Resilience and perseverance: Resilience and perseverance have allowed me to face the many challenges life has thrown my way; including moving out at seventeen and putting myself through college. At the age of 28, I went through a divorce and left with nothing but the clothes on my back. I mark that time in my life as the beginning of discovering myself. The next big phase for me was taking that leap from the corporate world to become an entrepreneur and launching a company that I’m truly passionate about.
Many successful people reinvented themselves in a later period in their life. Jeff Bezos worked in Wall Street before he reinvented himself and started Amazon. Sara Blakely sold office supplies before she started Spanx. Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson was a WWE wrestler before he became a successful actor and filmmaker. Arnold Schwarzenegger went from a bodybuilder, to an actor to a Governor. McDonald’s founder Ray Croc was a milkshake-device salesman before starting the McDonalds franchise in his 50’s.
How does one reinvent themselves? What hurdles have to be overcome to take life in a new direction? How do you overcome those challenges? How do you ignore the naysayers? How do you push through the paralyzing fear?
In this series called “Second Chapters; How I Reinvented Myself In The Second Chapter Of My Life “ we are interviewing successful people who reinvented themselves in a second chapter in life, to share their story and help empower others.
As a part of this interview series, I had the pleasure of interviewing Diana Nguyen.
Diana Nguyen is the founder and CEO of luxury womenswear brand, Madison / Savile. After 15 years working in finance and watching women struggle to find the perfect blazer, Diana quit to pursue her passion. She has spent the last three years retraining herself in fashion to perfect the fit, style and fabric of her blazers and revolutionize women’s formal wear.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we start, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your childhood backstory?
My mother moved to America from Vietnam before giving birth to me in Los Angeles. While my mother was pregnant, she discovered that my father had an entire family of his own in Vietnam. She left him and decided to raise me as a single mother. It is true what they say: it takes a village to raise a child. I am very blessed to have been surrounded by the love of my mother’s family. They helped raise me after my biological father was out of the picture. As a result, I never felt that I was missing a parent.
When my family moved from Vietnam, my grandmother played a huge role in my life. My mother and the rest of the family were busy working full-time to make a living. My mother worked in a garment factory as a seamstress. I still have a pair of fabric shears that she used when working that have been in the family for over 60 years.
After my mother met my stepfather, we moved to Seattle, WA. I lived there for nearly 30 years before moving back to Los Angeles. I attended the University of Washington Business School. In order to put myself through college I worked part-time, received scholarships, and applied for student loans.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
“Don’t fear failure, fear being in the same exact place next year as you are today” — Anonymous.
I embrace change and I always strive for progress to make things happen. Everything stays the same unless I take the initiative and the necessary actions to create change.
Growing up my stepfather and I never got along. When I was 17, he gave me an ultimatum to get married to my boyfriend at the time or move out. I did not want to get married at 17, so I decided to move out. Although that was challenging, I persevered and maintained the desire and drive to keep moving forward to become the person I am today. I graduated from college and started at my first corporate job at the age of 21.
You have been blessed with much success. In your opinion, what are the top three qualities that you possess that have helped you accomplish so much? If you can, please share a story or example for each.
- Resilience and perseverance: Resilience and perseverance have allowed me to face the many challenges life has thrown my way; including moving out at seventeen and putting myself through college. At the age of 28, I went through a divorce and left with nothing but the clothes on my back. I mark that time in my life as the beginning of discovering myself. The next big phase for me was taking that leap from the corporate world to become an entrepreneur and launching a company that I’m truly passionate about.
- Purpose Driven: I feel my purpose on this earth is to make the world a better place and help others in need. My values of giving back and making a difference have really helped keep me on the path to becoming an entrepreneur. Even in my corporate career, my drive was to earn money to support my parents and take my mother on holiday. In my mother’s mind, Hawaii exists only on TV and it was my greatest accomplishment to take her for her birthday.
It is the purpose behind Madison / Savile and vision of the impact I can make that keeps me going.
- Critical Thinking: I’m a deep thinker and I spend a lot of time thinking about and planning for the future. I was able to utilize and develop these skills during my career as an auditor, consultant and data analyst which allowed me to take the leap to entrepreneurism. For example, when I decided to quit my job to focus on launch, I had to plan out my finances and my runway. This level of planning made it much easier when I decided to make the change.
Let’s now shift to the main part of our discussion about ‘Second Chapters’. Can you tell our readers about your career experience before your Second Chapter?
I spent the last 15 years in finance as an auditor, consultant, data analyst and compliance manager. I served public and private companies from technology to energy to retail. I started my career as a consultant and auditor at Deloitte, and my most recent role was a Senior Finance Manager at Microsoft.
And how did you “reinvent yourself” in your Second Chapter?
