The Funemployed: Leslie Wong and Alexis Jenkins of Burgundy Fox

DCF: So… Who Are You?

Leslie Wong and Alexis Jenkins are the co-founders of Burgundy Fox, an e-commerce brand on a mission to empower and celebrate all women. (DCF: Yasss to more of this in 2018!). After experiencing how uncomfortable and antiquated it was to shop for intimate apparel, they started Burgundy Fox to create an inclusive approach to beauty and a seamless shopping experience. They have a collective 15 years of background in marketing and customer experience for consumer facing brands and creative facing businesses including Rising Tide | HoneyBook. They are the hosts of a weekly iTunes podcast, Seamless, that shares the stories of women who inspire mind and body confidence in us all. Leslie lives in Chicago, loves listening to business podcasts and can finally handstand (on a good day). Alexis lives in NYC, is an avid follower of fashion and was a competitive tap dancer (as a child). Connect with them through @burgundyfoxco, @lesliewong15 or @officially_alexisjenkins.

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DCF: Why do you love what you do? What makes you funemployment?

AJ: I love the opportunity to help improve someone’s day or life every single day. It doesn’t make sense in the year 2018 that women still wear uncomfortable bras. We’re saying no more! (DCF: Bras should be supportive not torture devices.) Building Burgundy Fox allows us to help women celebrate themselves from the underwear out!

LW: I love what I do because I get to create every single day. The fact that I’m creating something from scratch and impacting women’s lives gets me to work feeling incredibly excited and challenged. On top of that, I get to build this with one of my closest friends, which makes the experience a little easier and a lot more fun than doing it alone or with another person.  (DCF: Having a co-captain is such a benefit because you can help drive each other and it doesn’t all fall on you!)

DCF: Who was your first mentor and how did you find them?

AJ: My first mentor was in high school. Growing up in a predominantly white area, there were very few black families in my neighborhood. My first mentor was a black woman who lived around the corner from me and my family. I remember asking my Dad what he thought I should be when I grow up and he said, you should be like Paula. And the rest was history! We spent a lot of time together, she helped me practice interviewing for colleges, proof read all 30 drafts of my college essay and so much more! (DCF: It take a village is something I believe more and more as I get wiser.)

LW: I’ve had a few mentors in my life, my firsts would be my mom and sisters, who showed me what it looked like to work hard and push boundaries simply by showing up and speaking out as an Asian woman. My first career mentor was a Director of Sales at Marriott International, the first company I worked for after college. She groomed me in many ways that I probably didn’t understand at the time. She was tough, ferocious, kind and hard-working. I learned two invaluable skills from her: how to sell and how to fight for what you want. She was also charming and likeable in business when women so often are victims of a double standard–the professional consequences of being too sweet or too aggressive don’t exist for men the way they do for women. I think she did things her way and didn’t mind the double standard much. (DCF: Sometimes you just have to ignore the wall, it’s easier said than done but some women know how to exist around the double standard) 

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DCF: What’s your happy place?

AJ: My happiest place is with my family. I love going home and spending time with my parents, brothers and husbands. There’s nothing that makes me happier than arguing, laughing and pulling pranks on each other. (DCF: Life is too short to not laugh as often as possible so this is great!)

LW: Truthfully, anywhere with people I love, eating something delicious. The ocean is also my happy place. (DCF: These all sound wonderful).

DCF: Where do you get your energy?

AJ: Sleep! Getting a good night sleep each night allows me to refocus. Each morning, I’ll write on the bathroom mirror a goal that I’d like to reach that day and then the goal of the week. This practice excites me about the work and opportunity that the day will bring! (DCF: Sounds like an amazing way to kick off the day!)

LW: Ideas. Nothing gives me more energy than imagining a possibility. I guess you could say I’m an optimist, but also a realist. I love seeing an idea come to fruition. Aside from that, I get my energy from people. It took me 3 months of working alone as a new entrepreneur to realize that I am undoubtedly an extrovert. (DCF: Ditto, I relate to this so much! I love being alone when I want to be alone but people recharge me). I get energy from having intimate conversations with people, seeing them face to face and seeing them smile.

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DCF: What does balance mean to you and how do find it?

AJ: Balance is relative. I think it’s important to accept everyday, week, or month won’t necessarily be “balanced”. I know my threshold of needing me time. I love giving my time and energy to others but I also have a natural sense to know when it’s time to pull back and take care of myself. (DCF: Self care is essential, it’s the difference between giving and burn out).

LW: Balance is a feeling, one that is dynamic day-to-day and different for everyone as Alexis puts it! I think it’s being intuitive and knowing when you feel out of balance, in health, in mind, in spirit. Yoga has helped me be intuitive, to pause and process before I react. When it comes to the notion of balance, I think the worst thing we can do is punish ourselves for not meeting a societal standard of balance, the idea that we can ‘have it all’–a thriving career, family, friend and love life. In reality, all of those areas of life might ebb & flow at different times, being true to what feels right for you and adjusting (even falling and getting back up) is balance.  (DCF: We are often far to hard on ourselves for things that are totally normally and relatable!)

DCF: What sacrifices did you have to make to get here?

AJ: We’re in the very early stages of Burgundy Fox, self-funding is a huge sacrifice. Other dreams have to be on hold in order to fulfill this dream. I have an amazing business partner and a wildly supportive husband. While the sacrifice is significant, it fuels me to work harder than I ever have in my life. (DCF: Self funding definitely sounds like it’s a strong motivator).

LW: I would agree with Alexis, it’s something that isn’t talked about often enough in the open: money and what financing a business looks like. With advances in technology, it is easier to start a business now more than ever before. Even if your business is one that can gain and requires outside funding (like venture capital), there is a reality that you could be bootstrapping (or reinvesting nearly all your net profit back into the business) for years or forever. So, prepare for that, prepare for a smaller or non-existent paycheck, prepare to focus on sales so that you can get to a point where you might not need outside investment. To get to this point though, you could say I sacrificed some sleep.

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DCF: What struggles have you faced as a women in your industry?

AJ: Finding my voice has been my biggest struggle. Being a woman of color in e-commerce and the lingerie industry has a lot of layers to it. I want to be taken seriously, I want to be afforded similar opportunities that my counterparts receive but I’ve grown up in a world knowing that I have to work ten times harder. (DCD: Aint that the truth!). I want my voice to be clear and strong.

LW: As the CEO of Burgundy Fox, I can’t say that I have yet faced outright struggles because I’m a woman. The industry we work in is mostly fueled by women (our brand partners, social media influencers, members) but the two largest lingerie retailers in the US are operated by men, we hope to be that change. We hire not based on gender, but values. So, we seek colleagues, contractors and suppliers with similar values as us. In the past, I have certainly faced struggles in business as a woman. Women are faced with so many double standards in the workplace, which adds a great deal of complexity while navigating promotions and recognition, or even feeling physically and emotionally safe. As a teenager, I worked in a restaurant that was fraught with sexual harassment. From kitchens to boardrooms, overt and covert, seeing the powerlessness women endure has made me push back and try to influence these places any way I can.

DCF: What is the early advice you didn’t listen to that you wish you had?

AJ: Can you hear your mother’s voice… or grandmother, or that teacher that annoyingly got you. Save, save and save some more. When I was younger I loved spending money and took time for granted. Now that I’m older, I understand how important it is to have money in case of emergencies. You can never have too much in savings and you’re never too young to start investing. (DCF: Yes we need to do so much better in how we educate young people cause yes it’s never too soon!)

LW: I wish I had paid more attention to studies in high school and less attention on the social aspect or having a job. I started working when I was 14 years old, by choice, because I wanted autonomy to buy clothes, make-up, movies, etc. I worked most of high school and college, while I think it helped create a good work ethic, I think the opportunities created from focusing on studies and attending great schools has a good payoff, too.

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DCF: What was your greatest failure and what did you learn from it?

AJ: My greatest failure is not trusting my gut and reviewing data before making a decision. I’ve learned that your gut can take you far and numbers do not lie. (DCF: The gut is a powerful and underrated tool that we should all listen to more). 

