Karina Givargisoff, a London stylist based in New York, is launching the first ever fashion philanthropic media brand, which is a registered public charity. Every six months the brand will shift focus on a different charity/cause. It is called Mission Magazine, the tag line sums it up best: Fashion, For Beauty, For Good.
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- Karina Givargisoff – Karina’s website
- Mission Magazine – Karina’s non-profit organization
- The Freedom Journal – Set and Accomplish your #1 goal in 100 days!
- Google Drive – resource recommended by Karina
- The Lean Startup by Eric Rice – book recommended by Karina
3 Key Points:
- Believe in your idea and in what you can accomplish.
- Micromanage your business—take responsibility for all the ins and outs.
- Tragedy can be used to do good for yourself and other people.
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Time Stamped Show Notes
(click the time stamp to jump directly to that point in the episode.)
- [00:15] – The Freedom Journal – Set and Accomplish your #1 goal in 100 days!
- [01:15] – Karina started styling 18 years ago and was an intern at W Magazine
- [01:28] – Karina got the idea for Mission Magazine when her mother and brother died within 13 months of each other
- [02:17] – The tipping point for Karina to pursue Mission Magazine was when her friend was diagnosed with cancer
- [02:59] – “I just felt I had to do something different… to do good”
- [03:38] – Karina learned about the work through doing it
- [04:15] – JLD recommends Matthew McConaughey’s Sea of Trees
- [04:30] – JLD talks about the power of a podcast
- [05:15] – JLD reiterates the importance of passion and making a difference
- [05:54] – Karina’s worst entrepreneurial moment was when she went to Dallas and a supposed deal did not push through
- [06:14] – Karina was invited by a woman to go to Dallas for a week and this woman had promised her a million dollars
- [06:46] – Karina had problems with the woman and the promises made to her did not happen
- [09:50] – Karina had prepared her wardrobe for the trip, but did not use it as the activities were ill-prepared
- [11:20] – This was Karina’s first experience of allowing someone else to plan everything
- [11:40] – JLD explains the curse of knowledge
- [13:05] – JLD reiterates the importance of being responsible for things that will affect your business
- [13:21] – “Micromanage your business”
- [14:21] – Karina’s AH-HA moment was Mission Magazine
- [15:11] – Karina shared her idea with her friend who was diagnosed with cancer; she then spent the next two years doing the paperwork
- [16:09] – Karina had real insight into human nature
- [17:04] – What are you most fired up about right now? – The first ever fundraiser at the Boom Boom Room and working on content for the first issue
- [18:19] – Karina thinks her biggest strength is her being naive
- [18:50] – The Lightning Round
- What was holding you back from becoming an entrepreneur? – “Having an idea that felt so right I was willing to risk everything for it.”
- What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever received? – “Everything will morph and change and you have to ride with it.”
- What’s a personal habit that contributes to your success? – “I am incredibly tenacious and passionate.”
- Share an internet resource, like Evernote, with Fire Nation – Google Drive
- If you could recommend one book to our listeners, what would it be and why? – The Lean Startup by Eric Rice
- [19:51] – JLD talks about the MVP
- [20:21] – “Every time you think you are at that tipping point, there is more coming. Just keep on going.”
- [20:26] – Connect with Karina via email
Karina: Yes, I am.
John: Yes. Karina is a London stylist based in New York who’s launching the first ever fashion philanthropic media brand, which is a registered public charity. Every six months, the brand is gonna shift focus on a different charity or cause. It is called Mission Magazine and the tagline sums it all up: Fashion For Beauty For Good. Now Karina, tell me how I did on your last name and also, take a minute to fill in some gaps from that intro and give us a little glimpse of your personal life.
Karina: Oh, well you pronounced my surname 100 percent right, which was great. So I appreciate that because it gets butchered a lot. I started styling about 18 years ago and I came out to do an internship at W magazine and lived in New York for a couple of years and then went back to England. The turning point for me on getting to Mission was the tragic loss of my mother and brother within 13 months of each other when I was in London.
