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Season 2, Episode 4
Successful and Unknown with Avi Loren Fox

Avi Loren Fox (she/her) is a versatile entrepreneur whose journey began in 2011 with the launch of Avi Fox Photography, renowned for its candid and vibrant editorial style, serving clients in the Greater Philadelphia Area. In 2014, Avi’s commitment to sustainability led her to establish Wild Mantle, a socially responsible fashion label specializing in bespoke hooded scarves and ponchos. Wild Mantle’s global recognition through features in INC.com, LA Times, MSNBC, and CNN highlighted its dedication to sustainability, empowerment, and adventure, garnering a devoted international customer base. 

Transitioning to a business consultant in 2018, Avi drew on her entrepreneurial experience to assist other business owners and non-profit leaders in their ventures. With a keen mind equally creative and strategic, she has excelled in addressing both communication and operational challenges for her clients. After transitioning to full-time consulting and closing Wild Mantle, Avi is now actively pursuing her interests in energy healing, Avi completed her Reiki II training and is currently working towards her Reiki Master certification, recognizing the significance of energetic alignment in entrepreneurship. Avi is also a TEDx speaker, Udall Scholar, and Starting Bloc Social Innovations Fellow.

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Discussed in this episode:

  • Avi’s relationship with feminism
  • Being multi-passionate and how it contributed to Avi’s quarter-life crisis
  • The importance of quiet in Avi’s healing and creativity
  • How a handmade hooded scarf turned into a business
  • The effect of social media changes on Avi’s business
  • Avi’s “Me Too” experiences in the fashion industry
  • How the rocky end of Avi’s business affected her creativity
  • The dangerous dopamine hit of social media
  • Releasing shoulds and walking away from a successful business
  • Not letting Imposter Syndrome hold you back
  • Building a business inch by inch vs. striving for rapid, meteoric growth
  • Celebrating a “big enough” business and life
  • Redefining success as someone who is “multi-passionate”

Resources mentioned:

A full transcript of this interview is available at FeministFoundersPodcast.com

Becky Mollenkamp:

Hello, Avi. Thank you for doing this today. I’m so excited to chat with you.

 

Avi Loren Fox:

Thank you for having me. I’m so excited to be here.

 

Becky Mollenkamp:

And we’re going to start again, as always, by having you tell me a little bit about your relationship with feminism.

 

I think my relationship with feminism is one where I’m still very much learning, right? You know, I’ve had experiences in the world where I’ve been at a disadvantage or an advantage because of being a woman. And it’s just kind of like looking at all of those situations and understanding what equality would look like in those and then trying to work towards building that world and doing my part towards that. So I’m still a student. I can’t say that I have a fixed definition. And I appreciate your leadership in, you know, being a thought leader in that space and sharing where you’re at, because that’s also educational to a lot of people.

 

Becky Mollenkamp:

I will always be on this journey. And believe me, my own imposter syndrome comes up around who am I to host a podcast called Feminist Founders when I’m still figuring out all of this. So totally okay. And I appreciate your honesty. And I appreciate you joining me to talk about your business evolution because it’s been an evolution for you over the years. But the place I think I want to start is with what you called your ‘quarter-life crisis.’ And I want to start there because I think so many people can relate to that moment for a lot of people in their mid-, late-20s, where they’re kind of post-college, into their career a bit and have that awakening of like, what the fuck do I actually wanna do with my life? And is this it? I think often that’s the sort of place, it’s like, is this it? Is this really what I want? And you did a TEDx talk in 2015, and you said that you had followed the rules and you went to a good college, and yet there you were in your mid-20s finding yourself crying your eyes out at your parents’ house because you didn’t really know what you wanted to do with your life and feeling a little maybe directionless or that you had so many things you were interested in. How do you find your way through that? And even since that time, things have changed radically for you because at that time you were going down the avenue we’re gonna talk about a lot today around your clothing company, but you had already been, if I’m not mistaken, a photographer, the leader of an environmental organization, a home organizer, a personal chef, a dance and pilates instructor, a green building project manager, and you were just launching a clothing line at that time. That’s a lot of stuff by mid-20s. And so I’m wondering if you can just share, because I think there are so many people who are multi-passionate, and we live in a world that tells us we’re supposed to pick one thing, and people start asking you what that one thing is by the time you’re in high school, if not before, and you’re supposed to pick that thing and then do that thing for the rest of your life and be happy about it. So walk us through a little bit of your quarter-life crisis and what that felt like and how you began to navigate it. And then we’ll pick up with Wild Mantle, your clothing line in a minute.

 

Avi Loren Fox:

I mean, that was almost a decade ago at this point. Like you said, I was in my mid-20s, now I just actually turned 37 a few days ago. And I really did have this idea that you go to college, you pick a career, if you pick right, it clicks in, and then you’re just set, you know? I had grandparents who had very set paths in life. And I think that’s really changing. I think I’m now looking back that like my exploration and being multi-passionate and having different interests and kind of getting to try them all out and not limit myself to one thing is becoming more common. And I think that my experience was that things didn’t really click in after trying a bunch of different things. And I sort of took some time. I was part of the boomerang generation where I went back to my parents’ house and was like, what do I want to do with my life? And out of that came a desire to do something that was connected to sustainability. I was interested in business, but I wanted to do it in a way where it kind of moved the dial and did business in a different way. I also wanted to, I was learning about women’s empowerment at the time and what that was and this idea of having agency over your life and learning more about the landscape of how disadvantaged women were, not only in other cultures but even here in America, just the inequality that still existed, and I felt very strongly about being self-employed and doing my own thing, particularly so that I could kind of have the reins of my life and my career. Now that is a double-edged sword too, because then you have to create income for yourself and figure out how to make all of that work. But yeah, so I had a moment where I moved home to my parents’ house and I took some time off and was fortunate to be able to do that. I still kept the photography going in the background and out of that came a little fashion business that I started called Wild Mantle and we made these cozy, hooded scarves out of sweaters. I did a Kickstarter for it. I think raised like $40,000, and then started to get like some small retail accounts. And I really built the brand around sustainability, empowerment, and adventure, which was sort of like the type of life I wanted to lead at that time. I was really fortunate to have it kick in with some traction of people responding to it online and becoming customers and stuff. And that was really cool.

