The Success Diaries:The Skimm’s Danielle Weisberg and Carly Zakin

Dear Danielle and Carly in 2006,

Your life is pretty, pretty good. Keep on eating that pasta because it’s going to be a while before you’re back in Italy.

You two just met on a study abroad trip in Rome. You’re having a great time not talking about the real world that comes after graduating college. And you should. Because real life gets real pretty quickly.

Now, get ready for a shock. It turns out your news internships pay off. You both end up getting jobs at NBC News after college. So breathe. But you end up quitting them. To start your own company in your mid-20s. Less than 10 years after graduation, you’re both running a new media company with 14 full-time employees. And you start it from your couch.

Oh yeah, you become roommates too.

You don’t go to business school. You don’t go to law school. And you don’t get better at math. Sorry. But you do start a media company with the experience you gained from your time at NBC News and turn it into something that your friends trust to get their news from. Life gets really busy, really fast. You end up relying on your family and friends more than ever — but you see them less.

Here are some things you should know:

Take a coding class. Now.

Computers and tech don’t go away. They just become more important. Don’t worry so much about learning to shoot and edit your own video and learn how to code.

Take that trip you’re putting off.

Life doesn’t get easier after graduation so have fun now. Be crazy. Don’t think about tomorrow.

Breathe.

Things end up working out, just not in the way you expect. And that’s OK.

Learn how to deal with stress. And take care of yourself.

Neither of you are great with dealing at stress in general. But you’re going to have to figure out coping mechanisms. And the sooner you try them out, the better.

You’re not always going to know what to do or what lies ahead.

And you just have to deal with it.

Be nice.

To people you just met. And to people you don’t know.  It’s a good way to live.

Sleep.

You’re not going to get a lot of it later in life.

That’s it. Everything else you’ll learn along the way.

Carly and Danielle first met while on a study abroad trip in Rome. Post-college they were reunited through an internship at NBC News. Self-proclaimed “news nerds,” they realized reading the news is a hobby, and not everyone has the time or interest. Bonding as colleagues, friends and roommates, they decided to start the Skimm, an email newsletter with sharp and witty editorial that’s designed to get you up to speed on current events and breaking news. Sign up for the Skimm here.

Tracy Anderson on How to Create Your Space in Any Industry & Own it Authentically

It doesn’t take long to see why Tracy Anderson is such a household name in fitness. And not just because she has a laundry list of Hollywood A-listers like Jennifer Lopez as clientele or an international following, because she does, but it’s Tracy’s integrity and character that form the cornerstone of her brand. Over the last 20 years, she has built a methodology that is loyal to science rather than branding. Working in an industry that thrives off of quick fixes and gimmicks, this authenticity has taken her far, including scoring business partner Gwyneth Paltrow, who was so convinced by her results that she wanted to help Tracy share the method. We sat down with the woman who would never follow a business model to find out just how she became the entrepreneurial model.

At only five feet tall, Tracy’s ambition far exceeds her physical size and strength. She dreamt of becoming a dancer like her mother and was well on her way, even attending school on a dance scholarship. While working out multiple times a day, she immersed herself in everything from Pilates and aerobics to specialized weight training. Yet, despite the intensity of her workouts, she gained a significant amount of weight during school and fell into an unhealthy pattern of crash dieting and over-exercising that eventually led her to abandon dance altogether.

“I realized from a young age that just because you have a passion for something and a good work ethic doesn’t mean you can make it your career,” Tracy says confidently.

Frustrated with all the fitness regimes that favored one part of the body, she craved the only element that was missing from years of training and desire. Balance. If you could sculpt a slender dancer’s body or a T-shaped swimmer’s torso, then why couldn’t you make yourself perfectly proportionally? Through trial and error, Tracy found this hole in the fitness industry simply because she kept falling through it.

At the time, Tracy’s then husband, a professional basketball player, was receiving treatment for a back injury in Puerto Rico. There, she met a doctor whose life’s work focused on strengthening smaller muscle groups to support the dominant, overworked few. With his support, Tracy embarked on a four-year research crusade to develop what would become the crux of her methodology.

