Who says it too late to reinvent yourself? At just over age 50, Karyn Pettigrew is entering what she calls Act 2 of her life. She is the founder and CEO of 1 Bag Travel Warrior and its lead clothing brand, ZoeGoes. ZoeGoes is a six-piece sustainable travel capsule collection for women that comes in an easy grab-and-go luggage cube. Taking a modern-minimalist approach, every piece can be mixed and matched to create multiple outfits with elegance and flair. Karyn is not only changing the way women look and feel on the go, but also defying what it means to be a startup founder. See how she is approaching her new clothing business endeavor with fresh eyes and a seasoned mind.
Branding Beyond Blind Spots ™
Chicago native Karyn Pettigrew knows a thing or two about branding. After graduating from Wellesley College, she went to business school in Harvard, worked as a marketer for both Quaker Oats and Gatorade, and coordinated games as the Deputy Director of Marketing for the Illinois State Lottery. She even wrote a book called I Quit and Choose Work That Aligns with My Soul before launching her own LLC, Beyond Blind Spots, in 2003.
It’s Karyn’s belief that an entrepreneur’s work should be an expression of who they are in the world. She refers to the most empowered place as the radical intersection. This is the place where everything that lights you up and what you aspire to do converges with your physical identity (race, gender, and orientation), including the parts of your personality that are hidden or left on the table.
Through Beyond Blind Spots, Karyn coaches entrepreneurs to reclaim the parts of themselves that others instructed them to forget, then incorporate them back into their brands. Sometimes this means creating an alter ego, who is the best version of yourself, that you can call upon at any given moment. For over seventeen years, Karyn has helped entrepreneurs get over the mental roadblocks that keep them from achieving their dreams.
ZoeGoes, The Six-Piece Travel Solution
Recently, with her kids off to college and having helped countless businesses redefine their brands, Karyn found herself with extra time on her hands. She decided to travel across Europe, but on her way back from Spain her flight was delayed two hours. By the time she made it through customs, rechecked her bags, and cleared security, she missed her connecting flight back home. The entire ordeal begged her to answer the question, “How can I prevent this from happening again?” From then on, Karyn began traveling with nothing but a carry-on. She discovered she could survive for weeks by making the most out of every item she brought and realized she had been overpacking for trips her entire life. This is what sparked the idea for ZoeGoes.
Each ZoeGoes clothing item is odor-resistant, wrinkle-resistant, and made to fit any body type. The entire clothing line is inspired by 1940s fashion with long chic skirts and wide-leg trousers. When designing items, it is important to Karyn to ensure each piece is multi-functional. This means a single shirt or scarf can be wrapped various ways and combined with different bottoms to create unique looks. Every pant and skirt in their collection also implements deep pockets—a feature severely lacking in womenswear today. By encouraging a less-is-more mentality, women are free to travel lightly or work from home while still looking stylish and feeling comfortable.
The name ZoeGoes is inspired by Karyn’s own alter ego, Zoe. She refers to Zoes as her spunkier side—a girl who is fun, playful, and outgoing. Because she’s not very loud or flashy herself, Karyn believes most people might mistake her as standoffish when they first meet her. But in reality, Karyn is a keen observer and likes to study every scene before engaging. This quality allows her to be a strategic entrepreneur, while Zoe allows her to express her lighter side when she needs it for her business.
A Sustainable Direct-to-Consumer Clothing Brand for Women
Karyn claims she has always been a tree hugger. When she was a kid, she would trick-or-treat for UNICEF and even briefly studied to become a marine biologist. Every collection in ZoeGoes is made-to-order and uses 100% sustainable material like Tencel and recycled PET (fabric made from post-consumer water bottles). Because they are a direct-to-consumer clothing brand, they manufacture the quantity of orders received by the 15th of the month and ship items on the final week. This allows them to save on costs and prevent wasting excess materials.
Recently, Burberry fell under a little bit of heat for burning $36.5M worth of unsold clothes. They have since vowed to be more responsible in the future, but destroying excess stock is common in the retail industry. However, with many companies making the switch to sustainable resources, Karyn says the future is looking greener. She states she has never run into any issues by using renewable resources versus opting for cheaper more accessible materials, so a world where more clothing brands choose to be eco-conscious is a possibility. Karyn also hopes her minimalist approach to fashion will encourage people to be less wasteful. “You don’t need as much as you think.”
Never Too Late to Start Your Own Business
A recent scientific study revealed that humans are designed to live for 115 years. However, due to outside factors, we don’t typically live that long. “When you take that into consideration, somewhere around fifty, you’re really just crossing adolescence,” Karyn says. According to her, when you reach that age, you get a second wind and the question of what you want to do with the rest of your life becomes more prominent.
By the time you are fifty, you know what you like and don’t like and have become a connoisseur in at least one aspect of your life. “Now’s the time. Share your wisdom. Take all that stuff you’ve learned and accumulated and focus it into something of meaning for yourself.” Karyn says that your second wind doesn’t mean that you have to start your own business, but she has found more advantages than disadvantages to founding a new business at her age. According to Karyn, there are people who need what you know and sharing it can be a life-changing experience. “I actually feel like I’ve never been more powerful than I am right now.”
Has Karyn Pettigrew’s story changed your perspective on starting your own buiness? Let us know down in the comments.
This article originally published on GREY Journal.