- How did you manage launching your own and working full time?
I’ll be 100% honest, this was by far the hardest challenge for me. 2020 felt very unknown, and for many it was a tough year. I had a tough year, but it was almost like a blessing in disguise. The team at my company became smaller when COVID happened, so my responsibilities became larger. I managed to persevere and move forward. Then September came and I was promoted to Lead Designer for my company. I finally began to feel like these past 2 years of sacrifice and dedication were coming into fruition. However, the other part of me was still thinking about my coming out as an independent designer. I went through several battles with myself. I kept asking myself if everything was going so well for me in my company, why did I still feel this pinch, this curiosity to do my own thing? I had been dealing with this battle for almost 2 years now, but I was patient. I allowed myself to trust my process. I struggled a lot to balance both my full-time job and CCR. There were nights that I was like “why am I even doing this?” To get the launch up and running I was waking up every day at 4am. Every day I would work on CCR at least 2-3 hours before my day got started. I worked in the mornings because it was when most of the world was asleep. So, no calls, no texts, no emails, just me. My biggest advice would be to never forget why you started. Because it is not easy, and it will only get harder, but where there is a will there is a way. Listen to your body, rest when you need to, but rest and then get right back to it.
2. Did you produce everything yourself or get it manufactured overseas?
I manufacture in the USA. I make all the patterns, size them, then have someone do the cut and sew. I source all fabric, labels, packaging, etc. in the USA. Everything is domestic. Also, fun fact, my mother is the one that overseas all my production. She handles quality control and is in charge of all the shipments that come in.
3. How did you advertise and get people to buy your product?
Honestly, just being comfortable/confident enough to share my story to my social media platforms. What really helped me was my background and my experience. I had a really good last year in college. I was able to travel across the world with my senior thesis and be surrounded with a lot of incredible designers from across the world. Nothing that has happened to me was part of the plan. As I kept experiencing small wins, I began to really get a feel that people liked my designs. I have been sharing my experiences on social media, and the love and support that people have given me has only pushed me to really go for it. After I went to New Zealand in 2019, I began to get phone calls about fashion weeks. This is where my tough year comes into play. You see, I was getting these phone calls because people were starting to ask who Cassandra Casas Rojas was, but I didn’t know, at the time, who I really wanted the world to view me as. I was like “Okay, I get there, do great, then what?” “What if people want orders?” “What is the point of getting to that spot, and not be able to move forward?” These questions tormented me because I felt very fortunate, but also a lot of pressure. It made me really ask myself “Who am I and what do I want the world to see me as?” Without people you have nothing. I think being genuine and speaking confidently/comfortably about my journey is why people follow and I’m so thankful for that. All my growth has happened organically. Me slowly building my audience, feeding them curiosity, giving them something to hang on to. I think that is key when you are trying to build an image to the world, you need to make sure you know who you are before you try to tell the world who you are.
4. How did you get the funds to start your business? Do you have a sponsor/investor?
I have been thinking about becoming an independent designer for a long time, a long ass time. My father is actually my mentor. He has heard every idea that has come to mind. For 2 years, I think I had a new business idea every week – haha, I’m surprised he never got tired of me; on the contrary, he believed in each one. He always encourages me and believes in me, even when I don’t believe in myself. I think everyone views me as this strong, confident woman, and I like to believe I am, but I get scared, and I worry. I go through self-doubt. I ask myself, “What if I jump, and I fail?” But the thought of not trying torments me more. So, when I thought of CCR, and the whole idea behind it – the evolution of the women suit, I said, “This is it, no more looking back.” My dad said he knew in that moment that I was serious; he saw something different in me. He realized that this time was different. I do not have a sponsor or an investor. CCR is funded by myself and my family. Everyone in my family plays a crucial role in CCR; I would not be here without them. They are the definition of ride or die, till the end.
5. How did you manage to launch a business, with limited funds, but still accomplish captivating your audience? What was your strategy?
Patience is a key element in success. I am far from perfect, but I try to make strategic decisions, as much as I can. I went to school to study fashion design. Kent State University taught me the skills necessary to become what I am now as a fashion designer, but my experience in the industry taught me how to run a fashion business. Business + Creative = No limits. I took everything I learned in both lanes and built my platform. If I would have started CCR right after school, I would not have been ready. I have learned that a big part of success is knowing when to jump and when to sit still. Also – Networking. As an adult in a new city, it is hard to build a social life. It takes so much time and effort. In the past 2 years I have connected with so many talented people and have created, I can only hope, lifelong friendships. These people made CCR happen. I did not make this happen by myself –but I will say I prepped and put myself in a situation to win.
6. What is your end goal with CCR?
I am putting no limits to my potential –my end goal will be what I work for and what God allows me to experience!
7. What advice do you have for young designers who hope to follow a similar route?
It will never get less scary. Evaluate yourself. Figure out your strength and take a bet on it. One of my ideas was to start my business in accessories, purses to be exact. I worked with leather for 2 years, so I am pretty confident in 3D design, and I knew I could figure out the ropes of the business, but my passion is apparel. And prominently women apparel. I plan to expand CCR to men’s, but I have to take it one day at a time. But what I’m saying is start with what you’re great at. You can’t teach passion, do not tip toe into areas you are not 150% knowledgeable in. Why start a business that you know 70%-80% about over a business you know 150%-200%? Choose wisely. I am not saying it is ever too late to pursue a new venture, but if you are thinking about diving into an area you aren’t completely knowledgeable in, make sure you take the time to learn about that area. If you don’t, your future self will regret it. Be smart early.
8. 2020 was a tough year for many people, and you launched as an independent designer, how does that make you feel?
It makes me feel crazy honestly –haha. No, but really. But on a serious note, it just showed me that in the darkest moments of my life, I can still light the light at the end of the tunnel. I believe in the power of focus and cutting out the noise. I do not focus on things I cannot control, I put that energy into things I can control and make it work. Anything is possible with discipline and devoted work ethic.
9. Would you say the hardest part about pursuing the route of an independent designer is taking the first jump?
No. The first jump is 1000% hard, but maintaining that peak is harder. My dad always says, “Anyone can reach the top, it’s those who maintain it who are truly successful.”
10. What keeps you motivated?
Myself. There are so many other things that keep me going – my family, my faith, the people. But I am my biggest fan. I know what I am capable of if I dedicate myself, and no matter how hard the journey gets, I will always remember why I started.