Though she has no formal education in fitness training, she’ll be the first to tell you, that’s because she’s not a trainer at all.

“I’m a teacher, I’d say. I knew early on when I was doing my research that part of the reason why people get injured all the time and don’t reach their goals is because that kind of training [a formal trainer certification] creates imbalances in the muscles and that was not what I was trying to do,” she explains.

With her fifth studio set to open in the Hamptons this summer and a widely successful video streaming service launch at the beginning of this year, Tracy’s method is so sustainable because she focuses on the mental and physical connection necessary to create a balanced body. She emphasizes the importance of developing internal strength before building external.

“People are so focused on getting from point A to point B in their workout that they totally detour around connecting to themselves internally. If you’re internally clear, you can manage the steps, the feelings and the connections that are vital to get your body where it needs to go,” says Tracy.

Admitting it took her until she turned 40 a few months ago to really experience this clarity for herself, Tracy believes psychological barriers are the hardest to overcome on the road to self-improvement. She attributes this to what she calls the “lunchtime liposuction” mentality.

“I think we’re so inundated with a projection of what’s beautiful that we either give up or obsess about it all day,” she says.

This quick fix mindset is universal in our society and applies to more than just our physical appearance. It influences our daily lives through trends and fads that push a uniform model to success. Instead, Tracy believes in being honest with yourself about your strengths and weaknesses, explaining; the same reality that led her to give up her dreams of dancing also fueled her entrepreneurship.

Another reason Tracy has cultivated such a loyal following is because of the transparency with which she developed her method. She gains her trust through both the physical and psychological evidence she’s collected to back it. To create an adaptable workout that could be tailored to each individual, she tested 150 women with different body types over a five-year period. These women became the first to dub their experience as the official “Tracy Anderson Method.”

Despite being advised by numerous professionals to ditch the namesake to ensure a scalable business model, Tracy now views her name as a testament to her ability to remain the active content creator behind her method rather than the figure head.

“I’m not afraid of being a different model because I think it has only given the business strength in the 20 years of me fighting to be the trusted source behind it,” she says.

Now with an apparel and whole food line in the works, Tracy’s priority is protecting her authenticity.

“If I can change someone to make them faster, better, smarter, healthier, I’m going to do that first before signing a pair of leggings any day,” she says.

Known to abort ship on anything she deems a “bell or whistle,” Tracy has dumped branding offers before.  She pulled the plug on her first food line offer when told she could cut costs by substituting an “organic” label for “natural.”  Never one to be swayed by buzz words or gimmicks, Tracy is careful not to dilute her brand and only signs on to projects that reflect both her values and work ethic.

“At the end of the day if anything is going to get in the way of a person’s hopes and dreams of what I can do for their body, I have a problem with that,” she exclaims.

In a generation where it’s hard to keep up with which juice or exercise class is in style, Tracy has remained relevant not for her sculpted body or monogrammed swag, but the respect she cultivates from her clients. Her model is simple: be real in who you are, honest about where you’re at and be an achiever, and no one, including you, will question your worth.

The Success Diaries: Misty Copeland

Dear Misty:

The world of classical ballet is where you know you want to belong. You are hopeful, full of dreams, and excited to potentially perform on the very same stages as the famous ballerinas who, until this point, you’ve only read about.

As you go along this journey, I want you to always remember this feeling of excitement. I want you to hold tight to your dreams, especially when they seem so far away and unattainable.  Classical ballet is a world of tradition filled with artists overcoming extraordinary obstacles in their careers every day. The road will, at times, be difficult, disappointing and uncertain.

But Misty, be patient. Know that your moments of doubts and fears, not feeling that you belong, will only push you to be your best. Following your heart is the right thing to do. Believe in your instincts and accept the support being offered to you. Having a strong support system around you will lift you up when you think there is nowhere to go but down. That circle of love and empowerment will keep you going when you believe that you’re at the point of no return.