 

Becky Mollenkamp:

Before we go into that though, what was that time at your parents house like? And I asked this as somebody 30s done the same thing, although I was a little older at the time when I did it. I did it in my thirties after my brother died and I had done the same thing. Your story resonated because I lived the ‘good girl’ life. I went to the good school, and I got the good grades, and I got the good job, and I married a good guy, and built a good house and filled it with good stuff. And I was doing everything quote unquote, right, and I was not happy. I felt rudderless and uninspired. And like that same thing of like, is this it? Is this what I’m supposed, is this all there is then? And I moved back home and I know for me that it was almost a year of self-exploration that was really transformative. How did you spend that time? And again, I love that you acknowledge and we both need to acknowledge, there’s a lot of privilege in being able to take that kind of time to do that. Not everyone has that, but what a gift. And how did you spend that gift of time and how to help you get to a place of saying, here’s what’s next.

 

Avi Loren Fox:

That’s a great question. I think I was like internally freaking out the whole time, but really tried to create some quiet space. My mom has this quote that she says, I think it might be hers, but I’m not sure exactly. And it’s only in the silence of myself can I know what is right for me. And so I really focused on just kind of creating open space. And now, you know, 10 years later, I kind of know that my creativity only comes out when there’s empty space. Like I need to go on vacation or travel or like go on a trip where I’m not working, but it’s secretly work time, but it’s creative work time where I have no agenda. And it’s really hard to call that work, but it is. And I think that was sort of my first exploration with that where like, when you create an empty room, when you create empty space, like, you know, so I think I sort of sunk into the uncertainty of it and the discomfort of it. And I tried to engage with my life as much as I could and feel the way I wanted to feel and then kind of felt my way towards that. You know, just kind of psych myself out of my head. Well, if everything was working out, like, what would that look like? What would that be? And how would that feel? So, yeah.

 

Becky Mollenkamp:

I love the idea of the silence and the creativity. And that you said it’s not work, but it is. We live in a world that does not value those things, right? Capitalism doesn’t value quiet and space and creativity because it’s not quote unquote productivity. It’s not getting stuff done. It’s not making widgets, right? There’s no value placed behind it. But anyone who’s a creative knows that you can’t just do creativity on demand and say, I have creativity, I will turn on the creativity from 9 to 5 and then turn it off, right? You have to, it has to come to you. It finds you. The muse is there when it’s ready and you’re open to receive it. And I wanna talk a lot more about that because I know part of where you’re at now has a lot to do with that need for creativity and how you hadn’t always been able to find it. And your next step after that journey of giving yourself that space was happenstance really, because like you said, you started making these things, these mantles, these scarves, or hoodies, hooded scarves, I guess they are. And you just made one for yourself from thrift-store stuff. And people started asking about them, as often happens with a lot of great ideas where it’s not even something you were by design trying to make a lot of money off of or something, and found your way into that. I’m not sure, I wonder because you’ve since left that, and we’re gonna talk about that too. But when you were doing that time alone and having that quiet, was part of the vision that you had running a company like that, or was it sort of it just happened and it was feeling good because of your concern around sustainability? Like what took you to say, I’m gonna do this thing, this is the right next step.

 

Avi Loren Fox:

I was actively looking for clues and feedback in my life. I had just done something called the empowerment workshop with an entrepreneur called Josie Maran. She has a cosmetics line. And that was something that she was sort of, I noticed that, you know, like kind of like paying attention to the feedback in life in addition to not be like I want it to be this way, but what kind of kicks in? Like, what is there energy for? What do people want? What do people love? What do I love? And so, you know, I actually, the timing of it was that I had seen these hooded scarves in the world like three times, you know, once was in college, someone had one and I was like, can I buy one? Where’d you get that? And they’re like, oh, my aunt made it, I don’t know. And then I saw another one, a musician at a concert I was at was wearing one. And again, it was like handmade from someone that wasn’t traceable. And so I made one for myself and it was through wearing it out, my magical hood where I was like, this is so cozy, it just felt good to wear. It felt like very cozy and safe, but it also was like this sort of dramatic garment that made me feel very sort of powerful and excited to go out on adventure. So it was sort of this symbolic magical hood that I had and I almost re-thrifted it I wore it a ton. And then I was like, well, I’m going to wear it one more time. And then that was like the night that I ended up wearing it out where like I walked into the local pub and everyone was like, what’s that? Where’d you get it? And that’s when I started paying attention because I walked out of there with, you know, a few emails from people who wanted to buy one. I was like, huh, I wonder what this is. And then I just started wearing it more and paying attention and yeah, so that’s kind of how that’s how that started. So it was feedback as much as like intentionality. And then I wasn’t like, oh, I wanna have a fashion brand. I knew that I wanted to work for myself. I knew I wanted to do something values-driven. Um, and so I kind of put those two together. I think I thought a lot more about, and I actually would do this more when I would close the business, but about what I wanted my work life to look like in addition to what I want it to do in the world. Like, I think that’s as equally important a question.

 

Becky Mollenkamp:

The values piece was important because you really cared about sustainability and you were building that as like a socially responsible fashion label. Before we get into the end of it, though, I want to hear about the rise of it and the excitement of that, because like you said, you raised almost $40,000 on Kickstarter to get it going. And then at its peak, you got to this place of getting global media attention and you had customers all over the world. What was that part before the decline started to happen, what was that part like? Did you enjoy it or were you sort of going through the motions? Did you get caught up in it and the excitement of it? Was it fun then or was it always sort of, was there something that kind of told you all along this isn’t quite right?

