Geneva Ripton on The 5 Things You Need to Know to Build Your Brand
By Ericka Taylor
Retail has a special place in Geneva Ripton’s heart. She likes to say she didn’t chose retail, retail chose her and she willingly accepted. For the past 10 years, since Geneva graduated highschool in 2007, Geneva has been immersed in the retail industry.
I would argue that her love for fashion started with her frequent weekend shopping trips with her mom. Regardless of when it began, Geneva has used her creativity to create a brand and business that helps other like minds build a retail brand and strategy they love.
Growing up, what experiences, negative or positive, helped shape you into the woman you are today? How did you overcome the negative experiences or how are you dealing with them today?
Growing up, the only negative experiences that affected me were the ones that the elders of my family projected, mostly about their careers. They worked so hard but never seemed to be living a fulfilling life. I’m just focusing on doing what I love while living a fulfilling life. I don’t like boundaries.
Overall, I believe that the most of my experiences that helped shape who I am today were positive. I’m such an introvert, so I always kept to myself. I was able to have creative freedom with reading – I love reading to this day, sketching floor plans of stores and clothing designs, and hand-stitching my Barbies’ very own wardrobe – my mom did not appreciate my cutting up my own clothes for this. And, my mom is to blame for my obsession with shopping malls because we went shopping every single weekend.
I was fashion obsessed, I remember when I brought home a not so pleasing progress report in 7th grade and my mom punished me by cutting off my mall visits and fashion show viewings on television. So, I started subscribing to catalogs and magazines for my fashion fixes, at that moment I’d became intrigued with Fashion Marketing. The more I became familiar with the fashion industry, the more I wanted to be a part of it!
What inspired you to want to pursue consulting and retail/brand strategy?
I didn’t choose retail, it chose me and I willingly accepted it. I always stayed in my own lane but I’m a very curious woman, if it was Fashion, I was all for it. I bore easily so I research and experiment a lot. If it was challenging, it raised an interest and I went for it.
Every year my confidence grew as I studied more about fashion, retail, and business operations on various levels. I’m very hands-on, so I jumped into opportunities every chance that I got. I’ve worked in retail since 2007 (the year I graduated from high school and started college 2 weeks later). I’m very observant and catch on very quickly, I’ve been able to hold various leadership positions in some of the top retailers of the industry.
From the people who have known me for years to the people I just met 10 mins ago, they tend to always trust my creativity and expertise when it comes to wardrobe styling, designing and constructing clothes.
I’m self-taught and now I advise others on bringing their dreams to life. When I learn, I share and people appreciate that.
In 2009, I landed my first internship with dolce Moda, then in Royal Oak, MI and I also landed my first client. A friend of mine wanted to learn how to make bow ties. At that moment, I really appreciated working with small businesses, the intimacy was very rewarding. You’re able to work closely with others and measure results opposed to working in corporate stores.
As the years went by, I continued school by studying business, marketing and Apparel, Textiles and Merchandising. I continued working management positions in retail and in 2012, I began freelancing at Swank A Posh Boutique as an assistant stylist and worked my way up into management, working closely with the owner, who’s now my #1 client. I operated my own online stores myself as side hustles. After being introduced to Adobe programs in college, in my own time I furthered my learnings and started doing my own designs. The rest is history.
I held down a lot of responsibilities that many people ran away from and people pay attention to that. People yearn for hard working, dependable, and loyal people to help them build their business. That’s why people trusted my expertise and wanted me on their team. People just kept coming and I flowed with it. I started booking more clients on the side as I continued to work, the demand increased and I wanted to give my clients full attention. So, on Leap Day, February 29, 2016, I quit my job and opened Ripton Retail full-time!
What words of wisdom would you give a woman that aspires to build their brand?
1. Be flexible, be ready to take risks, research and test the market.
2. That moment that you feel like giving up or even feel lazy, push harder.
3. Be ready to werk! Never expect anyone to go hard for your brand like you would. #PutYourselfOn
4. There’s room for all of us. Some people will have you thinking that there’s no room in your industry for you, don’t let bullies intimidate you.
5. Be genuine. Build relationships with people within and outside your industry.
On your worst day, what inspires you to "bite the built" and keep pushing forward toward your goals?
I’m a risk-taker and also a realist, so I always keep the big picture in mind. Unfortunately, but not so much, I’m really hard on myself, so I always tell myself “The only way is forward.” I do a lot of meditating and yoga. Sometimes I head out to an artsy event or something to catch some creative vibes, then I come back to dive right back into work.
With my career, I have to have a peaceful mind. I’m learning to balance my personal life, my own brand and various people I deal with on such personal and professional levels, while helping them develop their brands. No day is the same.
What plans do you have for the year of 2017? What do you hope to have accomplished by the end of the year?
My main focuses for this year are to launch more brands quarterly, work with more established brands, coordinate more pop-up shops and open a storefront or two. I’m shifting my focus more into the commercial real estate which is going to lead to my sister brand that I’m launching in 2018!
Can’t get enough of Geneva? We’ve got you covered. Keep up with her by following her personal Instagram, @QueenofGeneva. If you could use some of her consulting, follow her business Instagram, @RiptonRetail and visit her website, RiptonRetail.com, once it relaunches.