Just because you can do it all, doesn’t mean you should. I’ve learned this the hard way, spending too many hours on a task that would have been so much easier to delegate to a pro in that specific area. Saving money is important, even more so when you’re a start-up. Time is also money, and your energies could be better spent elsewhere. If you have a bit of a budget to delegate, it’s okay to outsource when necessary.
The COVID19 pandemic has disrupted all of our lives. But sometimes disruptions can be times of opportunity. Many people’s livelihoods have been hurt by the pandemic. But some saw this as an opportune time to take their lives in a new direction.
As a part of this series called “How I Was Able To Pivot To A New Exciting Opportunity Because Of The Pandemic”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Micki Weiner.
Micki Weiner is a Brooklyn based professional dancer/choreographer, voice actor, and entrepreneur. She is a passionate climate activist, serial yogi, and matcha addict. Ms. Weiner is the founder of Petal + Ash — a sustainable lingerie company empowering women to feel at home in their bodies while in alignment with their home, Mother Earth.
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?
From a very young age, I always knew I wanted to be a dancer. I started dance lessons at three years old, in my hometown of Buffalo, NY. At age nine, I began spending summers at top tier ballet programs. I moved away from home, at thirteen, to fully focus on my ballet training. So my childhood was anything but normal. I sacrificed a lot of the traditional experiences associated with growing up, but it never really felt like a sacrifice. I didn’t know any differently, and I was doing what I loved. My professional career started not long after high school and has continued until the pandemic.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
For years, I taught Pilates. A longtime client once told me that the key to life was to, “Stay interested, and then you stay interesting.” You can take this quote in a lot of ways. To me it means to always stay engaged; to constantly seek new experiences, challenges, and adventures. I believe the biggest investment you can make is in yourself, and the greater the investment, the more you have to nourish not only yourself, but also those around you.
Is there a particular book, podcast, or film that made a significant impact on you? Can you share a story or explain why it resonated with you so much?
There’s so much to choose from! I recently read Glennon Doyle’s Untaimed and it really moved me. It took me a bit to get into her story, but by the end I was so enamored with her strength and courage to upend her life, in service of seeking her truth and joy. She’s a great example of a strong female, and as women, we need to honor the strength in other women. It uplifts us all.
Let’s now shift to the main part of our discussion. Can you tell our readers about your career experience before the Pandemic began?
Employment in the arts is anything but steady, yet I had just come off a healthy few years of work. I was a vacation swing with the Phantom of the Opera National Tour and had been out on the road more than I was in New York. I spent time in London, Minneapolis, and San Diego, as part of the creative team that brought Dr. Seuss’s The Lorax (from London) to the states. I re-staged (to set someone else’s choreography) a revival of the Four Seasons for Brooklyn based dance company The Chase Brock Experience (which I’ve been a part of since 2008). I spent the end of 2019 out in Northern California, performing in a holiday show. I returned to New York in January of 2020, and had a little down time before starting two new projects. I picked up some voiceover work, but my bigger projects were slated to start just as the pandemic began.
What did you do to pivot as a result of the Pandemic?
Prior to the pandemic I had just begun to seriously explore my idea for what is now Petal + Ash, but time was always at a premium. Suddenly, with the performing arts industry completely dark, I had nothing but time. I spent countless hours — on my couch, at my kitchen table, and in my bed — doing research to see if my idea had any validity and if it could be a viable business.
Can you tell us about the specific “Aha moment” that gave you the idea to start this new path?
There were a series of events and discoveries that led to my “Aha moment.”
For many years, I experimented with conventional dye techniques on different textiles. I loved gifting the things I dyed — scarves, baby onesies, sneakers. About two years ago, I took a class in natural dye techniques and I fell in love. I’m leaving this class, thinking up what I can dye for myself, and my first thought was a bra.
As I continued to experiment and learn about natural dyes, I realized how much better they are for the planet and for our bodies, than traditional synthetic dyes. Not only that, natural dyes — in tandem with natural fibers — can be composted. As someone constantly concerned with our planet’s climate crisis, and how to move through this world with less impact, I seek out more sustainable solutions in all aspects of my life. With clothing, I’d often come up short, being forced to choose between honoring my style aesthetic or honoring the planet. This dilemma got even worse when looking at my choices in undergarments. My frustrations with the gap in the intimates market, combined with my own sustainable journey, and a desire to authentically contribute to climate solutions led to my “Aha moment. ” Develop a line of circular lingerie, with an elevated aesthetic, that honors both women and the planet.
How are things going with this new initiative?
