You do not want to miss this episode with the exceptional Emily Harris!
In this episode we talk about:
- Seeing into the future [2:00]
- Goal setting & entrepreneur dreams [4:00]
- How she kept climbing after Project Runway in New York City [19:00]
- Functional fashion [11:45]
- Being a mama entrepreneur [21:55 & 31:50]
- Gary Vaynerchuk [32:57], Barbies, & Molly Ringwald’s character in 16 Candles [7:51]
- All the work and research that goes into creating her own designs and sewing for her clients [entire episode :)]
- How to help other women rise up [40:58]
- And so much more!
If you’ve ever wanted to know the grit, determination, and passion it takes to start a business as a fashion designer, or how to continue transitioning as a business owner, you do not want to miss this conversation with Mrs. Emily.
Important Links for Mrs. Emily
Complete Transcript Below
Michelle: Calling all Wonder Women! Yes, that’s you. Hello! On this podcast, get ready to explore how female entrepreneurs use their superpowers to grow their careers, take control of their lives, and make the world a better place for their families and communities each and every day.
I’m Michelle Huls Rice, your host here and founder of The Women’s DreamVision Network, where I coach women on how to build their businesses, step up as leaders, and enact change for a greater good. I’m an entrepreneur, marketing professional, speaker, and promoter of smart women entrepreneurs who are changing the world. Plus, and most importantly, I’m a mom to four littles with my very supportive husband, Shaughnessy.
So tune in each week as my guests and I answer YOUR questions with practical, real-life, sweat-and-tears advice to help you proudly confirm your place with your fellow Wonder Women.
Grab your capes Wonder Women! We’re flying high!
Hello Wonder Woman. I’m so happy to have you tuning in. Today is a special guest. I’ve said this before but I’ll say it again and it won’t be the last time. I connected with this Wonder Woman through another Wonder Woman making a suggestion that we get to know each other. Connections make all the difference in this world. Allow me to introduce you to Emily Harris, founder of Mrs. Emily.
After spending several years in the New York City fashion industry, she now lives in Champaign, Illinois, and creates fashion for her line, Mrs. Emily. She always felt deep in her heart that fashion is important, but it took her a good 10 years of being a wife, having a career, becoming a mama, and living life to realize why her mission is based on the knowledge that fashion is able to empower us; to get our big, intimidating, and at times unpleasant jobs done. Women’s jobs are too important, the people we take care of too precious, the dreams we’re saying too big, to not give our all every day and fashion helps us do just that. Speaking for myself, I’ve always adored fashion. I’m hooked and ready to learn more.
[00:02:00] Hello. Hi, Emily. I’m so looking forward to talking to you.
Emily: Oh, hi Michelle. Thank you for having me. It’s such a treat.
M: I’m so happy. I have so many questions but to kick us off, in keeping with the theme of the podcast, Calling Wonder Woman, what do you feel is your superpower?
E: I love that you start the podcast with this question – just like coming out of the gate. Um, now, you know, I’m
E: I I actually love this question. I can see into the future – I’ve decided that’s my superpower. I don’t know if you knew that about?
M: I didn’t but now I’m going to become best friends with you.
E: So for nine years since starting my company, Mrs. Emily, I’ve been laying the groundwork for my business and my life side-by-side because it was obvious when I started my first fashion job in New York that work-life balance was not going to happen without some intentional and creative planning. So before I knew the how and the what of my business, I had the foresight to define the why. I wanted to build something that would allow me to be the wife and the mama I wanted to be while also pursuing my passion of fashion design. I knew that would take years to pull off because I’d be building my life and not just my business, but it’s that foresight that has served me well through years of slow growth to get where I am now, which is essentially still at the beginning of my business, but I have a beautiful schedule and I love being a wife and a mama and my business is growing to be exactly as I wanted it and it’s because of that intentional slow growth and prioritizing – you know what I wanted.
M: Okay, so I didn’t write this question down, but your answer just made me think – have you had feelings over the past few years of, “this is going too slowly,” or have you felt always that [00:04:00] this is where I need to be because I know new entrepreneurs – even people who have been in it for a while – most of the time they’d bounce back and forth between those feelings of, “oh my gosh. I am nowhere,” or, “you know what? I am right where I need to be.” So have you balanced that or has your superpower of seeing into the future held steady for you?
