Susie Moschkau was binge-watching “Game of Thrones.” As the unwatched episodes dwindled down, an uneasy feeling creeped in. She wondered what she’d watch next, but she also wondered what she would do next—with her life. She was 39 years old, a wife, a mom of three and a corporate marketing maven with an MBA. And she had just been laid off for the second time in two years due to downsizing. Then, Susie stumbled upon a commencement speech given by comedian Jim Carrey. His dad had wanted to be a comedian but took an accountant job instead. He was laid off when Jim was 12. “You can fail at what you don’t want,” he said. “So you might as well take a chance at doing what you love.”
When Susie was a kid and thinking about a career path, she was drawn to the safer route. She grew up in a family of small business owners. While there were many great things about it, she also saw the flip side. Her dad’s landscaping business did well, but it required long hours and backbreaking work. At a young age, Susie decided it wasn’t for her and announced: “I’m going to be a CEO!” She thought this direction would offer stability and be more rewarding. Susie’s mom encouraged her to follow her ambitions, express her opinions, and never apologize for being herself.
With visions of conquering corporate America in her head, Susie worked in management positions for a number of different companies. She celebrated successes and received recognition along the way. But over time, the corporate world lost its shine. Toxic work environments took a toll on her mental health. Then, after that second layoff, it became clear to Susie she hadn’t chosen the secure path at all. She decided it was time to create her own business. But not just any business—one that empowers others.
Susie envisioned a line of products to provide the kind of encouragement her mother gave her: Do what you want to do. Say what you want to say. Don’t apologize for who you are. She’d always found cursing a powerful form of self-expression and an emotional release, so Susie began brainstorming ideas with a friend. Fingerless gloves had become a staple in cooler office climates, so they came up with a pair with a bird embroidered on each of the middle fingers. That’s how Flip’em the Bird was born.
Today, in addition to gloves, the line includes winter hats and T-shirts. Susie also launched a giveback initiative called “Swearing Is Caring,” which she uses to champion causes close to her heart, like supporting and destigmatizing mental health. For Susie, Flip’em the Bird isn’t meant to be an aggressive “fuck you,” but rather an irreverent and fun form of self-expression for anyone who’s felt like they’ve needed to change who they are to fit in. She imagines a movement where everyone feels free to “flip them birds up!”
To learn more about Susie’s business, visit FlipEmTheBird.com.
Photo: Flip’em the Bird
About the author: Chris Olsen is a radio veteran turned communications consultant, educator and author of “Whyography: Building a Brand Fueled by Purpose”. Through her work as a consultant partnering with startups, Chris realized her WHY—to support women-owned businesses in confidently communicating their purpose and impact, setting them up for entrepreneurial success. She created My Founder Story and Publish Her as platforms for doing so.