#SWAAYthenarrative

I Was Told I Was Too Young To Be Ambitious

#SWAAYthenarrative

Lauren Maillian, 32


Marketing Maven and Brand Strategist, Founder and CEO, LMB Group

Having begun her entrepreneurial crusade at 19, it was inevitable that Lauren Maillian would become a marketing and branding powerhouse if only because she was able to begin a successful business while simultaneously tackling her first year of undergraduate studies. "Sometimes you have to crouch before you conquer," says Maillian, who went on to build an enviable empire. Now, not only is she a go-to branding consultant, TV star and author, but she’s also a rockstar mom of two, proving how symbiotic the relationship can be between entrepreneurship and motherhood.

1. What made you choose this career path? What has been your greatest achievement?

I like to think that this career path chose me. I have always been a connector of people and ever since I was a child I was incredibly inquisitive. My curiosity and empathy has been the hallmark of my ability to story-tell so masterfully. Getting people's attention and keeping them engaged is the cornerstone of a great marketer and that has always been me. Personally, my greatest achievement is my two children. Professionally, my greatest achievement has been my bestselling book, The Path Redefined because I know that I've positively impacted countless women around the world who are trying to find their purpose amidst building a career and often a family.

"Personally, my greatest achievement is my two children."

2. What’s the biggest criticism/stereotype/judgement you’ve faced in your career?

Although I’ve never actually been told to my face that I couldn't do or achieve something because of X, Y or Z, I’ve always been doubted. I almost wish that someone would have explicitly told me why they thought I wouldn't achieve something so I could prove them wrong!

I know that as a black woman, the bar is always higher, the scrutiny even more intense, the microscope amplified on your every move. It's always been an implied bias that I've had to work against everyday, and it's just par for the course.

3. What was the hardest part of overcoming this negativity? Do you have an anecdote you can share?

I've achieved a great deal of success at an early age, so being young, more specifically, too young to accomplish X has always been the background music to my life's playlist. Best piece of advice I can share with other young ambitious women is a quote from my book, The Path Redefined, "sometimes you have to crouch before you conquer."

"I know that as a black woman, the bar is always higher, the scrutiny even more intense, the microscope amplified on your every move. It’s always been an implied bias that I’ve had to work against everyday."

4. How did you #SWAAYthenarrative? What was the reaction by those who told you you “couldn’t” do it?

I #SWAAYthenarrative everyday just by being present in the world and by fully showing up as who I genuinely am. I feel that my inclusion at the table--through board meetings, companies, campaigns, press, and keynote speeches--was my way to change the minds of those around me. By merely showing up and doing the work, I was swaaying the narrative and defying stereotypes.

5. What’s your number one piece of advice to women discouraged by preconceived notions and society’s limitations?

Don't be discouraged! There has never been a better time to be a woman determined to succeed. We all need to keep fighting and earning our way to the top so that we can open all the doors that have been closed for other women to come join us at the top because they've earned it!

3 Min Read
Business

Five Essential Lessons to Keep in Mind When You're Starting Your Own Business

"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.