I love being a part of the Leaders In Heels community as it offers the ability to network and meet inspiring women worldwide. Sarvin operates her self-titled international sustainable luxury clothing brand from the UK. Leading up to International Women’s Day, I wanted to include her interview about starting a sustainable fashion brand as a source of inspiration to those who are looking to start their own company. Whether it be in the fashion, food and beverage or tech, I have come to realise that entrepreneurs all have the same struggles and doubts, but possess similar qualities to succeed. 


Can you give a background on yourself and your business?

My name is Sarvin and I am the owner of Sarvin,  which I launched three years ago in the UK. It started as a hobby,  sketching in my flat while I worked a full-time job. I always loved dressing exclusively and the feeling of luxury fabric. I decided to work with a self-employed dressmaker, and once the garments were ready, I would upload a few images of myself wearing the samples either as a selfie in front of the mirror or attending various events.  I still remember it as if it was yesterday when I received my first few orders via email and Instagram. It was at this moment that I realised that this is what I love doing. As a result, I decided to create a brand focused on sustainable fashion made from high-quality fabrics and distinct attention to details.

Starting a sustainable fashion brand

What is sustainable fashion to you and why is it important?

Sustainable fashion focuses on reducing textile waste and environmental depletion while increasing ethical treatment of workers; the goal is to slow down the global production and consumption process to form an industry that will be more sustainable in the long run.

At Sarvin, sustainability is the core of our business. We aim to increase the message behind sustainability by providing quality garments and using eco-friendly material.

In our latest collection, we have used ethically sourced, eco-friendly fabrics to create extraordinary garments. All manufacturing methods are sustainably based, with 75% in the UK supporting local artisans.

We keep our supply chain local to the fibre origin to minimise transportation through the production process.

“We aim to increase the message behind sustainability by providing quality garments and using eco-friendly material.”

 

Were you always interested in entrepreneurship?

Yes, I always loved working for myself. I knew it would not be an easy journey and I was aware I would not be earning a steady income. However, this was a path that I knew would make me incredibly happy and excited to wake up to every day. I grew up in a family where both of my parents were self-employed and from a very young age my Dad would take me to his company and teach me important matters about his business.

What are the three skills needed to be a successful entrepreneur?

  1. Patience – I have learned in the past three years that nothing comes easy. Nothing happens overnight and you have to stay on top of everything to make and see progress.
  2. Consistency & persistency – You have to stay consistent. Although the majority of time spent goes towards the business in the first couple of years, you’ll find that consistency and persistency pays off immensely.
  3. Faith – Never lose hope if you fall once or even a few times! There have been times in my business where I felt like I couldn’t do it anymore, but once I made it through the difficult times, I became much stronger.

What does a regular work week look like for you?  

A regular day starts with exercise so I feel energetic all day. I work from home for a couple of hours and then head to my second part-time job in the afternoon.

I believe scheduling downtime is essential. In my spare time, you can find me experimenting with new recipes or hiking with my partner.

How was the process of gaining international popularity for you? 

The entire process was very organic and selling from different marketplaces helped me gain exposure.

I honestly never had a feeling of giving up completely, but there were times I would think that it would be much easier if I had a 9 to 5 job and a steady income. After experiencing such thoughts though, I would remember why I started in the first place and think about where I am now. It would only provide me with the courage to move forward and not look back.

I remember the first time I got an international order. I turned around and said to my partner, “Can you believe that there is someone on the other side of the world that loves my design?”. He just smiled and said, “let’s work hard and turn that one into many more”.

 

“Can you believe that there is someone on the other side of the world that loves my design?”. He just smiled and said, “let’s work hard and turn that one into many more.”

 

What has been your biggest hurdle in starting a sustainable fashion brand? 

Starting a sustainable fashion brand takes much longer than fast fashion garments; we take our supply chain process very seriously and test our garments many times before launching. Before creating a new line, we take action on a long-term strategy based on a sustainable environmental philosophy. We consider every aspect of our production process, from our handcrafted accessories to our finished garments. We make sure we are using quality sustainable materials and working with the right people. As a small business, this takes a lot of time and energy.

When you are starting a sustainable fashion brand with no background or knowledge in running a company, the lack of experience makes it much harder to find the right people to work with and that understand your vision. I have learned not to be too trusting with people you have just met and to be more diligent with background checks regarding their skills and reputation.

I think it is so important to monitor every aspect of your business and to often look from an outsider’s perspective to see what needs to be done to take your business to the next level.

What do you love most about your brand?

Focusing on quality rather than quantity. I don’t follow fast fashion and I do not follow trends. I love designing for women that love and appreciate the touch of luxury fabric and have a strong desire to look rare wherever she goes. I am also so excited that Sarvin will soon be launching our first ever print collection that is vegan, eco-friendly fabric.

By taking pride in being a sustainable-focused business, I am:

1.  reducing waste by choosing the right manufacturer and fabric companies;

2. one of the first few independent sustainable luxury labels that use vegan fabrics in their garments;

3. increasing productivity and working with like-minded businesses;

4. “doing good” for the planet and creating quality garments over quantity; 

5. spreading the message behind sustainability and caring about our planet’s future.

What is your advice to someone starting a sustainable fashion brand or business of their own?

Do thorough research in the months before launching your business. Take on internship roles for start-up companies because this will help you gain more experience and exposure in your field. If you feel like giving up, take a deep breath and remember why you started this journey. Take the time to celebrate how far you have come.

What do you love most about Leaders In Heels? Any last words for all the fellow inspiring female leaders reading this?

I personally love all the Leaders in Heels products, but my favourite has to be the Phenomenal Woman Planner. It helps me a lot with planning my daily tasks and keeping me on track with my schedules and appointments. What is great about this planner is that it gives you that kick every morning to make you feel like a phenomenal woman. For my fellow female leaders, you can do whatever you want in life as long as you work for it!

Starting a sustainable fashion brand

Follow Sarvin

See Sarvin’s most recent collection for yourself at www.sarvin.eu.


Values, values, values! Having strong values is vital in life. They help us to create the future we want to experience. When we use our own values to make decisions, we make a choice to focus on what is important to us.

Possessing strong values is what Bianca Bellantoni is all about. Bianca is the CEO and founder of her self-titled womenswear label, BELLANTONI. Bianca had a vision and made the necessary steps to achieve that vision while always keeping in mind her core values. The clothing company is based out of Vancouver, BC and is known for being a sustainable and cruelty-free organization. Bianca, a Leader In Heels herself, sat down with us for a chat on her experiences throughout this journey.

Can you give me a little background on yourself? Who you are and what lead to the creation of your business idea?

Hi, my name is Bianca Bellantoni and I am a 26 year old designer based in Vancouver. I love animals and I have a strong desire to make a significant impact during my time on this earth. I applied to fashion school in Toronto because I wanted a creative career. Fashion ended up being an outlet that seemed fun, and one that I felt I would do well in. Within my first year at Ryerson University, we were taught about the negative impact clothing has on the environment as well as the people involved making it. This was extremely alarming to me and it really changed my outlook on the fashion industry as a whole.

I learned about the waterways in Asia that would “magically” change colour based on the latest colour trends at the time. I learned about large populations of cotton-farmers being diagnosed with brain tumours. I learned about toxins being dyed and sprayed all over various fabrics. I was at a point where I wanted to quit attending fashion school for good. It took an honest and vulnerable conversation with my Mom to remember that if I really wanted to make a change in the fashion industry, I was going to have to stay in it! From then, I focused my studies and assignments around sustainability.

Upon receiving my Bachelor of Design at Ryerson University in Toronto, I had a deep desire to want to make clothing the way I believed they could be made and in a way that stayed true to my values. That is, without harming people, without harming animals and without harming the planet.

“I had a deep desire to want to make clothing the way I believed they could be made and in a way that stayed true to my values.”

How long have you been operating your business now? Was having your own business something that had always been of interest to you?

Officially, it was a year on March 21, 2018. However, throughout school I put my designs and clothing in every fashion show opportunity that I could find and began building my online presence before I even had an online storefront. I never really said, “I want to be an entrepreneur.” I wanted to be a designer and an artist. My dad is an entrepreneur. He owned his own restaurant and now has a successful importing company, so I guess you could say that it is in my genes?

Did you feel like you had necessary skills to build a business? Was it something that was self taught?

I was lucky that almost all of my internships and jobs in the fashion industry were in small businesses or family-owned businesses. From working independently with designers, to working in a small bridal shop, to being a designer for a startup company, I was really able to see how companies ran on a smaller level. I thought to myself, I can do that! So I went for it. I honestly believe that if I sat down and tried to work through every little detail before I even started, I would have talked myself out of pursuing fashion all together.

What would you say are THREE skills needed to be a successful entrepreneur?

I believe the three skills or tips you need to be a successful entrepreneur are:

  • Believe in yourself and your business​ because no one will love your business more than you.
  • Be optimistic & persistent. Know that you will be successful, and find the strength to push through when times are tough and you feel like giving up.
  • Build a network & support system​. I’m not only talking about your friends and family, but surround yourself with other entrepreneurs, join interesting groups, like-minded meetups and find an accountability partner. I have the BEST accountability partner and I am so grateful!

What does a regular work week look like for you? Is scheduling down time important?

I have another job, so my weeks are pretty busy. I work part-time as a Marketing Designer, so I work on my business in the evenings, on most weekends, as well as the few days that I am not working at my other job. Scheduling down-time is ​very important.​ I consider this to be alone time. For me, I need time alone to re-energise and allow myself to reflect on my own life. I have started meditating every morning for 10 to 20 minutes and this has helped me to stay focused throughout the day. I feel mentally lighter and I can go about my day calmly.

