This week, I'm excited to share my interview with Britta Cabanos. She is the Chief Design Director and Co-Founder of CCD - Creative Capital Design. CCD is a design studio that assists brands with everything from strategy to design to development to production management.
Additionally, Britta is also the Co-Founder, Director, and Editor in Chief for Inside Fashion Design, a global resource for all things fashion design.
Whew! That's a mouthful.
In other words, Britta is an all-around powerhouse! She's developed a platform that's valuable for "creative thinkers, makers, and brands." She created Inside Fashion Design to help fashion designers and creatives better understand the fashion industry's behind-the-scenes.
Here's a glimpse into the behind-the-scenes of Inside Fashion Design, and the lovely Britta Cabanos!
Britta Cabanos, Our Lemons into Lemonade Feature
Were you always interested in starting your own venture? What inspired you to start your own business?
Britta has always wanted to start her own business. In fact, her entrepreneurial spirit started at a young age.
"My first venture was building a "Snack Shack" in my backyard. This was a little wooden hut my dad helped me build, and I used my money from my paper route to buy candy and snacks to sell from this "shack." I put signs up all over the neighborhood!"
Since then, Britta has incorporated her entrepreneurial spirit into every job she's had.
What was the beginning like? Did you have a hard time getting started, or did the pieces fall into place?
As it turns out, Britta has started multiple businesses, including her own swimwear line! So, Creative Capital Design was not her first rodeo.
"I have started a few businesses, one of them being my own swimwear line. I started this in 2000 and operated that until 2003. The main reason I stopped was because I got the opportunity to move to Portland for a design position as the Nike Swim designer. So I had some experience under my belt of starting a biz before launching CCD. Creative Capital Design was started with my business partner, so we founded this together in 2012."
Although Britta had much experience in the fashion world, it wasn't until she met a complementary business partner, that she decided to create CCD. Britta had nothing but beautiful things to say about her business partner.
"She is an amazing mix of left brain with the right brain, business savvy, and highly experienced in managing design teams. My experiences in managing the design process made for the perfect blend of our skill sets."
Together, they are a dream team!
Britta, you work on similar projects to Kristen, but you work with a lot of big-name brands! Was it scary when you first went out on your own? How did you get started?
Britta shared how valuable her past corporate experience had been.
"Between my partner and I, we had both worked in corporate jobs, so we had the experiences already of working on big brands. This gave us confidence and knowledge so that we could work more closely with smaller clients, as well as bigger firms, to provide our services to them. One thing we did when we launched our company was to reach out to our network, share with them our launch and what we were doing, and from there, we started getting referrals and a lot of word-of-mouth inquiries."
The Creative Capital Design team!
What is the biggest failure you've experienced in your business? What did you learn from it?
Britta's biggest failure is a devastating loss she experienced while building out her swimwear line.
"When I had my swimwear line, I was learning on the fly…which I believe can be great in some ways but also difficult. I was not experienced enough to manage orders and payments - I had 2 cases where I got a fairly large order, and I put money upfront for fabric & production to fill these orders. One of the buyers received the shipment and then completely disappeared without a trace - so they got their order for free - they stole it basically. I never recouped the costs for that order and never heard from them again. I drove to their shop one day, and it was completely shut down- so my suits from that order probably ended up at some discount shop somewhere."
As if that wasn't challenging enough, Britta experienced something similar later on.
"The 2nd experience was similar, where I shipped an entire order, the terms were for them to pay in 30 days, but then they decided to cancel it due to lack of sales in their shop…Again, I paid for all the materials and production and received no payment to cover those costs…. It was a HUGE learning lesson for sure!!"
A HUGE learning lesson and a sign that if you don't learn a lesson the first time...the universe will keep trying to teach you!
What's the best advice you've ever been given life or business?
Although she has gotten lots of good advice from colleagues and mentors, there is one statement that Britta has carried with her since age 14.
"I was a very shy kid….in 9th grade, at that very awkward age, I had a friend/classmate who wrote in my yearbook a message that said, "Always hold your head up and be proud of who you are." I thought that was such a wise thing to say from a fellow 9th grader…but I felt that she knew the awkwardness I was experiencing at that time, and those words have stuck with me ever since."
A Mood Board Britta Created
What's the most recent lesson your business has taught you?
