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"Pay Your Dues": Business Advice From Women Who've Done It

Career

Congrats! You made it across that stage, diploma in hand and you're ready to tackle the world. Or are you? Graduating from college is not only the end of an era, but your first experience diving into an adult world that's unfamiliar and full of unchartered territory.


The good news is that everyone you know and admire has been in your shoes before - and they've had to navigate their career path and make tough decisions, just like you're facing now. To help you celebrate the next chapter of your life, successful entrepreneurs share their smart, gutsy advice for recent graduates. Let these badass female businesswomen inspire you to not only go for the gold, but to reach it as well.

Blogging is the new resume.

Catherine Tan, founder and chief strategy officer for Notey.com, a platform that curates the world's top blogs by topics and locations, says the difference between getting an email back and hearing silence might be your writing. In today's age, where you can apply for a job with a swift tap on the screen or click of a button, a LinkedIn profile and an internship or two are not going to make your application stand out. One way to add depth and round out your profile is to blog! Not only is a blog a validation of your online prowess, it's a place where you can share your perspectives and passions, show your creativity and style, and give potential employers a window into the way you work, how you process information and solve problems. Blogging is the new resume," she says.

Don't worry if you don't have your s*** together yet.

You've got your diploma - but do you know what you're doing? If not, don't sweat it, says Erin Motz, the co-founder of Bad Yogi, a counter-culture lifestyle and yoga brand. “Forget academia for a moment and follow your curiosity. What piques your interest? Where does your mind wander when you sit in silence? What have you always wanted to try? The path toward ultimate fulfillment and satisfaction with your work starts with following an inkling or a whisper," she says. “For anyone who doesn't feel like they were born to do one specific thing, finding your 'passion' can be daunting because we feel broken if we haven't discovered it yet. The saying goes: 'the journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step,' so consider following curiosity to be the first step. Then relax and have fun in the process."

Remember the dream job doesn't exist.

We'd all love to sail around the world, sipping on our favorite cocktail and spending copious amounts of money. But even if that was our job, we'd still find something we didn't like about it. That's why Kate Szirmay, the CEO of Jaymark Jewelers and the founder of Kate Szirmay, The Diamond Concierge says to let go of the notion that a 'dream job' exists. “If you pick an industry you love and pay your dues, you will be able to take everything you love and leave most of what you don't behind to create your dream job in the future. It takes time and hard work but it is totally worth it when you get to be your own boss and you love what you do," she says.

Do what you like - and be persistent.

Seems simple enough, right? But too many people are lured into careers they don't enjoy because they worry about making ends meet, paying student loans or having unrealistic goals for their career. But for Anna Shi, CEO and founder of Ever-Pretty, an online destination for affordable, high-quality dresses, doing what she loved and working hard to make it her reality were the keys to success and happiness. “I knew nothing about the fashion industry when I started my company but I loved clothing and I was determined to work with them. And be persistent! Life is hard, work will be hard and frustrating and make you angry at times. You need to persist through the tough times and not give up on your passion. Take your strength from within and think about what you can do to change the situation," she shares.

Do what's right for you - not everyone else.

Everyone has outside pressure - from friends, family members, you name it - but CEO of Elm Tree Medical, Inc. Eva Martin says to try your best to tune them out and do what's best for you. “Don't be afraid to choose the 'wrong' option. I don't mean, 'Don't be afraid of making a mistake.' But, rather, don't be afraid of choosing the option that your advisors, family, or friends think is 'wrong' or too risky or not prestigious enough. If you follow your passion and work like crazy, the 'wrong' option may turn out to be the best one," she explains.

Give it everything you've got with everything you are.

The only way to get what you want? According to co-founder and chief product officer of ARIIX, Deanna Latson, working incredibly hard, no matter the obstacles, is what will set you apart from others. "You have to be true to who you are and go for the gold," she says. “Katherine Hepburn said, 'If you obey all the rules, you miss all the fun.' I love that! She's known for playing strong-willed women when it wasn't popular. She was unconventional, nonconforming and did a lot for women that up to then had been totally taboo. I admire women who have extraordinary obstacles facing them, but push through and succeed anyway," she says.

Don't settle in love.

While you might think your work life and love life are separate, founder of The Relationship Institute of San Francisco and licensed marriage and family therapist Erica Boissiere says who you pick as your mate has a major impact on your overall life. “If you're not happy, don't feel the spark or feel in your heart that you can 'do better' then don't be afraid to leave your romantic relationship. Breathe into your self-esteem; it can be hard to let go. And while there might be a pull to stay, remember, spending time with the 'wrong' one will prevent you from meeting the 'right one.' If you do end up settling, you will feel this thorn in your side, and if anything, it will just get bigger and more painful. Pull the thorn out now, when less damage will be done. There is someone else; you just might need to go looking," she says.

Realize not everything that's worth it is Instagram-worthy.

For Erin Steed, the founder of Princess Packers, a moving company that protects your valuables during a transition, it's not what a company appears to be via social media that makes them worthy to work at. In fact, sometimes the 'sleek silver MacBooks and vases of pale pink peonies' can attract a new graduate to accept a job, but could be misleading, she says. “Take a chance on a company that may not be so Instagram-worthy. As a female executive in the transportation industry, my office view is a truck yard and acres of mini-storage. On my desk sits a bulky, black dual screen Dell computer and my most helpful contact at the Public Utilities Commission. Our trucks might be unusually eye-catching, but no one's gonna be hashtagging #TruckersLog or #TieDowns. A discussion about adjusting prices to reflect rising diesel costs probably won't make it to SnapChat. What I have found though, is an industry ripe for disruption, and I'm helping to do just that alongside my family and team. The transportation industry is largely male, and mired in the old way of doing things. It's been so rewarding and impactful over the past decade to feel that my perspective stands out, and has been helpful as we change our industry. I encourage you to seek out a space where you may not fit the mold, because that tells me that you, and your unique and fresh perspectives as a young woman, are just what that company needs to continue to grow and innovate. With those unique perspectives, the right company will welcome you with open arms," she says.

