Brittany Diego of Fashion Mentor on making self-care a priority as an entrepreneur, and why she wants her team to feel like they are making a difference
Describe your business in a few words?
Fashion Mentor teaches aspiring stylists the knowledge, tools, and resources they need to succeed in the fashion industry through trainings, workshops, and online classes.
What made you take the leap to start your own business?
I started Fashion Mentor to teach others what I wish I learned in fashion school. In school, I learned how to do the job-sewing, designing, sketching, etc. What I actually needed to know was how to get the job. Unfortunately, all you’d find online were general interview or job search advice that didn’t apply to the fashion industry which is extremely unique.
Some of the things I wanted to know were how do you dress for a fashion industry interview? You have to be fashionable of course but still be professional without looking too corporate-but how much was too much? Or what type of questions should you expect at interviews? I would memorize answers to typical questions like “what are your strengths and weaknesses” and almost never get asked that.
Instead, I’d get asked who my favorite designers were and my thoughts on their latest collection, and of course I’d be dumbfounded because I was too busy memorizing generic interview question responses so I sought out to create a platform where I can share all of the things I wish I learned in fashion school.
What was your background prior to starting your own business?
Prior to starting my business, I thought I was going to be a fashion designer but it wasn’t until I did a fashion design internship the summer of my sophomore year in college I realized it wasn’t what I thought it would be. I wanted to do something more fun and creative and that’s how I came across styling and decided to pursue that instead but the road was nowhere as linear as it sounds.
I had the most difficult time finding my first real post-grad job. After a string of nightmare interviews, the best I got was a paid internship at a top fashion company. From that internship, they ended up hiring me, and not long after they laid me off. I took that as a sign from the universe that I just wasn’t meant to work for anyone else and decided to dedicate all of my time and effort into pursuing my dreams of being a celebrity fashion stylist. Styling people for magazine covers and red carpets was my biggest dream and I achieved it!
I documented a lot of my journey as a stylist on Instagram and that helped me gain a following from aspiring stylists who asked me questions about breaking into the fashion industry and I was very open about giving advice but it got to the point where I had a copy/paste response in my phones Notes app because so many people were asking the same questions so I decided to turn my advice into a blog called Fashion Mentor and within a year we were holding in-person workshops, speaking at fashion schools, hosting industry panels, conferences and more!
Did you always know you wanted to be an entrepreneur?
Yes, I had a thriving hustle selling chips and candy in high school (and never got caught). It taught me about profit margins, supply/demand, customer service amongst other things, and that was my first taste of entrepreneurship. Looking back, many situations in my life kept pushing me towards that direction.
Take us back to when you first launched your business, what was your marketing strategy to get the word out and did it go as planned?
To be completely honest I didn’t have a strategy at all. As a millennial, I live on Instagram so my strategy was to post content I would like to see if I was in my ideal client’s shoes and so far that’s been working because I was once that aspiring stylist so I know what resonates and what doesn’t.
Me being the same demographic as my ideal client- 20 something BIPOC fashionista- has been very beneficial because I know what they like and it has been working well because my audience sees themselves in me. They can relate to me and we speak the same language. Through the years that strategy has become a lot more refined but I still stick to the same formula.
We always learn the most from our mistakes, share a time with us that you made a mistake or had a challenging time in business and what you learned from it?
The most challenging time in my business was when it first started. I had no business or marketing experience whatsoever. I had these big dreams and goals and had no idea how to make them happen so I had to learn how to ask for help which I never really did before. I always had a “I’ll figure it out on my own” mindset but it wasn’t serving me much so I had to change my mindset around that if I wanted to succeed.
Another challenge was the lack of support in the beginning. Fashion is a very gate-kept industry and when I would talk about Fashion Mentor to other stylists some would give me the side eye and say I’m giving away the industry secrets but there is such an abundance of information on the internet that only the ones who are dedicated and willing to put in real work will actually take it and do something with it. When my business started gaining traction that’s when some of the people who didn’t support me in the beginning came around saying how proud they were but I am too focused on fulfilling my purpose that those naysayers and doubters never deterred me.
What is the accomplishment you are the most proud of to date?
I am most proud of the accomplishments of my Fashion Stylist Academy students. Some of my students had previous careers in industries such as auto financing and the medical field but were inspired to take the leap of faith and follow their dreams by attending a Fashion Mentor workshop or taking a class and now they are flourishing and I feel like a proud parent (lol). Their work has been featured on major red carpets, countless magazines, TV Networks including Oprah’s OWN and TV shows like Growing Up Hip Hop and Wild N’ Out. My entire purpose is to inspire others to follow their dreams and nothing is more fulfilling than seeing my students thrive.
When hiring for your team, what is your go-to interview question? Please share any hiring tips you can share from your experience?
My go-to question is asking about their goals. I wouldn’t want anyone to join my team if I don’t think they would be able to grow not only in their position but as a person. You spend a lot of your day working and I want my team to thoroughly enjoy what they are doing and feel like they are making a difference because that’s a motivator.
How has your business or industry been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic?
I’m grateful that my business thrived despite the pandemic. Since people were at home and had the time to rediscover passions, enrollment into our courses and programs skyrocketed and I’m excited to continue helping more fashionistas reach their career goals.
What’s next for your business? What can we expect to see over the next few years?
Fashion Mentor will evolve into a fashion career agency for all things skill development, trainings and more. Because fashion schools aren’t educating its students on the “real world”, FM will take on the approach of transparency, hands-on experience, and connection. In addition to professional development, Fashion Mentor will host a wide-variety of industry events, retreats, competitions, and more.
What is the biggest lesson you have learned in 2020?
The biggest lesson I’ve learned in 2020 is that people value transparency and authenticity. I’ve built such a rapport with my audience that we can openly discuss things like BLM and the black experience in the fashion industry and I enjoy the fact that I don’t have to worry about walking on eggshells with them. They love the no-BS approach.
What do you know now that you wish you knew when you were first starting your business?
That a VA would make my life so much better. I was spending way too much time working in my business instead of on it, in the beginning so I wish I would have hired sooner.
How have you managed to stay grounded this year?
I used to be all about the hustle and grind culture and I found myself getting burnt out! I hated that feeling, because I truly love what I do so I started making self-care and rest a priority in my business. It has been a game changer. I perform my best when I’m rested and I no longer wear being up working until 5am as a badge of honor (what was I thinking??).
Do you believe in work/life balance? What are some of your best tips?
Absolutely! One of the best things I’ve done is give myself work hours. I can easily work through midnight and not even realize it so I’ve given myself a cut off time that I close my tabs and turn my laptop off. I no longer work on weekends, I delegate tasks that are not in my zone of genius to my team and I stopped checking my emails the moment I open my eyes in the morning. I have a morning routine for myself that helps set the tone for my day; highly recommended!
What’s something our audience would be surprised to learn about you?
I can recite every line of Mean Girls verbatim.
What are your top 3 tips to stay productive each day?
- Even if you’re working from home, dress up. Clothes affect the way you carry yourself and yes you can send emails in pajamas but you’ll feel like a more confident entrepreneur if you’re wearing real clothes I promise.
- Have a designated workplace that is not your couch or bed to increase your productivity.
- Put your phone in the other room so you don’t fall down the TikTok rabbit hole.
What does being an Entreprenista mean to you?
Being an Entreprenista to me means creating a positive impact on others lives through my work!