Community//

Elizabeth Brunner of StereoType: “Keep going, even when things get hard”

Keep going, even when things get hard. When I was starting my first business, Piece x Piece, I was feeling unsure about all of it, and feeling really challenged by what the next steps for the business should be and my husband, who’s a long-time entrepreneur, gave me this advice. He explained to me the […]

The Thrive Global 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.

Keep going, even when things get hard. When I was starting my first business, Piece x Piece, I was feeling unsure about all of it, and feeling really challenged by what the next steps for the business should be and my husband, who’s a long-time entrepreneur, gave me this advice. He explained to me the importance of moving through challenges without letting them stop you. Many people are really afraid to fail, so they don’t even start. He explained to me that challenges are going to arise and test you but it isn’t a bad thing, as long you keep moving forward. There’s always a way to figure it out and move on.


As a part of our series about women who are shaking things up in their industry, I had the pleasure of interviewing Elizabeth Brunner.

Elizabeth Brunner is a San Francisco-based designer and the founder of StereoType, a fashion-forward kids clothing brand that’s designed to celebrate individuality and freedom of expression by blending traditional ideas of boys’ and girls’ wear. StereoType’s blended fashion collection combines elements of style, design and comfort to inspire creativity, individuality and freedom of expression. Throughout her life, Elizabeth has been examining our collective perceptions of fashion, and going through the process of learning and unlearning the ‘rules’ associated with it, which has become a deeply personal journey. After studying fashion design at California College of the Arts, Elizabeth found herself at odds with wasteful fashion industry standards. This led her to making the decision to launch her own line, Piece x Piece, a pioneering line of one-of-a-kind, high-end pieces that reused discarded sample swatches from larger fashion houses. However, it wasn’t until a few years later that she met her ultimate style muses: her own boy-girl twins. Watching them dress themselves, she was in awe of the way they joyfully broke all the ‘rules’ of gendered clothing, blending their wardrobes together with a sense of style that could only be described as ‘free-for-all.’ It was the ultimate unlearning of the rules that we’ve all been taught about gendered fashion at a young age. The lesson felt deeply personal and Elizabeth knew there was no turning back. From there, StereoType was born. Elizabeth launched StereoType as a way to share this joyful, blended vision of kids’ clothing and to advocate for self-expression of all humans, especially the small ones. Elizabeth believes that by breaking fashion rules and disregarding the boundaries we put around what boys and girls should wear, we encourage a more playful, creative, expressive sense of self for everyone.


Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would like to get to know you a bit more. Can you tell us a bit about your “backstory”? What led you to this particular career path?

My journey to becoming a designer and eventually founding two clothing companies, including my current clothing brand, StereoType, began when I was a young girl. I watched my mother as she sewed clothes for herself and family, carefully cutting, measuring, laying out fabrics, and patterns, it really planted a seed. I would collect the scraps that she didn’t use and then use those pieces to wrap around my Barbies. After studying fashion design at California College of the Arts, I found myself at odds with the waste of fashion industry standards. This led me to the idea for my first company, Piece x Piece, a pioneering line of one-of-a-kind, high-end clothing pieces that reused discarded sample swatches from local fashion houses, which I launched in 2010. Starting Piece x Piece was a full circle moment for me, relating directly back to my childhood time spent with my mom collecting scraps.

It wasn’t until a few years later that I met my ultimate style muses: my own boy-girl twins. As I watched them dress themselves, I was in awe of the way that they joyfully broke all of the “rules” of gendered clothing, blending their wardrobes together with a sense of style that could only be described as “free-for-all.” My daughter always felt most comfortable digging around in the dirt in her dinosaur shorts while my son got pure joy from twirling around in dresses. As I watched my kids create their own “blended style” mixing and matching items from each other’s closets, I myself started to “unlearn” all of the rules of gendered fashion that I was taught throughout my life.

I created StereoType as a way for me to share the joy that my kids have experienced in creating their own style with “blended fashion” and to advocate for self-expression of all humans, especially the small ones. By breaking fashion rules and disregarding the boundaries we put around what boys and girls should wear, we encourage a more playful, creative, and expressive sense of self for everyone.

StereoType is a fashion-forward kids clothing brand, advocating for individuality and an evolution of an expansive sense of self. My favorite part of this brand is working with my own kids. They inspired the line so they are very much a part of the creative side of the business. It’s fun for them to have the opportunity to provide their input into each of the pieces in the collection, and offer their unique insights. It’s exciting for them to know they are the inspiration behind StereoType.

