Teresa Delfín, Founder & CEO, Mountain Mama
As an avid outdoor athlete, I planned to hike and kayak throughout much of my pregnancy, so I was shocked to find that no one made outdoor apparel for the maternity market. When I lost my position as an anthropology professor to the economic downturn, I took up the challenge of making clothing that empowers and inspires women to stay active and healthy throughout pregnancy…and beyond. Here’s my advice for other women thinking about starting a business.
- Solicit feedback. Many aspiring entrepreneurs guard their great idea for fear someone will steal it. But instead of keeping it a secret, they should be shouting it from the rooftop! Not only is sharing your business idea the best way to find out if it really has legs, but start-ups need supporters to succeed. For me, the enthusiastic responses I received helped convince me to give Mountain Mama everything I had. And in the process, I found people who could give me great advice.
- Collaborate. Success breeds success. While you’re waiting to become a household name, do your best to pair up with people, companies, and organizations that already are. Create strategic partnerships with non-profit organizations whose work is consistent with your values, or with companies that provide related products or services. Use these collaborations to promote each other through social media or other channels, or even share valuable resources like mailing lists and sales reps. For me, trade shows have been a great way to connect with the people who run the companies I most admire.
- Find a muse. Stay focused. When I began designing my line of maternity clothing, I had to fight the urge to produce too much at once. I realized I needed a muse, someone whose needs could both inspire my designs and keep my creativity on target. But the athletic, adventurous women in the skiing and climbing magazines were too abstract. I kept coming back to a rock climbing partner from college. She bike commutes across San Francisco every day, rain or shine, and spends weekends kayaking, backpacking, and rock climbing – all while maintaining a distinctively sporty, feminine aesthetic. Once I focused on her, the rest was easy. Whether I’m running out of ideas or getting lost in too many, I simply ask myself, “What would Emily wear?”
- Attitude trumps experience. We all know there are things we can excel at that we just haven’t gotten to try. When you run your own business, you get the chance to see past the résumés to people’s potential. Since my business caters to outdoorsy mothers-to-be, I hire sales reps primarily based on their lifestyle, and it’s paying off! They represent the brand 100% and bring extra loyalty and enthusiasm because we’re a company that appreciates that family comes first.
- Be your brand. As an entrepreneur, you are your brand. Be conscious of your role as your company’s most important ambassador. Project success in how you dress and act. If you’re on Twitter and Facebook (and you should be), use them to reinforce your brand identity, and don’t post things that are overly personal or controversial. Splurge on professional photography so the world can see you at your best in a setting that reflects what you do. I’m embarrassed to say how many media outlets asked for pictures of me hiking with my baby before I finally booked a photo shoot.
Mountain Mama founder Teresa Delfín brings her passion for adventure to motherhood, designing maternity clothing that the Los Angeles Times calls “the Patagonia for pregnant women.” Her debut line won a prestigious 2010 Polartec® APEX Award for design innovation and excellence, and was featured on Good Morning America. Delfín has a Ph.D. from Stanford and is a member of the Outdoor Industries Women’s Coalition. She was a speaker at The Women’s Conference 2010.
Laila Ali, World Champion Athlete, TV Personality, Mother
There are two things about me that have remained consistent, even as I’ve gotten older: I’ve always possessed an entrepreneurial spirit, and I’ve always wanted to help others reach their potential. As a young girl, I thought I could do anything and be anyone that I wanted to. I credit my parents for instilling this quality in me. My father led by example, while my mother always encouraged me to do my best. They empowered me, which is why I believe I am a confident person today.
From the time I was young, I wanted to find a way to earn my own money so I could assert my independence. My first business venture began when I graduated high school and I decided I wanted to own my own nail salon. I became a licensed manicurist and started my own successful business. As I’ve grown older, those lessons I learned at a young age have served me well into adulthood.
