Female Founders: Emily Pask of Modest Mermaid On The Five Things You Need To Thrive and Succeed as a Woman Founder
Tough skin- for every 100 no’s you may get a yes, being an founder isn’t easy there is rejection almost daily. You need to be able to separate yourself from your business and not take business rejections as personal rejections.
As a part of our series about “Why We Need More Women Founders”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Emily Pask.
Emily is the Founder and Creator of Modest Mermaid www.modestmermaid.co a modest swimwear brand offering women Australian designed swimwear that flatters the body without clinging.
Emily is a mum of two kids living in Melbourne. She used to be a buyer for global fashion brands, but when she had her first baby she found herself searching for more modest swimwear options. She designs swim dresses for freedom and sun protection. Many of Modest Mermaid’s customers choose Modest Mermaid Swimwear for religious reasons. Whatever the reason, she has designed them to be flattering but not clingy.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would like to get to know you a bit more. Can you tell us a bit about your “backstory”? What led you to this particular career path?
I have worked in retail for 17 years, fashion has always been my passion and growing up I watched my dad run large fashion chains around Australia and was always so interested in his work. I went on to university to study marketing and management to get a broad further education but always knew I wanted to work in buying. I have worked in Australia, London and Hong Kong for some of the worlds biggest retail companies including H&M. When I had my first daughter I was searching for more modest swimwear options and was shocked at the lack of options on the market. I decided I had the skills and experience to design my own and thats what I did. From humble beginnings of one style and print we are now on our 5th range and have grown our range significantly.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company?
Our customers are so happy when they find us, I have had lots of customers tell us they have never been in the water before owning Modest Mermaid swimwear. Now they are enjoying precious time with their family and friends feeling comfortable and confident at the beach and swimming for the first time.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
My first range of swim dresses came in a few cm shorter than planned, as we offer modest swimwear this was a bad mistake as our swimwear should cover up the body.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
I recently did a accelerator course with the University I studied at (Monash University in Melbourne) and their was an amazing expert in residence Megan Flamer who I had as my mentor for the duration of the course to chat to about my business. Megan opened my eyes to so many possibilities and also how persistent you need to be to get what you want. She was such an instrumental advisor to me in my business journey.
Ok, thank you for that. Let’s now jump to the primary focus of our interview. According to this EY report, only about 20 percent of funded companies have women founders. This reflects great historical progress, but it also shows that more work still has to be done to empower women to create companies. In your opinion and experience what is currently holding back women from founding companies?
Fear, I think its fear it will fail, fear to give up a stable income, fear of the unknown, fear of not having enough time.
Can you help articulate a few things that can be done as individuals, as a society, or by the government, to help overcome those obstacles?
I think female empowerment is so important and there are so many amazing groups women can join with linked minded business women to support each other and lift each other up.
This might be intuitive to you as a woman founder but I think it will be helpful to spell this out. Can you share a few reasons why more women should become founders?
Women are so capable, we can multitask, run businesses, raise kids, be a friend all while running our own business. We work smarter not harder and we are driven.
What are the “myths” that you would like to dispel about being a founder? Can you explain what you mean?
That its always fun. As a founder you generally start out doing everything and its not all glamorous. The amount of time I spend behind a spreadsheet far outweighs the time I spend doing the more creative fun parts of being a founder. I also think you always need to look ahead and constantly be on the look out for new ideas, collaborations etc
Is everyone cut out to be a founder? In your opinion, which specific traits increase the likelihood that a person will be a successful founder and what type of person should perhaps seek a “regular job” as an employee? Can you explain what you mean?
No I don’t think everyone is cut out to be a founder. You need to be really passionate about what you are doing, you need to be self motivated, you need to be able to deal with the highs and lows and particularly with the lows and getting back up and continuing on. You need to constantly be speaking to your customers and engaging with your community to better understand how you can serve them. The type of person who should seek a ‘regular job’ is someone that wants a stable income, someone who always needs to work in a team, someone who needs others to help motivate them and keep them accountable.
Ok super. Here is the main question of our interview. Based on your opinion and experience, What are the “Five Things You Need To Thrive and Succeed as a Woman Founder?” (Please share a story or example for each.)
- Passion- you need to love what you do and feel passionate about it. The work life balance of a founder can be blurred and you often work evenings/weekends but as I am passionate about what I do I don’t see it as work and am happy to work long hours unconventional hours on my business.
- Motivation- often founders start a business by themselves and especially if you don’t have a co-founder you need to be able to self motivate yourself. The journey can be lonely and its often hard to not have anyone in the early days to share your success or commiserate on your failures. I believe you need to have that drive inside of you to keep going even on the hardest days.
- Tough skin- for every 100 no’s you may get a yes, being an founder isn’t easy there is rejection almost daily. You need to be able to separate yourself from your business and not take business rejections as personal rejections.
- Guts- if you want a 9–5 job with little risk being a founder isn’t for you. It takes a-lot of guts to leave a salaried job for the unknown.
- Be able to work alone- I personally love working alone I get a-lot more done and for me when I’m working its 150% and there's no coffees out, long lunches its heads down and right into being productive. I am introverted in this way and love being alone and find I’m most creative in my own space with myself. I often come up with my best ideas when I’m alone with my thoughts.
How have you used your success to make the world a better place?
We have given women around the world options in the modest swimwear market that weren’t available. They now can feel empowered, confident and enjoy time in the sun while feeling fabulous, that's a pretty good place to be I think.
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good for the greatest number of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger.
Funded access to all people suffering with photo sensitivity to have access to our products. People with photosensitive such as Lupus sufferers need to stay out of the sun as the sun has harmful effects on their body. We can make there life better with our swimwear as it has SPF50+ it allows them to enjoy time in the sun without the harmful effects the sun has on their body.
We are very blessed that some very prominent names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them.
So many women! However if I had to pick one I am obsessed with Bethenny Frankel she’s an amazing business woman and kick ass women and she inspires me.
Thank you for these fantastic insights. We greatly appreciate the time you spent on this.