What do you enjoy doing during your spare time?

I love going to breweries or coffee shops with my friends or going for walks around the city. Vancouver is just so beautiful.

What has been your biggest hurdle throughout this entire journey so far? How did it affect you and how did you handle it?

I think the biggest hurdle I’ve encountered, and I actually still catch myself doing, is being really hard on myself for not being farther than where I am today. I catch myself comparing my business to other companies who have been around for years and years, and pointing out how “slow” my business is growing. It can definitely be a good thing in that I maintain my ambitiousness and keep pushing myself to do better, but it can also be detrimental to my mindset.

“My meditation has helped a lot with this too, and allows me to detach from the outcome letting life and my business just naturally happen on their own terms.”

When this bothers me, my fiance pulls me out of my head so I can acknowledge how much I have already accomplished. He always brings light to the situation. He helps me realize that I cannot compare myself to other people who are already farther than me or people who are in a different situation to me. My meditation has helped a lot with this too, and allows me to detach from the outcome, letting life and my business happen on their own terms. I know that big things are going to come, but I need to be more patient with myself and continue to work hard.

What would you say is the most unique aspect/attribute of your business?

Many people love that I recycle my fabric scraps and turn them into pet beds to donate to local shelters. This idea originated from when I was in my third year at Ryerson. I was enrolled in a sustainability field study of four selected students. I focused my thesis on zero-waste. The pet bed idea came about from this class, and I began collecting scraps from students at my school to reuse. When I started my own business, I decided to incorporate this pet-bed-making process so I knew exactly where my scraps were going.

“Many people love that I recycle my fabric scraps and turn them into pet beds to donate to local shelters.”

If you had one piece of advice to give to someone who was just starting their own business, what would it be?

Make sure that you absolutely LOVE your idea. Don’t give up when it gets really tough and remember that success doesn’t happen overnight.

Leaders In Heels is all about nurturing, inspiring and empowering female leaders. In your own opinion, what are three qualities you think a Leader In Heels would naturally possess?

I think these women would naturally possess authenticity because it is just so important to be true to yourself. Courage because it takes a whole lot of it to go after what you want in life, and kindness because the world needs more kindness. When you lead by example, you can create that ripple effect.

 

Bianca is such an inspiration and her self titled label is up and coming in beautiful Vancouver. Show her some love and support and admire her unique and classy collections by finding her at:

Website/Store: ​www.bellantoni.ca
Instagram: ​@bellantonidesigns
Twitter: ​@biabellantoni
Facebook: ​BELLANTONI


Altering the school system to include more beneficial life related skills is something I have always wondered about. Although I feel I have learned quite a bit while I was in school, I still feel curriculums should be looked at and acknowledged tremendously to include more life related skills that would essentially help young students navigate their way through the “real world” upon graduation. From learning how to manage their own money, to nurturing relationships, to buying their first car or home and learning how to file their own taxes, these are all fundamentals that sooner or later all human beings need to learn how to deal with.

What about just going back to the basics? What about the strong need to learn to love yourself, to trust yourself and to live the life that YOU want because you know you CAN and because you have learned to shut out the outside noise? What about instilling that strong foundation of self love in the younger generation early on so that they have the tools to overcome any hardships they may come across that can badly damage their own self esteem when they’re older?

I had the honour of interviewing Taylor Hui, founder of the BeaYOUtiful Organization in Vancouver, BC. With a heart of gold and the will to influence the younger female generation, instilling self love in young girls is something she prides herself in for various reasons.

Hi Taylor, thanks so much for joining me today! Can you tell me a little bit about yourself and how your organization came to be?

Thanks so much for meeting with me! I was born and raised in Vancouver BC. I worked in Asia for the last 4 years on and off in fashion and recently relocated back home, which has been great! 

I started BeaYOUtiful when I was 16 years old. I was in highschool and I had a lot of friends suffering with eating disorders and I was often bullied, mostly online. Cyber bullying was something that I had happened quite often in my life growing up. I just saw this cycle of negativity regarding the need for a young woman to pull others down in order to feel better about herself or to rise above and I always felt there was more competition between girls over collaboration and I never understood why. I very much and have always preached the opposite.

There was always this hierarchical feeling and women needing to bring other women down to raise their own self esteem. I thought that was such a vicious cycle and a mentality that I really wanted to change so I created BeaYOUtiful. The organization provides 6 week classes for young girls in elementary schools focused on building confidence, self esteem, nuturition, learning about self respect and self worth. I just think that these are such fundamental tools that are not taught in elementary schools or even high schools for that matter. It’s really shocking to this day that these topics are rarely touched upon in the education system and so I thought it was essential to bring about a class that would provide and teach those values and introduce these characteristics to young girls so they’re better equipped as they grow into their teenage years and then adulthood.

