Dear 13-year-old Darbie,
It’s a beautiful day in Austin, Texas where you call home! I know you think that you can’t see yourself leaving Dallas but trust me…you are a free spirit and do best when roaming the world even by yourself although you LOVE to share it with those you love.
I can see you cringing and the anxiety rising even thinking about finding your way through Dallas alone but you will find confidence soon.
That confidence will not come without trials though. I wish I could take away some of the things you will endure but you are stronger than you realize and by pushing through you become who you were meant to be. You strangely will find that you are pushed when leaders surrounding you tell you it is statistically impossible for you to overcome the adversity you were dealt. That fire that you feel when they each tell you this will push and mold you and the strength that you gained from not laying down will teach you what you are capable of. Not only that but you have just been forced to be vulnerable and transparent and that will take you far!
So learn to repeat this over and over:
Watch me. I’ve Got This.
Statistics show you can’t break the cycle.
Oh yeah? Watch me. I’ve Got This.
Say it to yourself. We don’t curse …well there will be one person you curse and sadly you picked an amazing friend to try that out on..but we will talk about that later. I am SO sorry Evan!
You smile…you know how blessed you are to be alive and you live with such a light that it will be contagious at times. But repeat this mantra to yourself over and over when you fall. Because oh you will fall. But you don’t know how to stay down. You survive. More importantly you forgive. It is isn’t instant but one by one you will set meetings after you have become successful to do nothing more than to let them know not only did you make it but you are thriving. This is true strength and when people tell you not to bother to take the time to forgive them…do it anyway. Forgiveness is key!
While you will eventually be living out your wildest dreams of becoming a designer in the largest retailers in the beautiful USA it didn’t fall together like a movie.
You wind up at a large lawfirm in Austin and at 20 weeks pregnant you go into labor at work. Thankfully they are able to stop it but you are put on bedrest. There will be those close to you that would rather you go back to the lawfirm after the baby is born. It isn’t without reason but God led you through and built you into a strong woman for a reason and you can’t waste your talents.
This is going to sound insane…you better sit down…you are going to start buying and selling diamonds to make money to start your company. You first get diamonds from a partner at the firm that wanted to sell a few that she had. You then start googling (wait till you see what Google will do for you…it allowed you to get to where you are without having your hand held) diamond sources. You get closer and closer to the source and find a man in Israel. Remember this is all from bed…you can only get up to pee. You persuade him to sell you stones and proceed to wire him money…a man you never met for stones that you may not see. They arrive and you flip them again with your brothers help. You have become a carbon broker lol…Never tell anyone until you stop selling what we did. It isn’t the safest business and although we still like talking to our Israeli guys it is only for friends and maybe every once in a while for you but NEVER keep stones on you. Buy and ship out the same day!
So anyway, you need designs. You don’t have a design program and can’t drive to go get one even if you wanted so you use the only thing you have Powerpoint. I know…it isn’t easy but …what do you tell yourself…YEP, I’ve Got This.
So you use the line tools and shape tools to lay out your designs.
Don’t forget you are running out of time already. You only have 20 weeks to get this together before Gianna is born. You will love Skype and any other international chat service for that matter but you will find your first factories on Skype. You find a Chinese guy with the American name Forest that wants to work for an American girl. While he is responsible for traveling to your factory and reporting samples and quality he will later stab you in the back to try and make more money but You’ve Got This, don’t play into his cards and more importantly don’t lay down when it gets rough.
You are blessed with grit. That grit was not something that was taught in a class. You earned it from the lessons of life that you have already gone through and the lessons your are currently enduring. Pull as much as you can because you are about to be told no 100’s and 100’s of times. No by people not wanting to connect you to the buyers. No by people at the press not wanting to meet with you. But repeat…I’ve Got This.
The buyer from Macy’s agrees to meet with you in April and says that they will have a boardroom of 14 people to review.
You are on top of the world until you realize it is up to you to present. Your brother Aaron will be there with you for your first presentation. As you go down in the elevator you have a very minor flip out…OK pretty big. You begin to tell him that he will need to carry out the meeting because you are going into a full blown panic attack. While you have never had one you are quite sure this is what it must be. He of course will tell you to pull yourself together and reminds you that this is who you are and what you are meant to do. That is the moment that you realize and decide that this is who you are. As the meeting goes well and you have taken control of the room you will pause and take in the moment. Realize where you have gotten and what it took. There are 100’s of people that want their attention and they took the time for you because you believed in yourself. Always take in those moments. They were not handed over easily and you need to remember what it feels like to get them because you are about to be pushed down again.