That changed my mindset 15, 16 years ago, especially when you’re working in such an egotistical vein industry as fashion. It made me see everything in a completely different perspective. I’d always struggled to want to do something different, but I just never could grasp what that would be. So yeah, Mission got born just over two and a half years ago. I’ve been on this every single day and I’m actually rather obsessed about it because I just believe in it so much.
The tipping point I think for me was my friend – actually, I know it was – it was my friend getting breast cancer. She got diagnosed four years ago and it was April two and a half years ago I was on a photoshoot in Manhattan for a big fashion label and it was gonna be on the billboards around Times Square and the client’s saying to me, “Oh, you know I’m not sure about the size of this button. What do you think? Can we change it?” They were kind of debating it for about 20 minutes. Meanwhile, my friend’s having her first mastectomy, an eight-hour operation, and I work in the service industry.
You can’t really say anything when I really wanted to say, “You know what? Shove your jacket. No one’s gonna look up at a billboard and go, ‘Oh, I don't know about that jacket. That button’s a bit small’ and not buy it.” So for me I just felt I have to just try and do something different and use my 18 plus years of being in this amazing industry to do good and all those contacts I’ve met over the years, how can I bring them onboard to be part of something really meaningful?
That was a massive, massive turning point for me. It was the first time I’ve ever had such clarity on anything and it’s just been the wildest journey. I have to say, John, I say to people when I meet them three years ago I had my head between Matthew McConaughey’s legs, on all fours, tying his shoe laces. I didn’t know what a P&L was, what a return of investment, a KPI. I had no idea what the hell any of this stuff was and I’ve learned everything from the ground up.
I’ve loved learning it. It’s actually stuck. I wish I was like this at school to be more academic because it’s a public charity because there’s gonna be famous people involved and high-level creatives. I need to know exactly how it works and how it runs and do due diligence and make sure it’s all legally set up and correct, so I have to understand P&Ls and everything.
John: Well, speaking of Matthew McConaughey, I will say I just watched an amazing movie with him last night called Sea of Trees. So Fire Nation, if you’ve not watched that, you gotta have your tissue box ready, though. It is a sad, sad movie, but just like you shared, Karina, about how it took that tragedy to snap you out of the world that you were living in.
That’s sad Fire Nation when it takes a tragedy like that, but that’s the power of podcasts and the power of us talking about Karina’s journey right now so that we can learn from her mistakes and that we can learn from her successes. We can do both of these things now so that we don’t have to go through tragedy to take a step back and realize what’s important and that we can learn from what Karina’s done right so that we can take the right shortcuts and avoid the pitfalls that a lot of us do when we just kind of charge forward without knowing the path to take. So I love the mission of Mission magazine, Karina.
Karina: Thank you.
John: You’ve definitely nailed that and I can just hear the passion and it’s just so exciting Fire Nation when somebody is doing something that they are passionate about. We have enough lifeless souls that are just zombie-like wandering around the subways of New York City literally every single day going to some soul-sucking job that they are giving nothing to.
Why not make a difference in this one life that we have to live that, by the way, can be quite short quite quickly because of just random things that happen in life. Let’s kind of move a little bit, Karina, into your journey as an entrepreneur. Now take us to what you consider the worst entrepreneurial moment that you’ve experienced to-date and tell us that story.
Karina: Oh my God, how long have you got? I think the worst entrepreneurial moment has got to be my trip to Dallas. I got connected to a woman through someone I had met in New York and I’d spoken to her five months prior building up to this. I sent her the prototype. I’d sent her the media kit. She was gonna come on board and help and one of her sentences, before I went to Dallas, was, “We don’t need our husband’s to write a check. Come down here for a week and we can get you a million dollars.”