I have also always wanted to help other women find that inner spark to be their best. I regularly give talks to young girls about respecting themselves and making good decisions. I love to provide tips on how to eat healthy and take care of your body, and share expertise on haircare and make-up trends that help us look and feel our best. I have always wanted to be a strong role model for women to show them it doesn’t matter how people define us, with the right amount of determination, we can do anything we put our minds to. From becoming a champion boxer, to becoming a business-savvy entrepreneur – it is all within our reach when we stop putting limits on our potential.
The three things to keep in mind if you want to start your own business:
- Be persistent. Never give up when someone tells you no. It took me years to finally have the right idea hit at the right time. Many “so called experts” told me that there isn’t a market for ethnic products, even though I knew that it was the fastest rising segment in the personal care category. They told me there isn’t a need for what I’m trying to develop and sell. I never let that deter me from my ultimate goal.
- Have a great team of people around you. I have a team around me that believes in me and my brand. They are out there every day working on my behalf. Also, it’s impossible to know everything. You need a team of lawyers, publicists, marketing experts, etc. to help you along the way. Make sure the team you have involved in your business protects you and your interests.
- Learn from people who have had success before you. Never be too proud to get advice from experts who have done what you are trying to do. If you don’t know someone personally in your field, go to a book store and read as much as you can. We need to empower each other. I want to see other women take a chance to reach their goals and find success. If one piece of advice I offer helps them get there, it makes me feel great.
Laila Ali, an athlete and champion of health and fitness, is a perfect role model for today’s healthy, on-the-go woman. The youngest daughter of Veronica Porsche Anderson, and of the legendary Muhammad Ali, she is a strong, intelligent, woman, daughter, and wife. She is also an entrepreneur. Laila’s personal background as a licensed manicurist, and her past work with skin care companies, has led Laila to launch her own line of beauty and personal care products, “Laila by Laila Ali”. Learn more about Laila Ali at www.lailaali.com
Laila Ali, is a speaker at The Women's Conference 2010. Watch the LIVE webcast of the Conference here on www.womensconference.org on Monday, October 25 and Tuesday, October 26.
Jessica Mindich, Founder & CEO, Jewelry For A Cause, LLC.
Ten years ago I happily left behind my days (and nights) as General Counsel for an internet company to raise a family. After 6 years, with no regrets and two kids now in school, I found myself aimlessly wandering around the supermarket day after day, desperate to go back to work. I was full of self doubt that any of my skills were malleable into a career outside the law, and too scared to find out. I spent a lot of time wishing someone would just offer me a job. They didn’t. So here’s how I finally took matters into my own hands, and how you can too!
- GET IN THE GAME... Before I started Jewelry For A Cause, I developed a new business idea every minute, but I always found a reason not to move forward. After being out of the work force for so long, I was afraid to fail. Having heard my routine of self doubt one too many times, my enormously supportive husband firmly said, “Stop telling me all the reasons you will lose...You are not even in the game!” In that instant I realized it was time to play...win or lose.
- MAKE A LIST OF YOUR TOP 5 GOALS. I made a list of my top five goals for my new career, and with every idea, from the sublime to the ridiculous, applied that rubric to see if it met them. Many, many ideas failed this test. JfaC (Jewelry for a Cause) has grown so fast, and so many amazing clients and opportunities have come my way, applying this same rubric has also stopped me from veering off course and making poor business decisions.
- DO NOT EXPECT THE JOURNEY TO BE A STRAIGHT PATH. I started JfaC by selling fine jewelry and donating a portion of the proceeds to a charity that was meaningful to the recipient. This was a great way to work out the logistics of running a business, but ultimately not that interesting or challenging. Five miles into a hike with my good friend, I asked her to let me create something for the 6 boys she needed to buy holiday gifts for...no strings attached. That night I designed my first school crest bracelet. They were such a hit that within 3 months my company was creating eco-hip and affordable school crests for many of the schools on the east coast. Just this past September, in what I consider to be the ultimate compliment for my school crest division, JfaC was featured in the book True Prep, the sequel to The Official Preppy Handbook by Lisa Birnbach. Now we are the exclusive jewelry designer of True Prep jewelry!
