Over the last decade, 140,000 women have exited Wall Street -- with many betting instead on their own entrepreneurial ventures. In fact, women have started companies at twice the rate of men over the past few years.
Jules Reid is one of them. She left her 10-year career as a stockbroker to pursue her passion: fashion. "I had been dreaming about having my own label since I was in my early 20s and as I approached 40, the timing just seemed right. It was now or never."
Fast forward a few years to what she has become: one of the most talked about new designers around. Her unique retro-inspired line -- bold patterns and vibrant colors, with a vintage Bohemian flair -- now graces more than 30 boutiques worldwide (and online, at julesreid.com, where she fields up to 2000 visitors a day.).
With a goal of one day becoming a household name, Reid -- who epitomizes the sophisticated lifestyle brand she created -- tells others how to overcome fears and take that vocational leap of faith:
Identify your transferable skills
As former stockbroker, Reid convinced clients to give her millions to invest. And unlike many women, she was never intimidated by asking. "I am bold and secure in myself and I think that my sales-oriented personality has served me well. You have to go out on a limb sometimes and get people to take a chance on you, to believe in you and your product," says Reid. She also leveraged her experience with numbers: "I know how to manage the business side of it."
Know where you fall short
While the design part of the job came easy to Reid, production did not. "It's one thing to have an idea but you have to make it happen." By speaking with everyone in the know -- from designers to fabric producers -- Reid learned more about the many steps involved. "You take an idea and you do a sketch, make it into a sample, then you go to a pattern maker and drape it on a mannequin to see how it looks, then you make the first sample out of muslin and then if everything looks good, you make it out of actual fabric." The final step: selling. And then the cycle starts all over again, from one season to the next.
Don't doubt yourself
Everyone told Reid that becoming a fashion designer was a really bad idea. And she admits that this is by far the hardest thing she has done; she faces new challenges every day from making sure she's not taken for a ride to negotiating successfully. She even has to tackle language barriers. But at day's end, being her own boss in a field she loves has rewards that make all the sweat and stresses worth it.
Let things happen organically
"People will find out about you; it just happens," says Reid, who found herself hitting the pavement early on to gauge interest and get press. Hiring a PR firm was premature, expensive and didn't yield the results she wanted. "Once there's buzz, people find you." Indeed: Reid has been featured in numerous magazines, from Virginia Living to Vogue; WSJ Magazine recently hosted a party during New York's Fashion Week to showcase her Spring/Summer 2011 collection. Some 700 guests attended.
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