Each month we feature a woman in business who personifies what it means to be a Business Betty- she is confident, smart, stylish and successful. Do you know a woman that you consider a Betty? Tell us about her by sending a note to firstname.lastname@example.org.
On a typical humid summer day in New England, I drove to Providence to meet up with this month’s Featured Betty, Olivia Rodrigues.
Olivia works with women professionals and entrepreneurs who want to feel radiant and polished in the clothes they wear, and are looking to explore, embrace, and cultivate their style individuality. She primarily aims to redefine the shopping experience and give personal style purpose and meaning for the driven and ambitious professional/mother.
How did you get started as a stylist?
Telling my story in brief is rarely an easy thing to do because it’s not exactly cookie-cutter. Fashion has always fascinated me since I was a little girl. I am Cape Verdean, but I was born and raised in Abidjan, the capital of Cote d’Ivoire (I was 16 years old when my parents moved our family of six to Rhode Island). As a child I loved accompanying my mother on her trips to the fabric store so my sisters and I could play hide-and-seek between the zillions of fabrics. I loved the way they felt and smelled. My mother designed the majority of her wardrobe and she’d have a couturier sew them, including more than half of my closet and my sisters’. It had never occurred to me to listen to and explore that inner curiosity in depth once time came to head to college. Later on, with a BA in Spanish and an MA in Strategic Fundraising and Philanthropy, I was convinced that I had found my place in the nonprofit sector.
In the spring of 2012 when I found out that I was expecting, I began to reflect a lot on my career path, and whether I was truly pursuing my heart’s desires. For some wild reason I became obsessed about old dreams I had kept secret, and I began to jot down thoughts and ideas. It was as if my intuition vibrations did a whole 360 on me. I craved a creative outlet and the freedom to direct something of my own, and blogging felt like the perfect avenue. I also knew there was going to be an element of conquering vulnerability with the launch of my maternity fashion blog; regardless, I enlisted one of my best friends as my photographer and editor and blogged anyway! After my son was born, I realized that there had to be a bigger purpose with my blog. I was itching to explore my passion for style and I had no idea what it was going to look like, but I had a vision (admittedly a very foggy one). I decided to enroll in Jill Marinelli’s stylist training program because I wanted to be an informed fashion blogger as well as master the art of styling various body types. Also, I would network a lot after leaving my job at 5 pm. Looking back, it was quite an insane schedule but it became the new normal. For every small step I took, there was an opportunity waiting.
One of my first big projects sprouted from the Providence Lady Project and it was styling their photo shoot for their 2014 Summer Gift Guide. The rest is history. A new career sprung from having this burning desire to find my purpose, which is to help women with their personal style, and professional image; and redefine their experiences as consumers of fashion. As a style consultant, I get the opportunity to collaborate with local businesses and work on fashion spreads, lookbooks, and campaigns.
What skills did you learn early in your career that have helped you in your business?
As a fundraiser and having worked in the nonprofit sector for 8 years, I have learned the importance of nurturing relationships; and making sure that donors/volunteers/clients feel great about their investment of money, time, and resources. In the philanthropy sector, it is good practice to tailor and personalize the donor experience with the cause they are most passionate about, and to be able to demonstrate the impact and value of the nonprofit’s work. As a stylist, I am constantly thinking of ways that our styling services can bring value to a client in terms of her personal brand or professional image; and how we can make an impact and help her vision flourish.
It still feels very early in this phase of my business (which just turned a year old a few months ago). I would have to say, being resilient when it comes to asking, and with that said, being okay with “No”.
When you work for a nonprofit, no matter what your title/position is, you are an ambassador for the mission, therefore knowing your elevator pitch is important. I am still practicing mine, however I believe it’s the exposure and attendance to many networking events that have sharpened my approach when I make an outreach to new stores and pitch an opportunity to collaborate. Often the hardest step is hitting ‘Send’ on that email, or the first few minutes spent on presenting the project idea and the pitch in person, because you have no idea what the response is going to be. It feels risky because rejection doesn’t feel great, but my muscles have been trained.
