Today's youth is eager to attain their dream job just after stepping off the graduation stage. For me, a very different journey built me into the entrepreneur I am today, and I don't regret one bit of it.
When I graduated in Hotel Management from Ecole hôtelière de Lausanne, I realized my love for hotel interiors and décor enticed my senses a lot more than managing them. And so began my love affair with décor. La Désirade was my first ever quaint furniture restoration workshop for interior design after University. 13 whole years into interior designing, I found my heart pumped in search of more.
I began working as a freelancer at Swiss women's magazine, Femina, to beautify the home interior section pages. In parallel, I explored my infatuation with photography and life as food prop stylist, laying out some alluring, eye-appealing tables. I perused my passion for capturing the essence of a product not only through photography but also with an added touch of graphic design through the incorporation of ambitious ventures, Coucou Clock Agency and Swiss cookbook-- Les Délices de Manuella. My learning curve never diminished.
I continued to keep myself abreast of evolving technologies, literally mugging up the InDesign and Corel Draws of the world. All this was accomplished while I brought up my two handsome sons. After 26 years of navigating in the visual communication industry and my children out of the nest, I packed my bags and boarded on an adventure to NYC at the age of 50.
My quest to know more helped me to pursue the Accessory Design Major at the Fashion Institute of Technology. Just the touch at supple leather intrigued me instantly to continue my focus on perfecting the craftsmanship that strengthens and ensures the quality of this fine material. While a student, I dug up a Yves St. Laurent suede skirt I had purchased years ago for just five dollars at a thrift store. I let my creativity flourish and turned it into a bag. I knew right then and there that I had found my calling! For the next two years, I learned everything I could about leather, how to craft it, and designed line after line in the FIT workshop.
"The yearn for learning more never left me. I was and still am an inquisitive soul. I took up every opportunity that came my way." Photo courtesy of Lioness
My inaugural brand, Samira Buchi New York is an orchestrated outcome of a serene marriage between my creative instincts and learnings at FIT.
You know as they say, “Can you remember who you were before the world told you who you should be?" Hailing from a small town near Lake Geneva called Lausanne in Switzerland, I too, like many others, dreamt of living in the concrete jungle of the New York. Coming from a family of nomadic roots, my childhood revolved around the arts of big cities and the cultural diversities of the places we traveled. I remember visiting New York City in 1979, standing in the middle of a gritty SoHo street, and fancying that one day I would live here. This dream of living in New York never left me.
The yearn for learning more never left me. I was and still am an inquisitive soul. I took up every opportunity that came in my way – from being an interior decorator to graphic designer to prop stylist to photography, not realizing it was carving and sharpening my artistic skill sets, inching me a bit closer to my dream.
And when I finally touched down here in New York and at the forefront of the Fashion Institute of Technology, my lust with the art wanted to relive the second innings of life as a newborn on a virgin unexplored territory. Starting afresh, I saw this gap in the entire accessories business where providing custom-made luxury pieces with functionality and simplicity did not exist here in the fashion capital of the world. This instantly motivated me to go back to school and learn the nitty-gritty of the acceptable and lovable art of New York.
Initially, I believed, as I'm more fluent in speaking French than English, I would come across as a naïve to people in this great city. What was supposedly a weakness in my head, turned out to be my strength. My way of living, my personal style preferences and a cosmopolitan touch to designing my products has in every way come to be loved and desired by many in the United States. This particular transition of thought really shaped my character in New York– to hone every ability with confidence & pride.
The men in my life brought out this confidence in me through their daily inspirations as a young girl and well into motherhood– my father as I grew up, and then my kids who grew up too soon to chase their dreams in Paris and London respectively. Their dedication and faith to achieve what they believe in have had an insurmountable impact on my life that motivated me to leave Switzerland and grab the opportunity of living my dream in New York at the age of 50, which happens to be in an itsy bitsy apartment.
My tiny shoe box type Manhattan loft in Chelsea is a soupçon of my vintage European style. You will find a sense of industrial and rugged vibes– a chariot layered table to store my cookbooks and other kitchen essentials, a dining table of metal feet with bar stools, a décor comprising of Omersa- handmade leather pig footstool from Liberty London, a collage of memories on wooden frame and an incredible view of the Empire State Building from sizable windows. Though I miss waking up to the snow-capped Alps, the New York City skyline is a constant reminder to never stop chasing my dreams.
I'm now working for myself—something many will never experience or fathom. It's like having a luxury of freedom with fear. But no one gets free lunches in life and as a 53-year-old woman with myriad experiences of life, I can certainly say that everything has its pros and cons – but what is constant is the learning. And the desire to learn should never fade!
"Steal the mesh underwear you get from the hospital," a friend said upon learning I was pregnant with my first daughter.
