Name: Ryan Strobolakos
Location: Charlotte, NC
Education/Training: Bachelors in Business and Organizational Leadership
How did the idea for we are- NOTORIOUS come about?
I knew for a while that I wanted to do something with women empowerment, but it took me time to figure out what that looked like for me. I love graphic t-shirts and power sayings, but I feel like so many of the feminist t-shirts out there are just slogans plastered on the shirt. I wanted to take some of the power phrases I came up with and create something different. It’s when I realized that wearing shirts like these actually made me feel more like myself and it was a way to express the true me inside that the idea for we are- NOTORIOUS came together and into fruition.
Did you face any hurdles in getting it up and running? How did you navigate them, and what did you learn about both yourself and business in this process?
Oh yes, there were definitely hurdles. First, I actually started another business before we are- NOTORIOUS that I had worked on with my now-husband since college. It was four years in the making so by the time it actually came to launch, we had both grown into different people and weren’t passionate about it anymore. It took us launching the business to realize that we needed to close it, haha! I learned so much about starting an online store through that venture, that it actually prepared me well for starting this business. I also learned so much about listening to my gut, so I definitely don’t regret that experience at all.
I faced a lot of doubt from others in leaving my corporate job to start my own business. I had read and heard so many stories of others getting negative feedback from a place of love, but just because you get negative feedback doesn’t mean you should not move forward. People think they have your best interest in mind when they give their opinion, but they don’t know your heart. At the end of the day, an opinion is just an opinion, and you get to decide which ones you listen to and which ones you don’t. I knew for myself that this decision was the right one for me. I actually wrote a note in my phone during times of inspiration that gave all my reasons why I wanted this, so when I got that negative feedback, I could quickly remind myself why I was doing this.
Why are women supporting other women, and empowering other women, something that is important to you and should be important to all women?
I personally didn’t grow up with a lot of strong female friendships in my life, and I didn’t know how to stand up for myself. I look back now to some of those critical childhood moments where I wish somebody had told me that it was okay to stand up for myself, to push back, and to be who I was deep down. Now, I see so many women in the same place, and I want women to know and believe in how capable, strong, and powerful they are. I think we are capable of so much, especially when we work together toward change. When we build each other up, instead of tearing each other down, we’re unstoppable. There’s no harm in supporting and empowering other women, so why not?
What does being yourself mean to you?
Being yourself means being that person that you only let out at home, all the time. It means living with freedom and having the confidence to be your true authentic self. It’s letting loose, dancing in the grocery store aisle because you love the song that is currently playing, or belting it out in the car with the windows down at the red light even if you can’t sing, or laughing at yourself when you do something stupid like trip on the sidewalk (oops!). It means expressing who you truly are publicly, regardless of what others think or what the social norms are.
Have any customers shared their personal stories with you? How does it make you feel knowing that by sharing your own story, and that the brand generally, has helped others do the same?
Yes! I’ve had several people send me messages about where they have been in life and how much we are- NOTORIOUS has inspired them. I’m honestly humbled and honored that these women have chosen to share their personal stories with me. It’s not easy to be vulnerable and share those hard moments, whether present or past. It makes me so happy and proud that we are- NOTORIOUS is making a difference, and I’m just so grateful to be here, and these stories inspire ME to keep going.
Where do you see we are- NOTORIOUS in 5 years? 10 years?
I want we are- NOTORIOUS to be a community of women in all stages of life, from all walks of life, building each other up and supporting one another. I would also love to provide more resources for women that help them to be empowered and live with the freedom and confidence to not only accept but also express their true authentic selves. I already have so many ideas for this and am so excited about the future! 🙂
What advice do you have for young women who want to launch an empowerment-oriented enterprise or passion project?
Go for it! Come up with a plan and move forward, don’t wait, don’t stall, just go. Don’t let anyone hold you back. If you get negative feedback, it’s all the more reason to prove them wrong. Also, it doesn’t have to be perfect to launch. You’ll always be making improvements, so don’t let perfection keep you from moving forward.
Do you have a mentor? Who do you look to for inspiration and support?
Yes, I am so excited because I just joined a collective mentorship group of 15 women that starts this week! I also look to my mom for inspiration and support. She owns her own business as well so I definitely get my entrepreneurship side from her. I follow a lot of positive Instagram and YouTube accounts as well, which keeps me inspired.
Final words of wisdom to all the young women out there who are strategizing to reach their education, career, and wellness goals?
I listened to a podcast about a year ago (I wish I remember which one it was so I could give proper credit, but I don’t), and the speaker shared this idea about fear. If fear is something that is holding you back, get out a piece of paper and write down that fear at the top. Then write down what you would do if that fear came true.
They gave the example that they had a fear of failure in starting a business. They wrote down “fear of failure” at the top and then wrote down what they would do if they did actually fail. They would close up shop, fix up their resume, send it out, and begin job searching. Land a job where they could make enough to live and work until they figured out the next steps of a new venture or passion project. Once they did this, it was like the fear was acknowledged, and it wasn’t so bad. They had an action plan if that fear came true, and they could move forward with confidence.
You are capable of more than you think. If you have a dream, go for it. You will never know if you don’t try and what’s the worst that can happen?
If you are open to connecting with our readers, how can they reach you?