Entrepreneurship is nerve-wracking to say the least. Guest contributor AnaLiza Alba Leen shares some amazing tips that will give you the confidence to take on the challenges of entrepreneurship and shine!
Let’s face it ladies, sometimes the workplace feels like it’s stacked against us. It’s rare to see women in upper management positions, and when we also carry titles like wife, mom, daughter, best friend etc., even just the thought of succeeding at work can feel downright tiring. So I made it my personal mission to give some thought to how to make it beautifully effortless, and after sharing it with many female friends who I admire, I’m ready to share it with you.
In the last decade, I have been very fortunate in my advertising career, and with building my business. I owe these blessings to the extremely successful businesswomen and men, my mentors along the way, who have shared insights and tips on how to be a successful entrepreneur. What I learned was that in addition to learning how to build a business from scratch, I also formed life lessons. They may seem simple, but everything in life is actually simple when you break it down into steps. The challenge is applying these lessons on a weekly and daily basis. But I truly believe that with the right tools and knowledge, you can do anything.
1. Start Now
Planning and discussion are integral to any successful enterprise, but all too often I have seen this preliminary stage paralyze great business ideas because people get trapped in the quicksand of planning. My husband and I had no idea what fibi & clo would become. We also had absolutely no experience in direct sales. What we did know is that we have a dream and an amazing product. So what we did was make 100 sandals and throw a party. From idea to execution, it took 30 days. That first party sold every single pair we had, and we knew we had something special. This first success empowered us to continue along the entrepreneurial path. The best way to know if an idea is good is by sharing it and getting honest feedback from those you trust. So do sufficient homework, and don’t be scared to hold focus groups or to try and sell a preliminary product. It’s the fastest way to find out if your idea has legs or not.
2. Dream Big. Start Small
I have been drawn to creative fields my whole life, and I have always dreamed of having my own runway show, or owning a large creative business with hundreds of employees. Even Coco Chanel had to start somewhere. In advertising, I started with an internship at a small agency in Austin and eventually one in New York City, and for fibi & clo I designed one shoe and had a small shoe party. Small steps lead to big successes. Never lose sight of your dreams, but figure out a small, reasonable way to start now.
3. Create a to-do List
My To-do lists are like a map. I would never drive from NYC to Austin without a GPS or road map, and I wouldn’t attempt a career or build a business without a to-do list. I actually have 3. A daily, a yearly and a life to-do list. These lists constantly change as well. Each month, I take a look at my yearly and life lists and I evaluate my progress toward those goals. If I see one is no longer relevant, I take it off, and if I see other opportunities, I put them on. This is the same practice I do at the end of each day with my daily list. Lists give structure, and without structure you go in circles.
4. Give Yourself Deadlines
When I create a goal with fibi & clo, I give myself a finish date. And I tell myself if I don’t get it done by that date, then it’s effectively me telling myself I don’t want it bad enough.
Be realistic with your deadlines for your goals, but treat them as sacred. If you approach a deadline and the work is nowhere near complete, either you hustle or you evaluate whether your goals still carry the same meaning for you. You won’t always meet every deadline, but if you keep them sacred, you’ll usually get the job done.
I remember when we were launching our e-commerce site for fibi & clo, we were running way behind schedule. I wanted the site to be perfect, but in order to keep my word to my agents, and to prove to myself I could deliver, I had to drop some fancy features from the site. I was able to launch the site as promised, and the reception was well received. Those fancy features did nothing for the effectiveness of the site, and we added them on later. Don’t let a deadline slip you by because of excuses or delays. Find a way to deliver.
5. Network. Network. Network
For my advertising job, I recently attended the 3% Conference in San Francisco (a conference aimed to educate and up the female/male ratio for Creative Directors in advertising). It’s no secret that the creative departments in advertising can be boys clubs. Out of all the advertising Creative Directors in the world, only 3% of those positions are held by women. Shocking, right?
The 3% Conference, and other networking events that may be held in a smaller scale in your community, are wonderful ways to meet new people and get inspiration from their accomplishments. I love hanging out with brilliant women because I really believe that when you surround yourself with ambitious people who compel you to strive farther and higher, you’ll succeed too. It’s not a competition. It’s about learning, growing and empowering each other. Networking events are a great opportunity to do this.
You also never know if that new person you met could be the way in to a new job, or a future customer for your product and/or service. Or vice versa, you might meet someone who will be your next brilliant intern. Either way, go to as many events as you can.
6. Stay Healthy
This may be the most important step, and I don’t just mean physical health. Stay healthy also means emotionally and spiritually. Pursuing your dreams is not easy, and can feel downright scary or intimidating. Be sure to take time out of your day to talk with inspiring people, or to read an inspiring book. Take time to step back and reflect on why you’re doing what you’re doing. People sometimes forget what their initial dream was to begin with. Take time to continually remember your dream, and this will keep your inner fire lit.
Also be sure to work out 3-5 times a week not just for your body, but to keep your mind sharp. What’s the point of achieving success if you are too fatigued or unhealthy to enjoy it. I also find that I can work through problems, or find new inspiration, when I’m going after it at the gym. Health is everything, and you want to be well to do well.
7. Give Thanks
Sometimes it’s easy to be negative or get down on yourself or others, but I’ve found that being appreciative always makes you feel good. Any success you achieve is not only the result of your hard work, it is also due to any support network you have, the customers who are buying your products, the employees that put in the long hours for you, or the coworkers that believe in you and help you meet deadlines. Be sure to give A LOT of thanks along the way and let people know you appreciate and value them.
Over the past two years it has taken to build fibi & clo, we always make time to tell our Fashion Agents and customers how much we appreciate their support. We have managed to get through many lows because our customers and Fashion Agents have stuck with us. We always find ways to let them know how much we appreciate them, and that’s a lot to be thankful for.