There are life events that can force us to re-evaluate what is really important, to quickly separate out the truly important from the habitual, and make life-altering decisions. These are times of tremendous stress, with problems so huge, so overwhelming in their complexity and consequences, that they may seem insurmountable, but we get through them and are often able to see the world with fresh eyes.
When the Covid pandemic hit, Lisa’s world faced a series of existential crises. Her life stopped but she had a business, she had employees, and she had two young children to care for. Adding to the pressure, she was in the middle of a divorce. She had a successful fashion showroom, with 10-15 lines represented, that dealt with buyers from major retailers. She had become a manager of managers with some serious overhead and payroll that had to be met. Being a sole business owner, stress was a constant 24/7; there were no breaks. There were stress-related health complications. Then came Covid, and what was difficult became Herculean.
Factories stopped producing orders, retail stores closed, and overnight her business went from in-person to one that was entirely digital. It was a come-to-Jesus moment, sink or swim, but she made what were at the time very difficult decisions that upended her life, and the life of her kids. It was a horrible time, but it turned into a blessing in disguise. It took some savvy negotiating, and she let it all go. Life is so much easier now. “We all think we can be Super Women, but I don’t want that anymore. I just want to live my life inspired, to be lit up, and no more of the eternal rat race. That is where I am now; focused on helping others.” That includes producing community building events and speaking with high schoolers about how to pursue their dreams.
In one of her many pivots, her own fashion line now has a home line. She has started working with partners, rather than employees, in developing entertainment programming based on her background of working with creatives, with her consultancy Lit Up Brand. Most consequentially, she moved her family to the quiet town of Ojai, California for the slower pace of life, and for better schools for her kids. “It was the best decision I made. Life is so much easier now.”
Sometimes it is the crucible of profound crisis that forges us and expands our imagination of what life could be like.
How old are you?
I am 52.
Where are you living and where are you from?
I am from Los Angeles, CA and have lived in Switzerland, Boston, and New York. I now live in Ojai, CA for the past 9 years.
How do you organize your day?
I am consciously working to meditate in the mornings, even if it is for 10 minutes. I then make a tea filled with vitamins and minerals that sets me up for the day. I work out in the mornings and then begin work. I always have a pad to rewrite my list every morning which keeps me organized. I take a break at lunch and go outside for some sunshine. I continue to work and finish each day by usually cooking a meal for family or friends.
“I love being this age as I am comfortable in my body and skin”
What are your thoughts on being your current age? Is it what you were expecting?
I love being this age as I am comfortable in my body and skin. I know more now who I am and stay true to myself and interests. I am always open and curious to meet others, too, and grow.
There have been many unexpected challenges and changes the past few years and now I am on the other side so I am envisioning the next chapters to what I am committed to in life and how I can serve others and make an impact for others. I am learning to not react, let go of control, and move forward with grace.
What was your process in writing your books?
The books took a few years to write. I worked with someone in the industry to brainstorm and write. We met weekly after work from usually 8pm – 12am. This was the time set apart from work to focus on each chapter and set goals to cover each category in How to Build a Brand.
Why did you decide to write these books?
I wanted to share my knowledge with others for them to have success when creating a brand. I wanted people to learn about all aspects of the business. After 30 plus years of working in the industry and seeing downfalls and rises, I wanted to put pen to paper to share the knowledge and in Volume III do actual case studies on successful brands I have worked with.
“One has to wait it out to align their values with financial success”
How does one first go about discerning a business or career that will be financially viable while at the same time aligned with their values?
One has to wait it out to align their values with financial success. If you are funding your own business you can stay true to your vision and the waiting period can be long. You need to have the cashflow to wait this out. One designer I worked with from the beginning kept being asked by investors to open stores for her and invest in her company. She constantly said no and wanted to lead her own company. The 13th year we worked together, one season several majors bought her line as she had built her line and a brand name over the years. She called me and said, “We finally made it.” She has pivoted now and is mainly selling direct and has opened her own stores. She said my mom always told me to follow my heart. I say the same plus do what lights you up and find that place in that world. Stay committed as your best self and let it unfold.
If you have investors that align with your vision and values that is a plus and it can also change to increase business in another route that you did not intend.
For someone starting a business or a brand, how do they keep their vision aligned with their values?
It is key to have a vision and align them with your values: to know what lights you up, your why, how you are unique and what your voice is, know your customer, who they are and where they are going, and a 3-word blurb that describes your brand. Always come back to your mission statement: be clear of what you are making, who you want to sell to and how and why your product is a gift to others.
What are the obstacles you see for creatives our age today?
