Fashion designer Rebecca Minkoff, who doesn't believe in mentors, explains what made her success story different from other struggling fashion designers
- Dan Schawbel is a bestselling author, speaker, entrepreneur, and host of the "5 Questions with Dan Schawbel" podcast, where he interviews world-class humans by asking them just five questions in under 10 minutes.
- He recently interviewed fashion designer and entrepreneur Rebecca Minkoff, who oversees her namesake global fashion brand, sold at more than 900 stores in nine countries.
- Minkoff said that you need to set "very strong boundaries" and stay disciplined in order to avoid burnout.
- Minkoff also discussed why she doesn't believe in mentors and said it's better to meet "someone who knows something you don't know."
- Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.
Even though Rebecca Minkoff has become a global fashion brand with over 900 stores in nine countries since 2005, her journey hasn't been easy. When she was a teenager, she worked in the costume department of her high school, then moved to New York City to pursue her dream as a fashion designer. A big milestone in her life came in 2001, when she designed an "I Love New York" t-shirt, which appeared on NBC's "The Tonight Show" and became an overnight sensation. Four years later, she designed her first handbag, called "The Morning After Bag," and it was so successful that it helped her launch her company by her namesake with her brother Uri. Then, in 2009, she created her first ready-to-wear apparel collection. Today, while she continues to expand her business, she's also the host of her own podcast, "Superwomen with Rebecca Minkoff."
In the below conversation, Rebecca shares how she broke into the fashion industry, how she manages her time, who her mentors are, how she keeps her employees motivated, and her best career advice.
Dan Schawbel: A lot of women move to New York City to break into the fashion business, but not everyone is successful, especially not at your level. What do you think made you different?
Rebecca Minkoff: Persistence, hard work. I think in today's age of Uber and Amazon, people think that they can just click their way to success, but you can't. This is the one thing I think that's still left in the world that you have to put your head down and work.
Dan: You've mentioned that there's no real work life balance, and I agree. What can people do to make room for their personal life, especially now as a mom?
Rebecca: I think it's about setting very strong boundaries and you have to be the discipliner of yourself. You know, so does the world end if I don't check my email at night? No. If something is really that urgent they can text me. I'm not curing cancer; I'm selling handbags. As I've had three children, it's just been important to me to set those boundaries. I think it's fair for people that don't have kids to set those boundaries too. I've had staff say, "Hey, I don't want to be talked to on the weekends or at night unless it's urgent." I think that's what we all need to start doing, or you'll just be fried.
Dan: Who were some of your mentors in the industry that have had a positive effect on you?
Rebecca: I'm not a fan of the word "mentor" cause I think that people attach this idea that they're going to have someone who's going to hand them success on the platter. I think I've had women that have taught me to work hard, like the first CEO of the company. She taught me to work incredibly hard. But, she didn't teach me anything other than, "If you want something, you got to figure it out." The first salesperson for the bags really challenged me, but she wasn't teaching me anything. She just made me look deep inside myself and figure stuff out. So I think you can find those people all around. You don't have to reach to the CEO of a company and be like, "If she's not my mentor, then I'll never be successful." Like I always say, you know mentorship is next to you, it's below you, and it's meeting someone who knows something that you don't know.
Dan: We're at your offices with all of these great employees. How do you keep them motivated to continue to come up with new ideas in fashion?
Rebecca: I think the one thing we want is we want everyone to feel like an entrepreneur within their zones. So no one's in a box. No one just has that role. If someone has a good idea, we want to hear it. I think they see what we're doing behalf of women. It's a really exciting place to work because they know that as a company, and as something that's personal me, we want to change the equality game for women. They're here as part of that mission.
Dan: What's your best piece of career advice?
Rebecca: Lean on your network. There really are six degrees of separation between you and the person you want to get to. Make those asks and don't be afraid of no. It's just having the courage to put yourself out there again.
Watch the extended interview on YouTube: