StrongVoices Interview #4: Lynn Mikolajczak, entrepreneur and work fashion expert
Lynn Mikolajczak is a Belgian entrepreneur, digital marketeer and law graduate whose passion is to support ambitious women with their business styling and professional look to empower their career. She provides consulting for career-driven women and brands and delivers work style media content to connect them both.
"When you keep working on your dream, are dedicated and don't give up, everything will come at the right time." - Lynn Mikolajczak
OUR QUESTIONS FOR LYNN:
You work as a work style expert for career-driven women and brands but originally graduated in law. What was your motivation for this change and how did you come up with the idea of supporting women and brands with business style consulting?
As a kid, I was always surrounded by men in suits. Also, my dad never left the house without wearing his suit and tie and even my mom had a lot of skirt suits. So looking back, that was probably my first touchpoint with business wear. When I started law school, I actually never had the intention of becoming a lawyer. Already back then, I had a big interest in business and entrepreneurship. But because I was told I could go any direction with a law degree and the study itself interested me, I still started this study. I did it with a lot of passion, dedication and worked really hard to achieve my master in law. During university, I came into contact with organisations that supported students to start their own business while studying. So given my big interest in entrepreneurship, I became a student entrepreneur, but I was struggling to find a business idea. I always came back to fashion, but I suppressed it because of the stereotypes associated with it. To find my business idea, I started a blog where I interviewed other entrepreneurs to find out what inspired them to start their business. During that time, I also discovered that business wear - and more specifically business suits - is my signature style. So that's why I focused the blog and my Instagram account more on business wear. After I graduated, I started to apply for jobs in business. Every time I got the same questions and answers: “Why don’t you become a lawyer?”, “Why did you even study law?”, “We would prefer someone with another degree and more experience”, …. I felt devastated and I really wanted a job. Through the network of my dad, I got a job offer to work in a law firm and I took it. But already after a few months working for this law firm, I felt so unhappy. Luckily, I still had my blog and Instagram account - although my boss has asked me to stop it - and I more and more realized how happy it made me. The law firm was located in Antwerp, and so I also moved there. Antwerp is known as a city where fashion really lives. I came into contact with a lot of organisations, career-driven women, …. They inspired and motivated me and made me realize I could no longer ignore my passion for work fashion. The foundation of my business idea was set. I finally found my mission: bringing brands in a work-appropriate way to career-driven women via online and offline media.
What were your personal hurdles you had to overcome during your career? Which advice did empower you the most?
I think a lot of women will encounter a feeling of insecurity and helplessness when starting a career. You choose a certain direction but that doesn’t mean you cannot opt to go another way with your career. For a long time, I suppressed my dream to pursue a career in fashion. “There is no future in it, it’s something typical for women, women in fashion aren’t smart, a career in fashion isn’t a real career, …”. People judge all the time and there are still so many stereotypes that don’t make any sense. But they exist and they let you doubt about what you really want. Also quitting my job as a lawyer felt like a failure. Luckily, it was my boss who told me that this wasn’t a career for me, and that life is too short to not pursue what you really love. That’s definitely a piece of advice that empowered me.
Another advice that recently empowered me the most is that you need to take ownership. I relied too much on other people instead of doing it myself because I didn't believe that I was capable to do it all by myself. Of course, you cannot do everything alone, but you can do more than you think. Everybody has to start somewhere, and growth is part of the journey. You just need to give it more time now and then and be patient. Yes, the road to success is lonely and I’m a big believer that combining forces is really efficient. But in the end, you can only count on yourself. So, I made a mind shift and took ownership for what I really wanted: First do the work on your own and then - when you really get stuck or need advice - you can go to other people with concrete questions.
Do you have a favourite outfit that makes you feel stronger, more self-confident and empowered? If yes, which one and why?
Yes of course I have. People who know me or follow me on social media know I’m obsessed with suits. A suit in combination with a black top and black heels is my power outfit and signature style. I remember the day I bought my first suit online. The moment I tried it on, it felt like a match made in heaven. When I wear a suit, I feel powerful, confident, professional and comfortable. Moreover, it also saves me a lot of time in the morning when I get dressed. First of all, because I don’t have to think about outfit combinations. Further, I just know that it works for me and my career. That’s the advantage of having a signature style. Of course, my business is around work fashion, so a suit is a great outfit for my personal brand and to represent my business.
In your opinion, what are the essentials for every woman when dressing up in a business context? Which “basic rules” need to be considered?
The first and definitely most important “rule” is: wear nothing you don’t feel good in. Your outfit needs to serve you in the first place, then your career. If you don’t feel good, it will affect your career anyway. Then, you always need to take into consideration the industry you work in and, if you work for a company, the written or unwritten dress code. With regards to the outfit itself, the basic rules you need to consider are a proper length of your skirt or dress - between just above and just under the knee, at least a little sleeve, not too much cleavage and clean wrinkle-free clothes without stains. Opt for at least one accessory like a watch, a necklace or earrings to make your outfit complete. And never forget, less is more, especially in a professional environment.
What influence has an outfit on the appearance of a person? How can it help to empower women in their self-confidence?
When your outfit confirms who you are and what you want to achieve, you will feel immediately more powerful and confident. When you feel powerful, you will act powerful and people will notice. As a result, you will attract the right people and the bad ones will not be able to bring you down because you are confident enough to stand above it.
If you had to give the young, career-driven women out there one tip – which would it be?
Have patience - and to be honest, I need to say this still to my present self. When you keep working on your dream, are dedicated and don't give up, everything will come at the right time.