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How 1 Founder Launched an Apparel Company Outside Her Comfort Zone–And Succeeded

Self-educated entrepreneurship has its challenges and rewards.

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BY Project Entrepreneur - 01 Dec 2017

How 1 Founder Launched an Apparel Company Outside Her Comfort Zone--And Succeeded

PHOTO CREDIT: Getty Images

Starting a venture has its challenges. For Jess Garbarino, founder and CEO of Brunswick Park, a line of performance apparel tailored for entrepreneurs, it was starting an apparel company as a fashion industry outsider.

Before starting Brunswick Park, Garbarino worked in technology public relations. Her idea of creating stylish outerwear that could be worn from morning to night raised more than $80,000 on Kickstarter and launched her into the world of textiles and manufacturing. Garbarino shares with us the challenges as well as the rewards of that kind of entrepreneurial journey:

Project Entrepreneur: What inspired you to start your business?

Garbarino: Short answer: my closet. I was working at a high-tech PR firm with no lack of exceptionally dressed individuals, [and] yet over the backs of each of their chairs, there was always some kind of sweatshirt, performance fleece or [other] outerwear.

We all layered ourselves in these products because frankly, they [were] the best fabrics for all-day wearability. [However], they looked so unprofessional. I decided it was time to create something that answered both needs [for wearability and professional style].

What's been the biggest challenge you've faced so far?

The biggest challenge [I've] faced is that I came into this business as a complete outsider to the apparel industry. I had to self-educate on everything from textiles to pattern making, to supply chain and digital marketing.

The most challenging part of this process was having the patience to do things the right way while still feeling like I was making progress. In the end, I feel I gave myself an MBA before I even launched.

What's been the greatest reward?

I can't put into words how amazing I feel when I see a happy customer, especially if I see them out "in the wild." I've been known to shoulder tap Brunswick Park customers in line at coffee, out to dinner or in meetings to ask them how they like their jacket.

I get equally as excited when I see social media posts or receive reviews. This sounds clich, but I poured my heart and soul into every detail [of] each of our pieces, so to see someone else appreciate that is the most gratifying feeling.

What is the biggest thing you'd like to see changed in your industry, and how are you working toward making that change happen?

The apparel industry is very inaccessible and fragmented. Since so much of our manufacturing and production process has moved overseas, there's a lack of visibility into how you can actually become a creator yourself and the work that people put in to making a great product.

I try to be incredibly transparent about every step of the Brunswick Park process so others can learn from my experience. I went down a lot of rabbit holes, visited a lot of factories, walked through the garment district with literally no idea what I was looking for; I was even laughed at when asking a question at a fabric show. I want others to feel welcome and not ostracized.

Who or what motivates you to keep going, even when things get tough?

Every entrepreneur and business owner has bad days and even bad weeks, but all it takes is one positive interaction with a customer, and I'm back on my feet. I also have the added advantage that my husband is [also] an entrepreneur, so we've seen a lot of ups and downs with our businesses -- when one of us is down we call it "the struggle" (based on this article from Ben Horowitz, co-founder and general partner of Andreessen Horowitz), and we pull each other up and out of "the struggle."

What's one piece of advice you'd give to another entrepreneur just starting out?

Accept that you will fail, and make sure you have a support system in place for when you do. The thing that surprised me the most about starting my own business was how isolating the process can be.

When you have one goal and the odds are stacked so high against you, you need to set the expectation with your family and friends that this is going to be the priority in your life. If you set that expectation and you've surrounded yourself with the right people, you will have the support system necessary to power through the dark days and celebrate your wins. Without my family and friends supporting me, I can honestly say Brunswick Park would not exist.

This article originally appeared on the Project Entrepreneur website and has been condensed for clarity.