WASHINGTON — Designer Rachel Roy has overcome many obstacles in her career, including a lawsuit she filed against a business partner, to hold onto her creative integrity and thrive.
Roy was in the nation’s capital on Friday to discuss the passion that drove her to launch her own company, as well as the trials and tribulations of owning a small business, with fellow entrepreneurs attending the 2015 National Small Business Week awards ceremony at the Eisenhower Executive Office Building.
In a question-and-answer session, Roy said she only launched her own business after working 16 to 17 years in fashion, including a 12-year stint in retail folding and steaming clothes, as well as several years with a global brand in New York.
Her breakthrough came when a buyer at Bergdorf Goodman saw one of the tops she had designed and placed an order.
“Had I started something that wasn’t perhaps, A, a passion, or B, that I didn’t want to work on from the time I woke up to the time I went to sleep, I probably wouldn’t have a business,” Roy said.
SBA administrator Maria Contreras-Sweet, who directed the Q&A, asked Roy who has given her the best advice.
“I don’t come from a family of entrepreneurs. I didn’t have a lot of people to watch businesswise,” she said. “So it not like I was handed out business advice on a daily basis growing up, but I observed.”
She said it was former Vogue editor André Leon Talley who gave her the best advice and “once said to me, ‘You have a point of view and that’s why I support you,’” Roy said.
She has carried that with her ever since and now supports people who have an opinion on matters.
“What I noticed is that the people I support are people who have point of view — people that are not afraid to speak their mind, people who are not afraid to say what their opinion truly is,” Roy said. “If you can apply that to your business, I also think you will be truly blessed tenfold.”
Roy was put to the test last year, when she filed a lawsuit to stop the sale of her business and subsequently won creative control of her brand.
The suit was filed against Jones Apparel Group in April 2014, in an effort to stop the company from selling her business to Bluestar Alliance, which she alleged in court documents was done without her consent. Roy won the first round last May after a New York State Supreme Court justice granted her a preliminary injunction barring the sale. The case was later settled out of court.
“When I went to look at the company that they were offering to sell me off to, I didn’t like my options,” Roy said.
She said she had secured 100 percent creative control when she entered into agreements with Jones to develop and sell products under the Rachel Roy brand several years ago.
“What we have that is most valuable is our creativity and so I said ‘no’…and the judge decided that, ‘yes,’ creativity means you may decide who you sell your name to…So that win was huge for me.”
“The thing was, once I won my name back, I couldn’t afford it,” Roy said. “But by then I knew I needed partners with shared values…and fortunately I found them. Any time there is fear and you go through it, there is major success, at least for me.”
One last piece of advice she imparted to the group: “You have to be OK with people not liking you. You have to be confident enough in who you are to know you are coming from a good place with good intent…You have to realize that without taking a risk, you will not have success.”