At eight years of age, Doswell worked for his father’s commercial and residential janitorial service business. 90 percent of the clients were women’s department stores and the department store owners’ homes.
In 1987, his father left the janitorial business to start Betty Jean Clothing in Pasadena, California. Later, Doswell’s brother decided to pursue a formal education in fashion design, while he opted for business school. However, he had the privilege of gaining his fashion knowledge under the tutelage of his father.
“My dad taught me that the fabric will explain what it wants to be. My strength is understanding fabric. I have spent countless hours in fabric stores all over the country touching and feeling fabric,” he says.
The road to starting his business did not come without its fair share of challenges and heartache. In 1996, the family engaged in a bitter disagreement. Dowell felt the company should switch its focus to designing women’s plus-size clothing. His family wanted to keep the focus on straight sizes.
In a decision that would nearly tear his family apart, Doswell decided to split from the family business and start a clothing line of his own. He created Betty Jean Couture in honor of his late mother Betty Jean Doswell.
In 2008, just a few months after he quit his job to run Betty Jean Couture full-time, the economy goes into the great recession. All the U.S factories he had contract with went off shore to China. The company imploded.
Surviving the down times between 2009 and 2011, regret creeps into his decision to switch careers.
“The reality is tough times like the recession taught me how to be a better businessman. It taught me to plan for the down cycles that will eventually come. Learn how to plan during down times. Planning is much different when you have a consistent paycheck.”
He would probably argue that staying relevant is the bigger challenge.
“The fashion industry has a lot of ups and downs,” says Doswell. “You can be hot for fall, but can you follow it up season after season? In the plus-size market, there is no clear defined leader. My personal challenge is to drive a standard in the plus-size industry.”
Although he holds no regrets, Doswell reflects on his career and now realizes that he could have made different decisions and he wants to pass on what he has learned with those that are looking to enter the fashion industry.
“In hindsight, I should have taken a leave of absence. Understand where you are financially before you take the leap. This business is hard to predict. So having a path back to a nine-to-five is not a bad plan B. Try to have your cake and eat it too,” says Doswell.
“Don’t be afraid. We get comfortable and secure where we are, but we become equally unhappy. Do unto others as you would have them do unto you, and always follow your passion. The fashion industry is a dirty business, but just because they do it, it doesn’t mean you have to. Keep in mind there is far more responsibility when owning and operating your own enterprise, but for the bold and daring it is well worth it,” says Doswell.