LW: I can honestly say that I don’t consider any past action to be a failure, but I would say looking back with clear hindsight, I would have saved more money before starting a company and paid down any and all debt. Although nothing works quite like pressure and a shrinking savings account, financial constraints can be a slippery and dangerous slope and it’s best to avoid the stress by planning ahead. (DCF: It does light a fire but you don’t want to get burned).

DCF: What was your proudest moment to date?

AJ: Telling my parents that I’m a co-founder. It’s a privilege to work for yourself, and my parents wanted all their kids to be their own bosses. It was an amazing feeling to say to them that I’m doing it! (DCF: Proud moment indeed!)

LW: One of my proudest moments this year was when I ran our numbers at the end of the year. Somehow, someway, we hit the big number I had been shooting for in 2017. I believe it was because I kept thinking about, saying it, and built frameworks to measure the things we needed to hit, in order to reach it. I was so proud of Alexis and I for accomplishing that goal, and it gives me energy to strive for and meet our big goal in 2018. (DCF: Sounds like the hard work you both put in really paid off.)

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DCF: What are you Currently Conquering?

We just launched a couple of exciting things! Ever wondered what your lingerie personality is? It might not be what you see on the catwalks. Go to burgundyfox.com to take the quiz & find out!

Secondly, we’ve launched our Valentine’s Day campaign! Whether you’re single, dating, or married we want to celebrate all women with something that makes them feel beautiful from the inside out! After that, it’s all bridal. Think bride & bridesmaids robes, honeymoon PJs, boudoir photoshoots! We know our customers like comfortable and stylish lingerie & sleepwear, so you’ll see a lot more of that for all ages and sizes. (DCF: Can’t wait to check it all out!!)

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DCF: Let’s Get Social (Media)!!
Website: www.burgundyfox.com
All social accounts: @burgundyfoxco – Twitter, Instagram, Facebook
iTunes: Seamless podcast
Alexis: @officially_alexisjenkins
Leslie: @lesliewong15

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The Funemployed: Cara Peterson

DCF: Who Are You?
Cara Peterson, Badass Creative/The Effortless Perfection Myth, I am an artist and aspiring author. My art is mainly linoleum printmaking and collage, and my book is about the gender issues millennial women face while in college.

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DCF: Why do you love what you do? What makes you funemployment?
CP: I love to write and I love to create art! Finding time to do both is hard when navigating different areas of work (I’ve been a waitress, I worked at a law firm that lobbies for rehabilitation and disability issues, and now I am a part-time substitute teacher). But I find I am really able to enter into a flow state where my creativity peeks and my sense of purpose and self is strongest on days where I get to wake up in the morning and write and write until my focus feels used up, and then work on my art to use a different part of my brain, and then go back to writing, and maybe back to art again haha. Both my art and writing have forced me into taking entrepreneurial risks that I never really felt fully suited for, but am proud to have taken. With writing a book especially, sometimes I feel like I don’t really know what I’m doing because getting published is really challenging and I don’t really know anybody closely who has ever taken on the same feat. But I just have to take whatever step feels right to be taking and trust my gut.

DCF: Who was your first mentor and how did you find them?
CP: I’ve been incredibly lucky to have a handful of wonderful mentors: My parents; high school teachers Mr. Chanania, Ms. Peterson, and Mrs. Krug; college mentor Gary Glass; and many women my own age I’ve become close with who just seem to be getting out and grabbing life by the horns.

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DCF: What’s your happy place?
CP: When I’m in the middle of writing out a feeling and I can tell I’m expressing it the way I really mean it, in a way that’s persuasive, honest, and personable.

DCF: Where do you get your energy?
CP: A lot of my energy comes from a sense of injustice, to be honest. With my writing, I’m trying to confront a lot of social justice issues I think are present in the collegiate world (and issues that exist at all stages of life, really). The cathartic nature of writing adds much fuel to my fire. With my art, I can’t help but constantly craft and imagine in my head, so my energy probably comes from the joy of feeling like I actually have time to turn that concept into a reality. It’s like “Let’s get down to business!”

