Rebecca Minkoff has never shied away from a challenge, from the time she designed her own bat mitzvah dress as a teen to the time she used up all of her savings to launch her namesake label. But it's this very tenacity and creative nous that have ensured her global success, with celebrity fans from Reese Witherspoon to Kate Mara, and a coveted spot on the Fortune 40 Under 40 list. Clearly, we have much to learn from the self-made businesswoman who in just a decade has grown her eponymous fashion brand into a household name with over 900 stores worldwide, pulling in $100 million in gross sales last year. Now her first baby has two precious siblings: son Luca, 4, and daughter Bowie, 18 months, and it's changed everything.
Meet the Expert
Rebecca Minkoff founded a global fashion brand, Rebecca Minkoff, with her brother in 2005 in New York City. The popular brand now has four retail locations in the US, nine internationally, and is distributed in over 900 stores worldwide. She won the 2011 Breakthrough Designer Award from the Accessories Council and the 2015 Best Interactive Retail & Top Innovator at the Fashion 2.0 Awards.
To find out more, we joined Minkoff and her adorable children on a tour of their most-frequented local haunts in the hip Brooklyn neighborhood, DUMBO, which included a pit-stop at their favorite café, One Girl Cookies, and a magical ride on the merry-go-round. Cue cuteness overload. In this exclusive chat, Minkoff is refreshingly candid about work/life balance; the "having it all" myth; the sacrifices and joys of being a working mom; her self-care tips; how fashion influences her home décor choices; and the gorgeous reason behind her favorite room in the house. Meet the ultimate mompreneur.
[Achieving work-life balance is] all about multitasking and surrounding yourself with great talent who can keep working even if you can’t.
MYDOMAINE: How did you manage the transition from working woman to working mom?
REBECCA MINKOFF: I think acceptance is probably the first step when transitioning into being a working mom. Accepting that things will never be the same again and that you can no longer completely control your schedule, is the hardest but also the most necessary thing. I don’t go to as many events or dinners during the week as I used to, and the weekend is all about the kids. I worked up until the day I went into labor with my first child, and I have to say it was easier than I anticipated. I think at the time, it was about testing your boundaries, about feeling in control somewhat of your schedule.
I have sacrificed sleep and personal care. Today I know that if I have to start a meeting at 9:30 a.m. so I can walk my child to school, then get home at 6:30 p.m. to make him dinner and continue working at night; those are the sacrifices I'm willing to make to do so.
MD: Returning to the workforce after having a baby can be daunting for many women. What confidence-building advice do you have?
RM: It’s not easy. I try to set the example that you have to set expectations and boundaries. If you want to pump, you have to find people that will support that. I pump in the office, in meetings, and I decided that if I made that the norm, then women would feel very comfortable in the office pumping too. I wanted them to feel that they had my support. When you come back to work, depend on your team to help you; trust them, and slowly ease back into it without panicking.
MD: What are some of the biggest lessons your kids have taught you about work and life?
RM: They have taught me to have fun, to find the joy in simple pleasures, and that it really is about making sure your kids are a part of your life, that your life doesn’t completely adjust to theirs. One thing we did with them from the beginning was to take them out a lot, which has made them very social.
They have also taught me the value of boundaries. Coming home to Luca and Bowie is the best part of my day. I love working, but I leave at 6 p.m. Before they came along, it wouldn’t matter when I left—now there’s nothing that matters more. Emails that come in after 6 p.m. can wait until after they’re in bed or the next morning.
MD: How has parenthood changed your perspective on life?
RM: I remember when my sister-in-law told me, This is just the beginning of a lifetime of worry, but I think it’s worth its weight in gold, and I wouldn’t change it. I think like any parent, you end up realizing what really matters. What I used to worry about before having Luca doesn’t matter at all. You look back and can’t believe you spent so much time fretting over something so unimportant. There isn’t room for that anymore.
MD: What is the best thing about being a mom? What is the most surprising thing about being a mom?
RM: Waking up to my kids, seeing and hearing all their first moments, first steps, first words, and seeing the world through their eyes. I remember thinking that going to the playground with my nephews was the most boring thing in the world, but now playgrounds are the first thing my kids and I look for in every city. The best thing is the spontaneity that comes with being around your children. They’re so excited about the world, and it gives you a newfound love for the simplest things. The most surprising? I’m a master multitasker; I thought I was good before kids, but now it’s at a whole new level.
MD: What are some things you do for yourself that you believe every working mom should?
RM: Take a vacation with your husband. It took my husband and me four years to no longer feel too guilty to do so. Definitely taking time for a girls’ night out. Being around women who love and support each other is a must. When we get together, we vent, laugh, and drink wine while chatting about our kids, our husbands, work, etc. It’s something I feel really lucky to have.
MD: How do you keep your work/life balance in check? Do you believe in balance? What does “having it all mean” to you?
RM: I don’t think the work/life balance is something you can magically achieve. I often say that balance is a term that was made up to make women feel inadequate for not achieving it. I think it’s about juggling and knowing what you’re comfortable with, and then knowing that once you figure that out, you don’t go beyond that. It’s about finding the ebbs and flows of how your life goes. Ultimately, balance is the goal, but that is not always realistic. I think I’ve learned to be a lot lighter on my feet and understand it’s never going to be perfectly equal. If there is an emergency at work or one of the kids gets sick, my schedule changes overnight. Having it all, I think more than anything, is waking up with everyone in my family being happy and healthy and personally feeling fulfilled and creative every day.
