Brandi Shigley: “Focus on the essential and eliminate the rest!”

Instead of having a competitive mindset, focus on a community mindset. This will most certainly connect you with people on a positive forward path that can help you grow and get through obstacles. Also, to avoid burnout, schedule the things that make you happy and bring joy and that are not associated with work! As part […]

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Instead of having a competitive mindset, focus on a community mindset. This will most certainly connect you with people on a positive forward path that can help you grow and get through obstacles. Also, to avoid burnout, schedule the things that make you happy and bring joy and that are not associated with work!

As part of our series about the 5 things you need to succeed in the fashion industry, I had the pleasure of interviewing Brandi Shigley. As a handbag designer, Brandi quickly learned the nuts-and-bolts of running a successful business and in the process gained a greater perspective on the world of fashion. Brandi opened Fashion Denver in 2004 as a way to use her knowledge and enthusiasm to grow the local community. Brandi continues to share her expertise through Fashion Denver fashion markets as well as in her popular workshops “Do what you love. Love what you do” and provides personalized business consulting for aspiring entrepreneurs. The fashion markets bring in shoppers from all over the area and offer designers a chance to promote their designs with fashion shows and performances.

Thank you so much for joining us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

When I was 8 years old, I was obsessed with making paper purses. Flash forward to almost failing out of college and discovering what I was truly passionate about, I started a real handbag business called B.Shigley Designs, founded in 1999 and ended up graduating with honors with a degree in speech communications. The combination of my passion for designing handbags, paired with my communication skills, I was able to start a business in the fashion industry.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started?

Wow! There are many! The story that comes to mind is selling my handbags in Paris and not really knowing how to speak French at all. At first, I thought the buyer was rejecting all of my bags and it turned out that the huge stack he was piling up were the bags that he wanted to buy for the shop!

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?

The funniest mistake was when I had hired a few sewers from other countries to sew my handbags. One of the sewers didn’t know the direction that American Flag needed to be sewn on so I had a few bags with upside down flags on it. I learned very quickly to be concise in my direction!

What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?

I think what makes my company stand out is being vulnerable about the mistakes that I learn and sharing them with the community. Often times, people want to hide their mistakes, but I believe that when we can share them, we can not only learn and grow from them, we can help others along the way.

I was guest speaking at an event, and as I was speaking, I suddenly remembered a huge mistake in communication that I had made, and right then and there, I shared it out loud. It turns out that sharing that mistake was what people found to be the most helpful and useful part of my presentation.

Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?

Instead of having a competitive mindset, focus on a community mindset. This will most certainly connect you with people on a positive forward path that can help you grow and get through obstacles. Also, to avoid burnout, schedule the things that make you happy and bring joy and that are not associated with work!

How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?

Because of my love of fashion, I love giving back to those less fortunate through fashion. I do clothing drives and take clothes out onto the streets to people in need or donate them to organizations where people are coming out of difficult situations. I am very passionate about helping people to understand their purpose in the world and the steps that it takes to begin to build a life pursuing that purpose.

Do you have a favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share a story of how that was relevant to you in your life?

“Focus on the essential and eliminate the rest!” For far too long, I was trying to do everything. As a one-woman show, I had to do everything. But as the business began to grow, I tried to continue to do everything, instead of focussing on what I thrive in. I have learned that I can’t do it all and have learned the art of delegating. When you can put your energy into the parts of your company that you excel in, then you will truly take your business to the next level.

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?

When I first started my business in 1999, there was no Google or Etsy! I have been fascinated with how technology has become integral in both the manufacturing side and the marketing side of the fashion industry. I was doing all of these things the ol’ fashioned way… Gorilla marketing! Now, the available resources that are available in the fashion industry are accessible, allowing for fashion businesses to create their foundation in a much more streamlined way.

What are your “Top 5 Things Needed to Succeed in the Fashion Industry”. Please share a story or example for each.

1. Understand how your product is solving a problem or providing something that other companies are not. A few years ago, I helped to start a company that designs dress apparel for the bodybuilding world. The problem that needed to be solved was that these men had muscular bodies but the dress clothing that was available was ill-fitting and did no justice to the hard work and countless hours that were put into building the muscular body. The solution was designing a line of clothing that was specific to this bodybuilder body type and thus Bradley Allen dress apparel was born.

2. Connect with other individuals and businesses that can work with you to help you through the hurdles that they may have gone through. Having a mentor is so important. As much as we’d like to do things on our own, we can learn from the mistakes of others and subsequently we will save time and money by not repeating these mistakes. Having a mentor is an amazing way to see outside of ourselves and see into issues and possible problems that we may not have even thought about.

A few years into creating Fashion Denver, I had some situations that seemed to be blocking me from moving forward and I couldn’t see past these hurdles. After letting go of my ego and realizing that I needed help, I brought on a mentor who literally took something I thought to be impossible and made it possible, just by seeing a different way around to get to the solution.

3. Don’t try to grow so fast. Allow your business to properly align with the right people and or tools to help your business move forward. I think sometimes we get so excited about being successful that we jump into business relationships or systems that are not wise choices for the sustainability of our companies.

When I first opened up my retail store, I hopped on board right away with an inventory system that was way too expensive and not what I needed. I was in a contract with a system that didn’t serve my needs the way that I should, but I was so quick to make things happen, I didn’t take the time to research.

4. You must have the ability to adapt to change. There will always be ebbs and flows, changes in technology, changes in staff, changes in the direction of where your business is going. Embrace change and see the positive aspects of change.

After running my retail store for about 4 years, I realized that I no longer wanted to be in retail. I put pressure on myself to stay with it but when I talked to a mentor of mine, I realized that I wasn’t passionate about retail and it was okay to let go of the store. This ultimately allowed me to focus on what I was passionate about, consulting!

5. Stay on top of the ever-changing tools that are available. There may be something out there that can truly streamline your business and knowing how to take advantage of these tools will only help your business grow.

Back in the early 2000s when I was growing my handbag business, I had a crazy long way of processing credit cards. And then I was lead to Paypal and it completely changed the way I processed an order!

Every industry constantly evolves and seeks improvement. How do you think the fashion industry can improve itself? Can you give an example?

The fashion community can improve when more local resources are available for textiles and production. We have been wanting to get our product manufactured locally, but have not been able to do so within our means. If more affordable resources were available locally, we’d love to keep our production local. It’s just not possible at the moment.

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. 🙂

It’s not so much a movement but something that should be a given… serve others. Whether it’s getting them warm clothes during cold months or stopping to listen or just holding a door open. The simplicity of kindness will go along way and will create a ripple effect in our world.

How can our readers follow you on social media?



This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!

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