She may be young and new to the fashion scene, but designer & entrepreneur Megan Williams has already turned her North Carolina company Fit For A Belle (http://fitforabelle.com) into one of the hottest must-have brands in America, and has countless celebrities ordering more and more of her products with each passing day.
The Levity Ball caught up with Megan to find out how everything started, her advice to others, and what the future holds for FFAB…
When did you first “know” that you wanted to get into the fashion industry?
Since I can remember, I’ve had a unique creative style. I always wanted something different than my peers that no one had. I made things socially acceptable that were not. I thought outside the box. I have an eye that can catch any brand a mile away. However, I never really knew I wanted to get into the fashion industry. This is all very new to me. My clothing line originated from inspiration of my own mental and physical transformation. I have a master’s degree, not in fashion, nor business, but psychology. All I can say is thank goodness for Google! I had to teach myself the logistics of running a business, and the other half was just winging it. People seemed shocked to hear I’ve never taken a class in business, marketing or fashion. However, my brand is based off the ability to relate, which is key. Connecting to your audience is everything. Customer service is one of the most important aspects to your success. Sometimes you have put business aside and just lead with your heart. My psychological studies of understanding human behavior and experience on dealing with various personalities has been such a blessing on this journey.
Who are some of your role models?
My role models hands down are Pam & Gela, the founders of Juicy Couture. Not only were they also not business majors, but also created a billion-dollar company out of $200. I admire their perseverance, dedication, and success. Our stories share many similarities. Did they have great products? Yes! But more importantly, they branded their passion. Their tag “Born in the Glamorous USA” shows that every ounce of their product is meant to remind girls and women of their deserving self-worth. The definition of work doesn’t have to always be so serious; Pam & Gela taught me that the road to success could be navigated without a suit and tie. You can be yourself, have fun while doing it, and add some glitter along the way.
You started creating your company after going through your own physical transformation a few years ago… What was that transformation like and how did it motivate you to start this company?
After college, I told myself it was time to grow up, it was time to get my health back and be the person I wanted to be. I had been a gymnast most of my life, but became burned out on sports. The one thing that comes with discipline and success means sacrificing a lot of “fun” things. Well I was tired of that, tired of missing football games and parties with friends because of practices. That attitude led me into a sedentary lifestyle of which my body was not used too. The “Freshman 15” turned into the freshman 30. I remember how disgusting I felt on the inside and on the out. My self-confidence was at an all-time low. Gymnastics, cheerleading and track had been the way to my health and athletic body, so how was I supposed to use this thing called “the gym”? Lifting weights and cardio machines were foreign to me. I decided to join cross fit because it seemed like having a personal trainer telling you what to do every day but more cost effective. After the first couple sessions, I feel in love. The grueling workouts, the sweat, the endurance, the teamwork, the weights made me feel strong and accomplished. For the first time since high school, I started to feel my confidence coming back with each pound shed, and each plate added on to the barbell. This was my “healthy”. Healthy has a different definition to everyone, but to me it meant physically and psychological. That strong feeling throwing the barbell over my head made me feel that I could take on the world. That I along with other women, were breaking the stereotype one weight at a time. During this time I remember not being able to find clothes that were girly for weight lifters, most colors tended to the male population. As hardcore as I felt, I wanted to look cute doing it. I had the idea to intertwine the bow into the barbell, the barbell meaning strong, and the bow for women. Not only did I find it adorable, but was surprised no one had trademarked it yet. That same day, without knowing how this idea would even workout, I recruited a lawyer to being the trademark registration process. Eventually, I took my transformation a step further, taking on the bodybuilding world for a change of pace and continue my health and fitness education. I decided that it would be my mission to make my own transformation a source of inspiration to others on the same journey. Not only did I exercise, I created a lifestyle. Through this lifestyle change, I met many women walking the same path, eager to make a change, eager to improve. However, I quickly realized that body image and preexisting stereotypes were hindering these beautiful women from maximizing their true potential. And so, from their journeys and mine, Fit For A Belle® was born! It’s time to show the world that nothing is truly impossible to a determined woman.
Why the name, Fit For A Belle?
Fit For A Belle, being from North Carolina, I thought about what a southern belle like myself would wear to work out and lounge in. I had big hair and even bigger dreams. It is also a play on words with “barbell” with an extra E… This was my special touch. Belles can be anyone, not just southern, and I loved the opportunity it brought for designs, “Barbelle Doll, Kettle Belle, Not your basic Belle, Barbelles N’ Curls, Barbelles N Boots” etc. The words cute, sassy, classy, comfy and fashionable came to mind perfectly Fit For Any Belle! It also didn’t hurt for the abbreviation to be F.F.A.B 😉 The extra FFABulousness in its name makes it even more perfect for the barbell and bow loving, strong girly girls.
What has been the hardest thing you’ve gone through since opening up your clothing line?