MD: Running a successful business and being a mom of two small children is challenging. How do you keep yourself and your children healthy?
RM: I’d say the biggest thing is sleep, for both the kids and myself. I probably get about eight hours, and they probably get 10. I’m also a big believer in probiotics. My skin has changed completely since I started taking them, and I take omega 3s, since I don’t eat a lot of fish. I have an amazing trainer, Kelvin at Body Space Fitness. He’s been my godsend and go-to for the longest time. I only have time to work out twice a week, but we make it worthwhile.
In terms of the kids’ diets, I try and stay away from GMOs and keep it all as organic as possible. We always make sure there are veggies at every meal, even though I know they’re going to want to dig into Annie’s Mac & Cheese; Luca especially. We also give them a lot of kid vitamins and something magical in our daughter’s bottle called orthobiotics.
We don’t do dairy, as far as their bottles. We found an incredible formula called Ultra-Care; it’s made out of rice protein, and it’s non-GMO. I think not giving them dairy as their first source of protein has been very helpful. There is also a product called Restore; you can put it in any liquid and it completely restores their gut health. As long as they’re getting a healthy dose of nutrition, I try to relax when they indulge in a treat.
MD: What are the morning and evening rituals you swear by?
RM: Coffee in the a.m., always, and early morning workouts twice a week. I try to cook dinner for the kids most nights during the week. Luca and Bowie go to bed around 10:30 p.m., so I get time with them in the evenings after work. Usually, we’ll cook and all have dinner together, and then Gavin and I will have a glass of wine and watch The Walking Dead when they’re asleep. Getting time to hang out in the kitchen while we cook and the kids play completely decompresses me. It’s my escape and the best way for me to unwind.
MD: What mistakes have you learned from and even benefited from in your career?
RM: Where to begin? I think financially I learned a lot early on. I put everything I had into my business, which was an enormous risk. When my brother stepped in before we launched, he educated me on the finances. Simple things like not putting everything on one credit card (which I was doing) saved me from future mistakes, as well as learning about what to invest in and what not to.
It’s something almost all entrepreneurs go through, but once you’ve done them, you never make those mistakes again. Ever. And trying to do too much too fast. I think at times we felt like we had to launch something, or else, but maybe that was a sign we needed to slow down. I think when we finally started to slow down and approached things more strategically, that’s when we really saw our growth.
MD: You knew from an early age what you wanted to do; how do you follow your passion and turn it into a career?
RM: By staying humble. At the beginning, I played every role: publicist, messenger, designer, customer service professional, and more. It gave me a great education, and it keeps me from getting too comfortable and from taking our team and success for granted. I work closely with everyone in my company, from the most junior to the most senior, and my brother is our CEO.
It only works if we all work hard and love walking into work every day. You have to stay motivated and persist. "No" is just the beginning of "yes." By no means is it easy, but turning a dream into a career happens with a great team to help you build it. No one is going to work harder on your own company than you, so you have to be willing to sacrifice everything.
MD: What advice do you have for working moms looking to start their own business?
RM: You have to know what you want to bite off. If you want to have a huge company that has you, in the beginning at least, devoting all of your time to it, you have to figure out as a mom how much time with your kids you’re willing to sacrifice. It takes time, not everything happens all at once. I worked crazy hours, weekends, late nights, holidays, all the way up through being pregnant. If you want to do that, that’s what it requires in the beginning.
Even today, it’s all about multitasking and surrounding yourself with great talent who can keep working even if you can’t. Find a white space, something untouched that no one has done yet. On the hardest of days, don’t lose your momentum. It’s the drive and diligence that get you over the biggest bumps in the road.
MD: What’s one thing people might not know about you?
RM: I’m a killer cook, and I’m obsessed with zombies. Somehow that surprises people.
MD: Your home is gorgeous. How did you approach decorating with children in mind?
RM: We wanted to make sure everything was chic and comfortable, but still colorful and kid-friendly. The kids’ stuff is definitely incorporated into all parts of the home. We wanted it to feel like we could put our feet up, and not worry about whether a little wine or yogurt spills on the sofa.
MD: What is your favorite room in the house and why?
RM: The kitchen and family room. It’s an open layout, so while the kids run around, we can cook or watch a movie and hang out. It’s a playful but serene space at the same time. We’ve had a lot of family naps on that couch.
MD: How does your fashion sense influence your interior style?
RM: They’re definitely within the same realm of each other. I never go overly feminine or overly traditional. I aim for true comfort, color, and a warm modernism for my home.
MD: What is your number one decorating tip?
RM: Decorate in a way that emulates your personality and fits you and your family’s lifestyle. You want to be able to come home and feel relaxed and happy. If you feel like it’s an escape then you’ve succeeded.
MD: What is your number one parenting tip?
RM: The more anxious you are, the more anxious they are. If they’re hurt and you can remain calm, that sets a great example for them. Try and stay even-keeled, and don’t let the small things tip you over the edge. When you’re joyful and relaxed, so are your kids. Always ensure they’re having a good time.
MD: What is your number one time management hack?
RM: If I know I have to make a lot of calls, I’ll usually drive to the office. If I know I’m going to be on a long call, I’ll try to follow up on emails during that time. I try to do two things at once.