E: No, it certainly has not held steady for me. I feel like just in the last couple of months, I always do a lot of kind of looking back and reflecting at the beginning of the year and its really been this year because it’s just this week that I’m celebrating nine years of starting the business. And it’s an embarrassing time for me every year, you know, because it’s like, oh now we’re at this number and I have not made the progress that I wanted to. Now we’re at this number. . . and when I moved – I lived in New York for most of my twenties – when I moved back to Illinois three years ago, I started unpacking kind of the emotional baggage of like, this sucks. You know, my dream was so much different is happening. And I did that all online. So through Instagram posts and Facebook posts – that’s how I built my business. Now, you know, it’s a community of women who have heard me this whole time kind of talking about what happened like you have dreams and then you have a family and then they’re trying to co-exist. It doesn’t make any sense. And if you’re making progress with one, then you’re not making progress with the other and how does this you know, so I think when I was a little twenty-year-old making this plan of like I think I want to be a mom and also a fashion designer and I thought I’m going to have a business that just grows really slowly with the time that I have to give and then as my daughter grows, I’ll have more time. That sounds wonderful, you know, but when in reality, it’s just it’s really hard especially with social media because you’re constantly seeing exactly, you know, the process of everybody else and and I just had this realization last week about when you build a foundation of a house, you don’t see that that’s like below ground level, you know, and that’s what I’ve been doing. I’ve been building a foundation. It’s invisible. You know, like I’m just now getting to the point where I have products that I’m liking and where things are actually – I just told my husband, like man, the feeling of a little bit of momentum is totally new to me and I am loving it. But honestly, it’s just. . . I’m not always in a good headspace but I do always come back to that headspace and I always come back to feeling very strongly that like, this is what I want to do because I want to be a mom and a wife in these specific ways and I want to be a fashion designer in this specific way. And this is how it works together and I know that it is and it’s been very obvious that it is but it is extremely slow and that can be very very disheartening.
M: I couldn’t love your answer more because what I’m hearing is that you still come back to the practicality of it. You still come back to the goal setting. You still come back to the dreaming too. So it’s like all of that. And your education and experience of yes, I can do this. Yes. I’ve made a plan. Yes. This will happen. Just be patient with myself. Right? And it’s a lot of self-love.
E: Yeah it is. Oh my goodness. Mmm. It is and having like a community around you to help, you know, when you’re like, I hate this and I hate myself. I am doing terribly, you know, then you’ve got your people who are like calm down. Look at the full picture. Look at the life you’re building not just you know, that one moment that you’re looking at.
M: Yeah that you’re not in a bubble can really take the pressure off. Yeah, that’s fantastic. But the fun stuff for me – fashion! You are a fashion designer!
E: I am!
M: That’s so awesome. I was thinking about it when I was planning the interview. I once envisioned the fun and excitement and glamour of designing clothes because I was obsessed with my Barbies – primarily because of fashion. It was less about the Barbies and more that the clothes were fantastic for me. One of my daughter’s still plays with the dolls and the amazing 80s close that I had for them. That was not my path. But what is your origin story? When was your passion sparked?
E: Yeah, so we didn’t have much money growing up, so shopping thrift stores and clearance racks – that was just life, but I loved putting together outfits out of spare parts. Basically, there were no rules. So I stole my brother’s white t-shirts and wore them with my thrifted fines and I made my prom dresses out of safety pins and a silk scarf tied around a Goodwill skirt. I took whatever I had and made it into something new and unique and it was that process of making something from nothing. That was my art form and self-expression. I think growing up without name brands – I wasn’t even aware of many of the cool things. So I escaped a lot of the pressure of, “you have to wear this to fit in.” I was insulated from that in a way, which I think really helps. And we moved a lot. I was always able to reinvent myself when we arrived at a new place. So my senior year of high school. I showed up in a new school four times the size of my last and I just took the opportunity to wear whatever I wanted to because no one knew me and so it was awesome to not be defined by some former version of myself, but always moving allowed me to evolve. And then another thing that really was defining for me was that my mom and I would watch old movies together and musicals and we just drool over the outfits. In every era from the 20s to the 70s the women in those movies look like I thought women should look, not because they were perfectly polished but because they had distinct points of views and I could see their personalities and what they were wearing. So that was also kind of where my passion was sparked.