- GO AFTER LOW-HANGING FRUIT. Don’t expect your first client to be a big fish, or to be invited onto Oprah the minute the ink is dry on your business cards. You will be quickly frustrated. For JfaC, this meant focusing on building relationships with area schools and local stores which could give feedback on designs and sales figures and which also allowed me to make mistakes without jeopardizing our relationship and my company’s good name.
- INVOLVE YOUR FRIENDS. Your friends all have their own incredible job and life experiences. Ask for their advice on a problem you are having or for their opinion on an idea...and LISTEN! You may just find your next rock star head of sales like I did!
Jewelry For A Cause's Black Buddha Necklace
Jessica Mindich is the Founder and CEO of Jewelry For A Cause, www.jewelryforacause.net a company that creates affordable jewelry to be used as fundraising and marketing tools for both retail and wholesale clients. The TALISMANS line, designed for retail philanthropy, is sold in over 50 stores across the USA including Kitson, Fred Segal, Lester’s, Room at the beach etc. JfaC’s extensive wholesale business creates custom jewelry for schools, universities and not for profit organizations. Two designs from the TALISMANS line, the Wave and the Black Buddha, will be sold at the SWAP boutique at this year’s Women’s Conference.
Silvie Celiz & Maryl Celiz, Co-Founders, HLife
This post relates to business partnerships.
In business, as in love, partnership is work. It takes organization, passion, commitment, flexibility, self-knowledge, patience and what we call “practical spirituality.” When we launched HLife, an online holistic health publication that informs, empowers and inspires you to take responsibility for your well-being, we were already sisters and life-long “partners in crime.” But even with a friendship and love for each other, we had to learn how to do business harmoniously and successfully as a team. Here’s what we’ve found it takes to bring about positive and productive results in partnership:
- Know yourself. It is key to do a strengths and weaknesses analysis of yourself. In order to succeed, you have to know what you bring to the table in this partnership - and what you need to work on. Your strengths and weaknesses are personal attributes that either help or harm your company’s goals. Get specific - everything from previous work experience and skills to intuition and emotional quotient is important. As you both do this work (a list helps), hopefully you will find many areas where you differ. This is great because your partner(s) will bring to the table things that you are missing, and your personal weaknesses will be strengthened by the partnership.
- Define value. You now know what you bring to the table, but do you know what that is worth? Getting a clear idea of what your skills and contributions are worth - what the market value is for your time and attributes - will give you a real appreciation for your own work and allow you to appreciate your partner for what she is worth to the business. Some women suffer from low self-esteem, which results from a lack of self-knowledge and appreciation of worth. Defining value will help with that and also help with salaries, pricing and generally asking for what you want.
- Establish order. In a partnership, nobody’s boss (actually, both people are). But in order to get specific tasks done, there has to be a leader for each project. This helped us a lot because once we shifted our perspective from “we are both heading everything” to “I take top responsibility for this one and you for that one” based on our skills, we were able to take a step back and follow if we had to, or step up and lead if we needed to. This is what we call establishing order. Order allows you to organize, prioritize, manage time, and distribute your precious energy accordingly.
- Focus on business. Donald Trump said it best: It’s not personal, it’s business. Going into business with someone you know (friend, family, romantic partner) is common, and while it comes with the advantage of instant affinity and mutual respect and appreciation, it has to morph into a business relationship that makes the business the priority. In discussions and disagreements, it’s important to take yourself out of the equation and always think, “this is not about me or about us. Objectively, is this what is best for the business?” No egos, no personal needs/wants - it’s not about you, it’s about the company. This will allow you to listen without prejudice and help you both zero in on the appropriate answers and solutions that will benefit the company.
