Before Meg He and Nina Faulhaber founded ADAY, a forward-thinking fashion company, the two were pursuing successful careers in finance. In fact, He and Faulhaber met at Goldman Sachs where they were both working in the mergers and acquisitions department in London. While making the transition from acquisitions to apparel may sound like a daunting one, the decision was a no-brainer for the co-founders.
"Both Nina and I had the same idea around the same time," explained He. "There was a gap in the market, and all of our friends wanted to buy what we wanted to make—we didn't even need to explain it to them," she added. "The process of starting ADAY just felt easy." After deciding to ditch finance and pursue their passion, they dedicated their time to developing a simplified line of seasonless clothing using technically advanced fabrics, sustainably sourced materials, and affordable prices.
In this installment of Second Life, a series dedicated to women who've made successful career changes, the co-founders of ADAY explain why they left their jobs in finance to start an apparel brand, including the most important things they've learned from making the transition, the biggest mistakes they've made along the way, and how they overcame the fear of change to pursue their passion.
Tell us about your first career path.
Meg He: I was looking for an internship in the summer of 2007, and everyone I asked, from older students to mentors, told me I should work at Goldman Sachs in investment banking. It was a time of a huge banking economy boom, and finance was seen as incredibly lucrative and prestigious. I worked hard to get the offer and worked even harder to receive an offer to come back for a full-time job after I graduated from the University of Oxford.
Nina Faulhaber: I studied finance and interned in a hedge fund team at Credit Suisse. After I graduated from university, I started working in mergers and acquisitions at Goldman Sachs in London. But my heart yearned for a creative outlet, so I went to work for London-based venture capital fund Index Ventures. Index was one of the first investors in Net-a-Porter and an investor in Farfetch and ASOS, among others, and I was very interested in the future of consumption.
How did you make the transition from your previous backgrounds to your current business?
MH: A few years into working at Goldman Sachs, I was headhunted to join a venture capital firm focusing on early-stage technology investments. All of my tech geekdom came out, and it was exciting to be somewhere that recognized my secret geek status. This led to me deciding to move to the Bay Area, where I completed my MBA at Stanford, alongside interning at Cowboy Ventures, a seed stage venture firm, and then I joined Poshmark, a mobile fashion marketplace, as a product manager. These experiences firmly married my interests in fashion, design, and technology.
NF: While at Index, I got to be a board observer for a number of consumer tech startups, and I got to work on million-dollar investments and exits. I loved my job, however, the moment I met with the first entrepreneur, I knew it deep in my heart: I'm meant to be on the other side.
Tell us about your current career path/business.
MH: ADAY is a brand creating consciously designed, technical staples (we call it the clothing of the future). We are both passionate about the intersection between design, technology, storytelling, and conscious living. ADAY was born there. It was clear to us that in the future, "dry clean only" clothing doesn't exist, nor does ironing—living is just easy, simplified. And that's what we're creating.
NF: I grew up as a competitive gymnast in Germany. Gymnastics was my life for a while, so every day I would dress in comfortable, active clothing. As a 20-something living in London, getting dressed wasn't that simple anymore, and I longed for a wardrobe that was as simple as that of my gymnast days yet was adapted to a woman's London life.
So I called my Goldman friend Meg He, who had just moved back to London from California, and I attended a sportswear design short course at London's renowned fashion school Central St. Martins to draw an edit of five technical garments. A version of that has morphed into ADAY and our "simplified wardrobe" concept.
What have been the biggest challenges in your many careers and why?
MH: Most of my challenges have been personal, which is an important part of our lives and deeply affects our careers but is talked about so much less. Both my parents were diagnosed with cancer six months apart. I quit my job at Poshmark without hesitation to move to London and care for them.
I was less than a year out of business school, and this period of very uncomfortable unemployment forced me to re-establish a relationship with a much-diminished ego. It led to a lot of growth, re-defining what it meant to me to be a great daughter—and how to balance that with a career. Beating all odds, post-surgery and post–stem cell transplant, both of my parents are currently stable.
Why is your current path suitable for your personality?
MH: I love defining my own path, one that's unique to my strengths and weaknesses, rather than being forced to do something that feels inauthentic.
NF: I have big dreams, I follow my heart, I'm genuinely positive, and I love to bring others with me. All these traits are much more suited in an entrepreneurial environment than in a corporate environment.
What's the most important thing you have learned in making a big change in your career life?
MH: Fear of failure is only a thing if you let it be.
NF: I've learned to close my eyes and listen to what's going on inside.
How did you move past the fear of change to pursue your passion?
MH: What's the worst thing that can happen?
NF: Goldman Sachs and Venture Capital are both industries for people who are pretty risk-averse, and it was a big leap of faith for me to become an entrepreneur. While we started exploring the idea for ADAY, I also applied to an MBA program at Harvard Business School and was accepted. I had these two very different options on the table, and I asked my heart to choose. If there's something I can rely on it's my intuition and my heart, they know what's best for me.
What are some mistakes you made along the way that ended up helping your success?
MH: At college, I was stressed to the point of exhaustion. I considered dropping out and was overcome with shame when I realized how hard I'd worked to get where I was. That experience inspired me to find balance through self-care, rigor, and routine early on. Today I'm much happier than I've ever been, and I'm grateful for those years of darkness so I can appreciate the balance and the light.
NF: So many mistakes! But I try to turn them upside down and ask myself, What did a particular mistake or situation teach me? And how do I grow from here?
What do you love most about your current role, and why?
MH: So many things. Building our team, meeting new challenges and opportunities each day, storytelling, and spreading our brand's message. But most of all, building and championing a mission we all believe in. Creating products that fundamentally uplift the quality of the apparel industry and make people's lives easier.
NF: I love thinking about the environmental impact of the clothing industry. At ADAY, we design seasonless clothing for versatility and longevity. We love simplicity, and we promote conscious consumption. We work with world-class factories in Portugal, Los Angeles, Italy, and San Francisco based on working conditions and environmental initiatives.
When you look back and reflect on your previous career, do you have any regrets? Or are you still really happy with your decision?
MH: When I was younger, I was often scared of doing the thing that was different and worried a lot about what other people thought. That led to a lot of inertia and not being able to make the decisions I wanted to—hence my staying in roles when I should have moved on much faster. I've since learned to stop giving a damn what others think.
NF: I couldn't be happier!
Anything else you'd like to add?
MH: Make the time to take someone on as a mentor and schedule a talk-walk (I say twalk!) with them once a week. Not just for their benefit, but also for your own happiness—and to pay it forward.
NF: To me, life is flow. A second life doesn't necessarily need to be something entirely new. It's a chapter, enjoy writing yours!
For more inspiring stories from successful women who've made major career changes, tune into MyDomaine's Second Life podcast.