< Back

Entrepreneur Fridays: Serena and Lily

Serena and LilyWHO: Serena Dugan and Lily Kanter

WHAT: Serena & Lily; an upscale linens and homewares company.

WHERE: Sausalito, CA

WHEN: 2004

HOW: When her first son was born in 2000, Lily Kanter, an 18 year veteran of the corporate world, decided to trade in her board meetings for baby bottles. Shopping for her newborn, Kanter struggled to find high-end furniture for the nursery.  “There was nothing in the Bay area that was done with well edited taste,” she describes. Soon after, Kanter and her husband capitalized on the void in the market and opened Mill Valley Baby & Kids Company, a baby and home furnishings shop.

At that same time, Serena Dugan, an experienced freelance decorative painter, textile designer and commissioned artist; was splitting her time between projects for corporate and residential clients.   When it came private residences, Dugan was beginning to specialize in decorative painting projects for— you guessed it—nurseries.

S&L_Dylan_CollectionOne afternoon in 2004, Dugan walked into Kanter’s store with her portfolio in tow. “I decided to reach out to area baby boutiques to introduce store owners to my work and my service, in the event that their clients were looking for the type of work I did,” says Dugan. That day, Kanter was in the hospital, giving birth to her second son.  Soon after she left the hospital, Kanter swung by her shop to check on things.  It was there that she found Dugan’s portfolio.

Kanter was so impressed by Dugan’s designs that three days later, the two met face to face. Kanter recalls Dugan saying, “If I were having a baby today, I don’t know how I would decorate my nursery. It just doesn’t exist today.” As they poured over the portfolio, Kanter’s head began to fill with visions of everything from baby bumpers to blankets  in Dugan’s style.  Dugan, who in the past had worked on designs for Pottery Barn Kids, brought to the table artwork unlike anything Kanter had ever seen before.  “The concept was to create a new look,” says Kanter.  “That’s just what she did.”

For the next two months, Dugan and Kanter worked tirelessly to get their idea off the ground. Initial funding came from their credit cards and second mortgages.  “When the number got to $750 thousand, we went and got angel investors,” says Dugan.  In May of 2004, Dugan and Kanter sent out their first catalog to 400 boutiques across the United States.  Three weeks later, they had over 100 orders.  Eventually, the brand’s success and an expanding family forced Kanter to sell Mill Valley Baby & Kids Company. “I just had baby number 3, Serena & Lily was taking off and I had 3 boys under 4 years old,” describes Kanter.

nursery styleIn 2007, the duo began bringing their wares to the public with the launch of SerenaandLily.com. Recently, the company branched out from the nursery room, expanding its lines to include women’s bags, bedding, furnishings and more for the entire home.  They didn’t stop there either.  In 2008, Kanter and Dugan let the world in on their nursery decorating secrets when they co-authored the book “Nursery Style.”

Since their launch in 2004, Serena and Lily’s sales have consistently doubled every year and the company is on track now to do $1 million dollars in business per month. Their bedding and gift collections are distributed to over 600 stores nationwide, including Neiman Marcus and Bloomingdales. Celebrities also count themselves fans of Serena and Lily’s designs—it’s been said that A-list moms like Jennifer Garner, Jessica Alba and Nicole Kidman decked their newborn’s nurseries with the furnishings.

S&L_Peacock_ToteWhat will the future bring for Serena and Lily? “We think big,” says Kanter.  “Our eyes are set on building a Ralph Lauren type of brand that has a lot of different categories and is beloved by many and a design leader.”

THEIR ADVICE: According to Kanter and Dugan, if you’re starting a business with another person, you should have two things in common: drive and passion.   “What drew Lily and I to one another was that we both have a similar drive,” says Dugan.  “We believed in what we were doing, we were passionate about the idea and with that belief and that passion, we knew we could make anything happen.”

Want to win a copy of “Nursery Style?” Click here and type NURSERY in the message box.

Subscribe to my free weekly Newsletter

We collect, use and process your data according to our Privacy Policy.