Elise and I were working on the 2nd floor of the Men’s Department when she disappeared. We were hanging holiday decorations in the middle of the night at Bloomingdale’s but when I turned around to ask her a question, she was gone. I started to panic until I heard something above me and looked up to see her walking along the cat walk, a good 30 feet above me. It kind of freaked me out but I was intrigued so I climbed up after her.
I wasn’t as comfortable as she was up there. Elise had been rock climbing for years and she had no fear of heights. She scaled the walls like a squirrel using the tips of her fingers to hold on to the tiniest ledges. I stayed on the narrow balcony watching her, never thinking she would or could fall. She was confident, nimble and quick possessing the qualities of most experienced rock climbers and like them, she couldn’t help herself. She had to run up that wall and get a better look, even if it were only of a bunch of clothing racks and mannequins posing down below.
I never saw a correlation between rock climbing and being an entrepreneur until I taped a Podcast called The Climb last month produced by Journalist Jenniffer Weigel and filmmaker Marcia Kimpton.
“Each week they take a deep dive into the story behind the headlines of successful individuals who are changing the world for the better.” I was lucky enough to be a part of episode 5 and thrilled to have the opportunity to share some insight on my business, but they got me thinking… Climbing, it’s what entrepreneurs do.
Like most rock climbers, entrepreneurs take risks. They face each day knowing mistakes can be devastating, but like those climbers, it’s not what you think of when you launch into it. I mean if we did, few of us would ever do it. In the beginning, failure just isn’t an option. So you start up that mountain only thinking of one thing… getting to the top.
After watching the National Geographic documentary Free Solo about Alex Honnold’s obsession with climbing El Capitan at Yosemite’s National Park, I couldn’t help but feel a connection with him. Alex is a free solo climber… ya know, one that doesn’t use ropes. One slip, one mistake and he falls to his death, like many others before him. Alex’s obsession to scale El Capitan’s 900 meter, smooth granite surface was, to most of us, unreasonable. I mean WHY? Why do something so incredibly dangerous that you risk everything doing it…even death?
I may not have been risking my life, but starting MAJAMAS EARTH was a big risk. Before launching my own business, I had a comfortable job as a sales person for a big watch company. I made good money, got a steady paycheck and never worried about work after work… one of the biggest stressors of owning your own business. It was my version of climbing free solo.
I even upped the ante by roping my husband into it. Together, we had to build the business, sacrificing his steady job, risking everything we had and even mortgaging the house. Talk about going free solo! We were climbing without ropes or safety nets.
But no one could talk me out of it no matter how reasonable their arguments were. I had to dot it because I knew we were creating something that was better for our planet. A brand that operated responsibly, caring for the people making our clothes and doing it as sustainably as possible.
We may not have been hanging by our fingertips thousands of feet off the ground, but sometimes it felt like that. It was up to us to figure everything out from how to make a pattern to how to ship an order and there were days we wondered how we’d do it.
Just like Alex, we had to keep our eyes on the goal and remember the climb with all its bumps and risks is part of the journey to the top.
Still Alex’s laser focus on conquering El Capitan was above and beyond what most climbers are capable of. Not even the guys he climbed with or those who died before him could convince him his idea was crazy. He did whatever he had to, to succeed. He lived in a tricked out van, slept in parking lots and prioritized scaling that death-defying rock over everything else, even his girlfriend, friends and family. He practiced… a LOT, calculating every move he’d make over every inch of that 3,200 foot high rock until he felt comfortable enough to climb it free solo.
Unlike Alex, we never put our girls behind our business, but we knew we had to make it succeed so they could prosper. It was tough, but like a good rock climber we did our best to find the right balance.
After taping my part of The Climb Podcast, I realized I’m a lot like my friend, Elise.
I saw the challenge and couldn’t help but climb that wall.
And, like Alex, I left everything behind and went free solo.
Was it reasonable? Probably not. Was it risky? Absolutely!
Like Elise and Alex, I’m more confident, more resilient and a bit more nimble now that I have so much experience.
Small falls don’t hurt anymore and the bigger the rock, the more I want to climb it. But in a way, the longer I climb the bigger the risk. More people rely on me to make it like my contractors, employees and customers. The climbing never ends.
Like me watching them literally climb, most people wonder, why? Why start a business when there’s so much at stake?
I guess I’d say it’s all part of the challenge. Creating a clothing brand is no small climb and creating a clothing brand that’s gentler on the planet is kind of like climbing El Capitan free solo. Like Alex, no one we knew had done it before.
We still have our days when it feels impossible and we have plenty of naysayers telling us we’re crazy but knowing we’re creating something positive that’s better for our world gives us the fuel we need to keep going. It keeps us motivated to round that ridge and scale to the top. I mean, people do the impossible every day… so why not?
– Germaine Caprio, MAJAMAS EARTH Company Owner & Designer
#CAREWHATYOUWEAR & check out The Climb Podcast to learn about more amazing entrepreneurs
TO HEAR FROM YOU
What’s the story of your eco climb?
Please share your own thoughts with ME – let’s get a conversation started in the comments below! Your comment may even win you a free MAJAMAS® EARTH garment this week!