Making Something From Nothing: Marialuisa Garito On How To Go From Idea To Launch

An Interview With Fotis Georgiadis

Fotis Georgiadis
Authority Magazine
Published in
9 min readDec 26, 2021


It’s all one big learning process. If there’s one thing you can count on when you’re just starting out, it’s that it won’t be linear. You can try all you want to replicate the processes of successful businesses, but your needs will be unique and you have to be willing to start again from scratch along the way.

As a part of our series called “Making Something From Nothing”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Marialuisa Garito.

Marialuisa Garito grew up in Italy surrounded by a culture of beauty and quality. When she moved to New York 15 years ago, she had trouble finding that unique European combination at reasonable price points and that is why she founded Affordable Chic, a NYC-based fashion start-up, offering stylish women’s clothing for under $100.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dive in, our readers would love to learn a bit more about you. Can you tell us a bit about your “childhood backstory”?

I was born in a city in southern Italy and then moved to Rome as a teenager. I’ve been a New Yorker since 2008.

I grew up in a family of entrepreneurs and artists. My father built his highly successful business from the ground up, and my mother was a dedicated art teacher, specifically in sculpture. My family didn’t understand the concept of giving up, but we certainly understood beauty. I know how to roll my sleeves like no one else, and those sleeves never looked cheap, regardless of how much I spent on them.

I grew up watching my mother sew many of her own clothes, as well as mine and my sisters’. I sat alongside her making capes and skirts for my dolls. I know how to check a garment’s cut, and how to assess the quality of a piece of fabric. I know that a cheaply made jacket will never look great on any real person’s shoulders… I know all the dos and don’ts of making clothes.

In Rome, I attended Management Engineering Degree at La Sapienza University. But I’ve always been first and foremost a visual person. I was lucky to be accepted into the highly selective Erasmus exchange program in Madrid and studied for a year at Escuela Politécnica Superior in Madrid, where I became literally obsessed with Pedro Almodovar’s work. His colors, his visions, his creativity, was an intellectual awakening. I transferred to Filmmaking school where my management skills acquired at La Sapienza and my ability to “make beauty happen” through visuals organically merged and led me to a scholarship. I wrote, produced, and directed several short films and earned prestigious industry awards including Best Directing, Best Scriptwriting, and Best Production.

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

“Energy and persistence conquers all things,” -Benjamin Franklin. Time and time again, it’s been proven to me that persistence is the key to success. You don’t have to be the smartest, strongest, or most talented person in the room. If you’re the hardest worker, you will always go further than your peers who quit after the first try.

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?

It was Pedro Almodovar’s films that really changed the course of my life. I remember watching Volver and being completely engrossed in the aesthetics of it, and I knew I wanted to dedicate my life to the pursuit of beauty. I changed my studies to accommodate that shift in thought. And I think that same idea, that the pursuit of beauty is a worthy one, has absolutely brought me to where I am today. My mission is to bring beautiful clothes to women, because I think all of our lives could be improved by increased access to beautiful things.

As an entrepreneur, the Hard Thing About Hard Things was also pivotal in my understanding of what it means to run a business.

Ok super. Let’s now shift to the main part of our discussion. There is no shortage of good ideas out there. Many people have good ideas all the time. But people seem to struggle in taking a good idea and translating it into an actual business. Can you share a few ideas from your experience about how to overcome this challenge?

I think there’s a difference between having a good idea and having a calling. I think almost any woman could tell you that great clothes should be available for reasonable prices, but not everybody feels called to make that happen. When something is really calling to you, it’s hard not to respond. That’s where problem solving happens, and you actually can sit down and figure out the steps you have to take to turn a good idea into a reality. I think you need that drive, otherwise there’s nothing pushing you through the challenges of having a business.

Often when people think of a new idea, they dismiss it saying someone else must have thought of it before. How would you recommend that someone go about researching whether or not their idea has already been created?

It’s fairly simple to scan the marketplace, but I think what matters more is having a unique angle for your idea. We’re all facing the same problems; we want to save money, enjoy our time with our loved ones, and live healthy lives. Most businesses hinge on one or more of those ideas. But what makes your idea unique, and what ultimately determines a businesses success, is finding the right audience and the right angle. The best place to start there is with yourself. Start paying attention to the brands you care about, and assess whether or not they’re speaking to you. When I started Affordable Chic, it was because there weren’t any brands in the U.S. that were addressing my specific concerns and needs about fashion. I knew that was an opening in the marketplace, and I went for it.

For the benefit of our readers, can you outline the steps one has to go through, from when they think of the idea, until it finally lands in a customer’s hands? In particular, we’d love to hear about how to file a patent, how to source a good manufacturer, and how to find a retailer to distribute it.