- Establish boundaries. Yes, you’re in business together, but you have a life too. If you’re in business with a friend, family or romantic partner, it is important that you know when to “leave work in the office” - even if you work from home. In our case, we’re not only sisters, we’re also best friends, and when we became business partners we had to come up with tools to make sure we got our “sister time” in because all we ever wanted to talk about was business ideas/issues/solutions - at all times, nights, and weekends. This was a recipe for burnout and frustration, so we decided we had to bring back that non-business part of our relationship. We did it by communicating it. One of us will call the other and say, “I’m calling to talk to my sister,” and the other one knows to take off her business hat and settle into sister/friend mode. It works - even if we inevitably end up discussing something business-related, we still feel like we got our sister fix.
Silvie Celiz and Maryl Celiz co-founded HLife (www.hlifemedia.com), a bilingual online holistic health lifestyle magazine, in November 2009. HLife redefines health as an optimal concept, with articles on the mind, emotions, relationships, nutrition, plant-based recipes, green living, science and spirituality, medical reports, opinion and interviews, all focused on overall well-being and a practical and beautiful lifestyle.
Michelle King Robson, Founder, Chairperson & CEO, EmpowHER
I created my company, EmpowHER, because I know women need support and information when it comes to their health.
In my forties I had a complete hysterectomy, which left me very ill and so depressed that I considered taking my own life. Months passed, but no one was able to help me -- until I decided to search for answers on my own. Finally I found a doctor who focuses on female hormonal issues and who was able to give me the care I needed. That was when I began to wonder -- if I had all of these resources at my disposal and still couldn’t get well for so long, what are other women going through?
EmpowHER is the resource I wish I had when I was sick. It provides visitors access to one of the largest women's health and wellness content libraries on the web, as well as the largest online community of women discussing their health and wellness issues.
Creating a company from concept to reality has brought many unexpected challenges, but I have learned so much along the way. Here are some of my top tips for running a business:
- Share your load. CEOs never get less busy, have fewer things to do, or are granted more time to do what needs to get done. But as you build a team you trust, you’ll learn to relinquish control over certain things, which will allow you to focus on the things only YOU can do. Being a CEO is a balancing act, but by effectively prioritizing how you spend your time, focusing on what matters most, really listening to others and communicating effectively, you can manage the balancing act, instead of letting it manage you.
- Pay attention to your team and their needs. It’s one thing to talk to your team; it’s another thing to LISTEN to your team. Your team is your company’s lifeline; they are the ones who are really keyed-into what is working and what isn’t in the business. By really understanding what’s going on with them, you can understand what’s going on with your company. Be open to feedback and ideas, and be willing to adjust your plans and expectations accordingly.
- Always stay true to your core mission. Every day, we think about WIIFH….what’s in it for HER (women visiting EmpowHER)? As long as we know the answer to that, what we’re doing will be of value to HER, which means we’re doing the right thing. If not, then we shouldn’t do it. Period. This approach ensures that we are staying true to who we are, in turn strengthening our brand and our value to the women we serve.
- Be humble enough to seek guidance from others. CEOs sometimes have this notion that they must lead from the top down, and that they must have all the answers. All the time. My philosophy is quite different. My CEO mentor, Jim Myers, has taught me to lead from the bottom up. My job as CEO is to remove roadblocks from my team so that they can be successful -- not lay obstacles for them to overcome. Get yourself a CEO mentor. You can even try CEO forums, which are amazingly helpful whether you're a new or seasoned CEO. Good CEOs are smart. Great CEOs are smart enough to practice humility.
- Believe in yourself and in your success. From the moment I started EmpowHER, I never accepted failure as an option. When you believe strongly that you can succeed, everything you do, minute by minute, day by day will be influenced by that confidence, and amazingly enough, you do succeed!
Michelle King Robson is the founder, chairperson and CEO of EmpowHER.
