I was stuck, stuck in my routine of working in nightlife and daydreaming about the life I really wanted. Coat check wasn't easy, in fact, it was hard and emotionally draining, but I could count on making money and so I stayed. Then one night, after a particularly hard day at work, I called a family meeting with my mother and sister and said it was time we took control of our lives.
We realized we were all at the same place and ready to take the risk of starting our own company. As we sat there in our homemade facemasks and pajamas, the lightbulb went off! We were wearing our greatest idea of all, and it was something we all felt very passionate about; empowering women through healthy beauty products. All-natural skin and haircare was something passed down through generations in our family, and we wanted to make it as easy as possible to share DIY beauty with everyone else. Belle Bar was born and shocked us all by turning a profit in a few short months. What started as a company of three is now 12 and counting.
These are the lessons I learned along the way that not only helped us get to where we are now, but continue to take us to the next level.
1. Get Super Comfortable With Failure
I am a recovering perfectionist. Failing used to give me massive anxiety. Failing in front of other people was almost inconceivable. Then I started a business, and now I fail everyday. There is always something that goes wrong, that has to be adjusted; a customer isn't happy, the website isn't working, we ran out of a product, etc. Funny enough not only do you get used to it, but you also start to expect it, and then the feeling of failure loses its power over you. It's never going to be perfect. So what? Do it anyway! And while you are at it, stop with the excuses!! Excuses are the heart of failure. Start with where you are and what you have. There will always be a reason not to start. Get creative about what you do have and break your idea down into smaller pieces until you have a reasonable place to start.
2. Pivot, Pivot, Pivot
Once you get used to the idea that you are going to fail the next thing you have to get used to is pivoting quickly. Don't wallow in mistakes or how you wished things would have happened. There is no point and will only make it worse. View your goal as a destination and just as a GPS reroutes when you take a wrong turn, so should you. Do not get caught up in the feelings of failure and frustration when things go array, just pivot and get back on track.
3. Forget about the business cards
In the very beginning forget about the business cards, the logos, the LLC's, the fancy expensive website. Yes, it makes you “feel" like you have a real business, but in actuality, you do not have a business if you do not have sales. Your focus at the start should be on creating your product to the best of your ability and testing your product for feedback. Make some sales, see if anyone is even interested in what you are trying to sell. So much money is wasted on setting up for a business that may not even be viable or that may have such a dramatic pivot that none of those marketing materials are even usable.
4. Build A Team
When I say build a team I do not necessarily mean only hiring people. What I mean is build your go-to people for everything you are going to need. Find your suppliers online and offline. Pick out your go-to freelancers, hire an intern, find fellow entrepreneurs that you can bounce ideas off of and that can also be a support system for you. Keep your eyes open for a mentor or two. Find those “mentors" that you may never meet in real life and watch their interviews and read their books. Entrepreneurship is hard, you can't do it alone. Build your team.
5. Read, Watch and Listen
There is so much knowledge available than ever before, and much of it is free. There are fellow entrepreneurs literally giving you step by step tutorials on how to build a business on websites to every social platform. You do not have to make every mistake yourself, learn from those who went before you. Read books, blogs, watch interviews and YouTube( Personally love Gary Vaynerchuk and Seth Godin), view tutorials, take skillshare classes and listen to podcasts. You need to be in the habit of continually learning, especially in a time where industries are constantly being disrupted, and the rules of the digital landscape are changing every day, you want to be early to the party, not late.
Find influencers and work with them. When you do not have a lot of money, you can not spend your money like your in the big leagues. Get creative and get what you need by finding out how to give others what they want. You want to leave each situation with the other person feeling good about you and your business. Relationships can save you and grow your business. Collaborate, don't compete. Make new friends.
7. But Don't Keep All Your Eggs In One Basket
Another quote I love says, “Do not let what someone else brings to the table be all you have to eat". Never allow your all revenue to come from one place. That makes you extremely vulnerable. One faulty move and your whole business can collapse. Find new avenues to create revenue streams and test them.
This is the name of the game. When they say, it takes “blood, sweat and tears" that is not an exaggeration. You will lose sleep; you will lose people, you will lose money, you will miss out on events and moments, you will lose your old life. It's called paying your dues, and it is apart of the process. It is not always fun, but I promise you that it is worth it. Once you start tasting success and can really see what you are made of, what you created, that you have taken charge of your own destiny, nothing can match that feeling. I have never respected myself as a person or as a woman more than I do now.
9. Self Care
Burnout is real and it can destroy your motivation and your hard work. You cannot think when you feel overwhelmed, and you will start to lose focus and most likely make a mistake. It is important to take a break; go outside, chill on the couch, do yoga, go have a drink with a friend. Whatever it takes to calm your mind so you can come back with fresh eyes. Great work cannot be created from an anxious, overwhelmed state. You have to practice balance so you can be the best entrepreneur and person you can be.
10. Listen to the Doer's Not The Watchers
Not everyone has your entrepreneurial spirit, your vision or the level of risk tolerance it takes to start your own business, and that's okay. Most of them actually mean well and are trying to protect you. However, when you are starting a business, your confidence has to be guarded with the utmost care. Protect it and guard it from the devil advocates, the realists, the “It hasn't been done like that so it can't be done". Doubt from others can creep into your mind and actually start to corrode your idea and stop your execution and motivation. You have to be able to distinguish between constructive feedback and the projected fear from others. One of the best pieces of advice I heard was, “Do not take advice from those that are not in the arena with you."
