The spark ignited for me during my senior year in college. After a Women’s Empowerment Conference at my school, I toiled with the idea of starting my own business after seeing so many successful and powerful women. There was one particular African American lawyer who stood out to me. She spoke about the legalities of starting a business that made it seem realistic; not just a dream. That’s when I personally became inspired, and I knew I wanted to become an entrepreneur. I just didn’t know what type of industry I wanted to be in. It came about randomly one day a few years ago. It was late 2014 and I was in a contemplative place; thinking about what job have I done thus far that has given me the most enjoyment? That job was working for a shoe manufacturer. It wasn’t necessarily the atmosphere, but the work that I did. After that realization I was like, “That’s it. I’ve found my passion: shoes!
Just a few months later, I started writing a blog in March 2015 called Pretty Petite in A Big World. The goal for the blog was to build a following and obtain feedback before starting my business. It was then that I really became a student of the industry. I went to tradeshows, read magazines, utilized SCORE and built various relationships. For me, I wanted all the groundwork to be laid down before moving forward to open up shop online.
What were the biggest initial hurdles to building your business and how did you overcome them?
The biggest initial hurdle was setting up my website. I am by no means a tech person, but boy this venture has pushed me out of my comfort zone in that respect. Even though I had someone build my website there was so much information I still had to provide and set up like a payment system, uploading photos, learning to use the interface, uploading new styles, managing the website, and keeping track of inventory. These things are not an easy feat.
My second biggest hurdle was, (and still is) marketing. Finding out what is the best way to obtain useful data that can translate into helping you secure sales. Additionally, figuring out which marketing tools/platforms are the best to use to help spread the word about the business.
My third biggest hurdle was balancing time. I still have a full time job that requires me to travel, sometimes internationally, coupled with my personal life can be challenging.
There is no one-size-fits-all formula to balance and success.
It’s a process and journey. I am still a new to entrepreneurship and I am learning how to balance all aspects of my life, career and business. Some days are easier and more than others but I am learning my own rhythm and that this is something that looks different for everyone.
Did you ever deal with contention from your family and friends concerning your entrepreneurial pursuits?
How did you handle it? What would you do differently in hindsight?
Not really. My family and friends are extremely supportive. They pitch in whenever they can and help market me. My husband especially encourages me along the way. Anytime I felt like giving up he would say no, you got this.
What would you say was the single most influential factor in your business success?
Faith! Being an entrepreneur is not for the faint of heart. It requires long hours and constant learning. Passion and hard work gets you half of the way there. The bigger piece for me is knowing that this shoe company aligns with the purpose God has for my life. With that assurance, I know all things are possible and this venture is more than a business, it is my purpose; thus it has been pre-ordained to succeed.
What do you know today that you wish you would have known when you first got started as an entrepreneur?
For a business like mine, I wish I would have known how much “shipping” matters, as well as to make sure that I calculated shipping costs into my overall bottom line. Checking around for rates is also important. The advice I would offer to the next person is this: trucking companies can be your best friend and alleviate high cost freight. Also, see if the vendors you work with will help offset high shipping cost or if you can get free shipping if you purchase a certain amount.
What advice would you give to an upcoming young and old entrepreneur locally and internationally?
Don’t give up. Your first year is always the hardest, but also the place you will learn the most. Think of the most successful businesses- they all went through a period where they wanted to give up. Often, right at our breaking point, comes our breakthrough.