 

Avi Loren Fox:

No, I mean, I was getting a huge education, right? It was like Entrepreneurship 101. And in a different way than I did having a photography business, which is a very specific local niche thing. So I think the rise of it was very exciting and it was also very much tied up in the rise of social media. And this journey with Wild Mantle and leveraging social media and the internet to share it with people was a huge education. And the timing of it was very interesting because the algorithms came out in I think 2016, and that was when I was doing my second Kickstarter, and I had a different experience in that one than the first one. And I was able to kind of understand when social media launched, it was basically a community board where you posted something like here and then someone else posted something, it replaced it on the top and it pushed it down like this. And that was kind of what we were sold with social media was that it’s this place of equality where everyone can post and share and you’re connected with everyone equally, and it’s free and there were no ads. And then, you know, they’re companies, they need to make money. I totally get it. But for me, what I saw over time was a bait-and-switch where then there were advertisements released. And then based on whether you paid or how popular things were, it changed the whole way that operated. So my second Kickstarter, well, to back up a little bit. So the first Kickstarter was really exciting because I experienced this traction of people just sharing it and suddenly someone was backing the Kickstarter who was a friend of a friend or saw it online. And it kind of spread like that a little bit. And I also was really fortunate to have a celebrity or two wear it, and kind of saw how that was, you know, spread. And I tweeted at a reporter in Philadelphia and ended up on the cover of Philly Weekly, which was on the little newspaper stands all over the city. So there were a few things that were very fortuitous that kind of happened that helped it to be known. And that was through really being out there and putting myself out there and actively engaging like that. And so that was really fun. And then in 2016, I did another Kickstarter. And when I launched that one, I sort of employed all of the same tactics. And I had people texting me a weekend being like hey, have you launched it yet? Like I wanna back the campaign, but I haven’t seen it. And I was like, what do you mean you haven’t seen it? I’ve been posting a lot. And I quickly checked in with a few fellow entrepreneurs, and they’re like, oh my gosh, the algorithms, it’s this new thing. And I had to completely switch tactics in the middle and pivot and do a lot more manual networking offline to help make the campaign successful, which it was in the end, but it was a really big, that was sort of a peak where then I was like, oh, this is a different landscape. And what happened is everyone started having to, it wasn’t about doing something cool and sharing it and letting the traction kick in. It was about beating the algorithm and the job became to be known, not to have that be an inevitable outcome of staying in alignment with the creative task, if that makes sense.

 

Becky Mollenkamp:

Does it ever, and does it ever resonate probably with so many people who are going to listen to this to say, oh, like, I feel that I feel that thing of putting something out and feeling like you’re talking about ad nauseum and then people still not hearing about it and all of the noises out there that you’re competing with and then doing all the things that you’re told you’re supposed to do and it doesn’t work and there’s just no way to understand why other than exactly what you’re saying. It’s like how often do we have to hear talk about the algorithm, the algorithm, and trying to figure out how to, you know, game the system so that you can get found. And then it feeling like the only people who get found are the people who are, who were already found before the algorithm stuff kicked in, or who happened to have, you know, they’re famous in some other way and are bringing all of that to those platforms. And it’s really frustrating for a lot of people. And I know for you, that really changed your relationship with your company and how you were feeling about it. You said that you felt like again, that you learned that success was directly correlated with being known and that it started to disconnect you from, these are your words, ‘it disconnected me from the intrinsic value of my self-worth.’ And boy, who can feel that? Like everything gets so tied to the external. You start to lose sight of the fact that you are just a worthy human, regardless of how many likes, or shares, or Kickstarter donations or whatever it is that you get, right, or Kickstarter promises that you get. There’s a couple other things you mentioned, but I really want to focus on that one first, that disconnection from your worth. What was that experience like for you? What did you notice?

 

Avi Loren Fox:

It just all started to feel bad. I’m a very feelings-oriented person. And it just like, I think it transformed it from feeling like this community shared kind of like organic thing to more almost like a multi-level marketing company or like you had to win the lottery. I was trying to win the lottery, but that was somehow associated by well, you know, could I pull a stunt that was enough to beat the algorithm rather than just staying. And I think the pressure of it is really high because again, to me, the bait-and-switch of it all, where it worked a certain way, and then the game kind of changed. And there are a lot of people who pivoted to paid ads and had that work, right? It’s like, it’s pay to play or it was win the lottery. Those were kind of the two things that I saw happening. I did explore with paid ads, and that wasn’t something I found success in. I think because of the nature of what I was doing. And also in terms of winning the lottery, it felt like this kind of like you were trying to be the lucky one. And it felt really bad. So I did give that up. I was very determined and I was like, I tried all these things and eventually it kind of, I think I learned a lot about myself too in that process. That I had a few thoughts like, you know, and it was in fashion. So there was sort of this other perfect storm where people would be like, go sell at Barneys and then Barneys would be closing. I forget if it was Barneys that closed, but that kind of weird contrast of the whole industry was shifting and a lot of fashion companies were closing and things were moving online and at a different, you know. At first I would get purchase orders, which is they give you a purchase order, you get money to produce it because the bank says, oh, you have a purchase order, so we’ll give you the money. And then you produce it, but you have to produce like, you know, $30,000 of merchandise and then they buy it from you after. And it was switching to a drop-ship model where you had to finance it and produce it. And then things would sell one at a time. So there were a lot of other things that I was like, kind of just looking at the fashion industry and being like, I don’t, this isn’t actually. If I actually considered what I thought was a smart industry to be in as a business person, it wasn’t fashion. I was working with some, I considering taking on investors. I spent a few years on a dedicated path towards that, working with different individuals. I did have some offers, some wheren’t right. You know, so that was a whole other story and trajectory. And I found that really challenging to navigate to as a woman, having a lot of like almost Me Too moments. You know, like someone being like, you gotta meet this guy, you know, like he backs like fashion designers. He’s got like a, you know, a place in Italy where he has fashion shows. And then I go and have dinner with him. He’s like, I would love to, you know back your line, I know this big celebrity, they’re on my phone, look right here, we’ll do all this, and all you have to do is sleep with me. So there was kind of a lot of things like that where it became very confusing to me, not knowing what was sort of a real opportunity and what was going to lead in that direction.