Every business is bound to have a different process. For Affordable Chic, the idea was born out of my feeling that the US market wasn’t meeting the need we have for great clothes at a reasonable price. Once I decided to move on this idea, I had to think through what my business model would be. Then, I had to create a marketing strategy and work to get our name and mission out into the world.

One of the most important steps is creating your website. There are plenty of resources for creating a good direct-to-consumer website online, but we used Shopify. It was perfect for us because it came coded, and the platform is user-friendly.

We don’t have a patent, but we do have a trademark. Getting a trademark is fairly simple and can be done online.

Finding retailers and manufacturers will take time, but it’s all about going to where the business is. For me, it was easy since I live in New York City. I was able to visit the Fashion District and go to trade shows. I also visited LA and would see trade shows there. It’s crucial to build relationships with the designers or retailers you like, because they’ll be an integral part of your business.

It’s all one big learning process. If there’s one thing you can count on when you’re just starting out, it’s that it won’t be linear. You can try all you want to replicate the processes of successful businesses, but your needs will be unique and you have to be willing to start again from scratch along the way.

What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me When I First Started Leading My Company” and why? (Please share a story or example for each.)

I think the biggest thing is actually a myth I’d like to dispel. When we were starting out, I was always told not to focus on branding because it was too expensive. In my opinion, there is no worse advice than telling a new business not to focus on their branding.

First of all, branding doesn’t have to be expensive when you start out. Even though it would be great to hire talented branding help, nobody knows your brand better than you do when your business is in the start-up phase. You can take the time to get clear about who you are and what your message is, and then come up with a preliminary strategy to get it out into the world.

You won’t see results from your branding efforts right away, but they’ll come eventually and it will make an enormous difference. No matter what, don’t forsake this piece of your business. It is absolutely worth the investment.

Let’s imagine that a reader reading this interview has an idea for a product that they would like to invent. What are the first few steps that you would recommend that they take?

The first thing is to be clear on who you are and what your mission is. Having a clear understanding of those concepts will guide you through the difficult strategic questions and decisions you’ll have to make down the line.

Then I think every entrepreneur needs a plan for how they’ll spread their mission and raise brand awareness. There are tons of free tools online that can help them with this, and plenty of resources for them to learn. But you have to be committed to learning and doing as much as you can in those early days, otherwise you’re doomed.

There are many invention development consultants. Would you recommend that a person with a new idea hire such a consultant, or should they try to strike out on their own?

I think it depends on your priorities and resources. When you’re just starting out, your resources are probably limited and you need to be strategic about where you use them. The two big resources are time and money. If you have more time and less money, you should probably see how much you can learn on your own about growing a business and marketing an invention and try it out on your own. If you have more money and less time, it might make sense to hire some help. Either way, you shouldn’t go in blind and expect to see results.

What are your thoughts about bootstrapping vs looking for venture capital? What is the best way to decide if you should do either one?

Looking for venture capital is really important. You need money to run a business– that’s the ugly truth. If you don’t already have it, you have to find it. Not only will it help with startup costs, but having that extra padding will be crucial to your ability to scale.

The best way to find venture capital is through networking. When you find investors, you’ll need to have a solid pitch. Back to the importance of branding, knowing your “elevator pitch” for your company and refining it is key here.

Be strategic with your network and ask people you know for introductions to others who can help. Go to networking events. Try to make yourself visible in places where investors are looking. And when someone sees you, be ready to show them why they should invest in you.

When it comes to networking and finding investors, you’re selling yourself as much if not more than you’re selling your product.

Ok. We are nearly done. Here are our final questions. How have you used your success to make the world a better place?

I think spreading the notion that we can feel good about ourselves without spending exorbitant amounts of money is a good start. People think that quality is synonymous with expensive, and it’s just not true. That mindset comes from greed, and greed is the root of almost all the struggles our society faces. Everything we can do to dismantle greed and show people that good things don’t have to have high price tags is a small step toward a healthier society.

You are an inspiration to a great many people. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger.

I want to inspire people to break away from the love of logos. Self-expression has gotten so tied up in brands, and I want to empower people (especially women) to step out of that mindset. Your clothing should make a statement about you, not about the brand that made it. I want people to empower themselves, rather than being empowered by logos.

We are very blessed that some of the biggest 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, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them.

I would love to have lunch with Oprah. She embodies the value of persistence, and she’s incredibly chic, too. She’s empowered, ambitious, and incredibly smart. I couldn’t imagine a better lunch date!

Thank you for these fantastic insights. We greatly appreciate the time you spent on this.



Fotis Georgiadis
Authority Magazine

Passionate about bringing emerging technologies to the market