Stacy Igel, EMBRACING THE CALM IN THE CHAOS: How to Find Success in Business and Life Through Perseverance, Connection, and Collaboration

Stacy Igel, EMBRACING THE CALM IN THE CHAOS: How to Find Success in Business and Life Through Perseverance, Connection, and Collaboration

Zibby is joined by Stacy Igel, founder of BOY MEETS GIRL and author of the empowering new guidebook Embracing the Calm in the Chaos: How to Find Success in Business and Life Through Perseverance, Connection, and Collaboration. Stacy describes the origins of her entrepreneurial spirit and tireless work ethic, from begging for an internship at Delia’s and selling the shirt off her back during a wild spring break trip to ultimately building her own global impact brand. She also discusses what makes a great entrepreneur (yes, they should be involved in all the small details!) and why giving back to nonprofits is so important to her.

You can meet Stacy Igel at Zibby’s Bookshop in Santa Monica on March 30th at 6 pm!


Zibby Owens: Welcome, Stacy. Thank you so much for coming on “Moms Don’t Have Time to Read Books” to discuss Embracing the Calm in the Chaos.

Stacy Igel: Thank you so much for having me. Very apropos to the book title and my life. Today, you are interviewing me with sneezes. I appreciate. We were supposed to be live and in person together to give you this. We will make cocktails and drinks happen. I’m so excited to be here doing this with you. I feel like it’s been years in the making.

Zibby: I am so excited to talk to you. Again, I am sorry we aren’t in person, but you’re probably better off for it. To be honest with you, I have been carrying your book around. This is what I do a week or so before every podcast. I’m bringing the book everywhere and dipping in and out and all that stuff. There are so many times where I’ve looked at this book with what’s going on in my own life and just been like, this is my message. My daughter has some crazy medical thing. I’m just like, okay, embracing the calm in the chaos. Thank you, Stacy.

Stacy: My book title, originally, I was going to do — it was from the joke in my book. What Would You Do That For? Then it had this negative connotation. Although, it’s really funny. Then Embracing the Calm in the Chaos is one my chapter names. It was voted by everybody to be the name. It really is resonate of my life and our lives and how I keep moving. I’m happy that you can look at it and it gives you some solace in your day.

Zibby: It really does. In your book, you write about the whole backstory to how you became you and starting your business. I loved these images of you making your own prom dress and going around the East Village with these ribbons in your seams and basically, how you kept — it was so funny, too, because in your book, you give example after example of your relentlessness. I called Delia’s a hundred times to get that internship. I kept calling this. Then I was thinking even about our interactions. I’m like, she is so determined. All of our emails, I love it. I relate to it too, just the focus.

Stacy: When I was reading your book, I’m like, oh, my god, Zibby and I are the same person. Although, we’re not the same person. We have very different backgrounds, but we have the same work ethic. I was underlining in your book. I was like, oh, my god, I should be interviewing you. We’ve never stopped working, in different fields. Calling Delia’s, this was pre-social media and pre-anything and no connections in fashion. I was from Chicago. I went to University of Wisconsin, Madison, in the Midwest. I’m like, I got to get to New York. I got to work in fashion. I remember I was calling the 1-800 number. I got a customer service person on the phone. I was like, “I need the buyer’s information. Can you give me her phone number?” I got it. I actually flew to New York — it was a Christmas break — to have the interview in person. I got the job. Then I ended up taking a different job with Elie Tahari. It was the worst feeling to — I’d worked so hard to get that Delia’s job, but then I really wanted to work for a designer who I could learn from and have that skill. I remember being at a payphone, pre-cell phones, in the heart of New York City to call Delia’s and be like, “Thank you so much, but I’m going to have to turn this job down.” It was the right decision for me. My mother, who I talk about a lot in my book and who was an entrepreneur, she went to hear Elsa Klensch speak in Chicago and gave her my résumé. Then I had to keep calling. John Filimon, who was her head producer, who’s now a dear friend, I called and called and called. I was like, “My mom gave the résumé to Elsa Klensch. I need to work there.” I got the job.