 

Becky Mollenkamp:

Those aren’t almost Me Too moments. Those are Me Too moments. Yeah, that’s awful. And I don’t mean to laugh and make light of them, just to say that is so horrible that happened to you and that you’re not an exception, I am sure, right? That is happening and probably still happening. And of course that will begin to affect how you feel about your worth in all of it, right? Especially when on top of you’ve got the social media stuff happening where you start to feel like I have to be this thing that is desirable enough for people to wanna click and follow and all of that in order to buy. And then when you have the business folks inside of the industry making you feel like your worth is also somehow related to your body, that is gonna be really challenging. And I also, the other piece you said, the second thing that whole experience did for you was disconnect you from your desire to be creative just for the sake of being creative. I would guess you entered this making something, it’s a handcraft, you made the thing. It felt deeply personal to you, and special to you, and people responded to it and loved your work. That is a creative venture. It’s probably one of the big things that drew you into this industry. Not so much a love of fashion, but like a love of the creative aspect. So how did your creativity get affected during that time?

 

Avi Loren Fox:

Yes, when I first did it, it was very much this sort of creative outburst, you know, and that felt really good. And then over time, the focus shifted to, you know, I was also needed a job and to make money. And so it became more about the business of it. And I think that inherently can disconnect you from your creativity because you’re not making choices from here’s this free open space where I’m going to show up and I’m just going to do what feels good and follow that and see what comes up. It’s like, well, you know, how would this fit? How would this be merchandised on a shelf? And I think a lot of the feedback that I got or advice that I got, which wasn’t wrong, right? This is really good advice, to expand your line items. So like you don’t just have this one product, but let’s sell scarves and let’s sell hats and let’s sell ear warmers. If we’re gonna be a winter accessory line, let’s do that or let’s have a summer one. And I think the problem with that was that my heart was not in that. I had this thing that I was obsessed with that I loved and I wanted it. But once people had one, I was like, that’s great. You have it, it’s in your closet, and hopefully it’ll last a while because we tried to make it really well for you. So I think that I wasn’t very much into the iteration of fashion. I had a fashion thing that I liked. I loved the brand, right? And I think when I think about the Wild Mantle brand, even though I closed the business, that’s still something that’s an open, open file in my mind of what would this look like in a different industry? As a brand, you know? But what I learned from that about creativity is, I think the greatest gift that our creative idols give us is not the example of their work but the example of their relationship with their creativity, right? I’m a huge Taylor Swift fan and everyone’s like, do you wanna meet her? Do you wanna meet her? I’m like what I appreciate about her so much is that she has maintained a relationship with her creativity that has withstood all of the noise around her and she found a craft that she likes enough to iterate on it over and over again in a way that works for her and kind of hold the line, right? And so I think that’s more what I aspire to. And you know, fashion was not an area that I had iterations in. That was not, it wasn’t like I was a creative person in fashion, right? So I think that was like a big lesson that I learned about creativity through that experience. 

 

Becky MollenkampL

I just want to hit on the third thing that you said that time of your life that experience with Wild Mantle did, which was encouraging you to do things that you thought would please other people. And I think people are definitely gonna be able to relate to that. When we think about social media and just all the ways that we’re encouraged to market, and how much of that can feel like, you can hear in your head going like, is this gonna be the thing that people will like? And when we’re like literally asking people to like something, right? It makes sense that we’re thinking, what are they gonna like? What will they want? And it’s easy to, inside of that, to begin to lose sight of what you want. What do I want it to look like? And it sounds like that happened a bit for you that somewhere in that process of getting kind of on this wild ride that you were on, that you kind of started to lose a little bit of what do I want here and it got very much about that external. What do they want?

 

Avi Loren Fox:

I think that social media is intrinsically, like you’re saying, a place that is built to bring out people-pleasing tendencies,. It’s a dopamine fix if you get a like. And when you connect that with business too, it creates this game essentially. And so I sort of saw myself playing that. And at first I was very like, okay, I can play this game. Let’s go, let’s do this, you know? And over time I just learned that I didn’t like how it felt. And I also, you know, there were other things happening in my life too, where, I just started to have these observations. I have a very private family, you know, and they’re not on social media. My parents aren’t on social media. I had you know, like, some young ones being born in the family, not my own children. But they weren’t allowed on social media. And the things that I cared about the most, the most special moments were not recorded and I sort of developed this, started to realize that things that were not known were actually more satisfying and things that were known became loaded, like being out there. And I just want to say for a second though, I think there’s nothing wrong with being known. Like if you’re an influencer and you love that, that’s great. I have things that I want to do in my life still that would require me to pursue a path like that again, that I might do or I might not. But I think the problem is that it’s become so, being successful and being known have become so intertwined, first through Hollywood culture and then through social media, and that’s kind of what I’ve been trying to separate the last five years and what I sort of intentionally set out to do when I ended up closing the business.

 

Becky Mollenkamp:

Let’s talk about that piece. That’s perfect. What a wonderful segue into closing the business. Because you walked away, ultimately, from something that a lot of people would say, that’s the thing I’m trying to create, right? I want to get to that place where I’m getting the media attention, and I’m starting to get these sales, or getting into retailers, or whatever it looks like. That’s not an easy decision to make, to walk away from that. And I can’t imagine, especially at a younger age, because were you, I didn’t even know or 30 yet, or maybe you’re just into your early 30s, it sounds like. That’s a hard thing to do. What gave you the audacity? And that’s one of my favorite words on this podcast. I love talking to audacious people willing to do audacious things. And I think for a lot of people that would sound audacious. Who are you to walk away from something that other people might say is, you know, feeling successful? What gave you the wherewithal to do that?