Ali Brown, CEO & Founder, Ali International
At one point when I started my first business 10 years ago, I was so broke I could not take out $20 from an ATM. I considered giving up. But I just took it one day at a time and figured things out. Today, I’m a self-made millionaire, and I coach hundreds of women in starting and growing businesses of their own. My top 5 bits of advice:
- Trust your intuition. This is the best gift women have, but we have been trained throughout our lives to not honor it. When I look back at mistakes made – working with certain clients, hiring a person who was the wrong fit for the job, even accepting a marriage proposal – I always had a certain feeling about it that I ignored. Today, I work mostly by intuition. Once I mastered this, my company started doubling every year. Once you become aware of this skill and harness it, you’ll move forward faster than you imagined.
- Leap, don’t ladder climb. Growing up, we learn to take things one step at a time. We are educated in school one grade at a time. In the corporate world, we advance one position at a time (and usually start off making coffee!). But when you work for yourself, you make your own rules. You decide how far you go and when. Have courage, make your decisions from faith – not fear, and step up. Be grateful we have the opportunities we do in this country -- more than many other women in the world.
- The numbers are a game. Any sound accountant who reviewed what I spent on coaching, branding, marketing, etc. over the years as I built my business would flip out. It looks like I was crazy. You are supposed to grow slowly, right? But I knew the money I was investing would pay off in the long term. There is a sacrifice in the beginning. The game is making sure you are receiving short-term cash flow while investing in yourself to gain long-term equity and a higher income.
- Ditch the bitches. When I launched my first business, I was heartbroken to realize that not all my friends and family understood my leap of faith. Some even got nasty about it. I guess deep down they were upset I was stepping up and wanting more from life than they did. Remember none of this is ever about you – it’s about them. Seek out and surround yourself with people who you aspire to be like, who you respect, and who support your dreams. Trust me, it will change your life.
- Don’t go it alone. You can be in business for yourself, but don’t be by yourself. Seek out communities or coaching programs where you can get the advice you need from experts who know, and also where you can meet other success-minded women. (This is exactly why I founded my Millionaire Protégé Club.) Also hire help when you need it – not only are you helping your business grow, but you’re helping another woman who needs a job. Pass it on.
Ali Brown is a self-made millionaire entrepreneur and business coach to women around the world. Her company ranked on 2009’s Inc. 500 list of fastest growing private companies in the nation, and she was honored as one of 2010’s Enterprising Women of the Year and one of Ernst & Young’s Winning Women for 2010. To learn more about Ali’s coaching, courses, and events, go to www.AliBrown.com.
Founder & President, Stephanie Johnson cosmetic bags
Leaving the corporate world to launch my namesake line of cosmetic bags and travel accessories was perhaps the scariest thing I’ve ever done, but it was also the most rewarding.
I basically grew up in the telecom industry, starting as a telemarketer just out of high school, then working my way up into management and eventually becoming a vice president of sales and marketing, all while putting myself through night school to earn a college degree in international studies. By the time I was 31, I was earning a six-figure salary, had stock options and plenty of perks. But I wasn’t happy. I wanted to be passionate about something, but after 13 years in the telecom industry, I wasn’t sure what that was.
It was through one of my other loves – international travel – that inspiration struck. I was on vacation in Thailand, and I stumbled on some hand-sewn bags made of exotic silk fabrics. These bags had removable pockets and other features, and they sparked an idea. During all of my business travels, I had often noticed a lack of available products for efficiently organizing cosmetics and jewelry while on the road. Seeing these bags made me think I could design something to fill that niche: multi-functional travel cosmetic bags that were as beautiful as they were versatile. And so, the Stephanie Johnson line was born.
