- Company values are critical.
At my company, there are two parts of our ecosystem: Corporate employees and independent contractors. The contractors out-number the employees about 50 to one, which is unique. Our environment has to be pervasively heart-filled and supportive and encourage our contractors (who we refer to as stylists) to support – not compete – with each other.
Our company values the creation of confidence in other women, working as a team, encouraging growth in everyone, as well as respecting each others’ time and driving for results. We foster this by consistently recognizing a woman who is generous and helpful as equally as the one who sells the most. There is NEVER a team meeting that doesn’t celebrate these values and we always discuss values with partners, investors, our board of directors and the press.
2. Listen to the Customer. Do what she says.
We benefit from the fact that we talk directly and intimately to our customers every day. Because of this, our product line has very literally been designed by our customers. We added sizes on both the small and large ends based on requests from the customers (our no-underwire bra replacement products now cover bra band sizes from 32 up to 50 - we started with 36 to 40.) We moved into activewear and swimwear because our customers demanded it!
3. You are your most important investor.
Women who want to start a business often ask me, "What data is required to get an investor?" What they don’t realize is that as an entrepreneur, you are your own biggest investor. You’ll have to cancel dinner dates and trips and go without sleep on many occasions -- that’s the harsh reality of entrepreneurship. My advice to women is is reframe the question and ask yourself, "What data is required to ensure that year after year, this is the right investment for you to make?" It’s important to evaluate what has to occur for the investment to pay off and what it will cost you personally.
4. Make your messaging your mission.
Peruse my company’s Instagram account and you’ll see a lot of clever hashtags and beautiful images about women empowerment. This isn’t just “marketing” -- it’s the company’s mission and the reason my team and I work so hard to provide great product to our customers and compelling side hustle opportunities to our Stylist. When you’re passionate about your mission, it’s easy to lead and inspire all those around you.
5. Take advice with a grain for salt.
The best piece of advice I received when I was just starting Ruby Ribbon ended up being the worst advice. The suggestion was to start small and test our concept in markets we knew well. But when we executed on this during our beta, soft-launching in only our home markets of Bay Area and New York, we realized this was actually the worst piece of advice! We tried to launch a controlled market test, and were very focused on the geographic areas we were testing in. What we didn’t expect was that our first Stylists, in our test markets, would not adhere to our test parameters – they were so excited they shared with friends all over the country.
Before we knew it, we were actually launched across the country in areas we weren’t even ready to ship to! We had to scramble to make it work. The lesson is that geography does not matter when you have a viral product on your hand. Be prepared to scale whether you are ready or not!