 

Avi Loren Fox:

I think I hit kind of a wall where it felt like I think there’s, I was really into being persistent. I thought that determination won the day and you just had to keep going. And I think that that’s really true. There are a lot of things that I’ve been determined about past a point that was comfortable that have paid off. And then there are also lessons that I’ve had where it’s like, you know, actually the lesson of growth is to know when to walk away and to know that something doesn’t feel right and that’s okay. And I think that it got to a point where the brand was, I had established this little brand, we’d gotten a lot of social media attention, also media attention. I was going to New York for interviews and things like that. But I started to feel creatively not, I started to feel creatively boxed in and I also started to learn, I had a huge education by that point in terms of how the fashion business worked. And there were a lot of things that I just didn’t like about it. And I didn’t, I sort of realized that I didn’t want to tie my livelihood, my ability to pay myself and feed myself and, you know, have a roof over my head, with this game of being something that people desired to be like. So that buy this thing. Cause the fashion industry is like, you wanna look like this, buy this thing, like look like this and you’ll feel this way, right? I just wanted to feel that way. And so that sort of, in conjunction with, a lot of things that were going on behind the scenes, either working out or not working out, made me decide that it was kind of, it felt like the lesson was to walk away and to close it, which I did. Took me a few years. I actually decided to close it in 2018, and this was actually a really smart choice in hindsight. I didn’t announce that. What I did is I started to shift my focus, and that’s where I sort of discovered the concept of successful and unknown because by then I had developed a community in Philly of other entrepreneurs that I was friends with and I was talking to one of them and they were like, wait, you’re thinking of not doing this? Would you come consult on my team for my company that’s growing and I need someone who’s a fractional COO with me or whatever, just to come in and problem solve. Because when you’re an entrepreneur, you learn, you just learn so much. You have to be the person that has an answer to everything. And so I started to do that. And then one client turned into two, which turned into three. And then I had this foundation of a thriving business consulting gig thing happening that nobody knew I did. I did not have a website. It was like therapy. I was not saying I was doing it on the internet. And then, and in conjunction with the photography that I had kind of been doing all along, I directed that more towards commercial. And so between 2018 and last year, I really grew this quiet consulting little team. I have a project manager I work with now. And actually I’m about to bring on another one. And I launched a website a year ago, but before that, no one knew about it. People, I still run into people, they’re like, how’s your clothing business? And so I got to experience a type of work that felt way better than when I was doing something that looked successful to the world, but it wasn’t resonating with me in terms of the experience of being in it. And that was a really big lesson. And that’s when I started to, in the middle of conversations with friends talking about things, and they’re like, we’re talking about social media and everything. And I’m like, man, I really just want to be successful and unknown. They’re like, yes, what’s that?

 

Becky Mollenkamp:

And I want to talk a whole lot more about that in a second. What you just said made me think of my own first marriage, where it’s something that looks great to the world, but doesn’t feel good for you inside of it. And I fully relate to it there. And also I relate to it in various parts of my career, where it’s like, you know, when I was doing the thing I was said I was going to do and should do when I was in journalism and working my way up, certainly it looked really great to everyone else. And people would be like, wow, that’s what you do? And all I could think is like, yeah and I don’t really love it, but there’s a part of you that feels like you can’t even say that because everyone else thinks it’s so great. And then you start thinking, it creates this, what’s wrong with me that I can’t be as impressed and satisfied by my career as other people seem to be. That’s a really hard place to be. And you found your way into this consulting, accidentally, again, which sounds like a lot of the moves you make, right? It’s kind of like, well things just kind of fall into place and there’s nothing wrong with that. And we can talk more about that too. But one thing I saw that you said that I thought was really interesting was that you thought you had to have a business that did millions of dollars in sales to be a good business person and to be of value to anyone. And that can go back to some of that self-worth stuff we talked about, but also just as, you know, when people were asking you to consult, you had this feeling of like, who am I to do that? If I don’t have this million dollar business in front of me or that I’m working on, who am I to help other people? And I think so many people can relate to that fraud feeling that quote unquote imposter syndrome sort of feeling. How did you navigate that in the beginning? I’m guessing you’re on different place with that now, but how did you manage those feelings?

 

Avi Loren Fox:

Yeah, well, it took working with someone who did have like a business that was doing sales in the millions and like, like having me come in and make observations and make recommendations and then implement those and see that bring sales up and help with that for me to be like, oh, wait a minute, right? Because I had one data point, right of the fashion industry. And so I started to realize that my skill set really translated and that situations were so much more complex. And also it took working with a few clients where I was very transparent upfront and being like, why do you want me to do this? Like my thing, I didn’t sell it for like a hundred million dollars. I didn’t even sell it, I’m just closing it. Why are you, why would you want me to help? And the answer was because of the obstacles, you know, someone said to me, if I’m gonna you know, hire someone to fight in a battle. I don’t want someone with no scars. I wanna see that they’ve made it through and survived. And so I found that people were more interested in the challenges that I had experienced and my perspective on them, than just having kind of like a smooth ride and like everything working out. So, and also, you know, I sort of have found this niche in working with solo entrepreneurs who aren’t trying to build a hundred million dollar companies. I had a conversation with actually someone who was an intern for me with Wild Mantel about, I think we spoke in 2020 and maybe she was working with me five years before that. And, you know, I was just starting to ponder all the successful and unknown stuff and I think she was working at Google or something. She said, you know I want to start a business or I might want to do something on my own, but all of the books out there are on how to ‘girl boss’ your way to the top. And she was like, what if I just want to make like a hundred grand a year and that success to me, and I can do things on my own time and have my own life? And I was kind of like, oh yeah, why don’t we champion that more? In our society, why is it, why are we celebrating only people who make it to the top, so to speak, when if you look at the numbers, that’s the edge of the bell curve. Why don’t we value the middle more? And so that’s kind of been my perspective of trying to have a normal state, stability, right? Fashion is very not stable, especially with the numbers, it’s up, it’s down, you know, and seasons. And so yeah, so that’s been kind of my journey with that.

 

Becky Mollenkamp:

Yeah, I hear you saying that you had to do it to sort of get over the imposter syndrome. And the thing that keeps us from taking the action is that feeling of being a fraud. And the horrible and also amazing problem with that is the only thing that often helps us get past that is to actually do the work. It’s this Catch-22, I can’t do the work until I feel confident, but I can’t get confident until I do the work. And so for people to hear that, that you had to just do it with the fear and just do it. And then that starts to reinforce for you, oh I can do this. And I do know what I’m talking about. People will pay me for this. The part about the enough stuff is totally my jam. But first, what were you going to say?

