Strength is earned

by Rebecca Minkoff Founder of Rebecca Minkoff and The Female Founder Collective

“Strength isn’t a trait you start the journey with. It’s cultivated over time.”

Every time we picked ourselves up, we built our resolve to stay on the path, writes Rebecca Minkoff of The Female Founder Collective.

Why is she posting a freezer filled with breast milk? What does breastfeeding have to do with handbags? 

File under questions I never expected to receive from a buyer. It was 2018 and I was chronicling my journey coming back from maternity leave on Instagram. I didn’t think I needed to explain that I’m a woman running a brand for women, many of whom are mothers. 

It turns out the decision to merge the personal and professional was a novel idea after all.

I heard a similar question soon after: Should you really have a model breastfeeding at your fashion show? I was breastfeeding my third at the time, so the answer was a no-brainer. If we were going to portray women at work, a mother’s reality had to be spotlighted. 

There are always opinions about what we should do. I’ve learned that I have to be steadfast in my vision in order to realize it. Ahead of our second pandemic fashion show, a goal few thought was possible, I’m reflecting on the strength we need to navigate our journeys. 

Nineteen years ago, I likely wouldn’t have had the conviction to stand by these choices.

I was 21 and had no idea what I was doing.

The more my confidence grew, the more I trusted myself.

I stopped thinking that fancy titles and salaries meant someone knew what was best for my brand. I know my brand better than anyone.

I’ve fought for that right. 

Conviction doesn’t mean we have all the answers.

We believe in having a democratic process and checking our gut against other perspectives.

Still, democracy needs leaders.

My brother and I have to play those roles.

The only way to steer the company in the direction we want is to keep taking bold risks. 

The courage to bet on ourselves has led to our greatest successes.

It’s also led to inevitable failures. The losses made me stronger than the wins.

Take the year our fashion show was followed by no orders.

Literally zero.

My takeaway from that night?

No matter how many times you click ‘Refresh,’ it will never turn into ‘Add to Cart.’

I was a young designer and felt so defeated. 

A lovely runner up was the season we rushed to launch shoes, only for the samples to get stuck in customs.

We didn’t have enough time to order replacements. So, everyone wore shoes that didn’t fit. Nothing says – these heels are comfortable! – like models falling off the runway. 

The most haunting was when we projected a Rebecca Minkoff hashtag at our presentation.

We watched proudly as images populated the screen until it was flooded with one of a part that shall not be mentioned. It doesn’t get much worse than nudity being projected to 1,300 of your peers.

It’s normal to fear failure because it’s so painful.

It’s where you get the deepest and most rewarding learnings, though.

Our only choice after the Twitter debacle was to own it. We tried something new and got burned.

Now we know not to get too close to the fire.

Strength isn’t a trait you start the journey with. It’s cultivated over time.

Every time we picked ourselves up, we built our resolve to stay on the path.

I’m grateful for the incredible people who helped us, but there was never a fairy godmother who swooped in to save the day.

I learned that the most important person I have to rely on is myself.

It’s our responsibility to create the future we want. 

 What failure became your best learning?