diana true: film, fashion, & the importance of a “grind mindset”

Diana True always knew that she wanted to go into the fashion industry, but she never knew exactly how. It wasn’t until she won Pitch Smackdown at Clemson University, traveled to Silicon Valley, and started her own business Saw it on Screen that she realized she had started a career doing what she loves! The mission of Saw it on Screen is ‘to connect you with clothing and accessories from your favorite films,’ and we’re pretty sure you’ll be seeing it everywhere in the coming years. In our interview with her, she discusses the act of faking it till you make it, how to conquer that nasty word ‘networking,’ and the importance of legitimizing yourself as a woman in business. #GIRLBOSS goals, for real.

about diana
I grew up in Augusta, GA and attended Curtis Baptist High School. At the time, I wasn’t sure if I wanted to go away for college, but ultimately everyone encouraged me to go away for school. Even though I knew that I wanted to go to college, I wasn’t sure if I wanted to leave Augusta to do so. But looking back, I’m extremely happy that I didn’t stay home for that and attended Clemson University instead.

So far, leaving to go off to college was the best decision that I’ve made in my life, for sure. I have met so many great people here! And I really think that the business program at Clemson is underrated; I’ve pretty much set up my career through the connections that I’ve made and the people that I’ve met here. I took courses on start-ups and entrepreneurship, and it was through these class that that I became close to a couple of my business professors and students, so I was able to bounce a lot of my questions off of them. They had a lot of experience with starting their own businesses and then selling them, so they were there to help me in any way possible. The Spiro Board of Entrepreneurship was also really important in trying to set us up with jobs, internships, and meetings with a lot of great connections. Having all of these people supporting me and encouraging me to pursue what I’m doing, even though it’s really hard, has helped me tremendously.

how Saw it on Screen started
It was an idea between me and my dad. One day, we were watching something on TV and he saw a shirt that he really liked – I think it was from the Penguin brand – and we found ourselves trying to find a way to buy it. It was both of our ideas at first! Initially, we wanted to get the exact shirt that the actor or actress wore and then sell it for a mark-up and give part of it to charity and put the rest back into the business. We never really pursued this part of it because it became clear that it was very unreachable for us. So when I started running it, I would focus on finding looks for less because this was much more in reach. Rather than buying a $20,000 jumpsuit or dress, I was able to find similar looks for much lower because that kind of price point isn’t attainable for most!

I always knew that I wanted to go into fashion, but I never knew if I could. That’s why I started Saw It On Screen, as a way to break into the industry. And it’s been pretty popular and received some good press! Right now I’m not able to post as much, because I’m also helping small businesses with their social media accounts. But with Saw It On Screen, I know that this is what I want to be doing and what I want to monetize one day. I’m going to need to make money somewhere else so that I can pay computer coders to help with the site, but I still try to focus one or two days a week on the site. I have two interns and another that’s in the process of turning into an intern, and I’m really thankful to have them. They really help out with Saw It On Screen when I am unable to publish content myself. I put an ad on Indeed.com for fashion and entertainment bloggers, and there were about 25 people that applied. They’re all super sweet, and great writers. I hope that they will be able to shadow me more following graduation and come to events that I’ve been a part of.

the moment she turned an idea into a career
Last year I pitched my idea to Pitch Smackdown at Clemson against 40 other participants with my then-business partner. And we won! Our prize was a trip to Silicon Valley where we were able to meet several successful companies ranging from the start-up phase to those on the Fortune 500 list. Meeting these people, hearing about their journeys, and seeing how successful they are without regrets was really inspiring. I was so nervous, but meeting with them was amazing. I learned how they deal with risk, losses, and the tremendous gains that they have endured as well. One of them was a cop before being an investor, and this proves that you can be anything that you want to be if you work hard for it. It motivated me to want to work for myself, whether with Saw It On Screen or not!

Ultimately, I decided to pursue Saw It On Screen with my then business partner in August of last year, so we’ve been in business for a little over a year. At the time, she was graduating from Clemson and she went on to work elsewhere, but thankfully we’re still great friends! I give a lot of credit to her because I know that my work ethic was inspired by her work ethic, too. I got started Junior year, this is when I started working on it full time after the pitch competition.