 

Avi Loren Fox:

I was just going to say also, it’s funny now because I have a complete, like I didn’t set out to be a consultant, but now that I am one and I’ve, you know, worked with a few hundred businesses, right? I’ve seen the insides of them and some nonprofits. And so I have this data set, right? Of perspective on all these different businesses. And it’s just interesting to see how varied things are. And often when you do have, I now understand that when you do have success, sometimes people build it inch by inch by inch by inch by inch by inch, right? But the kind of success we know in society is like a hockey stick, like something happens. And usually that thing that happens is, you know, very lucky, largely based on luck. And I hear this when I talk to, you know, friends or, you know, people who are older about their relationships. I’m like, how did you end up in a happy marriage? Like when you look back, and they’re like, oh, we had no idea. We just got lucky that the person we married was a good person. People don’t talk about how lucky that is, you know? And so I think there are different ways to grow, and luck is definitely one of them. And also I just became more interested in the slower, I wanted to know how to do it slowly over time. And I’ve had that experience now from working with other businesses and also just growing my own little scrappy, you know, consulting business.

 

Becky Mollenkamp:

Yeah, those are not the things that make for the exciting stories and the easy sell because everyone wants the get-rich-quick thing and those stories sell. So if you put that out there, then people say, oh, I want that. Unfortunately, exactly what you’re saying, there’s not a lot of acknowledgement of, but part of this story is something that is not probably or very unlikely something that you can replicate. We don’t share it. They don’t share that part. And that is so unfortunate. And everyone is chasing that. It used to be six figures, then seven, and now people are talking about eight-figure business. There’s never enough. And so when you mentioned about the enough piece of why can’t we celebrate $100,000 and happiness? I love that. And I think that’s so important. And to me, what I heard you saying is that what you’re doing now, and actually you wrote something about what you’re doing is kind of boring compared to what, you know, other things you’ve done. To outsiders, it might look more boring than running a fashion label or something. But you’re getting now all the things you didn’t get when you were doing that thing that others might have seen as more exciting. You’re getting the financial stability, creative fulfillment, life- and work-balance, as much as any of us can get balance in those things. And that you’re really feeling like this is it, but it’s probably not the thing that would have been appealing to you back when you were having that quarter-life crisis to say, if somebody said, well, you could just do this and it would be really satisfying. You were still in that place of chasing. So I don’t know if there’s even a question inside of that, except I just want to celebrate it because we need to celebrate more that it’s okay to say it doesn’t have to be flashy and exciting and a million dollars. It can just feel really good.

 

Avi Loren Fox:

I agree. And I think when I was in the process of closing Wild Mantle, I asked myself a lot of questions like, what about this doesn’t work for me? What was I trying to grow the company to do? And it was like to gain more time freedom and flexibility and location, you know, and actually scaling that business might have gotten me that someday if I sold it, right? It sort of is like the it’s like the someday, and that would have been great. Like there’s another path where maybe that worked out and I grew it and then I sold it. And that would have been super cool. But I also was like, well, how could I have that now? Right? How can I give myself more balance? How can I have a job that is location flexible? An I really nerd out on how I work as much as what I’m doing, and I feel like I’ve gotten closer and closer. And I have realized that version of it. Now, there are other things that I desire now, like new dreams I’m coming up with. I can see some new dreams bubbling up for the next 5 years or 10 years, but I’m in a position now where I can let that unfold in a long arc and have as much stability as one can have as a solo entrepreneur from this, which has been really great.

 

Becky Mollenkamp:

That’s the kind of thing I work with my clients on and I’m sure you probably do as well, but my work is really very much around that of saying, yes, there is probably a world and a world that you are in and you can see where you can play this game because it feels like a game like you said. And at the end of that, there’s going to be some payoff. But what does it feel like while you’re playing the game? And how long is that going to take? How long do you have to be in that place, which often feels like suffering? How long are you going to suffer before you get a payoff? And what does the story look like without the suffering to get to the payoff? Maybe the payoff isn’t as great. Maybe it’s not as huge, but what does it feel like as you pursue it? And is that okay? For some people, it’s not. Like you said, for some people, it’s not okay. They wanna go that route, that being known, being wildly rich, all of those things are the only values, like they have to do that. This is not the episode for you. But for those people who are like, that’s my aim was never to be famous. Being wildly wealthy might be nice, but also I want to feel good. So what does it look like to say how much is actually enough? How does it feel good to go about getting that? It’s such a radical shift and you call this sort of, you know, counter-cultural to be thinking in this other way, which you have called, as you said, successful and unknown, slow marketing, thinking about how you’re going about running your business, marketing your business differently in a way that actually feels really good if you are someone like Avi and like myself and like many of my clients who have gotten to a place, and I do think the part of your story of the pursuit before is important, because sometimes we have to kind of go down through that sliding door to say well, maybe that path does feel good, to find out maybe it weren’t it isn’t right for us to get to the place now saying that isn’t right for me. And so you said you just had a website a year ago, like four years into your business. You’re building your business largely through referrals, through networking, connection. Are those the things that are, when you talk about successful and unknown, I think the term, I loved it, when we talked the first time about it, I’m like, oh, that’s juicy and good, and it needs to be in the world because I can’t tell you the number of people who, that sits with them like, yes, I don’t wanna have to always be out there, I don’t want to be seen, but I do wanna feel successful. So when you think about successful and unknown, what are some of the big shifts for you and what it looks like?

 

Avi Loren Fox:

So I was supposed to give a talk at a conference on, and I was going to do it on being successful and unknown. Like it was literally printed online that that’s what the talk was, and then I decided not to, because it felt ironic to talk about being successful and unknown. And I just want to recognize that irony, right? Because it’s like, I think I’ve been rethinking achievement in the age of social media. And, but this is also something that resonates with other people, of how do we find success in a quiet achievement sense, and not have it be tied to this, you know, huge, huge push. Because being successful, being seen as successful does not mean things look good behind the scenes as we’ve established, right? We think that looking successful means you’re making money. Those are not the same things. You can be very successful at something and not be making money or not be known. So I think that what it’s looked like for me has been a shift towards prioritizing creative fulfillment, looking at life-work balance more, finding financial stability and prioritizing that in a way that feels smart rather than feels exciting, if that makes sense. And this idea of slow marketing, realizing that, okay, so I know that there are people who go and place social media ads and then get business from it. And that has never worked for me. I don’t try to get business anymore, because whenever I’ve intentionally tried to do that, it feels bad and doesn’t work. And what I’ve learned is that when you are the thing that people need and you show up and do a good job for them, then they’re gonna tell their friends. I never ask for referrals. It doesn’t come out of my mouth. I just try to do right by them. And then if I’m lucky, someone calls me in six months and is like, oh, my friend hired you, they had a great experience. They tell me you’re the person I need. So I think I became compelled by, I call it the neighborhood electrician complex, because I noticed that my neighborhood electrician has a horrible website and is always busy. 

