Manage your energy and take care of your health: Especially when starting a business, you are the business, and it can sometimes lead to putting your health last. Working nonstop, not sleeping enough, not eating nutritious food, and feeling very tired. Your energy allows you to create, to be productive so remember: knowing how to do everything doesn’t mean you should be doing everything in your business.
As part of my series about the leadership lessons of accomplished business leaders, I had the pleasure of interviewing Monica Delgado.
Self-taught, self-made entrepreneur Monica Delgado is the founder of Not Only Pants, an apparel company designed for women of all shapes and sizes to feel confident in all day from the gym to the boardroom. Born in Colombia and raised in the Netherlands, Delgado immigrated to the United States at 20 years old where she worked multiple jobs to make ends meet and care for her father after he suffered a stroke. Just five years later, Delgado suffered her own tragedy after a car crash that left her with a devastating spine injury. While navigating physical therapy, depression, and weight gain, Delgado found hope in a pair of leggings. Encouraged by her own recovery, she launched Not Only Pants in 2017 with one goal in mind: share those leggings with other women so they too could overcome their own obstacles and embrace their bodies — stretch marks, dimples, cellulitis, excess fat, scars and all.
Thank you so much for joining us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
Thank you so much for joining us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
I grew up in the Netherlands with my mother and my Dutch stepdad. He was a very successful entrepreneur, so I grew up watching him, and wanting to be as smart as him. When I was around 10 years old I started suffering from really bad arthritis, so the doctor recommended we move to a warmer climate. Our first option was to move to Spain, but with my mom being Colombian, she wanted to move back. So I spent most of my teen years in Colombia.
My dad continued to be an entrepreneur there working in different businesses, and by the time I was in college, we moved to the United States. Once here, he had a stroke and I stopped my studies to help care for him. My siblings and I worked multiple jobs to help pay for our house bills, as well as my dad’s medical bills. I worked at CVS developing pictures, as a cashier, and at the Ikea showroom. Between those three jobs, I decided that I never wanted to work for someone else ever again.
I was also training in martial arts at the time and my instructor was this super cool entrepreneurial guy. He told me that he needed someone to help him with marketing, creating websites, running social media, and getting paid traffic. So with no experience at all, I started learning every skill I could, gobbled up anything I could get my hands on to build the knowledge I thought would make me into a good entrepreneur one day. That all led me to freelance work. A couple of years later I moved to New Jersey where my boyfriend, UFC veteran Ricardo Almeida, owned a martial arts school. Together we partnered and opened the second location, slowly moving all the marketing in-house. We also did a project in Arizona together where we were both responsible for the marketing and opening of eight more martial arts schools in just four years. Then, after my car accident in 2015, Not Only Pants was born.
Can you tell us a story about the hard times that you faced when you first started your journey?
Not Only Pants really started from a hard time in my life when in 2015, but I was also in a car accident that injured my back. I went from being super fit and active to struggling with weight gain and having to take epidurals, trigger points injections, medication and it just completely changed my body. I didn’t feel comfortable wearing anything and seeing how my body was changing.
While navigating through all this, I was gifted a pair of leggings from Brazil — leggings that were comfortable and would contour the shape of my body. They looked great when I was out of shape and I could really use them for anything. It made me feel once again super confident and helped push me forward in recovery. That really became my motivation with Not Only Pants: To share a product that will help women feel their best in whatever stage they are in. I want women to know that they don’t need to be the fittest, or fit a profile they see on social media to look and feel their best. I spent years in research and testing our products over and over again before launching our online store in 2017!
Where did you get the drive to continue even though things were so hard?
When you feel good, everything is easier. The real challenge is to keep moving, to be productive, to be motivated when things are hard. The days when I was in so much pain before and after my back surgery post-accident, the days that I struggled with motivation and confidence or felt out of alignment, I always tried to go back to my vision and mission. Why is this so important to me? What does it mean to me to achieve success with my business? What does that look like? And there has always been a sense of responsibility to share my story and help women to feel and look their best with our products.
So, how are things going today? How did grit and resilience lead to your eventual success?
I am enjoying the journey. I believe success is connected with how much you grow as a person. Your business can grow because you’re growing as a person. You learn with time that grit and resilience are not just things that one day you decided to have; they are qualities that you work on everyday. There are days you move one step forward and there are other days you might have to take one step back in order to take two forward. You learn to work around the obstacles. To be in the mindset of a white belt and be coachable has been key.
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?
We were in Brazil meeting with suppliers and visiting the shop where they actually hand cut the leggings. As we were in the meeting for new products, I got too excited with my Portuguese, which is my fourth language. I speak pretty decent Portuguese, but there are a lot of words that we speak at home that aren’t for outside of the house (which I had no idea of, haha!). So I’m in the middle of the meeting and I said “I like very much our designs for the leggings because they shape your a**…. And the whole room just went silent and looked at me like, what did she just say! I was clueless about what just happened! My boyfriend corrected me and said the booty or the bum. I apologized and said it was the only word I knew to address that area of the body. They all started laughing after that. Although it was a funny moment, it was also pretty embarrassing!