I believe I am still in it and that reinventing yourself is a journey. Another favorite quote of mine is, “every next phase of your life demands a new version of yourself.” I think I’m on version 4.0 in life, but this phase in my career is definitely my Second Chapter. Now, I am laser-focused on aligning myself to my purpose and passion. My whole life I was doing something my stepfather wanted me to do and following a career path dictated by him. When I quit Microsoft, I found it difficult as I realized my identity had been closely tied to my career and my position. In order to reinvent myself in this next phase, I spent a lot of time working on my limiting beliefs and trying to be being comfortable with the unknown.
Reinventing yourself is like inheriting your grandparent’s home and re-decorating it to reflect your own style. You must wipe the slate clean of any beliefs or opinions that have been dictated to you by your family and your personal and professional relationships. In this Second Chapter, I’m redefining what success means to me, what I stand for and who I really am. Reinventing and redefining yourself is a chiropractic adjustment to your life.
Can you tell us about the specific trigger that made you decide that you were going to “take the plunge” and make your huge transition?
All my life I knew I wanted to do more and that I had a ‘calling’, but I didn’t have clarity on what that was early on.
I hired a career coach that helped me narrow it down to being an entrepreneur, which eventually led to the idea of reinventing and redesigning blazers that prioritized style without sacrificing on comfort. However, that still wasn’t enough for me to take the leap until it aligned with my passion and purpose to help and empower others and to inspire a more beautiful world inside and out. Thus, the name Madison / Savile came about. It is the definition of two worlds I’m combining; Madison means “gift of God and Warrior” and reflects my desire to help others to bring out their inner warrior and remind them of the gift that only they can bring to the world. Savile is for Savile Row in London, known for its bespoke suiting.
I was working on Madison / Savile on the side while working at Microsoft until it got to a point where Madison / Savile needed my full attention to get it off the ground. It was definitely very scary to make the decision to be a ‘full-time’ entrepreneur, but I listened to my gut and intuition to reassure me I was on the right path.
While I was still working at Microsoft, I was in a fashion accelerator program and taking fashion classes at night to build my knowledge of the industry.
What did you do to discover that you had a new skillset inside of you that you haven’t been maximizing? How did you find that and how did you ultimately overcome the barriers to help manifest those powers?
I’ve always known what I liked and what I didn’t like but I didn’t know what that equated to. To get clarity on this, working with a career coach really helped me. I actually hired two career coaches with two different methods. Each came to the same conclusion; the best role or career path for me was to be an entrepreneur.
Honestly, you really don’t know until you actually start doing it. It’s like being in school and then going out to the ‘real’ world. Reading and learning is not the same as actually doing it and that’s where the real lessons and building the muscle happens.
How are things going with this new initiative? We would love to hear some specific examples or stories.
When I left Microsoft, I thought having an extra 40–50 hours a week would allow me to launch in six months. It’s now three years later and I am only now launching the brand. Sure, COVID-19 delayed that, but I was still extremely ambitious with my six-month timeline. During the last three years, I have learnt so much and been on a real emotional rollercoaster. One minute you feel like you are on top of the world, the next you question what you have done. When the pandemic delayed our planned launch in 2020, I was devastated, but I learned to trust in the process and trust in myself.
Obstacles may be in your way to redirect your path or just to tell you it’s not the right time yet. You are learning and growing in the process. My podcast came about in the pandemic and it really allowed me to focus on the other part of Madison / Savile: the empowerment of women and helping others shine. Although it was difficult to pause the launch, it gave me the space to build the other side of my brand.
As well as the obvious issues that resulted from the pandemic, I watched as the entire category I had built my brand around change as we all started working from home. We went from blazers and suits to sweatpants and socks. I know that we are not going to be in sweats every day in the future and I personally have been dressing up at home to boost productivity. I wanted to create a blazer so versatile and comfortable that you can wander effortlessly from Zoom, to playing with the kids and out to dinner!
Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
It’s hard to credit one particular person as I have had many great mentors. However, the women in my life have been the most incredible source of inspiration: my mother, my grandmother and my aunts. Growing up, I watched them constantly sacrifice in order to give their children a better life. It has given me a strong drive to be independent and strong enough to fight for the life I want. My grandmother passed when I was seven years old, but she has been with me every step of the way. Any time I have come to a hard place in my life, I feel a call to visit her grave. Even when I lived in Seattle, she would call me back and I would jump on a plane to LA to visit her. I would walk away from my time with her with clarity and peace.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started in this new direction?
Moving from finance to fashion, I entered an industry totally new to me and as a result there have been a number of learning curves. When you think about fashion, you think about the glitz and the glam. It was a reality check for me when I went to my first textile trade show in LA. At one of the booths, I met the owner of the company and he gave me his card and address to visit the show room. I made an appointment to visit and found myself arriving to a sketchy part of town and an unmarked building with rusty doors. I followed the sales rep and was relieved to be led to an actual showroom. However, it was a side of the fashion industry I hadn’t been exposed to before and taught me to know exactly what I am looking for and do my research beforehand.