M: Well you left out the 80s and pretty much described Pretty and Pink there for a moment. I’m dating myself. But I mean was there anybody cooler than Molly Ringwald? And that pink prom dress?
E: Yes exactly! Ha ha! I did leave out the 80s but only because you had them covered and I just wanted to cover the other decades but I do want to get my hands on those Barbie clothes because they sound amazing.
M: They really are and I like that I was able to keep them around. I was just envisioning, you know, moving had to be challenging as a person growing up. But also I was picturing, you know, that cool kid that other people would have never have been able to really replicate your style. It had to give you a sense of confidence growing up or maybe it was a way to fake a confidence because I know I’ve worn things specifically when I did need to add some confidence externally that I wasn’t feeling internally.
E: Right? Yeah. It was both for sure. I think sometimes I felt very, “Hey, I love this and I feel like myself, I feel confident.” I think other times I wanted to hide for sure.
M: Yeah. I know I’ve used fashion for that as well. And it sort of leads me to the next comment. My first article that I wrote after starting a coaching business was about fashion. It was how it can put you in a specific mindset and I can sometimes use it to help myself establish authority or a feeling of authority for armor. I’ve used that – to be frank – I’ve used it working with men in a room where I might not have felt as strong or you know, I didn’t want to share how young I was or something like that and I have used clothes that way. But now to be a more active and fun mom, I’m more practical with clothes I wear. And more practical shoes. I used to wear heels all the time, but now it doesn’t work when I’m running after all four of them. So your mission does touch on these ideas. What is your thought process around functional fashion? And did you see a hole in the industry or is it your thought process that helps to make you unique?
E: Yeah functional fashion – that’s like my sweet spot. I think that it’s such a hard mix to get and I think we live in a Pinterest perfect world. So we’re constantly seeing pictures that maybe inspire us but then when we try to apply that style to our lives it’s frustrating when the clothes don’t work for our lifestyle. Just like you said, like you can’t wear heels all day if you’re chasing, you know, after your four kids.
M: I always, you know, want to buy certain clothes and one day I will be able to but they’re going to get stained immediately right now.
E: Yeah. I spent or Motherhood in New York, so I was schlepping a stroller and my groceries and my baby girl on the subway, you know, and then to the park and then grabbing a bagel and meeting a friend and so all of a sudden my clothes had to work so much harder than they ever had to before because I had to be comfortable but I also wanted to look cute, because you do draw confidence from that. So now everything I make I just want it to be multi-purpose and I ask, “How can it be?” How can it be just a better version of something that’s out there. How can it fit better and work better and wash better and last better? So one example of how I’m doing that is the skirt I’ve been making the most this past year, which is called the Amy Skort. So it looks like a gathered skirt, but it’s actually culottes or pants. So you have the versatility of a skirt, it’s work appropriate and fun appropriate, but you have the functionality of pants so you can get home from work and sit and play Legos on the floor with your kids or walk the dog in your tennis shoes, but then immediately transition to a business meeting or go from your Saturday morning brunch with your girlfriend’s to Saturday afternoon at the park with your kids and I started making this skort for spring and summer and then I changed the fabric options and started making them for fall and winter and I’ve documented now, for a year, me wearing them and I make them in a million different fabrics and any length – from mini length all the way down to floor length. And so I’ve seen women wear my skort, you know to a work conference with a wide belt and a chunky necklace. I’ve seen women wear my skort with their favorite band T and a leather jacket. I sold them too busy moms who need a go-to grab when they are chasing their kids all summer and I’ve sold them to business women who want a skirt option that’s easy to transition to after hours. So to make that one skirt that has crossed the boundaries of style and body type and lifestyle is unique and it’s even surprised me to see how versatile it is. It’s like this perfect little intersection of personal style and functionality that’s elevated to be even more special and make you feel more special because it’s handmade by me. So that’s my vision. It happened with that one skirt, and I want to do it again. It’s so great when you’re able to have all the things in one garment that I will say is pretty timeless.
