Last week I marveled at the task of building something different as a small fry and how the heck you do this. To recap: I am creating a business around great fitting wardrobe staples out of beautiful looking and performing, durable fabrics. The particular challenge for the week that exemplified the larger challenge for this work had to do with a fabric purchase for the spring/summer line. Reid Miller Apparel is collaborating with a student group at NC State to build a small line of spring/summer wardrobe staples and I had run up against or deadline to have fabric purchased. I set my sights on a supplier of very high performing technical fabric that is expanding into beautiful looking fabrics for everyday apparel that incorporates the properties of their performance fabrics: breathability, durability, sweat absorbing/neutralizing, wrinkle-free, washable. It is so innovative and beautiful and there is nowhere else to get it.
The gatekeeper for this beautiful fabric was swamped with work and taking 4-5 days to respond to each email. What’s more, technical fabric samples usually only come in black and we needed summer colors. Last week I realized that if I could not get the information to place an order by the end of the week, I would not be able to use their fabric for a blouse we are making.
Enter Netflix! Monday night I took a break from the stress of fabric orders and the (perceived) impending doom of our project and watched “Steve Jobs” on Netflix. And I was fascinated with how he operated. Yes, he was not a kind man to say the least. But he was uniquely talented at pushing people to do things differently, winding their expertise and fresh take into novel products. I noticed a couple of things about the way he worked with people: He assumed that his ideas were out-of-this-world awesome and he asked for a lot from people. (These two are both related: Because he assumed his ideas were awesome, he assumed that other people would want to go out of their way to help him build them). And I realized, to build something different you HAVE to be able to ask for something different than the norm from each of your partners. You are going to have to ask rigid industries like suppliers, manufactures, pattern makers to do something new – which is always more difficult for them. And for them to want to do this, you are going to have to believe in yourself and your ideas and get them to believe in you and your work.
So I tried it out. I decided to call the head of marketing for the company and tell her how great of an opportunity it is for them to get exposure in front of a market of women seeing their product in a new light – high performing, stylish everyday clothing versus the technical clothing it is usually used for. And it worked. Within 1 hour I had a miracle worker assigned to my inquiries, and by the end of the week we had placed our order.
It became clear to me that there is only one choice when you are building something novel – ask people to go out of their way to help you because your work is great and deserves to succeed or pack up your things and go home. There is no third option. And, of course, I’m not going anywhere (I’m obsessed with this stuff).
And my request for help could have just as easily been ignored, written off or not worked out in the end. And I can be certain that sometimes it won’t work out – but you have 0 chance if you don’t give it everything you’ve got. It is just too difficult to make it without this sort of fight. And you better believe that when I have setbacks or things don’t work out I’m going to keep fighting.
Well it was a week supported by inspiration from movies. Ever seen the movie Bridesmaids? Kristen Wiig is feeling sorry for herself on the couch watching a movie. She has a lot of things to feel bummed out about: kicked out of her already shitty living situation, lost her crappy job, failed business, not talking to her best friend. And Melissa McCarthy comes in, sees her feeling sorry for herself, starts hitting her and tells her: “Fight for your shitty life.” She even bites her in the ass like life does. And finally Kristen Wiig hits back. If we really want a different sort of life, a novel business or something else, it is not enough to hope for it, to be kind, to do good work. We have to fight for it. We have to know that we deserve it and fight for it wholeheartedly. When it hits back with crap we have to fight back. When an unexpected event knocks us down, we have to stand up again. And all week I’ve been thinking “Fight for your shitty life! Fight for your shitty life!”i
i. I don’t think that my life is shitty but some moments it feels that way and it is helpful to remember to fight back and that it is entirely normal to get nocked in the head a few times, we just have to keep standing up.