Nevertheless Joy

On most days I walk my dog Polly to the park in the late afternoon. It’s been a refuge for me during this very stressful time and allows me to decompress from my busy days. Finding a work/life balance can be the most challenging part of being an entrepreneur.

I’ve been extremely focused and because I love what I do it’s possible for me to sit for 10 hours straight writing or managing my other companies. It’s not unusual for me to work from 8-6 without a break, and then sadly to work for another few hours after dinner. It won’t last forever, but that’s what it takes to start a company and get it off the ground.

This short walk gets me outside and I am able to witness the changing seasons. There is nothing better than fresh air and exercise no matter what you’re doing, however, this is especially true in my situation.

Over the past year, I’ve dedicated myself to my clothing apparel company, my nonprofit, and I’ve written two books. I’ve been blessed to be able to work at home on projects that are close to my heart, as well as having time to mother and guide my two daughters. I am also grateful for my beautiful home and the community that surrounds me. It’s been especially fun to write my column for News 24/680. I’ve enjoyed the comments and having people stop their cars in the street to tell me how much they enjoy my articles. Never in my wildest dreams would I have thought that would happen.

During my walks I always see a few friends along the way. I love socializing with my neighbors, they are from varied backgrounds and have so many interesting stories and insights. Everyone has an expertise and are always helpful in sharing their knowledge and wisdom. Because of them, I need never be lonely. On Saturday nights they BBQ and everyone brings food to share. If I’m home, and am able to attend, I make a point to drop by the park and say hello. I’ve been doing this for the past 10 years. It reminds me a little of Europe where there are always locals sitting in the park playing checkers.

The other day, I was sitting on a park bench and this adorable beagle came running toward me. I picked up my phone to take his picture and before I knew it he was licking my face. I have no idea why he targeted me. It was completely random. No matter what else happens there are always unexpected blessings, and nevertheless joy.

Beagle on his way to say hello…

Love and blessings to all.

Apple Doesn’t Fall Far From the Tree

My daughter is home from college tonight because she is a delegate for Model United Nations in San Francisco. She flew in early, so she could terrorize my closet, and borrow my work clothes and shoes. I bought quite a few suits when I worked as an Analyst and my office overlooked Union Square in San Francisco. I burned a trail to Brooks Brothers on my lunch hour and purchased tailored cotton shirts and classic linen and lightweight wool suits.

I also have a beautiful collection of shoes from previous consulting stints, and just because I love gorgeous shoes. My favorite are a pair of burgundy crocodile pumps. I’m not one to have a lot of anything, but what I do have is timeless.

She asked me if I stayed at the Red Lion when I was a delegate back in my university days. Ironically, her professor was in Model U.N. in Sacramento the same year I was there and we both stayed there. This is sort of odd, but what really strikes me is how my daughter is a Political Science major doing Model U.N. just like I did, and studying in London next year, just like I did.

She’s going to London to study politics and finance. She leaves next January. I studied, politics and economics and left the January of my Sophomore year as well.

I’m not sure if there is a name for this phenomenon. Maybe the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree? Nevertheless, it is very surprising as I did nothing to encourage it. I actually gave up politics for banking, and then tech, and now I’m a clothing designer.

It does however make me miss my younger self. I was once so idealistic, just like my daughter who now stands in my linen suit wearing my crocodile shoes. It really should come as no surprise that she is also walking in my footsteps.

Love and blessings to all.

Friends, Neighbors, Transformation & Easter

It’s been a time of transformation for me. My life looks nothing like it did two years ago. It’s not been easy, and I’ll admit that although I was surrounded by love, I was crying in my room on Easter Sunday morning.

Luckily, I have a sweet daughter and we sat together and I explained that I simply could not believe my life had turned out the way it did. I love Easter. I love having an Easter egg hunt, going to church, and cooking. I love hosting the holidays and making everything beautiful and special for everyone.

My daughter assured me that I have so many people who love me, and she’s right. I also have more wonderful friends than anyone deserves to have. So, my girl and I put on our dresses and went to brunch with friends where we had a wonderful time, then we came home and changed clothes and then went to a stunningly beautiful and elegant dinner at the home of our neighbors. In the end, it turned out to be one of the happiest and most memorable holidays I’ve ever experienced.

