Lisa Vogl used her savings to turn a passion project into a profitable business when her family needed it most. Now, she's co-founder of the first modest fashion brand offering hijabs sold in an American department store. Here's how she did it, plus her best financial advice for parents of all kinds.
Lisa Vogl has always had an entrepreneurial spirit. That's part of why she co-founded a fashion brand, Verona Collection, while she was a stay-at-home mom of two. These days, Verona Collection's hijabs and modest clothing designs can be found in stores like Macy's and online at ASOS. But Vogl's path to retail success wasn't a straight shot.
After graduating from college, Vogl started a career in the corporate world as a mortgage consultant. It wasn't the right fit for her, though, so she ended up going back to school for photography. During that time, she was also discovering Islam, and converted a year later, in 2011. Soon after, Vogl got married and had her first child. The new life stage marked a shift for Vogl: "I was doing photo shoots in Africa, Europe, and all over North America. I was traveling nonstop, then became a mom, and my lifestyle really changed." She sold her photography equipment and focused on family life.
But around the time Vogl had her second child, she started thinking about her next move and finding a career she loved. "I think sometimes as moms, we feel guilty that we're not giving 100 percent of our time to our children," says Vogl. "But what I learned in a very short time is that if I'm not fulfilled and if I'm not happy, I can't be the best mom."
The idea for Verona Collection partly came from Vogl's experiences. When she started wearing the hijab back in 2010, she found it really difficult to find exactly what she needed. "The hijab is not just the headscarf," she explains. "It requires you to wear looser clothing and cover down to the wrist and down to the ankles. It became very difficult to find nice clothing that was still affordable and modest, that all went together and actually looked good." It was extremely time-consuming to find all the right pieces that went together.
When Vogl met her co-founder, Alaa Ammuss, in 2014, they realized they'd both wanted to start a similar brand, so they joined forces and launched. "It really came down to there was a need, and we filled it," says Vogl. The vision was more than that, though. "We really wanted to give women, and Muslim women specifically, the confidence to be proud of who they are and if they choose to wear the hijab, wear it with pride," she explains.
In 2015, the pair launched Verona Collection with an investment of $3,500 each, which is pretty much all the money they each had to their names, Vogl says. They started out offering four hijab styles. They stretched every penny, doing the website, social media, and order fulfillment themselves. "We were literally shipping out of our closets," she remembers.
But that launch showed the co-founders that they were onto something: They sold out in a matter of one or two weeks. "The company just grew from there," Vogl says.
But then, something happened that Vogl wasn't expecting: she became a single mom. "My ex-husband and I separated in 2015," Vogl says. He agreed to financially support her and the kids for a year, but when it became clear that separation would turn into divorce, Vogl realized she needed a long-term plan for her finances. She went from having a financial safety net to knowing she'd need to provide for her family. "Overnight, I had to really put my heart and soul into Verona. It started out as something that I loved and something that I was hoping to be successful. It wasn't necessarily meant to provide for me and my kids. And that's what it became."
Verona Collection gained popularity over the years, but the brand's big break came in 2018, when Macy's started carrying the collection. "It was amazing for the community because it wasn't just about filling a need, it was also that Muslim women and hijabi women were represented on a larger scale," she says. "That alone was a huge win for us and for our community."
Thanks to the brand's success, Vogl now has the financial security she needs for her family. She's not interested in a luxurious lifestyle, but there are some perks to feeling more secure financially. Of the moment she was able to answer her kids' questions about having enough money in the affirmative, Vogl says: "I can't even tell you the feeling."
Through starting a business and getting back on her own two feet, Vogl's learned a lot about entrepreneurship and money. Here, she shares her top financial and business advice for parents.
Don't Let Mom (or Dad) Guilt Get in the Way
Vogl struggled with feeling guilty about spending time at work when she first started Verona Collection. Since then, her perspective has changed. "I work for my children to provide for them," she says. "But it's more than that. It's showing them that if I go after something and then have it, then they can too. It's setting an example for them, watching me go after my dreams."
Remember That Failure Is Part of the Process
Whether trying to get a business off the ground or trying to balance responsibilities as a parent, Vogl says she learned through experience—and from her mom—not to fear failure. "My mom was a single mom and I saw her in times of struggle. She was a source of inspiration, and I knew if she could do it with three kids, I could do it with two. She showed me that half the time, we don't accomplish things or do things because we're too afraid to start. We're so afraid of failure, but really, you're failing if you don't start." Vogl's takeaway: "The battle is believing in yourself and just going for it. That's the kind of inspiration I got from my mom."
Know That You Can Be Happy With a Smaller Budget
"I think sometimes we think that we have to do these elaborate things for our kids to be happy and feel joy," says Vogl. But during the times when her budget was tight, she discovered that her kids were just as happy with doing things that were free, like going out to the park or going on a family walk. "It's possible to have a certain lifestyle that allows you to live on a smaller budget, but still be just as happy."
Accept Help if It's Available
Now Vogl knows she's in a good place because she doesn't need to ask for help—financial or otherwise—anymore. "But the reality is, I had a lot of help, whether it was from my mom or people from the community," she says. "I wouldn't be here if it wasn't for all the help I got. So now I have this feeling of not only that I don't need to ask for help, but I can help other people now. And that to me is the best feeling in the world. You should never be ashamed to ask for help. Recognize that the most important thing that you can do and for your family is to become financially stable. So then you can help others going forward."
"I always try to teach my kids that real happiness comes from having family and love and support," says Vogl. "Part of my faith is not to get too attached to worldly things." Feeling financially stable might mean different things to different people, but Vogl says she's just grateful to have a home and have her family's needs met. "Having that when you didn't always have it really puts it into perspective how grateful we really need to be."
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