Everything I wish I’d known when I started pt.4

I had promised Annie that I would list the things I admired about her, things that made her different from the average designer entrepreneur based my experience of working with her. [If you need to catch up, her entries are part one, part two and part three. Her guest entries explain how and why she went from using sewing contractors for production to making the transition of setting up her sewing factory.] So here is my list of 15 reasons why Annie is successful when other designers won’t be:

1. She’s smart. No surprise there, any regular visitors here are well above average. Attracting the crowd that I do, I forget that fashion people are universally considered to be quite stupid.

2. She’s brave. Which is not the same thing as never being scared. Two years ago she endured the biggest PR social media fiasco with jealous and petty drama queens. While personally in the midst of despair, she repeated her message in the face of ribald fabrications and lies about her brand and came out on top.

3. She has a great sense of humor and a great laugh (my favorite). She laughs loudest at her own mistakes. She’s so objective that she can make you laugh about it too and never be offended.

4. She’s forgiving. If people let her down, she seems to presume incompetence rather than malice. She gives others the opportunity to explain and make things right. Which is not the same as not ever becoming angry or letting others know she’s disappointed. I’ve never heard her speak ill of anyone, meaning being judgmental or gratuitously unkind.

5. She doesn’t assume she knows everything. Most people would say this is also true of themselves but in my experience, they go off and do exactly what they’d already decided to do. Such pattern emerges that the people who expect or glean from free advice are the very people who also think they know everything. Why is that?

6. She takes responsibility for her mistakes. She assumes the responsibility of mistakes that people she has hired have made and is proactive about solving them. She has changed course when she needed to. She’s wedded to outcome, not the path she thought would work to get there.

7. She is flexible. If one solution or person doesn’t work out, she’ll try another. She is committed to a successful solution, not her preconceived ideas of how to solve them. Which is not the same thing as not being disappointed when her pet theories don’t work out.

8. She listens, even to people she doesn’t agree with because she senses the grain of truth in everything. Besides, even a stopped clock is right twice a day.

9. She is humble. Oh how she is humble! She knows that being successful does not depend on her having all the answers. She knows she only has to know who knows and ask them.

10. She makes difficult choices both personally and professionally. Not willingly (who does?) and not happily but she’s centered and focused on what’s real and needs to be done.

11. She’s smart about her product and brand:

  • She developed a compelling brand and brand story.
  • She is consistent and focused.
  • She was an active participant in the consumer community she gestated but was flexible to change the vision of what she wanted and the financial goals it entailed to embrace the needs of her customers. Meaning, she let them be in charge -somewhat- and ran with it -which is not to say she wasn’t reluctant about it. But she’s also smart enough to not always listen to them or do what they say. That takes a very fine hand.
  • She is very very good to her stores.
  • She doesn’t take her product (or herself) too seriously.

12. She is strong. She doesn’t give up on herself or others quickly.

13. She checks in with me fairly often and is pretty good about asking for help. She knows it is more important to solve problems than to worry about what someone may think of her for having made a mistake. She consistently tries a variety of strategies to solve her own problems but she doesn’t wait too long to ask for help.

14. Other than design, Annie’s greatest strength is perseverance in problem solving. This doesn’t mean she always knows how to solve problems (although she increasingly gets better at that too) but that she works through problems in the face of seemingly insurmountable odds and disappointment both personally and professionally.

15. Annie is very generous. Actually, she’s proactively generous before she needs to be. Because she makes deposits well before she ever needs to make a withdrawal, Annie is always first in line at the favor bank. She has her own window.

Everything I wish I’d known when I started pt.1
Everything I wish I’d known when I started pt.2
Everything I wish I’d known when I started pt.3
Everything I wish I’d known when I started pt.4

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  1. Clara Rico says:

    Wow, what a personal recommendation! Makes me wish people could say some of that about me.

    P.S. the second and third links are broken. (it should be “i’d”)

  2. Theresa in Tucson says:

    I like #15, that she has her own window at your favor bank. I’ve read and reread parts 1, 2 & 3. They are all about Life and how best to live it. Thank you, and Annie too, for taking the time to post them.

  3. Kathy Jo says:

    Thank you both Annie and Kathleen for sharing these lessons, I hope to be able to accomplish so much and still be so generous with my time and my story. Annie you sound like a wonderful person and I imagine that has a lot to do with how successful your company is, I like to see the good guys have great success, it gives me hope.

  4. Kabba says:

    I am amazed with this story as an in house sewn product business ::with custom clothier freelance work on the side:: is EXACTLY what i want to do. Anna you are an inspiration and i cannot wait to get my hands on “The Book” lol (sounds like “The Devil Wears Prada”) lol. Experience of others is a very valuable teacher, I believe and pray everyday i NEVER get in a position in which i believe i “know it all”. I’m young (22 years old :))and i am willing to learn these lessons and hopefully learn from all the users on here as i am sure they have lessons i can take valuable information from as well. Thank you so much to each and everyone of you who have been through it and earned your stripes through hard work, adapting and persevering. I look forward to being among you and tasting my own stable success someday on a strong foundation. This website and posts just like this give me hope. <3


  5. Kathleen says:

    If you end up doing what “Anna” is, I suspect your expectations will evolve and you won’t want to do custom clothing. Even if you did, it will be difficult to find customers who will pay the then price of your time (iow, hundreds of dollars an hour). You’ll have the demands of running a business and making payroll and won’t be able to justify doing anything that pays so much less. Alternatively, just do custom clothing. There is no shame in either job.

    The book is nothing like the devil wears prada; the film is a fantasy scripted to meet the expectations of wannabes. The movie has nothing to do with our business. If anything, the book whittles prada-esque aspirants down to size.

  6. Kabba says:

    Read the links you posted and where i’m from Kathleen, you would be described as the ultimate example of “Keepin It Real” hahaha. I’m always open to change. and i cant say for sure where this business will take me. But maybe i can have a hybrid of the 2 idelas :)? managing a work space full of a small group of sewers, cutters and pattern-maker making custom clothing for our manageable client list? lol oh the possibilities.

    I’m just itching to get started and very much looking forward to laughing at the many mistakes i’m sure ill make so i can one day myself give good advice (like Anna) to the next starry eyed clothing designer whom seeks it from me. First and foremost, buying your book. Ive said it before and il say it again. Thank you for being so accessible (i actually get a little excited every time you personally respond to me) <3.


  7. Kristen says:

    Just getting through the four parts now; great read!! It’s so interesting to read everything in the book and process it and agree with it; then you start to do it (as with Annie, myself, and so many others), and you see how true it all is… amazing.

  8. Sara Boyd says:

    Just read this today and I’m so glad I did. I know these points have all been said & eluded to in many different posts as well as “the book”, but this was what I needed when I needed. I am actually going to make some changes in my launch simply because of this. Thank you. Thank you all for being here and making me feel far less alone. I have also had some bad work experiences that in the end I thank them for what they really taught me— as much as I hate to admit it. The perfect follow-up being what we all need to look for in ourselves as DE’s. Bravo & Thank you, well written.

  9. My favorite article read on this forum so far. I’m blown away by her work ethic and common sense smarts. She is truly an inspiration for newbies. I learned so much from reading this and have even been able to reflect back at some negative customer experiences and realize that they haven’t ruined my reputation. I can control my reputation and brand going forward and make it stronger. Thank you for taking the time to share your story with us Annie!

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