I would not be honest with you if I did not tell you that there will be hard times ahead. What you’re experiencing now, the learning curve of getting to know ballet, understanding everything that being a classical ballerina entails, pales in comparison when you’re told that you’re not good enough, not lean enough, not deserving of certain roles. In those times, you must have the inner strength to persevere. Know that you love what you do and that you were born to do it.

Do not let others’ words of hate deter you. You are unique and beautiful. Stay open and don’t lose your inner light. Own who you are and be proud. One day, not so long from now, you will blossom into a Firebird and Swan. And regardless of what a few naysayers may believe, you’ve worked hard and earned it every step of the way.

Love Always,

M

In 2007, Misty Copeland made history by becoming the third African American female soloist and the first in two decades at the American Ballet Theatre.  Born in Kansas City, MO, and raised in San Pedro, CA, Misty took her first ballet class at 13, an advanced age to begin this traditional art form.

At age 15, Misty won first place in the prestigious Los Angeles Spotlight awards, prompting the LA Times to name her the Best Young Dancer in the greater Los Angeles area. Her roles in the American Ballet Theatre include: Firebird – The Firebird, Gamzatti – La Bayadere, Muse – Duo Concertant, and Gulnare – Le Corsaire, just to name a few!  Find out more about Misty at MistyCopeland.com!

Photo credit: Gregg Delman

Volunteer Your Way to a Healthier You!

‘Tis better to give than to receive, according to the old adage, but did you know giving your time can actually give you a longer lifespan. Studies show volunteering can reduce the risk of death by 25%, improving both physical and mental wellbeing.

Providing support for those who need it allows for a sense of purpose and meaning that may not be fulfilled by our regular jobs or relationships. Volunteering can offer new skill sets, exposure to different fields and the opportunity to forge new relationships. These experiences help to boost self-confidence and morale, which can lead to higher productivity at work.

This same sense of usefulness bolsters positive emotions and lowers stress levels that effect you on a physical level. A reduction in stress helps to boost immunity and stave off diseases. By donating time and engaging with others, you gain perspective and a larger world view, which reduces risk of depression and instills a sense of belonging.

As women, we statistically volunteer at a higher rate than men and, with benefits ranging from higher functionality to lower risk of heart disease, volunteering may just be one reason why we are outliving our male counterparts.

There’s no better time to give your time than now, so look up your favorite local charity (we can definitely think of a good one!) and see how you can help out .  You’ll be doing both them and you a favor!

The Success Diaries: Claire Mazur & Erica Cerulo

Dear Claire and Erica circa 2002,

You guys just met, at the dining hall! And, as much as you want to roll your eyes at the guy who introduced you—who thinks you’ll have so much in common because you’ve both dated college basketball players—acknowledge that he might be onto something. Definitely roll your eyes first, though, and then get down to it.

Eight years from now in 2010—when you’ll be an unfathomably old 26 and 27—you’ll start a business together. Can you even believe it? First, try to wrap your heads around the fact that you won’t be in college staying up all night, er, working on the chattiest floor of the library. Then picture yourselves in New York instead of Chicago with 1) less bronzer on your faces and 2) resumes that boast real, paying jobs. Then imagine you come up with an idea one cold day in January that you gets you so excited that you rally emails full of “what ifs” and “how ‘bouts” back and forth all night and decide that you have to meet for coffee the next day to workshop it some more.

What do you two know about starting this business you’ve dreamt up? Next to nothing. Neither of you has worked in fashion in a real way, you’ve only constructed a website via Tumblr, and you definitely don’t know the difference between an LLC and a corporation. But here’s the thing: That won’t hold you back. Below, the things to keep in mind, especially when banging your head against the wall or feeling the symptoms of imposter syndrome coming on.

1)   You’re going to have to get comfortable with risk.

The anxious, unsteady feeling that swirls around in your stomach when you’re not confident that something is a sure-thing—start embracing it. Don’t let it keep you up at night. Because, hey, guess what? Nothing is a sure-thing. The safe job you take could get downsized. The gig you think is your absolute dream could be totally obsolete in a decade. So set your sights, and get after it.

