HOW TO LAUNCH A BUSINESS (BY THE WOMEN WHO’VE DONE IT)

This National Women Entrepreneur Day, our favorite #girlbosses share their start-up secrets

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Like all great ideas, HAVEN was born over a glass (or three) of wine. Could we turn our nerdy organizing addiction into a legitimate business? Could our style backgrounds (me: magazines; Jen: Burberry) bring a fresh angle to the home organizing industry? And, most important of all, could our friendship survive launching a business together? The answer to all three was an emphatic YES (this could have been the wine talking).

But the path from lightbulb moment to launch was l-o-n-g. It was hard not to get ahead of ourselves in the beginning. We were so energized by the idea of running our own show, and doing something we were passionate about. But we forced ourselves to slow down, to put in the research, to become experts in our field and to learn about our clients and competitors.

The single most important thing we did was to reach out to other female entrepreneurs for help. And once we started, we couldn’t stop. We were absolutely blown away by the talent around us. Why hadn’t we noticed – and celebrated - all these smart, brilliant women forging their own paths and blazing their own trails? They had so much advice to offer. And, because we’re all in this together (a rising tide lifts all boats, right?), we want to share their advice with you.

Before we do, here are 4 lessons we learnt launching Haven…

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Get the tough talk out of the way. This applies no matter how long you’ve known your business partner/team. Launching a business with another person means there’s Nowhere. To. Hide. So define your roles. Discuss finances. Work through any hard stuff that could come back to bite you later on. Jen and I have learnt more about each other in the past nine months than we have in 22 years. Sure, we’ve seen each other through heartbreak and career highs, through weddings and the birth of our kids, but nothing takes a friendship to the next level like a grumpy 5.30am phone call to plan your business strategy. After witnessing my colossal ability to procrastinate – a two-month quest to find the ‘perfect’ font for our website is just one example - Jen nicknamed me Steve Jobs (after the famously obsessive cofounder of Apple). And while it’s illuminating to watch Jen flex her lawyer muscle (there is no better negotiator around), I’ve never loved my high-flying biz partner more than the moment she confessed she didn’t know how to take a screenshot on her phone.

 
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Prepare to work your ass off. Launching a business is f*cking hard. Someone once told me you can work 40 hours a week for someone else, or 80 hours a week for yourself. Go in with your eyes wide open. And know that the business will only grow as fast as you do. So the answer is to put the time in, then put the time in again. With four kids between us, Jen and I snatch working hours when we can. This often means late nights and dawn starts (thank god for Touché Eclat).

 
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Play to your strengths. Aside from both being uber-organized (a definite plus when you’re launching a home organizing business), Jen and I have very different skillsets. So we use the ‘divide and conquer’ approach. As the grown-up in our partnership, Jen handles the big-girl-pants side of the business: registering the company, opening bank accounts, drawing up contracts, becoming fluent in Quickbooks – tasks that make my brain melt down. As a former magazine editor, I handle the creative side: the branding, the website, the words, the logo. While we both have opinions, we’re also smart enough to know when to back off and let the other person do their thing.

 
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Done is better than perfect. For all the perfectionists out there (yes, I’m guilty) resist the urge to tinker with every last detail. Do your due diligence, prepare as much as you can but know that sometimes you have to cross your fingers and hope for the best. What’s the worst that can happen? You fail? As Arianna Huffington once said: ‘Failure is not the opposite of success, it’s part of the success’. So adopt HAVEN’s ‘better an oops than a what if’ approach and go for it!

Now it’s time to hear from the (real) experts…


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Jordan Rhodes

founder of travel blog, Glimpse Guides

 

My secret to launching a successful business is… slow, steady persistence. 

Before I set up my own company I worked as... a personal assistant to the president of a fashion design and manufacturing company. From that job I learned that anyone can start a business if they put their mind to it, and I also learned that I wanted to do something creative with my life.

If I could change one thing about the way I launched it would be... to plan more. I launched my website very quickly and struggled with its identity for a while. I now have products launching in the near future but this time I am not rushing anything. 

My proudest moment so far is... being mentioned in TOWN&COUNTRY magazine, and forming my charitable platform, Give a Glimpse. 


 

Leslie Gregory

cofounder of the micro-consulting
app, Accomplish

 

My secret to launching a successful business is… wait, there is a secret? Truthfully, the reason we have an app/business at all is because we remain flexible. Someone told me a long time ago that the “key” to starting any business is the ability to identify home and pivot as many times as necessary to return to the vision.

Before I set up my own company I worked as... Director of Buying & Planning for fashion label Mulberry, North America.

If I could change one thing about the way I launched it would be... to slow down and wait for the product to lead.

My proudest moment so far is... watching people download Accomplish with the intention to work in their field and in their neighborhood. The professional expertise in the Greenwich CT area is endless... work local, hire local!


 

Julia Dzafic

founder of the lifestyle blog, Lemon Stripes

 

My secret to launching a successful business is… to save up before you launch so that you don’t end up in debt. My husband and I have both launched successful businesses (Lemon Stripes and Countdown Fitness) and were able to do it without any help or any debt! That will put you ahead of the game from the get-go.

Before I set up my own company I worked as… Marketing Director for food and wellness companies. I love the creativity of digital marketing and will always have a passion for it!

If I could change one thing about the way I launched it would be... not a thing! I am so proud of the way we’ve launched our businesses, and I’ve learned so much throughout the process.

