Hollywood actress and author Mirtha Michelle spoke with SWAAY this week, to discuss the launch of her new book "Letters, To Women Like Me." Mirtha's life in Hollywood has earned her a roster of figures for her books as she has also built up a significant circle of influence, including close friends like Selena Gomez and Zendaya. This third book, follows two very successful love poem compilations that have earned her considerable praise and respect amongst other contemporary poets. Below she discusses love, life, loss and how poetry has pervaded her entire life.
1. What drew you to write poetry?
Poetry has been a natural passion of mine since I was a child. It's part of my life, like a sport is to an athlete.
2. What are some of your childhood memories that inspire your writing?
Love is always a muse but my first inspirations came from missing my native country of Dominican Republic. I was born by the ocean, so my first works always had hints of the ocean.
3. Which of your current life moments keep inspiring your poetry?
Love, life and loss. Maybe, not the painful immigrant story but more like the loss of people in my life.
I am woman who believes and walks in love; a woman who continues to hope for a better future for myself and my family; a woman who dresses in strength and gets up after any failure.
4. Your new book is titled "Letters to Women Like Me" - How would you describe the woman "like you"? Who is the woman you are addressing?
I am a woman who turned a negative experience into a positive. I am woman who believes and walks in love; a woman who continues to hope for a better future for myself and my family; a woman who dresses in strength and gets up after any failure. I think there are many women who are like me, but sometimes need reminding. This book can serve as a reminder. It's a very relatable book.
5. What is your biggest goal with this new book? What is the overall message behind the Letters, to women like me?
My biggest goal with the book aside from empowering and uniting women is to provoke anyone who reads it to understand themselves. We take so much time getting to know other people that we don't always take the time to build a relationship with ourselves. In this book I share many questions that led me to get to know myself better. The moment I built a strong sense of self I was able to confidently pursue my dreams and happiness.
6. What has been your biggest career challenge thus far? How did you overcome it?
I think I've encountered many challenges but I've learned that my mind will always be the biggest challenge. Overcoming pessimistic thoughts and replacing them with positive thoughts of myself has made a huge difference; and that takes work.
7. As a woman in Hollywood, how do you approach personal growth and self-development to always stay confident in your own skin?
I've never been afraid of making mistakes. I can't live passionately and expect not to make mistakes. I believe mistakes always teach me valuable lessons which help my growth. But overall you have to program your mind to think positive thoughts. That helps your confidence at all times.
8. What is the process of self-publishing? What's the advantage of being self-published vs. going through a publisher?
The advantage is the control you have and always owning the rights to your work. The disadvantage is the amount of work that goes in to a project. Being my own publisher I have to rely on free-lancers, word of mouth and my own marketing efforts.
9. What has been your most efficient strategy to market your books and build up such a loyal readership?
I'd say social media has been an essential help. I think it helps the word of mouth efforts because people can easily check your work out by clicking on a hashtag.
10. What are your top 3 advice pieces for the young women looking up to you and hoping to rise to the spotlight one day?
Firstly, I'd say to learn yourself and place yourself first. Especially when you're young, because so many times young people dedicate so much time to a significant other that their identity gets lost. Secondly, don't share your aspirations with everyone. Not everyone will be supportive of your dreams, listening to other peoples' opinions can cause confusion and lack of confidence.
Thirdly, be assertive and have genuine conviction. In a world in which people lack authenticity, stand up for the things you believe in and be proud of who you are, where you come from, and where you want to go.
Listen to the full interview with Mirtha on Entrepreneurs En Vogue Podcast.
Pivot: the word every entrepreneur dreads. When a business owner thinks of the word pivot it brings immediate anxiety and stress. Even before we made the decision to pivot, whenever an entrepreneur would tell me that they had "pivoted" I would congratulate them externally but then begin to judge. I would feel, obviously, bad for them because in my mind I viewed it as a failure.
Why does one pivot? One pivots because either what they are doing is not working at all or simply not growing fast enough to reach the next stage in the life cycle of business. Many times, entrepreneurs don't pivot fast enough because they're so in love with their original idea that they can't see the forest from the trees. I get it. It's your baby, your dream, your company. The market should want it. Right? Customers should buy it. Right? You should experience explosive growth. Right? Yes and no. Yes, if your timing is right and all your stars are aligned. No, if you're fighting against the stream wanting the market to listen to you when you are not listening to the market. You know that children's song, row row row your boat gently down the stream? That's a metaphor on life. You want your business to go with what the market is telling you and not against it. Row your boat gently down the market stream and you'll get there much faster.
