It’s Female Founder Friday and I’m excited to share the startup story of Severina Ostrovsky. Severina is the founder of Gabri Isle, an e-store that curates collections of baby and toddler clothing from European female-driven brands new to the United States. Gabri Isle brands use sustainable and environmentally-friendly practices and the clothes are high-quality The company shares their brands’ stories, their items always ship from the US, and a portion of profits goes to organizations that empower female entrepreneurs.
If you’re curious how a woman with a career in the intelligence consulting industry with a focus on counter-terrorism and global corruption issues ended up launching a baby clothing company that supports European female founders, or are a mom whose child inspired you to create your own business, don’t miss Severina’s founding story, challenges and business advice below!
What inspired you to create your company?
I have always had an interest in fashion and before my daughter was born I started getting interested in baby clothes and even designed an outfit for her to wear home from the hospital. It was a kimono top in the style of a double breasted suit jacket, to reflect my hopes for her in the wake of “I’m With Her.” When my daughter was 4 months old, my husband and I took her on a family vacation to Costa Brava, Spain, and I fell in love with the clothes there.
I loved the European aesthetic and quality of clothes by baby brands I’d never even heard of, and after returning to the United States, I couldn’t help but notice how expensive the same quality and look cost in stores and even online. That’s how the idea began building. I started talking to female brand owners and designers across the pond, traveling to several countries to meet these entrepreneurs in person eventually and attending a children’s fashion week in Copenhagen where I met several fantastic designers from Scandinavian countries and across Europe. A big part of these meetings was trying to see if I could make a business out of this idea, but along the way I realized how amazing and inspiring the European designers and brand owners were – most of them women, and all with unique backgrounds and stories of ambition, sacrifice, and the entrepreneurial grind.
Having a young daughter has definitely inspired me, and – even more importantly – it’s given me the push I needed to go after my dreams. I want to set an example for her, and she makes me feel a sense of urgency I hadn’t felt before.
What was your biggest obstacle and failure in going from idea to business?
The initial obstacles were first identifying the brands we wanted to work with and then creating the strong relationships we now have with the awesome female-owned brands from all over Europe that you now see at Gabri Isle. Setting up the logistics of a Europe-based import business and streamlining the supply chain was a big challenge.
I can’t think of one main failure during the startup journey thus far, because obstacles and failures occur every day/week and force you to pivot until you figure it out. You overcome them or you devise alternative approaches and work around them. There are so many moving parts to creating a business – trying something and then trying something new is a continuous process that every entrepreneur repeats over and over again.
What are you afraid of?
Not achieving the vision I have for Gabri Isle. This fear fuels me to work smarter and look for solutions to every obstacle. Even when some element works, I try to refine it – making sure it’s efficient and effective and I am not using time or money that can be better employed in some other part of the business.
2018 was all about jumping off the cliff and going for it, laying the foundation, and finally launching! 2019 is all about building the brand and growing our community. I’m excited by the possibilities we have as a female-owned brand that also supports female entrepreneurs in Europe and the US. It’s an awesome time to be a woman in business.
What is a life or business hack that you recommend to help other female founders?
Find your community and connect with every single person you can. Once you realize that there is no “right” way to grow a business and that the majority of entrepreneurs seek help, you’ll be on the right path. Connect with other entrepreneurs and surround yourself with people who get it – it’ll change everything. And while you do this – give. Give, give, give. Even if you don’t think you have something other people may need or want, be generous with your time and your ability to listen – you will help others and you will discover connections and opportunities you didn’t know existed.
If you had a theme song what would it be?
So many options! “I Will Survive,” by Gloria Gaynor keeps coming to mind. It’s always been a pump-up song for me since I was a teenager! What works, works! One of my favorite mindset hacks is dancing in the morning for a few minutes to build up some energy and get in the right frame of mind. So while I might have a theme song, any song that gets me moving and opens my eyes and mind in the morning is clutch. Lately “Flames,” by David Guetta and Sia is doing the trick!
Please share your best piece of advice for aspiring female founders.
Get started. Jump off that cliff! Women tend to delay starting until they feel things are “perfect.” I think this often happens because expectations for women in society have historically been narrower but also more complex than expectations for men, and never more so than the end of the 20th century and beginning of the 21st.
We don’t want to be judged if things don’t turn out the way we planned, but I’ve found that we have to take life by the horns if we want something special for ourselves. And the beauty of it is that regardless how things turn out – and in entrepreneurship, the ending (or even mid-way) point is usually not what you expected or planned at the outset – the journey itself is going to be amazing.
If you or a female founder you know should be featured in a upcoming spotlight please reach out to me via Instagram @elegantentrepreneur. I’m always looking for more amazing entrepreneurs to highlight!