Mom & Daughter Banking on Creativity

Kris Molnar has always wanted to apply what she had done as a banker for so many years to another area of her life.

And she’s also wanted to create something of her own.

Now, with her daughter Anne, she’s achieved both. They have created FXB, a collection of purses in a variety of sizes with a myriad of uses.

“I’ve helped so many people start businesses, but not one of my own. …

“And I thought it would be a great education for Anne,” who is 22 and a graphic communications major at Notre Dame College in Lyndhurst, Ohio. “But also a legacy, for me to give to her,” Kris said.

The mom and daughter business duo have made all of the decisions together; Anne is the designer, Kris is the “business sense” behind it all.

“We talk through all the decisions,” Kris said. Kris is presently WesBanco’s vice president of community relations and a consultant to the bank, having previously served in many capacities including president and executive vice president of markets in her 25-year tenure.

“Through this process I have learned what it takes to be a business woman. My mom has made sure that I have been a part of the process of creating the business every step of the way, through meeting with the accountant, doing the LLC agreement, and the process of making the material with the designs on it. I now have a better understanding of what developing and running a business entails,” Anne said.

FXB actually started when Kris saw a bag made out of vinyl with matchbook covers printed on it. Each matchbook had a horse design on it.

Being involved in the equestrian world (Anne’s been riding since she was 3 1/2, having competed since the age of 6 or 7, and there always have been horses at their farm), she “really, really liked it,” and thought, “I could do that.”

“I saw this bag, and it got my creative juices going.”

Kris started making prototypes out of matchbook designs, but she ran into copyright issues.

At about the same time, Anne started taking a graphic design class at school, and started sending photos home to Mom of her black-and-white graphic work.

“I woke up one morning and I thought, ‘I have exactly what I need.”

And FXB was born.

FXB comes from the name of their farm, Foxberry.

Last semester was the first time Anne took a graphics class, she said. “It’s the first time I was introduced to anything artsy. Having the artistic family background helped me roll with everything. It came very naturally for me.”

Kris mother, Liz Neumann is an artist, while Kris’ husband, Doug Molnar, also is an artist; his undergraduate degree is in art, Kris said.

Kris printed the designs out on canvas to make the prototypes. “It’s funny to see the early ones, like night and day,” to the ones they’re making now, she said.

Kris found help in Bobby Jones of Cardinal Business Forms in Wheeling. Kris orders pieces of coated canvas and Jones silkscreens the canvas with Anne’s designs. Then Kris constructs the purses. She glues most of them into their finished shape, with the exception of Dieter, which she stitches

Each style is named after one of their animals – their horses and dogs. The item comes with as much personality as the pet it was named for. Inside each is a note. In fact they had names for the bags but no designs at the very beginning.

“We knew Dieter would be a tote,” Kris said. Dieter is Anne’s horse. “We were in France and I saw a bag, and came home and put Dieter together. That was in January,” she said, the same month the LLC was formed.

“In the equestrian world, you’re always wearing jeans and you always need two hands – to get a horse ready or to help someone get a horse ready. You can’t carry a bag.” The “Jager” – their first creation – is a pocket-size pouch that holds cash and a credit card. The little Jager pouch – named after Anne’s wire haired dachshund dog – suggests, “Tuck in your jeans pocket for shopping,”

Beau – after their labrador – is a clutch to “Tuck under your arm to spiff up an outfit – or just for fun.”

Dieter – after Anne’s horse – is a big tote and “can carry a lot,” just like Dieter, they joked. The note inside the Dieter reads, “The Dieter can carry anything a girl needs to bring along for a trip, school or just a day of fun.”

Liz – their only girl dog – is an eyeglass case. “Glasses & lipstick – all you need,” is tucked inside Liz.

Cheese – after their black lab – is a small messenger bag, still in development. Kris is currently working out “the bugs” in that design.

Each available item comes in six graphic designs – Swirl, Dot, Triangle, Geo, Line, Circle and Flame. They are all black and white with a red accent – the logo, a button or the lining. Dieter has a red fabric liner stitched inside in a variety of graphic patterns.

“Anne’s going to do some new designs; we want to see what has sold. The designs with more black in them, we seem to like the feel of them. We’ve got four designs with a lot of black in them on hold,” Kris said.

“It’s fun to watch her,” Kris said of her daughter. “She has transformed herself. And she’s so proud of herself. She’s humbled that people like what she’s doing.

“My mom has taught me how to be hard working and to go after what I want. Growing up I watched her leave early and come home later from work because she was working hard on things she had to accomplish for work. From watching her I realized how important hard work is. She is my role model and my best friend, and I think working on FXB together gives us the opportunity to work hard together,” Anne said.

Anne’s goal is to be the FXB marketing director, Kris pointed out.

“We want to sell to boutiques. And we’re working with a woman who is a big vendor at horse shows,” Kris said. She pointed out that Jager, especially, will sell well at horse shows. “The women in the horse world always wear jeans, and they like different things,” Kris and Anne noted.

Anne and Dieter are coming home for the summer – the first summer in seven years, Kris said. “We plan on doing lots of work!”

“Having a business relationship with my mom is a little different than our typical relationship but we make it work. There are times when I feel bad expressing my opinion on things that need to be modified and improved because she is my mom. I told her my reservations about this and she told me, ‘Oh no, I want you to tell me what you think.’ It is funny to talk to her about product and the assembly and how much we have in stock because this isn’t our typical conversation. I think the fact that we are so close and have become such great friends makes having a business relationship easier on us. I can only hope that it will continue this way,” Anne said.

“The two of us are so lucky that we care about each other so much,” Kris said about the mom-daughter duo.

“For D. (her husband Doug) and me, it’s all about family. Family is at the center of our lives – as it should be.”