Last weekend, I was at a BBQ with my other neighbors and they told me that they watch over me. I never really doubted this, but it was nice to hear. Later, that night my house alarm went off at 2:30 a.m. and I wasn’t even scared. I was only inconvenienced to find my backdoor unlocked and blown open by the wind. That is how safe I feel. I know it is a blessed and lucky thing to feel this safely held in the network of people who surround and support me.

Today, I attended a women in business function followed by lunch with two of my favorite people. We ate our lobster salads and sipped our green tea on a rainy afternoon in Danville, California. We talked about our thriving careers and kids, and all of our exciting plans for our shared futures. It was inspiring to be surrounded by other entrepreneurs who are fearlessly living their passion and dreams.

I’m not where I thought I would be at this point in my life; married, safe and secure. Life had other plans for me. Life expected me to live up to my potential. The circumstances required that I step up in a big way. I’m so much more now than I ever dreamed I could be. Life is the master teacher clearly, and we either strengthen and rise, or we don’t. Now, I think of myself as nothing less than a warrior and nothing scares me, not even an intrusion alarm in the middle of the night.

Love and blessings to all.

Spreading the Love American Made Apparel

In fashion there are many moving parts and many people who touch the product while it is produced. I often have to remind myself that we are making something out of thin air. I am not just running a business that sells sustainable sailing apparel, I am also manufacturing sailing apparel. The fun part is designing the product, but honestly that takes the least amount of time.

It’s widely known that most of the clothing that is sold in U.S. stores is made in China or somewhere like China. I often wondered why this is so. It’s a history lesson of sorts. The U.S. hasn’t endured the upheaval of other countries that often fosters the type of industrial revolution necessary to spark the infrastructure necessary to make clothing. The garment district in New York City at the turn of the century is where most of American clothing was once made. This is where the most beautiful garments of our time were produced. Although it still thrives, it is very much out sewn by other countries and the polluting fast fashion industry we have grown accustomed to.

The U.S. economy currently is based on service as opposed to manufacturing. Sweatshops overseas now do most of the manufacturing of the U.S. apparel market.

Manufacturing in Los Angeles has been a comedy of errors. What they committed to taking five days, has taken five weeks. They blame each other for the delays and there is one error after another. Sometimes, they even blame us, but we just laugh about it.  Honestly, if I didn’t have a business partner who is cool, calm, and clear headed in the face of adversity all would be lost. I’ve never really been thrown under the bus by a woman at work before, but I have recently been accused of being “emotional” when I was being a business woman who demanded accountability.

Our pattern maker, our project manager, our embroidery house, our zipper manufacturer and our seamsters all work together to make our jackets. This is only after the 6 months we spent milling our beautiful custom 100% Merino fabric. Its archaic, but they actually use Uber to move pieces of fabric around. Coordinating so many moving parts is no easy task as each entity has it’s own timeline.

I took three trips and spent nine days in our factory over the past month. Still, it is a painstakingly slow process. Text messages fly around daily in coordination and it is easy to see why China is a preferable option to the process in L.A. Nevertheless, we are committed to sustainable products produced ethically on U.S. soil.

Someday, it will be a smooth operation. For now the errors, mistakes and mishaps are a learning tool for bettering our future operations and production processes. No one can ever accuse me of not understanding the process.

Love and blessings to all.

Work & Play or Being A Clothing Designer

I’ve spent the last several weeks in Los Angeles working on my clothing line for Ocean SF.  It’s been extremely exciting and rewarding to work with such talented and dedicated people. Making clothes is very precise and takes a great deal of time and care. The barrier to entry in this industry is enormous and it requires both commitment and dedication to make a gorgeous garment.

Things that you would think would be simple like buying fabric turn out to take a great deal of time as beautiful fabrics aren’t simply purchased, they are created. They are not found on a shelf in a warehouse or a fabric store. Fabric is typically created specifically for a designer to be used for a singular purpose. This usually requires a 10,000 yard commitment and can take 4-6 months.

In American sewing factories you can make a garment for $20.00 per unit if you make 5,000 of them, and all in one size, and one color. If you only want 50, that can cost you $150 each, or at least at our factory that sews for some of the best designers in the world. But, I digress, making clothing is also nothing short of thrilling. To hold something you have envisioned in your mind in your hands is a feeling like no other.

