How Ana Dee Rejected a ‘Real Job’ & Founded Alien Outfitters
With girl bosses like Sophia Amoruso finally getting their time in the spotlight, you’re probably wondering how you can make money by building a brand off of something that you already love doing (in this case: shopping).
When Ana Dee began selling clothes online at age 17, she had no idea it would eventually turn into her own business. The Moon Cult (now Alien Outfitters), is undergoing a rebrand to make their in your face, unique clothing available for everyone.
Even more impressive? Ana became her own boss with no college experience, no financial backing, and just a little bit of help from our good friend Google.
We spoke to Ana about rejecting a “normal” career path, wearing clothes that cause people to stare, and how to get an internship with a brand like Alien Outfitters.
You started selling your clothes online when you were 17, was this something you planned to evolve into a bigger business? Or just a way to make quick cash?
When I started selling my clothes online, it was strictly to make some quick cash. I feel that the most exciting opportunities land in your lap when you aren’t looking for them, so I have never “planned” my life out. I like to think that my life will find me.
You capitalized on the internet and online shopping craze before its peak, how did you hone in on making the web your “biggest weapon?”
The Internet has become my biggest weapon strictly due to myself putting my entire heart and soul into our social media platforms. All of these forms of communication are extensions of ourselves. Weather I am sketching new designs, or tweeting a random thought, I make sure that I’m exerting my creativity to it’s full potential. I think our followers see how open we are to being different, and they can relate to a lot of the posts we share.
You mentioned that everyone around you told you that you couldn’t do it, was there ever a time when you considered getting a “normal” job?
Never. Before I jumped on any career path, I wanted to figure myself out and learn who I truly was. Too many of my friends were flunking out of college and had no idea what they wanted to do, so at the time college didn’t seem necessary.
Do you think that the influence of parents and other people with “traditional” career views deter many creative people from doing what they truly love?
100%. The majority are so afraid to be themselves based on other’s opinions and society’s standards. The best trip you’ll ever take is finding yourself and your purpose. Once you’ve discovered it, the challenge is to stay true to it.
How did you successfully transition from eBay, to Etsy, to your own site? Do you advise other entrepreneurs to start on a platform like Etsy?
Ebay and Etsy are great platforms for newbies. The sites being so similar, it was easy to transition. I highly suggest other entrepreneurs to start on either of these platforms before committing to a brand. You need to learn the ropes of retail before making such a huge business commitment.
You launched your brand without investors, how did you manage your finances in the early stages? Do you have any financial advice for girls looking to start their own businesses?
I have always been financially independent and very frugal with my spending. I always started small. I would invest $5 in something, and sell it for $10, and so on. I kept my expenses minimal, and my overhead costs low. As much as people told me to take risks, I held back a lot in the beginner stages. For girls looking to start their own business, I would advise them to honor their intuition and spend money where it feels right. Stay true to yourself and cheers to anyone who has the guts to pave their own path.
You didn’t go to college or receive any professional advice when starting your brand, were there times when you wished you had some more guidance? Or do you believe that you learned how to build a brand by making mistakes and learning from them?
I feel that experience teaches you more than college ever will, along with a little help from Google. At times I would get overwhelmed with making big decisions, but tough times are a testament of our true character. I learned so much through trial and error and do believe that I gained valuable knowledge through the mistakes of others as well. A pivotal point in my life was realizing how my mistakes would sculpt the brand, so I started to cherish the opportunities to change.
You now have a small team of bad bitches helping you run the brand, what do you look for when hiring someone?
When hiring new employees, I take the “unique” factor very seriously. Our brand is based on being different, and I want our team to exude this quality.
Do you ever plan on moving the brand out of North Carolina? Or is the beauty of an online brand that it can be based anywhere?
Being born and raised in NC, it is difficult to transition to a place that doesn’t feel like home. I will never limit myself to one place, but I can’t complain about where I am right now.
How do you select which brands to stock on your site?
When selecting new brands to stock, I look at the unique factor and make sure the price point is suitable for our customers. Honestly, everything we sell is a reflection of myself. When I’m cruising the Internet, I will spot things that make me go, “OH, I need that!” and then I think, “OH, and so do my customers!”
Many graphic tees on the site represent a sex positive outlook that many girls would be “scared” to wear in public, what’s your advice to girls who feel that they have to dress a certain way to appease society?
I feel that it is my duty and our customers to make others uncomfortable and question their views. Here are a few of my favorite quotes that can sum up how I feel about appeasing society:
“You should never censor yourself to comfort the ignorant.”
“You’re not really free until you’re free from trying to please everybody.”
“Care about what other people think and you will always be their prisoner.”
“The unhappiest people in this world are those who care the most about what other people think.”
What tips do you have for girls looking to get an internship with a brand like Alien Outfitters?
Hit us up! We are always looking for new talent to add to our team.
You’re currently re-branding into Alien Outfitters, what was the motive behind the re-brand? Where else do you anticipate the brand going in the future?
When I started my brand, I had no idea we would turn into an international retailer, selling other brands along with our own. As we continue to grow, rebranding has been the best decision for us to accurately label who we are. I feel that Alien Outfitters will also help us tackle the challenge of selling more menswear and lifestyle items. So far, we’ve received a positive response, so we are thrilled for what’s to come as we continue to grow and change. The Moon Cult will remain a stepping stone in our journey to remind us how far we’ve come.