M: I love Timeless fashion because I think you should be able to really love what you’re buying because and you can spend a little bit more money when you know that it’ll be in your closet for years. I do that now more and more. I went to the mall this week and I just couldn’t find anything because our mall especially is having a hard time because it has a lot of fast fashion, which I’m not against fast fashion, but I am getting to the point where if I’m going to buy a sweater, I want to be wool or cashmere that’s just going to last me multiple seasons. And I think we’re in a time where people are considering more of the environmental impact of their clothes and how fast they go away or we have to get rid of them. We’re in the middle of Marie Kondo time! And I think the older Get you know you realize you also don’t want to be shopping all the time
E: Yeah, believe me. I don’t have the time that I used to have to get myself together. And so the skirt too is like a system of dressing which I share a lot about on my social media, like how you wear the skirt. And so I show that you can take the existing shirts in your closet and put them with a skirt because the skirt has like a super high waist and so anything can tuck into it. And yeah, I just talked about finding a silhouette that suits you and then kind of refining that so that you have a system you can go to – like an equation. Like I know that this skirt goes with these tops with these shoes – and done.
M: I love it. I love it. I love it. I want to talk a little bit about schooling because part of my mission is to also share, you know, how do people do this? How do women entrepreneurs get the information that they need to get started? You know, what was the next step when you discovered you loved fashion? Did you have guidance in high school. How did you further your studies? Tell us the story.
E: Yeah in high school, I never had the opportunity to take sewing classes or art classes. So I graduated thinking I couldn’t be a fashion designer. I didn’t realize how young I was and that anything can be learned. And so I did find a state school in Illinois – Southern Illinois University – that had a fashion design program. So in college, I learned to draw and pattern make and I stayed every hour in the sewing lab that I could. I was just so hungry to learn the tools that would allow me to continue to create and it felt like a language that I was becoming fluent in and I was in love with the thought process behind making patterns and the precision of sewing and the freedom of expression in drawing and designing. I think there’s momentum – when you love something you work hard at it and that’s what makes the progress. I think everybody is going to have their own version of a path, but you know, I think just stay relentless in your pursuit of whatever it is, you know. I applied to FIT (Fashion Institute of Technology) coming out of high school in New York City, but I didn’t have a portfolio because I didn’t know how to draw so I didn’t get in, but the school I ended up in was a great fit for me and taught me well and really prepared me a lot better for the industry.
M: Southern is a fantastic school for so many people.
E:. You know the professor’s there were trained in factories. Like they were skilled in factory garment constructing. That’s what they did and then another one of my professors made costumes for theater. And so they were really good at how to put together garments. [00:19:00] And so I was educating in pattern making and constructing than I would have been at higher level artistic design programs. They do not cover that stuff and that has served me well because I do make all my own patterns and sew my own stuff and it’s because I went to that school for sure.
M: Then New York City, what did you do there and did what were your goals? Were you selling your fashions right out of school?
E: No, not right at school. Well, my dream was always to go to New York, like that was part of it. When I was in high school, I wanted to be a fashion designer and I wanted to live in New York – that just went together. So, I won a design competition my senior year of college and the prize was an internship in New York for a designer there. So we sold our house in two weeks. We found amazing apartment with views of the Empire State Building and the Statue of Liberty The Internship turned into a job and I landed an interview with Project Runway – all within the first few months of being in the state. I know it was just like obvious that I was being sent. I just thought so. Then fast forward a couple of years and I, I was just discouraged on a deep level. The job was stressful and not exactly what I wanted to be doing. My hours were insane and I could see how impossible it was going to be to get a job in design with any sort of work-life balance. So after several years of running after my dream job, I decided to make my own way and I started my company while continuing to work part-time for that same designer. Soon after I started selling my own clothing, we became pregnant and my plan was to sew while being a mama. I was pretty overwhelmed as an early mama. So while there was some sewing going on I found it really hard to get much momentum. My brain just was not there, right? I didn’t realize at the time that I was doing everything right and it was just hard. It felt like I was a terrible designer because I wasn’t investing fully in my company. Now looking back, I’m so glad I had those early years with my daughter because she’s growing fast and I’m not going to have time like that with her again. Then we moved back to Illinois after life in New York. It just became way too stressful. And that is when I started this iteration of my business and that was three years ago.
M: There’s a lot to unpack in your early twenties, right? It is hard even in your mid-20s and when you’re starting a family, no matter what age you are, there’s a lot going on. I’ve done this four times now with kids and it’s just a challenge to have your brain working back to full steam.
