Six years ago, my boss of the time gave me an invaluable piece of career advice that I still cherish a college degree, six prestigious internships and my first real job later. At the time, I was a 16 year old summer camp counselor, well deserving of a raise at my local YMCA. As I sat in the dusty, once-navy blue chair, now a faded light color from years of sun damage and distress, I recall the discomfort I felt skirting around asking for more money. Between my various windings of the quintessential "I think"s and "you know what I mean"'s, I'd failed to verbalize exactly what it was I wanted.
Somewhere around the fourth time I avoided asking for $13/hour, my boss put one finger in the air. "If you want something, and you're deserving of it, you have to ask for it." He was right. Far too often I'd found myself beating around the proverbial bush, fearing rejection yet still haunted by dissatisfaction in retrospect. Following that conversation, I'd successfully uttered the words "I'd like a raise" for the first time. In the weeks after, I got what I wanted, but more importantly was promoted to a higher position.
Now, a bit more than half a decade later, I write this article as the co-founder of Odessa Rae, a repurposed vintage clothing line and purveyor of one of a kind, wearable art. As a child, I'd found myself constantly meddling in the crafts. On one occasion, I wore a vial of purple glitter around my neck, inspired by Angelina Jolie's blood locket circa the early 2000s. Creating a hybrid of clothing like my customized vintage denim jacket seemed to be a natural step, a cross between urban wear and one of a kind craft. Armed with a partner, an eBay account, and the skills of a young thrift gawd, Odessa Rae was born. Our beginnings were very organic. We brainstormed, sought out to create a prototype, (accidentally) ordered a vintage denim jacket off eBay, then put it all together. With only a few jackets on our belt, we made an Instagram, which has been unbelievably helpful in reaching the #youths. We sold our first jacket through a sketchy gmail account. In the days to come, we set up an actual website and plotted out our marketing efforts. Everything from the hand drawn thank you cards to the graphics used in our promo have very much been built by us from the ground up.
And yet with all the positivity and great feedback we've received, I'd be lying through my teeth if I said there weren't issues we have to learn and deal with every single day. Because really, who the fuck knows how to use a sewing machine anymore? Why is the perfect, small size vintage denim jacket so hard to find in New York City? Don't even get me started on shipping. Still, as the mile long list of concerns I fret over at 3AM when I can't sleep grows by the minute, I encourage every last one of you to take a risk on something. Whether you're asking for a raise at your first job or taking the plunge and starting a small business of your own, I urge you to remember what my boss told me many years ago: if you want it, ask for it - you'll never learn to fly, unless you're willing to fall.
Want to check out Odessa Rae's jackets? Click here to learn more about them and see their products!