Meet Devon Mish, creator of Devon Maryn – a new women’s fitness brand right here in our area!
When she was tired of the same hum drum black yoga pants (I currently have at least 10 in the laundry…), she set out to change the scene. The brand is functional, yet feminine and preppy. We are always searching for practical and fashionable workout gear so, of course, we were intrigued.
Even more than our constant need for more workout clothes, we were interested in Devon’s story. She built this company without experience in the industry and not much more than a vision. With big brands running the country, it’s motivating to meet inspiring small business women!
We found Devon’s story motivational and wanted to share with our readers. Check out our Q&A session with below!
How did you know you wanted to turn your passion into a career?
After starting a business with my husband about 9 years ago and building it, I lost all fear of trying new things. ☺ I’ve always been fascinated by the fashion industry, and had a couple of jobs in high school and college that were in that industry, so I had a baseline understanding of what I was getting into. When I decided I was ready for a new professional challenge, I just couldn’t shake the idea of starting my own brand. I knew it would be fun, creative, and difficult, and it has definitely been all of those things!
I didn’t necessarily have a dream of designing activewear in particular, but more to get into the fashion industry in general. There is A LOT of choice out there for women when it comes to apparel, and I wanted to find a niche that wasn’t served. For me, I had my “aha” moment when I could not find the type of workout clothing that fit my personality. I love bright colors, colorful prints, clothes that have “energy” and make me happy! The activewear category was full of super boring black yoga pants, solid colors, just a sea of sameness.
Where did you start when you made the decision to move forward with Devon Maryn?
Once I had a focus, I sat down and designed (pencil & paper) the kind of running shorts and yoga pants I would love to wear. I then found a graphic designer who was able to translate my drawings to computer renderings. From there, the most challenging part was finding a great samplemaker and production manager who could put me in contact with manufacturers and apparel factories. After a lot of searching (and unreturned phone calls), I found the perfect person, located here in Baltimore.
What (if any) previous work experience helped prepare you to own your own business?
My husband and I started our own business in the tech accessory industry about 9 years ago, shortly after we got married. We went from working out of our home and shipping out of our garage to an office to employing 50 people to being on the Inc. Fastest Growing Companies list! Being an entrepreneur in such a crazy, competitive industry really allowed me to have experience with almost every part of growing a business, from product design to operations to marketing. When I decided I was ready for a new challenge, I knew I wanted to pursue an industry that more closely aligned with my passions.
How long did you plan for Devon Maryn before it became a reality?
From the time when I sat down to sketch my designs until I actually had production inventory in my hands, it took about a full year.
How do you find balance between being a mom and an entrepreneur?
In my past business, I didn’t feel that I had a lot of control – there was so much to be done, all the time, that I frequently felt that I was shortchanging all areas – my husband, our kids, and the work. Not to mention, we started our business, which quickly experienced explosive growth, and popped out 3 kids in a matter of just a few years (what were we thinking??) We made a lot of mistakes and learned a lot of tough lessons in those 9 years!
Before starting Devon Maryn, I wrote out a list of goals for my new business, and at the top of the list was to RELAX and calm down. I’m not sprinting toward a finish line. My goal is to slowly build a brand that customers are excited about and feel connected to, while allowing myself the freedom and flexibility to ramp up or down my work activity as I see fit. I work from home, so I’m able to see my kids throughout the day, pick them up from school, take them to sports practices and dance lessons, and stay connected to them and their everyday activities. I’m also lucky enough to have a fantastic nanny to help me when I need to work uninterrupted or go to meetings, as well as a very supportive husband who is totally on board with the entrepreneurial lifestyle. Some days are crazier than others, but I don’t feel guilty about nurturing my professional ambitions and scratching that creative itch. You can be a great wife and mother, as well as fulfilled professionally, with careful planning and a strong support system.
With so much going on, how do you find the time to squeeze in a sweat? What is your exercise of choice these days?