2)   Ask for advice—tons! and ignore a whole lot of it.

When you’ve never done something before, it seems like everyone who has even a teaspoon of experience must know better. Pick those people’s brains. Hear them out. Take it all in. But then use only what speaks to you, and don’t feel the tiniest bit of reluctance about choosing your own way. You might not know everything—or anything, really—but you know what feels right to you.

3)   Accept that some things will be so much harder than expected and that some things will be so much easier.

Today could be terrible, and tomorrow could bring an amazing surprise. This year could be mind-blowingly awesome, and next kind of the dumps. Don’t dwell on the bad or the good. Roll with it.

4)   Take care of yourselves.

And know what that means for YOU. Maybe it’s carving out time to work out every morning so you don’t lose your damn mind. Maybe it’s having a standing weekly date with your husband. Maybe it’s knitting or cooking or watching Nashville even though it’s gotten so bad. Just make it a priority, and don’t let it get stamped off your calendar by all of the emails and meetings and to-dos.

You’re gonna be great. We mean it.

Xoxo

Claire and Erica in 2015

 

Claire and Erica met at University of Chicago in 2002 when a mutual frenemy introduced them, suggesting they should be friends because they both, at some point during their college careers, dated (Division III) basketball players. They quickly realized they had other things in common, an appreciation of fashion and a Tracy Flick-like approach to their extracurriculars among them. Both girls moved to New York post-graduation, and often found themselves talking about peers who had started businesses and their mutual admiration for those who had taken the plunge. When they conceptualized Of a Kind—over the course of 25 frantic emails in 12 hours—they knew they had to pursue it. Of a Kind aims to support and promote on-the-rise fashion and home designers by giving you access to their unique products and personal stories. For more about Of a Kind, visit www.ofakind.com or follow them on Twitter, Instagram or Facebook.

Soledad O’Brien: Navigating the Not-So-Linear Career Path

At one point in her career a typical day would start at 3 A.M. and wrap up around 3 P.M. And that was just the work day. Then it was home to her four kids, who were all under four years-old at the time that she was also hosting her own morning show. Award-winning journalist and self-proclaimed optimist, Soledad O’Brien has always been short on time, but never on passion.

Known for telling the stories that are often left out of mainstream media, she has navigated one of the most rapidly changing industries and still came out on top.  Most recently, she started her own production company, Starfish Media Group, all while still balancing freelance journalism and running a foundation to aid young women, as well as being a wife and a mother to her four children.

But if you ask about her biggest challenge so far, she’ll tell you it’s not unique: “I think it’s hard being a working mother. “

After 12 hour days, “I still left work with a million things to do. I think it’s a typical story for a lot of people. How do you manage to do the things you want to get done, the important things, and they’re all important things? It’s really hard,” says Soledad.

Although she’s a pro, it’s not her multitasking, but genuine character that makes her so relatable and successful across the board.  Soledad has made a career out of giving a voice to those who aren’t often afforded the chance to use their own. In doing this, she has found her voice, which she owns with fortitude and merit, effortlessly gaining public respect.

As her formal name suggests, Maria de la Soledad Teresa O’Brien has quite a mixed heritage. Her father was Irish and Scottish, but hailed from Australia, and her mother is Cuban with a blend of both black and Latina roots. Growing up in a predominately white neighborhood in St. James, New York, Soledad did not fit the cookie cutter mold of the Northeast. But with a supportive family behind her and a relentless drive, she learned not just to embrace her differences but capitalize on them.

“When I was 13 years-old, I felt like an outsider, but as I got older, and as a journalist, it was a great thing because being an outsider as you try to figure out other people’s experiences is a plus,” she explains.

Even after marrying her husband, Brad Raymond, Soledad kept her full name, seeing it as a moniker for her veritable personality.  She began her career as a journalist with a goal to fill in the gaps of mainstream media and report on the issues and people who are too often left out of the conversation. In doing this, she learned her unique culture and appearance could be a tool for understanding, helping her to transcend the emotional walls that block the truth and allow her to relate to a diverse population.