In light of COVID-19, Britta has spent a lot of time re-evaluating her businesses.
"The most recent lesson is to look at our business, evaluate what we are doing, where we are going, what we need to do to pivot, how to expand our offering of services...so we can determine our business strategy moving forward. This is a lesson we are in the midst of- It's important to stay flexible and always keep evolving."
Although COVID-19 has been extremely challenging in many ways, it is inspiring to watch Britta use it as a time of growth.
What advice would you give to aspiring female entrepreneurs?
Britta's advice is simple and solid.
"Find a mentor, find your community/tribe, build your support network!"
And her advice if you lack specific skills?
"Find a way to learn them to expand your knowledge & skill set- keep growing personally and professionally. Some things just come with time, so also be patient."
What's your favorite part about being a business owner? What's the hardest part?
Like many other Lemons into Lemonade interviewees, Britta's favorite part is the freedom to run your own company.
"I love the freedom and flexibility- that's probably the #1 reason I wanted my own business in the first place."
The hardest part is similar to many other Lemons into Lemonade interviewees, not getting a break from work!
"The hardest part is that it is always with you. When I worked for a company, I was dedicated to that work, but at the end of the day, I could go home, leave work at work, and focus on my family. When you own the business, it is always there…but I will also say that having a business of your own is something you are passionate about, and you won't mind so much that it is always with you!! Just have to make sure you can take those mental breaks and allow yourself some escapes from time to time."
What are the most important skills or traits you've found helpful in entrepreneurship? Are there any traits you've discovered that make it harder to succeed if you don't keep it in check?
Although a blessing and a curse, Britta shared how her empathy has been extremely beneficial while running her business.
"When we get a client who is passionate about their project or work, I love feeling that energy, and I want to help them succeed. I can get so excited about ideas that I believe have potential and can get really wrapped up in that project. This gives me a lot of motivation and drives to succeed."
The downside, though, is that Britta can be hugely affected by people's bad energy.
"This is where I have learned to work on not allowing someone else's negative energy or stress to affect me. I believe a lot of creatives have this trait, and we have to remember that most of the negativity that happens out there is NOT personal to us, but its the other persons' issue…we don't have to allow them to affect us, so I am reminding myself of…and not always successfully!"
Britta, in Her Zone of Genius
I noticed you're also the Chief Editor and co-founder of Inside Fashion Design. Can you tell us more about it, and what made you start working on this?
Britta shared her humble beginnings with clear enthusiasm and passion; it all started out with a love of journalism.
"I was on the journalism team in high school, and I absolutely loved being "press," I recall getting press passes to school events, such as concerts and football games. I was also a photographer for my own stories….As I get older and have more years under my belt, I find that people are always asking me about my career path, asking for advice, asking me to look at their portfolios etc. I have built over the years a network of amazing professional industry experts who I can call my friends, so I wanted a place to share advice, share their stories and wisdom, and build a place to offer opportunities for connection, personal and professional growth."
What's your favorite 'game-changer' tool that you can share with everyone? (ie. hellobonsai, airtable, later, etc.).
Britta answered in two parts.
First, she suggests a platform that helps build and share tech packs.
"One is a program called ngnine (https://ngnine.io). This is a fairly new platform created by a friend in the industry as a tool for building and sharing tech packs with your makers. This makes the process so much easier, and it's built with live documents, so every addition or update in the system is shared across all involved parties. This is a tool we are using more and more as we add in new clients and will reduce our time spent on building tech packs in excel, for example."
Second, Britta shared WordPress as a resource, which has been a great resource as she learns the ins and outs of website design.
"WordPress has been a wonderful platform to build the site on and learn from. They offer support staff, and I often find myself chatting with them live through their chatbox, asking many questions, and getting advice on how to add in things to the site."
Britta also noted that Linkedin has been a valuable resource as well.
Where can we find you if we'd like to learn more about you?
For Design Services: www.creativecapitalpdx.com
For Features: www.insidefashiondesign.com
Britta notes: "I am always on the lookout for designers and apparel industry folks to feature on our IFD site. Please reach out if you are looking to share your story, experiences, words of wisdom, or if you are a younger professional wanting to get some exposure! We also hold events, classes, and networking opportunities, so it's a great place to subscribe and be included in all of our happenings and opportunities."