Our dreams will remain dreams if we don’t turn them into a reality. Natalie Konopka, the owner of the clothing store Darling Authority, is an example of chasing after what you want in life, regardless of how much it scares you. The 21-year old entrepreneur recently graduated from Bradley University and didn’t waste a second in pursuing her dreams. VALLEY spoke with Konopka and learned all about how an idea can become a reality.
How did the idea of Darling Authority first come about? What inspired you to take the leap to become a small business owner?
Konopka: “It definitely wasn’t something that was planned out, which is funny. I was on a road trip with one of my friends and she was talking about how one of her friends started a business out of her apartment. I just thought that was so cool. On the drive back I kept thinking, ‘How do I do that?’”
“I also grew up in an entrepreneurial household. My parents owned businesses and that’s just what I grew up around. I’ve always wanted to start a clothing store. Honestly, I just got the idea, I liked it, and I ran with it. That’s just always kind of how I run my life. I like the thought of something and I just decide to do it.”
What has been the most unexpected part of owning a small business?
Konopka: “As I mentioned, my parents owned a small business when I was growing up so I knew the amount of hard work it took. It’s not just selling cute clothes. You have to be an expert in marketing, you have to do social media and email marketing. You have to do taxes and financial information and you have to get business legal requirements. People think owning a business is really easy when in reality, it takes a lot of hard work and it takes a lot of grit.”
What has been the most rewarding aspect?
Konopka: “Interacting with my customers! I love seeing people out and about in my clothing. I love getting pictures and comments and messages about people loving my brand and people supporting me. I think that’s definitely the most rewarding because you’ve put so much time, effort, and love into something. So, seeing that people really resonate with it and really support the brand is so awesome. I seriously do a little happy dance every time I get a comment, an email, a message, or DM- anything that’s really positive!”
What is a typical day for you since starting Darling Authority?
Konopka: “A typical day for me is hard because Darling Authority isn’t the only thing I do and it never has been. I just graduated from college but when I was a student, I would go to my internship in the morning. I would go to classes in the afternoon. Then I had club meetings since I was president of two clubs. I would really just work on Darling Authority in my free time, which obviously there wasn’t a ton of, but at night or during the day if I had an hour between classes. On the weekends, we would do pop up shops (during pre-COVID life). We would go to sororities, in the student center or around Peoria, Illinois.”
“Now, I just moved to Orlando, Florida to start my big-girl job. I’m working there from about 7 am-7 pm. Then, I work on Darling Authority in the evenings and then really heavy on the weekends.”
In your bio on your website, you mention that you named your company ‘Darling Authority’ because you want all girls to feel like they have the authority to have it all. Can you elaborate more on this mission and why you think it’s so important for women to be their own boss of their life?
Konopka: “I get this question a lot like, ‘Where did you get that name?’ When I was 18, just a freshman in college, I moved out to Sydney, Australia. Traveling has always been a passion of mine. I moved out there to do an internship with a large pharmaceutical company. It was just a really impactful experience for me- being on my own, being a foreign country. I didn’t know anyone. I didn’t go there with anyone. I literally packed my bags one day and went to Sydney, Australia. I made a lot of female friends who really taught me the value of being empowered and being my own person. The fact that if I could move literally across the world and survive, I could do anything. That’s where ‘darling’ came from because I lived in Darling Harbor in Sydney.”
“Authority came from wanting other girls to feel that same empowerment. I came from a really small town where you had a really traditional path in life. You went to school, you maybe went to college, and if you did, you came back. You had a family. That’s just kind of how it went. We [my family] weren’t from that town, we moved there and immediately weren’t really accepted. People thought we were crazy because we were well-traveled and we wanted more out of life. I was called irrational, irresponsible, crazy, stupid. You name it, my classmates called me it. I wanted to go to school out-of-state, I wanted to travel, and I wanted to get out of Sleepy Eye [Minnesota]. I think it’s important for every woman to understand that it’s not crazy or irrational to do those types of things. You can put your mind to anything.”
How has your life changed since starting Darling Authority?
Konopka: “Being a business owner takes a lot out of you. You have a lot of hats to wear. It’s been so awesome, especially recently with all the support from Tik Tok and growing our Instagram. I just never imagined I would be reaching so many girls and impacting so many lives. It’s really just empowered me even more to empower others. It’s been a crazy ride.”
Follow @darlingauthority on Instagram and TikTok to learn more about Natalie’s story and to buy some cute new summer outfits.