Today we’d like to introduce you to Elizabeth Coratola.
Hi Elizabeth, we’d love for you to start by introducing yourself.
I had always wanted to have a career in fashion. When I first graduated high school in 2008, I attended the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York City for Fashion Merchandising Management. I quickly realized that being so far away from home wasn’t the best for my mental health, and transferred back to Ohio. I ended up at Ohio State pursuing a Bachelor’s Degree in Strategic Communication, not knowing fully what I wanted to do with my career. I loved fashion but didn’t want to limit my possibilities to such a specific industry. In order to graduate, I had to find an internship for school credit and in hindsight, it was the best thing I could’ve done to lead me to where I am today.
I landed an internship at an advertising agency as a member of the account management team. I didn’t even know what an ad agency was at the time but fell in love with the casual, creative environment right when I interviewed. Before I graduated, I was offered a full-time position. I missed my college graduation ceremony for the opportunity to travel on my first business trip to Florida to help produce a client photo shoot!
I loved my agency job and ended up working there for about seven years. By the end of my tenure there, I was a Senior Account Executive assigned to manage our agency’s biggest account (a popular big-box home retailer). Internally, I was responsible for coordinating and leading omnichannel advertising campaigns with various members of our creative team and also generating revenue for the company. We produced and executed many high-profile photo shoots, managed relationships with outside vendors such as various printing presses, social media companies like Pinterest, and video production houses. I was responsible for all client communication, from daily check-ins and status reports to presenting massive, day-long strategy presentations to our client’s executive leadership team.
After my second son was born, my work/life balance started to suffer due to the long hours and high expectations of my always-on agency job. After negotiating the first-ever part-time contract within our company and working 30-hour weeks for several months, I decided to walk away to focus more of my time on my family.
I knew despite leaving my job, I still needed a creative outlet. I decided to start a fashion/lifestyle blog (coco_theblog), where I was able to apply several of the skills I learned working at an agency: photography, styling, social media management, copywriting, and most of all: connecting with “clients” in a meaningful, trustworthy way.
Becoming a mom at 23 exposed me to several challenges that I had to navigate at a very young age. I started to realize that there are so many difficult things women (and mothers) navigate alone and feel ashamed talking openly about. Things like postpartum depression, anxiety, unpaid maternity leave, feelings of isolation, body image issues, etc. I started to embrace the vulnerability in these topics and share my experiences openly with my community (amongst my daily outfit snaps), and it began to grow. A few years after starting my blog in 2018, I had over 25,000 followers on Instagram.
Eventually, I started offering virtual styling services to help women find outfits that made them feel comfortable and confident in their skin. After working with several clients, I felt like I was really starting to understand what women struggle with from a style standpoint, and wanted to take that and run with it to pursue my dream of working in fashion. In February of this year, I launched my own online boutique called COCO The Shop.
Having built such a loyal, genuine community has helped my boutique succeed in its first year. Our focus is, and will always be, creating a safe and fun space for women to shop and find confidence through classic style, sophisticated comfort, and a bit of trend, all priced under $150.
We all face challenges, but looking back, would you describe it as a relatively smooth road?
I was unexpectedly pregnant at the age of twenty-two, just a couple of years out of college. My now-husband Peter and I weren’t married and weren’t ready to start a family yet. It was extremely scary and overwhelming, and while we both had full-time jobs, we weren’t making enough money to buy a house or support a child.
A few months after our son Peter Joseph was born, my husband lost his job. We found ourselves unmarried and broke with a new baby. He ended up starting his own logistics business out of desperation from our tiny condo kitchen table. He continued to grow Ease (working crazy long hours) while I was on maternity leave, trying to figure out this whole motherhood thing completely on my own. None of my friends had babies yet, and neither did my sisters. It was extremely isolating, and in hindsight, I experienced some serious postpartum depression and anxiety (which I didn’t even know was a thing at the time).
Peter and I both really struggled through that first year of our son’s life. The stress and overwhelm of LIFE took a toll on our relationship, and we decided we needed to take some time apart to focus on ourselves. We ended up separating for about a year and lived in different apartments. During that time, we were both trying to work hard to support our son while trying to raise a new baby in separate households.
We ended up buying a house and getting back together when our son was about two years old. Ease logistics was thriving and growing, and the time we spent apart ended up being what we needed to mend our relationship. Over the next few years, we had our second son Benji, got married in 2018, and had our third son William last year in 2022!
Fast-forward to today (our oldest son is almost 9!), I’ve experienced a roller coaster of mental health struggles throughout my time as a working mother. Most recently, I was diagnosed with prenatal depression while pregnant with our third. It’s unfortunate that it’s not more openly talked about, but having children can wreak havoc on a woman, both mentally and physically. Between pregnancy, the postpartum months, hormone fluctuations, the pressure for moms to “do it all” and make it look easy in our society, etc., I’d be lying if I said I haven’t struggled. I think the most important thing to remember when you find yourself struggling is that “success” is not just defined by the amount of money you make or the success of your business, or your role in a company. Success is equally defined by your overall quality of life, and sometimes that means asking for help, focusing time on yourself, and finding a way to get back up stronger on the other side of a tough time.
My struggles navigating motherhood have taught me a lot about growing a business. There will be hard seasons and challenges along the way, but it’s all about learning to pivot and keep going!
Appreciate you sharing that. What should we know about COCO The Shop?
COCO the Shop strives to provide women with upscale-looking style without a high price tag. We focus on classic style, sophisticated comfort, and a bit of trend… all priced under $150. Our hope is that our apparel can provide a sense of confidence without sacrificing comfort.
Our staple pieces are carefully curated to work well together and be worn season after season, long after fast-fashion trends have come and gone. New items are introduced every Tuesday evening at 8 pm EST on cocotheshop.com (IG: @coco_theshop).
We’re always looking for the lessons that can be learned in any situation, including tragic ones like the Covid-19 crisis. Are there any lessons you’ve learned that you can share?
I think the biggest lesson I’ve learned from the Covid-19 crisis is how crucial it is to support small, locally-owned businesses! So much heart and soul goes into starting and running a small business, and Covid certainly showed us how quickly all of that can be taken away without the support of your community!
- Everything in our shop is priced under $150!
- Website: cocotheshop.com
- Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/coco_theshop/
- Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/cocotheshop