By Emily Merrell
For the last six weeks, I’ve been rotating between the same five pairs of leggings and sweatshirts. Oddly, I’m overwhelmed by the idea of putting on “hard pants” and silk blouses again. I’m not dressing to impress, I’m dressing for my own personal comfort and coziness. Joanna, founder of Copper + Rise helps you dress to feel the best you can feel while also wow-ing in your new look. If you’re in need of a good closet cleanout (I sure was) Joanna is your gal to help fill your wardrobe with items you cherish and get comfortable with those pieces you never knew what to do with.
SDS: Copper + Rise prides itself as being more than fashion styling. What inspired you to create a platform that inspires and empowers women?
JOANNA LOVERING: One of my core values is that everyone deserves to be authentically “them.” I grew up feeling a lot of obligations to act a certain way, be a certain person, live a certain life – all because of rules that weren’t my own. As I moved more into adulthood, I was able to choose which rules I didn’t want to follow anymore. I’m lucky to live in a situation where I’m able to do that, and because I have that privilege, I want to pass it on to as many people as I possibly can.
So many of us have rules about clothing that are restricting. Rules about what is “flattering” (a word I want to erase from our vocabulary), “age-appropriate” and “trendy.” Our definitions of these words often come from other people when we were growing up, (perhaps our mothers, grandmothers and childhood celebrity idols.)
I’m on a personal quest to help women identify those barriers so that they can write their own rules, ones that truly serve them. And I get a sort of high from watching other people’s personal growth in action. If I get to facilitate that in any way, it just makes my heart sing! This is my calling and my life’s work!
SDS: Tell us about your story. What motivates you to get dressed each morning?
JL: Well, unfortunately my story starts a bit tragically. My mother, who I was extremely close with, passed away suddenly on Mother’s Day 2007 (yup, you read that right). It was devastating for me, and I’ve spent the past 13 years working hard on myself. Multiple jobs, boyfriends, apartments, graduate school…I had been trying to find my way for a while. Through some tough introspection (and a great therapist!), I’m truly happy with where I’ve landed. Being a solo entrepreneur wasn’t exactly something I dreamt about during my early career years in corporate, but now I’m happy to report that I’ve never felt more grounded.
What’s amazing is that I started my business in the same way my mother started her own interior design business when she retired: helping friends. She loved facilitating joy and ease in their homes. I do the same thing, but with clothes. Without knowing it at the time, I’ve actually replicated a part of my mom with my entrepreneurial spirit. Over the years, I’ve been able to turn the pain of losing my mother into the joy of remembering her and embodying her legacy.
SDS: In 2011 you had a successful weight loss journey, how did that transform you in your career? What advice do you have for others going through that same transformation?
JL: In the past 10 years, I’ve gained 30 pounds, then lost 60, then gained it all back again. I battled body dysmorphia, ran half marathons and was even in a national ad campaign with a major celebrity because of my weight loss. And you know what? Even with all of those accomplishments, I didn’t really feel grounded until my wardrobe matched how I felt. It’s so important to adorn our bodies with clothes that celebrate us and present us to the world in a positive light. Over the years, after I started focusing on my wardrobe, I started to share my knowledge with friends…and more friends…and then I saw that I had a business on my hands.
My biggest piece of advice for someone going through a weight loss journey is to remember that the real success comes with the way you feel about your body, no matter what number shows up on the scale. Listen, I know it takes a lot of work to lose weight. I get it. While the hard work needs to be celebrated, what I wish for you is that at your core, you feel unconditional, unbridled love for yourself in every shape and form.
SDS: Not only are you a successful stylist but you also hold a master’s degree in organizational psychology and leadership development. How does that degree play a role in Copper + Rise and the way you work with your clients?
JL: Copper + Rise is so much more than just fashion styling because I am a coach, first and foremost. While I have extensive styling experience, I also have ten years of experience facilitating personal and professional growth at large and small corporations. So everything I do with my styling clients is through a coaching lens. What does that mean? That I’m more interested in facilitating my client’s style discovery than prescribing it. And eventually, my hope is that my clients won’t need me anymore because they have the confidence to do it themselves!
SDS: What does working with you look like? Do your clients need to be in NYC specifically?
JL: I offer a comprehensive coaching service for men and women specifically designed to help clients clear self-imposed barriers, find new freedom and discover true identity through their wardrobes. Customized for each client, packages comprise of a combination of my specialized Sort + Shop + Style process:
- Sort – a non-judgemental closet detox
- Shop – a custom shopping experience based on specific needs, lifestyle and budget
- Style – a creative outfit generation session, mixing old and new wardrobe items
I’ve worked with clients all over the world, so no need to be in New York City!
SDS: Lastly, what piece of advice do you wish you had heard when you started your company? What is one piece of wisdom you can impart on our readers?
JL: I’ll never forget the moment I pressed “publish” and launched my website. I had been working on it for months, starting with learning how to use Squarespace. It was tedious, exciting, scary, creative…it was, shall we say, a “labor of love”. I remember pressing “publish” and going to bed fantasizing about a deluge of inquiries over the next few weeks.
Needless to say, over the next few weeks I got lots of support from friends and family, but how many strangers found me? None. The reality is that it actually took another few months of continuously tinkering with my website, posting on social media and showing up at networking events for things to get rolling. I suppose that’s because I had been working behind the scenes for months and thinking about starting a business for years. By the time I launched my website, I forgot that no one else had been “in it” like I had been all that time. I was impatient with excitement, and I wish someone had given me a reality check.
In these times, rapid prototyping is the name of the game. Don’t get stuck in analysis like I did because the actual building of the business takes a lot more time than you might think. So just START. Put something out there, get a ton of feedback, change it up, get more feedback and keep improving. The first step is to just start!