A few years ago, I found myself sitting in the board room with executive management, preparing to be separated from my employer in a layoff. I had worked so hard for this organization, tirelessly working long hours on various projects and, in most cases, putting the company's needs before my husband and kids. I was a 29-year-old black female with impressive credentials, making over six figures and on my way to even more big bucks, but all while helping someone else build their empire. Little did I know, that humbling moment in the board room was the start of the company known today as Active Ego and the spark for my personal transformation.
The layoff came about a year after my daughter was born. Juggling the demands of my job and the needs of my growing family was hard enough, but now I had to do it all in a body I didn't quite recognize anymore. Indeed, I was a larger woman now – I'd just given birth to my second child. But I wasn't prepared for the negative impact those additional pounds had on my self-image and confidence.
It also became increasingly harder to find activewear that complimented my evolving figure. I recognized that appearance plays a huge role in how we feel when we exercise. The lack of fashionable clothing options that everyday women encounter can alter their perception of the fitness experience. That's when I decided to merge my passion for fashion with purpose, and my brand was born.
Through Active Ego, I empower the everyday woman by creating exciting, vibrant athleisure wear and providing a secure fit for the more prominent areas of her body. It's no secret that curvy women are an underserved market – the selection of colors and styles in these sizes are limited. Our brand is here to say, "We see you. We get you. And you deserve some attention."
I'm proud to say that our message is being embraced. In 2016, Active Ego made its debut on the runway during New York Fashion Week. We signed a deal with the Neiman Marcus Group in 2017, and our apparel was sold at their Last Call stores. We designed and manufactured attire for the WNBA Dallas Wings organization and recently created the Active Ego Sports Division to design and manufacture collegiate apparel for curvy female fans.
A huge part of being successful is having a great support system in place. Mine includes family, friends and colleagues. My husband Joe, who is also an entrepreneur, stands out most, because he understands the importance of staying consistent and true to your vision, even when no one else sees it. I've also connected with great industry experts and mentors along the way who share their wisdom. I'm grateful to them for helping me stay focused when it seems impossible to do so.
My advice to anyone seeking to live a fuller life is to follow your passion. Especially for women, take time to nurture your talents, goals and dreams. Don't lose sight of them in the midst of daily distractions. We women tend to forget about what we want because we're so busy putting the needs of others first. It's OK to be a little selfish at times to get what you want.
Throughout my entrepreneurial journey, I've learned that the one thing you should never waste is time. Time is something you don't get back once it's gone. To make the most of it, you must learn how to take control of your days. Whether it's scheduling time to plan for a future opportunity or simply taking the time to tackle a specific task, it's up to you to define what you want and move towards it. If you have a goal in mind and are working to achieve it, make sure you're using your time effectively and are being consistent.
About the Author: Jennifer James is the founder and CEO of Active Ego, a stylish athleisure wear brand for everyday women. Her passion is to empower women to be the best they can be despite their circumstances, body shape, skin tone, status, or location. In short, she's bringing confidence back!
Edited for brevity and clarity by Charity Reaves and Nicole Fallon.