Zibby: I feel like I so relate. I just sometimes need someone to open the door just a smidge. Then you keep going. I just need that door open a little bit.

Stacy: When you don’t have a connection, it’s really hard. I feel very blessed. I’ve built this world. I have my nieces and nephews who I can pick up a phone call — I say to them, I’m like, “You have to work so hard. Even if I just give you this introduction for that interview, if you get the job, you better be there on time and give it your all because I don’t want to make that connection –” I have so many people in my sphere who don’t have that connection. I could help them too. I do help them. I want to help them. I know they’ll work really, really hard. I’ve been very fortunate on my journey to build this community who support me.

Zibby: Basically, from a super young age, you were trying out these entrepreneurial things. It’s almost like you can look back — I feel like parents should be like, here are the signs that my child is going to be an entrepreneur when they are older. There are all these little things. Are they secretly starting a business on the side? What are they doing? I used to sell bookmarks door to door that I would design. All these things. I’m like, I hadn’t even thought about it until I read Stacy’s book, all these things I did as a kid that all contribute. All these things for you build into your massive career success with Boy Meets Girl. Even, I loved hearing how you got the logo and all of that. When you were like, I don’t even know why I went into Noah Tepperberg’s hotel room on vacation when he wanted my shirt, I’m like, oh, my god, what was she doing? You’re like, yet that changed my life.

Stacy: Oh, my god, that’s another payphone story. I’m on spring break in Acapulco. I had dressed my friends all in my first stuff I designed in college. They wore it to every nightclub, around the pool. Every college was there. It was Wisconsin, Michigan, Duke, Indiana, Iowa. Whoever was on spring break went on these packaged tours. They would get on a plane for two hundred dollars. There was this crazy all-inclusive thing. Literally, we sold the shirts off of their backs. I’m calling my mom again. I’m like, “I sold all my shirts I made.” For everyone on here, Noah Tepperberg is the cofounder of the Tao Strategic Group, Marquee. Oh, my gosh, he owns every restaurant, every nightclub, and has grown a huge empire. At the time, was a party promoter and was like, “What did you sell? What is this?” I’m like, “I’ve got my two last shirts.” My friends are waiting for me to go back to the airport from our trip.

He’s like, “I’ll buy them.” I’m like, “Okay.” Jason Strauss’s partner opens the door. He’s like, “What is this, Noah?” I was like, “I’m selling my shirts.” He’s like, “I want one for Judy.” Judy, who I love now, who runs all of the nonprofit work for Tao Strategic Group, remembers her brother bought my first shirt. It was one of those moments, again, in real life is so special in that way. This past two years of the pandemic and the way we work, it’s a whole different world. It’s also very interesting and exciting too. The beginning phases of building this and having those moments led me to all these relationships. Noah would invite me to all these parties he was throwing in the city. I remember I was invited — I tagged him on his birthday recently. It was a birthday card for a party for his birthday. It was a spinning wheel with Noah’s body on it that said what events you would do at this party. Again, Midwest girl. This was a whole new scene for me. It was wild and amazing. He was part of me doing events and parties. In my Fashion Week days, I did parties at Avenue. He gave me the space for that New York Fashion Week show. It led to such a great relationship.

Zibby: By the way, meanwhile when I was high school here in New York, they would hand out all these little party cards all the time for the Surf Club or wherever it was. It was always those guys throwing all the parties. That’s from when I was sixteen, fifteen. It never stops.

Stacy: In Chicago, there was maybe one or two — I lived in the city — who would promote Medusa, this club. We didn’t have that. Actually, I have two friends who are very much in that vein who are the Chicago nightclub guys. Like you said, you see a budding entrepreneur at a young age of what they’re doing. You know they’re going to do something big. Also, for me, this book is to inspire the next entrepreneur as well who maybe doesn’t have that spark but can be inspired by the journey and maybe will spark some new ideas.