What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
So when we talked specifically about the product, I always wanted it to be Not Only Pants. Not only pants really mean more than leggings. More than just something that you wear, it is a feeling. As far as the product was concerned, I’ve always looked for high-quality materials and versatility to be able to wear them for more than one occasion. My friend, Ash, loves our leggings — she has three or four pairs. The first one I gave her and then she fell in love and bought a bunch more. She’s pregnant right now and living in Guam. She messaged me the other day saying, “I just wanted to let you know that my NOPs have been my go-to during my entire pregnancy. Working out and lounging. They give me support and make me feel good. I’m 6 months and they stretch but when I wash them, they go right back to where I had them originally. I love them. I plan on using them all the way and then postpartum too because of the compression. I use them to run, walk, lounge, and grocery shop. I need more!” And this is what I love about our leggings, about our products. We have been able to create something that changes with women as they go through the different seasons in their lives.
Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?
I think the main reason why entrepreneurs get burnt out and discouraged is that they try to do everything themselves. There are days where you work 5 hours a day and others 18 hours a day. Here are a few ways I found to become more productive without burning out.
- Pomodoro timer because it allows you to stay more productive and in your zone of genius for a determined time while still getting breaks from work sessions where you can recharge and move your body.
- Theme days: I like to divide my days into specific areas of my business that I need to focus on a weekly basis. For example, Mondays are my admin tasks, Tuesdays are my creative days, and Fridays are my days to catch up with my thoughts and personal rituals, like going to my favorite coffee shop to read a book.
- Building a team so you can focus on your strengths and being the captain of your ship instead of navigating it all by yourself. If you are just getting started and you have room in your budget, you can start with hiring a VA or a freelancer for a couple of hours a week. This alone will clear items off your plate and free up time so you can focus on higher priority projects.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a Story?
Running two brick and mortar businesses, my partner and I decided to go to a marketing conference in San Diego a couple of years ago to learn more about online marketing. One of the presenters was a really great teacher that we align ourselves with. His name is Ezra Firestone. We started following him, bought some of his courses, and later on we attended his conference. When it was about to start, we got called up on stage and received gifts and very nice words from him. It turns out he is a big fight fan and had been following my boyfriend’s UFC career for a long time. We became very good friends and he’s the one that made me believe that it was possible to go from owning two brick and mortar service businesses into selling a physical product online. He has been a wonderful mentor, he has given me guidance, and he is a person I admire deeply. I am forever grateful to have him in my life and learn from him.
How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?
For us at Not Only Pants, but it has also been important to make sure we partner up with manufacturers where we can have a social impact in the local community. In Brazil, we found one where our products are made by women heads of households. More recently we expanded our product lines and are working with more manufacturers around the world.
As our sales volume is increasing we wanted to focus more on minimizing our environmental footprint. To do so, our packaging is either recycled or reusable material.
We are also starting a few free events to encourage women to practice more self-care and body positivism. These events are held via zoom where we have guest speakers talking about mental health, movement, nutrition, and much more.
As an entrepreneur, in 2020, I co-hosted a retreat for women entrepreneurs only, where for three days we worked on their businesses from a beautiful location in Florida — mentoring, giving feedback, and even working hand in hand on their projects.
What are 5 things you wish someone told you before you started leading you company and why. Please share a story or example for each.
- Don’t compare yourself to others: Your journey is unique, and the path to success never looks the same and that’s ok. Embrace the lessons and remember that seeing the glass half full is the key to appreciating where you are and where you are heading.
- Celebrate small milestones: Approach progress with gratefulness and while working on your big goals for your business don’t forget to celebrate the small accomplishments.
- Manage your energy and take care of your health: Especially when starting a business, you are the business, and it can sometimes lead to putting your health last. Working nonstop, not sleeping enough, not eating nutritious food, and feeling very tired. Your energy allows you to create, to be productive so remember: knowing how to do everything doesn’t mean you should be doing everything in your business.
- Set boundaries with the people around you and at home: Many of today’s businesses started in someone’s living room or garage. Explain to the people around you that every interruption costs you minutes of brainpower, and makes your day much harder and longer than it needs to be.
- Invest in your team: Build your team with people’s potential and passion, not their accolades or where they worked before. You can always train someone.
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. 🙂
When I was in university, I dreamed about working in human rights and making a difference there. As I get older that hasn’t changed. I am soft-hearted and feel the world is so full of negativity and people have forgotten the importance of caring for others and how to lend a helping hand. I also love the environment and have a special place in my heart for older people. I feel so many times that our elders and animals get left out. Anything that I could get involved in where I could make a small difference in one person’s life would mean the world to me.
How can our readers follow you on social media?
They can find me on Facebook and Instagram at @monicadelgado and at @notonlypants
This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!