What I learned in 10 years of running a swimwear company
Wow. It seems pretty unreal that I started this company a decade ago.
I'm not quite sure how I got here.
It all started on the tiny, wind-swept island of Cape Hatteras, North Carolina. I was working as a kiteboarding instructor and in the water every single day.
In over 10 years of being an entrepreneur, I feel like I have my MBA (I don't). I've learned SO MUCH about running a business, fashion, design, clothing, cash flow, factory communications, how to build an awesome brand and so, so much more.
I took a minute to reflect on the immense learnings I've had from this past 10 years at the helm of a fashion company and I've distilled them into 10 big takeaways.
Communication is everything. Don't make assumptions on anything. Always be honest, always have a contract, always double check your work and always over explain yourself. Businesses are built on how well you can communicate and a lot can be misinterpreted and lost. The first few years in business, I was nervous about explaining what I needed and I would skim over details, ex) I wasn't firm on asking for delivery dates or saying when I needed the product because I didn't want the factory to get mad at me and let me go. But then we both ended up unhappy because they didn't have a clear date and neither did I.
I would order samples of suits and not know that I needed to dictate the thread color or tell them how I wanted the suits packaged. Then I would end up with something that I wasn't quite expecting. More communication is always better.
Always order samples. I used to try and save as much money as possible on the development side of the business. I didn't realize that I needed to make samples of every single color way that we intended to produce and so I would cut corners and just make samples of the main colors and assume the rest would turn out great. Not true. Always make samples of EVERYTHING. It's much better to spend a few hundred dollars to make sure something is exactly how you want it to look before ordering hundreds of them. 🤦🏽♀️
Dream bigger. I kept myself playing small for a very long time, because I was afraid of rejection. I was afraid of putting myself out there and I was afraid to set a big goal and not hit it. There's a saying that goes, shoot for the moon and you'll land somewhere amongst the stars. Meaning, aim high and you'll inevitably end up somewhere much higher than you thought you would or could. The point is not to hit the goal, the point is uncovering who you are along the way. Dreaming big and aiming high helps push you out of your comfort zone and expand into the next level of you. Your growth depends on dreaming bigger than your britches.
Cultivate self-belief. Believing in yourself is the #1 skill to develop in this lifetime, IMHO. If you don't believe in yourself, it's really hard to overcome obstacles, get other people to believe in your vision and have the self-awareness to ask for help. Tell yourself you can do it! Practice mantras, write affirmations, meditate, breathe, drink your green juice, stand on your head for all I care--just do ANYTHING that even remotely seems like it will help you feel better about yourself. Eventually it will. And then you can take on the world.
Invest in yourself. I remember when I used to be afraid of spending $100 on myself, now I spend 4-figures a year on personal growth and self-development. It's that important. You are the best investment you can make. What's standing in the way of growing your business? You are. What's stopping you from leveling up? You are. What's holding you back? You are. That can hit like a punch to the gut, but the truth is that you are the problem, and you are the solution. When you take radical responsibility for your life, you can make some big changes. Because when it depends on you, you know you can do something about it. You shift from a victim to a badass executor. And when you start investing in yourself, you tell the Universe that you are worthy.
It's not about you. It's about the person you're serving. When I first launched my brand, I was very wrapped up in what people would think and how they would receive my products. I took feedback extremely personally and I made it mean something about me. If someone said the suits were bad, I took it to mean that I was bad. I made the one mistake that takes many businesses down--I made it about me. But business is not about you, it's about who you are serving. We will always do more for others than we will for ourselves, and when you take yourself out of the equation, you have the strength, fortitude and resilience to receive feedback and integrate it and focus on making the best possible product, service, or thingy-ma-bob, that you can make. You can literally crowdsource your way to success. But you have to get your big fat ego out of the way first.
You're doing enough. The to-do list will never end. There will always be another phone call to make and task to complete. You will never reach homeostasis in your life nor your business. The treadmill of life keeps going and once you acknowledge that it's not actually a race to the end of your goals, achievements, dreams and action steps, you can take the pressure off a little bit. It truly is about enjoying the journey. You are doing enough. It's ok to take a break.
You'll never get where you want to go, unless you know where you're going. I didn't set clear, concrete visions for my business for many years. I knew I wanted to build an awesome swimwear company, but what did that actually look like? An arbitrary marker like 'awesome' or 'successful' is not clear enough! What does your version of awesome or successful mean to you? Does success look like working 30 hours a week with an assistant and one month off every year? Or does it look like a team of twenty-two, with a corner office and the cover of Forbes? What are your markers of success? What do you want your life to look like? Once you begin to crystallize and answer this question, only then will you be able to make a plan to get there.
Don't let the results mean anything about you. We can't control what will happen in our lives--well only to a certain extent anyway. We can wish and hope and dream and do the work and still not get to our goals. Perhaps it's just not meant to be. The only real thing we can control is our attitude and our effort. We CAN control how much work we put in and how hard we try. We CAN control how much we enjoy the journey. We CAN control our reactions to things. When we stop letting the results affect how we feel about ourselves and instead understand that our worth comes from inside--the deep, squishy, self-belief that signifies that you too, yes you, are indeed an awesome human. Then, when we understand that, can we go into our work with the strength, positivity, self-reliance, joy and determination that executing a huge dream necessitates.
Don't try to do all the things. Let the cream rise to the top. Choose one thing to pursue and do it with enthusiasm and excellence. Take some things off your plate, turn off your phone, don't respond to emails, say no. We get INUNDATED with so much information and dings and rings, every single day, that it quickly gets exhausting. You can only create an awesome business and awesome life when you take care of yourself. It's only when your own cup is filled that you can spread joy, love and abundance to the best of your abilities. Protect your time.
BONUS TIP: Be generous. Generosity breeds generosity.
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