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Name: Silvia Scandar Mahan

Business: Vividly, a service that allows artists to create custom clothing lines from their work

Industry: Clothing & AccessoriesE-Commerce

Location: Miami, Florida, U.S.

Reason for starting: I’m a lawyer by training, and was working at a large corporate law firm when I realized that my most creative abilities were slowly slipping away. I wanted to develop a way for everyday people to be creative without quitting their day jobs. After taking a sewing class, I started to realize the immense potential for creativity and self-expression in the clothing space. My sister and I founded Vividly to help artists share their work, and help shoppers find greater meaning in what they wear.

Our audacious goal is to change the way that people think about what they wear. Clothing communicates a message about the wearer, and we think that message should come from you, not from a runway or big label. Another big goal is to give artists support and a new creative outlet. Practically, that means getting Vividly products into stores, building our online community (our artists are from around the world–Spain, Germany, Bulgaria, et al), & spreading the message as far and wide as possible.

Related: Read about another e-commerce entrepreneur selling ethical products here. 

How do you define success? Success for us will be building an ethical clothing brand that supports artists and provides an excellent experience to consumers. We don’t need to be the biggest brand in the world, we just need to be proud of our product and provide meaning to a community of people who care about art, quality, and story-telling.

Biggest Success: We ran a successful Kickstarter campaign for the parent company of Vividly, and that allowed us to move forward with the Vividly concept. But maybe our greatest success has been building a community of enthusiastic artists, who are active on the Vividly website and passionate about our products.

What is your top challenge and how have you addressed it? Financing, hiring, marketing, testing–all of these have been challenging. Probably the biggest challenge is also one of the most fun parts of the job: setting my own agenda. With such a young company there are 100s of directions we could go in, but we have to choose just one! I tackle this challenge by using analytics whenever possible to answer tough questions about what’s working and what’s not. Sometimes I have to sacrifice features that I love, but it ultimately makes my company stronger.

Related: How Starting Without All of the Answers is a Smart Move

Who is your most important role model? My dad. An immigrant at the age of 33, he started over in a country where he didn’t speak the language. Arriving with nothing, and built a successful company, and a beautiful life for my sister and me. He always told us we could do anything we put our minds to, and had infinite faith in us, right up to his last breath. When I feel overwhelmed, I think of the long hours he put in and the ever-present smile on his face. We launched Vividly one week after he passed, and I know he would be proud.

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Edited by The Story Exchange