Jul. 19, 2019
As a #ByWomenForWomen company, we love celebrating brands that are led by fellow female founders. Our new series, Founder Friday, is a chance to get to know some of these standout women, including our very own Heidi Zak!
As a company founded on the essential principle of beauty and style for all, we’re constantly inspired by other brands who stand for the same ideals. That’s why we’re loving Dia&Co the inclusive personal styling service that makes fashion fun and accessible for all. ThirdLove sat down with founder Nadia Boujarwah to talk about why inclusive sizing matters when it comes to serving up style.
Why did you start your company?
Dia&Co was founded out of my personal experience. I’ve been plus size my whole life — wearing everything from a size 12 to a size 22 over the years — and I’ve always struggled to find stylish clothing that fit my body. Years of frustration prompted me to team up with my Harvard Business School classmate Lydia Gilbert to reimagine plus size shopping. We set out to democratize fashion because every woman should have an equal opportunity to express herself through style. Since our founding in 2015, we’ve attracted a dedicated and diverse community of more than 4 million women across all 50 states.
Tell us about yourself.
I am a half-Cuban, half-Kuwaiti, fashion-obsessed, female entrepreneur committed to leading the change I have craved most in my own life.
What was one challenge you overcame during the early days of your company?
When my co-founder Lydia and I were first looking for funding, we certainly had challenges. First, we were two female founders, and second, we were pitching a business entirely focused around plus size women, a segment that has been historically ignored and underserved. Most of the VCs we were pitching were male, and many did not understand the business or its appeal—some said that they would have to ask their wives for their opinion. We knew that we didn’t want to take funding from any VCs who didn’t understand what we were doing or why. Fortunately, we eventually found a group of investors who shared our vision for serving this customer exceptionally.
Was there anyone who helped pave the way for your business or your path as an entrepreneur?
I have always had powerful female role models, and my mother and grandmother have been chief among them. They came to the U.S. from Cuba in 1969 with very little and rebuilt an entirely new life. They taught me the power of resilience and a strong work ethic — and certainly influenced my sense of style and love of fashion as well! Shout out to Abuela Migdania — my earliest fashion memories were admiring her 1950s inspired, chic-with-a-little-Caribbean-spunk looks.
What are some of the ways entrepreneurs today can help raise and inspire the next generation of women entrepreneurs?
Over the course of my career, I’ve definitely seen strides in the right direction when it comes to diversity in the workplace, and within the entrepreneurship space in particular. I do believe in celebrating all progress, big or small — but there’s no question that we still have a long way to go before we reach true equality. The entire ecosystem needs to continue to evolve, and we each have a role to play in that.
Personally, I’m focused on trying to make an immediate impact by providing angel funding to entrepreneurs from diverse backgrounds, by dedicating time to mentoring junior employees, and by volunteering as part of All Raise’s Female Founder Office Hours.
Shout out to Abuela Migdania — my earliest fashion memories were admiring her 1950s inspired, chic-with-a-little-Caribbean-spunk looks.
If you could give your younger self advice, what would you tell her?
Find your North Star. One thing that’s proven very valuable for me and I think is worth spending time on very early in your career is identifying a North star — a guiding vision of where you ultimately want to end up. I believe that very few paths are linear, and the concept of a ”jungle gym career” has certainly rung true in my life. I think that you can give yourself much more flexibility and opportunity to take risks when you have an end goal in mind, but not necessarily a predetermined path for how you plan to get there. That end goal can be the person who you want to be in 20, 30, 40 years, the impact that you want to have, or what you want to have achieved by the end of your career. In my case, figuring out the end goal and knowing what’s truly important to me has allowed me to make decisions that don’t always make a lot of sense to other people, but they’ve always been on the right path for what I ultimately want to achieve.
What’s the top song on your playlist right now?
When I need to stay motivated, Lizzo always comes in handy. Her song “Juice” gives me the body-positive vibes I need to keep going.
What does your morning routine look like?
I usually wake up and immediately make myself a cup of coffee. It’s not so much about the caffeine, but about the taste and smell of a very good cup from my French press. After, I’ll head directly to a spin class. I usually am able to go a few times a week. Going in the morning helps to reset my mind and get ready for the day ahead.
What motivates you to keep going in the toughest of times?
I love browsing the Dia&Co National Community and the Dia&Co Wellness Community Facebook groups. These are places where our customers come to share their experiences and gather inspiration from each other — and I’m so grateful to be able to hear from our community members in such a direct and personal way.
What are your favorite ways to practice self-care?
I tend to do breathing exercises when I’ve got a couple of minutes to myself. They really help me re-center and concentrate on the next task. I’m also a firm believer that a good manicure can turn a whole day around. I change my nail color frequently and always make sure my colors are bold.
One thing that’s proven very valuable for me and I think is worth spending time on very early in your career is identifying a North star — a guiding vision of where you ultimately want to end up.
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever received?
One of my mantras is a phrase I learned from my mom: “You can’t have thin skin on the front lines.” Anytime you take a risk, you will likely face some form of criticism. Through the founding of Dia&Co, I’ve faced a lot of criticism — some of it professional, some of it personal. However, it’s always only served to deepen my resolve. One particularly illustrative example: In the early days of our business, before we could hire models, my image was featured on an ad we ran online. The ad, which simply showed me smiling while wearing a tulle skirt, received many hateful, gendered comments insulting my appearance and stating someone my size shouldn’t wear that type of skirt. I had already had first-hand experience being stereotyped for my size and appearance, but this went far beyond that. It really strengthened my determination to create a community within Dia&Co where she felt celebrated, accepted and beautiful — and to begin to change the narrative in society as a whole.
What’s the most fulfilling part of your job?
Speaking with Dia&Co customers. Our community is the driving force behind everything we do at Dia&Co. Our promise is to strive to understand you better than anyone else will and to put you first, always. For us, this means listening, using your feedback to constantly improve our product, and building an inclusive community of women where all women feel welcomed and celebrated.