How did you feel when you won and learned you would receive a financial award to invest in your business?
I️ was absolutely shocked when we were awarded the $2,000. It felt like a tremendous blessing because we have a large amount of money that we need to fundraise for the launch and anything to chip away at that cost is huge.
Nary Resort wear is a women’s luxury resort wear clothing brand. What inspired you to make this a social impact venture?
My sister had the initial vision after working at a Cambodian non-profit who rescues girls out of sex trafficking. The need that she saw was long-term employment. This initial seed planted the concept for Nary Resort wear—an ethical and sustainable brand that employs survivors or at risk people of exploitation. Exploitation comes in type of forms whether its forced labor or sex trafficking. Over half of the survivors will return back to their traffickers due to a lack of employment. We decided to name our brand after our mother, Nary, who survived the Cambodian genocide in the late 1970’s. Our desire is that our employees would experience the same level of healing and hope that our mother has when she started over again.
In February you left your job and moved to Cambodia for four months to launch your venture. That was a huge risk to take. Can you share what that process was like and how faith played a role in that decision?
My decision to quit my job was multifold. I had been working in the fashion industry for close to 10 years and I didn’t feel like I was making a difference in people’s lives. I had been in the same role for about half of that time and I knew that in order to really pursue something where my passion was alive, I needed to cut the cord and force myself into a spot where I had no choice but to hustle.
My time in Cambodia was first to seek rest and then explore this business idea my sister had. Honestly, that decision was a pretty easy and painless one to make. The biggest and scarier decision of faith was investing into this business. It was something that I had only recently came to terms with. I’m currently working full-time and working on the business on the side. The business has required a lot of my time and money and although I believe that God is blessing this endeavor, there is no guarantee that we will succeed. Deciding to go for the business has been a huge leap of faith.
What is the biggest lesson entrepreneurship has taught you so far?
How to say no and prioritize. Through some honest call out from a close loved one, I had to start saying no to a lot of things and put my ducks in a row. I’m not good at taking care of myself either so it was also saying no to treating myself as a machine and recognizing where I needed to take a break. Consistent self-care is important for longevity. My cohort and the DO GOOD X team would continually check in about self-care and that was really wonderful. It reminded me that I AM my best asset. If I don’t take care of myself then the business will fall apart.
Outside of Pitch for Good, what was one of the most memorable experiences you had during the accelerator program?
A couple of things—DO GOOD X is SO different from any other entrepreneurial program I have participated in. DO GOOD X focuses on you and your business holistically — you as an entrepreneur, your impact on people and the planet, and how your business is tied to your faith in Christ. When I arrived at Jump Start, I felt like I could let out a deep sigh of relief because I knew I was in a safe place where it was advocating for my whole vision. Second, my cohort has been such a blessing. Their unique gifts and visions inspire and encourage me. Walking in my journey as an entrepreneur alongside others has been a gift. I am not alone in this often lonely journey of entrepreneurship.
What’s one business challenge you had at the beginning of the accelerator program that you’ve been able to overcome or begin to overcome?
At the beginning of the program, I was really unsure about launching a business. I saw all the risks, high levels of investments, and I was scared. I was scared of the sacrifice that it was going to have on my loved ones, on my own personal time, and my bank account. I had just started a new job and I saw that I could give back through that avenue. Why did I need to go above and beyond to start something new that might possibly fail? But by the end of the program and by the completion of the Pitch for Good, I had faith in my business idea and a willingness to commit to it. I remember being at Boot Camp and prepping my slideshow for my pitch and tears were streaming down my face. I had just read an article on sex trafficked girls in Cambodia and it wrecked me. The movement to solve exploitation in the world is small. The need is huge. If I don’t join the cause, then who? I have the conviction, the talent, and the resources to make it happen.
What advice would you give someone interested in applying for the DO GOOD X Startup Accelerator program?
As I encouraged some members of my cohort, if you have a business idea and want to see whether it could work or not, put something out there and test the market. You don’t have to have your perfect product figured out or even have it be a grandiose production in order to see if it will take to the market. When I entered into the accelerator program, I was in the process of creating our product. Doing this forced a couple of things to happen. First it got me out of my head and forced me to put theory into action. Second, I have learned SO many things about my product (costs, manufacturing, market) that I wouldn’t know if I wasn’t actually doing it.
I believe DO GOOD X is looking for investment in your business idea and a passion to see it through, especially when times get tough.
As you look forward to the new year, what’s next for you and Nary Resort wear?
We have so many exciting things happening for Nary Resort wear! Our photographer and model just came back from Cambodia after shooting our look book. You can check out the campaign photos on our Instagram page. We are still in the editing stage, but will have it up soon! We are launching our first collection at the beginning of January. We also plan to have pop-up shops in hotels and resorts in Cambodia with select trunk shows showcasing our brand in New York City. We are so excited to share with the world all that we have been doing.
Want to get connected? You can keep up with Stephanie and Nary Resort wear on Instagram @NaryResort