The most valuable tool for me, as a female entrepreneur, without question is my network of friends and mentors. With that network comes an invaluable breadth of varying perspective, advice, and words of wisdom.
“A person who organizes and operates a business or businesses, taking on greater than normal financial risks in order to do”
That is technically the definition of an entrepreneur – which also happens to be synonymous with the word businesswoman. We live in a world of chocked full of independent entrepreneurs. I’m surrounded by female entrepreneurs because they’re the company I like to keep, and also because, well, I live in LA – and this place is teeming with fierce female freelancers. I consider “entrepreneurs” to mean people who have started their own companies, and also people who work independently inside a businesses.
For the past four years I’ve run a boutique jewelry business. I started from nothing – literally. In fact, I started from negative. A rampant electrical fire tore through my home and destroyed everything to my name. So what did I do? I saw that fire as a metaphor to re-invent myself, take a giant risk, and start a jewelry business. And guess what? Even now, I’m still re-inventing myself (as we always are).
I’ve been reflecting a lot lately on what has helped get me to the place where I am now. How am I able to sit here and say, (still shocked) that for the past four years I have made a living for myself as an independent jewelry designer.
Over the course of the past four years, people have reached out to me and asked me how to start their own business, or what advice I could share as they embark on their own journey towards independence. On a macro level, I think wisdom and advice are recycled and can be applied to any subject matter. Sure, the cheesy age old adages might make one cringe a little, but there is truth in them.
Here are a few ideas that have helped me on my own entrepreneurial journey:
DON’T LEAD WITH FEAR
Leading with fear muddies important decisions and creates unnecessary negative energy. Easier said than done I know! Especially if you are dipping into your savings to start your business, or showing your personal work to the world in hopes that people are inspired to buy it. That is not to say that I’m not guilty of the fear factor myself. We’ve all been plagued by a real crippling fear of failure at one point or another. But really, a failure just gets you a little bit closer to success. Try to see it as a setback as just a major opportunity to learn. This takes a deep commitment to your work and a willingness to accept vulnerability.
DON’T SELL OUT
This is huge for me. It’s really easy to get caught up with trends, and when you get caught up with trends in the fashion world, sometimes that means being driven by trends and trends alone. But that’s not where the joy of creating comes from for me. What means more to me is developing and nourishing my relationships with stores, customers, and store owners, while focusing on the craft of my artistry.
I’ve been designing jewelry for four years and I am just starting to branch out into other realms of work, because I’m truly interested in diversifying my skill set. No one told me this when I started, but your work becomes your life. Because you’re the only person steering the ship, you live and breath your work. There isn’t a real separation when you run your own company, so you become accustomed to talking about your challenges, successes, and failures. And inevitably through talking about these things you begin to have ideas for new products or services. Let it happen – diversify organically.
I remember when I got my first big store order from Anthropologie. I couldn’t believe it. They approached me at a trade show and asked for a large quantity of necklaces for online and asked me if I had any production limitations. I said no. Guess what? I had major production limitations, but I had to figure it out because there was no chance I would close a door on an opportunity like this. Say yes. Say yes to meeting new people, say yes to collaborations, say yes to new techniques. It doesn’t hurt as long as your intentions are pure.
Human interaction goes a long way. Meet people in person. If the opportunity to meet for coffee or a meal presents itself, do it. There is something to be said about shaking someone’s hand and making eye contact. Anytime I have the opportunity to visit a store and show them samples, I do. Sometimes, I just show up to a store unannounced with my samples and 9 times out of 10, I will get a new account. Meeting in person gives you the opportunity to connect on an emotional level – and it’s refreshing to step outside of an email and interact in the real world, for both parties invovled.
Demonstrate an interest in personal growth. Understanding your priorities and values are key to running a business – especially with the rise in independent business owners and crafters right now. Define what you value, know what makes you unique, listen to your intuition – and trust that.
BRAVE THE RIDE
It’s really easy to think that there is a prescription for success – that A leads to B, which undoubtedly leads to C. Right? Not so much. The real truth is that you never know until you try. Being an entrepreneur takes risk, a lot of it. I’ve been doing this for four years and I’ve had months of amazing financial success. I’ve also had months where I’ve not sold a thing. I email stores all the time to see if they want to carry my line in their store, sometimes it’s just not the right fit, or the right time. Sometimes they just don’t like it, and that’s fine too. You have to have thick skin and not second guess yourself are a creative person. This goes for business and life. You’re here, aren’t you? You’ve already jumped out of your comfort zone. Don’t take it personally. Being able to accept rejection and enjoy the ride – is all part of being an entrepreneur.
Get to know yourself. Better. And better. And better. As a business owner you really get to know yourself, maybe in ways that you weren’t ready to. Work life balance is necessary to maintaining sanity when you work for yourself. For instance, I learned that I can’t go to a studio and work by myself. I need human interaction and the energy of other creatives. Thank goodness for shared workspaces. Get to know your quirks, preferences and deal breakers so that you can do your best work.
You must lead with confidence but also with humility. Being able to make fun of yourself and not take yourself so seriously is appealing to others – and makes the inevitable tough days, more bearable.
FIND YOUR TRIBE
Being a woman has been such a positive experience for me in owning my own business. I think women lean in towards supporting one another. Surround yourself with strong women that you can learn from, who want to see you grow, who want to network together. Create opportunities to leverage each other’s resources, and root for each other’s success. This will not only benefit you and your tribe, but all of us lady bosses!
I hope these nods of wisdom are helpful to you on your entrepreneurial journey When reflecting upon my career thus far, I realize how important the relationships are that I have built with fellow female entrepreneurs. And how much wisdom we all have. I’d love to know what is the best piece of advice or insight you’ve been given in business (or life). Share your thoughts in the conversation box below.