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10 Years to Become an Overnight Success

One of my earliest independent lingerie projects! Circa 2012

If you've been in business even for a day, you've probably heard the phrase that "it takes 10 years to become an overnight success." This is so true, not only in business but in anything you want to become skilled at. It literally takes you years, maybe a decade, to understand why, but that's because you don't get to see it as it's unfolding. Clarity is a process that happens slowly over time and then suddenly all at once.

Success comes to people because they are committed to their mission with an unwillingness to stop short of the goal. But it's not when we reach the goal, we finally achieve success; Success takes its sweet time to come to fruition because investment in the goal matters more than reaching the goal itself. As you work towards a goal, you start to consider what is necessary to win, to succeed. You start to stack up habits and traits that align with your mission. You think of all the paths that you can take to get to where you're going. All of those paths will put you up against different roadblocks in your way. It's in your moves and how you face those roadblocks that success builds. When I graduated from college, it was 2009, one of the worst economies to graduate into. The economy was tanked, a lot of people were out of jobs, and entering the career market as a new grad was beyond unlucky. But we make our own luck, don't we? Through persistence and perseverance, we can turn difficulties into our biggest triumphs. I persisted. My first job out of college was a crappy one, I worked at Old Navy, and I was on the logistics team. I woke up at 2 or 3 am every morning and went to work for a 4 am shipment. I helped unload a truck and then set up the store fixtures and put out all the new merchandise based on how the floor was supposed to be set that week. It was a grind, but I knew it was, at the very least, in the realm of where I wanted to work.

One of my college projects and probably my first crack at swimwear... Eeek! Circa 2009

I didn't last long in that role. At that time in my life, I was definitely not a morning person, but really what recent college grad is? The next position I moved into was at a brand new consignment store that had just opened. I was one of the first few employees and the manager's right-hand woman. That job was such a significant improvement to what I was doing before. I had a great team, and a great boss, and I was working in a segment of fashion that interested me a lot as someone who grew up thrifting and consigning. I blossomed in that role quite a bit. I was quickly promoted to assistant manager and helped open and close the shop. Not too long after I started, the store manager had an excellent opportunity to move to NYC, and she took it. I stepped in as the store manager in the interim, and it was a great way to learn leadership early on in my career. I was sure that I still wanted to pursue fashion design, so I wasn't eager to jump in full force. I still remember spending many of my evenings grinding away, designing new collections to build upon my skills and keep them sharp.

Looks I created while I managed Uptown Consignment:

Not too long after I stepped into that role, I had the opportunity to interview at Bennett & Company through a friend's recommendation. I had been at the consignment store for about 10 or 11 months at that point. The interview was a 2 1/2 hour drive, so I scheduled it for a day when I worked the evening shift. It was planned for 9:30 am, so I had to get on the road pretty early to make sure I'd be there on time. I was half an hour early because the maniacs in CT drive 90 hours an hour, myself included apparently. The interview was pretty laid back, I met Regan, who was the senior designer looking for an assistant designer, and she seemed super friendly. She had me do a little bit of test work on illustrator at the spare desk in her office. The whole time I was drawing, I was wondering if I was doing it the way she wanted, totally struggling with imposter syndrome the entire time. After I showed her my sketches, she seemed pretty pleased, and I ended up meeting the head of design. She interviewed me pretty briefly and explained the role, but she was a little more ticked and tied than Regan was. Overlooking the Newburyport coastline, I can remember the moment she actually offered me the job while I sat directly across from her. It came like an ocean wave crashing into you while you're waded up to your waist in water. Slow at first, but then a massive crash that sort of knocks you off balance and startles you more than it should.

The types of things I thought I wanted to design! I made this for my Facebook page circa 2012

She offered me the job, yes. That was the slow part that I saw unfolding as it happened. What I wasn't expecting was how small the salary would be and how taken aback by it I was. Most people don't discuss the numbers because it's such a big secret, but I'll dismiss that notion right here, right now. Their offer was for $23,000 a year, a painfully low income for a college grad, but they knew their audience, and it's a hard game to get into. I was already making significantly more than that in my role at the shop, especially when you considered 10+15 hours of overtime every week. I tried to negotiate to see if they would budge from that number, but nothing worked. I told the Design Director that I certainly needed to consider it and that the interview was over. I worried about how to make it on such a small salary, but I was still excited about the offer. An offer in fashion AND it happened on the spot! I drove home, calling my mom to give her the details. She pretty much told me (like she has about any major decision) to just do it. She knew it was the in I needed to move from where I was to the role I wanted, and she was totally right.

Styles I designed for Lane Bryant / Cacique while I worked for Bennett & Company:

I was a little more than a year out of college, and my persistence paid off. That job was the hardest hurdle I had to get over to make a career in fashion. It felt like it took FOREVER, but... ultimately, it led to all the future doors that would open for me, and it started the clock on my overnight success.

My career at Bennett ended abruptly after the company had some major financial woes due to Fredericks of Hollywood going out of business. After being let go, I freelanced for a little bit, mostly on startups and new business ideas. I definitely struggled a bit during that period because I was not yet an expert, and to really be an asset as a freelancer, you need to bring a lot of value! What I did learn during that period was that no matter what -- you don't quit or give up. Your dreams are a marathon, not a sprint.

Landing the role I took at Adore Me was another crucial step in my career path. Becoming involved in such an exciting, intense, and camaraderie-driven startup at an early stage empowered me to move towards entrepreneurism. Considering all of the success from now until then, here are a few more tidbits that I feel proud to share & flaunt (if you got it, hey girl.)

A picture of me accepting the Young Alumni Achievement Award at Framingham State in June of 2016

Some additional highlights that came later (toot-toot 🚂):

  • In the summer of 2016, I was honored by my alma mater, Framingham State University, with the Young Alumni Achievement Award. #howcool

  • In April of 2018, my first S-Corp company was accepted into the Project Entrepreneur cohort run by Rent the Runway and UBS.

  • In December of 2018 my company Fearlyss co pivoted into KRSTN NDRSN LLC

  • Landing my first big contract client in Feb 2019

  • Quit my full-time job to take a sabbatical to Bali in July 2019 until November 2019

  • Returned to the USA to embark on a full-time gig of my own, really hunkering down in January 2020! #allthestress (but the right kind!)

  • Ongoing support and demand for my business and expertise have reassured me that this is still the right path for me, even in a Covid-19 world.

At the end of the day, the most important thing to remember is that everything adds up. It all leads up to this bigger picture. Where I am now was so dependent on the steps that I took early on, and the sooner you can figure that out as an individual, the more impact you can make on your life as a whole.

Don't wait for your dream to come to you, go out and make it happen. It's the only way.

Real success is about how you show up at the times when it's the hardest time to show up. It's about making the difficult choices that change the dynamic of the field you're playing on. You must have an unwillingness to relent on the journey, even if the journey changes while you go, and it will change. Success is never overnight. It just seems so. It takes incredibly hard work, persistence, perseverance, and never taking your eyes off the goal. Leaving with one of my favorite quotes from an excellent book:

"If persistence is attempting to solve some difficult problem with dogged determination and hammering until the break occurs, then plenty of people can be said to be persistent. But perseverance is something larger. It's the long game. It's about what happens not just in round one but in round two and every round after — and then the fight after that and the fight after that, until the end." - Ryan Holiday, The Obstacle is the Way.



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