My friend and I did a pilot test that lasted about six months and it ended up being amazing and we just kept expanding… five years later, we’re still continuing today and are participating in quite a few districts across British Columbia. It’s been quite the adventure. I really do feel my personal experience has played into that, but it’s been the most empowering and moving experience I’ve ever gone through. It will always be a part of me and I say that because if it doesnt turn out to be my full time career, it’s definitely my passion project. I feel like I’ve grown so much from it and the girls are a reminder to me of what the meaning of life is and what to value. It’s been such a life changing experience for myself and for our volunteers. The people on my team are incredible and they’ve grown so much from it so it’s not only the mentors that inspire our students, the students have inspired us as well.

That must be so rewarding and to be able to see their growth too. How many students do you usually have in each class?

Yes, they’ll walk in the first week being timid and feeling so vulnerable. You can tell the self confidence isn’t quite there and a lot of the times, they don’t even know what it means to have self confidence and how to work towards it without having this idea that being confident is being egotistic or being bossy because a lot of the times, young girls get confused by the terms. With all the social standards in place, it’s just so important for young girls to realize that they have a voice, they have self worth and it’s about applying all the values we teach and making sure it’s with the right intentions.

In terms of numbers, it depends and usually the minimum we have is six girls. My favorite number is eight. I love having eight girls in a class, but we’ve done up to twenty three girls. Ideally we aim for eight to twelve. A smaller group allows the mentors to build a closer connection with each student. When you have much more than that, you’re not really given the opportunity to have those much needed one on one moments with the students.

With that being said, it’s not a one-on-one mentorship program. They get that one on one time to build relationships, but we ensure that they build relationships with each other as well because that’s who they’re going to be spending their everyday with. They’re going to be attending high school and university with other girls and they need to learn how to respect and understand each other. So while I believe that one-on-one time is important, what’s even more essential is that they’re building connections with their peers.

Do you have a vision for your organization or stretch goals for later down the road? Would you want to perhaps go global?

Our goal is to just impact as many young girls and women as possible. Going global would be a dream of course! We are definitely looking at expanding onto Bowen Island right now and interested in Toronto and even Calgary, but it is quite difficult because we do use a lot of guest speakers, a lot of artistic therapists come in too and we just have such dynamic classes of different topics. We’d have to find the right people to help facilitate the program. I am so lucky that we have such a strong team here and so many resources and I’m not saying these wouldnt be available in other cities, but it would definitely take time to find and create the right connections and build that network.

“Our goal is to just impact as many young girls and women as possible.”

Right now, we are looking at hosting more conference type events and that is our next one-year goal. Being able to host conferences in different cities which consist of a 6-8 week program compressed into one or two days would be a dream! It’s a super-high stretch goal for me, but it is something that’s in the works right now and our test trial would be done in Vancouver. Depending on how that goes, I’d love to then go nationwide (like in New York or Los Angeles!) as well as difference cities across the world. But yes, baby steps!

With technology these days, we have access to and are heavily influenced by so much information that we see online. With Facebook, Snapchat, Instagram, Twitter, Youtube etc. do you personally feel that social media plays a huge role in how young girls see themselves today?

Oh absolutely and it’s undeniable that it has a long lasting effect. I grew up with a cell phone, but not until I was in Grade 8 or Grade 9. My 6-year-old cousin already has a cell phone and it’s insane! It’s normal for her age now. These girls we’ve all spoken to in Grades 4, 5 and 6 all have iPads, or some sort of technological device to keep them entertained. The amount of information and knowledge they have access to is incredible, but it’s also very scary and can be very toxic.

In our programs, we actually dedicate a week to talking about social media, addressing how advertising manipulates young woman and what beauty standards are. I think the earlier you introduce this to a young girl, the better. They don’t even realize half the time that the ads they see are often photoshopped and edited and the world of commercialisation is quite manipulative (if i can say that). It’s making young women aware that things they see online aren’t always what they seem.

It’s also about educating these young girls that if you post something, then erase it, it doesn’t mean it’s gone forever. It doesn’t mean that those feelings associated with it disappear. I always make sure I touch upon my experience with cyber bullying and how that affected me growing up. I share how to this day, I still remember how it felt to receive those messages. Just because something isn’t said to your face, doesn’t mean it won’t have the same effect on your wellbeing. What’s important is to look at media in general as a pedagogy. It’s a huge platform that you can learn from and it can be used in so many amazing ways. It’s just harnessing those tools and ensuring you’re providing positive information to its users.

“What’s important I think is to just look at media in general as a pedagogy.”