Just like you imagined being a designer like as a kid, right?
I hate to even spoil how crazy this journey is going to be because it may scare you from even starting:
Just a quick reminder…in case it hasn’t stuck yet…You’ve Got This!
When your factory in China falls apart most will tell you to cash in your chips and cut your losses at that point. Don’t!
You are going to get on a plane to the Middle East for the first time without knowing a single person there. That will all change soon and you will have an entourage of Bangladeshi brothers. I know CRAZY but AWESOME!
On your flight from Bahrain (which you will strangely fall madly in love with...and even though your brother says differently it DID smell like Honeysuckles) to Dhaka, Bangladesh you will scroll through pictures of your family from your first class seat…trips to the beaches, Disney and newer memories. You don’t know how not to live full and looking at the pictures is a great reminder. There are 4 Muslim men dressed in their full garb sitting 2 seats to the left in front of you. You are flying over Pakistan when the sun starts to rise. It will be the most gorgeous and terrifying sunrise you ever see :) The 4 men literally leap from their seats and start yelling in their native tongue. They run back to the curtains that separate the seating and throw them open. At this point you think this is how your life is going to end. You are strong though and don’t want them to see that you are scared so you will sit silently looking forward with your hands on your legs. You will have a peace unlike any other peace you have experienced to this point...so much so that you are now wondering how in the world you are so peaceful. You realize that you have lived to the fullest with no regrets and your faith has been your center Your mind will fade back as the men hit the end of the plane and start running back yelling towards first class. Why aren’t the flight attendants coming out…why isn’t the captain coming over the speakers telling them to sit…those thoughts come but they stop when the men throw open the bins above your head and start throwing down bags. You will think this is the end but you are more focused at this point on being surprised almost that you are still completely at peace. So you might have realized that since I am writing you we survived!! The men were Mullah’s or what you might understand them to be compared to a high priest. They were livid that the Muslims on the plane were not participating in the call to prayer. Talk about an adrenaline rush! Now you are about hear the call to prayer over speakers every morning from your bedroom.
You are welcomed at the plane by a Military official that as soon as you stepped foot off the plane has taken your passport. You are silently praying not to be taken to a small room. Thankfully he takes you through customs and you pass a 5 hour line. When you see Dhaka for the first time it feels like an out of body experience. You have seen pictures but nothing will prepare you. This isn’t to be taken lighthearted and you will know this because you have a body guard and driver that have been prepped for your arrival. You are driven to the Westin but this is not your typical Westin. You pull up to a 30 foot high concrete block wall that has barbed wire on top of the blocks. Your heart races as you see a Bangladeshi man holding an assault rifle at the entrance to the hotel. Your driver rolls down the window and after speaking in their native tongue they begin a bomb check on you and your car. Quite a humbling experience to have an assault rifle so close and even more humbling to hear the men talking about how you look. You are strong though and you will work to not let it shake you. You will see many sights on this trip that will forever change your life and your heart.
You researched and stay “close” to the main factory but that is a relative term in a underdeveloped country. You learn patience through the traffic. You will spend 2 hours going 2 miles. Suck it up and take in the culture. You are blessed to see this and get a kick in the gut on how blessed you are. There will be a woman that comes to your window. Her skin looks as if the sand has literally weathered her. Her teeth are missing and her eyes have so much pain. She will be holding a 5 month old little boy in nothing more than a diaper and tears rolling down his eyes. Your body guard tells you to look away but you can’t. Your heart is not callused and don’t EVER let it be. You quickly push $40 out the window before he starts yelling. It is all you can do for her there but sadly it is more than she would have made in a month. It is not that the body guard is being mean but he is doing his job of protecting you. There are stories of kidnappings happening just like this in remote villages.
You drive further and this is when the Soul of your company is created. You see a young girl in the dusty road. She is laying over her deceased mother and she is screaming. Your heart feels if it has literally been ripped out. You spin around in your car looking for someone to rush and grab this little girl but there will not be anyone run to her side. Death from unclean water and simple things that we take for granted are so common. You know at that moment that God has shown you these sights for a reason. It is time for you to again go against the nay sayers and figure out how to impact this beautiful culture. You are blessed in this journey traveling from village to village and are treated like a queen. There will be nights of playing roof top soccer with Bangladeshi children and you will eat your first bite of your new favorite fruit called lychee. After hours upon hours of meetings at different factories in remote villages there will be late nights of driving back to the Dhaka. You strain to keep your eyes open so that you know where you are. It is pitch black. After sun down the only lights are candles...if you can find one.
