Sumner on Building a Business and Swimming with Sharks
Meet Brooklyn based designer Emily Kammeyer Sumner - a woman on the cutting edge of design, inclusion, and innovation as she talks about building her own company and swimming with sharks
What is a lesson about your business/industry you had to learn the hard way?
It's hard to be the best, most productive you if you work yourself into the ground. There was a long time in my career when I was working so hard that my personal health and wellbeing started to go downhill. I definitely learned the hard way that in order to continue being productive, I needed to also take care of my mind and body.
What was the most helpful piece of advice/helping hand you received on taking your business to the next level?
I wouldn't say there was necessarily one piece of advice in my career that was THE transformation. I've been very lucky to have a long time mentor Nicole Vonderheide who taught me so many invaluable lessons while I worked for her as a technical designer. She taught me how to present in front of a crowd and how to own a room. Learning how to own a room full of designers, merchandisers, and production managers, though specific for that job, is something that translated into the rest of my life. It taught me to be confident in meetings, believe in myself and work well with others.
How did you transition from working on something to really owning it?
I think the moment of really starting to own my career was when I began leading a team. When you have people who depend on you and look up to you, your perspective changes. You need to have the answers and ability to think creatively on your feet. Leading and teaching others was really the moment I stepped into my truest self.
What are your guiding principles? What do you lean on when making tough decisions?
When I am creating I ask myself- does this improve people's lives? Am I adding something positive to the universe? My role as Director of Technical Design for Universal Standard was truly one of those moments in my career when I felt like I was improving people's lives by shaking up the fashion industry and creating clothing for sizes 00-40. That role inspired me to want to help other brands expand their size offerings.
When I am making a tough decision I often talk with my husband Trevor Sumner. He is an incredibly accomplished technology CEO and is my best sounding board.
What is your mantra for 2020? What do you see as important/essential to your success and/or wellbeing this year? What would you encourage others to do more/less of?
My personal mantra for 2020 is "Don't let fear drive your decisions". So often we choose to do or not do something based on fear. I want 2020 to be purpose driven, not fear driven.
What excites you about collaborating across industries? What area are you looking to learn more about in the coming year? Do you have any projects we can look out for?
I could not be more excited to be working for myself this year. I have spent the last 13 years working for brands and am finally spreading my wings and giving myself the opportunity to create on my own. I started a consultancy 4 months ago to help brands extend their size offerings (amongst other things). I plan to split 50% of my time with my consultancy and 50% of my time being a content creator.
What is something most people would be surprised to learn about you?
I am an adventure junkie and avid scuba diver. A few years ago my husband and I dove the hammerhead shark migration off of Costa Rica.
What is one of your favorite traits about yourself? Where do you find your strength?
One of my favorite traits is my kindness. I find so much joy in making other people happy and making others' lives better. It's my favorite way to make the world a better place.