There are proper ways to offer criticism and everyone has their own opinion. Freedom of speech is so important, and I encourage it. But it is about taking responsibility at the end of the day and at BeaYOUtiful we call them “acts of kindness” – ensuring there is a good purpose in whatever is said or done, whether it is in person, or online. It’s about education, awareness and taking responsibility, NOT discouraging people to use social media as a whole. I want them to be able to contribute, but in a way that’s inspiring and positive. If people can strive to integrate the two, social media is such an amazing tool that we’re so privileged to have.

“If people can strive to integrate inspiration and positivity, social media is such an amazing tool that we’re so privileged to have.”

What type of harmful messages did you receive when you were younger that really affected you?

There would be a lot of swear words targeted towards me and a lot of negative content. They made me feel worthless, and a lot of the times I was excluded from the “cool” activities and I didn’t get invited to parties that other girls hosted. At that age, no one wants to feel excluded, especially if you feel like you’ve done nothing wrong. I was quite the tomboy growing up and not in the way I dressed or acted – it was the activities I did. I enjoyed playing sports and playing in the mud as a child, and I was always on the track team. I grew up in a family where everyone played hockey and I loved that!

Cyberbullying is still an issue and something I feel should still be talked about. People are able to say a lot more on social media than they would to your face.

Absolutely. It’s so terrible because it encourages a chain reaction where one person posts a negative remark, someone else likes that person’s comment, and then another person posts a new negative comment. People end up encouraging the behavior and then it snowballs and it can be quite vicious.

We have one week of our program called “Heart to Heart” week and it’s literally us in our pyjamas, with pillows, chocolate and a box of kleenex. We have conversations and connect and showing that there is so much beauty in vulnerability. There’s so much confusion and misconceptions about being vulnerable, but to be able to open your heart up and cry and talk about what’s bothering you and to just be aware of what’s happening in your life… it really changes your opinion on others and how you treat others.

When you have a group of young girls and even women crying after sharing their most vulnerable selves, it is the most empowering thing. We show that we embrace being human to each other. We acknowledge that we have feelings. We share that we’ve all been through ups and downs. That’s just part of life. To be able to hear that and comprehend that at a young age is just so important.

“We have one week of our program called “Heart to Heart”…having conversations and connecting and showing that there is so much beauty in vulnerability.”

I love the whole idea of being more comfortable with being vulnerable because there’s such a stigma about being vulnerable and how it’s a weak characteristic when in actuality, it’s a strength.

Yes! The earlier we can teach vulnerability to younger girls, the better. It’s something that is not taught or spoken about in school. When we first started this organisation, I got a lot of backlash saying schools aren’t places that we have these types of conversations and discussions. Schools have said that they are not there to teach those values, because parents do that. That frustrated me more than ever. The administrators didn’t understand that people may not have the luxury of a safe space at home. I’m thinking to myself, as facilitators who are with students 6-8 hours a day, how can you not be teaching values of kindness and expression, or basic life skills or the fundamentals useful to us when we are sent out into the “real world”?

Something we’re also looking to incorporate into our program soon, for highschoolers in particular, is what kind of financial aid do you have available to you? How do you write a resume? If you don’t have any experience, how can you still own the room during an interview? Skills like that! If I could rewrite the syllabus of what’s taught in schools today, I totally would. But then again, this is why our programs exist; to really offer that alternative form of education and learning.

“Schools have said that they are not there to teach those values because parents do that. That frustrated me more than ever.”

Going back to the title of your organization, BeaYOUtiful, did you play around with that a little bit? How did that come about?

My slogan is, “I want every girl to look in the mirror and feel beautiful”. I started it in elementary schools because I feel that when you’re in high school, you may already have a negative view of yourself or your image, so why not introduce it earlier to prevent them from feeling that way once they reach that point? It’s simple and it sells itself. We cater to a younger demographic, and it’s easy to remember.

It’s super cute when you hear the girls say, “I am in the BeaYOUtiful Program”. They sound so confident, too!

Did you feel like you had all the skills necessary to build your organisation? 

It honestly was so organic. I sat down with my girlfriend who helped me bring it to life. Once we graduated we went our separate ways, but she always encouraged me to keep at it. I just had this idea and saw a need for it and I see it now more than ever that I’ve always had a love for entreprenurship. I’m such a passionate person and when I feel so deeply about something and want to help, I take action and I believe that’s what a lot of young girls feel like they can’t do. They feel they don’t have the right tools or resources, but for me, I thought, How can I take what I’ve learned in my life – from my mom especially, as she taught me so many values – and apply it to different modules?

My family dynamic is so strong and we celebrate life. I am always working on my acts of kindness and volunteering, and being able to travel opened my mind and way of thinking. I took all of these life lessons and arranged them into a lesson format. The first class we ever did, which spanned six weeks, is not much different to what we do now. I didn’t feel the need to alter much of it because after that first pilot course, we saw how well it worked and how it affected these girls. The girls were just so much more full of life, they built new friendships, and were confident. It wasn’t necessarily what we did, but more of the space we built for them. They felt safe and secure. It was a place of connection, and vulnerability was really celebrated.

