“You Can Do Anything You Set Your Mind To” The 5 Lessons I Learned Being a 20-Something Founder

I had the pleasure of interviewing Marisa Flacks, founder of RISE Creative, one of the first Marketing Agencies solely dedicated to serving ethical fashion and beauty brands. Marisa began working in the fashion industry at the age of only 15, where she gained experiences at Hearst Magazines Corporation, Starworks Group, and LaunchMetrics (previously FashionGPS), before dedicating her career to serving the growing ethical industry. RISE has had the privilege of serving clients such as Sevenly, Encircled, The Root Collective, M.O.T.D Cosmetics, VETTA, and more.

Jean: Thank you so much for doing this with us! What is your “backstory” of how you become a founder?

Of course, thank you!! In 2013, I was halfway through college, with some incredible experiences in the fashion industry, but feeling like something was missing. I’d loved fashion ever since I could remember, but I wanted to find a way to serve others while staying in the industry. As a Cultural Anthropology and Communication Major at Rutgers University, I began studying the way that the fashion industry impacted areas of the world that are commonly overlooked. Around the same time, the Rana Plaza collapse happened, a garment factory in Bangladesh where around 1200 people employed by some of our largest clothing manufacturers were killed. This sparked a shift in the industry calling for ethical labor and production practices. We saw brands popping up all over the place who were providing economic opportunity to women in underserved areas, employing refugees and giving them resources to start a new life. THAT was a fashion industry I wanted to be a part of. However, many of these brands were small businesses, social enterprises, or non-profits, not only making it hard for me to find a full-time job, but I watched many of these brands struggle to balance it all while not having the capacity to hire full time marketing staff. That’s where RISE was born. We come in and create extremely personalized marketing plans for ethical brands, along with offering training and consulting for new brands to maximize the reach of their mission.

Jean: What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?

Honestly my personal research and experiences in fashion around the world. Working with ethical brands who employ cultures other than our own, we need to be sensitive to cultural norms when approaching marketing. For example, if you’re a middle eastern brand who employs woman, some cultures don’t appreciate photographs being taken of women, or if you’re employing talented artisans who are survivors of human trafficking, many times you have to protect their identities. The cultural training that we have as a team, combined with our extensive background in the fashion industry, allows us to serve ethical brands in a truly unique way.

Jean: Are you working on any exciting projects now?

We are!! A pattern that I’ve noticed with the rise of ethical brands (no pun intended) is that many new brand owners either don’t have the budget or are nervous to have someone else take over their marketing. So — we decided to create an online academy where brand owners can learn how to take the reigns of their own marketing. The Ethical Branding Academy will launch this September and cover our 5 key components to marketing: Brand Messaging, Social Media, Website, Blog, & E-mail Newsletters.

Jean: Do you have a favorite book that made a deep impact on your life? Can you share a story?

Present Over Perfect by Shauna Niequist. When I moved away from NYC and the fast-paced lifestyle, I felt a little lost without the constant go-go-go. This book really helped me to be present in my new surroundings and appreciate life in other parts of the country.

Jean: What are your “5 Lessons I Learned as a Twentysomething Founder” and why? Please share a story or example for each.

1. Imposter Syndrome is Real — Whether you’re a successful entrepreneur or recent college graduate, it seems all 20-somethings struggle with imposter syndrome and not feeling completely confident just starting out in the “real world.” One thing I’ve learned is to trust in your abilities and experiences. Everyone learns as they go and confidence comes in continued perseverance.

2. You Can Do Anything You Set Your Mind To — I know that’s extremely cliche, but we live in an age where anyone can start a business online in 5 minutes. If you’re not happy with your life, or your job, change it. There are so many options and possibilities out there, don’t limit yourself to a situation you’re unhappy in.

3. Your Career Doesn’t Define You — This is something I struggled with for a long time. Growing up outside of NYC, the first question most people ask you is “what do you do?” When I moved down South, I realized some of my new friends barely understood my job or my company, they just valued real time together, laughing, and making new memories. For the first time, I had to make this mental shift of, “I am more than my company and my title, I can have this amazing life outside of work if I’m just intentional about my work-life balance.”

4. Fake It, Till You Make It — This probably goes along the lines of my imposter syndrome note, but there are going to be challenges in life and in business that you don’t particularly know how to handle, but those will be the situations where you grow the most, and force yourself to go out of your comfort zone to confront that challenge and learn from it.

5. The Power of Networking — I wouldn’t even have a company, or really a job, if it wasn’t for networking. Creating a community of people who rally around you, your passion, and support you in the everyday is extremely important. Not to mention having the professional network to carry your business. I’m very fortunate that much of our clients lately have come from word-of-mouth referrals all because of the network that we’ve grown, not being afraid to put ourselves out there, connecting with others in the industry, and making sure that we’re known as a resource.

Jean: 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 whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might see this. :-)

I would love to have lunch with Safia Minney, who has done some incredible work in the ethical fashion space, from starting ethical fashion brands, to The True Cost movie, to writing some incredible books, she is just a wealth of knowledge in this space.

— Published on June 27, 2018