Designer Elizabeth Pape, or simply “Liz” as she likes to be called, has built Elizabeth Suzann, one of the nation’s leading sustainable women’s apparel brands, from scratch. Entering the design world as a complete novice and starting on Etsy, she has worked tirelessly to teach herself every single aspect of her business and to learn it well. And when you are in charge of everything from hand sewing and grading patterns, to production logistics and shoot coordinating, it’s natural that you’d want anyone you bring into the operation to be as dedicated to your business as you are.
In her Instagram stories during the most recent ES Market, Liz shared a moving testament to the internal struggles that an entrepreneur faces in their development. The Market, which began as a simple sample sale, has flourished into a real place to be- with DIY stations, food trucks, studio tours and, of course, discounted samples. Liz spoke about how proud she was of the growth of the event, and I’ll share, in her own words, her emotional transparency about the growing pains she shared in true Elizabeth Suzann fashion.
Small businesses are deeply personal endeavors and for as much as we tout collaboration over competition and women supporting women, it can be hard to do in practice. The inclination toward jealousy or insecurity is innate in each of us, especially in the case when we see someone else as succeeding in our chosen fields where we feel that we are still finding our footing.
Our aim, then shouldn’t be to not have these feelings of comparison, because to aspire to that would be to aspire to be inhuman. Our aim should be to act as Liz has and challenge the inclinations toward jealousy and to move through them.
My goal in writing about creative work is to add a nuanced look at the processes we all go through when finding (and creating) our own way in the world. I’ve found that far too many profiles of small women owned business focus on their airy, light-filled minimal work spaces, what inspires them (“nature, museums and really anything around me”) and their immaculately scheduled daily routines (up at 6:30, work before the kids get up, photoshoot to get that morning light, schedule six blog posts for the week, two lunch meetings, late afternoon work out and prepare dinner for the family then back to working for a few hours before bed at ten).
Liz’s vulnerability is exactly what I think the creative business discussions need more of, and I’m very pleased that she has allowed me share it with y’all.
What hurdles have you had to do a lot of self-reflection to overcome in your creative business as a brand owner or freelancer?