E: Yeah, life turns upside down. And I didn’t know that, you know.
M: Nobody knows that. People tell you but you literally don’t know who this person is and sometimes you don’t realize how much you have lost of your brain power until years after.
E: Yes, exactly many years!
M: The grace only comes after the children are more grown. You started with hats, right? But you have expanded your offerings. How did that transition take place?
E: Yeah, so when I moved home to Illinois and my daughter was settled into school, I dusted off my business and started thinking about what I really wanted to do with it because my goals had changed over the years, since becoming a mother. Before I wanted to sell pretty easy to wear clothes and now I wanted to create meaningful and encouraging fashion. So as I started to think towards product, I immediately thought skirts. That’s what I was selling in New York. Actually, skirts and dresses. So I drafted a pattern and sewed a prototype. The amount of brain power needed to size the pattern and perfect the fit, let alone the physical cutting and sewing of the skirts, it was just all way too overwhelming for me. It was a season of life where I didn’t have that much to give. And I was really discouraged. I still thought I was a terrible designer. So I think I had to believe in myself again before I started. I put the skirt away. We had just moved to a house after years of living in apartment and I was constantly painting a new room or dragging home furniture from Craigslist and I kept stealing my husband’s baseball cap. So I could run to the hardware store without having to do my hair and then I thought, “I think I could design a cuter cap.”
So hats were a perfect size project for me because I could finish them quickly and there weren’t a lot of upfront costs. I love graphic t-shirts as well and used a fulfillment company that would make them to order. So there weren’t a lot of costs there either and most of my product those first couple of years was the writing that I was doing. I was emotionally unpacking what it felt like, as we talked about, just to have those delayed dreams. And while I was doing that, I was more clearly formulating my mission statement that fashion is a way to build confidence and the more I wrote, the more refined all of that became. So it was interesting how it [00:24:00] all evolved while I couldn’t get my brain to make a skirt, or maybe I didn’t have the confidence to make clothing. I did have so much that I wanted to say and I was able to build a community of women, you know, kind of around around what I was talking about that allowed me to transition to making skirts.
M: That’s good. And you kept going, right? You kept going. You never knew at the time that you could, but you kept moving forward.
E: Yeah, and I think I was sad, you know, to not have actual clothes in the shop, but I knew what I was, you know, I knew my capacity and so I just did what I could while I could and it was a very discouraging couple of years. Honestly, when you’re a fashion designer and somebody says well, did you make that? No, I didn’t make this. The next thing is, did you make that? No, I just make T-shirts but even then somebody else makes them. Meanwhile, I was transitioning my family, you know across the country and my daughter to kindergarten. So there is big stuff going on in the other areas of my life, which is what the whole thing is about right? It’s not, ‘I don’t just have a job. I’m not just a fashion designer. I’m Mrs. Emily. I’m a mom and a wife.”
M: Right. Absolutely. After your hats you have expanded your offerings. Was this driven primarily by your interests and having more capacity and more energy after you’d done hats for a while or was it a business decision or both?
E: It was both. So I made and sold clothes in New York and that was always where I wanted to end up with this iteration of the business. It just took two years of slowly working up the courage to do it and to do it in a better way than I had done it in New York. In New York, I would design a capsule collection of five or so pieces every season and then make them to order fitting clients in my apartment. I would immediately get overwhelmed with the amount of sewing and the time it would take to make a pattern for each new client – I offered customization. So I would end up changing a lot about each garment, which took more time. It was discouraging as a designer to then have your designs changed a little bit. But after two years of selling the hats and the shirts last fall, I handmade scarves for my website and a local Holiday Market and every one of them sold and it made me realize that people liked my shirts and they liked my caps, but they loved my scarves and that was kind of the final push that helped me believe in myself enough to get back to making clothes.
M: Yes. It was a supply and demand thing.
E: Yeah, I think so.
M: So then, when you come to the finance part of it, creating a line does have to be expensive and I hear that it probably was expensive when you were creating your line and switching things up to customize for your clients. But then how how did you manage up fronting that cost? How do you calculate turning a profit? Were you taught that in school, or is it a self-taught kind of thing?
