Per the 2020 State of Inclusive Fashion Report, approximately 67% of women in the U.S. wear a size 14 or above. Yet, plus-size fashion represents less than 20% of what’s purchased in the market. It leaves you wondering, how the majority of women in the U.S. are getting dressed every day. It’s questions like these that inspired Founders Nadia Boujarwah and Lydia Gilbert to embark on the seven-year journey that is Dia & Co. In honor of the brand’s 7th birthday, we sat down with them to get the scoop on what it took to get here and their advice on how to stay motivated.
Becoming the largest online destination for plus-size fashion doesn’t happen overnight.
Wearing plus sizes herself, Nadia understood all too intimately the challenges of finding stylish pieces. As a teenager who wasn’t able to shop with her friends or find a prom dress in her size, she became determined to make fashion more accessible for women who looked like her. She had this to say about starting Dia & Co: “A big part of the motivation for Dia came from my own personal experiences. But, it really wasn’t until I understood how many other women shared this experience that it became clear that there had to be a better way. It wasn’t that we necessarily had the right business model from the start, but I knew that we would try harder than anyone else to figure it out.” Fast forward to 2022 and seven incredible years of Dia & Co under her belt, that mission is being realized every day.
“As a founder, it’s much more important to be thinking ten years ahead and not spend time ruminating on the past.”Lydia Gilbert, Co-Founder, Dia & Co
Despite unwavering determination, building a business from the ground up is a major feat. According to Bloomberg, female founders secure only 2% of venture capital funding. With those statistics it’s not hard to imagine that the road to Dia & Co’s success was peppered with a chorus of “no’s”. Lydia recalled what it was like to navigate the minefield of naysayers. “We heard a lot of “no’s” when we were first starting the company—mostly from financial backers who needed more proof points before investing. We learned a lot from those “no’s”. They almost always came with an insight we could use to refine our approach, but also gave us even more conviction that we had something to prove. There is nothing more motivating than knowing at some point you’ll be able to prove to an adversary that they were wrong. “ We asked Lydia, if, after seven years of making fashion dreams come true, rejection still has the same sting. Her response was eye-opening. “I wish I could say that it is less painful seven years later, but no matter what, it’s always hard to hear anyone talking poorly about your baby! While I’ll always be very sensitive to negative feedback or rejection when it comes to Dia & Co, I’ve certainly learned to move on more quickly. As a founder, it’s much more important to be thinking ten years ahead and not spend time ruminating on the past.”
Knowing what it took to get Dia & Co to seven years of great fashion, an inspiring community and an incredible team, we know Lydia and Nadia have the secrets to perseverance. According to Nadia, “mindset is the single most important determinant of my resilience.” We couldn’t have said it better ourselves! We asked each of them to share their top three tips on pushing through adversity.
- Get comfortable being uncomfortable. The feeling never goes away and is often the source of great personal growth.
- Don’t shy away from rejection—run toward it! If you don’t fall down every now and then, you aren’t taking big enough risks.
- Find something within your business that will inspire you when you need it the most. When I’m feeling down (as all founders do at some point!) I turn toward our customers to remind me of why it’s so important to keep going.
- Surround yourself with positive people. It will help you recharge when needed.
- Take care of yourself. Take the time to keep balance in your life as much as possible.
- Ask for help when you need it. No one can do everything on their own. Getting good at asking for help can get you through tough moments and keep your energy and spirits high.