly a decade later, Owens’ business has grown into an e-commerce monogramming and personalization gift boutique that embraces all things pink and personalized, with a recently launched children’s product line, Marleylilly Kids.
In 2015, the company built a 69,400 square-foot headquarters in Greer that houses design, production, processing, distribution and marketing functions. The facility has been expanded twice, allowing for both more office and distribution activities.
It is one of more than 4,000 businesses in the Greer community, according to the Greer Development Corporation.
“Marleylilly is a great example of the success that talented, hard-working entrepreneurs can achieve in the Upstate,” said Reno Deaton, Executive Director of the Greer Development Corporation. “They have not only created a great product with great customer service, but they have created a corporate culture that truly values and inspires team members.”
The company maintains a production staff of about 50 employees year-round, and ramps up its employment to around 220 during the holiday season.
Production is Personal
Marleylilly’s persona greets you before enter its headquarters along Interstate 85, with a pink and green monument sign and matching landscaping that bear the “ML” monogram, emblematic of the personalization that drives the company.
Products include apparel, jewelry, bags, shoes and gifts developed to portray names or initials of their bearers.
They’re designed and sourced from global suppliers with the process of personalization in mind, too. Think: shoes with zippered sections that allow for easier embroidery on otherwise challenging shapes.
“We love that a monogram is for everyone—a college student on a budget, a newlywed bride celebrating her new initials, a grandma looking for a personalized gift, you name it,” says creative team supervisor Emily Rash. “Monograms are so much more than a vinyl sticker or embroidery design; they’re an expression of style, a fashion statement and an attention getter.”
Customers are in the driver’s seat when it comes to making products their own, and more than 95 percent of goods receive some type of personalization prior to shipping.
Shoppers can choose to personalize their product with their name or initials from a variety of font and color combinations, using a monogram previewer to browse options.
From there, products are embroidered, lasered, vinyl stamped, heat pressed, engraved or dyed to meet customer specifications.
“Since day one, Marleylilly’s customer care has been a two-way conversation,” says creative team supervisor Emily Rash. “Whether through social listening, trendspotting, or customer feedback, the customer’s voice is an integral part of daily operations from product design all the way through customer satisfaction post sale.”
Product marketing happens in-house, with photo and video shoots occurring several times per week in a studio adorned with accessories. Social media is a massive driver in the company’s growth – its more than 1 million Facebook followers and 450,000 Instagram followers increasing visibility for the brand.
Marleylilly’s playful personality isn’t just reserved for customers. The company strives to provide a vibrant, fun work environment for its associates and works with Hire Dynamics to connect with a workforce.
With Upstate employment rates hovering near record lows, the company recognizes that connecting with the desires of associates is vital to success.
“When you think of manufacturing, you don’t think of a big pink building,” says Munafo.
Hire Dynamics, a staffing firm with 33 locations in multiple Southeast states, affirms that the company’s culture is key to its performance.
“It’s a pleasure to staff for a company such as Marleylilly that knows the importance of creating and maintaining a vibrant company culture,” says Tanya Carter, Account Manager for Hire Dynamics in the Upstate. “In this tight labor market, a strong culture is a winning factor on gaining and retaining talent.”
Inside its facility, natural light pours in through large windows, bouncing off of walls with colorful swatches, geometric patterns, and youthful sayings like “Hangry” on display in break areas.
Dotted with dressforms, bolts of fabric and sample racks, the company’s product development area is reminiscent of the competition space seen on “Project Runway.”
Music plays on the production floor, where associates dress in casual attire and may request music or podcasts of their choosing.
In the fulfillment area, associates expand their capacity through the assistance of robotic carts that help them transport multiple items across the facility.
“We have a real lax, young feel. I’m wearing my nicest yoga pants,” Munafo laughs. “We play music; we offer a break room with free Starbucks coffee; we do engagement every week. We try to provide free food as often as possible.”
“We try to identify what employees like to do and reward them in that way,” adds human resources manager Elizabeth Good. “Christmas party every year, company-wide donation projects, blooper sales. We put a lot of time and effort because we really want people to want to work at Marleylilly.”