Sharing my Journey: Network Capital
Since the beginning of this journey-the one transitioning from designing for someone else’s company to building my own brand, I have always felt such a social responsibility to share my journey with the outside world. The good, bad AND the ugly. Just in time for my recent move from the hustle and bustle of New York City and it’s culture of “rise and grind” to the more lax lifestyle of India, I was approached by the founder of Network Capital Utkarsh Amitabh (www.Networkcapital.co) for an article and interview on my professional journey with the brand. In this piece, I share insight and scenarios from some of my rawest trials, tribulations, and highs and lows in my everlasting professional and personal journey. Read below for the full interview.
Democratizing and Personalizing Fashion: The Meagan Ollari way
Meagan Ollari is the Designer and CEO behind namesake womenswear brand Ollari. Based in New York City (with a soon to be relocation to New Delhi), she’s best known for taking risks, challenging creative boundaries and exploring vast corners and cultures of the globe. Meagan’s mission is to bring beauty, healing and inspiration through her work that can empower women to go after their most sought-out dreams and desired aspirations.
From a young age Meagan had high hopes and dreams of designing her own clothing brand and running her own business. While other young girls her age were “playing house” and tending to their imaginary spouses, houses and children, Meagan was heading up a “team” of stuffed animal employees, sewing clothes, sketching innovative fashion figures and handing out self-made business cards. Who knew her then creative, outspoken, witty and decisive demeanor would be a foretelling of Meagan’s future self.
A true reflection of Meagan’s life purpose, her brand Ollari represents worldly exploration and women empowerment in the form of exclusive feminine collections. She launched the brand in 2015 after a near decade of designing private label collections for mass-market retailers like Anthropologie, Mango, Urban Outfitters, Forever 21, Guess and Lucky Brand to name just a few. To date, Ollari has showcased at both New York and London Fashion Weeks with multiple features in Vogue, Vanity Fair and Worthy Magazine.
Over the course of the last 3 years Meagan has developed the brand DNA by interlacing culture and fashion for the modern-day empowered woman. Aesthetically inspired by far-off places and ethnic treasures, she focuses on merging effortless shapes of the West with rich intricacies of the East- a harmonious and organic fusion of East meets West she likes to call it. By integrating novelty design elements such as exclusive embroidery motifs, intricate hand beadwork, rich color palettes and bold patterns paired back to flowing shapes and feminine silhouettes, Ollari’s collections appeal to the elevated, forthright and vivacious woman.
Network Capital staff interviews Meagan. Read on.
1. What do you do?
I design and own a womenswear clothing brand. In conjunction with running and designing the brand, I am also the face of the brand so as you may imagine, I wear MANY hats. My role in Ollari involves everything from design, product development, sourcing, sales distribution strategies, production, pricing, photo-shoots, marketing visuals and website maintenance to overseeing social media handles, managing logistics, a team of interns and an arsenal of manufacturers and fabric suppliers.
I am so hands on with my business in all aspects- this is basically my child so nurturing it from the ground up fully involved and present 1000% of the time I believe will be the key to our success.
2. Why do you do what you do?
Not sure there is a definitive answer to this other than that being a designer is in my blood. It feels as though it has been interlinked with my DNA since birth- almost as if I’ve been put on this planet to create. I am a creative by nature and innovation through the art of design has always been such a raw talent and organic passion of mine. Running a successful clothing brand is my one true calling in life alongside helping others. I feel a social and ethical responsibility to inspire and empower other women with stories of my own journey: the highs, the lows, the triumphs and the failures. I want to be an example-to lead by example, not only in the world of running a future fashion empire but by mentoring and guiding other women to take risks, follow their hearts and support one another’s endeavors.
I believe we are at a time and place right now where women especially, both artists and businesswomen need to support and uplift one another. I created the Ollari brand because I felt compelled to do so. I can only hope my story and words of encouragement inspire other women to answer their own callings.
There is something so special about a woman going after what she wants in life and in work- and that is the example I wish to be for myself and for others.
3. What is the one thing you believe to be true but others rarely agree with you on?
I like this question because it gives me an opportunity to express my opinion on a topic I have been eager to write about for a while now. Unlike many others, I believe an entrepreneur CAN successfully possess both a strong creative AND business mindset simultaneously and that it does not have to be one or the other. On so many occasions I’ve been told, “Well Meagan you’re a creative but you’ll need to find someone with a business mind to balance that if you really want your business to thrive”. So many statements, opinions and unsolicited “advice” have added the gasoline to fuel my entrepreneurial spirit, but this has to got to be at the top of that list for me personally. Like Josie Maran said “Tell a woman she can’t do something and it just wants to make her do it more”.
I am a creative and talented visionary but at the same time, I am also a businesswoman with the steam to build a reputable business through perseverance, professionalism and sweat equity. Like many other creative entrepreneurial hybrids, I am constantly learning and finding new ways to navigate both the creative and business spaces in a way that benefits my business model and vision for Ollari.
Establishing myself as a creative + business woman is a topic I am passionate about and is one that I am excited to continue to develop and speak on as my brand evolves.
