My story started 26 years ago in Poland where I lived before joining my mom in Chicago for 8th grade. When I lived in Poland with my family, I visited her every single summer, so Chicago was technically my second home since kindergarten. While I was in high school (& living that suburban lifestyle by the O’Hare Airport) I took many classes at the Art Institute of Chicago & Columbia collage focusing mostly on fashion design & photography. Some of my best years & best memories were made. My plan to stay in Chicago and develop my career got suddenly interrupted when one of my teachers told me that I had the talent to move to New York and go to Parsons… so I did! Thank you, Ms. Reed! The rest is history and a constant back and forth between two best cities in the US. I still have yet to figure out who has the best pizza! My business, WE Rule, was born after I graduated from Parsons and after I realized that I spent too much time sewing and not enough time networking. After interviewing and connecting with dozens of female founders I realized that it’s something more than an interview platform. Today we connect these amazing visionaries to mentorship, opportunities, and investors in 30+ countries. On top of that, we now have 1,500+ verified business owners with us as well as got recognized by the UN Women as Champions of Change for women globally & more. It’s a blast!
What ignited the spark in you to start a new business venture or to make significant changes in an existing business? How did the idea for your business come about?
There was no spark to create what WE Rule is today. What it came to be happened very organically. At first, all I wanted is to grow my own network & then I realized that everyone else wanted the same thing, so I started sharing my connections and looking for new ones,
What were the biggest initial hurdles to building your business and how did you overcome them?
Something that was hard in the beginning was not having any connections, but that’s easy to fix. You go to events, you reach out to people, you form new connections and you’re set. Hurdle# 2 : Overwork & no rest This is my biggest problem and something I’m still learning how to manage. When you’re super passionate about something, you get pleasure from working on it all the time, thinking about it & talking about it. It’s a blessing and a curse! Watch out!
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 at all. My mom was always very supportive of all my crazy ideas and raised me in a very different way from all of my friends. She would always tell me that if I have an idea and passion I should go for it & not look at just the money. She strongly believes that if you love doing something and give it your best, the money will come.
What would you say was the single most influential factor in your business success?
Definitely persistence! For the longest time I was not getting anything from WE Rule and no one was recognizing me for anything, yet I kept on going and kept on pushing things forward. Often times, if we don't see success immediately, we give up and I believe that's not a way to massive, longterm success.
What do you know today that you wish you would have known when you first got started as an entrepreneur?
It takes time. First, you need to build your business, your own brand, find out who you are as a person, meet the right people, test & learn - all while having a "social" life, family, gym time & everything else. I wish I realized this before. It would have saved a lot of disappointment and anxiousness early on.
Also - don't compare yourself to other people who are doing a similar kind of a thing. Chances are they will not be doing it in a year or two... or that their idea of success is different from yours. Do what you do best & don't look at your competitors too much.
What advice would you give to an upcoming entrepreneur locally and internationally?
If you're really serious about success, get used to being scared and uncertain! You have to realized that no one really knows what they are doing. Especially the biggest innovators such as Zuckerberg or Musk. There is no way you can learn how to be a CEO or founder unless you do it. It's a big responsibility and a marathon. You can only learn by doing.
If you're doing something brand new make sure you get used to failing and being scared. It's a part of success and part of the process. Move to where you always wanted to live, connect to the person that intimidates you while inspiring you, send that email & just keep going. Being scared will only keep you from taking the step and achieving next level of success.