I have worked with many artists and designers over the years. I think it is great to dream and create. The main obstacle I see creatives face is the business side. If a creative is not partnered with a businessperson or not a businessperson themselves they can run into many challenges such as cash flow: running out of money, not knowing their P+L’s and doing them monthly, not knowing the 80/20 rule and accounting and financials can destabilize a business quickly. Also, with so much attention put towards social media and marketing this can create a false bubble if only focused on this. Another key obstacle is Operations, Shipping, Customer Service, Sell thru and Inventory: It is so important to have a strong team that is an expert in each area: Financials, Operations, Marketing and Sales.
What are your thoughts on personal style vs fashion?
I love going to Paris; year after year, people look timeless. They are not as trendy as Americans. I do love personal style and feel if someone is confident and knows what they love, feel comfortable and empowered in, this takes over having to keep up with fashion trends. Having clothes be worn versus them wearing and overpowering you is key.
“I manage stress by being committed to a wellness routine that I have developed over the years”
You worked in fashion, a rather stressful environment. How did you manage it?
Fashion can be very stressful. It is a fast-paced moving industry with a lot of high expectations, 5 seasons a year and a lot of turnover and competition. I manage stress by being committed to a wellness routine that I have developed over the years. I work a ton and I take time for myself to do the things I love to rejuvenate. The taking time for myself is something I learned along the way for necessity. I strive to see the best in everyone and I am an optimist. I worked at Barneys in the ’90s and they trained us to greet everyone that walked in the door as if they were your friends and walking into your closet. This always stayed with me. So, at the showroom, I create friendships/relationships with buyers which in turn gives them a trust with us. I do the same with designers and communicate with them so all is transparent and a trusting relationship is built. I tell sales reps to treat the designers as if they are our partners, thus creating an open line of communication and trust.
What do you do now that you weren’t doing then?
I know now: seeing red flags with people, you need to pay attention. You need to be clear and write expectations. If employees are not following through or buyers are not paying or getting back to you, put up rules and boundaries so you move forward with less issues. Knowing your limits will keep you on track to your overall goals. Working with people that do not bring their personal issues into work and are professional and passionate about what they do is key.
“Meditation and Buddhist dharma talks have been a life changer for me”
How do you take care of yourself?
Taking care of myself is so important. I have a daily routine of either yoga, dance, or doing a workout class at the gym. I then spend 5–10 min a day in the sauna. I bring my gallon water bottle wherever I go to try to drink this daily. Each morning and evening I have a beauty routine and a monthly massage or reflexology. My favorite is going for a day to the Korean Spa. Eating healthy and doing a cleanse twice a year has made a difference. The cleanse is not only food but also mindset, dimming the lights at night, a day off a week for rest, sleep and intermediate fasting with excellent teachers in Ojai at Alquimia. Being around supportive, insightful and caring people inspires and impacts my life in such a positive way.
Meditation and Buddhist dharma talks have been a life changer for me as I am like an energizer bunny who keeps going… so this really settles me down to stop, just be and reflect. I have worked with Mary Brennan, who was a former employee at my company, on hypnosis to help keep on a positive track and create my dreams.
My kids are a gift and bring me to being present and playing.
What are your thoughts on figuring out what is the right amount of maintenance? There is a wide range from doing nothing to going full Donatella.
I believe people should put effort into looking good, polished and put together. It can be an effortless look. The motivation should be feeling good about yourself and how you present yourself to others.
What is the biggest challenge you are facing today?
The biggest challenge right now is patience as I have a few projects I am producing and the entertainment world is a longer process than the fashion world.
What music are you listening to these days?
I love a range of eclectic music and anytime I turn on KCRW I am in joy. If I go back to my younger years it inspires me to listen to hip hop. Jazz, especially New York or New Orleans style, I love.
If I am in a quiet mode I listen to more folk from Nick Cave, Leonard Cohen, Emilíana Torrini, Jeff Buckley and José González.
What are your 3 non-negotiables?
1. Integrity/Accountability: If someone does not follow through with what they say they will do/non reliable/flaky.
2. Responsible: If someone is co-dependent and cannot take care of themself on their own and puts pressure on me.
3. Attitude: If someone is overly close-minded, disrespectful, pessimistic and/or entitled.
The ideas expressed here are solely the opinions of the author and are not researched or verified by AGEIST LLC, or anyone associated with AGEIST LLC. This material should not be construed as medical advice or recommendation, it is for informational use only. We encourage all readers to discuss with your qualified practitioners the relevance of the application of any of these ideas to your life. The recommendations contained herein are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease. You should always consult your physician or other qualified health provider before starting any new treatment or stopping any treatment that has been prescribed for you by your physician or other qualified health provider. Please call your doctor or 911 immediately if you think you may have a medical or psychiatric emergency.
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