E: Yeah. I definitely am self-taught and learning every day. So, you know, my responsibilities have always been first to raise my daughter. I’m a stay-at-home mama and my work has been on the side. So I’ve tried to build my business in a way that isn’t dipping too heavily into our family’s finances, which has meant slower growth. I mean that’s part of it. So for my caps, you know, I have wholesale accounts and where I can buy the the caps at wholesale, the price per cap is pretty low. And my time is free essentially for now. For the T-shirts, instead of buying bulk t-shirts, I found a fulfillment company that would print them as ordered. So I don’t have to keep stock of them which keeps my prices down, even though the project profit margins are slimmer that way. It definitely is a stepping stone. You know, I can eventually and I have for some of my shirts – I now carry stock. And then the skirts, I could have gone to a pattern maker, you know a year ago and worked the kinks out of my pattern by testing on fit models, but to save money I did all that myself. So I made them to measure. For the last nine months until now and have fit them on enough body types to now be able to make sizes of the skirts that are going to fit well. It has been a super slow process, but it’s resulting in a product that is well tested. And also, I’m proud to have done it myself and it’s been part of my story because I’ve been talking about it the whole time on social media about how hard this is or you know, this isn’t working and that some of my first clients remember on my Instagram Stories the crotch saga, which is where I was first drafting these culottes and I could not figure out if the crotch should be where the crotch should be. So I’m like dancing in my studio and videoing it and trying to move to figure it out. And when I was trying different versions on, I was like, “okay this crotch is fitting like this. This crotch is a little bit lower,” and it was ridiculous! It was but it was a bonding moment for us. I guess that’s good part about the internet, you know it has made it possible for me to sell directly to my client. So I’m able to iterate without a lot of overhead costs. This year I am moving more to pricing where I can get to a wholesale model. But until now I’ve just kind of pieced it together knowing that as sales increase, I will be able to do it a different way that is easier, that is going to make more money, but for now my time is free and so I will just do everything – from the website, take all my own photos, and write all my own copy. Everything I do myself.
M: Back to more of the bolts and thread, as it were. Where do you find your materials? Do you take trips? Are you finding them all locally? Do you keep bolts of fabric in your workspace, which you’re currently doing at home? So how does that work?
E: Yeah, my first batch of skirts last spring I sourced the fabric locally. I was able to get to New York this summer and I brought back a lot of fabric with me and I have another trip planned next month to get some more fabric. Shopping The Garment District is magical and incredibly inspiring and that’s definitely my preference. You can get really different stuff and for all my skirts I pretty much make only one in each fabric. Except for a couple, like my chambray, my denim skirts, I’ll make multiples of those, but it’s really cool to have clients get to pick out their fabric and say well this one’s from New York. And this one’s from this story. Oh, that’s really a cool part of the process.
M: So then do you order it or buy samples?
E: I buy the fabric. I know how much each skirt takes so I just buy that amount in all the different fabrics that I want. When I last had a big show, I just took all of that money that I made and dumped it right back into fabric and so I have an ongoing supply of fabrics. When we looked at our house to purchase, I fell in love with the upstairs bedroom. That is now my studio because it was connected to a massive closet that I knew would be perfect for my fabrics. I keep fabric in that closet off of my studio and then also in our dining room which is my showroom and then sometimes when I get busy or hectic I expand into our guest bedroom and then also our kitchen. It depends. I cut sometimes on our kitchen table. If it’s a plaid or something similar, you have to have more space so you can match the plaid up and so that I move to the kitchen but I love stirring my spaghetti and looking into the adjacent dining room and seeing all my beautiful fabric and my mannequins wearing the skirts I’ve made and such a big picture of the business that I want – part Mama, part designer, somehow together.
M: That’s awesome. So what are your secrets to managing parenting and owning a business and keeping your energy up and all the things that, you know, we’re all talking about as women entrepreneurs who are also parents.
E: Yeah again, I don’t feel really qualified to answer those. You know, I have a T-shirt that reads, “Defender of My Universe,” and I wrote it about my life and my role as a mom and a wife but also a business owner but to maintain balance in my life. Click To Tweet I say no to many good things because I know my capacity and I respect it and that’s new for me because when we came back from New York, part of the issues that I was having was that I had overextended myself and I’d said yes to a lot of things that did not allow me to be sewing. So I’ve learned that self-care for me is working and managing parenting. For my daughter, quality time has always been a huge contributor to her being able to listen to direction and adapt to new situations. So I try and make sure I give her plenty of face time, which is why it’s so important that I am home a lot with her.
