Great writing and music always seem to inspire. More importantly it’s the stories that inspire those two arts to come to life that make the most impact.
This past week I had the pleasure of interviewing two super savvy fashion and business chicas. These two ladies certainly had a story to tell and much wisdom to share. Liz De La Cruz-Jean & Gaby Ortega, are founders of Alma Mei. They’re putting the heart in fashion, and are dedicated to “delivering both style and substance, with a brand that allows you to contribute to your fashion sense as well as your sense of purpose.”
Redefining The Way You Look At Fashion
Passion doesn’t just derive from inspiration, but the chance to create impact does. Something that Gaby says makes her feel powerful, “I know the bigger we get, the more impact we make.” The chance to leave a great legacy and teach her children that “you can live by your own rules” is something that energizes Liz and with a fashion brand that focuses on helping you #lookgooddogood (a hashtag created to let the world know these ladies value substance in business) they pass on the same value every quarter with portions of their profits going to a select non-profit.
Friendship Before Business —
“This is coming from a business standpoint it’s nothing personal” Gaby
It’s that same thoughtfulness and debt that’s allowed for their friendship to flourish since college. Now, many years later it led to partnering for a great business. How do you balance and maintain a friendship while running a business. Liz & Gaby’s advice 1) communication is key in any relationship, 2) give others free reign when it comes to the individual strength in business and creativity, 3) be cognizant of not pressing any personal buttons, 4) and always remember to start the business convo with “this is coming from a business standpoint it’s nothing personal” will help you maintain a healthy and thriving business partnership.
The Roots of a Company Don’t Always Start Where They Should – So Branch Out
Liz recalls life wasn’t always this way; making business decision and living her dream were never part of her plans. To her it was a cookie cutter life she aspired to: “you go to college, you get a degree, and that’s how you make a living.“ After seeing her husband, a serial entrepreneur, realize his dreams, she decided to take the plunge and bring her trusty sidekick along for the ride. With the combining of their finances, business and fashion know-how, they were on their way.
“We see this as a long term plan. And the Alma Mei brand needs to be solid as if it’s been in business for 10 years” Gaby
Now, together, they face new challenges and even bigger obstacles. Running a business that can be very competitive requires you to constantly think outside your entrepreneurial box. Where many would get worried about seasons changing and leftover merchandize, these entrepreneurs have learned to shine. “Its about being resourceful with it” says Liz, and “never giving up on switching it up” suggested Gaby. Just a couple of things Liz and Gaby do to keep the momentum up is to gift merchandise to fashion bloggers for marketing and constantly changing/mixing old merchandise with the new”
Their store may have started online but that’s not where they built their roots, it all started in the community where they could connect with their customers one on one offering services right in their homes as well as pop up stores and fashion events. “Branding is your bread and butter” says Gaby. They want people to be able to connect to them, to generate that feeling about what Alma Mei is all about. “It’s about doing good, looking good, literally. We want to look fabulous but we’re also cool people, we’re approachable.”
Rewind – The Best Time To F*ck Up And Fail Is Right Now
“Walk by your faith and not your fear” Liz
Looking back, the ladies have learned so much from running a business and becoming entrepreneurs. When asked about their thoughts on failure, Liz suggests the best time to fail is in the beginning, when the risk isn’t so great and you can make changes that won’t create such a big impact on your business. Both Gaby and Liz look at failure as a learning opportunity and advise others to do the same. Have a business plan but don’t let it become the blueprint to your business, suggests Gaby. Their best advice to any entrepreneur is this: Don’t get emotional and allow your fear to take over. In the words of Liz “walk by your faith and not by your fear.”