Abandoning my safe corporate job to become a bag designer wasn’t easy. I didn’t have a design background, and I didn’t know anything about manufacturing or the import/export business. But I was confident that I had a marketable idea, and I was determined to make it a success. I’ve made many discoveries along my journey, and here are few of the most important lessons I’ve learned:
- Don’t be afraid to share what you know. I owe a great deal of my success to mentors who taught me everything they knew about design and manufacturing. To pay it forward, I now not only mentor others in my field, but I also teach a class called ‘How to Design Your Own Handbag Line.’ People tell me I’m crazy to give my secrets away, but I find that sharing what I do with others actually benefits me. By carefully articulating your vision, you manifest it. And your generosity will come back to you: you never know when someone you’ve helped will turn around and return the favor.
- Consider the company you keep. It’s important not only to put together a great team of people to work with who share your vision, but to also consider who you surround yourself with outside of the office. Make sure you’re spending time with people who support your goals and dreams. When I first decided to leave the security of my job at WorldCom to launch my travel bag line, my boyfriend at the time tried to dissuade me, saying it was too risky. We didn’t last much longer after that.
- Stay flexible. The truth is, in any business, there will be good times and there will be not-so-good times. To make it through the not-so-good times, you have to be willing to adapt. The economic downturn hit us hard and we had to figure out how to reinvent our brand in order to survive. We went on the offensive and started soliciting advice from our customers and sales reps to find out how we could best respond to what the market was dictating. As a result, we revamped our entire collection to include pared down, simpler shapes that still maintained a certain aesthetic, but at a significantly lower price point. You have to pay attention to what’s going on in the marketplace, and realize that it’s constantly shifting.
- Make it personal. Email is great, but given the choice, I’d rather pick up the phone and call someone, or schedule a face-to-face meeting over lunch or coffee. It lends a personal element to your communication and helps build a relationship with your clients and associates. I’m also big on sending a hand-written thank you note any time someone has done me a favor or shown a kindness. It only takes a minute to express gratitude, and people will remember you for it.
- Face your fear. I have met so many people with genius ideas who never manifest them because of fear: fear that they won’t succeed, fear that they will spend so much money building their business that they’ll go bankrupt, fear that they’ll waste time and energy creating something no one will want. Our true opportunities only come when we have the courage and inner strength to face those fears and take a leap of faith. If I hadn’t spent money in start-up costs for my business because of fear of losing that financial security, I would have never built the strong company that I have today.
Stephanie Johnson Madrid Collection
Stephanie Johnson is the founder and president of Stephanie Johnson cosmetic bags, which are sold at Saks Fifth Avenue, Neiman Marcus, Bergdorf Goodman, Henri Bendel, Anthropologie, ULTA, Cambria Cove, and in boutiques across the United States as well as internationally. Her designs have been featured in publications such as InStyle, O the Oprah Magazine, Lucky, Real Simple, Redbook, and Shape. For more information, please visit www.stephaniejohnson.com
Anousheh Ansari, Co-Founder, Prodea Systems
Every day, millions of dreams are born, and millions of dreams die a silent death. Only a few ever make it out of the dream world into reality. What sets those few apart? I’m not an expert on the subject, but I managed to nurture one of those little dreams into a big reality. I actually ended up writing a book about it appropriately named My Dream of Stars.
I left Iran and came to America at age 16 without speaking a word of English, but nevertheless with my head full of dreams, especially dreams of flying to space. After a dose of reality, I ended up in Engineering school, becoming an electrical engineer in the field of telecommunication. Later, with my husband, I ventured into entrepreneurship. My strong passion for space became the fuel for my desire to grow and make my company even more successful. I knew the fruits of my success would help make my dream come true.
Here are a few tips I picked up along the way:
- Life is about how you live it -- not about your list of accomplishments. I have had my share of accomplishments, and the neurotic engineer in me always looks for finishes and check marks. But every time I reach a successful ending, in the midst of the happiness, I feel a kind of nostalgic sadness. I miss the long hours with my team – the laughter and the challenges. It’s at times like these that you realize that as much as you want the final results, it’s the experience that makes it all worthwhile.