Although she now views her background as a platform to create change with her stories, Soledad knows not everyone is afforded the same luxuries of support and guidance growing up as a minority. Which is why in 2006 she started the Starfish Foundation to help young girls in need afford an education and reach their highest potential.

True to her character, whether speaking at women’s conferences or one-on-one with the girls at her foundation, Soledad is always real, often shrugging off her impressive resume and explaining it as a highlight reel.

“There’s a lot of bad and challenging things that have happened, and yeah I’d love to forget some of that stuff, but it really helps people to realize that it is not magic. I had a lot of great opportunities, some things I completely fumbled and here’s what I learned from it—I think that kind of honesty is really critical,” she explains.

While for NBC News as a producer, Soledad learned this early in her career.  On her day off, she was cleaning her office when a story broke, and she was forced to jump on a plane to cover a press conference in jeans and cowboy boots. Laughing as she defends that it was really good outfit for cleaning, she admits, not so much for a young professional producing a news story.

Despite the cowboy boots incident of ’91, Soledad has set herself up and achieved success, graduating from Harvard University and working her way up from a local news station in Boston to become one of the most respected correspondents for several prestigious, national media outlets. But even after taking all the right steps to land her dream job, the real challenge has lied in navigating her career as the industry rapidly changes.  Throughout the years, Soledad has been able to remain so effective as a journalist by maintaining a macro view on her career, allowing her to look at every job as an opportunity to grow her skillset.

“When you think of your career that way, all the little things that can be frustrating become small because you have bigger mission and goal; it’s not necessarily about the job you’re doing right now.”

When Soledad made a bold jump from the widely popular NBC News to a less glamorous role on cable television for CNN, she had a lot of people questioning her decision. Today, she will tell you that move allowed her more flexibility and the opportunity for growth that led her to become the founder and CEO of her own company and, more importantly, maintain her original goal to really create change with her stories.

Crediting her mom’s age old advice that “most people are idiots” in their opinions of what you’re doing, Soledad has been able to navigate her ever-changing career by staying true to herself.  Much like the stories she breaks, there are no bows that neatly tie up her career and label it a success, it’s constantly evolving with no clear edges or lines to divide a story that she knows will never be read as black and white.

Although Soledad’s authentic sense of self and honesty is half the reason she has made it so far in her career, she faces her fair share of judgment as a minority woman in the media. And as a television reporter, she’s well aware of the power of appearance and the influence it can have, especially on a media career.

“I think everybody is judged in the first minute if meeting somebody, so my theory is don’t give people ammunition to judge you poorly,” she says.

 

Kim Cattrall: Tuning Into Your Career

Part of one of the most iconic feminine foursomes in our history, Kim Cattrall was 41 years- old when she landed the role of Samantha Jones on Sex and the City as the brassy high-powered public relations executive who gets what she wants. There’s a scene where Samantha is shopping for an outfit and the sales clerk suggests she may be too old for the dress she chose. Venting some choice words that send the frightened woman running to the stockroom, Samantha proclaims she’s 52 and will “rock that dress.” Not unlike her character, Kim never let demographics dictate any steps on her path to success. Looking back, she shared with Dress for Success how she got the career she always wanted and how she’s constantly reinventing it to keep it meaningful each day.

It only takes a minute sitting down with Kim to realize her mellow demeanor could not be further from the racy reputation of her alter ego, Samantha. She’s calm, modest and even soft spoken at times, but when it comes to her career, Kim has taken a few pointers from Samantha’s forward approach to help her recognize her own self-worth.

“It was like a revolution in my life, playing a character who is such an empowered and confident woman,” says Kim.

She channeled her inner Samantha when negotiating a salary raise for the first Sex and the City movie. Like most industries, Hollywood is still a male dominated world, with women only making up 10 percent of writers and 15 percent of executive producers. Knowing she was standing on an uneven playing field only fueled Kim’s desire to fight for what she knew she deserved.

