INTERNATIONAL WOMEN’S DAY 2021:
A Q&A WITH OUR FEMALE-FOUNDED BRANDS 

From their biggest business highlights to the hurdles they’ve overcome, we ask some of our female-founded brand leaders about being a woman in business

WORDS BY REBECCA RHYS-EVANS

March 8th or International Women’s Day marks the annual celebration of women around the world. It’s an opportunity to celebrate the achievements of women, as well as rallying together to encourage gender equality. It’s a particularly important holiday for KOIBIRD as we are a female-founded company, run (predominantly) by women, for women. So to mark the occasion, to champion female empowerment, we’ve asked some of our female-founded brands about their biggest challenges, motivations and what advice they’d give to other women in business. Get ready to feel inspired!

LOLA ABBEY, FOUNDER OF DADYBONES

WHAT HAS BEEN YOUR MOST INSPIRING MOMENT FOR YOUR BUSINESS?
Hmm. So many ups and downs running your own business but I’d say the most exciting was when Beyoncé stopped me at a festival to tell me she loved my crown (Dadybones made wire crowns back in the day) which I then gave to her!  

WHAT MOTIVATES YOU?
The love and positive reaction when people see or receive their Dadybones pieces really makes it all worth it! Getting to be creative every day is another huge reason. 


"I’d say the most exciting moment was when Beyoncé stopped me at a festival to tell me she loved my crown, which I then insisted she kept."

ALYSSA WASKO, FOUNDER OF DONNI

HOW DO YOU GET YOURSELF INTO THE CREATIVE MINDSET WHEN YOU NEED TO DESIGN?
Anything that makes me feel calm. Generally a clean environment or room with things I love. By my fire with my pup is usually where most of the ideas flow!

DONNI. GIVES A LOT TO CHARITY – WHY IS THIS IMPORTANT TO YOU, IS THERE ANY CHARITIES THAT ARE PARTICULARLY CLOSE TO YOUR HEART?
What motivates me most is knowing how many people we reach and provide opportunities for. As long as our doors are open, they will always be open to others. So many causes I feel passionate about, other than every single dog rescue, I believe deeply in healing through art therapy and creativity. We have partnered with The Art Therapy Project in New York for years and love supporting their mission any way we can.

EMILY PERLSTEIN, CO-FOUNDER OF LA DETRESSE

DO YOU THINK THE WAY YOU DRESS CAN EMPOWER YOU?
100%! My parents will laugh remembering this, but if I was cramming for an exam I would wear sweatpants at my desk and put on a pair of heels to make me feel powerful and confident. Perhaps it was fortuitous to eventually co-founding a knitwear company – I still love elevating our sets with heels. My mantra since I was a teenager has been "when you look good, you feel good, when you feel good you do good." We all want to look and feel our best from the inside out to tackle the day.

AS TWO FEMALE FOUNDERS, HOW DO YOU BALANCE RESPONSIBILITIES AND AUTHORITY, DO YOU BOTH HAVE CLEAR ROLES IN THE COMPANY, OR IS IT VERY COLLABORATIVE?
I distinctly recall a few years ago my dad and one of our exes commented that "we were too nice," when they overheard a conversation we were having with a supplier. I think as women we are societally expected to perhaps be more accommodating or demure to not "upset people" especially men or someone older.

As we have grown, I am proud that we have found our voice in business and we don't mince our words for fear of how we will be perceived. In terms of our partnership, we do have very clear roles and leverage our strengths. That being said, at the end of the day, we are best friends, we respect each other enormously and we constantly bounce ideas off of one another- we value each other's feedback and communicate openly - all big decisions are spoken about and arrived at together.

EMMA MULHOLLAND, FOUNDER OF HOLIDAY THE LABEL

WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE YOUR YOUNGER SELF, IF YOU COULD?
Don't ever feel ashamed for thinking or being different, these special things about yourself will shape your future. Everything is going to be OK!

WHAT CHANGE WOULD YOU LIKE TO SEE HAPPEN IN THE NEAR FUTURE FOR WOMEN?
Breaking down stereotypes of women from a young age, showing them anything they want to achieve is possible.

"Don't ever feel ashamed for thinking or being different, these special things about yourself will shape your future."

Clarissa Egaña, founder of Port de Bras 

WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE YOUR YOUNGER SELF, IF YOU COULD?

I would tell her to TRUST and BELIEVE in herself and to ENJOY the ride! Good things take time. The butterflies of uncertainty you get before your work comes to fruition is the best part of the entire process. Enjoy and embrace it all, the lows and the highs, because it's all worth it in the end! 

WHAT ARE THE REAL PROS AND CONS OF BEING YOUR OWN BOSS?
It's tough to have a boss, but it's probably tougher to be the boss. Being your own boss comes with great responsibility, in addition to running a business, chances are you'll also have to manage other people and that's when things can get a little hairy if you're not thoughtful and aware. You have to remind yourself that you should always treat everyone the way you would want to be treated and enjoy in the successes together. Pros: You call the shots, manage your own time, have freedom to create and execute. Cons: Risk of burnout/overworking as well as navigating and overcoming business challenges.


SONIA BEDAYA MOSSERI, FOUNER OF STILL HERE

WHAT PIECE OF ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE A WOMAN WANTING TO START A RETAIL BUSINESS?
My advice for anyone wanting to start any business is that in the beginning you have to be prepared to make a ton of mistakes. The best thing you can do is keep your eyes open and learn from them. Use these early experiences as fuel to make you stronger. I think that as women we are so hard on ourselves and we strive for perfection the first time, but the key to success is being resilient, open minded and forward thinking.

WHO ARE YOUR BIGGEST FEMALE ROLE MODELS?
My mother and sisters are my biggest female role models. They each have their own strengths and inspire me every day. I think all women are inspiring, but the ones closest to you tend to shine brightest.

ADRIANA DEGREAS, FOUNDER OF ADRIANA DEGREAS

WHEN DESIGNING YOUR COLLECTION, WHAT KIND OF WOMAN DO YOU HAVE IN MIND?
When I create my collections I like to think about courage, strength and above all else, love and passion. Women from all over the world inspire me in a way. We have this power and force to struggle for what we want, for our children, our work, our love, our identity, our choices, our freedom.

WHAT HAS BEEN YOUR MOST INSPIRING MOMENT IN BUSINESS?
I have many sources of inspiration. I don't remember specific moments, but I've always loved challenges. When I founded my brand (20 years ago, this year!) I had a big challenge to introduce a whole new beachwear aesthetic, lifestyle, fabric, and color, on the Brazilian stage. Being able to successfully add my view to the industry is what inspires me to do more and keep pushing boundaries.