Danielle Becker, founder of Lefty’s Right Mind, was always driven to succeed in the fashion world. She pushed herself to her limits everywhere she worked. That’s not to say that she didn’t encounter resistance. She’s been fired twice.
From a young age, Danielle felt drawn to creating art. Well, it was between that and athletics. “I always excelled at two things: art and gym. I wasn’t going to be a professional athlete because I didn’t have the mental strength, so I chose to focus on art.”
She was interested in combining mediums in her artwork, particularly the intersection of the digital and hand-painted. She started her college career at Syracuse University as a surface-pattern design major. Surface-pattern designers create patterns that appear on everything from dress fabric to high-end wallpaper in luxury highrises.
Stifled by the limitations of patterns, Danielle wanted to do more (this is a running theme). Ultimately, she graduated with a degree in graphic design which allowed her more creative freedom. The plan was to bring her art to the fashion industry, whether in marketing or as a designer. When Danielle felt restrained working for others, she did something about it. She turned the discontent into a creative agency that frees artists to do their best work.
A Dreamer Meets Corporate America
Danielle describes herself as an old soul. She is drawn to hand calligraphy, beading created by hand, and needlepoint. “People look at me and think I’m crazy but gosh, that level of detail, the quality and unique characteristic of each stitch, now that’s beauty. We live in a world of instant gratification and short attention spans.” Danielle posits that it’s all in the details. In the world of fast fashion, however, it’s more about speed than quality.
Danielle’s first job out of college was at American retailer, Aeropostale. Her days mostly entailed designing the structure of tank tops and shirts. Itching to do something more creative, she asked the graphics department if they would hire her. They were game and she switched departments, later working her way up the corporate ladder for companies like Hanes and Champion.
It didn’t always go smoothly. Danielle either resigned or was laid off. “I wanted more from the positions I held. I’m a dreamer and the company I was at, well, I’ll respectfully say they were not. I’m driven by passion so when the light inside me dims, you can read it all over my face. When I’m over something, you know.”
Although Danielle had to answer to others in her day-job, she spent her nights and weekends building up a private client roster. She did freelance design work of all stripes, and she could let her creative energy fly for her clients without fearing repercussions from higher-ups.
From Side Hustle to Main Hustle
Danielle showcased her private work on Instagram and word traveled quickly. Soon, people inundated her with requests that varied widely. A friend who owns several large restaurants in NYC, for example, asked if Danielle could paint a restaurant’s chalkboard menu: “I remember that I took a marker from my desk drawer, walked into my bathroom, drew on my medicine cabinet mirror, went back to my desk and I typed, ‘Yes, yes I can.’”
Another friend wanted to do something special for her bridesmaids. She asked if Danielle would paint denim jackets for the wedding. Rather than pick something out of a catalog, the bride could personalize the gifting experience for the people closest to her. Every time Danielle delivered one of these projects, she would share it on social media to universal acclaim.
An impromptu lunch with a third friend offered Danielle yet another challenge. The friend asked if Danielle would be willing to paint her Goyard purse. Like all of Danielle’s other endeavors, the margin for error was slim to none. The average price for a Goyard is around $2,000.
“If I wasn’t willing to take risks, then I wouldn’t be much of an entrepreneur,” Danielle says. “I simply will not allow myself to fail. If I do – like ruining a Goyard for example (this has yet to happen!) – I promise to do everything in my power to make it right, including paying for a new one. You have to be willing to take full responsibility. I’m willing to bet on myself. Simply put, that’s the joy of it all. You never know for sure what’s coming your way. There are surprises every single day but that thrill runs through my blood.”
Danielle was busy working as an art director at Macy’s when her role model and boss left. She decided that it was time to do the next right thing. “The stars were aligning and my intuition led me to take a leap of faith and go into business for myself full-time. I loved Macy’s, but you have to take a leap of faith and jump off the cliff.”