Zibby: You combine so many great lessons in the book too. I know at the beginning of each chapter you have a little thing and then takeaway at the end. I like all the ones that are sprinkled through, like when you say an entrepreneur needs to know what everybody does in the company and know how to do it themselves. My husband is always like, “Why are you doing all these little things?” I’m like, “I have to know how it all works. I have to know how every little thing works.” You just have to know. Sometimes I’m like, am I being crazy? Maybe I’m just crazy. Then I read your book. I’m like, yes, see? Stacy says this is how she does it too.

Stacy: When you’re growing a small business that ultimately, you want to lead to a bigger business, if you don’t know those functions and you don’t get your hands scrappy, how can you lead? The people who were my bosses or mentors did all those things. Elie Tahari, I wouldn’t say is my mentor, but I really respect him. He did it all. He built his company. He was in the fabric stores. He was in the trim stores. He found the factories. He built it so that he could know every piece of that garment and how to run the business. Sometimes we’re not the best at it. I say this in the book. I was not a great manager in my twenties because I wanted to do it all and be perfect and ship everything on time and emailing everyone at all hours, which I find myself probably still doing, but they know not to worry to answer at that moment. I definitely learned from mistakes and how to be a more efficient manager. I think that learning how to do that Excel spreadsheet, how to talk to the salespeople, how to talk to your factories, how to talk to the manager, really working with everyone gives you value and also respect. During COVID, there was one woman who was picking and packing in the factory in Virginia that I have. She was the one I was talking to because, first of all, no one was really in these factories. I sent her flowers during COVID. I would thank her. No one was doing that to her. She’s like, “I can’t believe I’m getting this from you.” I’m like, “You’re the one doing the work. I’m here having privilege to work remote, but you’re actually shipping my goods.” I think that goes back to my beginning days when I launched in Bergdorf Goodman, my first store that discovered me.

Zibby: Your mom was so funny. My mom would’ve been the same. She’s obsessed. I’m not explaining any of this well. I just keep jumping in. You’re at a trade show, essentially. I can’t remember the name of it. You went to the bathroom. The buyers from Bergdorfs came over. Your mom was talking to them in your booth. You came back. You’re like, “Who are these people?” She’s like, “You’re going to be in Bergdorfs. You’re going to be in Bergdorfs.”

Stacy: She’s like, “It’s Bergdorf Goodman.” I was like, “Mom, please be –” I was so embarrassed, oh, my god. I still remember that trade show like it was yesterday. Tracy Margolies was Bergdorf’s buyer. She’s the head of Saks now. She’s the chief merchant at Saks. She still remembers that moment. She’s in the book. We talk about this story. This is where we relate, because I had read your book, with 9/11, in a different way. I had friends who lost friends. I didn’t have someone personally.

Zibby: I saw that. I’m sorry.

Stacy: I’m sorry for you too. I wanted to hug you today. For me, doing that show a month later — I explain that in the book. It was really hard for me to say, oh, I’m going to be in fashion. We all were confused and didn’t know what had happened. This is a terrorist attack. We all wanted to help. Especially for me — my dad was an orthopedic surgeon. My mom was a physician assistant. Again, family in the business. I was like, should I go into social work? I was just like, where am I here? For me, I was like, okay, I’m going to go forward because this is what I love. As you can see through the many chapters, this has been from the womb. This is what I wanted to do. From that day that I decided I will move forward, I would be an impact brand that would give back, always, through what I do and through the clothing, if it was home goods. Whatever I was doing, that would be the case.