Before I get into our pivot, it's important to explain how we got there and how our journey began. I had a long career on Wall Street, but I always longed for my own business. I just wasn't sure what that was going to look like. One night over drinks my best friend Leslie and I were discussing the ridiculous amounts of money we were spending on our hair extensions. When I mean ridiculous, I am talking either pay your rent or get your hair did ridiculous. I always say we were so skinny back in those days because we were more likely to spend money on hair than food! But then the lightbulb went off. That's how Lux Beauty Club was born.
We thought, "We're smart, we can figure this out." We started sourcing our hair from various suppliers in China until we found a consistent one, and then we were off. We started selling it to our friends and salons around the city, which then grew to a full-blown side hustle. We had people coming at all hours of the night to our apartment for hair emergencies. I think our landlord must have thought we were selling drugs! Thankfully he was kind enough to simply leave us alone. A few months later we put up a website and we continued growing organically at a steady pace, and once we got on Amazon our sales doubled. We were rocking and rolling until two very significant things happened. Well, three really. Competition got stronger with every influencer "owning" their brand of extensions, Amazon allowing the Chinese to flood their marketplace and most importantly, our consistent quality suppliers started to cut corners and dilute the product. We had been watching a competitor raise millions from venture capitalist firms and, of course, the company was run by three dudes selling weaves to black women. But they, too, started to have major problems with their sources from China. They were getting crushed by terrible reviews, at that moment I knew we had to make a change. It took us months to find a supplier elsewhere that believed in us and would want to do business with us. And, most importantly, still allow us to be competitive. We knew it was imperative we got the source: India.
Now, as all this was happening, I was also spending the majority of my time fundraising for the company. The few investors that came on initially got it immediately, but for the rest it was like banging my head against the wall to get these mostly white VC men to understand the market opportunity. Even, most "female-focused" VCs were a challenge for us. We managed to survive with our angel investors and for them I am eternally grateful.
Once we switched our entire supply chain to India, the quality was a game changer. Although not perfect, we were lucky that we were still small and able to make that change early on. The guys that raised millions, not sure how they would manage. We did have to increase our prices a bit, but we didn't think that would matter. But in the end, it really did. We found that although the customer was getting the best quality for a little bit more, they didn't care. They still wanted the cheap stuff. Oh, and Amazon? Our sales were dropping even there since they were offering hair extensions for $14 dollars. We couldn't compete with that. The signs kept on coming and coming. Our basket at checkout were over 250 dollars, but we didn't have the heavy customer acquisition dollars to fight the fight. Our Indian supplier was incredible, but you have to remember, human hair is still a human, living thing. No matter how great your quality control, there is always going to be problems.
At this point, my business partner Leslie and I had our come-to-Jesus moment one afternoon. After listing the pros and cons of our business and the constant issues, we knew it was time to change. It was time to SWAAY the narrative.
We had both been wearing hair extensions for years, but because of thinning hair we had recently started using holistic products to help our own hair grow thicker, taking a break from the extensions. We had also both been experimenting with CBD oil for its various benefits, and we had hooked our families on it as well. That's when we had our second a-ha moment. By tackling the issue at the root (ahem) of the problem by taking a holistic approach to hair and beauty. It was a winning combination. I mean, beauty comes from within after all so why not package it that way! Fueling the inside not only benefits your inner self, but it also improves the outer byproduct (hair, skin and nails). It is life changing.
Leslie is a registered nurse so she set out formulating our blends with scientists to ensure we had the perfect elements, vitamins and levels for dosage. We were making truly organic 100% CBD infused products for women by women. It was like a light switch had turned on and we could see clearly. Since the "pivot" we have experienced explosive growth through distributors, salons and our very own customer base. We found she was as loyal as they come. Because after all, who doesn't love CBD? The benefits are tremendous, and we use our products every day. I find solace in knowing our offering is so well-rounded now; the pivot was worth it. We are now rowing gently down the stream and not against the current. It's a product that has a very low return rate since there are zero issues on color, quality, or anything of that sort. But most importantly, I can sleep now for a number of reasons. It has been much easier to fund investors that understand our space and want to invest. Wholesale orders have been growing everyday via our network and we are even in talks for licensing deals. But our Sleeping Beauty product has also helped my mood and sleep as well. Shameful plug.
My journey was a necessary one, and though it has been littered with disappointing ups and downs, we wouldn't change it for the world. Why? Because we learned so much on how to build a CPG company that now just happens to sell CBD products. Without that knowledge, we wouldn't have been able to move so quickly. It takes people years to create packaging, formulas, strategy. We did what couldn't be done in 6 months. Experts told us it would take 36 months and be very costly, we knew that was all bullshit. We had the team, the knowledge and now the perfect product. No, has always fueled us but the yesses feel pretty good now.
So, I say to all those out there, if you feel a pivot coming on embrace it; go full steam ahead, jump fully in and listen, fully pay attention. After all you are the one standing in the way of your success.