I work out 5 days a week actually, every morning Monday through Friday! I had a major epiphany when I turned 30 – my third child was about 9 months old at the time, and I just looked in the mirror and was unhappy with what I saw. I was still carrying baby weight, I was burning the candle at both ends and had no energy, I wasn’t eating well, and worked out sporadically (but pretty lazily). It was the first time in my life I really stepped back to learn about health, fitness, diet, and how to apply it to my lifestyle. I changed just about everything – I think what you eat is about 80% of the problem. I threw out all the crappy food, educated myself about the right foods, which in turn gave me a lot more energy to work out. I lost a bunch of weight – I’m in better shape now than I was in college!
Now, I go to the gym every morning after I drop my kids off at school. I typically do some sort of cardio for about 45 minutes – treadmill, spin class, elliptical, whatever – and then lift weights and do ab work for an additional 30 minutes. I also love to take the occasional yoga or pilates class, I love the stretching aspects. Now, I can’t miss a workout or I get very cranky! I crave the activity as the start to my day.
What does your hardest day look like? What got you through it? What made it worthwhile?
There are a lot of hard days! Probably the hardest are the days when I feel like I’m not making enough progress. It could be that things aren’t selling quick enough, I’m working on something that’s not turning out as I’d envisioned, or things aren’t happening as quickly as I want them to (very frustrating for a Type A personality like myself).
It can also be very challenging as an entrepreneur to work alone – many times I crave the camaraderie of a traditional office setting, where you can get instant feedback and bounce ideas off each other. The toughest critic is always yourself, and it can be easy to let the negative voice inside sap your motivation. Ultimately, as an entrepreneur you have to be able to shut down that negativity. You can’t even entertain the option that you can fail. When I feel myself mentally going downhill, I immediately redirect to a different project, or reach out to my support network—I’ve built a really incredible circle of inspiring women who are entrepreneurs and know just how to encourage me and build me up.
What’s your motto for yourself?
I don’t necessarily have a motto, but I believe in going for it, trying new things, operating out of courage and not fear. I believe strongly in taking chances and pursuing your goals and dreams, no matter what voice is telling you you can’t do it. I think so many people are paralyzed by fear of failure and indecision, and I’m just not afraid to make mistakes and put myself out there. No mistakes, only lessons!
What’s the day in the life for Devon?
Wake up around 7, get kids ready and off to school, hit the gym for an hour and a half, come back and work, which could be email, filling orders, etc. Break for lunch (and shower at lunchtime – one of the benefits of working from home!), more work in the afternoon or have meetings with my samplemaker. Dinner and put kids to bed by around 8:30, and since I’m a TV show addict I typically watch one of the many shows on my DVR (anything Shonda Rhimes!) while scanning my email, Instagram, or other social media. We’re in bed by around 11. I know how to “turn off” my work brain at night, so I’m pretty good about keeping my work to normal business hours and I’m vigilant about keeping the weekends for family time as well (although that took years to learn!)
What excites/motivates you?
I get excited and motivated about anything I can classify as a “win”, which could be a big press hit or blogger review, getting picked up by a new retail store, or awesome customer feedback. When you’re doing a ton of work on your own, it can be very isolating, so it is so important to celebrate every “win.” I really try to take a step back, give myself a pat on the back, or share my good news with someone just to get that “yay!”
What is your biggest fear?
I don’t really have work-related fears–I’m not afraid of failure. I’d be more afraid of growing old without pursuing any of my dreams! But on a more primal level, I am afraid of anything ever happening to my husband, children, or family members.
What advice would you give young women (and men) who are looking to pursue their dreams?
Just do it!! There is no perfect idea, perfect time, perfect product, perfect team. You’ll never have all the money you need, or all the confidence you think you need. The most important thing is to pick an idea that you believe has merit, and pursue it with everything you have. Do some research to see if your idea has potential, if you can fill a “hole” in the market, and provide a unique take on a product or service. You will make mistakes, and you need to be comfortable with that. I firmly believe that entrepreneurship is about 90% hard work and 10% right product/right timing. Put in the effort, and you’ll learn what works, what doesn’t, and how to pivot to make your idea a success and grow your business.
What’s the one piece of advice you can give to young professional women?
Whatever it is you’re passionate about, pursue it with everything you have. It doesn’t have to be as an entrepreneur, but whatever field you love and just can’t stop thinking about, figure out a way to be a part of it, and work hard at it. You’ll go far in a field that fits your passions!