 

Becky Mollenkamp:

You don’t see neighborhood electricians with 10 million followers on Instagram or worried about it at all. They have a truck with their number on it. Maybe. Rarely business cards, rarely a website, rarely social media. It is about I need an electrician, this one’s good, and isn’t going to screw you over.

 

Avi Loren Fox:

And slow marketing too, that’s really been something, I think that’s an actual term, but it’s something I started thinking about in my head. And it came from working with a few clients who asked me to do newsletter for them. And I think I had something on my website for a while where it was newsletter signup. And it’s signup for my incredibly infrequent emails. And instead of being like, trying to get people to sign up, it was like I’m gonna forget to email you, but if you leave your email here, you might get something from me twice a year. And that’s just what’s worked for the type of business that I’ve had. I found that if you’re quiet most of the time, then when you say something, people have the capacity to hear. To borrow a term from engineering, and I think with social media, there’s so much noise that there’s no signal. Right? And so a lot of my approach has been, how do I take away the noise between me and other people so that if I, if I’m when I say something, it’s heard. And I sort of reserve that. I’m not trying to send, have you ever signed up for a newsletter or like a clothing business? And by the time you get home from the store, you have like four emails. Like what kind of times do you think I have? 

 

Becky Mollenkamp:

I can’t wait to splash that quote all over social media, speaking of social media. But I love that about like if you have to be quiet, because then when you say something, people listen. And that is really powerful. Thank you for sharing. I’m going to sit with that one. I think about it. You’re gonna, for people who are subscribers to the newsletter, and if you’re not, go subscribe to Feminist Founders newsletter, because we’re gonna have you share three tips for going down this path of sort of successful and unknown, of slow marketing, of changing the way you’re thinking about marketing your business. So if you wanna get those three specific tips, subscribe, and we’re gonna do that in just a minute. But before we finish up a couple, I wanna kind of move towards one other thing. Your path has been all over the place. We said from the beginning, you had all these different jobs, then you went into the clothing thing, and now you’re doing consulting, and it’s kind of been a little of career hopping and interest hopping because you are a creative person. And for creative people, this idea of picking one thing and sticking with it forever can be really constricting. It doesn’t feel good. You want to be able to explore different passions. And I think a lot of people can relate to that idea of being multi-passionate. And I saw somewhere, something you said that that experience of career hopping sort of felt like a treasure hunt to you of each thing is leading to something else. And it’s like, you’re just on this treasure hunt. And maybe it sounds like, because you’re already talking about dreams for five years from now that treasure hunt, you don’t see it as something that is going to end or needs to end. How have you gotten to a place of going from kind of in your, that quarter-life crisis of crying of I don’t know what the thing is, to now being more open to being it’s okay if I don’t know what the thing is.

 

Avi Loren Fox:

Yeah, that’s a really good question. I think that when I had that quarter-life crisis, I moved home to my parents’ house. And then when I made the transition from Wild Mantle to doing consulting, it was something that I was able to make on my own and kind of like transition as an adult. And I think that made me realize that I wanted to reserve the right to do that again in the future and that could be inevitable, right? I’ve had this inner dialogue of like, am I a doctor, am I a lawyer, which I think comes from being in school as a kid. And they’re like, here are the things you can do in the book. That stuff resonates deep. I remember getting to college and being like, what’s HR? I think I would have been a very good HR person. And I just didn’t, it wasn’t something that I really was aware of. There’s so many little things, the way the world works outside of that sort of, you’re a doctor or a lawyer or a firefighter or a teacher. I think as an adult, I’ve discovered exploring different things is also okay. And you sort of become an expert in pivoting and in having a broader worldview than just one specific thing. I’m now, I think I’ve just been working on self-acceptance of, and also appreciation for the beauty of being able to have multiple passions and explore them and also see how they play together. I used my photography to start Wild Mantle. I photographed them and that was the main, a really important marketing piece. And with Wild Mantle, I used the skills that I gained from launching and growing a business to understand the mechanisms that did or didn’t do that and help other clients with that. And now I think I’m really understanding. I just did my Reiki certification levels one and two, and I’m about to do my third. I’ve always been interested in the woo-woo world, but I believe in science. It’s kind of both to me. And I noticed that some of the sessions that I have with clients that are the most impactful, especially I have this little niche where I work with women solo entrepreneurs who are values-driven and slightly spiritual. And the things that they tell me are the most helpful are when we get real with like, when I’m like, okay, what is this really about? This is not about your G-Suite tangle. What’s going on here energetically? Why is this here? What is the lesson in it? How is this a repeated pattern? And so I’m excited to increase my skillset in that area and see where that takes me in the future.

 

Becky Mollenkamp:

And you also have Backyard Chickens, Fiona, Miragold, and Penelope. I just want to say their names because they’re such cute names. And it just sounds to me like you’re somebody, like it’s not just in your, you know, the Reiki certification, you’re bringing it into your professional life, but also it’s really just something you personally want to explore. So you’re allowing for this creative freedom in all sorts of ways, which I think is amazing. And something that the 25-year-old version of you was probably, she didn’t know how to say that’s what she wanted, but I think that sounds like what she wanted was instead of what am I supposed to do, how can I do all the things that excite me and still feel successful, quote unquote successful in a world that says success looks like being that lawyer or being the doctor or being the CEO, whatever the thing is, it’s about the title. And how do you instead say, I wanna feel successful in a broader sense, I want my whole life to feel rewarding.

