Wise Words From a 20-Something Founder
It’s no accident that Ali Mejia is the co-founder and creative director of mega-successful lingerie brand Eberjey. While she is the first to admit how grateful she is for her company’s success, Mejia left her investment banking job in her early 20s to pursue a professional life as an entrepreneur. Her goal? To build a company she was passionate about and create a lifestyle that allowed her to devote most of her time in her 30s to her family. Now Mejia is in her 30s with two beautiful children and a thriving brand. Read on to discover how this impassioned woman created a brand that allowed her to do both and exceed even her own expectations.
MYDOMAINE: Why did you start Eberjey, and what was the message behind your company? How are you the anti–Victoria’s Secret?
ALI MEJIA: Originally, the idea was to create something as an alternative to Calvin Klein, which was very simple and a little bit androgynous, and Victoria’s Secret, which was too over-the-top and sexy for me. I wanted to create a boutique brand that was somewhere in between. I wanted to create a lingerie brand that had a soulfulness to it and a message that was deeper than that was being presented at the time.
Eberjey is about knowing yourself and feeling confident about who you are. Because our products are so intimate, so it’s about feeling really comfortable. It’s beautiful, but more than anything, it’s comfortable and wearable. It’s you. You don’t have to be anything or anybody except yourself.
MD: What’s the hardest thing you’ve overcome professionally?
AM: For me, trusting myself—since I’m not trained as a designer. I was a politics major. Because I didn’t have the tools—the design training, I didn’t trust myself. I was always so nervous at the trade shows. But I realized that you have to trust your inner guru. What you’re trying to make is something that flows through you. Learning to know and trust your inner voice has been a very big part of my growth.
MD: What career accomplishment are you most proud of?
AM: Eberjey’s evolution. At the beginning it was all about if I just could get into Elle or Vogue. Once that happened, it evolved. Opening our retail stores is one of the hugest things because it created the world of Eberjey. I’d always imagined a world of Eberjey, where people could experience the brand. We’re opening stores in different cities. It made the vision come to life. I had it in my business plan, but I never dreamed that it could actually happen.
MD: What drives you to work so hard every day?
AM: To prove the naysayers wrong. To drive the vision. People didn’t believe in my category, that it could stand alone. It’s amazing to see how people have embraced it, Eberjey is about the experience of feeling good. It’s incredible to create a niche for myself that is all about that.
MD: Can you talk about your work/life balance?
AM: It’s a huge piece of my life. That was one of the reasons I wanted to be an entrepreneur. It was clear in my 20s that I wanted to take the time for my future kids. Even the women who work for us, we’re very compassionate and about their need for family time.
Eberjey is my third child. I have to have balance to give love to each of them. My priorities are my children. They will always be number one. I’m very lucky to take the time that I want. But in the beginning, this was a life decision that I made. I was very forward thinking. Luckily, it worked out.
MD: If you could give your 20-year-old self advice, what would it be?
AM: It starts with trusting your heart and following your truth. I truly believe that if you’re happy with what you’re doing, you’re going to be successful. The fear is really just in your mind. Being naïve is the biggest blessing. You have less to lose as a young person. In your 20s, it’s the time to try. What’s the worst that could happen? You go back and get a job.
I recommend getting as much experience as you can in the industry that you like. Get internships, get jobs, know about what you’re getting into. Find women or mentors who will guide you or share with you. We didn’t have any mentors at the time, but we’re really trying to pay it forward now. We’re flexible, and we don’t try to micromanage people. That’s why we have very low turnover.
MD: What are your words to live by?
AM: It’s what you look at that matters. It’s how you choose to see things; that’s how you create your environment. If you choose to see everything as growth, a chance to evolve, then life is very sweet. If you see it as a challenge, as an entrepreneur it’s very easy to fall into that trap. I always try to see the positive in everything.
Shop some of our favorite Eberjey intimates below.
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