“I believe that no matter what your profession, you are the CEO of your world. Always remember that people who look up to you are watching you. The way you conduct yourself, get your job done (whatever that job may be), and show care for others through teaching and development all help to build your leadership skills.”
I had the pleasure of interviewing Kathryn Brooks, Professional Success Expert and CEO of She’s Her Own CEO® and Kathryn Style Boutique® . She’s Her Own CEO® is a lifestyle and fashion brand which emphasizes that anyone can be a CEO in her world. It is the brand for a woman who leads, provides, and creates, no matter what her profession or personal goals. It brings a message of positivity and empowerment based on the foundation of an individual’s talent, inspiration, and hard work. The fashion collection includes organic cotton tees which are perfect to layer under a blazer, hoodies suitable for conference call days, coffee mugs, wine glasses, and crossbody totes. Kathryn knows and loves shopping and fashion, and she also knows working in the real world. She holds an MBA in Finance and through her Fortune 100 managerial career, has deep experience in corporate finance, brand management, and marketing operations. She is a regular keynote speaker on the topic of professional success and is a sought‐out mentor for both college students and aspiring professionals. Kathryn regularly appears on TV and brings professional career success tips, practical information, and guidance to viewers. She has appeared on Fox 24 News Now Charleston (WTAT), Good Morning Chattanooga (WTVC), Jacksonville’s First Coast Living (WTLV), and Atlanta & Company (WXIA 11Alive), among others.
Thank you so much for joining us, Kathryn! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path? How did you become an entrepreneur?
I knew from a young age that I was meant to be my own boss and had some small business success prior to Kathryn Style Boutique® and She’s Her Own CEO®. I started music lessons at age 4 and studied music through high school and college. I started and managed a successful music performance business when I was a teenager, and that experience taught me a lot about entrepreneurship.
I was hired by a Fortune 100 company immediately after graduating college with an undergraduate business degree. I took every opportunity to grow my skills in financial management, marketing, operations, and I earned my MBA very early in my career. I progressively rose through the ranks, and continued to expand my knowledge. I taught myself e‐commerce on the side. I have always loved shopping, being an educated consumer, and taking notes on what makes businesses succeed. I concurrently worked my corporate job and built my business on nights, weekends, and vacations. EVERY night was a late night.
Can you share a story about the most interesting story or the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
This may not be funny in a comedic sense, but this demonstrates how a business can take an unexpected direction. When I first started my online boutique, and later, She’s Her Own CEO®, I didn’t expect to be the face of either one. Yes, I modeled jewelry and clothes for my online boutique photography, but I didn’t expect to be the spokesperson for this huge women’s leadership platform.
However, the more She’s Her Own CEO® gained exposure and popularity as a fashion brand, I spun it off onto its own website, developed an interview and blog series, and started appearing on TV regularly. The more the fashion brand grew, the more speaking requests I received. It became apparent that the She’s Her Own CEO® message was making an impact on motivated and success‐driven women in our society who lead, provide, and create.
What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
After starting my boutique business, it occurred to me that modern ladies needed a brand that speaks for all of the contributions they bring to their families, their companies, and to the world in general. She’s Her Own CEO®, the brand and lifestyle, came about from my need to express this concept to the world on behalf of all hard‐working ladies.
Leadership of Others begins with being a Leader of Yourself. It doesn’t matter if you are a corporate executive, a homemaker, a volunteer, a stylist, a nurse, a mom, or an artist…you have the ability to live the CEO ideals. These skills and talents need to be recognized and valued.
Learning from others is one of the most efficient ways to build a success approach into your own life. My interview series highlights successful CEO women and men who share their national and international success stories, along with their guidance: https://www.shesherownceo.com/fashion‐and‐lifestyle/
Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?
The message here is that, while you can and should observe others and learn from others, you cannot live someone else’s life. You will exhaust yourself and quickly burn out if you try to be something other than your authentic self.