Never apologize for who you are.

Sisters Katie & Kelly McMenamin started their business, PixieDidIt!, to give advice to folks on how to be more organized, based on their personality type. That's probably why it's no surprise their best advice is to be exactly who you are, no excuses needed. “Be loud and proud. There's no best way to live - there's only the best way for you. So you write important 'to do's' on your hand in a pinch. Who cares? Don't apologize, defend it and tell any scolds where they can go. If it ain't broke, don't fix it."

Don't compare yourself.

So your bestie is leaving college without debt and with a six-figure, entry-level job, while you have an internship. It might be tough to not compare yourself, but founder and CEO of the wine membership, Pour This, Ashley Ragovin says to resist the one-upping temptation. “Comparison is a trap that leads to frustration, interferes with your vision, wastes time, and cripples creativity. Shift your focus to connection: connecting with customers through meaningful work will attract and build a true community and a base that's loyal as heck. You can't fake it, you have to believe in the work you're doing, and it has to come from a genuine place of empathy, but the dividends paid will far exceed financial success. There's plenty of business to be had, so rather than chasing something ambiguous, build something worthwhile," she says.

Always seek out to meet new people.

Kristina Libby, CEO of SoCu, a company that automates influencer marketing, says that after college, you might find yourself spending more time alone. This is normal - since you don't live on a college campus anymore - but it should also be a challenge to yourself to seek out variety, in people and in experiences. “You career path is limited by the people that you know and their stories. Find new stories. Find new people. Ask other people how they got their jobs, from where, and what do they do. Be curious about people and you find the world opening up new doors and new possibilities," she says.

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Business

How I Turned my Fine Art Drawings into a Temporary Tattoo Empire

I have always been in love with all things art- I was obsessed with drawing and painting before I was even walking. In high school, I started a career selling art through various gallery art shows and on Etsy. I then went on to study fine arts at the University of Southern California, with an emphasis in painting, but took classes in ceramics, printmaking, cinema and architecture to get a really well-rounded education on all sorts of art.

During my senior year of college, my career path went through a huge transition; I started my own temporary tattoo brand, INKED by Dani, which is a brand of temporary tattoos based on my hand-drawn fine art designs.


The idea for the brand came one night after a themed party at college. My friends, knowing how much I loved drawing, asked me to cover them in hand-drawn doodles using eyeliner. The feedback from that night was overwhelming, everyone my friends saw that night was obsessed with the designs. In that moment, a lightbulb went off in my head... I could do some completely unique here and create chic temporary tattoos with an art-driven aesthetic, unlike anything else on the market. Other temporary tattoo brands were targeted to kids or lacked a sleek and millennial-driven look. It was a perfect pivot; I could utilize my fine arts training and tattoos as a new art medium to create a completely innovative brand.

Using the money I made from selling my artwork throughout high school and college, I funded the launch of INKED by Dani. I had always loved the look of dainty tattoos, but knew I could never commit to the real thing, and I knew my parents would kill me if I got a tattoo (I also knew that so many girls must have that same conflict). Starting INKED by Dani was a no-brainer.

I started off with a collection of about only 10 designs and sold them at sorority houses around USC. Our unique concept for on-trend and fashion-forward tattoos was spreading through word of mouth, and we quickly started growing an Instagram following. I was hustling all day from my room, cold calling retailers, sending blind samples and tons of emails, and trying to open up as many opportunities as I could.

Now, we're sold at over 10,000 retail locations (retailers include Target, Walmart, Urban Outfitters, Forever 21 and Hot Topic), and we've transformed temporary tattoos into a whole new form of wearable art.

My 4 best tips for starting your own business are:

  1. Just go with your gut! You'll never know what works until you try it. Go day by day and do everything in your power to work toward your goals. Be bold, but be sure to be thoughtful in your actions.
  2. Research your competitors and other successful brands in your category to determine how you can make your product stand out. Figure out where there is a need or hole in the market that your new offering or approach can fill.
  3. Don't spread yourself too thin. Delegate where possible, and stay focused each day on doing the best and most you can. Don't get too caught up in your end goal or the big picture to a point where it overwhelms or freezes you. You're already making a bold move to start something new, so try to prioritize what's important! I started off in the beginning hand packing every single tattoo pack that we sold and shipped. If I wanted to scale to align with the level of demand we were receiving, I needed to make the pivot to mass produce and relinquish the control of doing every step myself. I am a total perfectionist, so that was definitely hard! From that point on, overseeing production has been a huge part of my daily schedule, but by doing so I've been able to free up more time to focus on design, merchandising, and sales, allowing me to really focus on growing the business.
  4. Prioritize great product packaging and branding. It's so important to invest time in customer experience- how customers view and interact with your product. The packaging is just as important as the actual product inside! When we were starting off, we had high demand, and I definitely jumped the gun a bit on packaging so we could deliver product to the retailers when they wanted it. Since then, we've completely revamped the packaging into something upscale and unique that reflects what the brand is all about. Our product packaging is always called out as being one of our retailers' and customers' favorite part of our product!