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DCF: What does balance mean to you and how do find it?
CP: Balance to me is finding outlets that effectively deal with anxiety and other negative stressful feelings. It’s feeling out what your body and brain are ready to commit to and do in the moment and going with that creative urge. If it says write, you write. If it says read, you read. If it says do art, do art. I started printmaking originally because, when I was working a 9-5, I felt like I needed there to be more to my day then going to work and coming home and maybe watching tv and going to bed. I needed something else creative that allowed me to use a different part of my brain in a productive way. That’s what my “Badass Quotes by Badass Women” series that showed at Baked & Wired in Georgetown, and raised just under $5,000 for N Street Village (a local shelter for homeless and low income women in DC), was born out of.

DCF: What sacrifices did you have to make to get here?
CP: I’ve been lucky enough to have supportive friends and family cheering me on as I pursue my dreams. Navigating the publishing world has been really challenging at times, particularly on stress levels. My brain is like a swinging pendulum at times where sometimes I’m like “THIS IS THE BEST THING EVER” and other times I’m like “WHY DID I THINK I COULD DO THIS?” But the addition of art in the mix has been helpful at evening out those fluctuations a good bit.

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DCF: What struggles have you faced as a women in your industry?
CP: Having studied Women & Gender Studies has allowed me to feel more aware and more prepared to take on gender-specific struggles, though there is always more to learn and overcome. I also feel really lucky to have been a part of the latest Super Fierce Exhibit (with superstar Maggie O’Neill at the helm). The month-long exhibit up in the Blind Whino was designed to support and celebrate female artists.

DCF: What is the early advice you didn’t listen to that you wish you had?
CP: “Be gentle with yourself” — I like to push myself pretty hard sometimes, but it’s not always the best for my stress levels. I’ve had to learn to listen to my body and my brain better and actually react to the messages they are sending me.

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DCF: What was your greatest failure and what did you learn from it?
CP: I worked myself up too much when trying to finish my book proposal, to the point I had to take some time away from the book. I was putting a lot of pressure on myself to get an agent/published, and was generally spending a lot of time alone in my house and needed more day-to-day structure. I ended up putting the book away for a year and working a job focused on healthcare policy. Now that I’m back working on it, I feel like I can be much more objective in my writing and editing moving forward.

DCF: What was your proudest moment to date?
CP: My proudest moment is going to be when my book is finally finished, but for now I’d say my first show in Baked & Wired was pretty great. It felt good to raised money for a good cause, and it was relatively soon after Hillary lost the election. I loved having images and quotes from 50 badass women covering the walls of the bakery/coffee shop to remind people that we have had and continue to have many many amazing women fighting for gender equality and a whole range of other social justice issues.

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DCF: Bonus. Currently Conquering: Here’s your chance for some shameless self promotion, tell me all about what you are working on!!
CP: I’m currently working toward another show at Baked & Wired that will be January 17th – February 12th, 2018 . The show is to commemorate the one-year anniversary of the Women’s March. Two new collections will be exhibited! 25% of all proceeds will be donated to charity (the buyer can choose for the money to go to one of three organizations– Planned Parenthood, ACLU, and Save the Children.

What’s Your Social Media!!
www.caralenapeterson.com
@badasscreative_
www.badassquotesbybadasswomen.com

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The Funemployed: Riley Sheehey

DCF: Who Are You?
Riley Sheehey, Make Things Co. (more than likely soon to be Riley Sheehey Illustration) (DCF: Both are great name!) Freelance watercolor artist/illustrator.