Read interviews, listen to podcasts, and observe others’ talents. Realize that while you may not be able to carbon‐copy them, you can figure out their techniques and how they are achieving success. Glean what you can and incorporate those skills into your own life!
How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?
Last week, I attended a formal business luncheon and was seated next to a lovely lady I had not met before. Before we introduced ourselves formally before lunch, she leaned over, and told me that she read my name tag. Without explanation about my company or my work, she said, “She’s Her Own CEO…that must be my affirmation for today. Now I’m going to figure out how to live up to it.” What was so beautiful about our exchange was that she recognized that she is the leader of her world. No discussion was required. I will remember this story always.
I believe strongly in the power of education and mentorship, and She’s Her Own CEO® is the perfect platform to bring attention to that message. I serve on the boards of two universities, regularly mentor students, participate in on‐stage discussion panels, and give talks in the university setting. Giving back to the academic, “Future CEO” community is intrinsically rewarding.
Do you have a favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share a story of how that was relevant to you in your life?
“What you concentrate upon you bring into your life.” ‐Emmet Fox
If your current thought patterns are consistently positive, and you use that positivity to consistently work toward positive goals, you are much more likely to have a positive future.
Do you see any fascinating developments emerging over the next few years in the fashion industry that you are excited about? Can you tell us about that?
I am excited to see more focus on jewelry and apparel that is made by talented and empowered small‐business owners, designers, craftsmen, and craftswomen. We feature many small‐to‐medium artisan businesses on KathrynStyleBoutique.com and make it a point to meet them personally where possible. In most cases, we’ve seen the artisans at work. Seeing them in action helps us build relationships with our vendors, better understand the manufacturing of their product, and to tell their story on our website and in the media.
What are your “Top 5 Things Needed to Succeed in the Fashion Industry.” Please share a story or example for each.
1. Use a portfolio approach to develop your brand. While it is important to always maintain a brand’s core identity, offer a variety of products to meet your clients’ needs.
2. If you’re a designer or the brand owner, integrate your fashion brand with your personal brand. Be authentic to who you are. Would you wear the product or brand that you are designing for others?
3. Learn about your customer channels and market segmentation. A customer that found you on Facebook may not have the same tastes, interests, or purchasing behavior as one that walked into your boutique or talked to you at the latest trade show.
4. Be honest with yourself as a designer and as a business owner. Know what you don’t know, and consult an expert when necessary. If you did not excel in your coursework in business law or accounting, don’t try to file your own taxes or set up an e‐commerce website without assistance.
5. Treat your business relationships with respect. Follow up on your commitments and always communicate professionally.
Every industry constantly evolves and seeks improvement. How do you think the fashion industry can improve itself? Can you give an example?
Brands that consistently focus on high‐quality fabric, materials, and sewing and who invest in consistent and accurate sizing using fit models have an advantage. E‐commerce and online shopping have brought myriad choices to consumers and have allowed each consumer’s home to become a boutique fitting room. The next evolution includes further improving the success rate of initial fittings.
You are a person of great influence. If you could start 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. :‐)
You cannot open a magazine, a newspaper, listen to a podcast, or turn on TV (Shark Tank marathons, anyone?) today without being inundated with mental images of a glamorous entrepreneurial lifestyle. Some viewers or readers may think, “That sounds great ‐‐ making my own schedule and being the boss. Yeah, I want to be an Entrepreneur and a CEO.”
The CEO movement is much bigger than owning your own company. She’s Her Own CEO® means respecting yourself and your talents, and understanding that you have the ability to positively affect others as a role model. It means investing in yourself through practice, education, and discipline. It applies to each person in his or her own unique way, but it is always about creating success and positivity.
At a recent business reception, I met a woman who immediately asked me what I do for a living. Instead of an elevator speech or talking points, I said simply, “She’s Her Own CEO.” I then gestured politely to her and said with a smile, “She’s Her Own CEO, too.”
How can our readers follow you on social media?
Find us on Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest, and Facebook @ShesHerOwnCEO, @Kathryn_Style, and @KathrynStyleBoutique.