So I was like, “Okay, great.” I went it was this January actually 2016 when there was a horrific snowstorm coming to New York and I didn’t realize that because I was in bed with the flu and then my boyfriend said, “You better change your flight.” So I ended up diverting to Austin, getting the bus, going into Texas and I traveled with – This lady had told me to get a six-foot banner made up and that I was gonna be hosting several women, doing several things. A shop was gonna give me do a day’s shopping. Ten percent was gonna go to Mission of the proceeds. I was gonna go to a Ferrari showroom. We were gonna do a cocktail thing there.
On the first day, I got there, the next day we were gonna have a lunch at this I think it’s called Highland Park Village, which is quite an affluent area of Texas, of Dallas rather, and she had a luncheon reserved for me to present Mission to 20 women. Now I’d spent up to – I think I was up until 2:00 a.m. the night before preparing an auction, like a fundraising thing; different levels of what people could put in and what they would get. Either you get to go to a Calvin Klein showroom. You get to come front row at a fashion show.
So I spent all night working on this because she had given me the homework just literally 6:00 the night I got in. I texted her in the morning and I said, “Shall I bring the banner?” She said, “Yes, do.” Now I’d thought I was gonna have the whole place to myself. I’m doing this presentation and I’d brought fishing wire out of my stylist prop kit in my bag. I had double stick tape. “How the hell do I hang this thing? It’s six foot. How am I gonna put this up on my own? Okay, I can do this. It’s fine. Just that’s the least of my worries.”
I said, “Should I bring the banner?” She said, “Yes, please do.” I turn up at this restaurant. It’s full-on lunch service for the public, 12:00, and we are – there’s a corner table and it’s so busy and loud and I walk in with this seven-foot cardboard poster and clearly there was nowhere for me to put it because we weren’t in a private environment. This is the first time meeting this woman face-to-face after five months building up all this anticipation. I’m thinking, “Oh my God. Finally, we’re gonna make the March deadline. This is amazing.” I said to her, “Nice to meet you. So where shall I put this?”
I have to say, I was so livid it was really hard to even talk straight. She went, “Don’t worry about that. We don’t need that” bearing in mind I’d texted her an hour before I was meeting her, “Do I need to bring it?” The whole week just went from bad to worse. These women had no idea what I was talking about. I thought that my host had prepped them. So I was going into this meeting completely cold, explaining to them Mission over a luncheon that was really noisy in the environment we were in and all these promises she had made just didn’t happen.
I had staff standing by in New York ready to go, to be part of this with me, printers on hold, and it was a really, really tough week and I remember on the Friday speaking to my brother in England just saying, “I don't know if I can do this. It’s done. We’re over. I can’t do it anymore.” I came back to New York and a friend of mine who works for LVMH, which is Louis Vuitton and Dior and all this, she’d lent me all her wardrobe.
So I had gone there because I thought, “Oh my God, I’ve gotta go against competition and yeah I’m a stylist and I work in fashion, but I don’t dress as they all do when they go to the shows because I have other aspirations to put my money into.” So I’d kind of dressed up to the nines for these women and not worn any of it. We’d gone to no black tie gala at someone’s house like she’d promised. We had her father host a fundraising event from 1:00 until 4:00 p.m., where we had an enormous spread of food for about 60 people.
We got there at midday. Three people came. Three people came and I sat there in this elaborate room that looked like something out of Dynasty from the ‘80s. I’m waiting for Crystal Carrington to walk in and I just thought, “What the hell am I doing here?” I said to the lady, “Who did you invite? When did you email them?” She goes, “Oh, I emailed them three weeks ago.” “And that was it? You didn’t follow through?” She went, “No, should I have done? Shall I do it now?”
I just went to her, “It’s a bit bloody late now, love. It’s 1:30. They should be here.” Clearly she I guess had good intentions, but didn’t really know. She’d come from a very rich background and I guess she was just used to going to a sit-down gala where you raise your hand up and bid money and didn’t know, but she wouldn’t let me organize anything. It’s the first experience of leaving someone completely in control of your brand for the first time.
