I met with the CEO of Kit and Ace, and here are my 5 key takeaways …

📌 TL;DR

George Tsogas, CEO of Kit and Ace, put out a call on LinkedIn for ~10 us to jump on a Zoom call to hear his story, his insights on retail during COVID-19, and to have a chance to ask him any questions! Lucky for me, I had the privilege of being on this call.

After my call with George, I wrote down 5 key thoughts:

  1. THRIVE ON CHANGE & UNCERTAINTY
  2. BE A CONSTANT LEARNER
  3. VISUALIZE AND HONE IN ON YOUR FUTURE GOALS
  4. KEEP SOCIALIZING (while physically distancing)
  5. BE 100% TOTALLY … YOU

A little while ago, I got an invite to connect with George Tsogas on LinkedIn. My eyes got huge 👀when I saw that he was the CEO of Kit and Ace. If you don’t know me, I’m a huge ethical and sustainable fashion advocate. I spend my days solving problems as a Dev Degree Intern at Shopify and spend my spare time researching ways to make the fashion industry more transparent. You can read about my journey and findings in this post .

One thing I’ve embraced in life is that you REALLY don’t have anything to lose by contacting people … strangers …even CEOs. I took a deep inhale, and exhaled out my message to George right away. A couple of weeks passed, and I kind of forgot about my message. Next thing I know, to my surprise, he agreed to meet!

OMG, my heart sang. I had so many questions on sustainability, climate change, and all things retail oriented during these COVID-19 tainted times.

He agreed to meet me on Thursday at the end of the month. I followed up with him, and found out … he wanted a GROUP call. 🤦🏻‍♀️ WAH, WAH.

He put out a call on LinkedIn, and I was … slightly disappointed. My assumed one-on-one had turned into a 10 person group call, and I laughed, cringed, and inhaled, and exhaled out another reply saying, “I’d LOVE to be on the call”. I know, I know, there’s now a 100 person waitlist to meet with him, so I know how privileged I was to get to talk to him.

Come Friday, the day of the call, I decided to pop in early … and BOOM. It was just George and me! I got my one-on-one, after all. 🦄

Another side takeaway:

SHOW UP EARLY TO IMPORTANT CALLS!

During this quiet time, I got to ask him how he’s doing, talk about my journey, and hear his insights on COVID19. I also asked why Kit and Ace wasn’t powered on Shopify, so I put a little seed in his ear to … maybe do a shift? 🥶 People slowly started trickling in, and we dove into our session.

FIRST … my impressions of George Tsogas:

  • George is a HUUUUGE people person, he literally messaged each person (there were ~100 who wanted to be on this zoom call), to add them to the waitlist. Do you know other CEOs who would do that? I don’t. He also meets with each of his employees to talk about their goals and well-being, I mean … 👏 🤯
  • George genuinely cares about the planet & sustainability (more on this below. Don’t worry, I asked the hard questions and he answered)
  • George is a constant learner 📚
  • George thrives on change (he’s seeking out super cool ways to pivot during COVID19)

After my call with George, I wrote down 5 key thoughts:

  1. THRIVE ON CHANGE & UNCERTAINTY
  2. BE A CONSTANT LEARNER
  3. VISUALIZE AND HONE IN ON YOUR FUTURE GOALS
  4. KEEP SOCIALIZING (while physically distancing)
  5. BE 100% TOTALLY … YOU

📌THRIVE ON CHANGE & UNCERTAINTY

Oh, we know, we’re in a global pandemic, and everything is at ground zero. We don’t know when borders will reopen, we don’t know when a vaccine will arise, we don’t know if COVID will come back stronger in winter, we don’t know what the future holds, and our economy is … well, you know, … it is what it is, and we’re going to be okay.

The retail world was hit particularly hard and George was eerily calm. He kept reiterating the importance of optimism during such times.

He kept talking about how this pandemic will allow for more innovation … a Blockbuster death that leads to the birth of Netflix. The retail world will either need to adapt to give birth to new life, or … die. A kind of “necessary” forest fire bringing new life … you get what I’m saying …

One of the most interesting things I learned about was cool emerging technologies in the retail industry.

There’s talk that people won’t be able to try on clothes before purchasing them, and so we talked about the use of magic mirrors, but George was honing in on the idea of a scan. There’s already technology out there to create a 3D model when creating a new item, so why not scan the customer, get their sizes, and find a perfect fit? 🤯

He sees COVID19, in all its travesty and loss, leading to a new birth of emerging tech, new fashion (masks, anyone?), and growth. I’m … so intrigued (as a tech enthusiast, I’ll definitely be googling all the things).

📌BE A CONSTANT LEARNER

Sidenote: I proudly work at Shopify, and this is actually one of our values.

What does it mean to be a constant learner? Well, exactly what you think it means. It means to identify gaps in your skills and knowledge, and learn how you can improve! … yep, this is quite an ACTIVE thing, it’s constant, it’s happening, ALL. THE. TIME.

George’s tips on being a constant learner:

  • Spend that extra time for professional development training/ online certifications
  • READ, READ, READ (I find this to be emphasized quite often for people I admire — I’m working on it)
  • Watch webinars / immerse yourself in podcasts
  • Practice mock video/ phone interviews (remote life is a new normal)
  • Look for a mentor
    (George’s tips: once you find your niche and passion, find someone else in that industry that you admire, approach them, and see if they’ll meet with you. My tip: YOU HAVE NOTHING TO LOSE! You’ll never know if it’ll turn into a zoom call or group call 😉)

During our talk, I gathered a very obvious sense that George has a growth mindset (key for constant learning). If you don’t know what that means, here’s a good resource that helps explain. His obvious ability to adapt and pivot during such uncertainties was another good reminder — keep putting one foot in front of another (but make sure you walk in the right direction and visualize and hone in on your goals)… which leads me to …

📌VISUALIZE AND HONE IN ON YOUR GOALS

George heavily emphasized the CRUCIAL IMPORTANCE OF HAVING AND SETTING GOALS. He talked about having SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Timely) Goals, and spreading them about to 5-year goals, 10-year goals, and 15-year goals.

