How I left Google to become a fashion entrepreneur
In the summer of 2018 I caught myself looking up from my computer screen, filled with analytics, various clickdata and a growing headache to look out of the window for a brief moment. I was daydreaming…again. There was a voice commenting somewhere in the back of my head. Like a narrator in a movie.. but what was it saying?
Life was great all things considered. My job with the world’s most popular tech company was progressing fast, I was handling the largest ad clients in the industry and healthy lunches would be served daily for free. My colleagues were smart, inspiring people but somehow, what I missed was that feeling of purpose. What I really missed, was to handle something I actually cared about. My very own life project rather than someone else’s.
Then one day I started to listen, as in ‘actually’ listen. What would that one thing be I would really care about? How would I best describe it in easy terms? I knew that I was doubting what I was currently doing, but what was the better alternative? Over the weeks that passed, I asked this question again and again to become clearer, to see it on front of my mental eye and visualize it.
The answer it appeared was very simple. I wanted something I understood intuitively, which I find joy in and could just get started with directly. The answer was fashion. However, contrary to creating another wasteful fast fashion label that women toss after 6 months, I wanted to improve fashion. Instead of supporting a horrible fast-fashion hype, I wanted to start at the other end, create few, mindful items with a clear intention, from sustainable textile and made to last.
Most of all, I wanted to create fashion that was as versatile and unique as women in general something every woman could use to upgrade her look no matter whether for the office or a cocktail party. This is how ‘Before 7am’ was born.
And there I was, one standalone founder out of a an actual ‘job’ and off to my own devices. I was simply getting started on all if it. Creating my website, making designs, sourcing textiles, planning photoshoots, ad campaigns and PR all from scratch – there I was loving what was ahead!
So, Annabel – sustainable fashion is a big trend right now. What do we need to know about ‘Before 7am’ ?
I focus on creating ‘detachable collars’. This means an accessory that you can pair with any look to ‘upgrade’ it essentially. It’s kind of a collar without the shirt (laughs)
With Before 7am I focus on 3 elements specifically; material, people and product.
Material – for collections I rely solely on certified materials that are known for having a much lower environmental impact (i.e. in the current series a high quality Gots certified cotton is used).
People: people are a critical element of running my business and guaranteeing fair conditions to everyone involved matters. I select my business partners carefully; production is run by a family business in Romania which threads their people well and my textile comes from a supplier that operates under the highest social standards.
Product: lastly, I design products that help women to develop more sustainable fashion habits. Before 7am’s accessories help to refresh existing wardrobes without the need to shop complete new looks. The pieces and can be worn across seasons and time in signature way.
For all the inspired female founders out there, what are the three things you find most important to get started successfully?
Drop the self doubt and simply do one thing at a time. I think women overthink matters too much. Find that thing that you like, then do the one thing you can do today to make it a reality. Do that every day and it works. Involve close family and friends, do sports to stay clear in your head. Accept that you deserve to be successful too!
Have a plan and break it down in small incremental steps: success doesn’t happen overnight but consists out of small incremental steps. Set a few high level achievements and break them down in day to day activities. Read a project management book. Make it as simple as you can.
Find people who have achieved success in your area: Many people have achieved success in the areas you’re lacking experience currently. Study their ways and apply their learnings to your own business.
What are the biggest mistakes you can make when founding your own company?
Being afraid of making mistakes, the one thing you’ll for sure do is make a lot of mistakes simply because you’re inexperienced and mastering skills comes with a certain learning curve. Not observing strictly what isn’t working for you can lead to making the same mistake many times over.
What about your personal life – how do you keep a happy, balanced life?
It’s common to get too obsessed with your own venture. You tend to constantly think about it. Before you sleep it keeps on rambling in your head. Create structure – for example have a clear cutoff date (i.e. 6 pm) this means no more emails, no more looking at your phone. Going to a yoga class or a jog really helps too. Know that tomorrow will be really productive if you don’t overdo it today.
Apart from success in business – what does starting a company you love do for you personally
It will force you to break through your personal barriers. I for instance always struggled with strong feelings of inadequacy which I have to face every day in order to achieve the success I am after. Another huge gift that came with Before 7am is meeting cool and interesting people to collaborate with. I am now doing photoshoots with young models that inspire me. We pick a location, find the right designs and really become creative. This is not something that I would have found at Google. It’s good to be positively surprised 🙂
Before 7am’s new items are available from 15 April onwards on before7am.co onwards. Before 7am ships globally.