John: Wow. I mean Fire Nation, one thing that I really want to jump in here and say is the curse of knowledge isn’t really super applicable here, but it’s something that I want to talk about because it’s something that, Karina, for me just keeps coming up again and again as you’re talking is that we just have this curse of knowledge as entrepreneurs.
You know we are just like, “Wow, I know what my business is. I know what my brand is. I know what I’m bringing to the table” and we hope and we assume that other people are going to do the same or know the same or just understand the same. So when Karina walked into that room, the women didn’t know her from Adam or Even. They just hadn’t ever heard of what she was doing. So she was starting cold and that was tough.
Now again, this isn’t super applicable, the curse of knowledge here, because Karina had it in someone else’s hands to set that up for her, to warm up the crowd, to get things going, and that person failed. So my big takeaway here is, of course, Karina you likely trusted the right person as far as that was the person who was supposed to be in control, but it would be a lot better off in the future for Fire Nation if you find yourself in a situation like that, you want to be checking in and saying, “Hey, are you doing X? Are you doing Y? Are you doing Z?”
Now again, Karina was being told, “Yeah, bring that billboard. Yeah, we’re gonna have 60 people showing up” blah, blah, blah, all these type of things. So she was just being misled at every single way, shape, and turn, but that is going to happen because people again are just not gonna come through all the time. They’re not gonna really know what they’re doing all the time. So the more that we can do to prevent that happening – taking the responsibility and putting it on our shoulders as much as we can – the better.
Now again, this isn’t 100 percent applicable to what Karina went through here, but it’s something that you want to know, Fire Nation. Be responsible for things that are affecting your business in a positive way. So, Karina, that’s my big takeaway. I’m gonna challenge you. Just one or two sentences, sum up what you want Fire Nation to get from that story.
Karina: Micromanage your business. I think people complain about bosses micromanaging, but I’ve had three experiences now up to date where I’ve given respect to the person that’s in their profession thinking, “Okay, they’re gonna step up. They’ve been passionate about helping” and I’ve been let down. So now I just think you have to know every aspect of your business and don’t just assume that someone said they’re gonna do it and they follow through. You need to just be 100 percent on everybody’s case with your business.
John: Fire Nation, micromanage your business. Make it happen.
John: So Karina let’s shift to another story now and you’re gonna have to be more concise with this story. So again, I’m throwing the challenge out there.
John: What’s one of your greatest ideas you’ve had? What’s one of your aha moments? Take us to that moment. Tell us that story.
Karina: It’s Mission. That’s my only greatest idea ever and that was I think the weekend after doing this photoshoot and my friend having an operation. I woke up on a Sunday 4:00 a.m. really worried about her and then I started compartmentalizing in my head the pros and cons of my job, my skillset, what I could do, what I loved.
John: So you weren’t worried about the buttons on the billboard. You were worried about your friends?
Karina: No I just it was for me, “Okay, I’m done. I’ve got to think of an idea of something better to do with my life.” That was on the Friday and on the Sunday 4:00 a.m. I had this idea to do a fashion media brand that gives the profits back to charity.
John: What was the next step you took after having that idea? Did you talk to somebody to validate the idea? Did you look around for competition? What was the next step?
Karina: The first person I told actually was my friend who was suffering with breast cancer. I went straight to her that morning to bring her breakfast in bed at her apartment and I ran into her apartment and go, “Oh my God, Livvy, I’ve had the best idea ever.” She just went, “That’s incredible.” I said, “Well, it is my only idea ever. Let’s be honest.”
John: It better be good.
Karina: “So it better be bloody good.” Then I spent two and a half years, two years diligently doing the legal work and the background checks and finding out about the competition and reaching out to law firms and just doing my homework. We only went public with it in September this year with Fashion Week.
John: Well, let me challenge you with a question right now. What would you say is the most surprising thing you learned over those two years that again was just surprising? You just didn’t expect that this is gonna be part of the business or the planning process?
