There were a lot of early days. The beginning, beginning was me, my husband, and a card table selling some small jars of products at a craft fair. The next beginning was when we started to sell out of our home on a pretty consistent basis to the point where strangers rang our doorbell to come in and shop and we had never seen them before. And then there's another beginning when we had our first retail store. Then there was yet another beginning when we had investors and entered big retail for the first time.
There were so many beginnings. I guess for some businesses, those things happen very rapidly. But for us, it was a slow organic process. I appreciated that. Because for me, I had no experience with what I was doing. I had never been an entrepreneur before. I never worked in beauty before. I never worked in retail before. So every single thing that I was doing was something new. Having the process move slower at first, allowed me to learn as I went along and that was very, very helpful.
Trusting Your Gut
“What things would you do differently?“ is a question that people throughout the years ask a lot, and I'm always careful when I answer it. It would be perfect to go back and know the exact right thing to say. That would be perfect, right? If we could, we would get signs like that from our future selves, but then we wouldn't learn the lessons that we were supposed to learn. So I think the most important thing I would tell my former self, and that also wouldn't wreck history, would be just to trust your gut. More.
When you’re just starting there's so much that you don't know, so when you meet someone that has 10 years experience, 15 years experience, you tend to think they know best. What you learn as an entrepreneur, as you continue to grow, is that you know your customer better than anyone else. Your gut speaks volumes. It doesn't mean that you're always right. But it is important to voice your opinion, because you have a perspective on your customer and your business that absolutely no one else will have.
I'm laughing because I had mentors in my head. I'm introverted. So I was not the person that would seek somebody out. But people like Oprah were mentors to me. I watched the way that she moved through her career, the things that she chose to share with us how many times she let herself be vulnerable on camera. I watched her become who she is today. It’s a remarkable thing to watch from the sidelines, as this person becomes an institution, if you will.
Martha Stewart was another mentor for me. When it came to marketing and branding. Her catalogs and her cookbooks were so visually beautiful. They helped me when I had to style my merchandise. To this day, when we do photoshoots and have a product we have the ingredients of the product next to it. I learned that from Martha. Yeah, so I've had mentors, but not in the sense that most people have them.
Bringing on Business Partners
I think that it's hard to know, when you first meet someone, if they are the perfect fit or if they're going to get you or understand you. And unfortunately, well not unfortunately, but as women we sometimes want our business relationships to be like our friendships. We want to be friends with people and close with people and confide in people. That can work out to be a disadvantage if you end up in business with someone that you ultimately find out that you can't trust.
My former business partner Steve Stoute and I approached the partnering conversation from the very beginning in such a way that the conversation was already somewhat understood. There wasn't a negotiation process with us. It was just clear. You bring this to the table, I bring this to the table, and we're going to go forward together. We put ourselves in the position to be equal. Of course, there were attorneys involved. But the process started off from a place of mutual respect. Plus my attorneys assured me that I was protected.
Working with Business Partners
The advice I would give to a founder as far as bringing on a partner would be to think of your business relationship, a little bit like an arranged marriage. There's money on either side, maybe your business partner is coming with the cash kind of money, but you're coming with the intellectual property, the equity, the intangibles - you've built something, and they want to invest in it.
In an arranged marriage, where two wealthy families are coming together, there are prenups for a reason to protect everybody involved. Because in the beginning, everything is beautiful, and wonderful, and you're in love. You think you’re never going to split up. And your lawyer is like, well, what would happen if you did? That's why you need lawyers, because they will think of things that you will not think of, and everybody needs to be protected. Everybody should have the option of ‘I don't want to do this anymore’.