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Chapter 5: The Rice to my Beans

Chapter 5: The Rice to my Beans

She was perfect - the yin to my yang, the rice to my beans, the ginger to my wasabi.

It was a crisp fall afternoon when the doors flung open and a ray of sunshine came flooding in; all you could see was the silhouette of a girl with her long blonde hair blowing in the wind. As she entered, a choir of angels started to sing. That was Becky, walking into the retail store I managed. Three years after that heavenly day, Becky would be my best friend and an invaluable part of NOVAA.

The plan was to start my business online, that was the easiest (and cheapest) point of entry. The only problem was, I totally suck at computers. Seriously though, the extent of my computer knowledge is Microsoft Office Suite, the 2009 edition. My strengths lie in retail. I have been working in the industry since I was sixteen; I have been a store manager, an assistant buyer, and a wholesale sales rep. Heck, I even majored in retail management in college. But the question still remained, how am I going to start an online fashion business with my 10th grade knowledge of computers?

Luckily for me, the answer to my problem had been right next to me the whole time (literally though, we were roommates and she lived in the room next to mine). Becky is queen of all things digital. Her background is in PR, social media, and graphic design. She has spent years working as a digital marketer for web and app Development Company. Jack pot! It seems I've found my perfect match!

As the ideas for my business started to grow, so did Becky’s involvement. And when the time came, it only made sense for us to take our relationship to the next level. Hear Becky talk about how we turned our friendship into a (business) partnership in our next blog post.

September 07, 2016 by Bridget Flanagan
Chapter 4.5: Life’s too short to drink shitty wine.

Chapter 4.5: Life’s too short to drink shitty wine.

It was a jolting transition, going from affording whatever I wanted to down grading the brand of shampoo I bought just to save a few bucks. Bootstrapping a business, forced me to push the pause button before each swipe of my credit card. With every purchase I had to ask myself, “Is this worth it?” and more often than not the answer was “no.” No to getting my nails done, no to buying coffee every day, and no to sushi takeout (okay, fine, I still have my favorite sushi restaurant on speed dial ... but you get the idea!) By cutting out all of the things I didn’t need, it opened up space for the things I loved, like conceptualizing NOVAA’s mission statement, or buying our first round of inventory, or celebrating all of it with an amazing bottle of wine.

No matter how broke I am, there are certain things that are nonnegotiable, one of which is a good glass of wine. Luckily, if you know what to look for you don’t need to break the bank to find an amazing bottle. Check out these hacks that will help you find your perfect wine:

Hack #1: Alcohol Content. The higher the alcohol content the better the wine. Get more bang for your buck by checking how potent the wine is on the back of the bottle. If I am buying a red I usually look for 13.5% or above. For whites, I look for 12.5% or above (keep in mind that these percentages will vary depending on the type of grape).

Hack #2: The Year. No surprise here, the longer the wine is aged the more complex it will taste. So pick your grape, pick your price range (I usually stay between $10-$20), and pick a bottle that dates back a few years.

Hack #3: Tasting Notes. Last but not least, after you open up your bottle, let it breathe, take a sip, and then talk about what you taste. Decide which flavors you like and which you don’t so that the next time you go to Trader Joe’s to buy some ten-buck-chuck you’ll know what to look for.

Feel free to pop open a bottle as you continue to follow NOVAA’s story in this blog series about how I bootstrapped a business and traveled abroad for two months while making $12/hour.

August 15, 2016 by Bridget Flanagan

Chapter 4: The “Ah-Shit” Moment

Now that I had quit my job, sold my apartment, and detoxed myself from clutter, it was time to start my business. "I'm ready, let’s do this!" I told myself. (Insert short pause here, followed up with loud cricket noises) People always talk about having “ah-ha!” moments, but what about “ah-shit!” moments? Nobody ever talks about those. Well, here it goes.

Until this point, my business had been this heroic idea that I obsessively fantasized about. Now that it was time to actually follow through with this idea, I drew a blank on where to begin. So, I started where any smart entrepreneur would start – by Googling it. I researched everything from business plans, to forming an LLC, to applying for a business license, to obtaining a reseller permit, and the list goes on. Slowly I was laying the foundation of NOVAA, and it wasn’t nearly as hard as I had convinced myself it would be.

This was one of the most important lessons I learned: big projects or life changes can be very intimidating if you let them be. If you tell yourself that something is too hard, or too impossible, that’s exactly what it will be. But if you remove those mental constraints, you will find that every project or change starts with one simple step.

That step can be big or small (like googling how to start a business) and it can be taken in any direction; all that matters is that you’re moving towards your goal. Pretty soon you will be on to the next step and after a while you will have traveled farther than you could have ever imagined. Finally, the romantic idea that was once a fantasy is now a reality, simply because you started somewhere.

Keep following this blog series to learn about all of the wild and crazy steps we took to make our NOVAA dream a reality.

