Are you thinking of starting a business, running a blog, or exploring a new idea? It can be overwhelming and a tad terrifying entering unfamiliar waters, especially as a 20-something-year-old. I know I was. I started a blog at 22 called KIND FASHION PHILLY which quickly snowballed into a small embroidery business. I still keep up with my blog and do some custom embroidery work on the side, but my 9-5 has changed. I now run global sales and track business development at a fashion print company based in Philadelphia. While getting my MBA (I graduated this past May), I enrolled in an entrepreneurship class. It was by far the most challenging course I took in grad school. Here are five take-aways that stem from what I learned in this class and from personal small-business experience to help the inner entrepreneur or go-getter in you.
1. Write it Down
My mom is a firm believer in lists. There is a list for everything. To this day, she still writes them and still ticks off every daily task by nightfall. She often says, “Write it down, or it won’t happen.” It turns out that she is right. There is a Forbes article from 2018 that stuck with me. It goes into the neuroscience behind writing down goals, small or large, and explains why you essentially need to handwrite your plan on paper if you want to achieve it.
If you are thinking of starting a business or blog, try writing down your idea on paper. Not only does writing it down make it more likely to happen, but it also shows you if there is, in fact, an actual, concrete idea. People will often say they want to start a business but cannot articulate that business without stumbling over their words. After jotting down your idea (there might be some scribbling and strike-outs – that’s good!), try narrowing your notes down into a few sentences.
From here, you will write a mission statement. A mission statement tells the world (and you) who you are, what you do, and why you do it. It should be less than a paragraph. Keeping your mission statement concise keeps you focused and your idea understandable to the outside world. Of course, your mission statement might change as you develop your brand or company, and it’s good to evolve. However, refer to your mission statement often, as it will remind you of what your business stands for at its core and why you started it in the first place. This can be truly helpful during the ups and downs of owning and operating a small business.
2. Work Past the Fear
On the first day of the Entrepreneurship class, my professor reviewed the syllabus and spent a healthy chunk of time reviewing the “Required and Recommended Reading.” He went into great detail on a short book called Feel the Fear and Do it Anyway by Dr. Susan Jeffers. How he explained his love for this book was electric, and that electricity was contagious. I ordered the book that night. It did not disappoint. Jeffers provides concrete advice on working past the fear of failure when starting a new chapter in your life, whether it be a career change, relationship change, or business start-up. I still use some of the tactics she described in the book to help me work through the fear of failure in my life.
One of my favorite pieces of advice Jeffers provided was the use of mantras. She recommended memorizing a short mantra and repeating it to yourself every day, several times in a row. To this day, I have a reminder on my iPhone that pops daily at 7 am of a flower emoji. This is my signal to say my mantra 5-8 times that morning, usually on my walk into the office. On that daily morning walk, I repeatedly recite my mantra in a small whisper under my breath. Almost instantly, my confidence soars, my head hangs a little higher, and my strides become a little bigger.
3. Read Up
I am a firm believer in reading. I wouldn’t say I liked it growing up because it seemed dull, but once I entered my senior year of college, I averaged a book a month. Most, if not all, of the books I read were either self-help books or memoirs of fashion icons or founders. The self-help books aimed at go-getters like you and me helped me navigate my overthinking tendencies and be more present in a fast-moving society. The memoirs, on the other hand, taught me more about the industry I decided to enter. Whether you are in the fashion industry, finance, health care, [enter your chosen industry here], read up on it.
I stay up-to-date on fashion campaigns by subscribing to Vogue. I stay on top of global events that ultimately impact my business and job by reading The New York Times “The Morning” email that rolls in around 6 am five days a week. I read Shoe Dog by Phil Knight, the founder of Nike. I picked up books at museums like The Little Dictionary of Fashion by Christian Dior. I think you get the idea. Emerge yourself into the industry you want to enter or already entered. The more knowledge you accumulate, the better you can manage your business as obstacles arise.
5 Favorite Self-Help Books:
Feel the Fear and Do it Anyway by Susan Jeffers, Ph.D
Don’t Overthink It by Anne Bogel
13 Things Mentally Strong People Don’t Do by Amy Morin
The Rocket Years by Elizabeth Segran
Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert
4. Be Open to Help
Accepting help does not come naturally to me, but closing yourself off to the guidance or support of those around you is a big mistake when starting a new venture. Now, there is a catch to this tip: take advice with a grain of salt. Sometimes those who care for you most, like family, friends, and coworkers, will share advice that is not pertinent to your success. I recommend reaching out to people with similar backgrounds on social media like Instagram and Linked In. Ask if you could buy them a cup of coffee or set up a Zoom meeting for a 15-minute chat. More often than not, they will respond and say yes. If they say no, then move onto the next contact and do not get discouraged. If they said yes and you meet up for coffee or over Zoom, you paid maybe $6 for their latte or $0 for that Zoom call and potentially gained priceless advice.
5. Spend Money like A Frugal Housewife
The “money question” is a tough one to answer. The question is often a variation of this: How much of my own money should I invest in my new business? Unfortunately, we all have heard those devastating stories where someone put all their life savings into their dream company, and it went under. Here is my advice for starting a business that has low start-up costs and it’s not mine: spend money like a frugal housewife. This advice came from the hilarious and thoughtfully worded memoir called The Glitter Plan by Pamela Skaist-Levy and Gela Nash-Taylor with Booth Moore. Pamela and Gela are the founders of Juicy Couture. They each put in $100 to start the company, which grew into a global sensation and was sold in 2013 to Authentic Brand Group for $195 million.
People who start a business will often run to Staples and spend money on office supplies from ink pens to brand new computers. If your venture does not require a giant sum of funding from an angel investing group, then only buy products/services as you go. Costs add up quickly, and it’s essential to keep track of how much you are spending. I recommend keeping a spreadsheet of all your transactions or, ideally, opening a second checking account. A checking account prevents you from putting expenses on your credit card bill and allows you to track all your debits and credits in one place.
Feel free to DM me on Instagram (@kindfashionphilly) or visit/subscribe to my website www.kindfashion.net to learn more about how I’m trying to make the fashion industry a kinder and more inclusive place. As I like to say, together, let’s act in a kind fashion.