Karina: I’ve had a real insight into human nature. It’s been very fascinating how people have wanted to be part of this and get all excited, but it’s very much about them. They want to be interviewed. They want to go on the cover or they want to have content written about them.
John: Like I said, Karina, every person’s favorite radio station is WII-FM, What’s in it for me?
Karina: Genius, yes.
John: Hey, just give me credit twice when you use that and then it’s yours forever.
Karina: No, that’s really true. It’s been very interesting and then there’s also been amazing surprises with people I’ve never met before stepping up and wanting to help and giving their time and volunteering their time for months at a time. So human nature has been the most interesting.
John: Human nature. Well, let’s bring this forward to today. What are you most fired up about right now?
Karina: We are doing our first ever fundraiser at the iconic Boom Boom Rooms in January. I managed to ask them to give it to me for free and I convinced them why and they are gonna work with us on doing that in January. We’re looking to do that around the inauguration because our first issue is Women of Empowerment. So I’m really gung-ho on getting this up and going and also we’re working on content now for the first issue, which is due in the end of January.
So we’re working with a great celebrity publicist, Annaly, and trying to get certain cover women. We want six to eight different women on the cover. So yeah, I’m very fired up about all of that because I’m learning as I go, John. I’ve never dealt with any of these people before and it’s very exciting and I think –
I met this lady last week who’s a headhunter and she places designers at Tiffany’s, at Donna Karan, at DNKY, at Coach, and she’s very tapped into the industry. I’d never met her before and she said to me last week, she said, “Oh my God. This is so exciting. I really want to be part of this –” I think me being naïve has been my biggest strength because I just don’t know what’s coming and I think had I known all the work that was needed for this and the incredible stress, I would not have had the guts to have carried on.
John: Ignorance can be bliss, Fire Nation, absolutely for entrepreneurs. I don’t want you to be ignorant of the lightning round, Fire Nation, so stick around after we thank our sponsors. Karina, are you prepared for the lightning rounds?
Karina: I think so.
John: What was holding you back from becoming an entrepreneur?
Karina: Having an idea that felt so right I was willing to risk everything for it.
John: What is the best advice you’ve ever received?
Karina: Everything will morph and change and to ride with it.
John: What is a personal habit that contributes to your success?
Karina: That I’m incredibly tenacious and passionate.
John: Can you share an internet resource like Evernotes with Fire Nation?
Karina: Yes, Google Drive. That’s been amazing sharing documents with my team, who are all over the place.
John: If you could recommend one book, to of course join Mission magazine on our bookshelves, what would that book be and why?
Karina: I would say the Lean Startup by Eric Rise, which got recommended to me at the early stages. It just teaches you how not to spend all your money in the early stages of setting up a company business, just having longevity with it. I learned a lot from that book.
John: MVP, the minimally viable product. Just get it out there, Fire Nation. Get feedback, adjust, pivot, drive forward. Now, Karina, let’s end today on fire with a parting piece of guidance, the best way that we can connect with you, and then we’ll say goodbye.
Karina: Don’t ever give up if you believe in something so, so strongly. We only have one life and it’s worth you just pushing yourself. Every time you think you’re at that tipping point, there’s more coming. I just think just keep on going and you’ll get these small, little victories that validate what you’re doing is right and you’re on the right course.
John: What’s the best way to connect with you?
Karina: I would say info@Missionmag.org.
John: Fire Nation, you are the average of the five people you spend the most time with. You’ve been hanging out with KG and JLD today. So keep up the heat and head over to EOFire.com. If you just type in Karina, that’s Karina with a K-A-R-I-N-A, in the search bar, her show notes page will pop right up with everything that we’ve been talking about; links, timestamps. These are the best show notes in the biz. One more time, Karina, what’s that email address?
John: Give her an email, Fire Nation. Shoot it over. She will respond and just ask a question, thank her for being on, thank her for what she’s doing for this world. Karina, thank you for sharing your journey with Fire Nation today. For that, we salute you and we’ll catch you on the flip side.
Karina: Thank you, John. Thank you so much.
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