When Lisa Sun was just 22 years old and starting out in her career, her boss at global management consulting firm McKinsey & Company told her that she lacked gravitas. “When I asked her how to get confidence, she said, ‘go get a new dress, big jewelry and great shoes,’” Sun said. So, Sun went out to purchase a new outfit and embraced the larger message. “Feedback is a gift; your best coach is the one who cares enough to tell you,” she said.
Sun continued on at McKinsey & Company, rising in the ranks and traveling around the world to meet with luxury clients—some 200 days a year, for 11 years. Then, she took a year off and started her own company, appropriately named Project Gravitas, to catalyze confidence in women through intelligent fashion. She designs smartly tailored outfits that blend luxury fabrics with slimming technology to empower women of all sizes to feel confident and project their power from the inside out. Her collection is available online and in Lord and Taylor stores in New York and Washington, D.C. (Impressively, Sun unwaveringly convinced Lord and Taylor to group all sizes of her collection together, rather than adapting the standard practice of displaying them in size-specific sections, in an effort to promote all-inclusive fashion.)
Today, Sun continues to travel around the globe, about three to four times a month, to grow her fashion line. She does so with gravitas—along with an arsenal of business travel hacks that she has learned along the years. Here are her best tips for putting the best foot forward when traveling for business.
Never check a bag
Sun is a big advocate of the idea that “every outfit has 30 different ways you can wear it.” In fact, she has a “30 ways to wear it” section on her website, in which she partners with makers of shoes, handbags and other accessories to customize certain styles and show customers the array of options they have with various staple pieces. As a result of this belief, she rarely checks a bag when traveling and stores just a few staples and some fun accessories in a carry-on. “I get a really great MVP, like a nice black dress, and then plan fun accessories and jackets around it,” Sun said. By packing just a dress, two jackets, a pair of pants and two tops, she said she can easily pull five days of outfits out of a carry-on. She typically brings along one nice pair of shoes, and wears flats to run through the airport in.
Leave a pair of sneakers and workout clothes in another city
Sun loves to work out when she travels, but dislikes lugging her gear from one destination to the next. Luckily, she finds herself often visiting the same places. At one point, she was traveling frequently to Dallas, and left a little duffle bag in storage at the same hotel at which she always stayed. She also left a duffle bag with another set of workout gear in her factory in China. “I have several sets of workout clothes all over the world,” Sun said. “It just makes it easier.”
There are some essentials that you should never forget when traveling. Namely, your toothbrush, a good hair brush and your power cords. To eliminate the risk of being left without them, Sun doubles up on toiletry kits and power cords, stashing the extras in her luggage when she’s back home. “This way, I never have to worry about forgetting anything,” she said.
When traveling often, it’s inevitable that there will be some setbacks, like the unexpected flight delay or traffic that prohibits you from making it to the airport in time. To help on this front, Sun stores every single airline phone number, with her frequent flier number stored below it in the contact details, as well as the number of every hotel at which she stays. That way, when she gets an alert that her flight is delayed, she can be one of the first passengers to call an airline to reroute herself.
Plan one thing fun for yourself on each trip
It’s both satisfying and healthy to plan one fun thing for you on each business trip, Sun explained. “If you’re visiting a place for at least two to three days, make it a point to do something you love in the city,” Sun said. This could mean visiting a favorite department store in another country or taking an early-morning run as you explore a new city. (Of course, bonus points if you leave your workout gear in storage at your hotel for your next trip back.)