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Paige Adams-Geller on Starting a New Business
A former Miss California and fit model for most major denim brands (think Seven, Citizens of Humanity, Habitual), Paige Adams-Geller launched her own brand, Paige Premium Denim, in 2004 on the principle that fit, comfort and style are for everyone. She shares her thoughts on what it takes to start your own business.
Did you always know that you wanted to start a business?
I think deep down, yes. It’s kind of funny, but I remember as a young girl listening to my mother needing to ask my father for things, like, “let me ask your father for permission.” There was a part of me inside that felt like, “I don’t want to ask for anything from somebody. I want to be an independent woman.” My mom’s strong, and I know marriage is a partnership, but there was something within me from a young age that said, “I want to create something. I want to build something. And I want to be an inspiration to others.” I’d even watch “All My Children” and be enamored with Erica Kane. I would watch the show when I was little and think, “I want to be a successful businesswoman like that. I want to create beautiful things.” But my path changed after that. I entered the world of modeling, and it was a little different than I expected it to be. I think deep down that I always knew I wanted to be in control of my life, though. Sometimes we’re never truly in control. I wanted to be a successful businesswoman.
What was the inspiration to get going and create this fabulous line of jeans?
I was overweight as a little girl, was always teased and constantly called names like “Miss Piggy” and “Pudgy Paigey.” I was the last girl chosen on the team in sports. I always had a very difficult time with my body and my self-esteem.
[Later on] I started to work as a fit model, which is a model that needs to be a size six or eight, a healthier size. I started working for tons of different companies. I worked for Guess Jeans, Lucky Jeans, True Religion, Seven for All Mankind and Citizens of Humanity, and I really became known as the body behind some of these extremely successful premium denim lines.
I became fascinated with it, about learning how to design clothes that make women look great. I worked for a ton of male designers who really didn’t care as much about that. They just wanted to make a cool-looking jean. They thought, “yeah. That jean looks cool.” And, I’d think, “yeah. But if somebody bigger than a size 10 is wearing this, they’re going to look really big and it’s not going to be flattering.” A lot of the feedback I’d get from the designers was this. “Well, if she’s over a size 10, she shouldn’t be wearing my jean.” At times that would just hit home with how bad I felt about my body. So, that’s the inspiration behind my brand. Living in that world for so many years, I got to a point where I was at the top of my game. I was a very successful fit model. I became known as a fit expert and then a design consultant. I got to a point where I felt empty inside. I knew I needed to do something that had more depth and more meaning. I really wanted to find my purpose in life.
What are three things people must have in the first 30 days of starting a business?
Believe in yourself, hire a great team of experts if you don’t know how to do something and find your passion. Then, go with it.
What would you say to someone who is in the first 30 days of starting their own business?
Once you’ve made a decision on your mission and your purpose, stick to it and believe in yourself. Everybody always wants to give you their advice, and it’s great to take it in. But, when you get too many ideas brewing and too many people giving you too much advice, you could get very confused. You can’t try to be everything to everybody. You have to decide who you want to be, stand for what you’re going to be and plow through it that way. I decided that the brand was going to be called Paige and it was going to have a certain look. I was going to be the face, so obviously the look had to correlate with me—the face—and with who I am. I know there are going to be people who don’t like my style. But, if I try to please everyone, it will ruin the reputation of what the brand is, because people get confused.
Is it normal to have doubts, to second-guess yourself when starting a business?
Absolutely. The scariest part is that I wasn’t my own investor. At times, I would feel like, “do I know what I’m talking about? Here I am, in charge of a huge company, I’ve never run a company before, I’ve never designed a garment before.” I’d be scared out of my mind, making big decisions and trying to wear the façade of “I know exactly what I’m doing and I’m really confident about it.”
In the beginning, I had a positive reaction, but there were some editors that said, “I don’t get it, the jeans are kind of boring.” The look is really clean and really sophisticated, and it’s not meant to be about the look of the jean, it’s meant to be about how you feel when you put the jean on, and that you look amazing in the jean. I had to believe that I was making the right decision.
Do you think it’s important to have a partner when starting a business?
It depends on whether you’re talking about a financial partner or an emotional partner. My husband is my partner emotionally, and then I have my financial partner. I think both helped me, because financially, I was playing with other people’s money. I feel like when you have someone to bounce ideas off of—emotionally and financially—it’s so much better than being in your own head all the time. If you’re a one-woman show, sometimes you can drive yourself a little too crazy.
What is the belief you personally go to in times of change?
I’ve always believed in the best in people and the best in myself. I always have to go back to the belief that if I’m true to myself, I’ll never go wrong.
The best thing about change is…
What is the best change you have ever made?
In order for me to be able to be of service to others and to love others more, I had to learn to love myself.
For more information on Paige Adams-Gellar, visit www.paigepremiumdenim.com.