4min readBusiness 07 July 2019
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.
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Women have come a long way in redefining beauty to be more inclusive of different body types, skin colors and hair styles, but society's beauty standards still remain as high as we have always known them to be. In the workplace, professionalism is directly linked to the appearance of both men and women, but for women, the expectations and requirements needed to fit the part are far stricter. Unlike men, there exists a direct correlation between beauty and respect that women are forced to acknowledge, and in turn comply with, in order to succeed.
Before stepping foot into the workforce, women who choose to opt out of conventional beauty and grooming regiments are immediately at a disadvantage. A recent Forbes article analyzing the attractiveness bias at work cited a comprehensive academic review for its study on the benefits attractive adults receive in the labor market. A summary of the review stated, "'Physically attractive individuals are more likely to be interviewed for jobs and hired, they are more likely to advance rapidly in their careers through frequent promotions, and they earn higher wages than unattractive individuals.'" With attractiveness and success so tightly woven together, women often find themselves adhering to beauty standards they don't agree with in order to secure their careers.
Complying with modern beauty standards may be what gets your foot in the door in the corporate world, but once you're in, you are expected to maintain your appearance or risk being perceived as unprofessional. While it may not seem like a big deal, this double standard has become a hurdle for businesswomen who are forced to fit this mold in order to earn respect that men receive regardless of their grooming habits. Liz Elting, Founder and CEO of the Elizabeth Elting Foundation, is all too familiar with conforming to the beauty culture in order to command respect, and has fought throughout the course of her entrepreneurial journey to override this gender bias.
As an internationally-recognized women's advocate, Elting has made it her mission to help women succeed on their own, but she admits that little progress can be made until women reclaim their power and change the narrative surrounding beauty and success. In 2016, sociologists Jaclyn Wong and Andrew Penner conducted a study on the positive association between physical attractiveness and income. Their results concluded that "attractive individuals earn roughly 20 percent more than people of average attractiveness," not including controlling for grooming. The data also proves that grooming accounts entirely for the attractiveness premium for women as opposed to only half for men. With empirical proof that financial success in directly linked to women's' appearance, Elting's desire to have women regain control and put an end to beauty standards in the workplace is necessary now more than ever.
Although the concepts of beauty and attractiveness are subjective, the consensus as to what is deemed beautiful, for women, is heavily dependent upon how much effort she makes towards looking her best. According to Elting, men do not need to strive to maintain their appearance in order to earn respect like women do, because while we appreciate a sharp-dressed man in an Armani suit who exudes power and influence, that same man can show up to at a casual office in a t-shirt and jeans and still be perceived in the same light, whereas women will not. "Men don't have to demonstrate that they're allowed to be in public the way women do. It's a running joke; show up to work without makeup, and everyone asks if you're sick or have insomnia," says Elting. The pressure to look our best in order to be treated better has also seeped into other areas of women's lives in which we sometimes feel pressured to make ourselves up in situations where it isn't required such as running out to the supermarket.
So, how do women begin the process of overriding this bias? Based on personal experience, Elting believes that women must step up and be forceful. With sexism so rampant in workplace, respect for women is sometimes hard to come across and even harder to earn. "I was frequently assumed to be my co-founder's secretary or assistant instead of the person who owned the other half of the company. And even in business meetings where everyone knew that, I would still be asked to be the one to take notes or get coffee," she recalls. In effort to change this dynamic, Elting was left to claim her authority through self-assertion and powering over her peers when her contributions were being ignored. What she was then faced with was the alternate stereotype of the bitchy executive. She admits that teetering between the caregiver role or the bitch boss on a power trip is frustrating and offensive that these are the two options businesswomen are left with.
Despite the challenges that come with standing your ground, women need to reclaim their power for themselves and each other. "I decided early on that I wanted to focus on being respected rather than being liked. As a boss, as a CEO, and in my personal life, I stuck my feet in the ground, said what I wanted to say, and demanded what I needed – to hell with what people think," said Elting. In order for women to opt out of ridiculous beauty standards, we have to own all the negative responses that come with it and let it make us stronger– and we don't have to do it alone. For men who support our fight, much can be achieved by pushing back and policing themselves and each other when women are being disrespected. It isn't about chivalry, but respecting women's right to advocate for ourselves and take up space.
For Elting, her hope is to see makeup and grooming standards become an optional choice each individual makes rather than a rule imposed on us as a form of control. While she states she would never tell anyone to stop wearing makeup or dressing in a way that makes them feel confident, the slumping shoulders of a woman resigned to being belittled looks far worse than going without under-eye concealer. Her advice to women is, "If you want to navigate beauty culture as an entrepreneur, the best thing you can be is strong in the face of it. It's exactly the thing they don't want you to do. That means not being afraid to be a bossy, bitchy, abrasive, difficult woman – because that's what a leader is."
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