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The M Dash

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Why Sarah LaFleur Didn’t Resign

M.M.’s CEO opens up about her experience during the pandemic, and why she’s feeling a great sense of renewal.

By Sarah LaFleur


Here’s something I’ve never shared publicly: If the pandemic had never happened, I probably would’ve stepped down as CEO of M.M.LaFleur. Juggling the three children we welcomed in 2020 (as well as our 85-pound pup, Ruggles) while trying to meet the demands of a more-than-full-time, very public-facing job would’ve been too much. But it was the pandemic that kept me here, because it was the pandemic that “afforded” me the ability to work from home, be present for my babies, and think strategically about the future of M.M.—all at the same time.

To be sure, it still wasn’t easy. M.M. was hit hard. At one point, our business was down 70%, we shuttered our stores (we’ve since reopened two of them), and we were forced to lay off dozens of hard-working employees. But as a company that champions the belief that “when women succeed, the world becomes a better place,” we knew we couldn’t give up. So we listened to our customers and the women in our communities, and we pivoted in a somewhat new direction. We leaned deeper into a look we’re calling “Power Casual” to better reflect the way women dress today (meaning I can wear the same sweater to walk Ruggles and meet with investors), and we launched virtual styling over Zoom, so our customers could continue to work with our stylists (interestingly, what we thought was a temporary solution became our fastest growing channel, and now it’s here to stay permanently). And slowly but surely, our business began to bounce back, as did my resolve that this is where I’m supposed to be. The pandemic, as awful as it is, renewed my love for what I do and made me remember that the work I do through M.M. is my life’s passion. 

So there wasn’t a “Great Resignation” for me; instead, there was a “Great Renewal.”

Of course, I feel conflicted saying this in a time where so many have lost so much. I also lost friends and acquaintances to Covid, and I am well aware that those who are less fortunate have struggled so punishingly during this time. And yet, there is also meaningful change—dare I say, a wave—rippling through working women in America. It turns out that for many of us, life in the pre-Covid fast lane was not only unsustainable, but often unfulfilling. The pandemic gave us some much needed time and space for deep self-exploration. 

In September, M.M. worked with the Harris Poll to survey over 800 working women to learn more about the effects the pandemic had on their careers, passions, and life goals. The results were astounding: More than 90% of women surveyed said the pandemic made them realize time is too precious to waste on things that don’t serve their purpose or well-being. They were repriotizing everything: 71% of women surveyed said their happiness had become more important, 67% wanted to spend more time with friends and family, and 66% said they wanted to focus more on their mental health. ​​Last but not least, 88% of all women surveyed are looking to find ways to make their lives more fulfilling.

All of this momentum has been inspiring for us, not just as a brand, but as a community. It’s why, when we say “when women succeed, the world becomes a better place,” we aren’t just talking about professional success. In fact, if Covid has taught us anything, it’s that “success” is deeply subjective, and we are each on our own journey to define it for ourselves.

I am excited to announce that this week, we are hosting a series of free virtual events we’re calling “The Great Renewal.” It’s a three-part panel this Monday, Tuesday, and Thursday, where we’ll be joined by inspiring and influential leaders in the media, fashion, business, and tech industries. On Monday, we’re kicking off with “Where we’re going, we don’t need Colored Parachutes” (don’t you love that title?), all about how we can redefine “success” in our lives. Tuesday is a great one for our business leaders: “The Great Re-examination.” It’s about what the ideal workplace looks like in order to retain and inspire our women employees. And last but not least, I will be hosting “The New Power of Self Presentation,” where I’ll be joined by a group of fashion experts to talk about what we’re wearing for this new era. 

This is just the beginning of our journey, and I hope you’ll join us.

Written By

Sarah LaFleur

Sarah LaFleur is the founder and CEO of professional womenswear brand MM.LaFleur . Her mission: to take the work out of dressing for work.

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