Meet Nancy Dilts, an unapologetic entrepreneur spreading body positivity and sustainability through fashion. Craving a career that would allow her to build personal relationships with her clients, Nancy took the leap and started her own wardrobe consulting business in 2012. With a passion for personal style and sustainable consumerism, Nancy’s business focuses on helping her clients express their authentic selves while protecting the environment and human rights one wardrobe at a time. Keep reading to learn how Nancy has handled the highs and lows of entrepreneurship and kept motivated to create a life she loves.
Name: Nancy Dilts
Business Name: Nancy Dilts Wardrobe Consulting
Location: Saint Paul, Minnesota
Tell us about your business:
At Nancy Dilts Wardrobe Consulting, I bring together my passions – personal style, positive body image, and the environment – to help my clients feel great about how they look, using an economically and environmentally sustainable approach. I focus on helping people of all genders make their wardrobes both functional and fun to express their authentic selves.
My tagline is Style for Everyday: new to you – true to you. The “true to you” part is that style is personal and reflects who you are. It is not about hiding “flaws” or conforming to a certain standard. It is about embracing who you are right now, feeling good about yourself, and being excited about how you look.
I specialize in practicing sustainable consumerism by making your existing wardrobe as functional as possible and with “new-to-you” personal shopping at consignment stores. New-to-you clothing is environmentally sustainable because it keeps quality garments out of the waste stream and reduces demand for the manufacture of new clothing, which has significant environmental and human rights impacts.
The Early Days
Describe your childhood in one word.
Describe your childhood personality in one word.
When you were a little girl what career did you dream of having “when you grow up”?
A writer and photographer
What was your first job?
Babysitting as a tween, then making milkshakes in a mom and pop burger joint when I was 14.
The Learning Years
Where did you attend college?
Undergraduate: The University of Michigan; Graduate: The George Washington University
What’s your degree?
I hold a Bachelor of Arts in English Language and Literature and a Master of Arts in Environmental and Resource Policy. I also earned K-6 teaching certification at St. Catherine University.
What was your first job out of college?
An internship at the International Center of Photography in New York
What did you do before you started your own business?
- Canvasser for Greenpeace
- Intern at Friends of the Earth and the League of Conservation Voters in Washington, DC
- Naturalist; Teacher – 3rd and 4th grades
- Environmental Science Specialist – K-6
- Urban Environmental Education Program Coordinator and Professional Development Coordinator at a non-profit
- Adjunct Faculty at a local university
- Water Quality Grants Program Manager at a government agency
The Entrepreneurial Years
What year did you decide to start your own business?
Why did you decide you wanted to start your own business?
I chose this work because I wanted to shift my career to be more relational – I wanted to work closely with people to make positive, tangible change. My work allows me to do this in the best of ways – I help people to feel great about how they look, and I model a more sustainable approach for your wardrobe. I love it!
I started my own business to seek the kind of work I wanted and to determine for myself my work and personal life balance. Of course, that has pros and cons – it’s entirely up to me to make things happen, or not.
How is your business different today than when you first started?
I have “grown into” or crystalized who I want to be as a business owner and how I serve clients. I’m confident – even unapologetic – in how I work and know I don’t need to be all things for all people. My approach to my business is a niche that serves a need, which is essential for me. I’ve also refined and expanded the services I offer in response to my clients’ needs – my goal has always been to provide them with the best experience possible.
What three lessons have you learned running your own business?
- It really does take time to grow a business – 3-5 years. Plan for it. Expect it. Don’t let it get you down.
- Know your strengths and ask for help with your areas of growth.
- You will never feel like you have it all figured out, and that’s ok.
What’s next for your business? Tell us your top 3 goals.
- Launch my website refresh and do more with social media and video. As the way of doing business becomes increasingly virtual, I grapple with the balance of keeping things relational – the core of my work – and embracing social media. It’s a love-hate relationship.
- Continue getting in front of new people with workshops and speaking engagements. My work is built on a foundation of trust, and face-to-face interactions strengthen that.
- More collaborations – they help you grow, both professionally and personally. I recently collaborated with three other women business owners, one another personal stylist, to co-host Fashion is Brewing, a fundraiser for the non-profit Dress for Success. The event was a smashing success and so much fun – women supporting women. Collaboration instead of competition is the way to lift everyone up.
What’s your strongest skill set that’s helped you succeed?
Being persistent, even when things are really hard. Having a growth mindset and learning from the challenges really does pay off in the end. Being an entrepreneur is like riding a roller coaster, and you have to be willing to ride out the highs and the lows.
On this journey, who have been your three most supportive people?
My husband, my friend and mentor-entrepreneur Hanna, and my friend Michelle – I’ve received unending support from all of them (and cheerleading!).
The Bumps in the Road
Have you had any hardships or setbacks in your business or personal life?
In 2017 I experienced a dip in my business growth, which in retrospect I think had to do with the overall sense of uncertainty our nation was experiencing. I felt really discouraged and was afraid I would have to find a different path. Even though I know this is the work I’m meant to do, enough income is required to make it feasible! At the same time, I was addressing low-grade depression exacerbated by Seasonal Affective Disorder. It was a difficult time – I had very little psychological resilience to weather the challenges.
How did you overcome them – did they make you stronger or learn something new?
I’m talking about this here because I strongly believe it’s important to not only address mental health but also be transparent about it. It feels vulnerable to put it out there, but I have learned from these challenges. I’ve learned that rarely is there only one solution to a problem and to be open to alternatives. I’ve learned that persistence, asking for help, and being willing to take risks makes for a richer life. I’m stronger because I persevered in a difficult time, which led me to explore new ways to accomplish my goals and to step out of my comfort zone to take different approaches to building my business. And it has paid off. 2018 has been a year of thriving and exponential growth for my business and myself.
All About You
Did you always dream of owning your own business or was it a surprise on your career path?
It was a surprise. After I had a child, my priorities for work and personal life changed and owning my own business matched them better than staying in my previous work.
What are your hobbies outside of work?
Reading (still!), spending time with my family and with friends, travel, exercise
Tell us about your family.
My husband and I have been married for 18 years, and we have a 15-year-old daughter and a 12-year-old yellow Labrador Retriever.
Describe your career path to-date in one word?
Age you’d like to retire at?
That’s hard to imagine right now. I’d like to retire in my 60s, because I want to travel. If my paid work is finished, I will most definitely continue with volunteer work.
Travel location on your bucket list?
Australia and New Zealand
Introvert or Extrovert?
Right in the middle – as I’ve aged I’ve shifted to slightly more introverted
Night owl or early bird?
Night owl, for sure. Just ask my family what I’m like waking up in the morning!
Favorite podcast, YouTube channel, or blog?
Does binge-watching Superfruit on YouTube with my daughter count?
Favorite business book?
Stacy London’s The Truth About Style
Favorite business tool?
Three female entrepreneurs you admire?
Stacy London, Shonda Rhimes, and Jenna Lyons
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