“I would rather be in a place and be heard than be in a place where I feel very compromised,” she says.

Though she admits standing up for what you believe in is intimidating, Kim suggests this is what gives women an edge. It’s the same societal parameters that hold us back that can also inspire us to find more creative routes to move forward.

Playing an empowered female on the big screen is far from Kim’s only inspiration. Growing up, she did not have a stable home life, moving from England to Canada and living in a car with her family while they drove cross-country. Despite a lack of material wealth, one thing that has always been present in Kim’s life is a supportive group of female friends and family members. Though Kim is best known for her part in the SATC sisterhood, it’s her real life female support system that has had the biggest impact on her. Knowing that others may not be as lucky, Kim believes it’s banding together to cultivate a culture of women helping women that is the key to empowerment and progress.

“We spend so much time in our lives as caregivers: as mothers, wives and sisters, but to be sisters to people who are not your blood, simply your same gender, that’s when change happens,” Kim says.

Realizing the importance of helping those who are coming up after her, she mentors many young actresses, even setting up a scholarship fund at her high school alma mater to financially aid young people entering into the arts.

“These girls are as passionate as I was at that age and I want them to have a life that is worthwhile and fulfilling to them.  I would hate for them to take a job where they had no kind of future or were unable to express themselves,” says Kim.

Raised in a working class family, Kim worked tirelessly to reach fame at mid-life. Now as a single woman at 58, she knows the importance of financial independence. She set up a foundation to allow others the chance to pursue their dreams without the stress she endured early in her career.

As Kim’s career has evolved, so has her definition of success. Today, she says, it is all about how she feels rather than what she can get. When she was younger, she couldn’t work enough, constantly searching for the next role and defining her worth solely on that success. But as she’s gotten older, the same woman who once thought she was too old to play the part of Samantha has embraced her age, realizing jobs, priorities and appearances are all fluid.

Now that she feels the freedom to be selective with her work, Kim puts her energy into parts she finds meaningful and relevant. Recently, she appeared in The Boomer List, a documentary about the last generation of baby boomers, as part of the PBS series American Masters. And, she has partnered with Pfizer in the Tune In To Menopause (tuneintomenopause.com) awareness campaign to encourage women to learn more about managing their menopause experience, and to embrace this time of life. A component of this program provides a donation to Dress for Success.

Today, she is dedicated to giving a voice to the women of her generation, explaining, “It’s so important that, as women, we really take care of other women. As I get older, I get more aware that it’s not just about me and my work, it’s about everyone else around me. I want to give more stories about women my age, there’s so many of us out there, but there really hasn’t been programming to address us and the issues we face.”

Although success has taken a new form in Kim’s life, one constant has always been the support she’s received. Now she plays a large part in cultivating that kind of foundation for others and is redirecting her passion for women and the arts to give her career new life, during mid-life.

Kim Cattrall has teamed up with Pfizer Inc., makers of prescription treatments for certain menopausal symptoms, to launch the Tune In To Menopause campaign, which is designed to bring the conversation front and center and motivate women during this time of life. Kim encourages women to define their own “menopause style” at TuneInToMenopause.com. Visitors can take an interactive quiz about their approach to menopause and get a unique look into some of the changes they may experience. For each quiz completed, Pfizer will donate $1 to Dress for Success, up to $50,000. You can also enjoy Kim’s “Tune In” playlist on Pandora®!

The Success Diaries: Mary Allstead

Dear Mary,

It’s 2009, and there you are, sitting on your front porch, dreaming about starting a cupcake bakery. In fact, all you’ve done for six months, day in and day out, is think about starting this business. You’ve never owned a business. You know nothing about baking. You hardly have any money. But there is something inside of you that says “do it.” You think about the cupcakes you’ll sell, how you will differentiate yourself from other bakeries, how you want your place to “feel” to customers, and how much money you are going to make. You daydream, make notes, read books, search online and try to get as much information as you can. It seems very real and clear to you some days and, other days, it’s blurry and scary. You are determined.  And you are going to take the jump!  Here are some things I’ve learned that will help you to stay motivated along the way:

Don’t listen to those who tell you “you can’t.”

