As female entrepreneurs, sisters Gorjana Reidel and Iva Pawling (of gorjana and Richer Poorer, respectively) know that starting in business can be difficult. The pair are determined to change that.
“Change is the only consistent in business. Coming from an immigrant family has helped us build resilience. We’re equipped to go through highs and lows and not quit, even when quitting would be the easiest route. As female entrepreneurs we always try to inspire others to follow their dreams. We hope that by donating 100% of proceeds, we can help those dreams go a little further.”
In honor of International Women's Day, the sisters are pleased to present a co-designed capsule collection, of which 100% of net sales will be donated to Dress for Success Worldwide West, a nonprofit organization that empowers women in Los Angeles to achieve economic independence by providing a network of support, professional attire and the development tools to help women thrive in work and in life.
In celebration of their first ever collaboration, the dynamic duo sat down to discuss the partnership, entrepreneurship, motherhood and everything in between.
What was life like before moving to America?
Gorjana: It’s all about perspective, so I thought it was fantastic. We lived in a multi-generational home. Our grandparents live on one floor and we lived on another. We grew up in a very loving environment that was very family focused. We had family dinners all the time, our grandmothers made everything for us - food to clothing. We all took care of one another.
What obstacles did you have to overcome moving to America?
Gorjana: I was so angry that we were leaving our grandparents that I didn’t speak to my family the whole plane ride over. It was a major cultural shock. Also, we didn't speak English, so that was a challenge. I was fluent pretty quickly, however. Iva learned to speak english from watching soap operas with our Mom.
Did you both always know they wanted to be entrepreneurs and build their own companies?
Iva: Ten years ago being an entrepreneur wasn’t part of culture. After my first job working in New York I took a few random opportunities - one of which was working with Gorjana. After that I started having this huge need to do something on my own, to build something from scratch. I loved the idea of seeing an opportunity and tackling it.
Gorjana: I should've known because I don't like people telling me what to do. But seriously, I wanted to do something creative, not necessarily work for myself. Then when I met Jason, we really wanted to do something together and really fell in to our shared journey.
What piece of advice or life moment was the catalyst to making the decision to build a brand?
Iva: Entrepreneurship today is so intentional versus the way Gorjana and Jason started. They paid attention to where they were getting pulled. Same thing for us at Richer Poorer, we started a men's sock business and now run a women's apparel business. We just listened to what people wanted, not what we thought the market needs.
Gorjana: There was no catalyst. We did it because it was fun and it paid the bills. We went with the flow.
What were the biggest challenges of starting a company?
Gorjana: I felt unprepared.
Iva: I also felt unprepared. I worked for Gorjana prior to starting Richer Poorer. I thought I knew what to do but I didn’t.
Until you’re fully responsible for the whole thing you have no idea how hard it actually is. It is so challenging. There is no way to know until you actually do it. There’s no training and you have no idea what you're stepping into until you actually own a business.
On the other hand, I credit [the difficulty of] entrepreneurship with helping me with parenting - the transition into parenthood wasn't nearly as hard as I expected.
What is one piece of advice you would each give another woman entrepreneur trying to build a business?
Iva: Stick to your intuition. If you're going to go raise money and play the game of getting funding or building a large business you'll be surrounded by people who make you question your own abilities. As women we suffer from imposter syndrome way more than men do.
I try to think: 'there's so many dumb [people] that have done this before me, why can’t I? Of course I can do this'.
Gorjana: I feel like I have a Serbian confidence. I don’t get weirded out by failure. I just do it. You have to trust your gut and not be so tied to the result.
Sometimes you feel like you have to play a role when you own a business. Don’t. Just be. Dont’ worry about it. Be yourself! Don’t be so hard on yourself. Be adaptable. Be able to flow, be OK with the journey looking different than you thought. Be comfortable with the pivots.
What are the key differences between your styles and how has that helped keep your individuality, especially in business, throughout the years?
Gorjana: I’m more mainstream in my style. I love longevity and timelessness. I’m not into the riskier, one-time outfits.
Iva: I'm more eclectic and interested in what’s different. I love finding new brands and stuff that looks different than what everyone else is wearing. I refuse to buy designer handbags and sneakers...but I will steal Gorjana's. She has a way more boho, natural vibe. I like sharper angles, structured tailoring.
In regards to business, we’re constantly telling the other one what they should be doing. It’s good because you have a good perspective from someone you really trust. There’s nothing like having her to bounce ideas off of - especially when you’re in your darkest moments. There’s few people that can truly understand where you’re coming from.
What characteristics do you admire in each other and try to implement in your own work?
Iva: Gorjana has a very good way of being direct without offending. She gets a hall pass for it. Which I really struggle with. I feel so bad delivering bad news to others.
Gorjana: It’s because I’m trying to communicate honest feedback, not be offensive. I think with Iva, she’s much more methodical and highly communicative in a respectful, put together way. I try to take that in. She sounds smart. She inspires me to gather my thoughts, process and then communicate.
Do you have similar or different creative rituals when designing a new collection/piece?
Iva: I go more broad strokes. I set the boundaries and then allow the design team to go execute against that.
Gorjana: I’m much more in the details. I bring the inspiration and ideas and then my team helps me bring it to life.
Shop the Richer Poorer x gorjana collection here. 100% of net sales will benefit Dress For Succes Worldwide West.
Shop for good here.