For most of my adult life, I have been working hard for other people, businesses and company goals. As a corporate executive, I had a team of people behind me, access to large budgets and great experiences, but it just wasn’t fulfilling anymore. So after twelve years running Proactiv, I took a hard look at my life and realized I could do this on my own. With some hard work, determination and a little help along the way, my makeup brand, Milli Rose, was born.
It wasn’t an easy journey, and although I have a successful career now, it didn’t start out that way. Going from working in a corporate job to striking out on your own and being successful requires a total mindset shift. Instead of having a team behind me every step of the way, I had to find the resources I needed to make my company work with my own two hands. I had to establish myself as a trusted brand that people wanted to buy products from. The weight of my company was all on my shoulders.
Many female entrepreneurs have stories just like mine. They wanted to work for themselves, create something they could be proud of or shake up their industries. Finding success on your own can be a daunting task, but there are four important things every entrepreneur can do now to skyrocket their success in the future.
Build a Strong Network and Use It
Becoming an entrepreneur can sometimes seem lonely because it’s just you to start. Building a strong network of other entrepreneurs who have been in your shoes before is crucial. They can provide you with resources, be confidantes when you need support and become the role models who inspire you to continue to shoot for the stars.
It was my C200 sisters who exposed me to new areas of business and encouraged me to find joy in other areas of my life. That advice helped me look inward and improve myself, which led me to eventually start my own business.
Finding that network can be tough, especially for women leaders. It is proven that having a mentor can boost your confidence, teach you new skills and help build a network, but research shows only 37% of women actually have a mentor. As entrepreneurs, there is no built-in mentorship program at your company, unless you eventually plan to create one, so joining groups like C200 is a great place to start.
Make sure you are building a network that spans many different industries. You never know when you may need to call in a favor or ask for advice. Maybe you are in the beginning stages of starting a business, but you aren’t as well-versed with the licensing you need. Someone in your network could be an expert and might have advice from when they started their own business. Through C200, I learn from the experiences of the women around me. They exposed me to new opportunities and new business avenues.
Now that you have your network in place, don’t be afraid to ask for help. When I first started my business, I interviewed friends and business owners within the beauty industry to ask how they reached success. However, I didn’t always ask all the right questions.
One of my biggest failures when I first started out was not realizing how much I would need to spend to build my business. When I worked with other national brands, I had a $200 million dollar marketing budget to work with. In my first month of marketing my own brand, I had to spend $50,000 of my own money. It was a different experience, and I wish I had asked people around me so I was prepared for what I would realistically have to spend.
It’s also important to continue to ask questions, even if you’ve been running your own business for years. Your network could know about a new way to innovate or streamline your business. Your employees might see inconsistencies that you don’t because they are involved in day-to-day tasks. Always stay curious.
Do What You Love
The best piece of advice my friends and business companions in the industry gave me was to do something I loved. That’s the first step to finding success. I have loved makeup since I was 14 years old and am a self-proclaimed “beauty junkie.” Making my way into the beauty industry just made sense, because it was my passion. It also helps if you come from the industry. I had to lean on a lot of my relationships with suppliers to be successful. I knew them and how they worked and what they could do for me.
Make sure you create your business for yourself, not for anyone else. People around you may tell you that you are getting into a niche market that isn’t as popular or that other avenues are generally more profitable. Take that into consideration, but go with your gut. Remember, this is something you are going to be doing every day and if you don’t do what you love, it won’t make you happy.
Believe You Can Do It
It’s hard to believe that just 50 years ago, the U.S. Census Bureau started including women-owned businesses in their data. Then, there were only about 400,000 women-owned businesses. Now, three decades later, there are more than 13 million women-owned businesses across the U.S. and 9% of Fortune 500 companies have a woman at the helm.
Female entrepreneurs have come a long way in the past 50 years, and if they can do it, so can you! If you are looking for a group of female executives and entrepreneurs who will help you get to the top of your business, consider joining C200 and send in an application at c200.org.