I have also gotten into the habit of sending out handwritten thank you notes after a big project, a personal styling session, or after meeting someone new. Nowadays emails/text messages have become the norm for instant communication; consequently the art of handwritten notes has slowly become extinct. If I still get excited and feel appreciated when I see a pretty envelope waiting in my mailbox, I feel others may feel the same way.
Event planning has certainly contributed to me being hyper organized and detail oriented on a day of a big photo shoot.
I wore a lot of hats then (working for a small nonprofit), and now that I run my own business the meaning of that term has amplified tenfold. And I wouldn’t have it any other way.
What obstacles or challenges have you faced in your career, and how did you overcome them?
The Impostor Syndrome was a huge thing last year for me as I planned the launch of my business. During that time I was working with a life coach who helped me connect the dots. Once in a while the Imposter Syndrome pops back into my life and I make it a goal to pay it no mind.
[blockquote] When I look at the things I have accomplished in a year, there is simply no room left for self-doubt. I must keep going… [/blockquote]
Right now, I am figuring out a lot of things when it comes to structuring my time; focusing and channeling my energy in the right places, while letting go of control at the same time. A few months ago, I was working a 9-to-5 at an Ivy League School and I had a set routine, which included a lot of day care trips and late business meetings. Now I am faced with a lot more uncertainties – some I had expected and others I did not. The best way to deal with these challenges is to be compassionate with myself and remain focused.
What do you wish people understood about what you do?
Fashion/wardrobe stylists are for anyone who is looking to upgrade their personal style and refresh their professional image; and wants to understand what works for his/her body type. A great stylist doesn’t impose a style on you. You, as the client, are in the driver’s seat because only you know best your lifestyle needs and fashion preferences. A great stylist also understands when it’s time to challenge you a bit, without compromising physical comfort. Comfort zone, however, is mental, leaving ample room for self-discoveries. I have found that there is a huge element of self-confidence boost that comes out of my one-on-one styling sessions. It is truly empowering to know exactly what works for you, and once you experience how a piece of clothing you would have normally overlooked, could be styled and look amazing on you – the light bulb instantly switches! Shopping for your closet becomes efficient, intentional, and laser-focused. No more settling.
What inspires you?
First, the dreams I hold for me and my family are a huge inspiration. Secondly, I draw inspiration from seeing other women succeeding and achieving their goals (big and small), particularly the women that are part of my tribe. Their success and drive fuel my energy. I also get inspired by the extraordinary talent and work I see on Instagram from emerging, and up and coming designers nationally and internationally.
[blockquote] There is so much creativity and innovation out there — it is mind-blowing! The lesson I take away is that you have to start somewhere. [/blockquote]
What is the one tool you couldn’t live without?
Does screenshot count as a tool? If not, then my iphone 6.
What would people be surprised to know about you?
I played rugby for a semester during my years as an undergrad at Rhode Island College.
What’s the nicest compliment you’ve received in your career?
In this stage of my career, every compliment feels like the greatest, sweetest, most gentle words. There are two that come to mind. One compliment came from a fashion photographer who has done work in New York – she told me I was one of the most organized, most professional stylists she had every worked with. We were professional acquaintances and had just finished working on a project together. My business wasn’t even official at the time (and by that I mean my website was still in its building phase, including logo etc…) so hearing that from someone who had worked in the NYC fashion scene felt good!
Another great compliment was that I have a good eye. And there you have it – my #1 styling qualification, which I’m willing to bet on!
What advice do you have for young women entrepreneurs?
Surround yourself with dreamers, doers, and people who are going to tell you the truth. With that said, speak your truth and know your value.
What do you do when you’re having a bad day?
I go for a walk or a run on the bike path to allow space for self-reflection. Alone time in nature tends to restore my sanity and allows me to put things into perspective. Working out when I feel stress helps a lot. Other times I just let the tears flow. Often that’s the best remedy.
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