For me this type of work is play and I am 100% dedicated to it. However, we live in a global economy where some of the most profitable products sold are in the disposable clothing category. The idea of ethically produced, sustainable and bespoken clothing that is made in America is just now becoming important to the consumer. It is very much the vision of Ocean SF. The factory we use produces some of the most beautiful clothing I’ve ever seen. When I was there last they were making silvery blue silk gowns, and tailored wool top coats. Although, China offers lower costs and they can fast tract designs, we want to make our clothing here, and are proud to produce in the L.A. garment district where everyone works together to make the highest quality clothing possible.

Today, while walking my dog to the park I realized that I’ve been working on Ocean SF for 22 months. In June of 2016 we made our first prototype and now finally we are in full monthly production. I had two children and bought a house in the same amount of time. My pattern maker often tells me to be patient, but I am anything but. This is simply not my nature. I am a driver and I like to get things done. Yet, somethings, like clothing lines and children really are worth waiting for.

Making beautiful clothes that are sustainable and ethically produced is my mission. It is my work and it is my play.

Love and blessings to all.

The LA Fashion District

When I was in a little girl I wanted to be a fashion designer and of course I wanted to be a writer too. Which is funny, because I was dyslexic, and didn’t learn to read until well into 2nd grade. When I did learn to read proficiently it certainly caught my attention.

I spent the rest of my childhood and most of my adulthood buried in books. And I’ve always loved clothes. Beautifully made clothes.

So now, I am a clothing designer, I don’t do fashion, I do performance wear for sailing for our company Ocean SF. I wear my first production run orange jacket every time I sail. I also wear it skiing, walking, hanging out, and to outdoor concerts. I’m excited to make more garments, and one day we will have shirts, shorts, pants and dresses. For now we’re dedicated to doing this one thing well. It’s time consuming to do things well, we made seven prototypes before we got the design right, and we’re proud of that. We milled our own fabric which took six months, we’re proud of that too. Making something beautiful takes time.

While I was in LA last week, I stopped into our factory on Maple Avenue in the Fashion District. This may sound glamorous, but it is anything but. The factory sits under the freeway and every window of every building on Maple Avenue has bars on it. The streets are littered with dumpsters. I’m thinking twice about even getting out of my car, when I get a phone call instructing me to park and come in the ally entrance. I find the ally and walk in.

My mother wanted me to be a nurse, this would have been so much easier as it has a predictable career path to follow. And everyone doesn’t want to be a a nurse, but almost everyone I meet wants to be a clothing designer.

Inside, the factory is completely different then you might expect from the outside. The large rooms are painted a crisp white, there are soft benches and sofa’s to sit on, a station to make tea or coffee, and everyone is very warm and welcoming. People are sitting around sewing, and there are bolts of fabric everywhere.

I’ve not met Jesus who runs the factory before, but he has kind eyes and a musical laugh. He shows me a pair of yoga pants he is making for the brand Hard Tail. In their office Ben, his partner, and I go over the money. They take care of their seamsters and it shows, but it’s not inexpensive.

Our mutual goal is to get our numbers up, so they will lower theirs, as we want to be fair on both sides. My partner and I are committed to being U.S. made, but the cost of making clothes in the U.S. is exorbitant.

I’ve come to the clothing design world late, but I will tell you this; anyone can design clothing, it’s the making the clothing and what comes after that is difficult. There is much more to it then I could have ever imagined. I use every business skill I’ve acquired. It’s anything but easy, and there is nothing I would rather be doing.

Love and blessings to all.

My Column in 24/680 News

My first column was published on Thursday, March 15th.

I am very thankful to J.D. O’Connor and News 24/680 for publishing my work. What a load of fun it was to read the comments.

You can find it at News24-680.com or by clicking here.

Love and blessings.

Masks & Motherhood

Clearly, I am now reaping what I have sown, but leaving work I loved to be a stay-at-home mother was not exactly a smooth transition for me. I’m not sure what components compromised this unease in my personal experience. It was definitely a combination of many factors I suppose.

Firstly, I didn’t want to be anything like my own mother who stayed home, but was largely absent nonetheless. Secondly, I used my skills and talents at work and easily fell into flow as the hours flew by making me well suited for the work I did. Lastly, my husband worked long hours and I had no family support, so I was often simply depleted and sleep deprived.

Although, I dearly loved my children, I abhorred the house work and not getting the sleep I needed. I had one child who quietly fell asleep at 7 p.m. while her sister ran around the house all night. My husband was up and out before 7 a.m. so I got up at 5 a.m. to write in the necessary silence. Writing is something I have to do for my own sanity, and that was the only time I could do it.

