Susie Moschkau was binge watching “Game of Thrones.” As the number of unwatched episodes dwindled down, an uneasy feeling began to creep in. She wondered what she would watch next, but she also wondered what she would do next. Not just in that moment, but 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 comedian Jim Carrey gave at the Maharishi University of Management. His dad wanted to be a comedian but took an accountant job instead and 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. It was the same with her grandparents’ sod farm. The businesses were seasonal, and Mother Nature was the ultimate boss, which meant things were often out of their control. 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 the stability she was after and be more rewarding because it aligned with her strong desire to lead. Susie’s mom had always nurtured her natural leadership tendencies. She encouraged her to express her opinions, follow her ambitions, and never apologize for being herself. With visions of conquering corporate America in her head, Susie headed to college and then graduate school. She ended up working 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. Being an outspoken and ambitious woman was not always well received. Susie felt her voice was often diminished. There were times her contributions were overlooked. 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. As a small cog in a big machine, she would always be at the whim of someone else’s bottom line. She decided it was time to create her own business. But not just any business—one that empowered others.
For Susie, empowerment looks like what her mother did for her as a child and what she now does for her own kids. She decided she wanted to design a product line to provide that same kind of encouragement: Say what you want to say. Do what you want to do. Don’t apologize for who you are. Or, as Jim Carrey put it in his speech, “Risk being seen in all of your glory.”
Susie had always found cursing a powerful form of self-expression and an emotional release, so she and her close friend, Natalie Buckman, began brainstorming ideas. Fingerless gloves had become a staple for Susie in cooler office climates, so they designed a pair with a bird embroidered on each of the middle fingers to start. That’s how Flip’em the Bird was born. It’s not 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. Susie imagines a movement where everyone feels free to “flip them birds up!”
Since its launch in 2018, Susie expanded the product line to include hats and shirts. This year, as consumer spending shifts, Susie is considering a more practical approach and may add a classic winter mitten to the line. She’s tweaking her giveback strategy, “Swearing is Caring,” and will continue using the business to champion causes close to her heart, like supporting and destigmatizing mental health. During the current global health crisis, her own anxiety is peaking, and she knows she’s not alone. Susie wants to provide a thoughtful and powerful voice to the conversation.
Working on bringing the company’s vision to life has been a game-changer for Susie. Her inner badass has emerged again. She is putting her extensive experience and knowledge to good use for her own business instead of someone else’s. And while she continues to work a corporate gig as she grows Flip’em the Bird, the only company she imagines being CEO for these days is her own.
To learn more about Susie’s business, visit FlipEmTheBird.com.
Photo: Flip’em the Bird
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