Maggie Dawkins likes to create. Whether it's fabulous designs or growth-focused business plans, this mother of two daughters (ages 6 and 3) and vice president of merchandising and product at FabKids is ready to try new things.
Beginning as a consultant at the subscription-based clothing company in Los Angeles, Dawkins quickly moved up the ranks to vice president in 2016 after less than a year at the brand, which sends monthly style picks to subscribers' inboxes.
"It was a bit of a 'stars aligning' moment," she tells Mom.me via email, about her FabKids start. "I was at a point in my career where I was looking to do something totally new and I happened to, literally, run into an old co-worker who was on the hunt for a new merchandising partner. So one person drew me in but then I fell in love with the people—the team is incredible."
Dawkins also talks to us about the girl-friendly ad campaign that inspired her, the working moms she looks up to, and her advice for mothers looking to start their own business.
What drew you to FabKids?
So many things. I was intrigued by the unique brand proposition of FabKids and was fired up about being in a small startup environment. I was also drawn to the idea of getting back into the kids' apparel space. It’s just so much fun.
What sets your position at FabKids apart from your previous positions?
The ultimate difference is the sense of ownership. I actually have a much smaller team, but we own everything we do from end to end. With fewer layers comes an incredible sense of responsibility: Things only get done if you do them, and you have to constantly reprioritize. We pick those priorities together as a team and then we drive the business. It’s a lot of work, but it’s incredibly rewarding at the same time.
Describe the moment you first felt successful.
The first time I think I really felt successful in my career was when I inherited an extremely tough business at Gap Inc. and got the chance to rebuild it from the ground up. I asked for space to test and try things, to really learn about my customer, and to break away from the way we’d always done things. I relied a lot on data, but I also relied a lot on my gut and took chances. My team and I turned that business from the worst in the company to the most profitable and fastest growing within a year. And we had a blast along the way. That year really confirmed for me that this was the job I was meant to do: build businesses and delight customers. Whenever I have a moment of doubt, I draw on that year and I remember that I can do whatever challenge is ahead of me, if I listen to my gut and stay focused.
What are some ways that you want to teach your daughters about "girl power"?
I was so inspired by the Always #LikeAGirl campaign. If you haven’t seen it, pull it up and take five minutes to watch it. In the spot, adults and slightly older boys portray stereotypes of what "like a girl" means to them. Then little girls come in and blow all of those stereotypes out of the water … because they haven’t learned to think that way yet. I try to focus on that. Right now, I have the unique opportunity to teach my daughters that they can be whatever they want to be and ward off these (frustrating) socially constructed stereotypes by reinforcing to them that ALL kids have the power to do and be what they want, regardless of gender.
Has there been anything about your position as VP of merchandising and product that surprised you or inspired you in a way you didn't expect?
I have been surprised AND inspired by the amount of change we have been able to drive. As I look back on what we were able to accomplish in 2016 alone, I almost can’t believe it. We are a very lean team compared to my previous teams at previous companies, but the passion and the capability of this group is huge. I have seen more growth and change in a year at FabKids than I have experienced in any other year of my career. Hands down.
What's your advice for moms who are looking to move up or take more of a leadership role at their job?
Go for it, if it’s what you really want. I think the best way to teach kids about pursuing their dreams is to do it yourself. Be their role model. If you are pursuing what ultimately makes you happy, it will flow through to them, and they will be inspired to do the same.
What sacrifices have you made as a mom and career professional to keep everything in balance?
Life is a huge set of competing trade-offs. I have finally come to realize that no matter how you frame up your life, you will always be sacrificing something, so I try to figure out what I cannot live without and make that my focus. I would say the biggest sacrifice I have made is that my circle has gotten smaller but, in the end, I’m not sure that’s a bad thing. I focus more on my immediate family, close friends and work—and I always make time for myself in between. I am sure my circle will expand again one day as my kids get older, but right now I’m happy where I am.
What would you say are the most important skills and experiences you've brought from previous positions to FabKids?
Never letting myself, or my team, get too comfortable. I have always been inspired by a quote from The Gap co-founder Don Fisher: “Change or fail.” Nothing stays the same in retail, ever. You must constantly push forward, looking out for what lies ahead. It’s work, but it’s also half the fun. Never. A. Dull. Moment.
If you could have lunch with any business person/mogul/entrepreneur/nonprofit founder living or dead, who would it be and why?
Right now, I’d probably say Joy Cho or Emily Henderson. I am so beyond impressed by the brands they’ve each been able to build for themselves, and love the way that they feel elevated yet accessible and organic. I also love that they incorporate their kids and family into their work and make it a part of what they do and who they are. I also just love pretty things—and they kill it.