Katherine Giovannone is the co-founder for MEsquad and Neesh Eyewear. She will forever be an entrepreneur as she’s probably the world’s worst employee.
As well, she, along with her friends started a non-profit during the pandemic when they realized that many families, within their communities were now dependent on food banks as a result of loss of employment. This is truly what she’s most proud about. They saw kindness and giving from strangers during a time when the world needed it most.
She also likes math and economics – a lot. The stock market excites her – tech stocks for the win (or loss depending on the day). But her brain hurts when she thinks about blockchain and cryptocurrency. Handbags will always be her vice. The pandemic didn’t change her, it revealed her and she’s excited in the present and ecstatic about the future.
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Table of Contents
Thank you for joining us today. Please introduce yourself to our readers. They want to know you, some of the background story to bring some context to your interview.
Katherine Giovannone: I started in banking first. I love math and economics but I strongly disliked corporate banking culture. I longed to work in fashion but didn’t know where or what I wanted to do with fashion. This was all pre-social media. So when I saw Missoni was hiring, I applied, not knowing at the time it was for eyewear and sunglasses. From there, I worked with some big licensed brands (Jean Paul Gaultier, Anna Sui, Vivienne Westwood) and then moved into the independent eyewear brands, which then lead me to distribution (David Yurman and Judith Leiber), to designing our collections (Emmeline and Metrospec) to inventing a whole new product – MEsquad.
My years of being in the industry led me here. The countless tradeshows, trunk shows, meetings with clients, all led to discussions about what’s in, out, missing, etc. My husband encouraged me to go for it. He is someone who wears a very strong prescription and as a kid, he went through a lot of glasses – and he hated wearing them. The Kid is an under-utilized market with great potential. Kids hate wearing glasses, and they need them as their eyes and vision develop, so why not create something for them and only them?
You are a successful entrepreneur, so we’d like your viewpoint, do you believe entrepreneurs are born or made? Explain.
Katherine Giovannone: I think it has more to do with characteristics and personality traits. They develop over time. You can have all the traits of an entrepreneur, but lack the self-confidence that you need – does that still make you an entrepreneur? I know for me, I needed to let go. I’m driven, passionate, work hard, very intuitive, and can assess risk, but I didn’t make any moves until I started believing in myself. So was I born with it? Or was it developed? I’m not sure.
If you were asked to describe yourself as an entrepreneur in a few words, what would you say?
Katherine Giovannone: Very resourceful, positive, decisive, and fearless. Impatient and I have a hard time delegating. (I’m working on it)
Tell us about what your company does and how did it change over the years?
Katherine Giovannone: We initially started as a B2B eyewear business (where we would design, distribute eyewear)to brick-and-mortar stores across Canada and the US. We earned every single customer but my husband and I were overworked. We were doing well, but then Covid hit. And it was bad for business but great for strategizing. We were set to introduce our customizable kid’s collection at a trade show in March 2020 and Covid shut it all down. The tradeshows in NY and France did not refund our money. The manufacturers were paid for products we would not be able to sell. So we took the time, redesigned the kids line for the end consumer, and launched it online. That was by far the best decision we made.
Thank you for all that. Now for the main focus of this interview. With close to 11.000 new businesses registered daily in the US, what must an entrepreneur assume when starting a business?
Katherine Giovannone: That you will have self-doubt and want to quit – a lot. The saboteurs living in your head will get louder. The louder they get, the closer to your success. You have to learn to silence them.
Did you make any wrong assumptions before starting a business that you ended up paying dearly for?
Katherine Giovannone: Assumptions – no. Mistakes – yes. But the mistakes needed to happen.
If you could go back in time to when you first started your business, what advice would you give yourself and why? Explain.
Katherine Giovannone: Just do it. Go for it. Go for all of it. I found that once you let go of fear (fear of failure, fear of losing money, fear of what others will say, etc) everything will magically open up for you. But be prepared and don’t go blindly.
What is the worst advice you received regarding running a business and what lesson would you like others to learn from your experience?
Katherine Giovannone: Stick to your business plan. Hello Covid – we could not have predicted that. You have to be agile, resilient and pivot quickly.
In your opinion, how has COVID-19 changed what entrepreneurs should assume before starting a business? What hasn’t changed?
Katherine Giovannone: I think Covid was a huge opportunity, not just for entrepreneurs, but for everyone. There was no better time to decide whether you liked where you were in your life. For me, it was an affirmation that I was heading in the right direction. We couldn’t travel anymore, stores were closed or by appointment only. The old way of doing business wasn’t working anymore. So for me, everything has changed. What hasn’t changed, is that I still work extremely hard. Even in those first 3 months of the pandemic where we didn’t know much about Covid (how it was transmitted and how to treat it), I was still working day and night and planning for a few years.
What is a common myth about entrepreneurship that aspiring entrepreneurs and would-be business owners believe in? What advice would you give them?
Katherine Giovannone: The common myth is that we have a ton of money, sip martinis in the evening and drive sports cars. I’ve been told before “Well it’s your business, just take a day off”. It’s not like that at all. I mean maybe for some. So you have to learn to manage your time well. Your mind should only be where your body is. When I am at the office, I am not thinking about dinner or what I’m doing that weekend. I am working. Homelife is planned out on Sundays so that there is no confusion on dinner, pickups, We can’t buy time, so use it wisely.
What traits, qualities, and assumptions do you believe are most important to have before starting a business?
Katherine Giovannone: You have to be fearless, intuitive, decisive, and be able to take risks. More often than not, you will lose before you win so you have to be able to live with all the decisions you make.
You have shared quite a bit of your wisdom and our readers thank you for your generosity but would also love to know: If you could choose any job other than being an entrepreneur, what would it be?
Katherine Giovannone: The lead singer in a rock band, but I have stage fright, and I can’t sing.
Thank you so much for your time, I believe I speak for all of our readers when I say that this has been incredibly insightful. We do have one more question: If you could add anyone to Mount Rushmore, but not a politician, who would it be; why?
Katherine Giovannone: Buddha – we could all use a little calm in our lives.
Mike Weiss, VIP Contributor to ValiantCEO and the host of this interview would like to thank Katherine Giovannone for taking the time to do this interview and share her knowledge and experience with our readers.
If you would like to get in touch with Katherine Giovannone or her company, you can do it through her – Instagram
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