- Imagine. Our imagination is a gift, but we start ignoring it as we grow up and become “practical adults.” Keep that inner child alive so you can imagine as a child would, without fear, without boundaries and without hesitation. Remember - dreamers are the ones who change the world.
- Fall madly in love with your calling. I have encountered many people who say they haven’t found their passion. Sometimes our passion is right in front of our noses, but we’re looking so hard that we miss it. Whatever you find important enough to spend your time on, try to learn if you can love it. Think about it all the time; find ways to make it better; give it to others/teach it to others; tell the whole world about it. If you can, then you have found your passion. Sometimes we know our calling, but we don’t dare admit it to ourselves because it’s so “big” that we’re afraid of failing at it. Remember, we would never learn how to walk if we didn’t learn how to fall!
- Don’t give up. If I have learned one thing in life, it’s that nothing is ever constant. The same way that good times don’t last, bad times don’t either -- so don’t give up. If you have found your passion and you are going after it, you are bound to make mistakes and to encounter obstacles. The important thing is that you believe in yourself. With this inner strength you can find the courage to work through all those obstacles and to find your way to your dream. Remember everything is constantly changing, so sometimes you can just wait out the storm.
- Inspire. I feel blessed to have learned the lessons I have and to have lived the life I have -- with all its ups and downs. If you have received such a gift, pay it forward. Become that beacon of hope for those who are facing challenges in their lives, and remind them of what awaits them on the other side of the mountain they face.
Anousheh Ansari captured headlines as the first female private space explorer. Afterward, back on Earth, as a successful serial entrepreneur, Anousheh returned to her job as co-founder and chairman of her latest technology company, Prodea Systems. In her previous endeavor, in 2001 Anousheh had served as co-founder, CEO and chairman of the board for Telecom Technologies, Inc. She is the author of My Dream of Stars.
Katherine Schwarzenegger, Founder, VIDA Bags
Did you know that every minute a woman somewhere in the world dies during pregnancy and childbirth? Did you know that over half a million women die each year, 400 in the United States alone, leaving over a million children motherless? Did you know that 88 percent of these deaths are preventable? Well if you didn’t know any of those facts, don’t worry, neither did I.
A little over a year ago I sat in on a conversation that my mother had with Sarah Brown (the wife of former UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown), and walked out of it upset with myself for not knowing anything about what they had been discussing -- the global issue of maternal mortality. I felt I had an obligation to know and be aware of a women’s issue as huge as this one. Frustrated with myself, I went home and researched all that I could about the issue. My research continued for a few weeks and was the subject of all of my conversations with friends and family.
When I realized that I had informed everyone around me about the issue, I thought to myself, Why not spread the word about this preventable and heartbreaking issue to everyone I possibly can, and what better way than through fashion? After sketches and sketches and calls and calls, I ended up with the beautiful, meaningful and handy VIDA bag. Funds raised through the VIDA bags go to 2 organizations -- CARE and White Ribbon Alliance, thereby raising awareness about and working to end this global issue.
I didn’t know what I was getting myself into in the beginning, but it turned out to be a great experience and one that I am proud of. Here’s what I learned:
- Have a pep talk, with YOURSELF: Before embarking on any journey, a personal chat is needed. You need to sit with yourself and make sure you know why you are going to begin doing something -- whether it is a clothing line, a business, or a family. If your reasoning starts with “passion,” then hands down go for it! When you have passion involved, you’re an unstoppable woman.
- Don’t have crazy expectations: Now this is something that my mom said to me over and over throughout the process of creating these bags: Don’t compare your creation to anyone else’s because you will end up disappointed. She told me I should be proud of the fact that I put my time, energy and heart into this bag because it was for something that I believed in and felt passionate about. It’s okay to have the urge to make your creation successful, but even if it’s not, just be happy that you did it and know that you have made a difference.
