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I Was Told I Was Too "Agreeable" To Ever Be A Leader

#SWAAYthenarrative

Kathleen Pagan, 34


CEO & Creative Director, Endlessly Elated

Having jumped from corporate finance to lifestyle blogging, Kathleen Pagan knows a thing or two about building your own empire. With the goal of encouraging equality and helping women in the workplace achieve whatever they set their minds to, Pagan has launched an initiative called “The Fem Think Tank,” which allows women to come together and share their career ups and downs to learn for each other how to face them head on. “Don’t let the beliefs of others define you,” says Pagan. “We are strong women and we will always prevail.

1. What made you choose this career path? What has been your greatest achievement?

I started my company after my dad’s passing in 2012, which was a defining moment, to say the least. It was the first time in my life that I stopped ‘doing’ and starting ‘questioning.’ My dad passed away at the age of 62 so for me it became a period of “am I?” I began to ask “am I doing what I want in life? Am I living to my fullest potential?” In search, I realized that although I was blessed with a supportive family, great friends, and an amazing boyfriend (then turned husband) something didn’t feel right. I felt like I wasn’t doing my life’s work. So, just weeks after my dad’s passing, I founded Endlessly Elated (a name I chose to ensure it was a daily reminder to live a fulfilled life) and the rest is history.

I’d say my greatest achievement came the day I decided that those three little words “believe in yourself” weren’t going to be words, but rather actions I lived by. It took me a long time to believe that I could do and be whatever I wanted to. I lived my whole life subconsciously putting limitations on myself, not because of the naysayers but because of my own preconceived notions. It’s my greatest triumph to have found my purpose and live life on my own terms.

2. What’s the biggest criticism/stereotype/judgement you’ve faced in your career?

I was told I was ‘too agreeable’ to ever hold a leadership position let alone be a CEO.

3. How did you #SWAAYthenarrative? What was the reaction by those who told you you “couldn’t” do it?

The biggest stereotype I’ve ever been faced with has been that as a woman in the workplace I need to be ‘bitchy.’ That people need to ‘fear me’ in order for me to be perceived as a suitable leader. A few years back, I sat in an office for a year-end review and was told that due to my lack of leadership qualities or how she verbalized it, “you’re just too nice, Kathleen,” I would deter myself from any career progression and due to this unfortunate fact, I either shaped up or would inevitably get fired. As I played the conversation in my head, I realized that my choices were either to become her or continue to be me. When in doubt, always choose yourself.

Needless to say, I never got fired, I moved onto various other positions, had the most amazing managers and after my recent resignation a beautifully, poised email from my current boss came out stating that although she was so sad to see me go, she was extremely proud of me and was fully supportive of all my endeavors. Now that’s a girl boss!

4. What did you learn through your personal journey?

Simple. I created my own. I wasn’t going to let the opinions of those who wanted to categorize me into the “she’s too nice” or the “she’s not bossy enough” boxes write my narrative. I took a stance to ensure that no one mistaken my kindness for weakness or my “lack of bossiness” for self-confidence. My story is mine and mine only. No one gets to write it but me.

5. What’s your number one piece of advice to women discouraged by preconceived notions and society’s limitations?
Believe it or not, I often think about this question and I always find myself asking the women around me the same thing. Limiting beliefs can come from the least expected places sadly sometimes from the people closest to. Don’t let the beliefs of others define you. Don’t let your circumstances limit you. Don’t let your skin color and ethnicity be a label for who you are. We are strong women and we will always prevail. In the great words of Shonda Rhimes “Not to get all Beyoncé on you, But [we] woke up like this!”

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How I Turned my Fine Art Drawings into a Temporary Tattoo Empire

I have always been in love with all things art- I was obsessed with drawing and painting before I was even walking. In high school, I started a career selling art through various gallery art shows and on Etsy. I then went on to study fine arts at the University of Southern California, with an emphasis in painting, but took classes in ceramics, printmaking, cinema and architecture to get a really well-rounded education on all sorts of art.

During my senior year of college, my career path went through a huge transition; I started my own temporary tattoo brand, INKED by Dani, which is a brand of temporary tattoos based on my hand-drawn fine art designs.


The idea for the brand came one night after a themed party at college. My friends, knowing how much I loved drawing, asked me to cover them in hand-drawn doodles using eyeliner. The feedback from that night was overwhelming, everyone my friends saw that night was obsessed with the designs. In that moment, a lightbulb went off in my head... I could do some completely unique here and create chic temporary tattoos with an art-driven aesthetic, unlike anything else on the market. Other temporary tattoo brands were targeted to kids or lacked a sleek and millennial-driven look. It was a perfect pivot; I could utilize my fine arts training and tattoos as a new art medium to create a completely innovative brand.

Using the money I made from selling my artwork throughout high school and college, I funded the launch of INKED by Dani. I had always loved the look of dainty tattoos, but knew I could never commit to the real thing, and I knew my parents would kill me if I got a tattoo (I also knew that so many girls must have that same conflict). Starting INKED by Dani was a no-brainer.

I started off with a collection of about only 10 designs and sold them at sorority houses around USC. Our unique concept for on-trend and fashion-forward tattoos was spreading through word of mouth, and we quickly started growing an Instagram following. I was hustling all day from my room, cold calling retailers, sending blind samples and tons of emails, and trying to open up as many opportunities as I could.

Now, we're sold at over 10,000 retail locations (retailers include Target, Walmart, Urban Outfitters, Forever 21 and Hot Topic), and we've transformed temporary tattoos into a whole new form of wearable art.

My 4 best tips for starting your own business are:

  1. Just go with your gut! You'll never know what works until you try it. Go day by day and do everything in your power to work toward your goals. Be bold, but be sure to be thoughtful in your actions.
  2. Research your competitors and other successful brands in your category to determine how you can make your product stand out. Figure out where there is a need or hole in the market that your new offering or approach can fill.
  3. Don't spread yourself too thin. Delegate where possible, and stay focused each day on doing the best and most you can. Don't get too caught up in your end goal or the big picture to a point where it overwhelms or freezes you. You're already making a bold move to start something new, so try to prioritize what's important! I started off in the beginning hand packing every single tattoo pack that we sold and shipped. If I wanted to scale to align with the level of demand we were receiving, I needed to make the pivot to mass produce and relinquish the control of doing every step myself. I am a total perfectionist, so that was definitely hard! From that point on, overseeing production has been a huge part of my daily schedule, but by doing so I've been able to free up more time to focus on design, merchandising, and sales, allowing me to really focus on growing the business.
  4. Prioritize great product packaging and branding. It's so important to invest time in customer experience- how customers view and interact with your product. The packaging is just as important as the actual product inside! When we were starting off, we had high demand, and I definitely jumped the gun a bit on packaging so we could deliver product to the retailers when they wanted it. Since then, we've completely revamped the packaging into something upscale and unique that reflects what the brand is all about. Our product packaging is always called out as being one of our retailers' and customers' favorite part of our product!