Deep Thoughts: When Founders Walk Away
I have been closely watching Sophia Amaruso and how she scaled Nasty Gal after growing such a strong brand and company on her own. As happens so much of the time, when she sought out her largest round of funding, she stepped down as CEO into a lesser position. This is something that happens constantly with the founders of fashion brands btw. This week NastyGal announced it was filing for bankruptcy (though not closing) and Amaruso will most likely step away completely. This is an issue which fascinates me. I am all for selling a company that you build and moving on to the next, but what is interesting are when the founders stay on, how long they last and what it must be like to be an employee at somehting you founded? Especially when you watch that company take a dive. When do you finally decide to let go? I respect her working so hard to create a separate career (her books and the #girlboss community) so at least she has something in place already to move onto but still, it must feel so crazy to her. Well, that and incredibly freeing.
I also want to bring up again the path which Kate Spade took. She and her husband (marketing genius, Andy Spade) sold the majority of her company to Neiman Marcus in 1999 and then sold outright to Liz Clairborne in 2007. She stayed on as a consultant for a year or so, and then walked away. She of course had signed a non compete so when she decided to begin another brand this past year, she legally changed her name to Kate Valentine and began Francis Valentine. Realistically though, how many people still think that she is part of Kate Spade (the brand)? It must be near impossible to separate yourself in the public eye even 20 years later.
Just some food for thought on this subject. As you can imagine, much of what I’m talking about are the reasons behind my decision to start to think of myself earlier this year as a jewelry expert and not just a jewelry designer with my own brand. It’s been a learning lesson in both realizing that I’m qualified to more things that I realized, what opportunities seem to appear when you put words to some of what you want, and maybe even what life would look like without Manic Trout. For now though, rest assured that I am happily trying to juggle it all and can’t wait to see where this next year takes me!