- Pace yourself: This is a mistake I made; I took on too much too fast and felt overwhelmed. When we take on something new and we are eager to do it we go go go because we think we are superwoman! Yes, I think all women have superwoman characteristics, but remember you are human. For me, going to school and working everyday on my VIDA bags taught me so much, and I had so much fun – but it was a lot. I did stress out. Just remember, take it all in doses and you’ll be fine. Most of all, remember to breathe!
- Listen to your gut: It is always important to pay attention to your gut – especially when you are creating something for the first time. Since you don’t really know how everything works, people might take advantage of that. Remember -- if you feel like something isn’t right, it probably isn’t. Definitely do a mental check-in a few times a week.
- Acknowledge your accomplishments! Remember that you are a smart and powerful woman. The fact that you were able to follow through on something you were hesitant about proves your strength. Don’t beat yourself up over things that didn’t succeed; they will just be a learning tool for you to use in the future. We learn from everything -- our successes and our failures, so cherish every moment on your journey, and always look for the lesson within every experience.
If you want to purchase a VIDA bag please visit www.VIDAbags.org, which will take you to CARE’s online store!
Katherine Schwarzenegger is a rising junior at the University of Southern California and is majoring in communications with a minor in gender studies. She created VIDA Bags last fall to promote the awareness of maternal mortality. Her book on body image -- Rock What You’ve Got!: Secrets to Loving Your Inner and Outer Beauty from Someone Who’s Been There and Back -- will be released in the fall. You can follow Katherine Schwarzenegger on Twitter @KSchwarzenegger.
Katherine Schwarzenegger will be speaking at The Women's Conference 2010.
JJ RAMBERG, Co-Founder, GoodSearch.com & GoodShop.com
-- The fight against cancer
-- Finding a cure for life-threatening peanut allergies
-- Breaking the poverty cycle
-- Saving the environment
This is a partial list of causes close to my heart. Faced with the reality of so much need in this world, I wanted to develop a sustainable way to raise funds and awareness for worthy causes. I wanted to create a way for people to incorporate “doing good” into their everyday lives.
In 2005 I, along with my brother, launched GoodSearch.com – a Yahoo-powered search engine that donates about a penny per search to the charity of your choice – and GoodShop.com – a shopping mall that works with more than 1,500 stores to donate a percentage of each purchase to the charity or school of your choice. We now work with more than 90,000 nonprofits and schools and millions of people are using our services to help their favorite causes.
In addition to being an entrepreneur, I host a show on msnbc called Your Business, which is focused on giving tips and advice to small business owners. Here are five tips that I’ve featured on my show, which I’ve taken to heart in launching my own business:
- Thank your employees. It’s easy, it’s free and it’s meaningful. Every once in awhile I take my employees out for an “employee appreciation event.” It could be as simple going out for ice cream, but it gives us a chance to socialize and gives me a chance to remind them that I appreciate all that they do.
- Provide exceptional customer service. At GoodSearch, we live and breathe what we call “legendary” customer service. There is no better evangelist than a happy customer, so make sure that your customers will want to spread the word.
- Leverage the creativity of your whole team. New ideas can come from anywhere within an organization. We have weekly brainstorming sessions in our company where everyone is encouraged to share their ideas and then we make sure to follow through on the promising ones.
- Be persistent. Entrepreneurs get used to hearing “no.” The ones who succeed look at the word “no” as the beginning of a conversation and not the end.
- Remember why you started your company. When you’re up at three in the morning worrying about some issue, it’s nice to always remember your goal – it makes the hard times worth it!
JJ Ramberg is co-founder of GoodSearch.com – a search engine that donates about a penny per search to the charity of the user’s choice - and GoodShop.com, a shopping mall which works with more than 1,500 stores and donates a percentage of virtually every purchase to the charity or school of the user’s choice. Today, more than 91,000 organizations are participating. Ramberg is also the host of the weekly small business program Your Business on msnbc.
Add the GoodSearch toolbar and raise money for your favorite cause every time you search or shop online!