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Rookie Republic is proud to announce Emily Li Mandri as the Rookie of the Month April. She is an expert on Fashion going Digital!

Who are you and what kind of businesses do you have?
My name is Emily. I am 27 years old, and currently live in Greenpoint, Brooklyn. I am a clothing designer as well as an ecommerce/marketing consulting for fashion and retail brands. I am a Libra and I am all about balance!
My clothing line is called Natty Paint, it has been carried by retailers such as Urban Outfitters and worn by musicians such as La Roux and Rye Rye.
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My consulting company is called MLE Consulting. I work with mainly fashion brands, helping them increase their sales and brand awareness through website design, merchandise strategy, social media campaigns, and analytics reporting. Many of my clients are local Greenpoint based companies like Line & Label and C.Wall Architecture, and I’ve also worked with brands like Lululemon.

What was your motivation to start working for yourself?
I started Natty Paint when I was a senior in college at Johns Hopkins.  I was an Art History major, minoring in Business, and the job market was really horrible when I was about to graduate.  I had had a series of internships in the art world, and after trying each of them out I realized none of those environments were right for me.

I had always had an artistic side since I was a kid and while I was in college, I still painted, either canvases or on clothing.  I started painting tshirts for my friends as gifts and found each shirt so time consuming, I decided to learn how to silkscreen to print many shirts in the time it took to handpaint one.

During my last semester because I didn’t like any of the possible job avenues, I decided to not move back home and apply to jobs in the hopes of getting an entry level position or even another internship.

Instead, I decided to stay in Baltimore where there was an incredible DIY arts and music scene, and to support myself selling my tshirts.  I was able to support myself that first summer by selling my tshirts at craft fairs and markets. Once the weather got cold and tshirts sales decreased, I started designing my own clothing.

What’s the best thing about being an entrepreneur?
Every day is different and I am fully accountable for all my decisions.  I also work from home a lot and have a flexible schedule.

When did you know the entrepreneurial lifestyle was meant for you?
After getting my MBA part-time a few years into running my clothing company, I decided to take an entrepreneurial break and try out working a “9-7” (because 9-5 does not exist in NYC!).  I tried it out for a year, and it just was not for me.  I found it very limiting and found myself counting down the hours in the office until I could go home and work on my own personal projects. Sunday night I would always be really depressed because I would have to go back into the office the next day.

Since making the decision to work for myself, every day in a sense feels like a weekend because I have freedom and flexibility. I can structure my days as I want.  Also it’s not about clocking in hours to get a paycheck. It’s more about strategic decisions and networking to set yourself up for long term growth.

What’s your ambition for the next 5 years?
Realistically, I want to be able to start thinking about starting a family! This is something I would have never said when I was right out of college, but you get to a certain age…haha!

As an entrepreneur, when you don’t necessarily have a steady paycheck, your source of income can be uncertain.  I’ve definitely come a long way since first starting out.

My boyfriend’s parents recently retired and they have the best life-travelling and just enjoying all life has to offer.  To be able to live comfortably and for the rest of my life from something I’ve built myself will be the most satisfying feeling!

Another goal of mine is to start hiring employees and outsourcing more projects. Because there is only one of me, and so many hours in a day, my time is really valuable. I really need to make every decision and move I make count. I need to strategically set myself and my companies up for long-term growth and stability.

And finally I want all my clients to be reaping the rewards of my consulting help! Many of the projects I work on with my clients is strategic, planning for the future. I’m excited to watch their businesses grow and thrive!

What’s the best advice you can give a Rookie?
It’s normal to have doubts. You are going to question yourself, your friends and loved ones will also question you, but you really have to take a risk to reap the benefits. You really have to trust your instincts.

Don’t be afraid to look at your track record to build up your confidence as you keep going. Pat yourself on the back for your successes and think of them as racking up medals as you keep going in your entrepreneurial battle!

I really love this quote by Isadora Duncan that is read at the end of the yoga classes at Yoga to the People. “You were once wild here. Don’t let them tame you.”

Who would you like to nominate as an awesome Rookie?
I would nominate my dear friend Devin Morris.  He is a collage artist with an incredible sense of color, and has recently launched his own zine called 3 Dot Zine. He did the collages for my most recent Natty Paint look book.