Listen to yourself. Believe in yourself. YOU CAN. You are going to learn that you will have to stop hanging around those friends, and even family, who are negative and unsupportive. You will need to protect yourself and your dream, and the only way to do that is to stay positive. You will start to surround yourself only with those who believe in you. You will become friends with other business owners who will understand what you are going through and offer you support and great advice. It turns out that your dad, who was a small business owner himself, will be an invaluable source of solid advice and business lessons, as well as someone to cry to when things get really tough. He will be the most supportive person in your life. He never once says “you can’t” because he believes in you…not just because you are his daughter, but because he can see your passion and how hard you are working.

Be open to your business growing and not looking exactly like you thought it would.

Be flexible. Starting a business is a process and all of those things you dreamed about are not going to necessarily happen, at least for a while. Everything will not be perfect. In fact, nothing will be perfect or work out the way you thought it was going to!  You will not make the money you thought you would right off the bat. Lots of people will give you advice, and some of it will be good. It’s your business and you will make the decisions, but be open to ideas from others, you don’t know everything!  Your business model may change in ways that you wouldn’t have imagined in the beginning. You will go from having a very small storefront that you share with another bakery (very low overhead), to having your very own place, to thinking about shipping your goods all over the U.S.!  Be open to every new idea. You will have new ideas almost daily, and lots of them are worth exploring, but only some will be successful. It’s okay, keep trying!

You will become a single mom shortly after you start your business.

You didn’t see this coming, but there you are. You can still do this!  It’s harder, now you don’t have a significant other to help support you, both financially and emotionally. But you can do it!  You will figure out how to work around your kids’ schedules and the business. One of the upsides is that your kids will be with you a lot! They will learn to help out, they will learn to understand and care about the business. They can see a direct correlation between how the business is doing and how much money we can spend at home.

You and your boys will become a strong team. Money will be tight, especially the first few years. You will have your heat shut off, your water shut off, and other various crazy things will happen and you will see that your boys are okay. They don’t act upset or freak out, they immediately try to help find a solution.  They act as part of a team and now your oldest is talking about wanting to start a business.  You are raising an entrepreneur!

You are going to make a lot of mistakes.

Mistakes will be made, a lot of them.  You will learn to stay calm and to find creative ways to fix them.  You will figure out that every single time you make a mistake, you will learn a valuable lesson for the next time.  You will learn that most people are forgiving and understanding.

You will get this sense of accomplishment and self-worth that nothing else in your life has ever given you.

You will get to see your dream grow! You are going to do it! You will work more hours than you ever imagined, but you still wake up, every day, excited. Your confidence will grow. You will learn that you can make a real thing out of something you’ve just imagined! You’ll start off with one friend helping you VERY part-time, to having nine employees.

You are going to constantly try new ideas, and be ecstatic when some of them work. You will make yourself learn about profit and loss statements, cash flow, and other things you knew nothing about. You will learn to manage a team. You will get to be on television, in the newspaper and in a calendar for business women. You will be recognized as having one of the top 100 cupcakes in America, you’ll be asked to speak to a class on starting a business, get interviewed on a radio show, and asked to write an article for Dress for Success!  You might even start thinking about starting another business. You will learn that you are an entrepreneur at heart and that this is what you were meant to do.

Good luck Mary! You are in for an exciting journey!

Mary Allstead is the owner of Mix Cupcake Co. in Reno, Nevada, where their cupcakes are all handmade onsite from the finest ingredients daily.  Their menu features 16 different delicious flavors and they are always experimenting with new ones!

Lubov Azria: Starting from the Bottom

A vision of her creative principles, Lubov Azria is strong, sophisticated and self-aware, clad in contemporary chicness.

“The idea of passion is what I’m interested in,” says Lubov.

