Green Bay’s Lauren and Dan Hunter have built a brand with a mission and a passion born out of trauma.
“Dan was hit by a car when he was younger and pronounced dead at the scene,” Lauren explained. “Doctors said he would not be able to walk or speak, let alone have children. Our brand is one of Dan’s motivations to continue building the legacy of a thriving family. He wants to be able to tell his story to cheer and motivate others.”
Not only did her husband survive; The couple has developed splendidly. They are parents to five children aged 5 to 16, including daughters aged 12 and 14 who are young entrepreneurs.
Watching the daughters sell lip gloss and tie-dye shirts in pop-up stores was extra motivation. About a year ago a plan was formulated and Luveeny (www.luveenywear.com) became a reality.
“We thought about this business after losing our jobs during the pandemic. We wanted to have a business, so we didn’t have to worry about something like that happening again,” Lauren said.
Because she and her husband both love fashion, they chose this type of business. They started out with hats and when they did well they added designs with the aim of making unique items at a good price.
“I used to love going to fashion shows as a kid, but my family had a low income and we couldn’t afford it,” Lauren said. “That’s the great thing about this business. It’s high fashion at an affordable price.”
The company is described as a luxury urban streetwear clothing brand. The name derives from the expression “Love in Envy”, which is also the brand’s slogan. She says that despite the envy in the world, love triumphs.
Her website adds, “Wearing the Luveeny brand is a statement at heart. It’s like wearing positive affirmations around your soul and saying that love always wins no matter how overwhelming the pain threatens to be.”
As she and Dan work to spread this message and build a successful business, they have a mentor at the Green Bay SCORE Chapter, Laurel Haak.
“One thing we’ve learned so far is to find a mentor right away and use whatever resources are available. Don’t be afraid to ask questions and network because you might find someone who can help,” Lauren said.
Dan agreed, advising that research is vital. Before you invest in any business, you need to know what the cost will be.
The couple uses their strengths to promote their brand. Although Dan believes it would be better if they had more business experience, they both talk about their dedication, drive and persistence.
“As much as possible, we wake up every day living and breathing our brand,” Lauren said.
The process was a learning experience. They created a website and social media pages (on Facebook, Instagram and TikTok), developed both e-commerce and retail presence to sell their products and put the legal and financial aspects together with the help of their SCORE mentor.
“Laurel helps us fill out the forms we need,” she said. “In the beginning we didn’t know anything about the business, but we learn by asking questions. I had to redo my business plan and Laurel is helping me with that. Overall it is a great motivation for my future success.”
In the meantime there have been challenges. They have a manufacturer but want to buy equipment so they can do the work themselves and increase profitability. They rent a small shop in downtown Green Bay where they plan to add a printer, embroidery machine, and other equipment.
“We’re saving what we can to buy the machines,” Lauren said.
While trying to reach this milestone, they work part-time at other jobs and spend about half the day on the business. Her daughters were part of the process and helped design the t-shirts, hats and hoodies. It is truly a family business with long-term goals.
“I want this business to be big, and I want it to be multi-generational,” Lauren said. “One of the daughters has an eye for fashion and wants to be a part of it. It would be great to have a team and be able to have a larger manufacturing facility with a retail store.”
You know the journey will not be easy. As Dan found while researching the competition, they need to find a niche in a very crowded environment. They hope their message and creative designs will make them stand out.
To that end, their marketing plan will include pop-up shops, email address collection to promote new items, social media engagement and networking. They post photos on Instagram and have worked with the One of One Gallery in De Pere to sell them on site.
“The biggest challenge going forward will be gaining consistent customers,” commented Lauren. “We have a unique story to tell and our business is a positive affirmation for people who have been struggling. They can look at us and say, ‘If they can do it with five kids, so can we.’”
Tina Dettman-Bielefeldt is a co-owner of DB Commercial Real Estate in Green Bay and Past District Director for SCORE, Wisconsin.