the challenges she faces
Convincing people of the idea has been a challenge for me. While getting them to follow has been difficult, having to work for free has been hardest. I guess 95% of start-ups don’t make it past the first years, and I didn’t realize it was so hard until I did it. It’s so time consuming. People tend to think that if you work for yourself that you’ll have greater flexibility, that you’ll be able to do more, but I haven’t really been able to go out with my friends as much. Trying to be more disciplined, especially during my last year in college, has also been really hard. I usually can’t go out on a Friday or Saturday night because I have meetings scheduled or I have to travel the next day. Some of the events that we’ve gone to, like a 48-hour hack-a-thon, can be exhausting, too. Networking through events like this can be really tough. It can be fun and rewarding, but it’s very tough.

networking: how she overcomes that uncomfortable word
I still cringe when I hear that word “networking!” The first time I was at an event, I was so scared. One of our first events for Saw It On Screen was with SCAD Atlanta TV Fest. We were able to hear the cast of Scandal and Jay Alexander speak, and I was scared to talk to them at first! I had to tell myself, “Okay Diana, you have to stop, you’re going to be working with these people one day.” We were able to meet the whole cast for the new show The Catch, too. It was really cool, and they were all so nice. I learned a lot from these people. It was also a wake up experience. You see these actors living glamorous lives, but they work so hard! They work harder than anyone that I’ve ever met. They’ll go to work at 6:00am and sometimes they won’t even get to put their kids to bed at night. So hearing their journey to success was very humbling.

My best advice is to be yourself and try to be confident. It’s really hard. But honestly? Fake it till you make it. That has been something that I have to tell myself constantly. Even last week I hosted an event for publicity for the film Bad Santa 2, and I’ve never hosted before, but I had to act like I have, now they have asked me to promote the James Franco & Bryan Cranston film, ‘Why Him’. Even when I’m throwing an event that I’ve never hosted before, I have to act like I have. It’s so important to throw yourself into it when you’re trying to break into the industry because you’re going to learn so much along the way!

Another one of my favorite quotes is “If you can Google it, don’t ask it.” That’s the best one that I’ve heard, and it’s something that I have to tell myself when I’m meeting these new people.

her long-term and short-term goals
With Saw It On Screen, our short term goal is to have 5 interns so that we can have content coming out consistently. It’s really important to have content coming from your social media handles when you have a small business! Even if I don’t have time to do it myself, I would love for my interns to help with that.

Long term, our plans are to monetize. It’s simple to set your company up to monetize, but not so easy if you’re not a computer programmer, or if you do not have a loyal audience. I’m working with a programmer now, and he’s been super helpful, but when I graduate I want to get affiliations on there to monetize it. Right now, I just want traffic on the website. You can’t focus on the money right away. I’ve heard that you can’t focus on the money for the first five years, but I really hope that it’s shorter than that. It’s been one year, and you have to work hard for no money!

Starting a business isn’t for everyone, and that’s ok. Building your audience is really important, and you can go out and find them!

advice on making it happen
As a student, I had a little more leeway because I had an allowance coming in. Even with student loans, you have that consistent food check coming in so you can work to eat. This can be the smartest time to start a business!

Some of my advice starting it is don’t believe the lies. Lies like “working for yourself gives you your own hours” and “you can travel a lot.” Especially that “you’ll make more money,” because that’s not true. You have to have a grind mind set. Sleep is sometimes secondary (this is the hardest for me).

It’s important to plan your goals and set specific deadlines and dates. That’s something that I never did until my ex-partner showed me “project ownership” forms, and they really changed how I plan now. Right now, I like to make goals like “set up meetings with 5 small businesses,” so that this way even if I set up the meeting, that works. Maybe the next week my goal will be to go to 5 meetings. Never overstate your goals because that can be discouraging.

I also applied to over 100 internships just to get my foot in the door, so I had to work unpaid. I worked with the Clemson Athletic Department so I couldn’t go to football games during my freshman year, which was very humbling. But I definitely don’t regret it and it was a big confidence booster, too. I was also able to get an internship doing the marketing for the movie Deadpool, which was really exciting!

I don’t really feel like I have a handle on it all just yet, but I do try to read a devotional book at least once a day to keep me sane, as well as a marketing or business book on top of that. I’ve read books like Lean In, Girl Boss, and The Trump Card, and they’re all written by great business women that are super encouraging. It’s important to read business books by other women and to learn from them!

For girls getting into a new industry, it’s important to legitimize yourself. Fake it till you make it, but be prepared! If you have a marketing portfolio it will give you that extra push toward the employer you’re pursuing. Network. If you’re in college, use the resources that you have. They can save you a lot of time and money along the way. At Clemson, you can pretty much get your start-up going for free if you utilize all that’s right in front of you. I think a lot of colleges are like that, so look into it! I didn’t look into it until Junior year, but now I’m so glad that I did.

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