Sometimes you need to pivot from your original direction and use your creative energy to stay the course or find another path. We're partnering with Office Depot to spotlight emerging entrepreneurs from our Selfmade virtual business course. Maisa Mumtaz-Cassidy, founder of sustainable fashion marketplace Wear Consciously, shares how she learned to adapt to change while staying true to her mission.
B + C: What inspired you to start Consciously?
I'm from Bangladesh, which is the world's second-largest garment exporter, where most fast-fashion brands manufacture. Several, if not majority, of my friends and family own garment businesses and my whole life I've heard of the challenges factory owners face to meet the ever-growing demands on Western brands that come into the country to leverage cheap labor and lax policies. I've also worked in the manufacturing industry back in Bangladesh and that experience really showed me how apathetic businesses are towards garment workers. I would be in meetings with buyers telling them we strive to pay our workers a living wage, which is 4 times more than what they actually get paid, only to be dismissed with, "That's not our responsibility. If you won't make this product for us for $1/unit, we'll just go to the factory next door."
It was my frustrating experience in manufacturing that sparked my interest in ethical fashion, and the more I learned, the more committed I became to bringing about real, positive change within the fashion industry. I always knew I wanted to start my own business — entrepreneurship runs in my family and my mom was always very encouraging of it. I landed on the idea for Consciously around the end of 2018. By this point, I saw that there were sustainable fashion brands doing truly incredible work while creating beautiful products. I also realized that people who do want to shop ethically-made fashion have a difficult time navigating the space because it can be overwhelming to research and understand. People don't want to just buy things, they want to feel like they're contributing to a positive cause through the purchasing choices they make. Consumers are paying attention, and 70% of them want to know what the brands they support are doing to address social and environmental issues. And because sustainable fashion is so multi-faceted, I built a marketplace where consumers can shop already-vetted brands by the values most important to them!
B + C: Have you always been passionate about fashion?
I've been fascinated with fashion ever since I can remember, and I really believe fashion is a tool to express one's values. In high school, my best friend and I were planning on launching our own line and had formulated a business plan, sketched designs, and pitched our parents for funding. It's sort of funny to think back on now, but at the time, we were teenagers serious about taking the South-Asian fashion scene by storm but being the kids of over-achieving South-Asian parents, education ultimately took priority and our dreams of co-founding a fashion business eventually withered away. I did go on to study Fashion Marketing at one of the top fashion universities in the country and still will occasionally design my own clothes when I'm back home.
B + C: What startup challenges have you faced along the way?
This is a tough one because every single day entrepreneurs are faced with unique challenges. I would say one of the biggest ones has been launching a business in the midst of a global pandemic. We faced multiple delays in launching Consciously because many vendors' supply chains were shut down or operating unpredictably. And retail has been one of the most devastated industries by the coronavirus outbreak, so when we did launch, sales were trickling in quite slowly for the first couple of months which is something that we had anticipated to some degree but nonetheless, it was still a really hard and stressful time especially since we're a bootstrapped company and we had invested so much capital into inventory. As the founder of a startup with limited resources, I really have to get my hands dirty in all aspects of the business and constantly learn new skills which is always a humbling experience but compels one to intimately get to know the ins and outs of their business and I believe that's ultimately an advantage.
B + C: What strategies helped you overcome those challenges?
Leading with humanity is incredibly important to me and it's how I try to approach solving challenges in both my personal and professional life. Being resilient and adaptable has definitely helped push me through situations that once felt impossible to overcome. I think those are qualities every entrepreneur needs to adopt because running a business can take you on a hell of a psychological rollercoaster ride. When our vendors' supply chains were being impacted, I let them know we were committed to their success and would be there for them when they were ready. Empathy and clear communication played a significant role in ensuring that we launched in a way that best supported our brand partners, and even today I work closely with them on matters of all sorts.
Now that things have started reopening in the US, we're seeing our sales increase and hitting our monthly goals. I think that's primarily because we've stayed consistent throughout the past few months with our newsletter, social media, and blog to remain top of mind for our target audience. We've also made changes internally in order to be able to bring on new brands and products faster with little to no upfront costs which is huge for Consciously and really exciting for our consumers.
