In the spirit of setting my best foot forward, I will be completely honest with you. Starting a business is hard. I have spent over four years researching, investing and molding Carla Valcarcel and have yet to feel like "I've made it."
But the journey has been so rewarding, here are some things I have learned about being an entrepreneur and a total lady boss!
There are a million directions one can take when #entrepreneuring, especially when it comes to price. It is easier for me to choose a regular polyester satin and spend less per yard, but I can't bring myself to do it. I know deep in my heart that working towards a sustainable future is the basis of my business, so I have a really hard time investing large amounts of our capital on resources that do not meet my expectations.
Instead, I used my savings and purchased fabric made sustainably and by a manufacturer that believes what I believe - that the environment matters and that people matter. The moral of the story here is: be true to yourself and everything else will fall into place.
A long time ago, everything was organic. Then the industrial revolution and all that jazz happened. Now? We have to pay more to have natural products in our lives. We can apply the same basic principle in the business world. Buying from local sources is more expensive, buying from fellow small businesses is more expensive, buying sustainable packing supplies? Yep, you guessed it, WAY more expensive. The cheaper the dress, the cheaper the materials, the cheaper the construction, the shorter it lasts, the faster it becomes trash.
Don't get me wrong, we have to be extremely thrifty with our money, there is nothing wrong with trying to find a better price or a more reasonable deal, but I've always known that quality and sustainable business practices will simply cost more. And that is ok, see #1.
It has taken me many years to get to where I am today. Still, I have spent countless hours researching sustainable materials, practices, resources and then some. Guys, it is so hard! The fashion industry is cut-throat. No one shares their manufacturers, their mills or even their knowledge. Not only that, but the fashion industry is mostly fast fashion. You can get almost anything through Alibaba but I can guarantee you they are hardly sustainable. Not OK!
Slowly but surely, we have found some resources to guide us in the right direction. I get so excited when a sustainable fabric provider pops up in my radar - it is borderline psychotic. All this research is exhausting and I am convinced that I'll end up opening my own crafting facility just to be sure that the business practices match Carla Valcarcel's standards.
I learned this quickly while learning to sew. Leave a wide enough seam allowance and anything can be mended. I used to live in fear of cutting wrong or sewing in the wrong place or having a bad fit, but it wasn't until I got to couture sewing school that I realized everything can be fixed - unless you cut a really big skirt the wrong way- then you are out of luck ;).
No, but seriously, one day I just realized that no matter the mess-up, I can always find a way to fix it up. So yeah, don't be too hard on yourself and remember that every mistake is just a sidestep in the right direction. Breath, take note, adjust and try it again. Have some faith in yourself, you've got this!
When I say be your own cheerleader, it doesn't mean that you are alone or have no support from family and loved ones. I have a pretty amazing family that supports me and offers incredible advice, but CV is my responsibility and at the end of the day, falls entirely on my shoulders.
Sometimes, I am overwhelmed with all the moving parts of this big, scary adventure. I've learned to make videos, business plans, editing, manage pre-production, production, sample making and even blogging. All of this has been due to the fact that I cheer myself up! I can do it, I can do it, I CAN DO IT! Then I ask uncle Google for advice and get working ;). It's incredible what one can do when we put our minds and efforts to it.
I read somewhere that 'You can do anything but you can't do everything.' The moment I processed those words in my mind, a great weight lifted off my shoulders.
For the longest time, I was going at it alone. I've read countless books on business management, marketing, social media... I mean, do I really need to learn SEO and marketing strategy? Do I have time for that? Absolutely not. I am my own cheerleader but I also know that there are limitations. I have a full-time job, a home, a husband, friends, and a business to run. My time is extremely valuable and I have to use it to its maximum return on investment. Sure, I could spend hours reading about managing social media OR I could spend that time sewing, taking pictures of my gowns, and building the brand while paying someone else to do social media management. You know, someone who studied that and is really good at it. And I did. And I am skipping with joy. It goes back to #2!
6 and #7 kinda go hand in hand. Sometimes, I am beat. Sometimes I don't want to do anything other than binge-watching Netflix in my pajamas all weekend long. Of course, I feel super guilty for wanting to do that. I am an entrepreneur, that means that on any given day, there are 20 pending things in my business to do list and every big billionaire says that we have to work work work and sleep when we are dead.
No offense and that may be fine and dandy for them, but resting is the way to recharge our bodies and get the energy to keep going. So sometimes I am writing blog posts at 9:04 pm after an awfully long day at work, and sometimes I am watching Riverdale three hours in a row. Sue me.
I have a story- its good, I promise. I used to travel regularly to Latin America in my previous job title. One flight, this older gentleman started making conversation. He said I should produce my garments in Central America for super cheap prices. I said I could consider it only if the factory practiced sustainable business practices and most importantly, treated their employees with many benefits and respect. This is when he said to me that I was naive and did not understand the business, that I was too young to make informed decisions. I was in shock and can't remember what I replied, but in retrospect (I always think of the best replies after-the-fact), I should have replied that he was too blind to see the benefits and support for sustainable business practices.
Most bits of advice are gifts people bestow on us from their own unique knowledge and experience. I have learned to appreciate them and be grateful for that small act of kindness. Some are great, some are not so great. I get a lot of advice, sometimes I use it, sometimes I don't. Sometimes the advice comes from someone very close to you but it goes against everything that you stand for. 'Start with cheaper fabrics, use cheaper packing supplies until you make revenue, cut costs by reducing quality'... so on and so forth. This is when you thank them for their advice, stick to your guns and follow #1, 2 & 5.
Guts, Resilience, Initiative & Tenacity. According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, grit in the context of behavior is defined as “firmness of character; indomitable spirit.” Building this business has taught me that I have GRIT, at least when it comes to something that I am so passionate about. I will do crazy things, take leaps of faith, stick to the journey, try new things and bounce back when things are tough. This business will work because I will it so. Period.
Sometimes is exasperating, sometimes I complain, but most of the time I am just amazed! I am so proud of all that I have accomplished in this journey, on how I have grown as a businesswoman and on how this business has taken shape! I'm excited, terrified and in awe with this labor of love and devotion, because I am putting a piece of my heart out there for all of you to see, and I am believing in the possibility to help make our world a little better, one gown at a time. This has been the journey of a lifetime, and I am so happy to share it with you!
Until next time-
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The key to good fit is to look for the widest measurement of your body and match the measurement to the size using the size chart below. For your top, the widest measurement is almost always the breasts. For the bottoms, the widest measurement is the hip. See the image below for more information on these measurements.
*Measured in inches.
The best way to measure is with a sewing measuring tape. These are flexible, inexpensive, readily available, and easy to use. Wear a form-fitting tank top and leggings when you measure your body. We also suggest asking for help. The tape measurer should be as parallel to the floor as possible all the way around the body, which is hard to do all by ourselves. A friend is also super useful to measure the dress hem length for any customization. I want to reiterate that it is extremely important that you have the right height shoes on when measuring for length. We can talk about this further during our Touch Base call if you make a purchase.
Wear the bra that you will be wearing with the dress. We remind you that our dresses have build-in bra cups so we suggest something with a little padding in order to maintain the measurement true to size. Measure across the fullest part of the bust.
Bend to one side. Wherever the crease forms, that is your natural waist. Pull the tape across the narrowest part and measure.
Stand straight and look forward. Wrap the tape around the fullest part of your hips (or rear) and measure.