The message behind Ready to Stare is all about following your passion, loving yourself and inspiring others to do the same. I want someone to feel empowered and confident when they are wearing Ready to Stare. I want my brand to challenge society’s standard of beauty and be a part of changing the way that we talk about bodies and body image.
Give me some back story about yourself.
I’ve been drawing and sketching designs since I was a kid, but once I entered high school, I started to lose faith in myself as an artist. Instead of going to design school, I would go to school for journalism [to stay close to] fashion by writing about it as a journalist. During my senior year in college at Loyola University Chicago, I co-founded a vintage clothing store with two of my friends I had met at a journalism internship. Once I got a taste of owning a small creative business, I knew that was where my true passion lived. Throughout the three years that I ran the vintage stores with my friends, I gained the confidence I needed to start my own business, Ready to Stare.
I started Ready to Stare late 2011, while I was working in the editorial department at Groupon in Chicago. I didn’t have any investors or money set aside to start a small business so I live modestly and I used my paychecks from Groupon to put towards growing Ready to Stare. After a year of running my business and working full-time at Groupon, I decided that moving out of Chicago to a city with a lower cost of living would allow me to work part-time and run my business. I relocated to Atlanta in August 2013. I did research in advance of places and people that I wanted to connect with in Atlanta, but for the most part, I knew no one there. When I got there I struggled to find my place. While my goal was to work part- time and run Ready to Stare, I realized after working as a barista and having one of the most miserable Christmases ever that I needed to work full time again until my business and life got more stable.
[Early on], I continued to get rejected from boutiques and shows in Atlanta, so my online business was more important than ever. Deciding to completely immerse myself in my business, I wanted to make something that made an unmistakable statement with more than jewelry. Inspired by the Beyonce visual album, I designed my first ever t-shirt in late December 2013 that said “I Woke Up Like Dis.” Being in Atlanta had really shaken my confidence, but designing these shirts was my way of saying I had all of the power that I needed to change my situation. When I released the shirts, I started an empowerment movement featuring myself in the campaign. This decision truly transformed my business from a local jewelry designer to a global fashion brand. I’ve always sold jewelry internationally through Etsy, but the shirts definitely extended my reach even more. I even sold the shirts to a boutique in Kuwait!
Tell me about Ready to Stare.
The name Ready to Stare itself was actually inspired by a situation where someone made a fat shaming comment to me because I was wearing a short dress. After that, I thought to myself when you are a confident person who wears whatever you want, you have to be ready to be stared at. People will stare at you, because they either admire your confidence or they envy it. Either way, you can’t let other people’s comfort levels determine what you do or wear. I decided to be the representative of my brand, because I realized there was no better person that is a reflection of my own bold personal style.
What has your overall journey been like as far as building your own business?
My overall journey has been a series of very high highs and low lows. There have been days where I wonder why I even started this and then there are days when I feel like the absolute luckiest person in the world. I’ve learned a lot about who I am as a person by running my own business, because all of the responsibility falls on me. In the beginning, I used to sweat the small stuff. I used to worry about whether or not people liked me or liked what I created. I’ve learned now that not everyone is going to like me and that’s okay. I’ve learned to be my own biggest fan. It’s funny because the more confident I become as a person and designer, the more people seem to respond and relate to me.
Describe a moment when you wanted to quit on your dream and how did you overcome.
I’ve had a few of these moments – the one that stands out most was when I was working at Starbucks around this time last year. I was cleaning toilets, washing dishes and making frappuccinos I could never seem to remember recipes for- all for minimum wage. Ready to Stare was getting rejected from shows and boutiques in Atlanta and I still had very few friends and contacts. I felt like I had made a huge mistake leaving my corporate job, but I was too stubborn and prideful to find another one. After working on Christmas at Starbucks and getting yelled at by my boss instead of getting a thank you, I designed the first Ready to Stare t-shirt. I decided that wallowing in my misery was getting me nowhere and the only way to see change in my life was to do something different. The shirts ended up transforming my business. I had to reach rock bottom to get to that point. One of my favorite quotes is that from your struggle comes your strength and in my case that’s definitely been true.
Thank you Alysse for sharing your story!
Website: Ready to Stare
Shop Ready to Stare: Etsy
Follow her on Instagram: readytostare