“I’m such a passionate person and when I feel so deeply about something and want to help, I take action and I believe that’s what a lot of young girls feel like they can’t do.”

What has been your biggest hurdle throughout this entire journey? How did it affect you and how did you handle it?

The hardest thing was – and still is, sometimes – having that credibility. I’m not a teacher or a therapist. I had no degree or higher level of training when I started this. I was a student trying to do something positive and facilitate a class for young girls with zero certification, and that was hard to sell. I’m still working on my degree and even when I complete it, it’s actually not in psychology nor education, it’s in Communications.

“Why do you feel like you’re qualified?” I do feel like that’s always been the pressing question. We’ve definitely built our reputation up over the years, but for the first year, we were denied at several schools and couldn’t teach our course in the school we hoped to get in to.

We were told we didn’t have the prerequisites to teach and weren’t qualified. We were always asked, “How do you know what you’re teaching is valuable?” It took so much convincing. On our end, it took a lot of passion and dedication. I funded it all out of my own pocket for the first two years because I believed in what I was doing. It didn’t come easy, but the program itself developed through experience as well as the mentors’ experiences, and what I would’ve wanted to learn in school. I took all of that and applied it to the program.

We just want others to know that we aren’t trying to be therapists or teachers. We want to be sisters, because you cannot teach experience. At the end of the day, we’re teaching kindness, we’re teaching how to be expressive, and we encourage self love. I never learned that by going to university or college. I learned all of that by going through what I’ve gone through. That was the selling point, because they began to see that we weren’t out there to propose a teaching style similar to institutions that have been conducting classes since the 1950s. We were trying to  change the learning experience altogether. I won’t lie, it’s an ongoing battle, but now that we’ve been running for a few years we’re in a better position.

“BeaYOUtiful’s purpose is to change the learning experience all together.”

Girls want to be able to ask their questions without feeling scared. If someone is suffering from depression or anxiety, no offense, I dont think they want to talk to a 60 year old counsellor whom they met once at an assembly. They want someone they can sit with and feel comfortable with. Someone they can relate to. For us, it really is about making that space and if topics come up, we have mandates and protocols in place if we need to get schools, teachers or parents involved. Right now, these girls need a safe place where they can go.

How do you define success?

To me, the definition of success is happiness. If you’re constantly wanting to be better and striving for more, I think that’s an amazing quality. For myself, I always feel like it’s never enough. I accomplish one thing and immediately I’m like, now what? Sometimes, I need to take a step back, look at what I’ve accomplished, and celebrate that. If happiness for you is working a full time job with an apartment and a dog, whether married or single, then celebrate that!

I have so many friends who are globe trotters that don’t have a permanent address. That was me for a while, where I jumped back and forth, and that at the time was happiness to me. That was my own definition of success, being able to travel, learn and engage. Being truly happy and at peace with where you are doesn’t have to mean you don’t have goals you’re not working towards. If you can celebrate your health and who you have in your life, that’s success. I don’t see success in the form of money or hierarchy. You can have those goals for sure, but if you have your health and family and good people you’re constantly surrounded by, you’re doing just great!

“I don’t see success in the form of money or hierarchy. If you have good health, family and good people you’re constantly surrounded by, you’re doing just great!”

What are some sacrifices you needed to make to get to where you are right now and at the end of the day, what truly motivates you?

What truly motivates me? It’s the grind! 

I’m a full time student. I realised that if I wanted to run a business, I had to ask myself what I was willing to give up? And at this point, it’s time with friends. I’ve had to say no to going out so I can get work done. Setting up meetings takes away from family time. It’s all about balance, but for me, it’s being okay with working the extra job or going the extra mile to finish school so I can make my business flourish.

So I think the biggest sacrifice was accepting that I had to give up certain luxuries in order to have this business, but for me it was always worth it because I loved doing it. And that’s the thing, if you love whatever you’re working on, it doesn’t feel like work. I’m so focused, and excited to get things done. It’s a no-brainer. I do love to go out and have fun, but had to accept that it wasn’t going to be every single weekend any more.

I’ve talked to a lot of people who have been honest with me and said things like, “Your passion isn’t a career in this world that  makes a lot of money.” And that’s the reality.

I always think at the end of the day, can you see yourself being happy doing anything else? If the answer is no, then you’re in the right place at the right time of your life. You just have to sacrifice going on that extra vacation or by living in the suburbs as opposed to the city, or by picking up more shifts at the restaurant you work at.

My rule is to keep pursuing this project as long as I’m loving it and as soon as I fall out of love, move on. Life goes on. I just know that right now, I’m super happy.

Who is your biggest inspiration?