Wonderful, terrifying, exciting, and everything in between. Prior to this venture I knew entrepreneurship would be hard, but I was naive about the process. I think I needed some of that naiveté, to be able to confidently begin this journey. Everyday is a new challenge and I continue to learn so much. I’ve come so far since last March. My brand is an established LLC, I’ve written a full business plan, and dove into product development. The feedback I’ve gotten so far is really positive and I’m so excited to bring my brand to market.
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?
My mom was in the fashion industry for a long time. She’s the first person I told about this idea, and her initial reaction was to suggest I find something else. It was out of protection for me, and her knowing and understanding how difficult the fashion industry can be. Though, the more my mom heard about my idea, she really started to dig in with me. She’s served as a consultant, an editor, and a general sounding board on so many aspects of my business. She’s also the person who lets me talk out and bring to life the crazy ideas I have. She’s my biggest advocate.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started in this new direction?
I was scared to let people I was meeting along my journey know about my career as a dancer. I was afraid I’d be seen as a fraud in my new venture. Recently, I matched up with an incredible mentor who helped me focus my brand story from a place of authenticity. Through that, it became so clear that my life as a dancer was a huge part of what led me to where I am now, with Petal + Ash. Our mentoring provided clarity that applies to my life, even outside of my brand. I no longer shy away from allowing my background as a dancer to be a part of my brand story and my followers reactions have been so wonderfully positive. It’s been a huge awakening for me.
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.
- Keep it simple. When I was first planning my line of lingerie, I had a few styles. Mainly so I could be inclusive of many different body types. It’s still my goal to be size inclusive as the brand grows, but the sizing of bras is a complicated process, and in order to stay in line with my mission, and bring a really great product to market, I had to really focus in. At launch, Petal + Ash will have one style, in two size categories and while we won’t be able to serve everyone at launch, we will serve our target market very well.
- When you’re feeling stuck, remember your “Why.” There’s been quite a few times in my process where I’ve lost my way a bit or even thought about quitting. In these moments, at the advice from a good friend, I go back to my “Why.” Doing so reminds me why I wanted to do this in the first place, and that re-centers and recharges my drive.
- Take a break, even when you don’t think you need one. Burnout is real, but it can be avoided. No matter how passionate you are about your business, you need to take breaks. When you hit a wall, step away from what you’re doing. Go for a walk, do a quick yoga phrase, call a friend. Anything that changes it up and allows you to come back to your work with a fresh mind. On a larger scale, this means full days off too, especially if you’re a workaholic like me.
- Don’t be afraid to let go of an idea if it no longer serves you. I originally had a different name for my brand. Several potential issues came up with the trademarking of that name. I could have kept the name, and I probably would have been fine. I was so attached to this name that for a while I dug my heels in, instead of just letting go. Ultimately, I’m so glad I finally let the original name go. The current brand name is so much more fitting. I could have saved myself a lot of time and headache had I trusted the best way forward.
- Just because you can do it all, doesn’t mean you should. I’ve learned this the hard way, spending too many hours on a task that would have been so much easier to delegate to a pro in that specific area. Saving money is important, even more so when you’re a start-up. Time is also money, and your energies could be better spent elsewhere. If you have a bit of a budget to delegate, it’s okay to outsource when necessary.
So many of us have become anxious from the dramatic jolts of the news cycle. Can you share the strategies that you have used to optimize your mental wellness during this stressful period?
Yoga has always centered and calmed me. It’s a space where I can stretch my body and focus my mind. It’s also a time to put aside outside stressors that are trying to take over. I have found it difficult to stay motivated throughout the pandemic, so I often pay for a class the day before — then I’m committed and I can’t back out.
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?
I believe the climate crisis is the most prescient motivator of our time. It’s affecting food supply, housing, human health, and so much more. Greta Thunberg and Jane Fonda are such inspirations and I would love to further the work they do, in my own authentic way.
I want to help women feel good in their bodies, all the while making conscious choices. That’s what I’m hoping to do with my brand. I don’t think it’s realistic to ask people to stop consuming, but we can alter how and what people consume. There’s a lot of power in that. Right now, it’s all about education.
Is there a person in the world whom you would love to have lunch with, and why? Maybe we can tag them and see what happens!
Jane Fonda! She is such a strong woman with an incredible life story. I am in awe of her decades spanning career and how she continually leverages her celebrity as a platform for social, political, and environmental change. I would love to talk to her about her experiences, get advice on how to enact meaningful change, and how to be in for the long haul.
How can our readers follow you online?
www.petalandash.com to sign up for our email list and stay up to date as the brand heads to launch. I have a weekly blog that documents the process of starting a mission driven brand, along with sharing eco friendly tips. They can also follow us on Instagram @petalandash.
Thank you so much for sharing these important insights. We wish you continued success and good health!