George’s key points on goal setting:

  • be VERY clear on your vision
  • it’s okay for it to change every 6 months
  • write down your goals so you see it EVERY DAY (yep, he mentioned the bathroom mirror)
  • manifest your vision (it doesn’t happen overnight)

~SIDE TRACK: Gina asks tough questions about sustainability at Kit and Ace

My goal is to continually find ways to make the fashion industry more transparent. For me, honing in on my goals meant that I had to ask George some super hard questions:

1. “How is Kit and Ace reducing its carbon emissions, and what are you doing to combat climate change?”

Rather than talking directly about emissions, George talked about what he’s doing to make the company more sustainable.

George talked about Kit and Ace’s “bike test” approach to their clothing. That means that every product they design is tested on a bike to ensure it lasts a long time.

In his words he “hates fast fashion”, and his goal is to have a clothing line that prides itself on long-lasting clothing. He also talked about how Kit and Ace uses biodegradable packaging.

I forgot to keep probing him about exactly HOW Kit and Ace is reducing their carbon emissions, conversations for my next George talk 😉.

2. “I don’t want to undermine the value of having sustainable packaging, but that only helps us (in North America) feel good about a potentially harmful purchase. How transparent is your supply chain? Have you visited factories? What are the working conditions like?”

To my surprise, George has visited every factory that produces their clothing to ensure the safety of workers. I was impressed that he genuinely cares enough about the well-being of people to make a trip out of it. I have pretty high standards for where I get my clothing. I’m not 100% sold on Kit and Ace’s clothing yet, but I am sold on their CEO. (I do have one Kit and Ace shirt that I got second hand, and tbh, the quality is pretty darn impressive).

Since George’s transition as CEO, his vision has been to focus on sustainability and ethical clothing, but the transition is taking time. I’m quite eager to see what comes next!

3. “… your rating on Good On You is quite low, what are your thoughts on this, and are you doing anything to improve it?”

SIDE NOTE (within a side note, lol): I use GOOD ON YOU to research companies. They rate clothing companies on people, planet, and environment, and Kit & Ace are currently rated at a “not good enough”, which is a 2 out of 5 on their scale, real low.

To my surprise, he was VERY aware of Good On You, and it seemed quite authentic that this rating bothered him. A lot of the problem is that Kit and Ace has not released a lot of evidence about changes for the better. George said this was coming soon. His goal is to change that rating, but as I mentioned, that change is taking time. He then said:

“When you have three things you want to do, and you have one dollar, and each one costs a dollar, you have to be very mindful of which one you do first that will propel your company forward.” — George Tsogas

📌KEEP SOCIALIZING (while physically distancing)

Thanks to technology, there are so many creative ways to connect (even though we’re physically distant).

Here’s what George has been doing to socialize and keep sane during this time:

  • Every Tuesday, he has a virtual morning huddle with his HR employees to talk about mental health
  • Every Friday, he participates in trivia games Kit and Ace hosts as a company
  • He participates in virtual lunches (they recently had a throwback “bring your baby pictures” to lunch) I love that!
  • He takes physically distant walks every day
  • He takes Vitamin D
  • He has weekly “quarantini’s” with his teammates
  • He attended a ZOOM wedding 👰

What about you? (comment below)

📌BE 100% TOTALLY … YOU

Ah … it’s totally easier said than done, but this, this is the biggest advice I can ever give ANYONE, always. AUTHENTICITY.

I have a loud voice. I get easily excited, like … I mean, REALLY REALLY excited, and that’s what makes me so totally me. I have learned the hard of way of embracing the way I was born to be, my loud laugh and all. Now, I’m not saying all “your flaws are awesome”, because, if you’re an ass, stop being one. Don’t embrace being an ass and continue about your business. NO! What I mean is your quirks, your personality that makes you that one weirdo in the crowd. Those are the things that make you great.

I’m learning to embrace my unique journey. I’m 29, born and raised in Ecuador, but I’m ethnically Korean, and I’m back at school learning computer science when I was a linguist, and yeah, I went to school for yoga too. I’ve lived in 5 different countries, and I speak 3 languages. I hated growing up looking different than everyone, but it’s made me who I am, and I’m super pumped about it (wish I could tell my 18-year-old self this).

One thing I found refreshing about George, was his authenticity. I’ve met a couple “high up there” people, and some of them … have an “air” about them, you know what I mean?

George feels so human, and it was SO refreshing to be around him. He was approachable, genuinely wanted to give us advice. In his answers to even the hard questions, he was totally and 100% human. He’s a dad, and I love that he makes that known. His last words to us were a dad joke:

“What did the left eye say to the right eye?”

Between you and eye, something smells … 🥁😂

Embrace your inner dad puns, your mom like boldness, your hilarious jokes, your weird laugh, your super unique journey, your passion, your … EVERYTHING. In the words of Marie Forleo …

The World Needs That Special Gift That Only You Have

SERIOUSLY. 🙌

📌EXTRA, EXTRA (resources)

If you’re interested in meeting George and learning from one of the most authentic humans I’ve met, check out his post. He’ll be hosting these Zoom sessions every month (yes, there’s a huge waitlist right now, but you never know!).

Here’s a short list/links of books, movies, and insights George draws inspiration from (he told us he would send out an email with a goal-setting template that he’s used for the past 18 years, which I promise to add once I get it).

BOOKS:

MOVIES:

PEOPLE HE MENTIONED:

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