4. Which failure or apparent failure set you up for success?
So many failures have set me up for success but the one I feel to be the most beneficial was when I had the opportunity to show our opening collection to a major key player in the wholesale/showroom space. It was back when I had just launched in 2015 and I was in front of one of the largest showrooms for sales representation in the country. They had seemed interested in taking Ollari under their belt alongside some existing successful and established womenswear brands that were already making noise in the contemporary market. This showroom had ALL the “ins” with major department stores and well-known retailers imaginable, all the relevant ones anyway. I knew they could take Ollari’s sales to great heights and get us in front of our largest target retailers. “This could be huge”, I thought.
Well, time to get real. Ollari and its brand operations were so premature and had so many loose ends that had yet to be tied up. In hindsight, I am so grateful the conversation of working together had eventually dissolved just for the mere fact that I knew I had to get 5000% clear and concise on what I needed to strategically implement business-wise in order to build a solid foundation that was prepared to grow tall, not wide. The missed opportunity gave me time to further develop the line and establish our brand DNA, secure healthy manufacturing relationships, build social media presence, business plans, product content and most importantly market research. Laser focused, I knew I needed to hone in on what our ideal goals were for suppliers, manufacturers, sales partners and ultimately customers. In all honestly, I was trying to sprint before I walked and I am grateful that this particular failure was the brake to our potential fall.
5. What is the best investment you have made in yourself?
Self love, self-improvement and me-time. My early to mid twenties were spent designing for someone else’s business, living paycheck-to-paycheck and spending my money on parties, clothes and unconnected experiences. I had a great family, circle of friends and ultimately a solid support system that kept me in check when needed- but I was hungry for something more. When I turned 27, the old Meagan faded out, priorities changed and it was full steam “Operation: work your ass off and build this business”. I evolved into a woman that realized how quickly the years do pass and how someone or something you love so dearly can be gone in a blink of an eye. I started spending more time with my family and in solitude with myself, traveling to far-off places and feeding my desire for adventure, art and spiritual rapture. I quickly came to find out that capitalizing on these passions gave me life in its purest form. This was all so much more valuable and exhilarating than what I had been entrenched in years before. Don’t be misinformed here; I have always been a hard-working woman that marches to the beat of her own drum but there was something quite different about 30 staring you right in the face. I started reading more and investing in personal enrichment material, mediating, practicing yoga, perfecting my craft of design, interacting with other like-minded women entrepreneurs and most importantly, weeding out those close to me that were negatively influenced and detrimental to my energy.
Investing in my passions and in myself, I came to notice how centered the personal and professional aspects of my life became in terms of health: mind, body and spirit. Tapping into this phase of my life has really helped formulate a solid foundation for loving myself and truly believing that my life purpose and mission are worthy and very much valued.
6. Has your career been planned or a function of serendipity?
I have been planning my business in my head since I was 7 years old so I would have to say my career is definitely intentional; however, there have been many instances and functions of serendipity along the way. I believe unforeseen circumstances that are pure euphoria keep the journey to the top fresh and exciting.
7. What is the role of mentors in your life?
I would honestly say the role of mentors in my life are really touch and go. The mentors I have in my life right now are pretty much admired from afar, meaning that I engage in their books, articles, videos and podcasts. I haven’t necessarily had the opportunity to connect with them on a communicative scale; however, they have had such a tremendous impact on my personal and professional growth that I feel compelled to acknowledge them as so. Some of my favorites “mentors from afar” are Gary Vaynerchuck, Jack Canfield, and Arianna Huffington.
I also have a few “real-life” women mentors in my life. These are women I have worked for over the course of my 9-year design career before launching Ollari. I reach out to them for reliable support and professional feedback when needed. They help to clear up sides of the business that may have been their particular strong suits (especially wholesale and backend terminology) or areas that I may not be as well versed in. I would definitely coin each of them a mentor on some scale due in part to their support, honesty and proficient insight throughout my journey thus far.
I feel as though mentors come to me sporadically and I don’t necessarily have 1 or 2 solid resources that I approach on a consistent basis. I find that some of the most unexpected encounters lead me to opportunities to converse with someone with enlightening and inspiring words of encouragement and unintended mentorship. In all honestly, I find those are the most impactful experiences.
8. What advice would you give to your 18-year-old self?
Savior each and every moment like it was your last. Don’t sweat the small stuff. Hug your mom more. Don’t be so stubborn. Read, hydrate, and eat your vegetables. Meditate. Keep playing basketball- its good for you. Take more risks. Set boundaries. Be selective on the energy and people you allow into your personal space. You’re destined for greatness. You are a creative genius. You are loved. Breathe. You’ll get there.
9. How can men and women work together to create a more equitable and conducive workspace?
By dissolving egos and preconceived notions both in and outside the work place. More importantly, stop talking about the inequality of men and women. Lead by example and acknowledge when you can thrive on your strengths and openly receive support for your weaknesses. Show humility, be firm yet respectful and live by the phrase “team work makes the dream work”.
10. What next?
Well for starters, packing up my New York City apartment and relocating to the core hub of Ollari’s manufacturing and sourcing in New Delhi come Sept 4th. I hope to expand the brand on an international scale and that starts with overseeing manufacturing on a full-time basis. I plan to source more, design more, connect, sell, replenish, sell and magnify brand awareness by outpouring to surrounding cities and countries.
I also hope to mentor and inspire young women in the vicinity to reach for the stars and never accept no for an answer- because I never did and look how far it’s gotten me.