I started Cherry House Inc. because nothing in the market that consistently catered to my taste in carnival costumes. I had been part of a design team for a few years and always created looks based on what I wanted to wear at that time. I decided to branch out into the carnival world on my own to be able to discover and develop my personal style. I relied on a seamstress for the first few months but later had a vision for a design that the seamstress just could not get right. I decided to borrow my mother's sewing machine (which I once got for her as a Christmas gift... I never gave it back, ha! ) to try sewing for myself. After several iterations and several months, I was finally satisfied with my outcome. I could not stop trying new things with the sewing machine thereafter which led me to start designing swimwear.
What were the biggest initial hurdles to building your business and how did you overcome them?
The most challenging part of my brand development is finding time to do it all. It is probably not common to have a career and be an entrepreneur at the same time, but this is the reality I live. In addition to working full time in financial services, I design, source materials, produce outfits by hand, market, plan for expansion, secure partnerships, and all other aspects of a start up for Cherry House Inc. Some days I feel it is impossible, but most days I feel invincible. It is important for me plan each day with great amount of flexibility and have more achievable daily goals than idealistic long term goals.
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?
Due to the fact that the nature of my business is deeply rooted in my heritage, I am mostly encouraged and supported by family and friends. I have faced criticism from the elders in my family for creating carnival designs that they deem skimpy. This is because back in their carnival days, costumes were elaborately constructed using tons of fabrics and heavy embellishments to portray a theme. I acknowledge and accept these differences in generational preference. Music is a perfect, cross-cultural, example of this where evolution is not always accepted by the predecessors (e.g., lovers of 90's rap music must abhor today's hop hop, ha!). In my work, I accept the differences while paying homage to the art form by being knowledgeable about its history and always tying my designs to a theme or portrayal as was done traditionally.
Also, my parents do not approve of my lack of sleep. I handle this by making sure to avoid that topic. :)
What would you say was the single most influential factor in your business success?
Social engagement has been most influential. Cherry House Inc. is mainly marketed via social media and our products as placed in a variety of social events when potential customers are most likely to be or locations that potential customers would like visit. Our success is also driven by the personal relationships we establish once an individual becomes a client.
What do you know today that you wish you would have known when you first got started as an entrepreneur?
I broke into the carnival arena with a bang and found it difficult to out do my first act the second time around.That second time was painful. The growing pains I was experiencing did not register to me as just that, Growing Pains. It just felt like failure and the negativity that came from the feeling of failure certainly had an impact in my momentum.
What advice would you give to an upcoming young and old entrepreneur locally and internationally?
For the sole proprietors, you must know that you are the only person that cares about your dreams and your business as much as you do. People will come and people will go. People will be active and demonstration huge commitment and people will just fall off for many reasons. You are the most reliable person on your team and until your company is mature (where you can pay individuals at market rate for their service) you must always have a contingency plan that will account for the ebbs and flows of manpower. Learn how to function with a strong team and figure out quickly how to function with out.