The hardest thing I’ve ever gone through since opening my clothing line has been the internalization of self-doubt. No matter how confident people may look, there are various internal and external struggles that go along with this career. Many people told me I couldn’t do it, that I would never make it, that my designs were stupid, that no one would buy my brand. I won’t lie, some of those self-defeating statements I took to heart. I took some time off from Fit For A Belle to finish graduate school before reevaluating this business. I didn’t have the time, the help, or the money- how would I pull this off? During this time off, I discovered a new found confidence, faith, and trust in God’s plan for my life. I developed a “now or never” attitude, putting my blinders on and went to work. My story of fear, struggle, and self-doubt was soon put to rest through an undeniable belief in myself. A quote that I hold near and dear to my heart was on repeat in my head, “God doesn’t call the equipped, he equips the called”.
Dresses, tops, accessories and more you offer… Which product of yours is your personal favorite that you always wear or bring with you?
I love all of my products but my favorite item is my FFAB hair tie. Simply because I can have it on me at all times. In my hair, on my wrist, in my Purse, hanging from the mirror of my car. Wherever it may be, it is my constant reminder of why I am doing what I’m doing. It is my motivation when I’m feeling down and it keeps me going when I have a moment of not feeling good enough.
What do you feel sets your brand a part from others?
FFAB fitness apparel is designed to fit any body type, offering styles and fits for all shapes and sizes to encourage women to live unapologetically as themselves. It is so important for me to make clothing that made women feel comfortable, confident and empowered. Many of my styles are more loose and fashionable than the norm. In addition to working out, you can dress them up with a pair of cute denims or throw on some sweatpants with a messy bun. Fit For A Belle also has a southern twist, growing up in North Carolina I’ve always loved the southern way of living. How cute would be to spell “Barbell (e)” with an extra e to show our southern belle spirit. This was not to be exclusive, but to stand out from the other thousands of fitness apparel companies. Lastly, this lifestyle brand promotes self-love, allowing women to express their femininity while pushing strong, rockin’ their muscles, mascara and invisible tiara!
How / where can people buy your items currently?
At this moment, Fit For A Belle is exclusively sold on fitforabelle.com. We are working on partnerships with businesses all over the nation to hold FFAB in their stores. When that happens, we will make sure to let everyone knows through our social media accounts (https://twitter.com/fitforabelle).
Being from North Carolina and away from Hollywood, what was it like to see celebs such as Jordin Sparks, Kristen Renton, Alyson Stoner and Roxy Sowlaty wearing your brand?
It’s an amazing thing to see your brand you worked so hard to create being accepted nationwide, and even more so to see celebrities wearing FFAB. The brand is getting major exposure, and when someone like Jordin Sparks, Kristen Renton, Alyson Stoner and Roxy Sowlaty wears the clothing or accessories, millions of their fans are seeing the brand at once. It is truly special. It makes the long nights of no sleep and the constant feeling of wanting more and to keep going worth it.
You have accomplished so much at your young age… What is your advice to others looking at getting into the fashion industry?
My advice to others looking to getting into the fashion industry is to just do it! As cliché as that may sound, it’s the only way I’ve accomplished all I have. Was I terrified? Absolutely! It’s not an easy thing to just “go for it”. My favorite quote comes to mind, “If you’re not embarrassed of your first product, you’ve launched too late”. When I first started, I used a $10.00 website and iPhone pictures for my merchandise. I had two T-shirts and lived on a prayer. We only have so many years on this earth, go out there and create your path, make mistakes and enjoy the ride. I decided to take a big (scary) leap of faith, and build my wings on the way down. This brand is more than just “cute workout clothes” it is a movement, the barbell representing “strong” and the bow for “women”. Not all transformations are physical. People tend to see others’ “best self” on social media over the blood, sweat, and tears behind the success. I say, there are enough critiques in this life; it’s time to forget the negativity and show the world what we’re made of. TOGETHER we will rise above the odds and overcome. I hope my story can inspire others (even just one) to always believe in themselves, even when they may not see the light. Stay in faith, and never take “no” for an answer. Each door shut in my face took me closer to the one that opened, the one that was meant my purpose on this earth. Because of this, I learned to LOVE my haters, my “no’s” and “you can’ts”, Why? Because without those obstacles, I would have never grown into the person I am today, I would have never been given a mountain to climb and see my full potential. Trust me when I tell you, wait for your door, your moment, and your time. Appreciate the mountain that looks impossible and the journey along the way. I promise, the view will be worth it.
How important is it to you that more and more women these days are taking charge and running their own businesses?
It is extremely important to me. I am so proud of “us” for believing in ourselves, for helping one another. It makes me so happy to see women collaborating, strategizing, and helping one another out to help people succeed. Even though I am a very completive person at heart, in entrepreneurship, I want us all to win. Each person is deserving of living a happy and prosperous life.
Where do you see yourself and Fit For A Belle in five years from now?
I don’t have a short term goal for Fit For A Belle, five years is considered short term for me. When I think of what I want out of FFAB I think of an empire. I think of worldwide popularity. I see the fitness gurus of the world wearing FFAB in their home workout videos and in the streets. If you know fitness, if you know what a gym is, then you know what FFAB is. I view my competition as motivation, to reach those above me and raise the bar for those below me. If I have to look into the future and stop at five years, I see myself building my dream home, starting a family, and inspiring women all over the world to be fit and fabulous at the same time. We will be raising the bar, one ‘belle’ at a time!