How the catalog began: “Founding a catalog was the last thing I ever expected to do,” says Donna Salyers, president of Fabulous-Furs. During several visits to New York in the 1980s, she realized she was one of few people without a full-length fur coat. “Instead of buying a coat that day, I was inspired to create a luxurious alternative.” After a year of laying the groundwork, Salyers’ brainchild — a catalog comprised of faux-fur products — became a rapid success. “When customers began calling from Hollywood, I knew we were on to something.”
Grew up: Covington, KY
Experience: For 16 years, Salyers wrote a syndicated newspaper column on sewing and fashion, which led to a national cable TV show. “That was a great training ground for public speaking and being in front of the camera — ideal for a Fabulous-Furs evangelist!”
Business goals: “I feel like Cinderella every day! We’ve totally exceeded my expectations.” Salyers recognizes that many catalogs haven’t succeeded, and she appreciates her company’s growth and recognition. “Our success builds a better community and creates more jobs and a stronger economy. I love those aspects of building a business.”
• Helen Gurley Brown, founding editor of Cosmopolitan magazine: “She moved up the ranks, learning to write, and through resourcefulness.”
• Katharine Graham: “She stepped in to head the Washington Post when her husband committed suicide. I can so identify with her lack of experience for such a daunting task. But she had enormous grace and humility — things I really admire.”
Responsibilities: “I design the coats and accessories we make, and I work with outside vendors to develop fabrics and product.” In addition, she writes catalog copy. “It’s much like writing about my children.”
Self description: “Very, very lucky and blessed.” She also considers herself to be optimistic, tenacious and hard-working.
Single biggest challenge: Fabulous- Furs’ largest campaign, one set to double its business, reached homes Sept. 11 to 13, 2001. “We were left holding an enormous inventory, not to mention bearing the expense of an enormous, worthless mailing,” she recalls.
Looking back: “Never did I imagine we would grow into an upscale catalog with discerning customers from around the world.” Indeed, Fabulous-Furs gained widespread publicity with appearances on national TV and a presence at fashion shows, as well as this year’s Sundance Film Festival. And, to Salyers’ delight, the company received an Internet order to be delivered to Buckingham Palace Lane. “I like to think the Queen surfs [the Web],” she jokes.
Headquarters: Covington, KY
Merchandise: faux-fur products
Annual circulation: more than 3 million
Number of SKUs: 1,500
Customer demographics: affluent women aged 35 to 65
Sales channels: catalog, Internet, two retail stores