Did you ever struggle with believing in yourself? If so, how did you overcome that limiting belief about yourself? Can you share a story or example?
Absolutely. If you ever want to doubt yourself, become an entrepreneur. There have been many points along this journey that I questioned if I was ever going to get there. When you look at the road ahead and the mountain you have to climb, it can be overwhelming. During these times, I remember something my mentor once said to me: “when you find yourself getting overwhelmed, look down at your feet and just take the next step.” As an entrepreneur you are the only person that can get yourself back up; you are your own coach. You are also the bottleneck and the person that can make things happen. In order to overcome my limiting beliefs, I always come back to my purpose. Even if there are a lot of unknowns, your drive will get you back up and your why will pull you forward.
In my own work I usually encourage my clients to ask for support before they embark on something new. How did you create your support system before you moved to your new chapter?
I was open and honest to those around me about my vision and my plan to pursue my dream. There are a lot of people out there who will seem skeptical or project their own failures or fears onto you, so it is important to surround yourself with mentors and other likeminded people to remind you that what you are going through is normal. Surround yourself with people that know you and believe in you to help you to keep going.
Working at Microsoft I was blessed with a great manager and team, so I was able to be fully transparent with them about my endeavors and my plan to jump into Madison / Savile full time. I kept my manager informed of my progress and timeline, so I was able to transition my role with plenty of time and preparation. They were supportive of me every step of the way and they still are.
Starting a new chapter usually means getting out of your comfort zone, how did you do that? Can you share a story or example of that?
You jump and then you keep going! Being in a role for 15 years that was all about managing risk, it was very hard to go from a risk-averse role to embracing all kinds of risk as an entrepreneur. Being in a comfortable position for so long and enjoying a certain lifestyle and then jumping into the unknown as a budget conscious entrepreneur was definitely a huge change. In order to adapt, I had to get comfortable living in the unknown and remembering that it was feeding my purpose. I didn’t want to live a life of what ifs.
Fantastic. Here is the main question of our interview. What are your “5 things I wish someone told me before I started leading my organization” and why? Please share a story or example for each.
- You are a 24/7 problem solver– Every minute of every day, you are constantly solving a problem. Especially as the founder of a startup, you are the one making the decisions and signing off on any proposals.
- Be patient, things take longer than you think. — It’s similar to when you start any new job. There is a learning curve, and it takes you twice as long to do a task in the beginning, but by the end you can do it with your eyes closed. SAME THING! Being an entrepreneur takes a little longer because you are learning EVERYTHING and executing at the same time.
- Don’t accept the first answer — Always push to expand ideas and solutions and drive improvement and innovation.
- Express gratitude — Your team is working hard, don’t forget to let them know how much you appreciate them. It can be easily forgotten while your head is down with so much work and everything else going on.
- Stay true to your vision, values and mission but be open to new ideas and direction — You are constantly making decisions — whether it’s about your team, marketing, content, product or finances. There may be times you have to pivot or accept that your way isn’t always the only way. These hurdles are inevitable, but my advice is to always make decisions with your north star in mind.
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?
Affordable healthcare and daycare. I believe everyone should have access to these things. With mental health issues on the rise, it’s critical to have access to the right resources, regardless of whether people can afford it or not. We are not giving anyone a fair chance at life if they can’t afford to pay to save their own life.
Daycare can be as expensive as a mortgage and often puts parents at a disadvantage in their career or in reaching their goals. If we could give all parents access to affordable day care, it would allow them more time and capacity to pursue their dreams without sacrifice and struggle.
We are very blessed that some very prominent names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them. 🙂
Oprah Winfrey! I’m inspired by her story, what she stands for and her impact on the world. One of my favorite quotes of hers is “I believe every one of us is born with a purpose. No matter who you are, what you do, or how far you think you have to go, you have been tapped by a force greater than yourself to step into your God-given calling.”
When I started Madison / Savile, I said I wanted to be the Oprah of fashion and it would be a dream come true to spend time with her and to receive her incredible wisdom. I’d love to talk to her about what things can be done to make this world a better place and empower everyone around the world.
How can our readers further follow your work online?
- Website: www.madisonsavile.com
- IG @madisonsavile
- FB https://www.facebook.com/madisonsavile
- Join the Madison / Savile Insider Group on FB. This is where we share BTS and ask our insider group questions on the blazers to incorporate feedback from our community as we build the brand and products. https://www.facebook.com/groups/madisonsavileinsider
- Follow or message me on LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/diana-nguyen-662a1b4
Thank you so much for sharing these important insights. We wish you continued success and good health!