Fabiana Palano Travel Photographer & Fashion Stylist
CEO and founder of NYC Fashion Coach (Fashion Company)
CEO and founder of The Soul of NYC (Travel company)
Tell us about your journey! inspire someone.
I was born in the middle of nowhere, far south of Italy. I have always had big dreams but every day I was just reminded of how my dreams were too big comparing to how small I was. Born in a broken family, my dad left my mom before I could even understand what a family was. I grew up in scarcity. My mom was barely making it through every month with a part time job. My brother and I saw her dating people in and out of jail throughout our whole childhood. But growing up in that misery taught me how to get creative when I wanted things I couldn’t afford to have. I was 7 years old when I started making bracelets out of the cottons found in my grandma's storage and selling them in school. If life teaches you this lesson when you are so young, you will master it for the rest of the years to come.
My dream was to go to New York and start a fashion business. I was told it was impossible and for a while, I believed them. Life costs 10 times more there and I didn’t even speak any English. So I just followed the traditional path, found myself a corporate job, working hard enough for them to hire me with a permanent contract and with that money, finally be able to pay my degree in Marketing. I studied and worked full time for 4 years. And I graduated with 104 on a max of 110. I was so hungry of making it, of emancipating myself from the misery I was born into.
Years go by and with several corporate jobs under my belt, in Finance: my creative spirit was suffocating day after day but I kept it on a leash because I thought that “this life is the best I can hope for. Because of my upbringing and environment I wasn't destined for something great. But the reality is that most of the time, it’s the society in which you live that tells you what success has to look like and, for me, it was wearing the badge of this big finance firm and driving this pretty car and going to sleep in this pretty house, even if every day was going to be the damn same, for the rest of my life.
One day I went to a new job interview, always eager to make my title bigger and my career evolving. The interviewer asked me: “momentarily, if you were given infinite economical possibilities, and so you wouldn’t need to work for the rest of your life, what would you do with your time and your money?” That question changed my life forever. I took some time, as I thought I might be going on a permanent vacation around the world to recuperate. But then I thought of how I would have gotten tired of doing nothing and how the desire of achieving something extraordinary with my life would have taken over. So I found my answer, inside an ancient dream. I said “I would move to New York City and I would open a Fashion Business”. I couldn’t sleep that night, and the night to come, and the one after that. I couldn’t help but wonder, why in the world am I not doing it? What is stopping me? I realized I had boxed myself and my life into a routine that was not letting me express ME anymore. My energy was trapped into a 9 to 5 job and there was no way out if not in the direction in which my boss was forcing me into. I couldn’t grow if not into the mold in which I was assigned to stay in. I believed that my potential was ending where their daily assignments were ending. That I couldn’t be more than they needed me to. But that question raised my consciousness on a complete new level. I asked myself what was I scared of? To fail and end up losing everything I had built. But my answer simply was, if I stay in this life, sacrificing my dreams, just because I was scared of what would happen, I have already failed. If I stay in this situation, at this desk, doing things I don’t want to do, just to pay for a life I don’t even like anymore, I have already failed. That is such an important lesson I’ve learnt: you are allowed to change your mind if the things you are doing are no longer making you happy. Sometimes we hold ourselves into situations that we end up hating just because we think we owe it to ourselves, and to all the time we have spent to build that situation, that relationship or that job. But the truth is that we are fully authorized to let go of what is not aligned to us anymore, no matter how much time we have spent on it, or how good it was when we got it. So I did it, I took the leap of faith, one day out of nowhere I decided to quit that job, to break up with the person I was living with, to leave the house, pack my things and take a flight to New York City. Few years later, after several roller coasters and after what I would describe like the most intense and beautiful journey that life gifted me with, I own a Fashion Company in New York, and I built an online platform to help people coming to the City to discover the real New York, the one I fell in love with and that saved me from everything I was not meant to be anymore.
What were the biggest initial hurdles and how did you overcome them?
For sure learning a new language from zero. I did not speak English when I moved to New York. It was one of the biggest challenges. But I was so determined of making it, I went to school but it wasn’t enough, I wanted to learn the kind of language they speak in business, so I remember going to the same conference 12 times, obstinately myself “I’m going to stay here until I won’t understand what the hell they’re talking about”. Another major obstacle was obtaining the right Visa to establish my business in the US. It is extremely expensive to hire a lawyer and to obtain a Visa. I was forced in and out of the country because I had a temporary visa that kept expiring.
It slowed me down so much, every single time I was building up. Then I had to leave, every 6 months especially when things were starting to pick up again. Momentarily, I am working hard to secure my 5 years Visa. It is a never ending challenge, but it keeps me grounded everyday. I know there is no time to be wasted. This hurdle has helped me to make the most out of every second, I remembered I had a countdown on my phone, counting the days I had to leave, so I knew I had to speed up. Yes, overwhelming, but for sure it has increased my business performance.
What books are you currently reading?
The One Thing, by Gary Keller. It teaches you to keep asking yourself in any given area of your life, “What’s the one thing I can do, such that by doing it everything else is easier or unnecessary?” It helps you prioritize your tasks, by understanding what works and by doing more of what works and less of what doesn’t.
What do you know today that you wish you would have known when you first got started?
I wish I knew I could aim higher. Lack of belief, leads you to set yourself unreasonable ceilings of achievement that ends up limiting you when you reach your goal. I would have told myself, do not box yourself into what you believe you can achieve, but aim for the biggest and most unachievable thing you desire. When I started styling people for 50$ per session I would have never imagined that I was starting a 6 figure business. Thinking big from the beginning would have helped me to set things up differently.
What advice would you give to an upcoming youth or talents locally and internationally?
Do not let anyone tell you what’s right or not for you. Power resides in our unique individuality which when introduced to others is perceived as weird, out of the lines, so other people will try to discourage you, thinking that playing it safe will help you have a better life. Do not ever listen to that. Playing it safe will just let you stay small. Do what you love, no matter how risky and weird it may sound, because you can never fail at what you love: you just have to keep trying until it works out. And it does, trust me.