Like Mother, Like Daughter
Danielle comes from a long line of entrepreneurs. Her mother, Bobby, a design and event coordinator, is one of her biggest role models, and Danielle didn’t want to run a business without her. Together, they launched dBb Group, a creative atelier. Lefty’s Right Mind is a branch of this umbrella group.
“Growing up, I watched my mom run her own business,” Danielle says. “I loved helping her but what was also amazing was that I knew that she was always around for me if I needed. As an adolescent, I was naive in understanding how much work it was to run a business and raise kids at the same time.”
Danielle and Bobby continued to use Instagram to showcase Danielle’s wares, but they needed a website. “I attempted to teach myself code using the book Coding for Dummies. After realizing this was an impossible hobby, I pivoted to Squarespace where it allowed me to focus on my strengths while it coded the backend.”
With her mom by her side, Danielle was off to the races. Lefty’s Right Mind works with brand partners, agencies, and private clients. “We’re a bespoke creative studio. We no longer offer traditional graphic design services although we still rely on digital skills. We want to elevate brands with a unique bespoke experience.” Danielle still loves the thrill of working with private clients, it’s just that now instead of a friend at lunch, it’s Lil’ Jon, the rap impresario.
Clients found Lefty’s Right Mind through friends and the power of social media. They were struck by Danielle’s aesthetic, which was unlike anything that you could buy in stores. And there’s a reason for that. In Danielle’s irreverent world, few rules exist: Everything is a canvas from Goyard purses to denim jackets and everything in between. Danielle took that extraordinary vision to events to illustrate it live and in-person.
“At my first event with Neiman Marcus, I brought all of my paint colors and offered splatter painting, five typefaces at a minimum and icons galore. Not to mention I was a team of one at the time. It was a complete mess! Now, we create a curated game plan for each event, to assure we can manage attendees’ design choices and the turnaround time of each piece. Live events come with a lot of balls in the air.”
Building a Team Without Pretensions
Since Danielle could build her team from scratch, she also wanted to create the work environment she wished she had experienced at past jobs. Rather than hire people who agreed with her on everything, she hired those who would give her feedback. “One thing I will always value in my professional life (and personal life as well, to be honest) is disagreement. I want people to push back against my thoughts and opinions, to have differing points of view, because that is where learning and growth happens.”
Many of Danielle’s initial hires came through Indeed. She would put up posts looking for remote painters with availability to attend on-site events. Potential artists would show interest via email and if the response was mutual, Danielle would snail-mail them a project. They would then photograph the assignment for Danielle’s approval. “If I saw potential, I hired them.”
But Danielle had one response that stood out. Ashley, an artist, answered Danielle’s post with a thoughtful and memorable response. “Ashley’s email blew me away. It was so professional. I could instantly tell that she was special. So I sent her a painting project and she nails it. Then I invited her to a Neiman Marcus event and she nails it again. I’ve officially fallen in love.”
Danielle was not in a position to hire an employee full-time, but Ashley couldn’t accept a freelance position. Danielle had to make a move, and fast. “I said, ‘We need to figure out how to hire a full-time employee.’ We had zero clue how to go about the onboarding, but I was sure as hell not losing her. Ashley is now coming up on her third anniversary.”
Danielle believes in providing her employees with room to grow. She saw too much micromanagement in her career and gives employees the freedom to solve creative problems alone. “I give them the instructions and see what they do with it. I believe creative skills are innate. You can refine execution, but the skills come from within. I aim to lead with empathy, compassion, and trust. I want to inspire my team to take chances and shoot for the moon.”
As if managing Lefty’s Right Mind wasn’t enough, Danielle does it all while parenting her two daughters, Mila and Demi. She hopes that her hard work will inspire her children to chase their dreams too. “Don’t run from adversity,” Danielle says. “Face it head-on. Moments like these will show you what you’re really made of. It’s the journey, not the destination that will shape you into who you’re destined to be.”
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