Today’s Notable Young Entrepreneur is lingerie designer Mary Young, who’s turned her childhood passion and dream into a reality by identifying a gap in the fashion market for womenswear that encouraged women to be comfortable in their own skin…
Elevator Pitch: Describe your job in a nutshell.
I’m the designer and CEO of my self-titled clothing line, MARY YOUNG, that focuses on women’s lifestyle lingerie and loungewear. I oversee and manage everything from the designing, sample making, and production to social media marketing, ecommerce, sales, and administration and finance.
Why did you start working at your company? What was the inspiration for this career route?
I started my own company right after finishing my Bachelors Degree in Fashion Design, which realistically wasn’t the plan. I knew being an entrepreneur and owning my own company was in my future, I just didn’t know when it would become a reality. After studying fashion I knew there was a gap in the market for womenswear that encouraged women to be comfortable in their own skin. The industry is often focused on conforming women into what is considered to be ‘sexy’, especially when it comes to lingerie.
One of my main motivations was to offer clothing that is all about allowing women to accept and love themselves for who they are and their natural shape. I believe our lingerie and loungewear line really supports that goal. After all, when a woman is comfortable and confident, she is undeniably sexy.
What is the best part of what you do on a day-to-day basis? The most challenging part?
The best part is being so hands on. Whether it’s creating social media content, working on new samples or following up with production, I get to be involved in every area of the company. The most challenging part is juggling all these different areas and dedicating the right amount of time to each. As an entrepreneur, the to-do list is truly never-ending, so accepting that can be challenging at times.
What is one sign that you’ve seen over the years to suggest that your work/life balance is off?
As a young entrepreneur there really is no balance, especially within the first few years. Even when I’m not actively working, I’m mentally cultivating new ideas and thinking about deadlines. I find inspiration in many different ways, especially when I’m out with friends or exploring the city. It’s nearly impossible to turn off my work mindset. I aim to take time to enjoy and celebrate accomplishments, which is a big part of the balance.
Where do you see yourself in five years?
In five years, I will still be designing for my namesake line and will have hopefully expanded by adding another collection. I also see myself dedicating time to invest in other young entrepreneurs, providing them with encouragement, support and resources to go after their dreams.
What is one major challenge that you’ve had to overcome in your career? How did you overcome it?
One major challenge would be finding the right resources such as fabrics, trims and production. These resources are few and far between in Canada, especially when it comes to production of such a niche garment like lingerie. I’m a big advocate for investing into the Canadian economy and want to work with as many Canadian companies as possible. I’ve really expanded my network, boldly made new connections, and spend a lot of time researching companies I want work with. There are always new challenges that present themselves and no matter what you do right, there are always obstacles to overcome. In my experience, the best way to overcome them is to keep pushing forward and believing in the work you’re doing.
What does success look like to you? Does Money = Happiness?
Success to me is accomplishing your goals, no matter how big or small they are. Money doesn’t equal happiness, but it does equal freedom, which can lead to happiness. Happiness is a mindset; it’s appreciating the journey and not focusing on the end goal. When you’re fulfilling your dreams and accomplishing what you’ve set out to do, you truly can be happy.
What is the most memorable milestone in your career?
The most memorable milestone in my career was being included in a feature on Refinery29 for new lingerie brands to know. Being such a young, small company and having this media coverage at such an early stage still takes my breath away.
Do you have any advice for other young professionals?
I was given a great piece of advice early on that really encourages me to keep going: “If it was easy, then everyone would be doing it.” That advice is so true! It’s not easy but the challenge is what makes this journey so exhilarating. Another thing to remember is there never will be a perfect time to take a chance and go out on your own; it’s about taking calculated risks, closing your eyes and just going for it. Once you take that leap you won’t regret it.
Where is your favourite place to wine/ dine in your city and why?
My favourite place would have to be Rasa on Harbord. It’s such an intimate dinning experience with a great atmosphere and amazing staff. I always feel cozy and at home there. Not to mention, the food is amazing!
When you’re not working how do you love to spend your “Me” time?
My “me time” often consists of working out at Nike Training Club live classes, going for runs, and getting lost in a great novel. I’m not great at being still, so I always need to be doing something either mentally or physically.
Where is your favourite place to travel? Why?
My favourite places to travel are New York and Vancouver. New York is so expansive and energetic; my creative juices are always flowing there. Vancouver is so rejuvenating with its amazing seafood, fresh air and beautiful landscapes. It never fails to inspire me.
If you had to choose a theme song, what would it be?
It would have to be Flawless by Beyoncé. The quote by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie is everything to me:
“We teach our girls to shrink themselves, to make themselves smaller. We say to girls “you can have ambition but not too much, you should aim to be successful but not too successful otherwise you will threaten the man.” Because I am female I am expected to aspire to marriage I am expected to make my life choices always keeping in mind that marriage is the most important. Now marriage can be a source of joy and love and mutual support but why do we teach girls to aspire to marriage and we don’t teach boys the same? We raise girls to see each other as competitors, not for jobs or for accomplishments which I think can be a good thing, but for the attention of men. We teach girls that they cannot be sexual beings in the way that boys are. Feminist: the person who believes in the social, political and economic quality of the sexes.”
If you weren’t doing what you’re doing, what would you be doing?
In all honesty, all I’ve ever planned or known to do is what I’m doing right now. My friends and family can vouch for that. Starting at a young age, I thrived in creative areas and knew I wanted to be an entrepreneur. Knowing I’m fulfilling and living out my childhood dream doesn’t feel real. Most days I pinch myself to make sure this really is my life!
Do you support any charities? If so, which one(s) and why is that important to you?
I’m a huge advocate of supporting charities and organizations. I give to Plan Canada, Because I Am a Girl, Amnesty International, Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation, and an El Salvador-based organization called King’s Castle along with other one-time donations throughout the year. I truly believe I’m blessed to live in such an amazing country and to be able to do what I want with my life that it’s so important to give back locally and abroad.
What to you is notable?
To me, being notable is being ambitious, driven and creating a positive ripple effect. We all have the ability to affect those around us. Doing so in a positive, encouraging way while pursuing your dreams is truly notable.
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