Liz and Jane Bennett: Family, Friends, Founders of Liz & Jane Clothes
A Family AffairLiz and Jane Bennett are family, friends and founders of Liz & Jane Clothes By Jennifer Ewing
In-law jokes may be funny to most and all too true for some, but there are two Florida businesswomen who have none to share — Liz and Jane Bennett, sisters-in-law and co-creators of the popular fashion line Liz & Jane Clothes. The two have spent the past 20 years working side by side to design and promote their unique brand of attire.
The women, both Florida State University graduates with degrees unrelated to fashion merchandising, began designing clothes as a hobby in 1989.
“Janie and I were both skilled in sewing and making clothes and wanted to create unique fashions for ourselves,” Liz Bennett says. Working out of Liz’s Panama City carport, the pair developed a special tie-dyeing process that allowed them to create casual outfits with fun designs and animal prints.
The new look quickly garnered attention from friends, family and locals. Soon, the two were selling their homespun fashions in Panama City and showcasing the line throughout Florida art show circuits. After a mere two years, an Atlanta sales representative recognized Liz & Jane Clothes as “fresh” and got them one of their first accounts with none other than Walt Disney World.
Taking their designs from a carport to the world’s mostly widely visited resort was both an exciting and intimidating prospect for the Bennetts.
“The transition happened so fast that neither of us had time to dream or hope of the company becoming as popular as it did,” Liz Bennett says.
“It was scary going into wholesale,” Jane Bennett adds. “It’s a big investment, and you really need to have confidence in your product.”
Fortunately, the duo can look back at their investment without regret.
“There were times when Liz and I were working a lot of hours and I thought, ‘We’ve created a monster,’ ” Jane Bennett confesses, “but nothing is better than owning your own business. You choose your own hours. You’re your own boss.”
Flexible scheduling allows both women the opportunity to spend more time with their families, which is one of their favorite aspects of owning a business.
“Family comes first in both of our households,” Jane Bennett says.
Of course, for both women, family also is an integral part of work life. Liz Bennett’s husband, Mike, helps with the business side of the company, and, over the years, the sisters-in-law have grown to work together more closely, bouncing ideas off one another and designing clothing.
“Liz and I used to each design our own line, but the business merged into both of us working on everything,” Jane Bennett says. “It’s good for the line, because you get the flavor of both tastes — I’m more conservative and Liz is more funky.”
Despite any differences in style or personality, the Bennetts have united to create a successful business and remarkable partnership.
“Our relationship has gotten stronger over the years. Our kids are best friends,” Jane Bennett says of her comrade of 20 years.
And while going into business with the in-laws may not be for everyone, the Bennetts’ refreshingly simple business approach applies to anyone in the market.
“You need to know your customers and their needs, stay true to your heart and follow gut instincts,” Liz Bennett advises.