I never thought I would be 32 years old and hanging coats for a living, but I also never thought I would be 33 and CEO of my own profitable and growing business. Starting Belle Bar was the hardest things I have ever done, but it has also been the most rewarding.
Women in the workplace have always experienced a certain degree of discrimination from male colleagues, and according to new studies, it appears that it is becoming even more difficult for women to get acclimated to modern day work environments, in wake of the #MeToo Movement.
In a recent study conducted by LeanIn.org, in partnership with SurveyMonkey, 60% of male managers confessed to feeling uncomfortable engaging in social situations with women in and outside of the workplace. This includes interactions such as mentorships, meetings, and basic work activities. This statistic comes as a shocking 32% rise from 2018.
What appears the be the crux of the matter is that men are afraid of being accused of sexual harassment. While it is impossible to discredit this fear as incidents of wrongful accusations have taken place, the extent to which it has burgeoned is unacceptable. The #MeToo movement was never a movement against men, but an empowering opportunity for women to speak up about their experiences as victims of sexual harassment. Not only were women supporting one another in sharing to the public that these incidents do occur, and are often swept under the rug, but offered men insight into behaviors and conversations that are typically deemed unwelcomed and unwarranted.
Restricting interaction with women in the workplace is not a solution, but a mere attempt at deflecting from the core issue. Resorting to isolation and exclusion relays the message that if men can't treat women how they want, then they rather not deal with them at all. Educating both men and women on what behaviors are unacceptable while also creating a work environment where men and women are held accountable for their actions would be the ideal scenario. However, the impact of denying women opportunities of mentorship and productive one-on-one meetings hinders growth within their careers and professional networks.
Women, particularly women of color, have always had far fewer opportunities for mentorship which makes it impossible to achieve growth within their careers without them. If women are given limited opportunities to network in and outside of a work environment, then men must limit those opportunities amongst each other, as well. At the most basic level, men should be approaching female colleagues as they would approach their male colleagues. Striving to achieve gender equality within the workplace is essential towards creating a safer environment.
While restricted communication and interaction may diminish the possibility of men being wrongfully accused of sexual harassment, it creates a hostile
environment that perpetuates women-shaming and victim-blaming. Creating distance between men and women only prompts women to believe that male colleagues who avoid them will look away from or entirely discredit sexual harassment they experience from other men in the workplace. This creates an unsafe working environment for both parties where the problem at hand is not solved, but overlooked.
According to LeanIn's study, only 85% of women said they feel safe on the job, a 5% drop from 2018. In the report, Jillesa Gebhardt wrote, "Media coverage that is intended to hold aggressors accountable also seems to create a sense of threat, and people don't seem to feel like aggressors are held accountable." Unfortunately, only 16% of workers believed that harassers holding high positions are held accountable for their actions which inevitably puts victims in difficult, and quite possibly dangerous, situations. 50% of workers also believe that there are more repercussions for the victims than harassers when speaking up.
In a research poll conducted by Edison Research in 2018, 30% of women agreed that their employers did not handle harassment situations properly while 53% percent of men agreed that they did. Often times, male harassers hold a significant amount of power within their careers that gives them a sense of security and freedom to go forward with sexual misconduct. This can be seen in cases such as that of Harvey Weinstein, Bill Cosby and R. Kelly. Men in power seemingly have little to no fear that they will face punishment for their actions.
Source-Alex Brandon, AP
Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook executive and founder of LeanIn.org., believes that in order for there to be positive changes within work environments, more women should be in higher positions. In an interview with CNBC's Julia Boorstin, Sandberg stated, "you know where the least sexual harassment is? Organizations that have more women in senior leadership roles. And so, we need to mentor women, we need to sponsor women, we need to have one-on-one conversations with them that get them promoted." Fortunately, the number of women in leadership positions are slowly increasing which means the prospect of gender equality and safer work environments are looking up.
Despite these concerning statistics, Sandberg does not believe that movements such as the Times Up and Me Too movements, have been responsible for the hardship women have been experiencing in the workplace. "I don't believe they've had negative implications. I believe they're overwhelmingly positive. Because half of women have been sexually harassed. But the thing is it is not enough. It is really important not to harass anyone. But that's pretty basic. We also need to not be ignored," she stated. While men may be feeling uncomfortable, putting an unrealistic amount of distance between themselves and female coworkers is more harmful to all parties than it is beneficial. Men cannot avoid working with women and vice versa. Creating such a hostile environment is also detrimental to any business as productivity and communication will significantly decrease.
The fear or being wrongfully accused of sexual harassment is a legitimate fear that deserves recognition and understanding. However, restricting interactions with women in the workplace is not a sensible solution as it can have negatively impact a woman's career. Companies are in need of proper training and resources to help both men and women understand what is appropriate workplace behavior. Refraining from physical interactions, commenting on physical appearance, making lewd or sexist jokes and inquiring about personal information are also beneficial steps towards respecting your colleagues' personal space. There is still much work to be done in order to create safe work environments, but with more and more women speaking up and taking on higher positions, women can feel safer and hopefully have less contributions to make to the #MeToo movement.