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Kai Lassen: The Power of Flexibility; How I Was Able To Pivot To A New Exciting Opportunity Because Of The Pandemic

Be kind. You never know what someone is going through or what kind of day they’ve had. I always try to be kind. You never know, a simple smile can go a long way for someone and really make their day. Be human. Have a heart. We need more love and kindness.

The COVID19 pandemic has disrupted all of our lives. But sometimes disruptions can be times of opportunity. Many people’s livelihoods have been hurt by the pandemic. But some saw this as an opportune time to take their lives in a new direction.

As a part of this series called “How I Was Able To Pivot To A New Exciting Opportunity Because Of The Pandemic”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Kai Lassen.

Kai Lassen is a model turned hat-preneur. She makes casual chic custom hats with an edge. Kai has appeared in campaigns for Abercrombie & Fitch, GUESS, Lacoste, and LOREAL and has been in major magazines including Vogue, ELLE, Italian ELLE, GQ, Grazia, and Cosmopolitan to name a few.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we start, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your childhood backstory?

I was raised in Jupiter, Fla., where basketball was my first love. I left public school after my sophomore year of high school and completed my junior and senior years through homeschooling. I began modeling at the age of six doing commercials and print. My career really took off at the age of 12 when I was discovered by Irene Marie Models in Miami.

I grew up Danish-American, so I have a European vibe. My dad was born and raised in Denmark and didn’t come to the United States until he was in his 20s. My parents still have a house there. I usually go every year to visit, but haven’t been in a while due to the pandemic. I was born in the U.S., but my sister was born in Denmark. I love the country. Besides the beach, it’s my other happy place going there besides the beach.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

Vin Diesel used to be a good friend of mine and once told me something like, “Don’t be that girl who is always out in the bar.”

When I first met him at a bar in 2002, I had a story in GQ story coming out. He told me I had a lot of potential and in order to have a great career, I shouldn’t be that girl who is always out in a bar. I should have some mystery. It always kind of stuck with me that you don’t need to be a party girl and you don’t always need to be seen. Sometimes it’s good to have a little mystery of people not knowing where you are or what you’re doing.

I also like the quote, “Learning to dance in the rain.” This has always been something that sticks out to me. When it’s raining, obviously it can be a terrible day, but it depends on what you make of it. Playing in the rain can actually be fun. Turn the bad into a good. Turn a negative into a positive.

Is there a particular book, podcast, or film that made a significant impact on you? Can you share a story or explain why it resonated with you so much?

I read a story about Anine Bing, a Danish fashion designer. She started her clothing line in her garage and now she’s a household name. I enjoyed reading what she went through because I can relate. I started making hats in my house and now I have a showroom. It takes patience and dedication to outgrow your home and open a brick and mortar.

Let’s now shift to the main part of our discussion. Can you tell our readers about your career experience before the Pandemic began?

Modeling took me all around the world from Alaska to Australia and just about everywhere in between. I have appeared in campaigns for Abercrombie & Fitch, GUESS, Lacoste, and LOREAL and have been in major magazines including Vogue, ELLE, Italian ELLE, GQ, Grazia, and Cosmopolitan to name a few.

I eventually stepped behind the lens and worked as a studio manager for celebrity and fashion photographer Tony Duran and as studio manager and producer for Michael Haber.

What did you do to pivot as a result of the Pandemic?

My hat line KAI LASSEN is a product of the pandemic. During stay-at-home orders, I turned my love for hats into a hobby to occupy my time. I enrolled in online millinery courses and watched countless YouTube tutorials to learn the art of hat making.

Can you tell us about the specific “Aha moment” that gave you the idea to start this new path?

My passion project of making hats turned into a full-fledged business in no time! My friends began ordering hats, so I opened an Etsy shop. As orders began pouring in, I built a website and began selling direct to consumer on kailassen.com. It’s something I always wanted to do and covid gave me that push because I had nothing but time.

How are things going with this new initiative?

Things are going well. Orders are pouring in and I recently placed a large order of supplies to keep up with demand. KAI LASSEN opened our first brick and mortar showroom in Jupiter, Fla. in February of this year, so people can shop in person if they are in the area.

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?

My mom has been very integral to getting my showroom up and running. She helped me strip and paint furniture because I bought everything from a thrift shop. When I am overloaded, she helps me sew labels into the hats.

My mom is also very creative. She was a painter and did acrylics. She and her mom taught me how to sew.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started in this new direction?

I recently did a collaboration with a charity called the Selfless Love Foundation. The organization helps children in the foster care system in Florida find their forever families through adoption and advocacy work, as well as provide young adults who are aging out of the system the tools needed to live independently.

I initially made 15 hats for the charity and they sold out quickly, so they placed a second order. One-hundred-percent of those hat sales went to the cause. Attendees ordered an additional 20 custom hats and 20% of those sales were donated back to the charity.

This organization is important to me because I survived ovarian cancer, but it left me unable to have biological children. I may decide to adopt one day because there are so many kids out there who need a loving home and it is not their fault they were born into bad circumstances. I am very fortunate to have a great life and I could provide them with the tools they need to succeed in life and become great people.

What are your “5 things I wish someone told me before I started leading my organization” and why? Please share a story or example for each.

1) Construction and lease negotiations take longer than renting an apartment and can delay things. It can take 2+ months.

2) Accounting and all of the business side of things that I’m responsible for such as paying state taxes every month. Business owners want to focus on the creative things, but need to remember all these other responsibilities too.

3) It’s time consuming. I haven’t slept in months, I am an over-achiever, and I don’t stop.

4) Go in slow. At the beginning, I may have had only one hat sale per month, which was fine. It takes time to increase sales. Now I can’t keep up with all of the orders customers are placing! Set realistic expectations.

5) You get burned out when you don’t love what you are doing or have a passion for it. I am definitely overwhelmed because I want everyone to be happy and I want to fulfill all my orders, but I am not burned out because I love what I am doing.

6) Delegation- I thought I could do it all myself, but I now realize I need to hire other people.

So many of us have become anxious from the dramatic jolts of the news cycle. Can you share the strategies that you have used to optimize your mental wellness during this stressful period?

I find the beach and ocean soothing and relaxing. You’ll often find my husband and me surfing. All three of our homes — San Diego, Jupiter, and Mexico — are close to the water. If the beach isn’t healing my soul, I need to do something else about it, but I haven’t gotten to that point yet. I also find therapy very helpful for my mental health.

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be?

Be kind. You never know what someone is going through or what kind of day they’ve had. I always try to be kind. You never know, a simple smile can go a long way for someone and really make their day. Be human. Have a heart. We need more love and kindness.

Is there a person in the world whom you would love to have lunch with, and why? Maybe we can tag them and see what happens!

I have always wanted to meet Heidi Klum because I admire her career and how she carries herself. She’s done all these amazing things and she seems like a beautiful person inside and out. She was able to transition from modeling to a wonderful career in entertainment.

The one person I would actually get starstruck over is Shaq. I literally would have a meltdown and start turning red because growing up playing center in basketball, I always wanted to be Shaq.

How can our readers follow you online?

Kailassen.com

Instagram @kailassen

Facebook https://www.facebook.com/kailassenshop

Thank you so much for sharing these important insights. We wish you continued success and good health!

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