B + C: What are some of your successes so far?
I would say creating a really engaged community that we call our "Consciously Fam." Also building a platform that's already received such positive response and one in which people find real value in.
B + C: How have you approached marketing your brand and raising awareness?
Mostly, our focus has been on organic marketing meaning social media, email, blog, and SEO. We've recently started investing in paid social ads so we'll see how that goes. Besides that, we've done some influencer marketing in the past which we're doubling down on now.
B + C: What was your most valuable takeaway from Selfmade?
The most valuable takeaway was bringing Brit + Co co-founder, Anjelika Temple, to our Board of Advisors! I feel really grateful to have connected with and gotten support from her, Brit Morin, and my coach, Emily Merrell during Selfmade.
B + C: What's your best organizational tip? Do you use any apps that help you manage your business?
Google Calendar is my best friend. I timeblock literally everything. In regards to apps, I use Later to manage my social media accounts, Canva and Figma for designing, and Monday for project management.
B + C: How do you stay motivated? Who inspires you?
My team, mentors, and customers help me stay motivated. When people interact with Consciously and respond with, "I love this!" It's just the best feeling. Entrepreneurship can be really lonely and exhausting; when I'm feeling really overwhelmed or down, I listen to podcast interviews of female founders I admire like Deepica Mutyala, Payal Kadakia, and Jaime Schmidt for example, who are all just really authentic about their journeys and it really does uplift and inspire me. My mom also keeps me motivated because she's my number one cheerleader!
B + C: What's one piece of advice you would give to female entrepreneurs on the brink of starting?
If you're truly passionate about solving a problem and think you're the right person to take it on, just start. Things will never be perfect, you'll fail and learn and evolve; it's all part of the journey. But be ready to work really hard and get comfortable with being uncomfortable.
Learning to adapt to change is so important to getting ahead and not giving up. Along the way, Office Depot OfficeMax can help you stay organized & save time with a suite of business services to help you accomplish more - from signs, posters & banners to get your business noticed to marketing materials to help bring your brand vision to life.Head to Office Depot's Selfmade page to check out even more amazing business resources (and discounts!) to help you accomplish more on your entrepreneurial journey. These offers are available for a limited time only, so be sure to take advantage of all this goodness while supplies last. Want to join the next Selfmade cohort? Check out all of the scholarship details right here.
Picture this: You're finally going out after being cooped up for most of the past year and you've spent hours getting ready. You feel great, until you walk outside and immediately begin sweating. Nothing ruins a good night quicker than your makeup melting off before you can even get to your destination. That's why we chatted up actress Jenna Ortega (you might recognize her from Jane the Virgin and You) about her barely-there beauty routine and statement eye mastery. She's one of our favorite up-and-coming actresses with great skin and style to boot. Here's what she had to say about her fave products, plus our roundup of 24 beauty products — from waterproof mascara to acne-fighting face wash — to keep you fresh faced and cool all summer long.
Cool Down Your Skin
You want to stay hydrated inside and out all year long. To cool off skin, Ortega says she loves using cryo-sticks, stainless steel tools that lower your skin's temp, and reduce pores, inflammation, and redness. "They're great for de-puffing in the morning," says Ortega. "And just fun to use!" Don't have a cryo-stick? Substitute a spoon fresh from the freezer.
Look for products that are matte, shine-free, and sweat-proof during the summer months. For hair, try a hair mask to moisturize and nourish your hair for a fresh summer look. "Sometimes there's nothing better than a Friday night in for a little self-care — tweezing my eyebrows while doing a hair mask," Ortega says. Good reminder to pay attention to your eyebrows to help your minimal makeup stand out. Use a moist beauty blender or your favorite brush to even things out.
Waterproof Statement Eyes
Image via Allan Avendano
For a knockout eye look, pick an eyeshadow that complements your eyes (Ortega loves a green shadow), or grab a palette with lots of colors to change up your look every day. Don't forget to curl your lashes to open up your eyes. "I love eyelash curlers, especially when I'm not wearing mascara, as it really opens up your eyes," Ortega says. Since face makeup isn't the only thing that can melt, opt for waterproof products to keep your look clean all night long.
