Full Name: Stephanie McTigue
Current Title/Company: Owner of CoFi Leathers, LLC
Educational Background: I attended Phillips Exeter High School, spent two years at Cornell University, and received my BA from Bowdoin College. I also received a Masters Degree in Learning Disabilities from Northwestern University.
Stephanie, it’s such a pleasure to meet you. Congratulations on being part of the Nolcha Fashion Lounge. Please tell us, what was your first job and how did you land that position?
My first job was as a hostess at a local restaurant in Durham, NH, where I grew up. I created a resume and approached restaurants in my hometown. I followed up with phone calls and was excited to land my first paying position.
How have your designs evolved since your first sketch?
My design aesthetic has evolved in that I am more attentive to details as the brand develops, both in product construction (carefully selecting the right buckles, the appropriate strap length, the right combination of Italian foils and papers to create our leathers) and packaging presentation. For instance, for 2017, we plan to introduce new branded CoFi boxes for our shoes, hangtags for our handbags and boots and branded shoe bags for our flipflops.
What have been the biggest challenges or obstacles you’ve faced in your career and how were you able to overcome them?
One of the biggest challenges that I have faced as an entrepreneur is learning how to create a work/life balance. I have learned to prioritize daily tasks that need to be accomplished for business, while carving out time to pick up my kids after school, eating dinner as a family, and spending time with my husband. Of course, as in any business, the workload is somewhat cyclical. There are times of the year that I feel off-balance; however, I am very cognizant of reprioritizing family time. Carving out personal rejuvenating time will probably always be my biggest challenge.
We want to hear about your inspiration as a creative! Where does your inspiration come from?
Women who manage a work-life balance inspire the designs of the CoFi product line. I try to create new product that merges functionality and versatility with style and panache. I am also inspired by strong women role models, like Alicia Keys. Alicia has said, “I think it’s beautiful when a woman is comfortable not being the norm.” CoFi encourages women to allow their inner confidence to shine through their unique CoFi Leather accessories like the peacock printed Cara Cowgirl Boots.
How did you learn the ins and outs of owning and operating your brand?
Ever since high school, I have been taught to be a life long learner. I embrace every opportunity to reach out and seek advice from designers and entrepreneurs who have blazed the path before me. My motto is to dive in, be willing to take risks and to learn from mistakes. So, in sum, I have learned a tremendous amount by asking questions of mentors and conducting my own research when I do not know the answers.
As a business owner, how do you achieve a work/life balance?
As I mentioned above, achieving a work/life balance is a constant challenge. Being that I can be described as a workaholic, I try to remain aware of when life is getting off-kilter, and then I reprioritize family time.
What do you see in the future for your brand? How do you hope to grow the business?
I aspire to have CoFi Leathers be a recognizable name in the fashion industry. Annually, the objective has been to double the business. In 2016, I surpassed this goal. By bringing on reps and an employee this year, I aim to keep up the momentum of growth.
What is the most rewarding part of your job?
I have always loved making other people happy. The most rewarding part of my business is the positive feedback I receive from my customers regarding how much they love their CoFi products.
What is a typical workday like for you?
I start my day by waking my little ones up for school, feeding them breakfast, making lunches, and sending them on their way. I make a coffee, write a list of tasks that need to be accomplished, and prioritize the list. In a typical day, I wear many hats and often jump from one task to the next. After lunch, I regroup to ensure that the high priority goals have been completed and I reprioritize the list. I try to pick my kids up from school and attend after school activities with them. After dinner and bedtime, I frequently continue to work, making sure that I have responded to social media comments and inquiries.
Best moment of your career so far?
One of the best moments of my career so far was having Nolcha ask me to participate in the Nolcha Fashion Media Lounge during New York Fashion Week. I am so grateful for the opportunity to showcase CoFi Leathers to the International Press.
What advice would you give your younger self?
In life, there are many ups and downs. I would encourage myself to enjoy the ride and to not sweat the small stuff.
Go-to coffee order?
If you could have lunch with anyone, who would it be and what would you order?
I would have lunch with my husband. We try to sneak in lunch dates when we can, but of course I am always greedy for more time with my guy. We usually ride bikes into Cherry Creek, Denver and share a salad and the Funghi Pizza from North.
Best advice you’ve received?
My father has told me that things are never as bad as they seem and never as good as they seem. He has also advised me to not get too emotionally charged over business. If something does not work, learn from it and move on. And, my mum has told me that when one door closes, another one opens. I could go on and on about the amazing advice my parents have given me over the years; I am an incredibly lucky lady to have such fantastic parents!!
Who would play you in the movie of your life?
Natalie Portman. She is not only an amazing actress, but she is well spoken, values education, balances work with family, and has Jewish ancestry. I love that she once said: “I’d rather be smart than a movie star.” She is my kind of girl.
The Nolcha Shows are a leading award winning event, held during New York Fashion Week, for independent fashion designers to showcase their collections to a global audience of press, retailers, stylists and industry influencers. Over the past seven years the Nolcha Shows have become established as a platform for discovery; promoting cutting edge innovative fashion designers through runway shows and exhibitions.
The team at Chic Galleria is thrilled to again be collaborating with the designers who will be featured at the Nolcha Shows on February 15, 2017. We are looking forward to showcasing these talented designers and attending their shows this fall. – Beth Anderson, Founder and Senior Editor, Chic Galleria