We had the good fortune of connecting with Nayoung Lee and we’ve shared our conversation below.

Hi Nayoung, any advice for those thinking about whether to keep going or to give up?
I am an entrepreneur. Being an entrepreneur is hard. Having a job is hard, but choosing a career path and having such a strong personal involvement in the success or failure of the business can be really challenging. For me, the biggest challenge thus far has been the constant challenges to my momentum. When I first started the business, I tried different avenues to market and nothing seemed to be working. I recall about a month before I really started gaining some strong success and momentum, my biggest investor, my father had some very loving, but hard to hear words for me. He asked me, if this was really the right path and if I should just give up. I know he only wanted what was perceived as best for me, but it hurt. Honestly, I was already feeling doubt about the path, but ironically it was that moment, that I promised myself I would push forward. Within a month came the series of successful months of business, only to be thrown into a complete halt by the pandemic. This past year, much like other years has been tough. Why do I keep going? Because the truth of the matter is, I have a bigger mission. I want to change industry practices when it comes to our environment. This past year I had a daughter and I want to show her that a woman of color who came to America knowing no one, could build a business from scratch to impact the generations to come. Mostly, I know not to give up because I know from past experience, with a little bit of time and a touch of grit, the goal at hand will be accomplished.

Can you open up a bit about your work and career? We’re big fans and we’d love for our community to learn more about your work.
I grew up in a factory which designed garments for major brands. For as long as I can remember, I’ve wanted to be in fashion, and as a native of Korea, I literally had to travel halfway across the world to achieve this dream. I remember stepping off the plane and in the back of my head I would hear the voice of the manager I had prior to coming to America. “You will never make it”. I was now on a mission to prove that I would, not only to prove her wrong, but to prove to myself. I’ve found that drive is best approached in a two pronged manner. From day one I took on a series of internships and odd jobs at various companies to learn the ins and outs my childhood did not give me exposure to. I went from the back of the shop to the front, and from there began to learn the dark secrets of the industry I was not aware of before. At my father’s facilities, we did not use child labor and we followed guidelines expected of high quality products. In 2012, there was a big incident at Rana Plaza in Bangladesh that had mass casualties to which I could no longer keep my head in the sand about. Industry standards were misaligned and at the rate we were moving our planet’s future as well as the moral compass of our society would continue down the wrong trend. From then on out I decided I would eventually make a jump to build a brand that would focus on sustainable efforts for both the environment and humanity. ELMNTL is the brand I built and started back in 2017. Through a series of trials and tribulations, the company and I experimented with different fabrics, manufacturing processes and styles to determine product market fit that could allow the company to thrive while maintaining the ethics I sought to operate by. Today we focus on minimizing waste through advance 3D manufacturing processes, and the items we sell are staple to every woman’s closet. With a focus on quality our motto is to go from “throw away” to “here to stay” fashion.

Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
The city is full of different cultures and it’s a big reason why I love it so much. Depending on the friend, I’d have different itineraries. For the tourist friend would wants to experience what New York is known for, I’d do what New York is known for. A show on broadway Drinks at a rooftop bar, any will do as long as it has a view of the gorgeous New York city skyline. Then a trip to the MOMA and the MET, two of my favorite museums. A walk in central park, followed by dinner at any restaurant, I’d let them decide depending on the cuisine. If the friend is a foodie, we’d really just have eat and drink the weekend away. Joe Shanghai’s for soup dumplings Dim Sum in chinatown Pie at rubirosa for lunch Karaoke, bbq and fried chicken in K-town, I have to represent my people. Go to a speakeasy, Raines Law Room, Angel’s Share, Dear Irving just to name a few. Probably do a high end meal at a place I really enjoy called Atomix, a lovely Korean couple started the place after success with their other restaurant Attaboy. You’ll notice most of this is towards the Asian cuisines, but it tends to be where my own palate leans. To add some variety, I would probably include the classics. Katz, Russ and daughters, Doughnut Plant, and anything else which may catch my eye. That is the beauty of NY, there’s always something wonderful around the corner.

Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
My husband, he erased my phone and helped me understand that out of ashes I can still rise.

Website: https://www.elmntl.nyc/

Instagram: elmntl.nyc

Linkedin: https://www.linkedin.com/in/nyleedesigns

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/elmntl.nyc/

Nominate Someone: ShoutoutMiami is built on recommendations and shoutouts from the community; it’s how we uncover hidden gems, so if you or someone you know deserves recognition please let us know here.