In Conversation with Amanda Munz of The Fashion Foundation
Describe your business in a few words?
A charity that eliminates fashion waste to help children in need.
What made you take the leap to start your own business?
I was in the fashion industry and constantly saw that brands had excess samples in their showroom just piling up that no one knew what to do with. I decided to take the leap and start a charity at 23 years old that designers could easily donate that product to that would help children in need.
What was your background prior to starting your own business?
All I knew was fashion! I went to the Fashion Institute of Technology for my Bachelors and landed my first internship in fashion at 16 and stayed there for 5 years. When I decided I was going to start a nonprofit my senior year of college, I went to Baruch for a Master’s in Public Administration to learn the fundamentals of starting and running a charity.
Did you always know you wanted to be an entrepreneur?
I always had an itch to start something but nothing ever really panned out or made sense until I thought of The Fashion Foundation. But I never grew up thinking I want to be an entrepreneur and never imagined it would be a charity.
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?
At first it was friends and family supporting but I quickly realized I couldn’t build a business just sitting behind a computer screen so I learned about networking. I would go to networking events and social events and used that as my marketing strategy. I loved being face to face with strangers and telling them about myself and my business. That worked tremendously for me! People felt connected with it when they heard about it whether they were in fashion or not.
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?
I don’t believe in mistakes because I truly think everything happens for a reason. But I’ve definitely had challenging times! In October 2019, our showroom was destroyed and I lost almost everything I built in a day. It was by far the most challenging time in my career. I had to learn how to pick myself up and rebuild from scratch, again. I learned how strong I am and how much of a community I’ve built that believes in me and The Fashion Foundation to get us back on our feet.
What is the accomplishment you are the most proud of to date?
Donation wise, helping to build a school library in Brooklyn! We had a school in Brooklyn that had a library with no books in it. We were able to fill it with $10,000 worth of brand new books, hand selected by a librarian so they were exactly what those children in that age needed. It was a proud moment to walk into that library and see that we were able to help build something that will be in that school for decades to come. Personally, being featured in the New York Times! That moment was huge for me and I feel like it’s something some people dream of and only a few can say it happened!
When hiring for your team, what is your go-to interview question? Please share any hiring tips you can share from your experience?
Are you afraid to get your hands dirty? We’re a small charity so we’re all hands on deck all the time. I need people who will jump in and do it all because there are days when a shipment of 70 boxes come in or a day where there’s a big fundraising campaign to be launched and we just need manpower! For hiring, trust your gut. Not everyone is meant to work for you and vibe with your organization. You don’t need to hire someone just to fill a spot, sometimes it’s worth the wait.
How has your business or industry been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic?
Everyone is being impacted by COVID-19 one way or another. For us, a big portion of our revenue comes from in person fundraisers and shopping. We had to cancel our biggest night of the year which is our annual Black Tie for School Supplies Gala in October that hosts 300 guests to fundraiser for our mission. It’s the first year since I launched The Fashion Foundation that we couldn’t have our fall event and that was devastating losing that.
But on the flip side, when the pandemic started, I really went into hustle mode and figured out what to do to raise money. I hosted several virtual events from bingo to a dance party. I prioritized our digital shopping platform and really pushed for sales on our website and Instagram shopping because people were home shopping digitally, and that worked wonders.
Little did people know that I was shipping out their orders from my parent’s living room for months! I live on Long Island and our office was in New York City which is about an hour and a half commute each way. So, I would have to go to the office once or twice a week, get everyone’s orders, bring them home and package and ship them from my living room!
What’s next for your business? What can we expect to see over the next few years?
Right now, definitely focusing on the digital side of The Fashion Foundation! Growing our social media, updating our website and online store more frequently, releasing our digital magazine Restyled more frequently. For the next few years, who knows! I’m the type of person that wakes up each day and takes it one day at a time, because you never know what’s going to happen.
What is the biggest lesson you have learned in 2020?
Keep going and keep your expenses low. No one thought 2020 would be like this, if we did, we would have all planned better before! I learned to ride the wave, keep going through the highs and lows, and always keep your expenses as low as possible because your revenue may get cut unexpectedly and you’ll wish you had more money in the bank or had less expenses.
What do you know now that you wish you knew when you were first starting your business?
Don’t be afraid or ashamed to Google. Not every question needs an expert and not every answer is difficult or hard to find. Save hours of your time and just Google.
How have you managed to stay grounded this year?
By disconnecting when needed. I learned it’s okay to shut down your social platforms if and when you need a break. Stay close to people that inspire you and spend time with them offline. Not everything is about Instagram. When I needed to be grounded I would go on a hike with a friend and keep my life simple.
Do you believe in work/life balance? What are some of your best tips?
I do but I don’t always follow that rule. I work a lot but I also love to work! My balance comes in taking time off whenever needed. I may not take several hours a day to myself but if I need an entire Saturday to lay in bed and binge watch reality tv, I’ll do it, guilt free.
What’s something our audience would be surprised to learn about you?
I hate talking on video! I stand up in a room of 300 people and pull a speech out of nowhere perfectly, but I freeze up when I need to talk on a recorded video for anything which is rarely why I do Instagram videos or video content.
What are your top 3 tips to stay productive each day?
1. Making a schedule that works for me. I hate mornings and hate waking up early. But I start my day later and end my day later. I learned it’s okay to listen to your body and do what it says and not just work times that others say are “normal”
2. Break when needed. Whether it’s a 15 minute break or 2 hour break, if you need it, take it. You’ll be more productive after.
3. Flip your phone over! I always have my phone next to me and constantly get the urge to check social media or apps. When I really need to focus I flip it over so it helps me resist the urge to constantly check it.
What does being an Entreprenista mean to you?
Being an Entrepenista means sticking it through, no matter what. As an entrepreneur and Entreprenista, you have to realize not every day is wonderful. There’s good days and there’s bad days. I learned you have to keep going and even when you are in the darkest days of your career, it gets better and it’s usually so much brighter on the other side.