 

Avi Loren Fox:

Yeah, no, and I mean, Backyard Chickens was like a dream of mine. I actually have a picture. You want to see a picture of them because I put them on my holiday card and I’m making next year’s holiday card. So I have this last year’s out. That’s the girls.

 

Becky Mollenkamp:

I love it. They’re beautiful.

 

Avi Loren Fox:

But yeah, I think in terms of dreams too, I’m learning that, and this is a conversation I have with my friends all the time. We think attaining X goal will make us feel like this, but really, we just want to feel like that. And sometimes having your dream come true does feel really good. Having backyard chickens was a dream, and it feels as good as I thought it was. Then there are other dreams that don’t. So I think it’s constantly checking in and being able to pivot and adapt, which isn’t something I’m perfect at. I struggle with all this stuff we’re talking about. I think the biggest secret is that people who are on podcasts or in the news have it figured out. And it’s like, no, they’ve just had to struggle enough that they’ve now can articulate what they’ve gone through. You know, it’s like, yeah, they’re talking about it because it’s been a big piece in their life.

 

Becky Mollenkamp:

Thank you for sharing that. And honestly, that was one of the reasons, you know, when we met and we talked, I love this idea of successful unknown and just talking about what that looks like or what that could be. Even though I know you’re still in this process of kind of exploring it and figuring it out as you go, I think just talking about it is gonna make people feel seen in that notion of, this is so hard, I don’t wanna have to be an internet celebrity in order to just like, make a good living, that just feels exhausting. But also I really want to talk about your, you know, that trajectory with the company that you had and let go because I do think it’s important to talk about what others might see as failures. It’s obviously not a failure, but talking about those experiences we have that don’t work out the way we thought they would. Because I think it’s so important for people to hear, because I know people are gonna hear some of this experience you had on that arc with that company and kind of the high and then the low of it. And they’re gonna hear themselves in that too. And to know that there’s not something wrong with them because they haven’t won the lottery yet. You know, that is what, that’s how most of these stories go. We just don’t hear those stories. And I think it’s important to share them. So thank you. And before we go, then the last two things, I wanna see if you could share a resource that people might find helpful or interesting. It could be a book or a podcast.

 

Avi Loren Fox:

This is actually a very, it’s a boring resource, but it’s helpful. It’s one I recommend a lot. And are you able to share a link or is that?

 

Becky Mollenkamp:

I can share a link in the show notes. So yeah, you can look for the notes and you will be able to find the link that you’re gonna share.

 

Avi Loren Fox:

Yeah, so this is actually, it’s another consulting firm that I’m not at all attached to. But when I first became self-employed, I, well, not when I first became self-employed, when I first started consulting, like what to charge is such a big question, right? And we think about things in terms of, well, what would my salary be if I worked for a company, but that includes, you know, benefits and this and that. And so it’s a rate calculator that allows you to put in what you would want your salary to be. And then it backtracks that into what your hourly rate would be. And I found that to be so helpful, and I’ve given it to a lot of people and they’ve told me it’s been instrumental. So if you’re trying to work for yourself and you’re doing something where you need to have an hourly rate, understanding that, because it’s not based on a 40-hour work week. When you’re a consultant, like 20 billable hours a week is like full-time, full-time because there’s all this other stuff that you have to do to make your business run. So that’s been a really helpful resource. It’s a boring one, but it’ll help you be successful and unknown.

 

Becky Mollenkamp:

I don’t think it’s boring at all. I think it’s something that most people, when they go freelance and or self-employed, however you’re viewing your work, anyone who’s trying to do an hourly rate, it is always a challenge for people to figure out. So I’m excited to share that resource. And I think a lot of people will find it very interesting, not boring, so thank you. And then last, a nonprofit or an organization that’s doing great work in the world that we can highlight.

 

Avi Loren Fox:

I’m going to highlight Get Included. And it’s actually a nonprofit in my hometown that’s a client of mine that I love. I go to their coffee shop all the time and they provide employment for individuals of all abilities. And they do a lot of great work in the neurodiversity world and kind of really looking at inclusion. And if you’re near Narberth, Pennsylvania, which is just outside of Philadelphia, you can go to Get Cafe. It’s a very wonderful experience Or you can check out their website online, which is GetIncluded.org

 

Becky Mollenkamp:

I will make a donation to say thank you for your time here today. And I hope people listening will do the same. This has been a really great conversation that I think people are definitely going to see themselves in and feel really validated in. And also, I think it’s some really great ideas for changes they can make. So thank you so much for your time.

 

Avi Loren Fox:

Yeah, thank you for having me. I love this podcast and how you’re holding space for these types of conversations. I think it’s really important work. So thank you for your time. There’s a lot to organize, so I appreciate that.

 

Becky Mollenkamp:

Oh, thank you. That was so nice. Thanks. 

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ALL EPISODES | NEWSLETTER | BOOK LIST | YOUTUBEsubscribe for freeAPPLE PODCASTS | SPOTIFY | GOOGLEAUDIBLE | TUNE IN | DEEZER | YOUTUBESeason 2, Episode 10Making Money Equitable with Meg Wheeler Meg Wheeler (she/her) is the Founder of The Equitable Money Project, which...

Natalie Bullen – FF

Natalie Bullen – FF

ALL EPISODES | NEWSLETTER | BOOK LIST | YOUTUBEsubscribe for freeAPPLE PODCASTS | SPOTIFY | GOOGLEAUDIBLE | TUNE IN | DEEZER | YOUTUBESeason 2, Episode 9Unapologetic Wealth with Natalie Bullen Natalie Bullen (she/her) is a Sales Coach, Messaging Strategist and owner...

Vivienne Miles FF

Vivienne Miles FF

ALL EPISODES | NEWSLETTER | BOOK LIST | YOUTUBEsubscribe for freeAPPLE PODCASTS | SPOTIFY | GOOGLEAUDIBLE | TUNE IN | DEEZER | YOUTUBESeason 2, Episode 8Privilege as a Tool for Change with Vivienne Miles Vivienne Miles (she/her) doesn’t believe a traditional bio is...