When I started this entrepreneurial journey about 24 months ago, it wasn’t with rose colored glasses. I knew being an entrepreneur would be a challenge, it was going to be hard, but I was ready for the test. Then something happened along the road to my vision, I realized something was much harder than anything else I had anticipated. It was recently, during a very important meeting, one that might influence our future greatly, I was asked a very important question. “What is the hardest thing you have learned since opening the business?”
I had a great business answer for my guest. I got to thinking later that the real answer to her question was; mental fortitude! The mental strength it takes to stay focused, to keep moving forward, to stay positive and when everything seems a bit glim, find a plan to make a positive impact. This is a real challenge for most entrepreneurs and I wasn’t ready for it. So, when things get tough, the tough get going or make a plan, (that’s what I do).
Before we get started, a bit about me. Prior to opening robin b. I worked for numerous start-up tech companies. Some of those companies had only 25 people employed when I started with them. I learned so much working for those start-ups. Everything from how (and how not) to be a leader, what a VC investor is and how that partnership works and how to help my clients envision how the latest technology would work for their brand.
Those jobs included some grueling hours (yes, overnighters happen after college), travel almost every week and how to move past the “no” from a prospective client. I witnessed executive teams that did an amazing job at motivating us, rewarding us for doing a great job and, for me, I earned some amazing promotions (more than I had ever dreamed of).
I have found that these rituals translate to me staying positive and inspired, as well as continuing to be a positive leader to my staff. Here are a few habits that I have recently adopted into my routine, as well as a few that have always been part of “me. By the way, you don’t need to be an entrepreneur for these tips to be helpful.
I have always loved music. Anything that gets me singing and dancing (ok, while in the store, tapping my foot) is a favorite. I can be caught singing (lip syncing) at the gym, on the train and at the store. I have wireless speakers all over my house. I listen to music while I write, clean the house, cook, you get the point. I am always in tune to what is in the background. While at the store, the staff laughs when I say “can we find a better song”. They frequently comment; “we aren’t even paying attention to the music; how do you hear that with all you are doing?” I find the right songs can lift you up, put a smile on your face and simply change the mood.
I am amazed at all the wonderful tips, tricks and inspiration out there. We live in a great era of technology and now we can tap into what works for us. I happen to love the podcasts and websites that are run by women (not a surprise, right), that show how they have accomplished their success and how I might be able to implement a tip or two into my world. Not everything works, but I find it is the process of reading, learning and listening that can be the most inspiring. Above are a few of my current favorites.
FIND YOUR TRIBE
The hardest thing about becoming an entrepreneur is the isolation that happens. If you are like me, I am the only entrepreneur in my circle of friends (except for one). My corporate friends are still in the tech world and working for very large companies. Getting their perspective can be a bit skewed. The other challenge, not everyone is an entrepreneur in the same vertical. I have a very good friend who has been a small biz owner for 10 years. She gives great advice, except it can be hard to see how it relates to my business. That was when I found a few communities, in the fashion industry, to join. This is where Facebook can be a great tool. Connecting with other brands/retail owners has been helpful for me. It gives me a lot of perspective. I realized I am not the only one with that particular challenge, I can relate to that challenge my contemporaries are having and learn from what they are doing and maybe give some advice. It certainly helps with the isolation and I am learning so much!
REMEMBER WHAT YOU LOVE
When I became an entrepreneur, I thought “I must cut back, all my finances have to be for the business”. I think we have all heard the saying “all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy”. For me, that is so true! My corporate job had me me on the road and that suited me. I loved visiting new places, meeting new people and experiencing different cultures. When I opened the store that stopped, abruptly. I will admit, I had a bit of withdrawal and found I missed my excursions to Newark (yes, even NJ seemed exciting when I stopped traveling). It was towards the end of last year that I decided I had to add travel back into my world. As you might have noticed from social media, I went to Punta Cana, DR in January. That trip did me a world of good. I didn’t think about the store, the business or the challenges we were having. Instead I found myself inspired to think about what is next, how we can add to our store and how we might give back. What came out of that trip; new designs for the robin b. label, a charity we want to support and an overall fresh perspective to the business. The most exciting benefit, I have given myself “permission” to travel more. Italy is next, in June.
SOMETHING OLD IS NEW AGAIN
I was in the art club while in high school. My grandfather painted landscapes (watercolor) when he wasn’t working. My aunt is a wonderful illustrator (just as a hobby) and I have another Aunt who sculpts using clay. I guess there is a bit of creativity in the family. It was mid-summer last year that I decided to try my hand at painting (that's mine above). I wasn’t very good at it in high school, but I was desperate for an outlet. A place to “get out of my head” and just relax. If I could suggest one thing to any entrepreneur who is starting out, don’t forget to find an outlet. It isn’t good for you, or the business, to be thinking about it 24/7. Find something you love, can help you relax and inspire you. I suggest something that will inspire you differently than any other part of your routine. I promise, you will see returns that you can’t quantify. For me, painting does that.
Lastly, I would suggest sticking to a routine. I wake every day at the same time (5:30 am – I am a morning person), feed my cats, have my coffee and a light breakfast, off to the gym and prep my meals for the day. I find this routine has helped me to be more prepared. I can pivot when needed. And let’s face it, something always happens we didn’t anticipate.
Blog by Robin Barrett Wilson
For the past 25 years, Robin has devoted herself to almost every facet of the fashion industry. Working from the ground up, she has worked for and with some of the most prominent names in the fashion industry (Victoria's Secret, Tory Burch, Chico's Brands, J. Crew - to name a few). She started in store operations and progressed to buyer before switching to the other side, selling apparel for vendors. At the beginning of the tech craze, she went behind the scenes, consulting with retail companies on eCommerce, Omni-channel and Supply Chain. She’s even designed and developed her own products. It was in 2015, that Robin turned her dedication, expertise, and passion to a new venture: robin b.