A Colorful Way of Living: How to Be More, Create More, Do More the Vera Bradley Way

I just read the most interesting book! It’s called A Colorful Way of Living: How to Be More, Create More, Do More the Vera Bradley Way by Barbara Bradley Baekgaard. According to Amazon:

From the co-founder of the Vera Bradley empire, a practical and inspiring book that shows women how to awaken their full potential, at any age.

“This place could use some color!” That’s what Barbara Bradley said to her friend Pat during an airport layover. It was 1982 and all the women could see was a succession of drab, bulky suitcases. When they returned home to Indiana, Barbara and her business partner got out a few Simplicity patterns and a Singer sewing machine and set to work. And the Vera Bradley Company was born.

A Colorful Way of Living offers practical, inspiring advice to empower women of all ages to navigate life by the values that provide the foundation of the Vera Bradley empire. Women looking for the encouragement to start a new chapter, women balancing career and family, and new graduates entering the workforce will all benefit from the Baekgaard’s learned wisdom has as it applies to career, life, and relationships. Lessons include “Noticing Every Detail,” “Choosing Nice,” and “Remembering Always―there’s enough room for everyone.”

In this highly readable book, Barbara Bradley Baekgaard shares the values that have helped her to thrive in business, health, and relationships–in every aspect of her personal and professional life.

I’ve had a chance to get to know Barb recently, and she’s as charming in person as she comes across in her book. She’s also one of America’s greatest entrepreneurs — she co-founded Vera Bradley (named after her mother, a former Elizabeth Arden model and an incredibly inspiring person herself) with $500. Through sheer grit, determination, and some impressive application of positive thinking she built it into the $485,000,000 company it is today — employing 3,100 people and still headquartered in Fort Wayne, IN where it all started.

The book reminds me of two other awesome business books by successful women: A Big Life (In Advertising) by Mary Wells Lawrence and Mad Women by Jane Maas. Both highly recommended as well!

The book is a very unusual combination of business book with lots of Vera Bradley stories and history; an autobiography which tracks most of Barb’s life; and a self-help book primarily targeted at women (although I got a lot out of it too) along the general theme of “…it’s never too late to start over again.”

At the end of each chapter there is a summary paragraph addressed to the reader and designed to teach and inspire. There are 42 of these philosophy points in the book — they’re all pretty amazing. Here are my top three … if you want to read the rest, buy the book :-): Link

Whatever your work, how you spend your time, or what you create, believe in it. And don’t be afraid to think and go big. Sure, it can be hard to have that belief in yourself and to find the courage to think big in the beginning, but that’s when you really need it most. Confidence inspires people. Start thinking bigger today.

What experiences in your own life have allowed you to be more caring, generous, and compassionate toward other people? Who have you met who’s inspired you to reach out with greater love and kindness? Most of us are blessed by knowing at least one special person who encourages and empowers us to be our best self. For me, it was Vera. Who is it for you? And how can you be that person for someone else?

I am committed to life. On the grayest of days, I look for the silver lining. Or I add color. How can you turn a challenging personal event into something beautiful, or an avenue to be helpful or of service to others? When you look for the light in the shadows, you often find it.

For me, I took away 3 key lessons from Barb’s book:

Put the F in Fun: This phrase is used repeatedly throughout the book — it’s Barb’s mantra. Barb says that “Fun is magic medicine. It will improve your life, if not extend it.” So, the critical question to ask yourself how much fun you’re having from day to day. In my experience, this isn’t something most people focus on — it’s often derided as frivolous — and the result is that we live our lives without really enjoying our lives, which is kinda sad because we only get the one shot.

Niceas a Corporate Culture Attribute: There is a lot of focus on the attribute of “nice:” how to hire for it; how to practice it; and how to surround yourself with it. Barb is big on surroundings (people and objects), and her coaching is to make sure that your surroundings are uplifting. And if you aren’t surrounded by nice people or nice things — change your surroundings.

Real Women Designing for Real Women: There is a great anecdote on page 62 where Barb recounts the time she hired Kim Colby, and Kim’s pitch to her was “I’m just so in love with what you’re building here — real women designing for real women. I want to be part of it.” It’s a great summary of what Vera Bradley is all about — it’s actually a very unusual fashion brand because I’m not sure it is a fashion brand. It seems to have elevated itself from the ranks of fashion accessories to something that is about authentic American women designing *things that work* for other real American women. They’ve managed to capture the pretty way to get through your day (and days are hard). There is a core authenticity to the brand which is very unusual in the fashion space — they’ve managed to create a brand where strangers can bond when they spot a fellow Veraphile because the fact that the person is carry a Vera Bradley bag self-identifies them as a nice person … an authentic person … a sisterhood. And what makes the brand even more interesting is that it spans generations and is a true (and maybe uniquely) mother-daughter brand.

Very inspiring, from beginning to end. Available on Kindle — about a 2-hour read.

#marketing #verabradley @verabradley

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