I'm not supposed to be here. At least that's what the statistics said. According to all the studies, and the declarations of negative people in my life, if I did survive my gang-riddled neighborhood, it would be unwed with several children by my side, a dead-end, low-paying job, and a future that lacked hope. That's what the statistics said.
But I had a different ending for my story.
I've always known I was destined for great things. Don't ask me how I knew. I just did…it couldn't have been my environment. After all, the mean streets of Sacramento can shatter anyone's dreams. In fact, my Meadowview neighborhood was dubbed “Danger Island" and although it was nestled between the affluent Pocket/Greenhaven area and lower middle class, Mack Road, it was not a place you wanted to be caught outside after dark.
I never have settled for the norm. Even as a little girl, from a broken home, I knew that my destiny was greater than my existence. After all, I'd survived abuse, both sexual and physical, and my life had been spared more times than I could count.
While my story may be deemed a rags to riches tale, it's bigger than that. So much bigger. It's about an ordinary girl who decided she was capable of extraordinary things. It's about a woman who took all the obstacles tossed in her path of life and used them as stepping stones to bigger and better things.
I worked my way up through the rigors of corporate America, the ups and downs of being an entrepreneur, the frustrations of trying to maintain a proper work-family balance, I've learned many valuable lessons.
Now, as my company – which started from my kitchen – is a top selling, iconic natural hair care brand, I have singlehandedly changed not only my destiny, but my children's legacy.
Of course, creating a successful business doesn't come without a cost and if you're not careful, that cost can be your family.
Any successful entrepreneur will tell you, having it all is a lot easier said than done. Building a business, a thriving business, requires long hours and lots of sweat equity. Even if you have a plethora of cash, the sweat equity alone can take a toll on your family.
A support system is crucial in building a business. Whether it's your parents, siblings, relatives, friends or neighbors, if you have a family, you simply can't go at it alone.
There isn't a one size fit all solution to having it all, but I have found a host of common threads among successful entrepreneurial mothers.
It's about a woman who took all the obstacles tossed in her path of life and used them as stepping stones to bigger and better things.
Organization is key!
Nothing adds stress to your life more than trying to find an important file that is buried under mounds of paperwork. Or trying to remember what time the baby's doctor appointment is because you didn't write it down. You have to get and stay organized. Your work time is precious and not as dependable as it would be if you worked in a traditional workplace. You can't afford to waste time looking for files, sorting through junk mail or even finding a piece of paper to write on. Keep everything clean and organized from the start.
Whether you use an old fashioned organizer or rely solely on your latest gadget, you'd be amazed at how a planner can help balance your work life with their family life, manage your daily tasks, and help prioritize your lie. (My personal favorite is my iPhone and all of the amazing applications for business owners). Of course, being flexible.
is key because at some point, your sitter will call in sick, your child will have a meltdown and your spouse may get called in to work.
Include the kids.
Sometimes, our children just want to be in the same room with us. When your children are little, child-proof your office and bring them in. Give them their own little space, and their own little tasks, and you'd be amazed, the kids will feel like they've gotten some mommy time while you've gotten some work done.
It's good enough.
Let's face it, we all weren't meant to be Barbara Billingsley, you know, the “Leave it to Beaver" mom who made lunches and homemade cookies for snacks? So what you had to go to the store to buy cookies for your daughter's class party? Your priorities are your family and then your work. Don't feel bad about being a store-bought cupcakes kind of mom. Find your 'good enough' and be happy with it.
Focus, focus, focus.
One of the challenges many entrepreneurial moms face is managing tasks while trying not to get sidetracked by children, laundry, dishes, etc. Make a list each month of what you intend to get done. Then break the list down week by week, then day by day. If you stay focused, you can stay committed to getting things done.
Ask for help.
It's very difficult to succeed without help, be it from your partner, family member or someone you hire. Communicate with your partner about how he can help you - you both need to remember you're juggling two full-time jobs. Figure out how to parent and chore-share so you're both on the same page. I have had to outsource things (things that used to make me feel guilty), but I've learned that asking for help is essential to getting it all done. We have a housekeeper. I used to feel guilty about that. I had to finally tell myself that the amount of time it would take me to clean the house, given my daily workload and mommy duties, just wasn't worth it.
Don't forget about you.
In the grand scheme of trying to have it all, we often put ourselves on the back burner. It is crucial that you take care of you. How can you work out when you don't have enough time with your kids? How can you take a bubble bath when you need to make a presentation? Realize now that there will never be enough time in the day to get everything done. Your in-box will still be full when you die, so learn to accept that fact now. It may seem like a cliché, but in this case, it's the truth: You have to take care of yourself in order to take care of your family, your business and your home. If mama isn't happy, nobody will be.
My story can be your story. And if you walk away with nothing else, I hope that you'll understand my motto: When you wake up in the morning you have two choices - go back to sleep and dream your dreams, or wake up and chase your dreams.
I choose the latter. What will your choice be?
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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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!