And it’s that passion that drove a career at BCBGMAXAZRIA where she began as a design assistant in 1991 and now reigns as Chief Creative Officer. Since her arrival, BCBG has become an international fashion powerhouse with 570 retail stores worldwide. Under Lubov’s creative direction, the label has expanded from one line to four, not including forays into footwear, jewelry, handbags and everything in between. Closing out their 25th anniversary year, Lubov talked with Dress for Success about being your own inspiration, checking egos at the door and the constant evolution she embraced to become the creative leader of a global brand.

As CCO, Lubov holds the weight of almost 200 designers on her shoulders. In addition to her role at the office, she is also the better half of founder and designer Max Azria, with whom she has three young children and three step children. In order to keep her professional and personal life balanced, not to mention her sanity, she finds ways to be inspired every single day.

Growing up in Kiev, Ukraine, Lubov was raised modestly and remembers the feelings she got while staring in store windows—where fashion always sat behind glass and beyond her reach. As the woman who now spearheads the creation these objects of desire, Lubov vows to make all her garments affordable, contemporary and most importantly inclusive.

“I am designing for every woman. It changes over time, but at the end of the day the BCBG woman does it all and needs chic, easy options that match her dynamic lifestyle,” she says.

The concepts behind BCBG’s designs are also influenced by Lubov’s lifelong dedication to the arts. A former ballet dancer, she was lured into fashion after realizing her appreciation for costume design outweighed her dedication to the physical art. But Lubov doesn’t see the transition as that drastic.

“To this day, I don’t think I work in fashion. I think it’s more about art, creativity and working with an incredibly talented team. To me, fashion has a different connotation. We create everything here and it doesn’t have to be fashion, it can be anything,” says Lubov.

This open interpretation of art and design, along with an integrity of character that is true to her roots, is Lubov’s creative vision that keeps the BCBG brand modern and unique, but also extremely wearable.

Investing more than two decades with the company, Lubov has climbed from an entry level assistant position to the top, and has the wherewithal to prove it. She now navigates her career path just as she does the creative process. When looking for new hires, she says it’s those who can stow away pride, knowing there’s always going to be several drafts, and recognize each step (no matter how small) is necessary to reach final product.

“Along the way, I have learned that nothing is below you. Do windows, floors and bring coffee if you have to, make it happen,” Lubov says.

Armed with experience, Lubov believes that starting from the bottom was necessary to understand every aspect of the international brand she now spearheads. She constantly passes what she’s learned to her team explaining, “Compassion and leading by example can set you apart–you cannot lead without showing people how to lead.”

Her career is proof that if every step, even the minor ones, if taken with conviction, will always lead forward.

Overseeing multiple departments at a time, Lubov has adjusted herself to a macro view, but kept her eye for detail.  Incidentally this is why Max hired her in the first place. The two complement each other; Lubov is meticulous and he has always been a global thinker (think the first American designer to acquire a French fashion house under his label). As CCO, Lubov sees the collections go from concept to final sale, a process which totals around six to nine months. Despite her crazed schedule, she prides herself in fitting every garment and interacting directly with her customers as much as possible. She works off her M.O. that to reach every woman, she must be in touch with every woman.

Whether she’s looking back on her decades in the fashion industry or wrapping up one long day at the office, Lubov’s growth and longevity lies in her ability to embrace evolution and adapt to the inevitable changes that occur in any profession. She attributes BCBG’s constant expansion to investing in a team that helps spur new vision and supports the company’s forward motion.

“Everyone in our company is a member of our extended family. My peers, designers and incredibly creative team inspire me with their own personal style.”Surrounded by those who keep her burgeoning vision sharp, Lubov’s influence weaves like a solid thread through the company.  Each collection marks an evolution of the previous season. Her progression and a commitment to that lifestyle is evident in this year’s 25th anniversary collections, which were based on reinventing pieces from their archives. The garments were built on solid fundamentals and juxtapose the old with new; echoing the model that has earned Lubov her dream career and the contemporary edge to constantly bring it new life.