Today is a day we’ve been working toward for quite some time. It’s the first day we’re flinging open the the virtual doors to the Shop by HeartStories, online marketplace. I’m thrilled and relieved.
And also, a little nervous about what you’ll think.
I want to tell the stories of each entrepreneur, one at a time and host their products as we tell their stories. So today, the structure of the store feels a little lonely, but that is by design. We have more products and more women to support coming very soon!
So let’s get started by meeting Kristen with Colette Sol USA! Today we have their James Biker Boot in two colors, until their Spring line arrives!
Ladies, I. Love. These. Boots.
Hi Kristen, would you tell us a little about yourself?
I grew up outside of Philadelphia, PA and moved to NYC after college to pursue a career as a professional ballet dancer. After a few satisfying, yet exhausting years, earning a living from my passion, I made the difficult decision to retire from performing and begin a career in the luxury fashion industry. It was a logical move for me: I see fashion as a daily form of costume. In fact, growing up I drove my mother crazy with my hand ‘tailored’ clothes and extensive outfit selection before school in the mornings!
I spent the next nine years running successful wholesale businesses for European design houses MaxMara, Dolce & Gabbana, Roberto Cavalli, and Burberry. Often I was splitting my time between New York City and Milan or London. In 2014, I followed another dream and joined my (now) fiancé in San Francisco, CA.
In my spare time I volunteer with Rocket Dog Rescue and help care for dogs in need of a new lease on life in their urban Sanctuary in Oakland and by fostering. My own dog, Penelope (part Italian Greyhound/Chihuahua) is still on the East Coast…trying to work up the courage to fly her cross country to join us!
What were you doing before you joined Colette Sol USA?
Before joining Colette Sol USA I was running a wholesale Division for Lifestyle brand, Lilly Pulitzer. I managed a national business, with a focus on e-commerce, a team of sales executives based throughout the US and showrooms in LA and Atlanta. I was traveling for business almost every week!
Tell us about the moment you knew for sure you had to do something.
I was introduced to Amanda, the founder of CS USA, through a mutual contact. As soon as I heard about the vision of the brand and saw the product I was interested. I had been reading a lot about the issue of trafficking and was really feeling like I needed to do something.
Also, I’m a shoe girl; I’m famous for wearing heels day, night, and everywhere in between…once I saw how gorgeous the shoes were…it started to click.
It wasn’t immediate, like a light switch being turned on, it was literally a process of thinking it all through…realizing that I could possibly help to start something that I would LOVE doing.
The thing that sealed the deal?
I was feeling really unchallenged in my existing role. In the course of my career, I had made a lot of money for big companies, but it was that moment of saying, wait, what if I could use my talents to make money for people who actually NEED it? That’s when the switch flipped. As soon as all the pieces came together it was easy to say yes and immediately I felt a weight lift from my shoulders.
What did the first days look like for you?
Things were starting to percolate with Colette Sol USA through some of the early work Amanda had done to sow the seeds so…with a ‘no time like the present’ attitude, I jumped right in and rolled up my sleeves as soon as I left my previous position.
This industry moves fast and I wanted to dive right in! Right out of the gate, it was Amanda, myself, and Karen our logistics/accounting point person…we are all based in very different places ( WY, CA, and OH respectively) so we’re all connecting by phone and email. Additionally, our designer, Colette, and her team are based both Amsterdam and Zurich – talk about scheduling challenges!
I had been working remotely on and off for about 9 months previously, but nothing prepared me for the day to day of working from home! I quickly learned that I can be heads down all day and look up at 6PM without having stopped for a minute! Not ideal…I’m also really collaborative, so working in a vacuum is tough too….I like having people nearby to test out theories or bounce ideas off of….or just help me talk through something (even if I might already think I know the answer!).
What keeps you up at night? Have you ever second guessed your decision?