Tips on owning a business? You know, I try to stick close to the voices that encourage me and get away from whatever is discouraging me. So that means, unfortunately, unfollowing people on social media if they’re bringing me down and listening to different podcasts that educate me and keep me motivated. I think everybody has their own version of someone who’s speaking their language and I for me, it’s Gary V (Gary Vaynerchuk), though he is not everyone’s favorite I know but I just, for some reason, if I have his podcast on while I’m sewing, it just helps me be in a positive mind and keeps me motivated.
M: He’s totally energizing and tells it like it is.
E: He does and he, you know, his message is just like you need to show up every day and put in the work and for the first however many years it's not going to make a difference. But then you're going to build a business that's based on that foundation of work that you've built. Click To Tweet That resonates with me on a deep level.
M: You’ve talked about this a little bit. But what would you say is the most challenging part of being an entrepreneur?
E: I would say the fear. I think the fear of the unknown and the fear of doing new things for me is hard because it’s not like you do a new thing and then you’re done doing new things. Like if your business is growing then you’re going to be doing new things every day. And that’s a sign of progress and I have a big fear that I really have made so much progress in this last year, but I really have a fear that in an effort to build confidence in women, the mistakes I’m making in my business or things that I’m sewing is taking confidence from them and that really has messed with my mind on a deep level. But on the positive side, uncovering all that fear has made me deal with it and made me kind of look it in the face and see like, well, what are the insecurities that are making me afraid of this situation. By facing your fear, like that’s the way through it. Just go through it.
M: But on the flipside, what’s been the most rewarding and what keeps you going?
E: I am seeing women increase in confidence and step outside their comfort zones in what they wear and I’m seeing how that directly impacts their lives for the better. They’re becoming more themselves as they explore their personal style and they’re doing that by wearing clothes I’ve made them. It’s absolutely surreal. It takes my breath away. It’s so rewarding because it’s proving the hypothesis my entire business is based on – that clothing changes how we interact with our world, that working towards defining our personal style is a way of getting to know ourselves and then presenting who we are to the world that is constantly telling us we’re not good enough.
M: I mean, how can you argue with that? Thinking in terms of superheroes – when was a time recently that you felt your cape was missing, that you might not have had it all together? And how quickly did you get it back on.
E: So this last October I took a break from sewing. I had finished my orders from spring and summer and I hadn’t started taking new ones for fall yet. And I was done. I was just ready to walk away from the whole thing. I was sure the skirts I made weren’t good enough. I was so burnt out from the sewing I had just finished that I had never wanted to see another skirt again. My friend and mentor told me to take two weeks off and I assured her that I needed at least a year, but I took the time off did random things other than work and just rested. So at the end of the two weeks I got back in the studio and I was inspired to make this skirt and it was floor-length and it was zebra printed. It was out of this fabric that I had brought back from New York months before and as I was sewing it, I had this Eureka moment. I figured out how to make my pattern a new way. That would allow me finally to size and sell pre-made versions of the skirt rather than my made-to-measure model which would eventually mean I had a scalable model for my business, which you know is years I’ve been working on this. So I stayed up until 2 a.m. that night finishing the skirt because I was so excited. It led to this past fall and making and selling pre-made skirts at multiple shows and online, which led to an opportunity to sell at a store in St. Louis, which is happening now. I totally spazzed for a good bit of time. But then when I gave my brain the time to just take a break, it was able to figure out the next step, the next piece of the puzzle.
M: I really love getting behind the scenes because you hear all the interviews and the the forward-facing polished things on social media, but, you know, people need help and you’ve mentioned that actually, a couple of times, your community and support system are what helps you achieve success. You’ve mentioned a mentor and you have your family. What really does your support look like?
E: My marriage is going on 15 years this year and you know, my husband knows the things that bring me life and the things that suck it from me and he’s seen me, you know, kind of at the worst. He takes things off my plate so that I can focus on my business and spend time with our daughter and so we really do have just like a unique relationship where what makes him happy is seeing me happy and he will kind of go to the ends of the earth or, you know, wait nine years when my business is growing. I have a wonderful friend named Amy, which my skirt is named after her, and she’s just the perfect friend for me. She talks me off ledges and back into the head space of being ok with slow and steady, slow and steady. She’s a mama too and also growing a business while staying home with her babies. So we’re often texting back and forth about, “Oh my gosh. How do we do this?” Her perspective is very different and it helps me remember that my priorities are going to be different than other businesses. And so my business is going to look different than others and success is going to look different. Progress is going to look different and that’s a good thing. That’s what I want. So she says the things that I know but I so often forget and she reminds me, you know of my values in the direction. I’m heading.