It was the single best piece of advice I received before giving birth in December 2013. My best friend delivered her daughter eight months previously, and she was the first to pass along this shared code among new moms: you'll need mesh underwear for your at-home postpartum recovery, and you can't find them anywhere for purchase. End result: steal them. And tell your friends.
My delivery and subsequent recovery were not easy. To my unexpected surprise, after almost 24 hours of labor, I had an emergency C-section. Thankfully, my daughter was healthy; however, my recovery was quite a journey. The shock to my system caused my bloated and swollen body to need weeks of recovery time. Luckily, I had trusted my friend and followed her instructions: I had stolen some mesh underwear from the hospital to bring home with me.
Unfortunately, I needed those disposable underwear for much longer than I anticipated and quickly ran out. As I still wasn't quite mobile, my mother went to the store to find more underwear for me. Unfortunately, she couldn't find them anywhere and ended up buying me oversized granny panties. Sure, they were big enough, but I had to cut the waistband for comfort.
I eventually recovered from my C-section, survived those first few sleepless months, and returned to work. At the time, I was working for a Fortune 100 company and happily contributing to the corporate world. But becoming a new mom brought with it an internal struggle and search for something “more" out of my life--a desire to have a bigger impact. A flashback to my friend's golden piece of advice got me thinking: Why aren't mesh underwear readily available for women in recovery? What if I could make the magical mesh underwear available to new moms everywhere? Did I know much about designing, selling, or marketing clothing? Not really. But I also didn't know much about motherhood when I started that journey, either, and that seemed to be working out well. And so, Brief Transitions was born.
My quest began. With my manufacturing and engineering background I naively thought, It's one product. How hard could it be? While it may not have been “hard," it definitely took a lot of work. I slowly started to do some research on the possibilities. What would it take to start a company and bring these underwear to market? How are they made and what type of manufacturer do I need? With each step forward I learned a little more--I spoke with suppliers, researched materials, and experimented with packaging. I started to really believe that I was meant to bring these underwear to other moms in need.
Then I realized that I needed to learn more about the online business and ecommerce world as well. Google was my new best friend. On my one hour commute (each way), I listened to a lot of podcasts to learn about topics I wasn't familiar with--how to setup a website, social media platforms, email marketing, etc. I worked in the evenings and inbetween business trips to plan what I called Execution Phase. In 2016, I had a website with a Shopify cart up and running. I also delivered my second daughter via C-section (and handily also supplied myself with all the mesh underwear I needed).
They say, “If you build it, they will come." But I've learned that the saying should really go more like this: “If you build it, and tell everyone about it, they might come." I had a 3-month-old, an almost 3 year old and my business was up and running. I had an occasional sale; however, my processes were extremely manual and having a day job while trying to ship product out proved to be challenging. I was manually processing and filling orders and then going to the post office on Saturday mornings to ship to customers. I eventually decided to go where the moms shop...hello, Amazon Prime! I started to research what I needed to do to list products with Amazon and the benefits of Amazon fulfillment (hint: they take care of it for you).
Fast forward to 2018...
While I started to build this side business and saw a potential for it to grow way beyond my expectations, my corporate job became more demanding with respect to travel and time away from home. I was on the road 70% of the time during first quarter 2018. My normally “go with the flow" 4-year-old started to cry every time I left for a trip and asked why I wasn't home for bedtime. That was a low point for me and even though bedtime with young kids has its own challenges, I realized I didn't want to miss out on this time in their lives. My desire for more scheduling flexibility and less corporate travel time pushed me to work the nights and weekends needed to build and scale my side hustle to a full-time business. If anyone tries to tell you it's “easy" to build “passive" income, don't believe them. Starting and building a business takes a lot of grit, hustle and hard work. After months of agonizing, changing my mind, and wondering if I should really leave my job (and a steady paycheck!), I ultimately left my corporate job in April 2018 to pursue Brief Transitions full-time.
In building Brief Transitions, I reached out to like-minded women to see if they were experiencing similar challenges to my own--balancing creating and building a business while raising children--and I realized that many women are on the quest for flexible, meaningful work. I realized that we can advance the movement of female entrepreneurs by leveraging community to inspire, empower, and connect these trailblazers. For that reason, I recently launched a new project, The Transitions Collective, a platform for connecting community-driven women entrepreneurs.
As is the case with many entrepreneurs, I find myself working on multiple projects at a time. I am now working on a members-only community for The Transitions Collective that will provide access to experts and resources for women who want to leave corporate and work in their business full-time. Connecting and supporting women in this movement makes us a force in the future of work. At the same time, I had my most profitable sales quarter to date and best of all, I am able to drop my daughter off at school in the morning.
Mesh underwear started me on a journey much bigger than I ever imagined. They sparked an idea, ignited a passion, and drove me to find fulfillment in a different type of work. That stolen underwear was just the beginning.