Can you tell our readers what it is about the work you’re doing that’s disruptive?

StereoType is rooted in the idea of “unlearning” everything that we’ve been taught about gendered clothing. Historically, pink was considered a masuline color but somewhere along the way we were taught pink is only acceptable for girls and not for boys. We’ve been taught that girls should wear princess dresses but not clothes with dinosaurs or trucks. I am challenging those dated ideas with StereoType’s blended fashion collection. “Blended fashion” as a concept is also disruptive. Blended fashion is the idea of mixing and matching items from the boys and girls sections that makes kids feel joyful and authentic to who they are and what they want to wear. Blended fashion is all about not letting your kids be afraid to pick out what they want to wear and challenging the norms of gendered fashion.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

When I started my first business, Piece x Piece, I put way too much stock into my Instagram following. Social media and building a following from scratch for a brand new company takes a lot of work and commitment — it’s a long game — and I wasn’t overly comfortable with social media at the time (I’m still not.) It was really challenging for me and the mistake that I made was self-identifying with my business, how many followers it had on Instagram and ultimately with its successes and failures. My big takeaway from that business that I am now implementing for StereoType is that my business is my business, and I am who I’m as a person, and my self-worth doesn’t depend on my business’ success or failure. Additionally, I also learned that no one can ever be an expert in every aspect of a business and that it’s OK to ask questions and hire people for your weaknesses to support with the different areas of business such as social media, content development, public relations, etc.

We all need a little help along the journey. Who have been some of your mentors? Can you share a story about how they made an impact?

I feel incredibly lucky because my husband Robert is a great mentor for me. He knows what it’s like to start and run a business because he has done it a few times himself. He started his latest company Ammunition Group in 2007, so having his insight, advice and support along the way has been a true gift during my journey as an entrepreneur.

As I was starting my first business, Piece x Piece, I was feeling overwhelmed and I told my husband that I was feeling unsure about what I was doing and the next steps. He gave me this valuable advice that I’ll never forget. He said, “You will stumble and fail along the way and it’s OK, that’s part of figuring it all out. You have to take risks to get to where you want to go!” He gave me a lot of self-confidence when things started to get challenging and I started to doubt myself. He continues to offer his sage business advice and unwavering support. He’s the best!

In addition to my husband, I’ve found many other mentors in friends, books, podcasts, and YouTube. Today, mentors are everywhere, and if you take the time to look, you’ll find them!

In today’s parlance, being disruptive is usually a positive adjective. But is disrupting always good? When do we say the converse, that a system or structure has ‘withstood the test of time’? Can you articulate to our readers when disrupting an industry is positive, and when disrupting an industry is ‘not so positive’? Can you share some examples of what you mean?

I believe that being disruptive is positive when there is a new perspective being offered on something that’s not often thought of. For instance, when something is positively disruptive, it offers an opportunity to see something in a new way. For example, with StereoType, we offer equality to boys and girls, by disrupting the “norms” of gendered clothing.

When something is disruptive in a ‘not so positive’ way, it makes people feel isolated or separate. In our business, we view equality and inclusion as a huge part of our mission and vision. But for example, if a business’ goal is to create separation or exclusion, in my perspective, that’s causing negative disruption.

Can you share 3 of the best words of advice you’ve gotten along your journey? Please give a story or example for each.

Keep going, even when things get hard. When I was starting my first business, Piece x Piece, I was feeling unsure about all of it, and feeling really challenged by what the next steps for the business should be and my husband, who’s a long-time entrepreneur, gave me this advice. He explained to me the importance of moving through challenges without letting them stop you. Many people are really afraid to fail, so they don’t even start. He explained to me that challenges are going to arise and test you but it isn’t a bad thing, as long you keep moving forward. There’s always a way to figure it out and move on.

Don’t identify your self-worth with your business. This is something that I self-discovered throughout my journey as a first-time entrepreneur with my business Piece x Piece. I learned to not self-identify with the ups and downs of being a business owner. While you are the “idea” behind the business, you are not your business. It’s important to understand that you are on the journey of entrepreneurship with fresh eyes and almost everything is a new experience at the beginning. For me, realizing that I won’t know everything and being OK with it was an incredibly valuable lesson. Not identifying with my business has given me the space to accept successes and failures as they come, without being attached to either outcome — while continuing to focus on my vision.