M: There’s nothing comparable is there?
E: There’s really not. And I randomly met her when I moved here. So she saw me kind of at my worst. I was getting ready for my first show when I was just selling caps and shirts and I’m like literally I cannot order my signage for my booth. We were going to North Carolina to a festival there and I just was so overcome with just self-doubt that she physically had to come put her hands on my keyboard and order my sign for me and then she traveled with me to that show and held my hand the whole way because I was a hot mess. But we got through it.
M: When you were younger, can you remember thinking about a Wonder Woman? Like who was she? Who was wonderful to you? Who had it?
E: Yeah, I think of my mom. Some of my earliest memories of her are her clothes actually, because of her extremely unique style. She’s always just amazing. She always had her makeup on, her hair done, and wear really funky clothing, but she stayed home with us. So she was cooking dinner for us every night, smiling and wearing chandelier earrings while she doing it. So there is no more perfect picture in my mind then that – like earrings and homemade spaghetti, floor-length gypsy skirts, and homemade cookies after school. That really is kind of my Wonder Woman.
M: Now that you’re older, do you see any traits that you have picked up from her? Do you feel comparable in any way?
E: You know, so much of my parenting is modeled on my mama’s and so much my creativity comes from her and though my earrings aren’t quite as big as hers, if I’m making dinner for my family after having sewn all day, I feel like my day is a success. She gave up some of her dreams and that taught me about priorities and what’s really important at the end of the day and I think that has really influenced how I look at my life and the life that I want to build.
M: How can we help other women rise up?
E: So, I heard you talk in a podcast, Michelle, about why women are so important in the workforce – because of the different ideas and perspectives. I just agree so much with that and I want women to acknowledge that they are different and lean into that strength of those differences and I think that’s how we rise up to that level. I think that we as women carry the mental load of raising children, alongside the work that we do, which is a gift but often we see as a hindrance, you know. So I think talking about how we’re pulled in multiple directions helps so we aren’t all in our own corners trying to build our own lives and trying to ignore the fact that we have 1 million things weighing on our minds. I don’t think that we will be truly happy if we don’t at least contemplate how we can carve out room to have careers and families and like the multiple pieces that make up the pie of our life.
M: I completely agree and the time that we are in makes me really excited for the future. I think we’re all talking and sharing more and I think social media and the digital age encourages that.
What excites you most when you look at the future in regards to women and our place in the world?
E: Well, you know, of course I see everything through the lens of fashion, but I think low self-esteem keeps us from moving towards our goals and dreams and sometimes keeps us from having certain goals and dreams. Fashion is such a teachable way to raise confidence in women. It has a significant impact on our world when women are making more progress towards their goals because they shed the weight of their insecurities. Click To Tweet I’ve seen so much of that and it’s the most beautiful thing. It’s so amazing to see women become a true version of themselves because they are free from worrying about what somebody else thinks about them.
M: Yes. Yes! I mean that is super powerful. It’s super uplifting. I am 100% on board with that.
E: Yeah. I know you are.
M: So I just want to close by saying you’re making the world a better place with your energy, your ideas, your functional and beautiful fashion, and your total support of women. So thank you so very much.
How can people best connect with you? I know I’m going to recommend they follow you on social media: Instagram and Facebook.
E: Yeah, I share my outfits and thoughts on confidence and fashion and parenting and dream following and discouragements like a fashionable therapy session over there. I like all kinds of tips. And I also just share the process of building my business and any discouragements or setbacks that I have along the way. So it’s really like if you’re not into fashion, it’s really so much more than fashion. That’s my particular dialect but we’re talking about the same thing, which is how do we build a life where you prioritize the important things and let go of what’s not important so we can keep going towards what is important?
M: Yes. So you heard Mrs. Emily! Answer the call Wonder Women. Embrace your powers. Step up and change the world.
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