That first collection was donated to the American Red Cross for victims of 9/11 and their families. That show was similar to us coming out of COVID, which is really not us coming because we’re still in COVID, but the spirit of New York. Everybody wanted to be out again. This particular show that is so vivid in my mind is that it was buyers from Japan and buyers from all over were coming to the show. It was sixty designers. It was me, Gary Graham, Peter Som, Liz Collins. I don’t know if Liz and Gary are doing their lines anymore. It was really amazing, great designers and my booth with my mom and an FIT intern. I was the most happening booth. It was the best, probably, show of my career, just what was happening. I had these Americana ribbons that I had had designed six months prior and put this together, my Boy Meets Girl logo, my flowy shirts, similar tops that Noah bought on spring break. It was my designs in my head of the first creations. Then Bergdorf Goodman put me on the map. That was who really told my story. It’s really a dream.

Zibby: Tell listeners who aren’t familiar with your clothing brand about your overall brand and what you built it into and all of that.

Stacy: Boy Meets Girl is an impact brand that is unisex. I do lifestyle, athleisure, sweatwear. People call it many things. Impact brand, what that means is everything we do and create has a give-back portion to different nonprofits that we work with. I also work with tons of musicians and artists that we combine and collaborate. Again, going back to my first show, the reason it became an impact brand — if you think about other brands who start, like Toms, you buy a shoe, you give back. Mine was reactive to what had happened in our world. Then I set forth that anything that we made, we would tell the story. The Boy Meets Girl logo is a boy and a girl. I believe that when you see it, it’s a reflection of something. Here, we’re sharing a story of a boy, of a girl. I also own Girl Meets Girl, Boy Meets Boy. Throughout the twenty years of running my business, it’s gone from wholesale, which is selling direct to a store, to licensing where I’ve grown the asset, which is the boy and girl logo where I can license it in different categories. I have a home collection. I have a kids’ collection. With the licensees who pay me back a royalty, I still promote it, but they produce it. Much more beautiful than me doing it all. We still do wholesale. Then I do a lot of collaboration. Over the course from 2015 to now, the NBA came to me to do collaborations with the Chicago Bull, Atlanta Hawks, which was a highlight of my career. I dress everyone from kids to adults because I have all the product classifications now. I’ve grown internationally, to Paris, to Finland, to London, to Asia. It’s been exciting and crazy, as you will see in my book.

Zibby: Having read it, I want to say I’m so proud of you. It’s so exciting to watch. It’s just so exciting. For you to take us through your whole story, it’s very motivating and inspiring and really awesome.

Stacy: Thank you.

Zibby: Why write a book?

Stacy: In 2011, I started Boy Meets Girl University. That was for students to learn about the business and also underrepresented children and students who I could bring knowledge to. I joined forces with the Lower East Side Girls Club to bring thirty students to New York Fashion Week in 2012 with Wyclef Jean, Jarina De Marco, Cris Cab. Everybody got to shadow a piece of that show the day of, the photographers, Wyclef, the musicians, me, anything, hair and makeup going on behind the scenes, and so got a taste of the business. I brought that to nonprofits and also students who come from all over to hear about the business. I love passing on the knowledge. I also get asked all the time, how’d you do this? How’d you do this? How’d you do this? A friend of a friend of a friend. My friend Ike, who’s an actor, my best friend, our parents call us all the time being like, “I have a friend. His daughter. This.” We’re like, “Okay, all right. We’re going to do it. We’re going to help. We’ve got you.” For me, COVID hit, and I got to work remote for the first time in my career and be with my son and do everything, but I wasn’t on a train, plane, or automobile and flying to do events and do fifteen New York Fashion Week shows and going to the Garment Center and running, running, running. People kept coming to me to do talks, like for University of Wisconsin, where I went to college. Different companies came to me to do talks via Zoom. I just felt like, let’s add another thing to my plate, but I felt it was my time to share the knowledge and inspire entrepreneurs in the beginning stage, students, people five years into it, execs who are looking for some insight. I had journaled my whole career and my life. I have my journals from when I was eight talking about my boy crushes.

Zibby: Hello Kitty journals. I also had a Hello Kitty journal, so there you go. We can compare.

