The answer is always no if you don’t ask. — As soon as I heard this from a podcast I was listening to, it stuck with me. I say this every time I am anxious to ask someone for something and remember the worst thing they can say is no.
As a part of our series about women who are shaking things up in their industry, I had the pleasure of interviewing Emma Vollrath.
Emma Vollrath or commonly known as Lou Lou, grew up in the balmy California sun. Her forte for health and fitness reshaped the way she looked at herself. She wanted to help other women change the way they see themselves, so she decided to become a personal trainer with the National Academy of Sports Medicine and start training. Her desire to change the way women look at themselves influenced her to create a line to help you look and feel good naked. Wanting to revamp activewear, Emma combines innovation and fashion to create something women will look forward to wearing.
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?
I really struggled with body dysmorphia and anxiety and I needed something to help me navigate through that, something that would make feel good. I had always been active, but felt like I was running myself down. I wanted to see what genuinely would work for me, and so I decided to become a trainer with the National Academy of Sports Medicine. Once I was educated enough to know what is helpful for a women’s body and what isn’t, I started training. I realized there is so much more to training than the physical aspects. Obviously it’s a plus, but they want to feel good on the inside too. Most requests that women gave me during our sessions was “I just want to feel/look good naked” or “I hate the way my lower stomach looks”. I knew about waist trainers and sweat belts on the market, but those were uncomfortable and weren’t practical for everyday wear. I decided that I would make something on my own that makes your lower stomach sweat and reduce bloating, but is discrete and can be worn as an outfit. I saw a gap in the market and decided to go for it.
Can you tell our readers what it is about the work you’re doing that’s disruptive?
For me, starting an activewear brand was to move the idea away from activewear having to be serious and only worn for workouts. I wanted activewear to be fun. Starting a healthy lifestyle can be daunting, and I want the clothes I make to be fashionable. I incorporate Nanosilver and Neoprene into my clothing because they are each packed with benefits. Changing the way how activewear is perceived is the intention.
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 very first launch I did, when I opened the boxes of clothes I ordered, all of the logos were upside down! It definitely wasn’t funny at the time but, looking back it makes me laugh to see how far I’ve come. Now I make sure to see pictures of the product before it’s produced and sent.
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?
My dad is definitely one of my biggest mentors. He is extremely level-headed and is incredibly smart. I go to him for all of my business questions. He isn’t in the fashion scene, but he is a very seasoned businessman. All of my mentors come from my family. I am so fortunate to be a member of a family who always has my best interest in mind. From cousins, to aunts, uncles, grandparents, and my parents, they all give me input I value and appreciate.
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?
An example of a positive disruption is when modeling became open to all body types. For so long we idolized a certain body type, and now I am so glad to see billboards with all kinds of women. I love how notable brands are adapting to this way of thinking and being all inclusive to women everywhere.
A scenario when an industry can be negatively disrupted is when there are smaller businesses or family- owned restaurants, and a larger chain or corporation comes in and takes over. I am a huge fan of shopping small and supporting local businesses. You can go to a restaurant chain or corporate office any day, but what you have in your own community is so unique and that should be celebrated.
Can you share 3 of the best words of advice you’ve gotten along your journey? Please give a story or example for each.
The answer is always no if you don’t ask.
As soon as I heard this from a podcast I was listening to, it stuck with me. I say this every time I am anxious to ask someone for something and remember the worst thing they can say is no.
Never take anything personally.
This is a mantra I repeat in my head constantly. It circles back around to not caring what anyone else thinks of you.
Be kind to everyone, you don’t know what they are going through.
This one is my favorite piece of advice. People are always going through silent struggles that we know nothing about. Being kind to someone can make their day, especially when they are going through a hard time.
We are sure you aren’t done. How are you going to shake things up next?
Spring/Summer 2021 is in the works, and let’s just say that this collection is everything. It’s something I sketched up a long time ago and have been waiting to start production on! I take most of my inspiration from vintage fashion shows, and when I drew this I knew we had to add it to Emma Lou. I want to keep doing collections with a fun and exciting theme. Designing something women can wear on a night out + their workouts is the objective.
In your opinion, what are the biggest challenges faced by ‘women disruptors’ that aren’t typically faced by their male counterparts?
Women have a tendency to be judged more. We are usually ridiculed for what our body looks like, how much makeup we are wearing, or what we do in our free time. Men don’t usually have to deal with this sort of criticism because for so long they were more respected than us. I am grateful that in todays society, it is becoming admirable for a woman to be in charge of her own life. We still have a lot of ground to cover, but I believe we are going in the right direction.
Do you have a book/podcast/talk that’s had a deep impact on your thinking? Can you share a story with us?
Yes! I love any type of self-help/motivational book. The books that have had the greatest impact on me is “The Secret”, “The Success Principles”, and “The Daily Stoic”. They are all stimulating and have the same goal of helping you alter your mindset for the better. For podcasts, one that drastically changed my life was The Ed Mylett show. Ed is an entrepreneur and life coach, but he talks about the struggles we go through as human beings. It’s very relatable and he always has interesting guests on the show.
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. 🙂
I would love to host a picturesque event (Post-covid) where women from all around the world can come together and celebrate each other. Each woman who has a business can promote their brand/what they do. It would really be a big support group where we can network and share business ideas. Surrounding yourself with like-minded people is so important! We will all need it especially after months of quarantine.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
Whatever you’re working on, don’t stop! Your breakthrough moment could be just around the corner and you won’t know if you stop. When you first start something, it’s easy to get discouraged. Just remember that in a few months, you can be in a completely different space — mentally, physically, and spiritually. Just keep working.
How can our readers follow you online?
You can follow me on my personal Instagram @emmamvollrath, and my brands Instagram is @emmalouthelabel. You can shop my activewear line, Emma Lou, on www.emmalouthelabel.com.