Napping was something no one did, as we are a family with a deeply hereditary FOMO (fear of missing out). However, I made everyone lie down for an hour, including myself, but there was no sleeping. With envy, I knew of countless children who napped for hours, some would nap through dinner and into the next morning.

During the fog of sleep deprivation I remember thinking the other mothers were lying about loving their stay-at-home lives. I looked at my silk blouses and other work clothes hanging in my closet with despair. Later, I realized they really did love staying home with their kids. The only one pretending was me. It wasn’t even the money I missed, it was the rhythm and sense of accomplishment that came from doing things well and having other people do what you asked of them without a timeout or a bribe of some kind.

There is no experience that trumps motherhood, however, and there is no work more important. Yet, motherhood extracts from us a heavy price for its blessings. It is often messy and chaotic, and I was a person uncomfortable with both, but that was also the gift of it. To this day, I dislike noice, screaming, dirt and unnecessary messes. I especially dislike buckets of sand being hauled up the stairs and poured into the made beds. Would I do it all over again? Yes, I would. Would I do it all differently? Yes, I certainly would.

Children are spontaneous and full of love and excitement. It was simultaneously magical and beautiful as well as emotionally and physically exhausting. Looking back, I see there was a lack of balance. I didn’t prioritize myself into the equation like I should have. I honestly didn’t know how. I fell hard for the little darlings and could scarcely say no. I was patient and giving to a fault.

My husband often called me a martyr mother and I think that was true. I didn’t know how to not give everything I did 1000%. Over the last few years, I’ve made it a point to make sure my kids know that I matter too, and I think we’ve all readjusted to this idea, although it took some doing. I’m still not great with messes and noise, but I’m better about these things now, knowing that love and the relationships far outweigh peace and quiet and everyday orderliness. Plus, I know my limits now and I make sure I’m taking care of myself too.

My daughter was home from college for the weekend and it’s obvious I’m reaping the rewards for my hard work. Both children are poised, polite, and dedicated human beings. I’m very proud of them on so many levels.

For my birthday they bought me a gift card for a spa day. Impressively, they paid for it with their own money. Sometime in the near future I will be found waiting pool side for my heated stone massage. The martyr mother is gone for good, and thank goodness.

Love and blessings.

Defining Moments

It’s a common point of view that women don’t help each other much in business. They are accused of not being team players at work, or told that they are too competitive. However, for me each time I made a major stride in my career it was due to being pulled up by another woman.

I was answering phones and typing memos for a Senior Vice President when she called me into her office and closed the door. She offered me a job working for her as a Systems Analyst. Now, I had a political science degree, so this was quite a surprise. I took it seriously and began writing business requirements for the mainframe that managed Bank of America’s mortgage lending business.

Five years later, I was sitting in front of the head of Bank of America’s Electronic Banking Division when she told me I looked like a marketing person. She offered me a job as a Product Manager. Now, I was a Systems Analyst with a political science degree, so this was a surprise not only to me, but especially to my peers with marketing degrees and MBA’s. When I changed jobs, even my former boss, asked if I knew how to be a product manager? Of course, I did not. But, again I applied myself in earnest and it turned out to be true. I was a natural at marketing. To this day, I love nothing more than developing brands and creating marketing campaigns. Nothing makes me happier than finding the right look and feel for the personality of a company.

When I left banking, I was pulled way up by my mentor Sandra Floyd, who helped me land my first consulting job in wireless.

More recently, when I started teaching at UC Berkeley’s IDC, I was pulled up by my now dear friend Brigette, who interviewed me. Prior to this teaching job, my experience teaching adults was confined to working as a ski instructor. And my neighbor Betsy Cole got me that job.

In conclusion, I think we help each other more than we realize. Thank you to everyone who has helped me along the way.

Love and blessings.

News 24/680 Columist

In recent days, I’ve been discussing writing a column for News 24/680. I will be writing a weekly column covering topics such as entrepreneurship, women in business, and work life balance.

I am honored to have this opportunity to work with this experienced team of journalists and share my insights and opinions on topics that are close to my heart.

My first column will be published in the near future and I will share this link and future links here.

Although, I look forward to serving this new audience of readers, I will continue to write my posts here as before.

It is certainly true that we never know where our path in life will lead. Becoming a news columnist is certainly a fun and exciting twist in the road.

Love and blessings.