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A 15-year career in the fashion industry became the backbone of entrepreneur Vikki Carrel’s subsequent endeavors, the most recent of which is speaking about empowerment, success and confidence to corporate groups across Utah and the nation.
Carrel grew up in Utah, but after meeting her husband while attending the University of Utah, life quickly changed as her husband was in the military. The couple moved to California for 18 months while Carrel’s husband, Jeff, completed some military training, and later moved to Rapid City, S.D., where he was stationed for four years. She opened her first company, a modeling agency and dance studio, with a partner at the age of 23 in Rapid City. Carrel had done some professional modeling in high school, but didn’t have much experience in owning or running a business.
“There wasn’t big money there, but it gave me an opportunity to learn the business side of it, because I’d only modeled before,” she said. “It gave me the opportunity to learn the fashion business.”
After about four years, Carrel sold that business and moved with her husband to Austin, Texas, after he got out of the military. That’s where she co-founded a fashion production company that was met with major success.
“I worked on several shows for [organizations like] GQ magazine and [designers like] Ralph Lauren and Donna Karen. I got great exposure there. We housed well over 100 models,” she said.
After about 15 years, Carrel’s family moved to the East Coast, near Philadelphia. At the time she had a young son and was pregnant with her second son. She decided not to re-enter the fashion world, but instead starting thinking of something else she could do with her career.
“Through the process [of working in the fashion industry], I noticed a lot of insecurities in the top models,” she said. “They had perfect bodies and perfect lives, but still had empowerment issues.”
When her youngest son was a toddler and her oldest son was in school, Carrel started speaking to different groups and organizations about empowerment, finding balance and discovering joy.
“I felt like I was fairly motivating, but I never looked at it as something I was going to do,” she said.
That thinking didn’t last long. While living on the East Coast, Carrel co-founded two companies, Two Balance, Inc. and Mother Daughter America, both of which had the premise of empowering women, teen girls and tween girls. The Mother Daughter America movement became a great success through the Girl Scouts organization along the East Coast, Carrel said.
After her husband retired about four years ago, Carrel’s family decided to move back to Utah.
“When I moved here I initially thought I wanted to bring the Mother Daughter America here because it was so successful back East, but there’s just not funding here through the Girl Scouts or through schools to do assemblies,” she said. “I’ve always spoken about change and been intrigued why people resist it, so I went back to school at the U and got involved in the psych department.”
Carrel chose classes she felt would help her in future speaking engagements, and founded Vikki Carrel & Company. A major facet of her company, called The Empowerment Project, is what she uses support her goal of helping individuals and companies build confidence, feel capable and achieve success. She now travels the country speaking on things like perception, change and conflict in the workplace.
Most of what she speaks on is very current and research based, Carrel said, because she stays involved with psychology research professors.
Carrel doesn’t always use her fashion background when she speaks to organizations and companies, but her time working in the fashion world has been a chief asset.
“Working in the fashion industry has been so beneficial to what I do now,” she said. “It’s such a fast-paced, quick and volatile world. Talk about change. Something always went wrong and we had to be adaptable and think quickly. I’m glad I’m not still doing that at the stage of life I’m in, but I take so much from those 15 years of my life that I’ve been able to apply.”
Carrel is also a published author. She has written three books geared toward empowering people, from tweens to adults. Her most recent book, released this year, is called Puzzle Pieces.
For more information on Carrel’s company, visit www.vikkicarrel.com.