Natalie Festa, Co-Founder, Boro
Republished with permission from Be The Next Her an Evio Community Partner
Natalie is the Co-Founder of Boro, a peer-to-peer marketplace for women to lend and rent clothing to and from each other.
What is your morning routine?
I like to start my day meditating and reading while having coffee and something to eat. One of the email lists I’m subscribed to sends a “note from the Universe” each morning with a good intention for the day. That’s the email I check first, to get me in high spirits for the day, then I glance over some other emails to get acquainted with what happened overnight before heading to the office. I’m not a “morning person” and I can’t imagine commuting (I did for a while) so I consider myself lucky that I walk to work.
Tell us about your career path
I started on a more traditional business student career path working at KPMG for 4 years while earning my CA designation. While it has proven to be a great launching pad, I knew that type of corporate work wasn’t for me forever. I tried to liven my experience there by launching an NPO called FAIR + SQUARE whereby I made pocket squares for men’s suits and allocated the proceeds of sale to women entrepreneurs in developing countries. This was my way of engaging men in the empowerment of women entrepreneurs as I found that most of the leadership positions around me were occupied by males, so I wanted to be part of this change.
I then took a 6 month Sabbatical and went to volunteer in Tanzania as the Managing Director of Kauli which is an artisanal purse brand and I fell in love with sustainability in fashion and supporting artisans in hard-to-reach markets. This opened my mind to a world of possibilities and my long-term dream kicked in. I wanted to be involved with sustainable fashion and help reduce textile waste globally.
These experiences – both corporate desk work and attending a lot of events and accumulating too much clothing – and witnessing the fashion supply chain in the developing world – led me to co-found Boro which is my current full-time gig. Borois a peer-to-peer marketplace for women to lend and rent clothing to and from each other. You know when you have 3 client dinners, a friend’s birthday and a wedding all in one week and the outfits that you only wear once keep accumulating? Boro is here to solve that problem. I love being an entrepreneur because I get to solve relevant problems and help influence change in my communities.
What challenges do you or women face in your industry?
In fashion there are a lot of women, but women in fashion tend to be falsely characterized as superficial or materialistic (so the stereotypes say) which is a challenge I am trying to combat. I’m here to bring more business to fashion and to show people that fashion can be smart. I’m here to bring more analytics to fashion so we can make better fashion choices (i.e. Did you know the average person uses 20% of their wardrobe and the rest just sits there. Boro can help you utilize this idle asset and turn it into an income generating opportunity). We all get dressed everyday so there is significant opportunity for impact, and at Boro we want to change the way people get changed. If you take action about learning about the clothes you wear, how they are made, and why you should buy less, you can make a big change in the world, in terms of the maker’s quality of life, the planet’s global warming, and your own well-being.
What advice would you give to young girls who want to be the NEXT you?
Done is better than perfect – get your idea out there and start testing and pivoting. Take steps with what you feel aligned to, rather than worrying about how something looks on a resume. Don’t follow a tradition just because it’s a societal expectation; understand why you are on a certain path and please have the courage to use your voice to express what you believe in. Find that grey area between what gets you mad and what lights you up, and lean in to that. Be unapologetic in making your visions reality. It’s ok to say no to things that don’t align with your grand plans (it took me a long time to act on that, previously saying yes to every invite until burnout commenced).
How do you separate work life from your personal life?
Wait, that’s a thing? Haha. I honestly don’t separate the two. My work has become my life and most entrepreneurs will say the same but they key is that I’m happy that it’s not separated. Work-life balance is something I used to strive for but I’ve learned it’s an elusive concept for me and I’m okay with that. I could never imagine going home from a day at work and having complete separation from my work day – I’ve never been that way and I fully lean in to my work. There’s never a time Boro is not on my mind but in the best way possible – always thinking on how to improve, collect feedback, and take it to the masses. As long as you can find a way to harmonize your work and life in a way that works for you, and check in with yourself to ensure you are well, then I think that is a good measure of making it all work doing the best you can.
That being said, it is important to know what your “non-negotiables” are and set boundaries when warranted. Professional freedom and having control over my schedule is key for me. Although I have never punched the clock and don’t have it in me to be at work only between 9-5, I deeply value not being tied to my desk, for instance having the autonomy to be able to head to an afternoon yoga class if that’s the only break in my schedule. There are always going to be a million demands on each of us but it’s up to you to prioritize. That’s also not to say I don’t value moments to myself – I thoroughly enjoy my solitude.
On the average day, I will take a few moments on our rooftop to gaze and reflect, or step outside for a short walk with some music, and those are really special moments I take even on the busiest of days and they are enough to remind myself there is something bigger than myself that I am working towards.
What inspires you?
People who walk their talk and take fearless steps toward big innovations. I surround myself with people who raise the bar for me, which ultimately inspires me because when people around me are high performers and expect more of me, that drives me to work harder and smarter to not only reach the bar they’ve set but also to continue raising that bar. I’ve heard that you are the combined effort of everyone that you have ever known and also most shaped by the 5 people you spend most time with, and I wholeheartedly believe both of those statements. When I see the people close to me doing incredible work, I mimic some of their best habits and get to working smarter to allow me to play in their leagues.
When you’re off the clock, what are your indulgences?
Travel. I love exploring new and old destinations alike – wandering unfamiliar streets, discovering hidden restaurants, and winging it as I go.
If unable to travel, I love discovering new restaurants, rooftops, and cafes in Toronto. I always have a digital check-list of places I want to explore next whenever I need a little re-set.
I also turn to meditation to help me realign. I recently completed a 10 day meditation retreat – no phones or talking—so that was my way of leaning into my mind for a bit. I felt like a new person coming out of it and highly recommend it to anyone that even has a fleeting interest in meditation.