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This week, we had the chance to sit down with the amazing Mary Young. Mary is the CEO and Designer of her own lifestyle & lingerie brand. This year, Mary was listed in FLARE Magazine’s Top 60 Under 30, and has been featured in publications such as Refinery29, Vogue, FASHION, and BlogTO (to name a few). Read on to find out more about Mary and her inspirational story of entrepreneurship!
Tell us a bit about your brand, Mary Young.
MARY YOUNG started as my thesis and subsequent graduation womenswear collection at Ryerson University. Over the past 2 years it’s grown into being a lifestyle lingerie and loungewear brand that emphasizes the importance of comfort in ones clothes, specifically lingerie. The brand focuses on encouraging women to feel comfortable and confident in their natural shape rather than wearing lingerie to reshape their body into what the industry defines sexy as.
What inspired you to start your own company?
During my fourth year at Ryerson I was working on my thesis and decided to also produce a five-piece collection that encompassed the findings of my thesis to show at the graduating fashion show, Mass Exodus. At the time I never looked at this collection as the capsule collection for my brand but as I delved deeper into designing lingerie I noticed a gap in the womenswear market for lifestyle lingerie that focused on comfort, quality and a sense of ease. Upon showing my collection and graduating I received great feedback from the industry and my target market, which really was the motivator to start my line. So I spent about 3 months studying the industry and writing a business plan. Once I realized there is space for such a line in the market and most importantly, a need for it, I took a leap of faith and started my namesake line.
What have you found to be the most successful marketing tactic to build your brand?
The most successful marketing tool has been Instagram and my major focus has been to create a visual world that displays not only the brand and its values, but also the lifestyle that my target demographic is familiar with. In this day and age people are more visual, images that evoke a feeling and create a connection do much more than an article or a newsletter for that matter.
What advice would you give to entrepreneurs trying to build a brand from scratch?
My advice would be to look at the big picture – what do you want your brand to stand for, where do you see it in 3-5 years and how do you want people to speak about and perceive your brand as. When you look that far ahead it definitely seems scary but it’s much easier to work backwards and see the steps it takes to get there. With that said, your vision will always change, so be flexible and be open to the change that will inevitably come.
As a one woman show, how do you find time to check everything off your to-do list?
This is when I really have to thank my schooling at Ryerson where I learnt time management. My to-do list has never once been completely checked off, which I like, it’s exciting to be constantly working on new ideas and concepts. The way I manage to get everything done is to be proactive, I’m up and working by 9 each day, after grabbing a coffee of course. I structure my day as if I was working for someone else and stay focused during my 9 hour workday. I do often work evenings but I make sure to take a break for a good dinner or hitting the gym. I also make sure to schedule in social activities like meetings, when I don’t make time to be social and get away from the business I can easily get burnt out. It’s all about balance, so focusing on what needs to be done first and not procrastinating the things I dislike doing. That way when it comes to the fun things I have more energy and passion to put into them. Also, being ok with everything not being perfect, as an entrepreneur and business owner there is no time to be a perfectionist.
How do you build buzz/stand out amongst the many lifestyle & clothing brands out there?
I believe MARY YOUNG stands out amongst other lifestyle lines by focusing on the consumer, each consumer and making sure they feel comfortable and in turn confident. The brand ethos is a huge part of the brand, consumers look for more than just a product but rather a line they relate to. I achieve this with images of models that aren’t just model size as well as a well including visuals outside of garments but also relatable pastimes, such as brunch and coffee. One of the best pieces of feedback I’ve received that I think really showcases how the brand stands apart is that it’s relatable, I’ve talked to women in different industries and ages that all agree, when they visit our social channels or website, they automatically relate to what they see, specifically our models and never feel like these pieces aren’t for them.
Where do you see your company in 5 years? 10 years?
In five years I hope to have expanded into other garments, hopefully offering ready to wear. I also hope to be retailing in Europe, the UK and Asia. 10 years feels so far off but I really hope by then I’ll be able to expand outside of fashion and be a part of, or even have an organization that supports young entrepreneurs, whether that’s in fashion or not, but most importantly by giving back to the next generation.
What social platform do you most like to engage with your community?
I personally love Instagram to connect with my community. Over the past 6 months even it’s been such an exciting place to connect with people from different paths and countries. I like the personal aspect of Instagram as well, I manage this channel and I want all of my community to feel like they’re interacting and engaging with a person not a team or corporation.
If you had to define your brand using 3 personality traits, what would they be and why?
I would have to say confident, outgoing and honest. It’s confident because that’s such an important pillar in the brand, focusing on an inner confidence is instilled in everything the brand stands for. The brand is definitely outgoing, something I strive to do is work with other designers and creative, whether it’s to collaborate or just be in each others corners, this sense of outgoingness is very clear when you visit any of the social channels or the website. Lastly it’s honest, I want to be open about the struggles women face today, especially with the pressure from the industry. In all areas of the business I focus on being transparent and honest with my community.