Wash Off After A Night Out
When you get home from a night of fun, remember to cleanse your skin even if you're really tired. Ortega prefers to wash her face in the shower (same here!), and always makes sure to take off all her makeup before going to bed. You'll wake up fresh faced with clean pillowcases to boot!
SPF is important during every season, and especially during sunny, hot summer days. It'll help protect your skin from UV rays, which means you'll be fighting against hyperpigmentation, sun spots, and sun cancer.
From purple lipstick to Ortega's favorite perfume (she says she loves that Santal 33 makes her smell like a high-end hotel), balance sophisticated with colorful, indie beauty this summer. Treat yourself to a silky sleep mask to get your beauty sleep and some freckle tint that'll give you a sun-kissed look without the sun damage.
What are your favorite summer beauty products? DM us on Instagram and make sure to tag us with your makeup looks!
Brit + Co may at times use affiliate links to promote products sold by others, but always offers genuine editorial recommendations.
Making friends beyond your high school and college years can be challenging. You don’t see the same faces every day anymore — now it’s the dog-eat-dog “real word.” Your social and dating life can meander if you don’t plan and make it a priority.
So why do young people say it’s so hard to make friends after college? I asked Mike Guerrieri, an inspirational dating and fashion coach of StyleCoachNYC.com, about why women complain about dating in big cities. “It really comes down to perspective,” he said. “You could argue that dating is easy or hard in any environment.”
But let’s get real: Millennial Tindr and OkCupid habits are not improving their real-world social skills… right, Mike? “What’s really going on is that with the increase of social media and the use of digital devices, people are becoming more and more accustomed to communicating with their fingers on a touchscreen, rather than with their voices in real life,” he says. “The vast majority of clients I talk to are actually scared to talk to people in real life. They’re stuck in their heads about if they will be judged, or — the classic — are automatically coming up with a laundry list of ways the conversation could go wrong.”
Facts About Meeting Strangers
“There’s usually two possible outcomes from talking to a stranger,” says Mike. “One: You spark up a conversation and build some kind of bond. Or two: You don’t, and they ignore you, or the conversation dies quickly. That’s it! Most people imagine scenarios in their minds that are far worse. This causes them to stop themselves before they even take action, resulting in meeting no new people.”
Sound familiar? So let’s flip the perspective. Any place you live (even a big city) can actually be a huge advantage — both for your career ambitions and your social life. You simply have to know where to look. Instead of partying ‘til 3am, try connecting with people in other, more fun ways. We’re sharing 10 ideas that you’ll love and will kick that social life into gear.
How to Make New Friends *Without* Barhopping
1. Learn a partner dance. You love Dancing With the Stars, so why not live it? Most cities have a scene for either ballroom dancing, salsa dancing, bachata, Argentine tango, Kizomba, Zouk, Lindy hop, hustle or my personal favorite, West Coast swing!
If you want to make real friends as a young adult, join a beautiful community of partner dancers. You’ll be amazed at how welcoming everyone is, especially once they see you shake that thing. Plus, it’s a healthy activity. When you and your partner dance, you’re exercising and releasing endorphins, getting positive hormone spikes from touching other humans (hello, natural oxytocin boost), building confidence and expressing yourself. You’ll create social bonds while learning to dance and toning that core (and you know you’ve always wanted to!). What could be better than that?
2. Join a networking group. If you’re into networking, Business Networking International is an established international networking system with chapters all over the world. Membership dues can be pricey for a young professional, but it’s a great way to generate referrals and business connections for whatever line of work you’re in.
3. Attend live music and music festivals. Live music is full of moments that will never happen again — it’s a completely unique experience that will have you lost in the moment (and for once, not thinking about your bills). Why not go to local open mics and concerts for local artists in your town or city? Make friends at those events, and your musical taste could be the basis for a friendship, or even a romance.