Oh that’s such an easy question, my Mom. It’s so funny because I get asked this all the time. I can cry in a second when talking about her! She is my world. Everything I’ve learned and everything I want to be, it’s due to her perspective. I feel like everything I’m saying here has come from my Mom. Growing up, that’s what I’d hear. “You are so fortunate. You are so blessed to be healthy. How grateful we are to be living this life. Appreciate it everyday.”

Just the other night we went for dinner and she said to me, “You’re in this new chapter of your own life, and I’m so happy for you. My heart is so full to see where you are.” I feel the same way about her. I’ve seen my parents transition into a new chapter where their kids are getting older and moving out. They’re the hardest working people I know, yet the “youngest” people I’ve ever met. They work crazy hours, but they love their jobs, and they celebrate! They really know how to balance life.

Family is everything for us. My mom is behind me on everything and has pushed me to elevate myself. She really believes in what I do.

Leaders In Heels is all about nurturing, inspiring and empowering female leaders. In your own opinion and off the top of your head, what are three qualities you think a Leader In Heels would naturally possess?

Number one, she is passionate. Two, she is fearless. She is not afraid to succeed nor fail. Three, she is a hard worker, but still stays true to herself.

For more information on Taylor and BeaYOUtiful, feel free to check out www.foreverbeayoutiful.com or follow their instagram: @beayoutiful_org or Taylor’s instagram: @taylorlinhui


I had the honor of sitting down with Meagan Ayres, the founder of Project You based in Vancouver, British Columbia. Project You is a movement of women coming together to consciously elevate themselves and the world.

“It’s more than just an organization or a business, it’s a way of life,” says Meagan. From being a shy, timid girl and someone who initially lacked self confidence, Meagan decided to put her foot down and break out of her own ways. Through personal development courses and other resources as well as experiencing her own breakthroughs, she discovered her purpose and founded Project You. It later became a well sought after organization and community that was much needed in the city of Vancouver. Ladies, meet Meagan!

Meagan, thanks so much for being here today and for taking time out of your busy schedule. Can you give us a little background on yourself? Who you are and how your organization came to be?

Thanks for having me! I’m Meagan and I’ve lived in Vancouver for 5 years now, though I grew up in Ontario. When I moved to Vancouver, I really felt that people in Vancouver in general were more active with their lifestyles and were doing things to live a more purposeful life. Many people I initially made connections with had huge aspirations, big dreams and goals. I found that to be really inspiring. Believe it or not, I used to be a very closed off person. I found it difficult to speak up in larger groups and have my voice heard and I was always very timid. I often lacked confidence and was often quite nervous.

Then I thought to myself that I should really be doing something more with my life. A friend of mine at that time introduced me to Landmark a few years ago. Landmark is a global enterprise committed to the fundamental principle that people have the possibility of success, fulfilment and greatness. This program made me want to be more committed to personal growth and figure out what I wanted to do with my life and figure out what my purpose was.

That’s when I created Project You. Toward the end of the course, I had to create a project in my community that would impact society in a positive way. At that time, I was more focused on feeling a lot more confident with myself and my body, as I’d suffered through many body image issues that many young women go through. I really wanted to build a community where women could come together to feel confident in their own skin and know who they are. I also wanted to use it as a safe haven where they could figure out what they wanted to do. That was the initial idea, and since then it’s really transformed.

Initially this was a passion project for myself which developed into something for the greater community. I didn’t realize how much of an impact it would actually have. It’s interesting how quickly things can change!

How long have you been operating your organization now and would you say entrepreneurship was something that had always been of interest to you?

It will be two years in August. I feel like I was always entrepreneur focused. Even as a child, I was always trying to find ways to make money and to raise money or sell things. I always wanted to run my own business. I just didnt find the core thing as to what I wanted to do. I always had these ideas to start something, but then they would always get delayed. It really just comes down to taking action and just doing it and it took me awhile to realize that you CAN do anything you want and what your heart desires. You just have to take the necessary steps or just that ONE step to move forward.

…but it really just comes down to taking action and just doing it and it took me awhile to realize that you CAN do anything you want and what your heart desires. You just have to take the necessary steps or just that ONE step to move forward.

What does a regular work week look like for you? Is scheduling down time important? What do you enjoy doing during your spare time?

For the most part, my schedule is pretty standard. I work in fashion full time from Mondays to Fridays; as a wholesaler and doing sales for different fashion brands. That alone is a committed schedule from 10am-6pm. Typically, I wake up and get my man ready and out the door. He’s an entrepreneur himself so one of our common goals obviously is to help each other grow and succeed. In the evenings, I sometimes take other courses and immerse myself in other personal development resources. Right now, I have committed to Monday evenings being dedicated to Project You. I am incredibly grateful for my team that I have working with me on Project You to help with the workload.