Listen to your gut. Since starting my first business and now working on my second, StereoType, I’ve realized that I can run my business in the way that I want to run it and have the power and confidence to do so. Specifically, I have learned to trust myself when it comes to making big decisions and listen to my gut. There will be people who come along the way (whether advisors, consultants or employees) who don’t always have the same vision as the founder of the business and what I have realized through experience is that it’s critical to take time to listen to my myself before making decisions, so I am not led away from my original vision. I think this advice is pretty specific to women. Speaking up and sharing my perspective and point of view is really important and something that I have to keep practicing as a business owner. For example, with my current business, I had the intention of building a team of women to support me in bringing my vision to life. I trusted my gut on this and now have an amazing group of women working collaboratively with me on building the StereoType brand.

We are sure you aren’t done. How are you going to shake things up next?

I plan to expand the conversation about gendered clothing for kids by continuing to speak up and inspiring a new way of thinking around gendered fashion. For instance, boys love sparkle just as much as girls do. Girls love camo and dinosaurs just as much as boys do. At StereoType, we are committed to elevating the conversation about “blended fashion” to make it mainstream and normalized.

In your opinion, what are the biggest challenges faced by ‘women disruptors’ that aren’t typically faced by their male counterparts?

Women disruptors are still challenged with speaking up and speaking out about “disruptive” topics and going against the grain of what’s been traditionally done. With men traditionally being in the leadership roles, it takes practice to voice our perspective and opinions, particularly if it’s very different from that of our male counterparts.

Asking clarifying questions. In the past, I’ve worked with designers and tried to keep up with their highly technical language and eventually realized that asking clarifying questions was extremely important for me to fully grasp the subject matter. It can be intimidating when someone that you’re working with is saying things that are difficult to understand but it’s an essential step of understanding and having clarity.

Do you have a book/podcast/talk that’s had a deep impact on your thinking? Can you share a story with us?

How I Built This: The Unexpected Paths to Success From the World’s Most Inspiring Entrepreneurs. This book (which is also a podcast) has so much great advice for new entrepreneurs about navigating the business world. It has been super inspiring to me because it shares the struggles of being an entrepreneur and how those entrepreneurs get through those struggles.

Dr. Shefali’s Book and Talk on Mindvalley on Conscious Parenting. In this talk,Dr. Shefali talks about being a conscious parent and also being conscious in your overall life. She makes it an easy topic to understand. One of her first talks that I listened to, she said, “You are already making mistakes, but the beauty is that you can be conscious of those mistakes and choose another way next time.” Knowing that I will make mistakes and understanding where the ego comes in is such an important concept and has inspired me to consciously choose another way to parent.

The Michelle Obama Podcast. Finding people who are uplifting in life and in business is only going to further you along in your path and give you the tools to keep going. Actively seeking out inspirational stories and messages is key in your journey and Michelle Obama’s podcast offers just that.

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. :-)

A movement I’d like to inspire is the growth of open-minded parents. To inspire parents to continue to find new ways of learning about bonding and connecting with their kids. I’d also love to encourage parents to play more, get silly, and get their hands dirty and nourish that “inner child” on a regular basis. I believe the more open-minded parents are, the more they’ll nourish their individuality and take pleasure in things that they used to when they were kids, the deeper the connection will be created between them and their kids.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

“Be who you are, and say how you feel, because those who matter don’t mind, and those who mind, don’t matter.” — Bernard M. Baruch.

I found this quote when I was first starting StereoType and for me it really resonated with the idea behind the brand as it supports the importance of being yourself.

How can readers follow you online?

Instagram: @stereotypekidsofficial

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/StereoType-Kids-105395494671591/

Pinterest: https://www.pinterest.com/stereotypekids

Website: https://stereotypekids.com/

Share your comments below. Please read our commenting guidelines before posting. If you have a concern about a comment, report it here.

You might also like...

Community//

Tips From The Top: One On One With Elizabeth Lindsey

by Adam Mendler
Community//

You are more.

by Stephanie Dawn Elizabeth
Stamina_Landscape
Community//

Stamina Through Disaster: Enduring well will keep moving business forward

by Jane Anderson
We use cookies on our site to give you the best experience possible. By continuing to browse the site, you agree to this use. For more information on how we use cookies, see our Privacy Policy.