Making it as a Fashion Designer: Woman-Owned Spotlight with Grayson DiFonzo, CEO of BuddyLove
During this week's Woman-Owned Business Spotlight we're having a little fun with designer and entrepreneur Grayson DiFonzo, the boss babe behind BuddyLove. We talked about Grayson's journey from a respected PR agent and executive in fashion merchandising to the designer of a world-recognized brand, and how she cultivates confidence by embracing the challenge of new experiences.
Thanks for sitting down with Confidence Daily! Tell us about what you do.
I’m Grayson DiFonzo, and I am the Founder, Designer, and CEO of BuddyLove, the Southern lifestyle brand that offers trendy clothing and accessories inspired by beach vibes and bold, boho prints. Doing this for the past 10+ years has been a fulfilling and challenging experience. As a designer, I am constantly inspired by the world around me and use that inspiration to create unique and stylish clothing collections. The design process can be time-consuming and demanding, as I am responsible for sketching out my ideas, selecting fabrics, and overseeing the production process. However, the satisfaction of seeing my designs come to life and make people feel beautiful and confident is worth all the hard work. Alongside my husband and business partner, Buddy DiFonzo, I am the one making a lot of the business decisions and managing the day-to-day of the company. It's a lot of work, but it also allows me to have full control over the direction of my brand and ensure that it stays true to my vision.
How do you cultivate confidence?
Confidence is my superpower, but it hasn’t always been that way. Like many people, there have been times when I've struggled with self-doubt, but I work hard to maintain a positive attitude and mindset. In order to cultivate confidence, I push myself out of my comfort zone and embrace new experiences, whether it's traveling alone or tackling a list of fears. If you find yourself feeling stagnant, it's important to challenge yourself and try new things. Keep moving! My personal confidence journey is all about keeping active and pushing myself to grow, whether it's through a new hobby, adventure, or learning opportunity.
What does being a woman-owned business mean to you?
Women really do run the world! My entire company is mostly made up of women, and MAN, can we accomplish a lot of things at lightning speed and pivot on a dime! We are each other’s biggest supporters and encourage each other to be the best that we can be.
What was your business origin story?
I began my journey in the fashion industry at a young age, surrounded by stylish women in my childhood home. My grandmother, an interior designer, sparked my interest in fashion by allowing me to choose fabric swatches and create dresses for my Barbie dolls - a tradition my own children now continue with BuddyLove fabric swatches. Growing up, I dreamed of becoming a swimsuit designer and even imagined my own wedding day in a bikini. I have since traveled the world, from Caribbean beaches to major fashion cities like New York, Paris, and London, gaining experience in various roles such as PR for Nicole Miller in NYC, and overseeing retail merchandising for White House Black Market in the U.S. Virgin Islands. My path to founding BuddyLove was not a specific event, but rather a culmination of opportunities and experiences. My advice to anyone wanting to enter the fashion industry is to immerse yourself in all aspects of the business, from design to retail and merchandising, in order to open up opportunities and gain a deeper understanding of the industry. My own success at BuddyLove is due in part to my prior experience and continued immersion in trends and pop culture, as well as my time spent in production facilities in Los Angeles and China.
Okay, coming up with a great idea and actually taking the steps to become an entrepreneur and launch your company are two very different things. How did you know it was time to start?
My customers were literally asking me for it! I had been styling them and helping them buy products for their boutiques for so long it really was like…. Hurry up and start your own collection!! I was so emersed in what I wanted to do, so it came naturally to me. I wasn’t taking a leap on something I knew nothing about.
Sometimes entrepreneurship can be a hard and isolating journey. How do you stay confident along the way?
It’s hard to be lonely at work when you surround yourself with great people who are as passionate about your mission as you. It also helps that my husband is now my business partner. My company now feels like one big family to me. Also, it’s important to remember to hire new people on your team for tomorrow, not for today. When you first start out, it can be daunting thinking about paying out salaries to employees, but trust me, you and your business will thank you for it! When I started hiring and finding the right people to help me along the way, my company grew at an incredibly fast rate, doubling revenue year over year.
If you had to list three traits or attributes that have been pivotal for your success, what would they be?
Treating others with kindness
Bonus: Be OBSESSED with what you do!
What's one myth you'd like to debunk about your line of work?
That it’s easy!! Being an entrepreneur is definitely not a walk in the park, but I am honestly flattered if people think that it is. It’s my job to make it look easy!
What advice would you give to burgeoning entrepreneurs?
The best piece of advice that I could give to any entrepreneur regardless of industry is to be honest with yourself about your strengths and weaknesses. I've learned that it's important to understand my limitations and not try to do everything on my own. One of the ways I've addressed this is by learning to delegate tasks. Specifically, I've found it beneficial to hand off tasks that I don't excel in, such as spreadsheet management, budgeting, and data collection, and letting myself spend my energy on things I’m passionate about and good at doing, like product design, merchandising and big picture creative thinking. By surrounding myself with individuals who are experts in the areas where I’m lacking, it allows me to focus on the tasks that I am better suited for and bring more value to the company.
What words do you live by?
More is more! Don't be afraid to stand out and make a statement with your fashion choices. I’m a firm believer that a bold outfit can instantly boost your confidence, so I am always dressed to impress and ready for any occasion. I enjoy dressing up and making a statement when going out with friends, and I believe in the power of a bold lipstick, sparkling heels, and statement accessories to elevate any look. I take inspiration from style icon Iris Apfel and encourage others to add pops of color, oversized sunglasses, and oversized cocktail rings to their outfits.
Any final words of wisdom?
Do what makes you happy!