The Vera Bradley brand is more than just a hub of accessories embodied by pops of color and paisley patterns. Behind the scenes, this renowned fashion empire was built from the ground up through the values of co-founder, Barbara Bradley Baekgaard.
With her brand new book, A Colorful Way of Living, Baekgaard is sharing her wisdom and inspiring women of all ages to thrive in every area of life—business, health, relationships and more. Keep reading to get the inside scoop!
1. A Colorful Way of Living is all about empowering women to realize their full potential – we’re sold already! What sparked your interest in creating this type of book?
My son-in-law, Bob Hall, encouraged me to write the book. Typically, you never think your life is exciting enough to write an entire book about, but once we I started writing and telling sharing stories, a book made sense.
2. Readers will get a glimpse into the beginning of the Vera Bradley. Why did you think this story was so important to share?
The Vera Bradley story can be applied to almost anyone’s life. Pat and I were at the point in our lives when we were looking at what Chapter Two might be. We had an idea, and to the astonishment of anyone who went to business school, we started the company the next day. Anyone can pursue a dream, with the right tenacity and optimism. I wanted to share our story, as it can transcend so many platforms.
3. In A Colorful Way of Living, you offer helpful advice that is built off of the values of the Vera Bradley brand. Which of these values do you find most significant in helping women navigate through life successfully?
Honesty and integrity are two values we keep in everything we do. The company was built with these values and we look to work with others with the same values.
4. Something we loved about the empowering messages in your book is that they’re relevant across generations and career fields. Was that something that was important to you?
I wanted to encourage all women, no matter their age. Simple truths can be useful at all stages of life. I wanted to ensure whomever was reading this book was able to walk away with a better understanding of how they too may be successful.
5. Let’s focus on college students for a minute. If you had to pick one tip to share with a recent graduate about to enter the workforce, what would it be?
I would suggest students find a company they respect and that has the same values.
6. A Colorful Way of Living doesn’t just focus on professional settings – readers also learn more about creating fulfilling relationships and improving other aspects of their personal lives. Do you think personal happiness and professional success go hand in hand?
I do. I’ve created a work environment that has a family culture. Whether I’m at work or at home, I feel like I’m surrounded by family. We celebrate everything at work: holidays, baby announcements, engagements…if we can celebrate something, we do!
7. Friendship, in particular, is a recurring theme throughout your book. What is it about building friendships that you want readers to really take away?
It’s important to work with people whom you trust, respect and agree with their business practices. Surrounding yourself with the best people will allow everyone to succeed.
8. It’s clear from your book that you’re very passionate about maintaining a welcoming environment within your company—there is no emphasis on hierarchy or job titles and your personal office has an open door policy. Do you think this is essential to building a successful business?
Not necessarily. Vera Bradley’s culture is right for us, but may not work for every business. There are many companies who are very successful using a corporate structure.
9. What’s the biggest lesson you hope readers will take away from A Colorful Way of Living?
I would love whomever reads my book to walk away knowing it’s never too late to try something new. I was 42 years old when I began Vera Bradley, and I had no idea what a huge success the company would be. I would encourage anyone to follow their passion.
10. You co-founded a fashion brand, you’re a published author….what’s next? Is there any goal in particular you’d love to accomplish?
I have quite a few projects in the works! I love to try new things and to always keep moving. I’m currently building a new home and working on some projects here in Fort Wayne. Stay tuned!
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