Sundays are the one day I take off and I don’t do anything else. It took me awhile to figure that out in terms of just being able to schedule “me” time. I actually don’t have a lot of spare time, but one of my goals is to learn to dance more. I want to be more active, especially in a city like Vancouver where we can enjoy the scenery. I love going for walks and working out. If anything, I’d love to do more of that. Right now my boyfriend and I have a vision board project set up together so that takes a lot of our time. But I love it! We’ve pretty much envisioned our lives at 6 months, 1 year, 2 years, 3 years and 5 years for ourselves and together. Finding pictures in magazines and other inspo to constantly add to our boards can take a lot of time! I also enjoy browsing through social media and various blogs to be inspired for creating my own content. I don’t really get to do that everyday.

Meagan, what has been your biggest hurdle throughout this entire journey so far? How did it affect you and how did you handle it?

I get this question a lot in different interviews and I feel like the answer has changed everytime. You start to see things differently all the time. So much is involved with Project You from the various social media channels to running events, you really dont know how much it takes until you’re fully immersed in it all. It’s easy to get carried away. The biggest thing lately is recognizing what I actually want to be and asking myself where I want to go. The coolest part is so many people appreciate this project and want to be on the team, but at the end of the day, I need to feel aligned with where the project is going. One of my own challenges is being able to recognize my own desires and really truly honoring my own voice and what I want. I’ve become a lot better these days saying “hey, this is the direction we’re going in and I would love for you to feel aligned with it too, but if you aren’t, maybe this isnt the best opportunity for you at this time.” You have to take in and consider everyone’s opinions and ideas on the team too. Most important thing in my honest opinion is to just stay committed to your core values and mission of what you’re doing.

It can actually be very difficult sometimes to stay fully and truly aligned. But like I said, I’ve become a lot better at speaking up and having my voice heard especially when it comes to what Project You stands for.

The most important thing, in my honest opinion, is to just stay committed to your core values and mission of what you’re doing.

So with all of that in mind, how would you define success? 

For me, success is just being so devotedly committed to what your overall purpose is and actually doing whatever you can to make it happen. It’s different for everyone, but if you’re not staying committed to YOU, to me that’s not success. I also think about success as being able to boldly step outside of your comfort zone and continually doing more and playing a bigger game and showing up more and pushing yourself…. 

…if you’re not staying committed to YOU, to me that’s not success

It’s very easy to fall into the victim mentality. You know, “I cant do this, poor me.” NO, you actually can! You just need to be committed to what you want and not let anything else get in the way to get to your end goal. You have to stay focused. You have to practice self discipline. You have to think differently and know who you are FIRST and that I believe will bring you success. You have to know it’s going to take work. 

Who would you say is your biggest inspiration?

I really admire Elena Cardone. She is such a powerhouse! My boyfriend is heavily involved with Grant Cardone, Elena’s husband. Grant Cardone is a best selling author, sales trainer, speaker and entrepreneur who has worked in real estate and the auto industry. He is also the owner of Whatever It Takes, a digital network for entrepreneurs, business owners and success minded people. They have this massive empire that they’re building together, which I love. She is just so committed and disciplined. She’s all about being responsible for your own role and owning it. She is boss babe goals!

If you had advice to give to someone who was just starting their own business/organization/passion project, what would it be?

I would probably say…..just go for it. Honestly, JUST DO IT. That’s what im realizing myself. There are so many beliefs you have about yourself that can stop you in your tracks. The more you can take action and push through that, you’ll figure it out! We are so much harder on ourselves than anyone else is on us so just go for it. And be ok with something not working out. Learn to adapt and change, if need be. Be able to speak up during the entire decision making process. Be able to confront things and people and push forward. Have an open mind. Even if you’ve been in business for ten years and it’s the most amazing thing, you can probably always do more.

There are so many beliefs you have about yourself that can stop you in your tracks. The more you can take action and push through that, you’ll figure it out!

Leaders In Heels is all about nurturing, inspiring and empowering female leaders. In your own opinion, what are some qualities you think a Leader In Heels would naturally possess?

Someone who is very bold and willing to be out there and be a changemaker. Also someone who is genuine and ethical and actually cares and someone who has high standards and lives by their words. They have high integrity. Leaders In Heels are also bubbly and fun! Being able to willingly be vulnerable is a great quality too. Vulnerability means you’re real and doesn’t mean weakness. Vulnerability portrays strength and I feel a great leader would have no problem with that.

 

Check out Project You (Instagram: @iamprojectyou). You can also follow Meagan’s Instagram: @meaganayres


Marica Morales is a lifestyle coach for women focusing on self-development & financial education. She is also the founder of Inspired by Marica, an online blog created to inspire readers to continually attract abundance and confidence into their lives. As an interviewing contributor to Leaders in Heels, Marica hopes to provide value, inspiration and really empower those who cross her path.