A little bit of excitement came over me when I received a Gigi Hill laptop bag in the mail. I feel more creative when I pull my computer out of something pretty! I used to carry around my laptop in a blah blue laptop bag, now I tote it around in style. I knew I needed to learn more about Gabrielle and Monica! Don’t you love it when simple things are taken to the next level?
Names: Gabrielle DeSantis-Cummings and Monica Hillman, founders of Gigi Hill
Company Website? www.GigiHill.com
- Gabrielle: I have my bachelor’s degree in speech communication from Cal State Long Beach.
- Monica: I have a degree in management and human resources from Cal Poly Pomona.
- G: I’m a lifetime entrepreneur. Before starting Gigi Hill, I started and ran several successful businesses.
- M: I come from a totally different path than Gabrielle, which is part of what makes us such a great team. Before Gigi Hill, I was in corporate America for more than 17 years working in finance and human resources.
What you wanted to be when you grew up:
- G: An NFL cheerleader
- M: It was always changing. One day it was a race car driver and the next it was a hair dresser.
What you are:
- G: I am a proud co-founder of Gigi Hill, lifetime entrepreneur, mother and designer of fabulous handbags. Between Monica and me, I’m the more of an eclectic and artsy style, entrepreneurial spirit, and visionary. Monica keeps me grounded!
- M: I am also a proud co-founder of Gigi Hill, role-model, mother and lover of handbags. I balance Gabrielle’s personality with my classic and mainstream style, and a focus on strategic implementation and practical execution.
G: Monica and I started the Gigi Hill collection of fabulous handbags in 2006 as a party-plan direct sales business and took it nationwide in 2009. Since the beginning, it has been about helping busy women bridge the gap between style and function by creating handbags they would love to carry whether going to the beach with their kids or out to dinner with their husbands. Gigi Hill bags are modern and chic yet feminine – all with standout fabrics and the highest quality construction. We have everything from wristlets and totes to laptop cases and weekenders. We also expanded to offer accessories like sunglasses and flip flops, men’s bags and a junior’s line.
Where are you located?
M: We both live in Yorba Linda, California, and the Gigi Hill home office is in Yorba Linda as well.
M: Gabrielle and I met at our daughters’ soccer games, where we quickly became friends. As we sat on the sidelines week after week, we talked a lot about the lack of worthwhile bags for busy moms. We started Gigi Hill both to fill that market gap by creating a bag that was fashionable and functional, and because we wanted careers that would allow us to spend more time with our families. After researching industry trends and direct sales models, we decided to take the leap of faith and start Gigi Hill.
Inspired by our own experiences and those of women we knew, we worked to design a bag that would help real women stay organized. That led us to the Gigi Hill Signature Pocket Design™ that ensures there is a pocket for everything so moms can stay organized on the go. It includes a key fob to keep your keys handy at all times, as well as pockets for your cell phone or other electronics, water bottles, sunglasses, pens and other essentials like your favorite lipstick. We also made several pockets out of a clear material to make it even easier to find what you need.
How long have you been in business?
G: We threw our first Gigi Hill party in July 2006 and spent the next two and a half years selling bags regionally and learning from consumer feedback. The research and attention to detail has definitely paid off. We launched Gigi Hill nationally in 2009 and grew an astounding 900 percent in that first year. Since then, the company has continued to double in size each year in both sales and the number of women joining our sales team.
How did you fund it?
M: We started Gigi Hill with a little personal savings and $23,000 in loans and investments from friends and family. Following years of hard work and building a successful foundation, Gigi Hill received a $3 million investment in 2011.
Do you have a Fairy Godmother (or mentor)?
M: We have been fortunate to have many women in the Direct Sales industry who have mentored us and given us great advice in building this company.
Current Business Challenge? What are you doing about it?
G: Staying relevant and keeping agile with innovation today. We are constantly reading, researching and networking with other business owners.
- G: I have my wonderful husband Chris, son Jake (16) and daughter Giavanna (14).
- M: Phil is my supportive husband and we have a son Matt (17) and daughter Danielle (14).
How do you balance family and business?
G: Having balance in our lives is part of the reason we started Gigi Hill. We both wanted a career that would let us spend more time with our families, and that’s a great bonus for direct sales. We’re so happy to have that time with our family, and thrilled to offer the same opportunity to our stylists, who create their own schedules, work as many or as few hours as they want, and take full control of their own income potential and business growth.
What do you do to relax?
- G: Spend time with my family… and watch mindless television!
- M: Spend time with my family
What do you want to change most about your world?
M: We wish more women felt empowered. You really can take control of your life and your career, and have all of your dreams come true! Whatever you want in life, make it happen. If you don’t know what you want yet, that’s OK too. But work on figuring it out because nothing is going to happen if you don’t work for it.
And, if any women out there are looking for new opportunities, we encourage them to visit www.gigihill.com to learn more about career opportunities with our company. Gigi Hill is looking for new stylists to start their own businesses selling Gigi Hill handbags, totes and accessories in their hometowns. It’s a fun-filled job where you have full control of your own hours and earning potential. It’s also a great company to network and meet other women, both at your parties and through Gigi Hill stylist events. Being surrounded by fabulous women is such an impactful support system and so much fun!
What are you most proud of?
G: We are both so proud of Gigi Hill’s success over the years and how much the company continues to grow. We’re also so unbelievably proud of all our stylists – today, more than a 1,000 saleswomen – who have taken this company to such great heights. Each and every woman who has joined the Gigi Hill family, taken the business opportunity and made it their own – they are so fabulous and the reason for all of the company’s success. Gigi Hill is a dream come true!
What advice would you like to offer other Startup Princesses?
M: We strongly encourage women everywhere to chase their dreams and make them a reality. Follow your passion and your intuition, then research, research, research. Then it’s time to get moving. As we always say, plan your work and work your plan.
G: That’s hard to narrow down! What mom can live without great handbags to carry her through the day, under-eye concealer, a smartphone…and the list goes on and on!
For our Gigi Hill handbags though, we love the magic of laminated cotton canvas. The fabric is so easy to clean – a necessity for busy moms – and looks fabulous. We have totes, handbags and travel bags made in laminated cotton canvas so you can keep them looking brand new, and many bags that are lined in the fabric, so it’s perfect for easily wiping away any spills inside.
If you could design a tiara that showcases Gigi Hill, what would you use?
M: Well Gigi Hill is known for being super fashionable and functional, so we’d have to make our tiara that way too. Of course it would be in bold colors. We’d find a way to include some amazing pockets so you can stash your lipstick and other necessities. And I know without a doubt that our stylists would want us to include a wristlet strap option! It’s something we’ve learned from feedback from both our stylists and consumers – women love a little strap so they can easily carry a bag, wallet or whatever from their wrist when juggling kids, work and everything else. Gigi Hill will have the first tiara with a fabulous wristlet strap!!