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The Funemployed: Michelle Breyer

DCF: Who Are You?
Michelle Breyer, co-founder of NaturallyCurly.com. Named one of the 50 Most Influential People in the Multicultural Market by Women’s Wear Daily in 2015, Michelle Breyer is a visionary entrepreneur who, in 1998, took a personal frustration over out-of-control curls and built it into the largest social media platform for hair. Today, TextureMedia – the parent company of NaturallyCurly – reaches 16 million people per month and influences more than $1 billion annually in hair product spend. What started as a hobby now includes two consumer digital sites, an ecommerce platform and a consumer Insights division. Michelle has consulted with such iconic brands and companies as Unilever, L’Oreal, and Paul Mitchell to help shape their textured-hair business plans, and also worked with dozens of entrepreneurs to launch their brands for the textured-hair market. She now is executive vice president of strategic partnerships. (DCF: Way to turn a “problem” into a passion!)

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The Funemployed: Rachel Rosenthal

DCF: Who Are You?
Rachel Rosenthal, Founder/Owner of Rachel and Company. I’m a Bethesda-native, wife, and mom to identical twin girls. My business – Rachel and Company – is a professional organizing firm in the DC-metro area specializing in home organization, closet design, and home moves. Since launching Rachel and Company nearly 10 years ago, we’ve helped over 1,700 families get organized! I’m also creator of The Playbook, an organizing how-to guide for every area of your home.

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The Funemployed: Kate Matsudaira

DCF: Who Are You?

Kate Matsudaira, creator at Ink+Volt. Kate Matsudaira (@katemats) has spent her entire career leading brilliant teams, and is currently the founder of the company Ink+Volt. Previously, Kate was the founder and CEO of Popforms (acquired by Safari Books Online in 2015). She has also worked as the VP Engineering/CTO at Decide (acquired by Ebay), Moz, and Delve Networks (acquired by Limelight), and as a software engineer, tech lead, and manager at Amazon and Microsoft. (DCF: Impressive, I like it!!) Kate is a keynote speaker at conferences around the world, and teaches a highly sought after workshop for teams on the elements of successful leadership. She also maintains a popular blog on management, productivity, and creating an amazing career at katemats.com.

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The Funemployed: Alice Bergen Phillips

DCF: Who Are You?
Alice Bergen Phillips, Cheesemonster, Owner/Head Cheesemonger. Originally hailing from Chicago, I grew up in a food-loving home (DCF: Totally know what that’s like!!). After earning a degree in International Politics and graduating Cum Laude and Phi Beta Kappa (DCF: woot woot!!) from Bates College, I moved to D.C. to pursue a career in international politics. However, I quickly found my side jobs working in the world of specialty foods to be far more compelling. I found real my calling in cheese, and have never looked back.

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The Funemployed: Catherine Cason

DCF: So… Who Are You?
Catherine Cason, Founder/Creator of Gem Hunt and Gem Breakfast. Also a diamond addict!

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The Funemployed: Sarah Robinson

DCF : So… Who Are You?
Sarah Robinson, Author. Aside from being a Top 10 Barnes & Noble and Amazon Bestseller, Sarah Robinson is a native of the Washington, DC area (DCF: woot woot!! DMV) and has both her Bachelors and Masters Degrees in forensic and clinical psychology. She is newly married to a wonderful man who is just as much of an animal rescue enthusiasts as she is. Together, they own a zoo of rescues including everything from mammals to reptiles to marsupials, as well as volunteering and fostering for multiple animal shelters.

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The Funemployed: Patrice Banks

DCF: Who Are You?
I’m Patrice Banks, Founder, CEO and head #sheCANic at Girls Auto Clinic!

DCF: For those of you who haven’t heard of this mecca, here’s some more info!!

Girls Auto Clinic (GAC) is a woman owned and operated business that caters to women. GAC offers automotive buying and repair resources, products, and services based on trust, education, inclusion, and empowerment.

It’s no secret most women hate their automotive buying and repair experiences because we feel misunderstood, taken advantage of, and/or mistreated. To make things worse, the automotive industry has not done much to ease concerns, anxiety, and fear despite the fact more than half their customers are women and spend $200 Billion (with a B) a year on buying and repairing their cars.

Patrice was once one of these women. A self-proclaimed “auto airhead,” Patrice created a business model that supports a need in the lives of millions. Girls Auto Clinic offers:
Automotive repair services
Educational resources in person and online through
Car Care Workshops
GAC blog
Facebook #sheCANic community

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