I founded Under the Canopy (UTC) in 1996 with a mission to pioneer the concept of eco-fashion and revolutionize the fashion industry. I invested my time, heart and every penny I had to build a cutting-edge lifestyle brand. Pride, passion, persistence and hard work were rewarded with success, when UTC launched in the nation’s leading retailers, including Whole Foods, Macy’s and Target.
To fund our exciting expansion, I sought angel and private equity investment capital. The lead investor became chairman and exerted pressure to hire a “seasoned” CEO, who he believed would enhance our long-term growth as a company. However, each of the three successive CEOs lacked the entrepreneurial ethos, sensitivity and morality to understand the essence of UTC and our customers’ needs and desires. As a founder of the company, I felt undermined, disrespected and stifled.
My challenges became untenable. It was unfathomable to feel estranged from the company I created. At a serious crossroads, I accepted that I was powerless to keep UTC true to its original vision and mission. However, I am intrinsically positive and optimistic and as I looked for the “message,” a new brand concept came to me. I immediately felt empowered and invigorated. I decided it was time to reinvent and recreate.
My exit from UTC was surreal.
The hardest – yet most liberating and bittersweet day of my life – was the day I walked out of my own company. I recognized that saving my soul had more value than a company that was being stripped of its life force and integrity. An unexpected weight was lifted from me, which actually superseded my fear and sadness. I dove head first into my new brand.
My vision and passion returned.
Two years after starting my new company, I received an unsolicited call from an investor group in New York requesting a meeting. This group had been following the progress of Under the Canopy and was alarmed by the company’s sudden loss of positive momentum. When they learned of my departure, they contacted me to assess my level of interest in reacquiring the Under the Canopy brand in partnership with their company. We developed a successful strategy to purchase UTC and restore its authenticity. I brought them up to speed about my current company, and after many meetings, we created a mutually agreeable roll-up of three brands, whereby I would serve as partner and Chief Marketing & Sustainability Officer.
One year after this proposed opportunity came to fruition, I felt reinforced and validated by the age-old clichés: “Everything happens for a reason,” and “When one door closes, another one opens.” I am thrilled by the outcome of this unexpected life-changing experience. Deep in the trenches of reigniting Under the Canopy with its innovative, inspiring and creative brand promise, I feel blessed that UTC is stronger than ever.