In 2011, I began researching how I could use the balance of my career to make a difference in the world. I didn’t know what that even meant. I had spent the early part of my career as a textile and apparel specialist learning theory and solving problems to develop practical experience. But it has been said that there is a point when theory and practice merge, it’s almost like second nature, your intuition takes over and you find yourself in search of bigger and bigger problems.
I had gotten to that place.
So in 2011, I decided to go to grad school in what should have been the prime of my career, but not only that, I stopped working and started a business. (Gasp. I know.) My identity was so wrapped up in my work, I was my work, I was Stacy Flynn from Very Important Company and I didn’t have much of a life outside the work I was doing. I was accustomed to receiving a steady paycheck and having things and suddenly had to take on my own feeling of scarcity. I found myself having an identity crisis, constantly thinking “what if this doesn’t work”?
I’ve gone through so many stages of personal development since that transition time in 2011. I’ve broken down and rebuilt myself so many times but with each time building in a little more resilience, a little more intelligence.
My business partner and I developed a garment recycling technology that has the ability to make soft, beautiful and luxurious new fabrics made entirely of cotton garment waste. This past year we landed our first major US brand and retailer, we set up our first automated pre-production line, we were selected as one of the global top 5 businesses to compete for the largest sustainability prize in the world and then I worked up some serious nerve to do a TedX Olympia talk called “Clothing will save us.” What. A. Year.
As we get ready for this coming year I’ll be handing over much of my responsibility to the team. It’s time to let this company and concept be what it will be, it’s time to let go and move on to the next level which is trying to make a difference in this world.
Here are some of my life lessons from last year:
Business has taught me that making do with less creates more for everyone.
Open up your circles personally and professionally; a start up is like walking a tight rope, anything can happen.
Debate more to understand problems and build awareness. We’ve become scared of debate, it’s perceived as argument and can be done respectfully.
Give back in any way you can; I’ve begun presenting to students of all ages, it’s more intimidating that presenting to venture teams. The thank you notes are posted all over our studio as a reminder of whom we are really working for.
- Keep remembering what Maya Angelou once said: “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”
Here's to 2016!