Marla Wynne Ginsberg had never sewn a stitch when she bought her first sewing machine in 2009 and embarked on a risky career reinvention. She had just lost a very lucrative senior executive position with a major Entertainment company in a career that she had built step by step for over 20 years. Her work had taken her from Chicago to Los Angeles to Paris, where she developed and supervised the production of some of the ’80s and ’90s’ top internationally-produced TV series, including Highlander and La Femme Nikita.
But nothing ever stays the same in Entertainment, and when a writers’ strike hit in 2007, everything started to slide – then compounded by the economic meltdown or 2008 (which cost her the great gig). Underwater on her mortgage and her 401(k) in free-fall, she short-sold her house, radically down-sized her life (by now divorced with 2 kids) and moved to “Plan B.”
Inspired by her years in Paris, and by the way French women of any and every age seem to magically achieve an enduring sense of style, she made a huge bet on herself: knowing nothing about the fashion business, she decided to dive in and make a splash, crafting fashion “by a boomer woman for boomer women.” As she puts it: “At the time, the prospects of finding a job were about as likely as finding a natural blonde in Beverly Hills. So I decided to reinvent myself by combining my creativity and passion for fashion.” Armed only with a rack of designs she had thrown together in her garage with that new sewing machine, she marched into the offices of Creative Artists Agency in Beverly Hills, the Hollywood powerhouse organization that had represented her career as a producer. Plowing through their skepticism, she wowed them with her vision, and they sent her in to meet with their contacts at HSN. The rest, as they say, is history.
Today, her line, Marla Wynne (http://marlawynne.com) is a global brand and a top HSN mainstay in the U.S., while being featured on QVC in Europe. In the last four years, revenues have grown over nine-fold. Marla is understandably pleased with how everything has turned out. “What began 6 years ago in my garage as a ‘what-if’ evolved into a ‘why-not’ and today is a fast-growing global brand that has far exceeded my expectations.”
But career reinvention can come at a price. Financing her dream business has been a series of ups and downs: backers pulling out, losing control of the business, regaining control of the business, having to commute between Montreal and New York 3 days/week to ensure a stable life for her kids, and then having to deal with a life-threatening family health challenge. Throughout it all, Marla has persevered, compromising where she needed to in order to preserve her vision, but never taking her eye off the ball and pouncing when timing and opportunities were favorable.
Her commitment to herself, and her adaptability to changing conditions are valuable lessons that Boomers need to pay attention to as we navigate the new, more uncertain pathways beyond midlife. The world is moving too fast for us to look backwards. We have to dig deep to find our passion, and to find our courage, and then, like Marla, believe in ourselves against all odds to make it real. “I no longer look back to ‘see who I was,’ but forward to what I am yet to become.”