FEMALE FOUNDER: ELLIE DINH CO-FOUNDER OF GIRLFRIEND COLLECTIVE
Did you hear about Girlfriend Collectives campaign last year?
If you haven’t here is the gist of it: They were literally giving out a pair of their luxury leggings for free, and all customers had to do was pay the shipping!
A $100 pair of leggings for $19.99 (shipping)…Too good to be true? Not it when it comes to the geniuses behind Girlfriend Collective.
These also aren’t your average legging. Not even in the slightest. They’re luxury, premium, and sustainably made in Hanoi, Vietnam, in a certified factory where workers are guaranteed safe and generous wages. These leggings are something special.
What’s the majority of the leggings made of?Oh just recycled plastic bottles. Can you believe it? I couldn’t until I had them in my hands. Ellie was so kind to send a pair my way last year, and I can’t stop wearing them.
These were like no other legging I’ve ever experienced. It’s almost something you have to see, and feel to believe. They’re my favorite leggings in the whole wide world, and flatter every single body type. It’s hard to describe in words, but it’s as if they mold to your body, and enhance what you have, while leaning out the rest. What more could you ask for in a pair of leggings? Nothing, truly.
The geniuses behind this brand are the loveliest of husband + wife duo, and today we have Ellie one of the co-founders of GF Collective to share her beautiful insights into the world of business, start-ups, entrepreneurial life, how she keeps her glow + inspiration, that will leave you fueled and fired up to begin the next step on your journey, whatever that is.
She is sweet as a peach, and was just recently named one of FORBES, top 30 under 30 (!!!) They are an absolute force to be reckoned with, and I can’t wait to see their new line that launches at the end of the month. ♥
Let’s take a peek in the beautiful world of GFC + Ellie:
First of all, thank you so much for doing this interview with me!!!!!!!! Second before we dig in, tell us a little bit about yourself and why you felt compelled to start Girlfriend Collective?
I studied graphic design at Emily Carr University of Art & Design in Vancouver, BC, but I never ended up finishing my degree. (I began working part time designing websites during my first summer break, and ended up putting my degree on hold the following year.) Quang and I met through a mutual friend when we were both in Vancouver, and I eventually moved to Seattle (where he’s from) and got married in 2013. Quang has a background in sustainable and organic denim, and had previously launched a brand called Sling and Stones. After a while of being married and working together, and realizing that we both shared this vision for fashion that looked great and did some good for the world, Girlfriend Collective was born.
What’s your vision + mission for your business and beyond?
Girlfriend Collective has always been about more than just clothes to me. Doing something like this – taking on the ethics of the clothing industry – means that you’re going to find customers that aren’t run-of-the-mill Saturday shoppers. They’re people who care about the same things we do. We want to continue to grow our business to give those people, including us, more options and places for sustainable and ethical products.
How did you know you wanted become an entrepreneur and start a business?
I always admired people that took the plunge to start their own businesses, but I didn’t necessarily see myself in that category. I’m a believer that you adapt to the environment that you put yourself in, and there was a definite change for me that happened as I spent more time in the Seattle tech startup scene. There was never a lightbulb moment for me though, I just knew we wanted to create something special and went for it!
How do you stay motivated on a daily basis?
A lot of it comes down to making a conscious choice every day to keep moving forward despite how I’m feeling that day, and finding a healthy work/life balance to avoid burn out. I really value getting 8 hrs of sleep every night, having downtime outside of the office, and surrounding myself with people and places that recharge me. It’s a combination of all these things that keeps me motivated and ready for the next day.
Are you always thinking about your business, career, releasing new content and growing? Our work has become such a huge part of what I do that it’s hard to shut that part of my brain off! Even when I’m on Instagram or perusing online in my downtime I find myself getting inspiration for new content.
On that note, is this a 24/7 job and commitment? (I think this is what people are fearful of!)
It definitely is, but I love what I do! When you start your own business, you really do kiss goodbye the idea of a 9 to 5 job. You don’t get the luxury of clocking out at the end of the day, but if you’re passionate about what you do, you’ll usually want to keep working anyways. Starting Girlfriend Collective was definitely the hardest I’ve ever had to hustle. We spent birthdays and our wedding anniversary at the office that first year. For both Quang and I, it was a small sacrifice to get things off the ground and we embraced it and had an amazing team supporting us through it.
Where do you find your inspiration to continually stay relevant and authentic to your vision?
I’m a visual person so I love flipping through Instagram, Pinterest, magazines, etc to find inspiration. We also spent time at the very beginning developing brand pillars of what Girlfriend Collective stood for and what we valued, and filter everything through that so we stay on course.
I know so many entrepreneurs who have all these ideas and desire to start a business / release a product, start a website, but they are fearful and have no idea where to start! It can be overwhelming. How did you move past this and what obstacles arose from the process? What would you tell someone in this place?
It’s so hard to get a start when the to-do list is so long and the end goal seems so far away. But my advice to anyone in this place, and how I dealt with it myself, is annoyingly simple: set goals and make that to-do list. Make it, look at it, and start at the beginning. One tiny check mark at a time. And if there’s something on there that you can’t do, find friends that can help. It may be scrappy, and it may seem impossible, but the more you see things get done the easier it becomes to keep going.