August 10, 2016 by Becky Jackson
Chapter 3: The broke girl’s guide to a fabulous apartment.

Chapter 3: The broke girl’s guide to a fabulous apartment.

It was my new perspective that allowed me to be present to the beautiful violet tulips that surrounded me. “So long, suckers!!” I said to myself as I walked alongside those flowers, kissing a three-year-long store management career goodbye. I remember that feeling so vividly, the feeling of a new beginning.

After my “stickin’-it-to-the-man” high faded, it was time to face the music and downsize. Adios to my beautiful one-bedroom in Lincoln Park and helloooo to my brand new closet. That’s right. I went from living in a 1,200-square foot apartment to renting a 200-square foot converted closet. In its defense, it looked more like a sunroom than a closet, but before I moved in it was definitely used to store clothes. At $300 a month, how could I say no to this luxurious closet-sunroom? I couldn’t, and I didn’t. As it turns out, that room ended up being one of the most inspiring places I have ever lived and here’s why:

Reason Number One: It taught me that I had a whole lot of crap I didn’t need. “Clutter is anything unfinished, unused, unresolved, or disorganized. When you clear your clutter you create space for new things.” Downsizing my apartment forced me to clear my clutter, which allowed me to create space for new things, like NOVAA.

Reason Number Two: The plants. Two of the four walls in my closet-sunroom were lined with windows that overlooked two beautiful oak trees. With leaves surrounding me, I felt like I was living in a tree house. And when the time of year was right, I had a bouquet of scarlet tulips sitting next to my bed to remind me to be thankful for the new chapter I was writing.

 #TBT to this closet-sunroom where I learned: 

The only thing a broke girl needs to have a fabulous apartment is a whole lot of flowers!

Keep following NOVAA’s story in this blog series about how I bootstrapped a business and traveled abroad for two months while making $12/hour.

July 27, 2016 by Bridget Flanagan
Chapter 2: It's What You Do, Not What You Wear

Chapter 2: It's What You Do, Not What You Wear


I was desperate for a break. The city and my store management job were slowly sucking my soul right out of my body. So, my best friend and I found the furthest place we could think of to abscond to, Nicaragua. I spent at least two weeks packing for this 10-day Central American excursion. Upon arrival, sheer panic set over me, as I discovered that my bag had been lost in transit. What was I going to do without my clothes? (Now, I realize how ridiculous this sounds. They are just clothes, Bridget, you will survive for three days without them). But to me, they weren’t just clothes. They were my identity.

As I waited to retrieve my identity, I mean bag, my friend and I decided to go on a catamaran ride that would take us up and down the coast of Nicaragua. We were accompanied by an assortment of backpackers, beach bums, and locals. One of these locals had started a foundation that had a mission to empower women in the local community. Cool, right? I asked him what inspired him to do this. His response was, “It’s something I’m passionate about, so I just did it.” I was blown away by how simple and obvious it was; he didn’t over-think it, he just went for it.

As the sun set over the Pacific Ocean and the catamaran made its way back to land, I found myself sipping on something delicious, observing the two paths that lay ahead of me:

The first path was the one I was on. A path where I rooted my identity in material things (like a suitcase of clothing sitting on an American Airlines plane somewhere between Nicaragua and Chicago); where I worked at a job that was comfortable but lacked passion and inspiration.

Or, I could take the path that had existed in my dreams since I was sixteen. The one where my identity had nothing to do with what I wear and everything to do with what I do. The path where I start a retail brand that would raise the standards of the fashion industry. Yes, this is the path I would choose because this is what I’m passionate about. I won’t over-think it, I will just do it!

In the succeeding months I quit my job, moved out of my one-bedroom, and bootstrapped a business. Follow NOVAA’s story as this blog series continues.

In the mean time, choose the path that exists in your dreams in these NOVAA looks, inspired by todays blog post:

June 23, 2016 by Bridget Flanagan
Chapter 1: Namaste on the Beach

Chapter 1: Namaste on the Beach

Being the know-it-all 25-year-old woman that I was, I remember confidently explaining to my dad:

“I mean, the apartment is a little expensive, but it’s something I can grow into. Even if I switch jobs, I would never work a job that pays me less than what I am making now.”

I had just signed the lease to my very own one-bedroom in South Lincoln Park, Chicago. After grinding away for nearly three years as the store manager at a large fashion boutique on Michigan Avenue, I had finally made it! (Or so I thought)

Little did I know that flash forward a year later, I would be working as a free intern for a fair trade fashion company while also working part-time for $12 an hour to pay rent. In my free time, I would be writing a business plan and dreaming about doing yoga on the southwest shore of Nicaragua. #Namasteonthebeach

Follow this blog series about how I bootstrapped a business and traveled abroad for two months while working part time for $12/hour. The journey of how we started NOVAA and all of the lessons we have learned along the way.


with peace & love, 

June 15, 2016 by Bridget Flanagan