Here’s how couture designer Dalia MacPhee launched her clothing brand now adored by celebrities like Scarlett Johansson and Serena Williams using starter and airline credit cards.
Called the “IT girl of the red carpet” by the Toronto Sun, Vancouver-native Dalia MacPhee is a fashion innovator. Not only does MacPhee provide exquisite gowns for celebrities such as Hilary Duff, Heidi Klum, Sandra Bullock and Serena Williams, but 95% of her line is also vegan-friendly.
The Dalia MacPhee clothing brand offers dresses, bags, athletic wear, jackets and numerous other products. Stores across the globe carry her brand and she has been featured in Vogue, Allure and Marie Claire magazines.
An avowed animal lover, MacPhee has made sure to leave her mark on matters that mean the most to her – by creating fire-retardant blankets and jackets for both horses and dogs. “Your gift to the world is like a fingerprint – there’s only one,” says MacPhee. “And it’s imperative that before we leave this world, we put our fingerprints all over it.”
Along with the Equisafe blanket and pet-safe jacket, MacPhee also created blankets for orphaned baby elephants in Africa. The blankets have heat insulation that protects the orphaned elephants from things like pneumonia. A portion of the products will be donated to the Shannon Elizabeth Foundation where they will be distributed to elephant sanctuaries and rescues. It’s no wonder Entertainment Tonight has called the MacPhee brand “couture with a conscious.”
Once told by her seventh grade home economics teacher to never pursue a career in fashion, MacPhee has now become the go-to designer for today’s most stunning and powerful women. Through talent and drive – a little help from a few choice credit cards – MacPhee is the personification of her brand’s motto: changing the world one gown at a time.
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What was your credit like when you first launched your company? Did you make any mistakes?
I started my business at 21 years old, so I had no credit at all! I was given a starter credit card from my Canadian bank. My main mistake was not charging and repaying earlier, though. For a while, I didn’t use my credit card at all (as I didn’t need to because I was using cash). But not having that [credit] history made it harder for me later when I did need to increase my credit limits.
And after you discovered the importance of good credit, did you use it to your advantage?
Yes, I made sure to use it often for all my business purchases – such as fabric – and then paid it down on time. After about six months, I called and spoke with one of the [credit card] representatives, explaining my company. She raised my limit. As a new and young business owner, I was ecstatic.
With that one card, I was able to accumulate a lot of points for airline miles. The first big trade show where I presented my collection was in Atlanta, Georgia, and I used the rewards to get myself there. That was the show that helped catapult my line and put the motion in place for my business, so those credit card miles were a huge win for me.
How do you use credit cards now for your business?
I have a couple of cards that I use often. The first is an Alaska Airlines Visa Signature® credit card. Being from Vancouver, I am usually traveling between Canada and the United States. I love flying Alaska, and getting 3 miles for every dollar I charge on eligible Alaska Airlines purchases with that card is great. There are additional perks too, such as being able to check my first bag free, first-class upgrades and there is no mileage cap. I use this card for my airline travel and also to purchase hotel rooms and take care of other travel expenses.
Then there is my Capital One® VentureOne® Rewards Credit Card. I love the fact there is no annual fee on this card, and no foreign transaction fees – which is a huge benefit for international travel that I do often for work. This card also offers a high credit limit. This is the one I use now for purchasing fabric, paying my suppliers and buying office supplies.
My PayPal Cash Back Mastercard comes in handy for me, too, as I get extra points for gas transactions – and every other purchase I make with that card.
What’s your credit management style?
In a nutshell, I never borrow more than I can afford. But in our business, we also give credit, so I’m on the other side, too. We have to be choosy regarding which accounts we provide a credit line to, since offering terms to boutiques and department stores can put you under if you’re not careful.
Any credit tips for other entrepreneurs?
When you are starting out, you have to bootstrap. Don’t be afraid of that. Get creative and use the power of technology to find ways to save on various business needs. In a company like ours, the cost of inventory can kill you, so try not to overstock. Buy frugally.
I think you should apply for loans and increased lines of credit when your business is growing, even if you don’t need them. That’s when you will have the best opportunity for success, and you will thank yourself when you do need to borrow money for a rainy day.