Laura Diaz-Alberto is a designer making a change in the world of maternity fashion with her company LaDi. Born in the Dominican Republic and raised in New York City, she studied fashion at F.I.T. She is a mom to three boys, whose pregnancies inspired her entrepreneurial pursuits in the world of maternity fashion.
MATERNITY MADE FASHIONABLE
When one thinks of maternity clothes, stylish is not often the first word to come to mind. Most maternity clothes are made for comfort and size, and not much else. Glancing at the maternity section in one’s local department store, the options can be limiting, unappealing, and downright depressing.
This is the experience Laura continued to have, with each of her pregnancies, as she tried to find clothes that fit her style and made her feel good. After much searching, she realized maternity clothes were “a bummer” and something needed to be done about the lack of style and options in the world of maternity-wear.
“It was depressing,” she says “to have such a limited and unflattering selection of clothing that I would have to wear during nine whole months!”
For many women fashion is a form of self-expression. Wearing a nice outfit also boosts confidence and makes one feel good—a feeling that can be hard to come by when one’s body is changing drastically. Women should be able to feel happy in what they wear throughout all stages of life, including pregnancy. And so, determined to do something about this problem, Laura set out to make her own clothes.
A BUSINESS IS BORN
When Laura began making maternity clothes, she did not plan for a business. She made the clothes for herself. She wanted to embrace her style and feel good.
Then she realized if she was feeling so depressed about maternity-wear, perhaps other women felt the same.
“That’s when it occurred to me that there may be other women with the same problem that I could offer my styles to all of them,” she says.
After this realization, the beginnings of a business began to form in her mind. Still pregnant with her third child, Laura began to grow this business idea. She started designing samples, making adjustments to her patterns, and creating a size range.
Slowly the business took shape. A website was made for her shop. She took photographs of each listing and put them on her page.
“I was even a model!” she exclaims.
As her baby continued to grow inside her, her business grew alongside like another child.
In a culmination, these two creations were born just days apart.
“I opened up my online shop,” says Laura, “Then I shipped my first order just a day or two prior to giving birth!”
And just like that, LaDi was born.
BUMPS ALONG THE WAY
Like with pregnancy and children, a business comes with challenges.
Laura’s main obstacle starting out was her mindset. As many new entrepreneurs experience, Laura had doubts and insecurities.
“I often lacked the self-confidence to put myself out there and to speak about myself and my business,” she says. “It is something that I still work on and I do that by forcing myself to do the things that make me uncomfortable.”
Facing her fears head-on, Laura makes the effort to go to networking events, to speak first, to write that email, or do a TV interview.
“Ironically, everyone thinks I am very put together and sure of myself when I’m out there,” she says, “but inside I’m shaking in my stilettos!”
No matter her nerves, she never gives up and keeps pushing forward for her business. Last year she even participated in the Latinas In Business Pitch Competition and won third place.
“I couldn’t remember what I’d said, but winning a spot made me feel like I had done something right,” says Laura.
These successes have shown Laura that her hard work is worth it. Focusing on her strengths and putting her all into her business has also helped her cope with the doubts and panic that plague new entrepreneurs.
“There have been times when I have panicked at the sudden realization that I don’t have the security that a 9-5 job would give me,” she says.
This feeling of panic was like a “huge wave” that would come at her every now and then, filling her with doubt. She became overwhelmed, trying to stay afloat as the waves crashed down. During these episodes, thoughts swam around her—how was she going to make her finances work? How could she ever make it on her own? Should she get another job to make extra cash?
Then, one day, she had an epiphany.
“I realized, I have my business!” says Laura. “I could either quit and go cuddle with safety at a conventional job, or I could take ownership of this little thing I was doing on the side, and work real hard to grow it. And the best part of all was that there is no salary cap on that. So here I am, working real hard at growing this little thing I started. I choose my business every day.”
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LET IT GROW
Choosing to go slow, and let it grow has been Laura’s tried and true strategy. By taking her time she has been able to make mistakes, readjust, and learn.
Creative and innovative, but also technical and organized, Laura relies on these strengths in her everyday business activity to help her business flourish and grow to its fullest potential.
Nurturing a business also requires conviction, passion, and reliability.
“I feel very strongly that I will outlast my competition. Why? Because I plan to never give up,” says Laura.
She advises other aspiring entrepreneurs to do the same. Start out small, give the business time to grow, test the waters, take risks, make adjustments.
This growth stage is important, Laura says, “Because it will reveal to you whether or not what you started is something you would want to continue doing in the long-run. Once you know this is what you want to do, long-term, then success is just a matter of never giving up.”
Laura’s business began as an unexpected project during her pregnancy, but years later it is still growing and thriving, bringing fashionable maternity-wear to women looking to feel good and stylish throughout their pregnancies.