My proudest moment so far is... launching a line of mommy-and-me fleeces with one of my favorite companies, Dudley Stephens!


 

Christina Schwefel

founder of Forme Barre Fitness

 

My secret to launching a successful business is… having a strong team in place that loves what they do! I love working with a group of women who are genuinely engaged and want to teach a method that’s safe, effective, and informed. 

Before I set up my own company I worked as a... Psychotherapist and Professor (I still teach but I no longer see any patients in private practice) 

If I could change one thing about the way I launched it would be... this one is not for public consumption LOL!

My proudest moment so far is... anytime I hear from a client about how our method has changed their life for the better; whether that be alleviating back pain, transforming their physique, providing necessary me time, or improving posture. Those stories never get old and make my day every time I hear one. 


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Annabelle Torgman Degrazio
& Annie Jensen Chapur

founders of home accessories brand,
TAJA Collection

 

Our secret to launching a successful business is… building a strong team and always looking ahead! We are both problem solvers so nothing can stop us.

Before we set up our own company we worked as a… lawyers: Annie was a corporate lawyer and Annabelle was a litigator at the same Big Law firm in Miami. We met on our first day of the job and became close friends very quickly!

If we could change one thing about the way we launched it would be... absolutely nothing! We set a launch date and stuck to it. Not everything was perfect when we launched (as we would’ve liked), it was important for us to hit the ground running. 

Our proudest moment so far is... now that we are coming on our second year, seeing the growth every day from where we were a year ago is beyond gratifying.


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Lauren Stephens

co-founder of fleece brand, Dudley Stephens

 

My secret to launching a successful business is… to learn to look at failures (there will be a lot) as opportunities to grow or change something moving forward.    

Before I set up my own company I worked as a... fashion and beauty public relations
director.  

If I could change one thing about the way I launched it would be... pad in extra time for any launch, you will always need the extra week – or month if you can! 

My proudest moment so far is... seeing our collaboration with Eva Amurri Martino from Happily Eva After on People.com! 


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Stephanie Trotta

founder of fashion blog,
The Girl Guide

 

My secret to launching a successful business is… to be authentic, be original, be you. 

Before I set up my own company I worked as a… retailer and stylist for brands like Ralph Lauren and Theory. 

If I could change one thing about the way I launched it would be... not waiting so long! I kept pushing back my launch date because I wanted everything to be perfect. What I’ve learned is you can’t sweat the small stuff and it’s OK for your business to grow with you. I’m a type-A perfectionist so sometimes it’s hard for me to let things go. 
My proudest moment so far is… helping a client re-create her wardrobe and style her closet after losing a significant amount of weight. She had been working on herself for almost a year and it was an honor to be part of that transformation. We were both crying when it was all over!


 

Eleen Craig

founder of graphic design studio Gal & Fellow

 

My secret to launching a successful business is… believing in yourself. Don’t let doubt distract you from what you’re trying to achieve. The only thing holding you back is you. Yes, it will be hard, but if you’re willing to put in the hours (and there will be a lot of hours!), then you can do it. Worrying is a waste of time. Focus on dreaming instead - and get busy.

Before I set up my own company I worked as an... an in-house graphic designer for News UK. It wasn’t my dream job, but it taught me that good design is collaborative, and the closer you can work with the client/developer/illustrator, sharing ideas and visions, the better the results will be.

If I could change one thing about the way I launched, it would be... to have done it sooner and bigger. Like a lot of new moms, I initially felt under-confident. In hindsight, I should have just backed myself and plunged in wholeheartedly.  

My proudest moment so far is... being commissioned by The White Company to illustrate and animate the promotional material for the launch of their first American store in New York.


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Liz Ariola

founder of mom blog,
Mrs Nipple

 

My secret to launching a successful business is… surrounding yourself with the right people. You can’t do it alone. 

Before I set up my own company I worked as an... I actually juggle two jobs right now, Mrs. Nipple and the job I have been doing since I graduated college. I will be sharing my career path in February when I walk away from my full time job and 100% step into Mrs. Nipple. Stay tuned!

If I could change one thing about the way I launched, it would be... I wish I did it sooner!! I over thought it for entirely too long. 

My proudest moment so far is... celebrating Mrs. Nipple’s one year anniversary!


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Ashley McCormick

Founder of JEWELRY BRAND, ASHA

 

My secret to launching a successful business is…find something you are passionate about and do it! Waking up every morning with passion and a singular focus I find to be of paramount importance (because some days are harder than others!) Once you've launched a business, having an amazing team is also critical. Even though I started ASHA as a solo-preneur years ago, I'm lucky to have an incredible team of women who help me run the business. It's a joy to collaborate, create and bounce ideas off each other and also problem-solve together. 

Before I set up my own company I worked as a...I have always been an entrepreneur and started my business in college. As a child and even a teenager I was making things like ribbon belts...sourcing belt buckles on eBay and selling them to friends and classmates. Throughout high school and college I interned in advertising at McCann Erickson and in fashion at Tommy Hilfiger. Those experiences were invaluable in teaching me about the worlds of fashion and marketing.

If I could change one thing about the way I launched it would be...I really wouldn't change a thing! I'm glad I launched with a sense of naiveté and not knowing what was ahead, as the unforeseen may have seemed daunting. I still feel like I've just launched and have so much to do and so many opportunities ahead.


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XOXO
Corrie & Jennifer