Are you ever really ready to go solo and become an entrepreneur? Or are the people who are actually doing and living it, simply taking action despite fear, financial constraints and obstacles? Because many people start off slow, but lose hope and steam as they aren’t seeing any results, feedback or gains.
I think that, much like almost every big decision in life, you’re never going to completely be ready. But it’s not about feedback or results, especially not at the beginning. At least for Quang and I, it was about doing something we were passionate about. And if it failed, that wouldn’t mean we had failed – it would have been a learning experience. I’ve never learned more about how to chase what matters than when I felt totally unprepared and had to learn on the job. Girlfriend Collective is 100% learning on the job, re-adjusting, changing tactics, and re-adjusting again. But every time we do that, it ends up making it better because at the center of all of our decisions are the convictions that led us to do this in the first place.
Is there ever the right time to start?
I think you should spend time on research and development at the beginning of an idea, but a lot of people wait for the perfect time to execute on it and you’ll find that moment almost never happens. From my experience, our execution was far from perfect, but I’m not sure we’d be around right now if we had waited until it was.
Who are your biggest mentors / sources of inspiration?
My biggest inspiration comes from meeting other women who are starting businesses and pursuing their own passion projects.
Favorite book on business?
Lean In by Sheryl Sandberg and Grit by Angela Duckworth
Favorite podcast for inspiration / business / living your dream? (I’ve become obsessed with podcasts since the New Year)
They’re not related to business but I love listening to This American Life and Radiolab.
Top 5 Favorite Foods you eat daily?
Eggs, avocado, greek yogurt, steamed veggies, and pho… does that count as a food? 🙂
Are there any foods that you try to stay away from?
I try to avoid fast food in general.
Top 3 favorite foods to indulge in?
Ice cream, thai food and pasta.
Favorite way to sweat?
I went to a boxing class at Gotham Gym last time I was in NYC and I loved it! I’ve also been going to SoulCycle (here in Seattle) with everyone at work and we’re all hooked.
I love skin and I’m fascinated with how people maintain their ‘glow’. What are your Top 5 favorite skincare products or procedures (facials, treatments, etc.)?
I have a bit of a skincare obsession. My skin is on the dry side, so I invest in a lot of facial oils and moisturizers. My top 5 products/procedures:
Vintner’s Daughter Active Botanical Serum
Rodin Face Oil
Estee Lauder Advanced Night Repair
SkinCeuticals C E Ferulic Serum
Every few months I like to get a facial (treat yourself!) and I usually opt for microdermabrasion to help with the texture of my skin.
5 non-negotiables when it comes to your self-care routine?
I can’t skip breakfast (usually eggs)
8 hours of sleep
Even if I’m exhausted, I have to wash my face, brush my teeth and floss every night before bed.
I’m prone to catching colds so I need a steady supply of vitamins and supplements on hand at all times.
How do you practice glowing from the inside out?
Drinking a lot of water 😉 And enjoying time with friends and family.
Favorite quote or affirmation?
You know, I’m not really sure. I’ll have to get back to you on this one!
How do you practice self-love?
Disconnecting from social media, recharging and focusing on the relationships around me.
How do you find balance in your life, and how do you relax?
Same answer as above. I have to make a conscious decision to disconnect from my phone and computer. A relaxing night for me sometimes means doing absolutely nothing at all, curling up watching a movie with Quang, or other times that means getting out of the house and being with friends.
What would you tell your younger self?
To take more risks and not be so scared to fail.
What is your true passion + purpose?
I’m not sure I have an exact answer for that, but I’d like to think it’s centered around people. I love our team at Girlfriend Collective and the relationships we’ve built with our factories, and the creatives we get to collaborate with. Even if Girlfriend Collective wasn’t in the picture, I’d hope that whatever I was doing would have a positive impact on people’s lives.
What do you do when you feel stuck or start to feel fear creeping in? (self-worth, uncertainty, financial, physical, all areas).
I surround myself with people that I love, and that love me back.
If you could only give 3 pieces of advice to aspiring entrepreneurs + people who are stuck where they are, about life, love, business and living your passion – what would those be?
Hang in there! Pursuing a business takes a lot of work and long hours. You might not see the fruit of your labor for awhile, but don’t let that discourage you.
You might fail sometimes, and that doesn’t mean it’s over. There were multiple times in the past year where everything that could wrong, did go wrong for us. You start realizing failure is just a part of the journey, and a successful person is the one who keeps moving forward despite it.
If you’re a perfectionist like me, learn to let go a little. It’s good to be detailed and organized, but sometimes holding off on executing an idea to wait until it’s perfect means that it will never happen.
If you could wave a magic wand, what would it do?
Freeze time. I wish there was more of it.
What is greatness to you?
Empathy and humility.
What are you most grateful for?
That I have an amazing husband and community of friends and family that support me!
THANK YOU ELLIE! YOU’RE SUCH A GEM.
If you haven’t yet, go check out what Girlfriend Collective are up to! It’s pretty remarkable.