Soak up and REMEMBER this time in your life. You have traveled to places that other executives don’t want to go and if they do most don’t leave their hotels. When you question if you can push through a difficult task never forget that you pushed and the factory worked tirelessly with you and in 25 days molds, decals and products were complete when it should have taken months. You’ve Got This!
I’m trying to think of a way to explain what you have accomplished as an unknown designer without a contact in the industry. Let me put it in terms you’ll understand: Playing in the retail world is like waterskiing behind a 10-horse engine. Half the time, you’re just holding on for dear life.
Your job is to fill a niche that is missing on the walls, to source your designs, create clever marketing and SALE. You LOVE to sale. You thrive off of being in a boardroom and you thrive even more of being in the stores with customers. They will feel your passion to be a positive change in the world and they will want to be involved. Tell them the lives and the names of the people they are impacting. The woman that have jobs because of them. They are a part of the solution for impact and you can’t forget this.
In the next year you will go from ecstasy to misery. Your line is doing so well that it has blown away the forecasting that you were presented. The growth is too much to handle alone. There are many sleepless nights on how to keep the ship floating while you are deciding on your next move.
Our company while it is your passion isn’t the life that everyone around was expecting…being an entrepreneur isn't the easiest of paths. You get a call from one of the largest companies in the industry in regards to purchasing your company at the same time. You are in one of the darkest times but you will make it through. You call your friend Bradley who specializes in this craziness…the one that you will also call when an obnoxious boy won’t leave your house after breaking up in high school…and you tell him your situation to see if he thinks we should sell the company. You will be ecstatic when he laughs in his typical this is ridiculous laugh and tells you it is a simple issue that can be fixed with investors. WHEW! Trust me at this point you weren't ready to give up your baby...I mean your company.
The very next week you are asked to lunch by Evan Loomis. He will believe in you and your ability to grow the company and stands by you through highs and lows. He is extremely talented in many areas but excels with start ups and fundraising and while you have heard stories of the agony that fundraising can be you are naïve. Soak that moment up because it wont last for long.
It is more of a mental game than anything. There will be nights that you wonder if you can make it through without having a stroke. You will make it! Not saying you didn’t have a minor stroke but it is hardly noticeable ;) The deal takes longer and there are changes after changes made and it drains you. You are fundraising while carrying your business at the same time. It is impossible to fully comprehend this load right now but trust your gut. You lean on your attorney Rick Jordan and Evan throughout the process. There are not only calls throughout the day but even after midnight to make sure the deal is still going through and on terms we are ok with. The deal will almost fall apart many times and things are extremely intense over several months. But it is refreshing knowing no matter what time it is they will pick up the phone. You are not alone in this journey!
You remember when I spoke with you in regard to cursing your friend out… It was a stressful day not only with fundraising but you will have a procedure (don’t use tanning beds…turns out they really do cause cancer). When the Dr. tells you not to take calls and to turn your phone off for the day because of the anesthesia messing with your blood pressure listen! I didn’t listen and when I got a call from Evan listing out what was going on I might have said a few things I regret. Not sure which was worse though the fact that they words came out of my mouth or that I immediately apologized and he hadn’t even heard me curse at him…Just don’t answer any calls! You still feel bad months later!
Many around you start telling you that you have balls. It isn’t the compliment that you are used to but take it because you ran through hell and back to hold on to that rope and you did it.
Welcome back to ecstasy!
You will be blessed to not only get to work with the most creative art teams in the press, executives in retail, vp’s in the largest brands in the world but to also have them as friends as well. They will be the ones to pick up the phone and call to check in and can tell when you need a pep talk. You will be blessed to travel the world and be submersed into so many cultures (and their yummy food).
You are confident in your designs (which is crazy because in college it is a different story)…in meetings with successful designers from Disney to Dior you don’t hesitate to pull designs together out of thin air and based on the product call out factories and countries that excel in that area. It is a far cry from high school and college when you would do anything to escape a presentation. You have gotten to a point that you constantly look at a products and guess the manufacturing cost …then the mark up and have to stop yourself from playing a game by guessing the retail price and flipping product over to see the tag.
You are confident in your skin and in your industry. Everything that you have gone through has led you here to this moment.
A lot is about to happen to you. Good and bad. But remember You’ve Got This! You are a stronger than either of us could ever imagine!