Growing up in Hawaii, Brandy Pham remembers her Vietnamese parents telling her to “work hard for what I wanted.” And what she was longing for was a career in fashion design.
She went on to found her eponymous jewelry line. And along the way she picked up an impressive list of high-profile vendors: Cynthia Rowley, W Hotels, Anthropologie, and Henri Bendel.
After her son was born, Pham began posting photos of her collection on Instagram in between naps and meals. But all the effort involved seemed to be going to waste. She was struggling to generate business through her own digital storefront.
This all changed when she and her husband Andy Hoang—recently celebrating their 10-year anniversary—focused on building Planoly, a visual management platform specifically for Instagram that launched in late 2015.
While Hoang was working in finance, he made connections with colleagues who would later come on board with Planoly. The last piece to the puzzle was Hoang quitting his job to work full time as Planoly’s CEO.
Fashion friends loved the idea and spread the word. The result? Planoly’s users organically grew to 100,000 within eight months.
“We moved to Texas when my son was eight months old,” says the member of Austin’s WeWork Congress. “We started thinking more seriously about the company finally, and we felt like we had something sticky.”
Pham heads Planoly’s creative direction. The draw is that she’s targeting clients like herself who depend on Instagram to generate business.
While her clients include major companies like Estee Lauder, L’Oréal, Lululemon, Anthropologie, General Mills, and Gerber, there are also people in entertainment, fashion, and beauty—including a handful of up-and-coming Instagram celebrities, influencers, bloggers, and YouTube stars.
“We’re proud of what we created, and it was out of my personal need for a jewelry company,” Pham says. “I can produce in small batches and keep it going. Planoly has taken over my life, but I’m still involved in my jewelry collection on a daily basis.”
Planoly has been attracting venture capitalists, and a team of seven is looking to take its brand to the next level. And just like in their early days, Pham and Hoang focus on finding the right work-life balance.
“When you have a business, that business is your baby,” says Pham. “No one is going to care about it more than you as the owner. We work throughout the night after our kiddo goes to bed.”
Photos: Adam Saraceno