Business 08 March 2017
I am a consumer. I am just like you. I struggled for years with skin issues and after countless visits to dermatologists and tons of money thrown into skincare products, I was left with minimal positive results. I realized I was just like millions of other women who had nowhere to turn. There were a lot of salespeople telling me; "This will REALLY work," and selling me a lot of products that, in the end, did nothing to help my severe acne and eczema.
It was then that I realized my results were in the ingredients of the products I was using vs. what was being marketed to me. While working on commercial and music video sets as a professional makeup artist, as well as for a top luxury brand, I enrolled in a post-graduate program at UCLA & received a certificate in Cosmetic Chemistry. From there, I learned the truth about what is truly best for the skin, and more importantly, what works and stays working. From this knowledge came SkinOwl, a skincare company that allowed women to feel as good as they looked.
It was from following this path I found that when I made the choice to care for myself on a small level, it opened the door to more impactful and authentic transformations.....and sacrifices. While most everyone I knew were in stable occupations and spending their hard earned money on vacations and certain "life upgrades," I was buying amber glass bottles and living the frugal life of the "self employed." I wasn't around for many of the birthday parties and couldn't attend my friend's weddings, due to the amount of work on my plate and money needing to be spent on the business. I quickly had to learn how to manage my money, my company's money and the many people who would eventually come to work with me. It was a different life than most everyone I knew, which at times felt lonely and out of touch with everyone else's reality. It was most certainly the less traveled path, the harder road, but worth it.
After five years of being an entrepreneur, despite the setbacks, the overdrawn accounts, and the countless lessons learned the hard way, I can honestly say I wouldn't have it any other way. Where there have been sacrifices, there have been gains - I've learned more about myself from growing a business than I would have if I had stayed an employee in my last job. I've met some of the most inspiring people, many of whom I never would have met if I wasn't in need of help and guidance along the way. I've learned the importance of saying no, creating boundaries and saving a little room for forgiving myself if I don't run my business "perfectly."
This is the greatest gift, one that has made me a more well rounded person and has given me a true appreciation for taking a risk and leaving a mark on your time on Earth.
From owning a business, I've realized that my personal life can often collide with my professional life. These are my "Top Five Tips" for igniting selfcare in a world that can easily feel chaotic:
1) Wake up the same time everyday - This creates consistency. From consistency, I am able to go to bed at a certain time and ensure that I'm ready to rock once my alarm goes off.
2) Get outside - Walking my dog in the morning BEFORE checking my emails has made me a better, more focused worker. When I sit down to work, I'm relaxed and present.
3) Say No - I've always thought NO was me being negative. Or me not being a team player. But that's only when "No" becomes about the people I'm saying no vs. how it effects me. Saying "No" has allowed me to take stock in my schedule and my bandwidth and see what is genuinely leftover for the people I love and want to share my life with. Without the power of "No," my world will be crowded, chaotic and exhausting.
4) Meditate - I used to hear this all of the time. "Meditate, Annie, it will change your life." I never listened until this year. And everyone was right. There is something about giving yourself 10-30 minutes of silence, mostly with how much information we receive daily. My brain shuts down. It's healthy to give my brain a real rest outside of sleep. It has changed my life.
5) Bring snacks everywhere - Gone are the days that I go 5 hours without eating. This made me tired, cranky, and not as sharp. Now I bring a little bag of snacks with me everywhere, i.e. nuts, dried fruit, dried snap peas, granola, etc. And I hard boil eggs, which makes it easy to grab something full of protein whenever I'm on the go.
3 Min Read
"How did you ever get into a business like that?" people ask me. They're confounded to hear that my product is industrial baler wire—a very unfeminine pursuit, especially in 1975 when I founded my company in the midst of a machismo man's world. It's a long story, but I'll try to shorten it.
I'd never been interested to enter the "man's" world of business, but when I discovered a lucrative opportunity to become my own boss, I couldn't pass it up—even if it involved a non-glamorous product. I'd been fired from my previous job working to become a ladies' clothing buyer and was told at my dismissal, "You just aren't management or corporate material." My primary goal then was to find a career in which nobody had the power to fire me and that provided a comfortable living for my two little girls and myself.
Over the years, I've learned quite a few tough lessons about how to successfully run a business. Below are five essential elements to keep in mind, as well as my story on how I learned them.
Find A Need And Fill It
I gradually became successful at selling various products, which unfortunately weren't profitable enough to get me off the ground, so I asked people what they needed that they couldn't seem to get. One man said, "Honey, I need baler wire. Even the farmers can't get it." I saw happy dollar signs as he talked on and dedicated myself to figuring out the baler wire industry.
I'd never been interested to enter the "man's" world of business, but when I discovered a lucrative opportunity to become my own boss, I couldn't pass it up.
Now forty-five years later, I'm proud to be the founder of Vulcan Wire, Inc., an industrial baler wire company with $10 million of annual sales.
Have Working Capital And Credit
There were many pitfalls along the way to my eventual success. My daughters and I were subsisting from my unemployment checks, erratic alimony and child-support payments, and food stamps. I had no money stashed up to start up a business.
I paid for the first wire with a check for which I had no funds, an illegal act, but I thought it wouldn't matter as long as I made a deposit to cover the deficit before the bank received the check. My expectation was that I'd receive payment immediately upon delivery, for which I used a rented truck.
Little did I know that this Fortune 500 company's modus operandi was to pay all bills thirty or more days after receipts. My customer initially refused to pay on the spot. I told him I would consequently have to return the wire, so he reluctantly decided to call corporate headquarters for this unusual request.
My stomach was in knots the whole time he was gone, because he said it was iffy that corporate would come through. Fifty minutes later, however, he emerged with a check in hand, resentful of the time away from his busy schedule. Stressed, he told me to never again expect another C.O.D. and that any future sale must be on credit. Luckily, I made it to the bank with a few minutes to spare.
Know Your Product Thoroughly
I received a disheartening phone call shortly thereafter: my wire was breaking. This horrible news fueled the fire of my fears. Would I have to reimburse my customer? Would my vendor refuse to reimburse me?
My customer told me to come over and take samples of his good wire to see if I might duplicate it. I did that and educated myself on the necessary qualities.
My primary goal then was to find a career in which nobody had the power to fire me and that provided a comfortable living for my two little girls and myself.
Voila! I found another wire supplier that had the right specifications. By then, I was savvy enough to act as though they would naturally give me thirty-day terms. They did!
More good news: My customer merely threw away all the bad wire I'd sold him, and the new wire worked perfectly; he then gave me leads and a good endorsement. I rapidly gained more wire customers.
Anticipate The Dangers Of Exponential Growth
I had made a depressing discovery. My working capital was inadequate. After I purchased the wire, I had to wait ten to thirty days for a fabricator to get it reconfigured, which became a looming problem. It meant that to maintain a good credit standing, I had to pay for the wire ten to thirty days before my customers paid me.
I was successful on paper but was incredibly cash deprived. In other words, my exponentially growing business was about to implode due to too many sales. Eventually, my increasing sales grew at a slower rate, solving my cash flow problem.
Delegate From The Bottom Up
I learned how to delegate and eventually delegated myself out of the top jobs of CEO, President, CFO, and Vice President of Finance. Now, at seventy-eight years old, I've sold all but a third of Vulcan's stock and am semi-retired with my only job currently serving as Vice President of Stock and Consultant.
In the interim, I survived many obstacles and learned many other lessons, but hopefully these five will get you started and help prevent some of you from having the same struggles that I did. And in the end, I figured it all out, just like you will.