Stacy: I have a Hello Kitty heart-shaped box that I still put everything in. I’m a Hello Kitty freak. I have not collabed with them. I have collabed with Care Bears, but Hello Kitty, . There was a lot of struggle. There was a lot of times where I’m writing on napkins. I’m like, how am I going to do this? I’m on a subway. I’m like, okay, I’m creative. I’ve got this. I can do it. I can keep going. Talking to myself. My therapy was writing. I didn’t make time for myself for therapy, which I think is a great thing. I wish I did more of that. That was my time. I had read books — I don’t read how many books you read a month, which is unbelievable. One day. I read a lot of books about entrepreneurs. I had read Steve Jobs’ book. I had read Phil Knight’s book and read about men entrepreneurs. I guess those are the books that were out. Every time I read their books, these great leaders who have built things, I got a little anxiety about how much money I would have to put in to be them, to be Nike. I also felt like no one had shared a story that you can still do great things and give back and make money without being as big as Nike or as big as a multibillion-dollar brand. That’s okay. It took me a long time to feel that that’s okay.

Zibby: Did you see the new movie coming out about Nike Airs with Matt Damon and Ben Affleck?

Stacy: Yes, I can’t wait for that.

Zibby: I’m so excited.

Stacy: I’m so excited, so excited. Yes, I saw that. Also, what really confirmed it was I had done a course for thirteen people who had picked to have me be their mentor. Everybody who picked me was from all different walks of life. It was someone starting a nonprofit, someone who was a music manager, someone who was an actress, someone who was a designer, someone who was going to leave her job to start an ice cream franchise, a girl who had started a WeWork, but she was from the LGBTQ community. Each person was picking me from everything that I’ve built and done on my journey. Then I would do these sessions with them where I said to look at their business as quarters or even six months. We broke it down because that was the time I had with them. Each one of them grew their business. After leaving our last talk together on a Zoom, I was hysterically crying. I was like, “Oh, my god, you just confirmed this book is going to be for a lot of people and help them. Thank you so much.”

Zibby: It’s so great, oh, my gosh. Embracing the Calm in the Chaos. When are you doing your event in LA with our store?

Stacy: We’re there — you heard it here first — March 30th. I’m going to be sitting with Ike Barinholtz, who is my best friend, who is actually coming to New York for History of the World, Part II that he is a writer and an actor in, which is based on History of the World, Part I with — oh, my god, who created it? I’m having a blank. Sorry, Ike. He’s famous.

Zibby: Ike will be there.

Stacy: He’s in my book. We’re going to talk about our childhood and our different paths to what we do. I haven’t been to LA since — maybe I was there right before COVID or a year before COVID. I used to do shows there. I used to do trade shows there. I have a massive community there. I think it’s going to be a very big event for you, Zibby. I hope so. I should undersell and overdeliver, but everybody’s really excited.

Zibby: Oh, my gosh, I can’t wait. I will be there. I’ll come back. I’m leaving the next morning, but I’ll be there.

Stacy: That will be our first time — hopefully, we’ll meet before then.

Zibby: Maybe before then. I know. Again, I’m sorry we couldn’t do this in person. I really was looking forward to it. I really, really was. I don’t do that many in person. I was like, I’m so excited. Thanks for pivoting at the last second. Really enjoyed your book. I’m so excited for you and just excited to be sort of in your orbit now and all of that.

Stacy: Thank you. I was like, what? A Zoom? No. Zibby, I want to be in your color-coded library.

Zibby: Please come another time. Please come. You’re always welcome.

Stacy: Thank you so much. Thank you for having me and also while you’re not feeling so great, doing this. I appreciate it.

Zibby: No problem. Exciting. To be continued. Thanks, Stacy. Buh-bye.

Stacy Igel, EMBRACING THE CALM IN THE CHAOS: How to Find Success in Business and Life Through Perseverance, Connection, and Collaboration

EMBRACING THE CALM IN THE CHAOS: How to Find Success in Business and Life Through Perseverance, Connection, and Collaboration by Stacy Igel

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