Marialuisa Garito grew up in Italy surrounded by a culture of beauty and quality. When she moved to New York 15 years ago, she had trouble finding that unique European combination at reasonable price points and that is why she founded Affordable Chic, an NYC-based fashion start-up, offering stylish women’s clothing for under $100.
Check out more interviews with entrepreneurs here.
WOULD YOU LIKE TO GET FEATURED?
All interviews are 100% FREE OF CHARGE
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.
Marialuisa Garito: Growing up in Italy, I was surrounded by beauty and quality. But when I moved to the United States almost 15 years ago, I had trouble finding that unique European combination. As a consumer, I was looking for high-quality items at an affordable price, but I could not find them. That’s why I founded Affordable Chic®, an NYC-based fashion start-up, offering stylish Manhattan women’s high-quality clothing for under $100. Our clients are smart women who want timeless – not faddish – clothing.
After the pandemic, we women are even more financially prudent, but still, we all love to feel chic and beautiful. Now, more than ever, with the disappearing middle class, I believe quality fashion must be affordable for all. There is too much disparity between rich and poor. Affordable chic wants to help women look and feel their best – without taking away from what they spend on their families.
You are a successful entrepreneur, so we’d like your view point, do you believe entrepreneurs are born or made? Explain.
Marialuisa Garito: I think a little bit of both. To launch your own business you need to have a resilient nature, a strong personality to overcome the challenges any business will have, and to be naturally optimistic. All of those will help while you will learn, because launching a business is an everyday lesson, and you need to be open to research, study, and learn what you don’t know
If you were asked to describe yourself as an entrepreneur in a few words, what would you say?
Marialuisa Garito: Creative, collaborative, and tenacious.
Tell us about what your company does and how did it change over the years?
Marialuisa Garito: Affordable Chic closes the gap between luxury and price by offering high-quality and stylish clothing and accessories under $100.In Europe, it is very common to find good quality and beautiful styles without spending a fortune.
Here in the US, there is a huge gap between quality and affordability. Affordable Chic exists to fill this gap.
This is the mission and it was since day 1. What we tweaked was the business plan and the strategies to create brand awareness. We started with live pop-ups to test our concept and build on feedback received during those live events, and when we felt ready we went online.
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?
Marialuisa Garito: Many people suggest that the most important thing in launching a new company is branding. While this is true, it is not the whole story. What is also true is that you don’t need to wait to have tons of money to pay someone to spread your mission. You can and should start raising brand awareness from Day One. No one, no matter how seasoned the person is in business, can know your brand better than you. So I tell other aspiring entrepreneurs to start to use all tools they can access and manage, like Canva, to express in a short sentence or through an image what you do and which problem you solve. Don’t wait for the expert to tell your story.
Did you make any wrong assumptions before starting a business that you ended up paying dearly for?
Marialuisa Garito: Yes, unfortunately, I assumed that just paying for a few Facebook campaigns would get me the attention and build more revenue. It hurt how much money I went through for believing so.
If you could go back in time to when you first started your business, what advice would you give yourself and why? Explain.
Marialuisa Garito: The same advice I gave above: I’m in charge of my brand and how to tell the story.
What is the worst advice you received regarding running a business and what lesson would you like others to learn from your experience?
Marialuisa Garito: I was advised to launch Facebook campaigns right away to test my audience, but my website was not ready yet and the branding image was not strong yet. It was an expensive mistake.
In your opinion, how has COVID-19 changed what entrepreneurs should assume before starting a business? What hasn’t changed?
Marialuisa Garito: I don’t think anything changed, but some businesses paused definitely, and it was hard to survive for many. I believe we are exiting the pandemic now, so launching a business doesn’t have more difficulties compared to pre-pandemic. What changed or increased actually, it’s the online presence of large companies that because of Covid went online, so if you start an online business now you are not just competing with many businesses, but you are competing with many Large businesses who can bury you down in the search.
What is a common myth about entrepreneurship that aspiring entrepreneurs and would-be business owners believe in? What advice would you give them?
Marialuisa Garito: That you can get the investment right away to scale. The reality for most is that you will scale your own business before getting funded. You need to know the growth of your business depends just on you.
What traits, qualities, and assumptions do you believe are most important to have before starting a business?
Marialuisa Garito: Persistence. It’s all a matter of time, your business will succeed just if you don’t give up. Optimism, because you always need it, as in life as in business. Don’t always assume you are right, listen, think, be open and then make the decision.
How can aspiring leaders prepare themselves for the future challenges of entrepreneurship? Are there any books, websites, or even movies to learn from?
Marialuisa Garito: I found this book very inspiring: The Hard Thing About Hard Things, by Ben Horowitz.
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?
Marialuisa Garito: I’m not sure. I’m a creative person so I usually follow my moment of inspiration, which can be from writing a book or opening an art gallery. I love my current job, so probably something similar…
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?
Marialuisa Garito: Ruth Bader Ginsburg. First, because she is a woman, and we need to add some female faces up there. Then because she fought for women in the smartest way: through the law and by changing it.
Larry Yatch, VIP Contributor to ValiantCEO and the host of this interview would like to thank Marialuisa Garito 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 Marialuisa Garito or her company, you can do it through her – Linkedin Page
Did you enjoy this article? Check out similar stories:
Disclaimer: The ValiantCEO Community welcomes voices from many spheres on our open platform. We publish pieces as written by outside contributors with a wide range of opinions, which don’t necessarily reflect our own. Community stories are not commissioned by our editorial team and must meet our guidelines prior to being published.