So you think you’re the biggest fan of this or that artist? You might meet your match at a local venue and have a little healthy competition going before you walk out the door. Check out this amazing compilation of unplanned, magic moments — you never know what (or who) you’ll see!
4. Join a MeetUp group. There is a MeetUp Group for everything under the sun. Like outdoor adventure sports or hiking? How about minimalism? Interested in being part of a book club? How about yoga, or farmer’s markets? What about wine (not whining — you’re a grown-up.)? There’s a MeetUp for that.
Just jump on MeetUp.com, and search for things you’re interested in. But make sure you make a plan to really go and check it out — otherwise, you’ll just receive dozens of emails, but none of the cool benefits of the actual “meeting up” part of the equation.
5. Take an art or crafting class. Whether you’ve always wanted to learn pottery, watercolor art or basket weaving, there’s always someone near you who is passionate to teach it, and a whole group of friends you could make if you just get out and go.
Mike agrees that any skill-oriented group class is the perfect way to meet people: “You might want to learn how to become a bartender, or maybe you’re interested in learning how to sing. Taking on these group classes has the double benefit that you’re learning a new skill and can meet more people who also have a common interest.”
6. Take a seminar. Globally, people don’t just stop learning after college. You know how important people like Oprah and Tony Robbins hold fancy events? Now that you’re an adult, these events are built for you. Mike’s take is that personal development programs and seminars can be a fabulous way to build your social circle: “Taking part in these is a great way to meet people who are also working on themselves and have that kind of mindset. Not to mention, you’ll improve yourself too along the way!”
Check out your local Landmark seminar center, like BNI and MeetUp. Their courses on personal development are offered in multiple cities around the world. You’ll find people passionate about getting the most out of life, who are also excited to motivate others. And you’d be surprised how naturally vulnerable people will be in a seminar environment.
7. Local coffeeshops and bookstores. Mike says: “Although a bit cliché, many people meet in coffee shops. Don’t be afraid to start a conversation as you’re waiting on line or while you’re sipping your hot brew. You never know where the conversation could go from there!”
In a bookstore, it’s easy to take the focus off of you and onto the interesting array of available books, magazines, music and products. In that scenario, a simple “What are you reading?” can get the ball rolling. Try it!
8. Hit up an art exhibit. You probably think this is only for the fancy people, right? It’s not: It’s for people with good taste (yes, that means you!). Consuming art is a normal part of your adult life. Those classes on Van Gogh weren’t for nothing — go to an art gallery. Come on, at least you’ll look cultured. Do your hair and put on a nice outfit. Trust us, it’ll be fun. Bonus points if you know or meet the artist!
9. Be open in public transportation and public spaces. No, really. Mike says that’s it’s smart to consider public parks, transportation and waiting areas: “What happened to casually sitting next to someone and sparking up a conversation? Sometimes unexpected meetings are the best ones. You’re stuck on that train or bus for at least a few minutes anyway, so why not find out if the person next to you is any fun? This could be at airports, train stations or bus stops. If you think you see someone worth getting to know, find a way to sit near them and ask them about where they’re headed. Why not?”
Or, Mike says, consider everyday shopping malls and grocery stores. “It’s quite possible to meet people in these locations if you’re willing to go beyond your comfort zone and start a conversation with a stranger.” If you live in a city, you’re surrounded by people every day, and guess what? You’re allowed to talk to them.
10. Join a Crossfit gym, yoga studio or running group. Any popular workout craze will have you sweating bullets and working your ass off (literally), but you’ll also meet a great group of people who are all about pushing their fitness edge. Join them and stop running alone — they’ll cheer you on while you meet your goals. It’s great to have a cheering section, especially when you don’t feel like working out.
All you have to do is keep your eyes open, and keep looking for ways to express yourself, your passions and your interests. It’s not that much of a jungle out there, and you’re not alone. The adage that it’s hard to meet people in your twenties and thirties isn’t really true — you simply have to know where to look. Don’t be shy, and go have fun!
Where do you go to meet people? Let us know on Twitter @BritandCo!
(Photos via Getty)