I’ve never second-guessed my decision; it’s been a great adventure so far. I would say that I sometimes wonder if we really can make a go of this. Late at night….’can we really get any traction?…can we really make this work?’ But you just wake up the next day and get back to it. Hopefully with a bit of perspective and maybe a new angle!
Were there people who didn’t see the vision or believe you could do it?
There were plenty of people that thought I was crazy and that I threw away a glamorous career. I left a hugely successful and growing company, a job that allowed me to move cross-country for personal reasons and commute as needed. It was a dream come true for many people…but for me it wasn’t enough. There are a few people in the industry who think I gave up, but honestly, it’s really quite the opposite.
What’s the biggest thing you’ve learned so far?
I was completely unprepared for such a shift in expectations. Some things take so much longer to get done and milestones are not as easily achieved as planned. In fact, nothing really goes according to plan! That’s been a big learning curve for me, I’m a girl who gets it done and in this new reality sometimes it can’t be done (YET!). Are you sensing a theme here?
What’s been the biggest sacrifice you’ve made?
I’ve sacrificed a sense of security…the future is far less certain now than it was a year ago…but the truth is that there is no guarantee in this life, so even when I’m feeling down, I try to remember that.
What would you say sitting across the table from another woman who says, “Sure. But you had money, experience, relationships, etc. . . You’re brave. You’re fearless and I’m risk averse, I’m … (fill in the blank).” The woman who is subconsciously letting herself off the hook.
You don’t have to make major, sweeping changes all at once, in your life to start a new journey! The biggest movements started as a little kernel or seed of an idea somewhere. Sometimes those little seeds take a long time to bloom and we just don’t seem them growing every step of the way. They don’t always make it out there into the world, until they’re the fully formed beauties that the founder dreamed them to be!
Start small…there’s so much to learn along the way, it’s likely that you won’t even end up where you imagined.
My advice is to try, make a mess, do something!
Is there a quote you have on your desk, your wall, or just stored in your heart that keeps you going or lifts your spirits when you’re down?
I’m actually working hard right now on setting intention for every day. I’m trying to really take the time to be grateful and also to focus on what I want to achieve and remember to have some fun while I’m at it! There are a few quotes that are really resonating with me right now, they are:
- Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter. – Martin Luther King, Jr.
- If you want to lift yourself up, lift up someone else. – Booker T. Washington
- Be so good they can’t forget you. – Steve Martin
What would you say to someone, like me, who feels guilty about not buying everything from socially responsible companies?
It’s easier than ever! There are so many options out there to support businesses that are making a difference, in so many different ways, and there are new companies cropping up everyday! You can also educate yourself, with one of the many great resources out there, like Made in a Free World, so that you can make informed decisions, learning about your own footprint and those of the companies that you buy from.
Do you feel like the same person you were when you joined Colette Sol? How have you changed?
I’m much more in tune with just how much injustice there is in the world and how little impact it has on those lucky enough not to be affected. We have so much more access to information now, more than every before in history, and while there is a global community that wants to make a difference, it doesn’t seem like the rest of the world is awake and aware of what’s going on, sometimes in our own neighborhoods! I think in general, I am much more willing to look outwardly on a daily basis.
What are you the most passionate about regarding your business?
The fact that it is 2015 and slavery still exists and is growing! The fact that there are people who do not have choices in life because someone has taken them away, that there are governments that condone it, that there is legislation that does not support the victim. This is something we all should be aware of and upset by and sometimes it feels like no one is listening. Sometimes we chose to look the other way. Our hope is that we can be a voice, that we can help raise awareness at the very least, and money and support for those impacted at our best so that this issue isn’t silenced by the people that benefit from it.
You can make ripples in the water. For some of us that’s activism, for others it’s bringing awareness to a problem.
Big or small, you can contribute.
What you do makes a difference.
Tell someone our story.
We all play a role.
Check out our first product from Colette Sol USA below.
The James Biker boot is a year round must-have.
A classic staple, with edge.
More products from CS USA and other Love Makers coming soon!