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Headshot of Kim Mimran
Headshot of Kim Mimran

WOMEN'S WEEK: FAME

Mimran. Trump. Buss. Women rise above family name Add to ...

A year after Kimberley Newport-Mimran gave birth to her daughter, Jacqui, 11 years ago, she knew she was ready to go back to work.

She’d worked her entire life – most recently, in product development at Club Monaco and the former Caban chain. Though she’d married the company’s co-founder and then chief executive officer, Joe Mimran, after meeting at work, she wasn’t ready to become a stay-at-home mom.

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But the idea of going back to work for her husband didn’t appeal to her either.

So Ms. Newport-Mimran decided not to let her spouse’s success paralyze her, and keep her from taking the next step in her own career.

“I wanted to go do my own thing – do my own line,” she said.

From a borrowed desk in Mr. Mimran’s office and with the help of a hired pattern maker, Ms. Newport Mimran’s Pink Tartan was born.

Ten years later, she has a flagship store in Toronto’s Yorkville district, a showroom in New York, and her women’s wear line is carried in major department stores, including Saks Fifth Avenue and Holt Renfrew, as well as boutiques around the world.

For women like Ms. Newport-Mimran, being married to, the offspring of or otherwise related to a successful, well-known man can be both a blessing and a curse.

While the connection may open some doors, it can also make starting a business – and living up to the famous name – an even more daunting task.

But some women are doing it, striking out on their own and getting out from under the shadow of famous men with whom they share a surname.

Mr. Mimran, who sold Club Monaco to Ralph Lauren Corp. in 1999 and went on to launch the massively popular Joe Fresh chain, is a partner at Pink Tartan. But Ms. Newport-Mimran is the company’s president and head designer, and the one in charge of all day-to-day operations.

What helps to distinguish her career from her husband’s, she said, is the fact that they produce such different work: Joe Fresh is geared towards the masses and sold in Loblaw’s stores, while Pink Tartan is marketed as a more upscale, “affordable luxury” brand.

“We’re not direct competitors, so there’s no competition over whose line is better,” she said.

Even with a daughter to clothe at home, there’s no rivalry. “Jacqui will always make sure she has both Pink [Tartan]and Joe [Fresh]on,” Ms. Newport-Mimran laughed. “She doesn’t favour one or the other.”

Despite the fact that some think she had it easier because of her famous husband, “it was a lot of blood, sweat and tears.” She consults him occasionally, she said, mostly when it comes to the company’s branding, or for his opinion after a line is finished.

Aside from that, she said, it’s “a lot of believing in what you’re doing and getting out there and sweating it.”

It’s not just women married to successful businessmen who can find themselves stifled by the fame.

In her book, The Trump Card: Playing to Win in Work and Life, Ivanka Trump writes about the baggage associated with being Donald Trump’s daughter.Having the Trump last name, she writes, means she finds herself both underestimated and overestimated by business associates.

On the one hand, people assume she’s successful only because of who her father is. But on the other, people sometimes assume that, because she’s Mr. Trump’s daughter, she’s inherited more of his experience andknowledge than she may actually have.

“I get it from both sides, the good and the bad,” she writes. “And I’ve learned to ignore it…If I got upset every time someone suggested that I was coasting on my last name, my looks, or the silver spoon that might or might not have been lodged in my mouth at birth, I’d be a basket case.”

Christy Curtis Buss, who is married to Johnny Buss – the son of Los Angeles Lakers owner Jerry Buss and one-time president of the Los Angeles Sparks before the senior Mr. Buss sold the women’s basketball team – echoes the fact that being related to a famous man can have its downsides. (The couple have since separated, though they remain legally married and maintain a good relationship, she said.)

Though she’d already had a successful career as a professional dancer and choreographer before meeting Mr. Buss more than 20 years ago, “people assume that you’ve just been taken care of. They just thought ‘Oh, they just gave her the money.’”

To those naysayers, she said, “even if that were true, all the money in the world can’t make a business go well.”

Partly to counter other people’s assumption, Ms. Curtis Buss, who owns and operates her own dance studio, The Studio Art of Dance near Los Angeles, said she doesn’t usually tell her students who her husband is, unless they ask. To many of her professional contacts, she’s simply ‘Christy Curtis.’

Her studio was launched after a long career both as a dancer (including a stint as a Clippers Girl for the Los Angeles Clippers),and as a choreographer for NBC’s Days of Our Lives and several USO tours.

She said her business’s success is mostly the result of her own hard work ― she puts in six days a week and runs it without the help of secretaries or assistants.

For women wanting to start their own business outside the shadow of a famous family man connection, she said simply to do what you love – the success will follow.

“I teach because it’s what I love to do,” she said.

“I don’t have to work, that’s true. But it’s part of who I am. I have to feel good about me.”

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