Opportunista Mary Vallarta epitomizes the entrepreneurial hustle. And it’s paid off. As the Co-Founder + CEO of FAB Counsel and Co-Founder + Creative Director of The Collective, Mary launched into her entrepreneurial journey with a desire to achieve greater creative freedom and to empower others. Mary candidly walks us through the leap from her 9-5 gig into entrepreneurship and shares the importance of keeping organized–and how she does it– as a mom and owner of two businesses. This Opportunista keeps it real by sharing how she struggles with balance in her various roles, but how her commitment to living mindfully has served her well in overcoming obstacles and accepting rewards. Mary’s authenticity is palpable and downright admirable.
Let’s meet Mary and learn her story.
*Thank you to Opportunista Ashley Buxton for nominating Mary.
Name: Mary Vallarta
Location: Venice, California
Title & Company: Co-Founder + CEO, FAB Counsel / Co-Founder + Creative Director, The Collective
Industry: Fashion, Consulting
Education: UCLA, ’08 (Cum Laude)
Why did you leave your career as a fashion buyer for major brands to start Fab Counsel?
A few different reasons. First, is that I didn’t want to have my boss’s job. If I didn’t want to get to the next level in my career, then why be in it? Secondly, I craved more creative freedom. Thirdly, I wanted a job where I could make a difference. I know, totally cliché, but I wanted to do something that involved me working closely with people to empower them in some way. I didn’t see myself being able to do that working as a fashion buyer.
How did you make the transition from working your 9-5 to becoming an entrepreneur?
I started consulting new fashion companies and brands part-time, and I realized that I loved it! I enjoyed spending time with my clients, giving them advice and strategies that they can run with, and I especially loved being able to see the progress they made in their businesses. My boyfriend, who is also currently my business partner in FAB Counsel, supported me from the beginning. He’s been an entrepreneur for years and it was through his financial support and advice that I was able to get more clients, quit my job, and grow FAB Counsel from part-time to full-time. I did it part-time for about 6 months and in January 2012, FAB Counsel launched with a website and was officially a legit business.
In addition to co-founding FAB Counsel, you also created The Collective. How have you managed to launch and run multiple businesses?
The Collective is a brand new project I’m doing with a dear friend and business partner, Ferial Moloo. She came to me with a concept on combining Fashion, Food, & Travel. A few weeks later, we decided to partner, and The Collective was born. Balancing two businesses with being a new mom and a partner is not easy. I’m still trying to figure it all out. But staying organized is key. Without tools like my Google Calendar, Basecamp, Google Drive, Toggle, and a notebook for my to-do list, I would not be able to get anything done or arrive to any appointments on time. It’s truly about organizing my time and being conscious of what I choose to do and be a part of. Do I choose to watch an hour of TV or should I play with my baby? Should I fiddle with my Facebook newsfeed or read this new book that can improve my content writing abilities?
It’s all a choice at the end of the day. None of it is bad but it does have different impacts, which I fully own.
What is your most memorable experience as an entrepreneur?
I guess it would be the very first event I planned for FAB Counsel. We hold these bi-monthly events where we talk about important fashion business topics. This one featured my friends who were buyers and sales reps for Nasty Gal, HauteLook, and Puma. I’ve never planned a paid promotional event for myself before so I would’ve been happy if 10 people showed up. The space I got was originally meant for 25. We had over 50 people registered. I was in shock! And everyone had an amazing time. Hearing their feedback, and how much fun the attendees and speakers had was so inspiring. This is when I fell in love with events.
What were the greatest challenges in launching and running Fab Counsel and The Collective that you didn’t expect? How did you overcome these challenges?
The greatest challenge for both is balance. Balancing running a business with being a mother, a partner, and a person who has many passions. Being fit, attractive, and centered are important to me so I make time for that, but it doesn’t always happen and that’s what’s challenging. Sometimes I end being so hard on myself and at times I just accept the fact that I can be so flawed. I am human after all.
What do people never ask you, that you wish they did?
Wow, what question. I guess it’s, How to be a good person? Because my answer would be to stop trying to be a good person. The word “good” varies in relation to who you’re asking. So I would say, don’t strive to be a good person. Instead, strive to be the highest version of your authentic self that is free from societal dogma. I think that’s one of the most courageous things anyone can ever do in their lifetime. It’s what I now strive for.
Back then, I used to strive for happiness. But it’s so unrealistic. Is anyone really happy all the time? Some of the best experiences and lessons in life come from sadness and pain so it’s unrealistic for me to always strive for happiness. Instead, I strive to live in consciousness, which means being mindful and accepting of the present, no matter what obstacles or rewards come my way.
How did you fund FAB Counsel and The Collective?
I invested about $200 of my own money to pay for a domain, hosting, and a WordPress theme. I taught myself to do a little coding and two days later, I had a website. I used the rest of the money for business cards. A couple of years later, FAB Counsel is a 6-figure business. But trust me, there were a lot of challenges in between. For The Collective, my partner and I raised a seed round from a private investor. Before raising money, we already had most of the conference planned, tickets sold, and secured brand partners who committed to monetary sponsorship.
You work with a number of partners and sponsors for FAB Counsel and The Collective. How do you determine what partners to work with? What do you think makes for a successful partnership?
Partnerships always have to benefit all the parties involved, and all parties involved have to give something in return. If we don’t offer something that brands want, they won’t partner with us, and if they can’t give us what we want, then we won’t partner with them. On top of that, partners have to advance your event’s mission.
What advice do you have for entrepreneurs working to build a successful brand for their business?
Don’t focus too much on your “brand.” You have no brand until you have a significant amount of sales. So first, focus on getting your products/services out in the market to prove that there’s actually a demand for what you’re selling. The sales will tell you tell if you’re on to something special. Then refine your products and grow. While you do this, treat your customers, contractors, and employees fairly. Pay people for their work and sell products with integrity. Invest in heightening your brand presence when it makes financial sense for your company.
What are the three most important skills or traits that entrepreneurs must have and why?
Problem solving, leadership, and a relentless drive to follow you mission.
How are you creating your own opportunities to live your best life?
By owning my time. I have the privilege as an entrepreneur to fully dictate what I do with my time and that to me is one of the most powerful gifts God has bestowed upon me. My intention is to use that gift to fully uplift myself so that I can empower others to do the same.
Mary is The Opportunista.
The one item in your closet you can’t live without? I honestly can’t think of one thing.
Your favorite spot to wine and dine in LA? Gjelina.
Best way to start your day? Breakfast with my family.
What did you want to be when you were 8 years old? A singer.
Favorite way to de-stress? Get my nails done while sipping champagne, eating chocolate covered strawberries, and listening to Beyoncé.
Who is your role model? I have many role models. Dr. Shefali Tsabary, First Lady Michelle Obama, Oprah Winfrey, Richard Branson.
The woman you hope to take to lunch one day. Why her? Any one of the women I mentioned above. Dr. Shefali Tsabary because of her revolutionary and sensible insights on parenting and consciousness. First Lady Michelle Obama for her insights on supporting and uplifting a powerful man. Oprah Winfrey for building a business empire around her personality and thought-provoking content.
Let me know – How has Mary’s story inspired you to create your own opportunities to live your best life?
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