In my early 20s, I was living in New York’s East Village and eating ramen noodles on a nightly basis. I was on a serious budget, trying to get my business to take off and launch my career. During this time, I had a lot of doors slammed in my face. Most of them, actually. But I wasn’t fazed. Not one bit. You could say it was blissful ignorance. But I attribute my resilience to one single reason.
I grew up in a household where I had to earn everything. My parents were on a mission to teach my siblings and I the value of hard work. For example, I had my heart set on one dress to buy for my Bat Mitzvah, my big coming out to society as a woman. My mom said she wouldn’t buy me one. Instead, she taught me how to sew, so I could create my own. This small moment in my youth set everything in place. It’s ultimately why I became a self-starter, an entrepreneur.
Once I had my own company and it started to grow, I quickly recognized the value in having a direct dialogue with my customer. It was one way — arguably the quickest and most efficient — to find out how I could listen to her and meet her needs. I’d stay up at night answering questions about my bags on blogs and websites. My retail partners at the time were less than encouraging. They asked me to stop, saying they thought it was “beneath” me to associate myself with bloggers and speak to my customers directly. They thought I was making myself too accessible, dirtying myself by not being exclusive enough. I gave them a fast and hard “No way.” That was not the kind of business I wanted to run. I wasn’t interested in creating that sort of brand either, so ending that dialogue wasn’t going to happen. I’m proud of myself for shutting that down. At the time it was a little scary — I trusted these retailers and valued their opinions, but today our loyalty to our customer and their loyalty to us proves that it was the right decision. From the beginning, she knew I was listening to her.
Today, when it comes to my kids Luca and Bowie, I try and do what my parents did. I know firsthand that as a kid it can be brutal — you don’t understand why you’re denied things your friends get so easily. But the outcome is empowering — you become more resourceful and creative than you ever thought you could be. You fight for what you want, grow a thick skin, find your boundaries and learn when to push and when not to. Perhaps most importantly, you realize that being different is a currency. I realize that using this method when my kids are teenagers won’t be easy, but I’m charging onward nonetheless.
People always think of “No” as the end. For me, it’s about opportunity. A different direction. A new idea. “No” is just the beginning of “Yes.”
Rebecca Minkoff is the co-founder and designer of Rebecca Minkoff LLC, a global lifestyle brand distributed in over 900 stores worldwide.