milano

Photographer: Gene Davis

Milan, CEO of Milano Di Rouge has created a name for herself as one of the top go-to fashion brands in her hometown of Philadelphia. The native has made it her mission to not only provide quality and diverse items to her supporters but to also spread HIV awareness to the masses. In our interview, Milan takes us through the start of her company a few years ago to what she’s aiming for in the upcoming years.

How did Milano Di Rouge come about and what is your role in the company?
I started out blogging about love, dating, fashion, etc. and I would connect with different types of entrepreneurs. Three months later, I started Milano Di Rouge. My role is that I’m the owner and creator. My initial vision was to have a diverse brand and didn’t want anyone to know I was the owner. But I had little to no money so I had to model and do everything. I started out with t-shirts and never compared myself with the locals. Instead, I looked at Billionaire Boys Club and bigger companies because that’s who I wanted to be my competition.

How did your company grow to become so popular and what tips do you have for women looking to grow their brand?
I honestly believe that it has grown because it actually tells a story. It means making dreams reality and I think people connect to what’s real and genuine, along with having celebrities and socialites wear it. On my social media, I share the process because I don’t want people to think it’s easy. I’m not doing it because it’s trendy to have your own brand. I really enjoy what I do. Women need to figure out why they wanna do it because that will keep them going. If it makes you happy, anything you encounter you will overcome.

When you decided to start your company, what was your biggest fear and how did you overcome it?
To be honest, I had no fears. I never thought it wasn’t going to work. I didn’t know what I was doing! I just always researched and made my own way. A difficult time with my company was building a team. I did everything for the first two years and I had to bring in a team because I couldn’t do it all by myself anymore. My first publicist made all my fears come true, but it did teach me to get stronger. I had a big turnover rate in the beginning but now I have a strong team with great intentions that are loyal to my company and me as a boss.

What are the most important factors in creating a clothing line?
I’d say your items’ designs, having comfortable items. I love high quality and great designs that you would personally wear, along with making sure you’re representing your brand and having a lasting impression.

milan

Photographer: Gene Davis

What are some personal and business goals you set for yourself?
Business goals would have to be to keep my brand in Philly and do pop up shops all over the world. I want it to be monumental like the Philly cheesesteak. When you think of Philly, I want you to think of my brand in the same way you do the sandwich. I also want my online sales to skyrocket because that’s so important to me. I want to treat my 28th year like my Jordan year. I don’t want to think about marriage and kids until I reach my highest level of success so I want to give myself a little more time on that.

What is the most difficult aspect of being an entrepreneur?
I think the most difficult thing is not knowing what you’re going to do that day and how long it’s going to take. Not knowing what your day is going to consist of like if your store manager calls you everything changes. If I have a date or something planned I have to cancel because my business comes first. And delegating what you’re going to do is super hard especially when you’re used to doing everything on your own.

How does your company reflect your personal style?
My brand is gender neutral and represents me. I always was the girl that wore my boyfriend clothes. Everything about my personal life and the things I want to do tie into my personal brand. Every year since 2015, I do a mini-magazine that’s published for the annual fashion show we throw. We give out the magazine to the audience and it has fashion tips, business tips and an interview featuring someone with HIV because we have our “Safe Sex Saves Lives” campaign. Whoever shares their story with me is given a platform to help others by sharing their story. I feel like it’s a virus that’s not talked about. Since 1 in 3 people are affected and not even know it, I want to help share it. People are scared to be tested so they don’t know its medicine out there that can save their lives.

Do you have any upcoming projects that you’d like to share?
Yes, I have my “The Next Stop Fashion Show” on May 21, 2017, from 6-10 p.m. You can check out my social media for more details.

What do you want your supporters to take from this interview?
I want them to take that if a little Black girl from the hood can do it you can, too. As long as your will is strong enough and you aren’t stopping yourself, anything is possible.

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