Did you know that women are starting businesses at twice the rate of men? Glamour magazine knew–which is why it hosted a panel, “Secrets of Start-Up Queens: How to Launch a Successful Business in Today’s Entrepreneurial Economy,” at the 92Y earlier this week.
Moderated by Glamour’s editor-in-chief Cindi Leive, the panel included five women with impressive resumes: Iman, founder and CEO of IMAN Cosmetics, Skincare and Fragrances; Dylan Lauren, founder and CEO of Dylan’s Candy Bar; model and social media maven Coco Rocha; Refinery29 co-founder Piera Gelardi; and SoulCycle co-founder Elizabeth Cutler.
The women spilled their secrets to owning a successful business, which they were all quick to point out is no easy feat. The crowd present eagerly soaked up all the tips and tricks shared last night, because at the end of the day, nothing feels better than success–just ask Iman. “Eileen Ford, when I came to the US in 1975, she had Beverly Johnson and of course you could only have one black model,” she explained to the crowd. “She looked at me and said, ‘She’ll never last.’”
Grinning like a cheshire cat, Iman just pointed to herself, sitting on stage surrounded by successful business women–a gesture that said it all.
Read on for 10 essential tips that will help you launch the business you’ve always dreamed of having.
1. The people who you support can become your greatest supporters.
Piera Gelardi: As we started writing about these independent stores, they became our champions. Steven Alan was our first angel investor, and that was really great alignment for us early on, because he was really in that world and it allowed us to connect with the right people and gave us advice in a lot of ways.
2. Starting a business is all about your product–so know your stuff.
Iman: I went to JC Penney and gave them a presentation [of her cosmetics line] and they said, “We’ll take it.” I went to the production company and said, “Okay I have 400 doors.” So I didn’t put any of my own money into it. The takeaway is that you have to know what you’re talking about. And not just about the foundation; I’ve stopped reading Vogue and started reading the Census Bureau. At the end of the day, it’s the product, stupid! A woman might buy it because it’s from Iman, but if she takes it home and it does not work, you’ve lost her.
3. Be the first to try out new things–especially in social media.
Coco Rocha: I think it’s important to play around with different things. For instance, when I was on Twitter no one was on it, no one was on Instagram but I thought let’s try it out, if it doesn’t do anything at least I have the name “CocoRocha.” There were about 10 fashion industry people on it, and who are you going to follow if you want a model? The only model on Instagram–me! I found it was a great way to boost followers.
4. Don’t be afraid to ask for help…
Iman: I networked with other business women–you would not believe when you ask to be mentored by another female executive how much you will be uplifted.
5. But be smart about where you get your help from.
Iman: When I decided to enter business, it took 5 to 6 years for anybody to take me seriously. I did the first step forward to take my self seriously—I divorced myself from my industry. I stopped going to any fashion parties, so that people wouldn’t photograph me with “Model Iman” next to it. I studiously pick what I will go to and what I will not. If it endangers my brand, I don’t go.
6. Always value your customer.
Elizabeth Cutler: We try to make it so you walk in the door and feel a connection. Our first location, we found it on Craigslist and we didn’t have a sign, so we were so grateful for every person that walked in the door and we wanted them to come back. For us, the gratitude of seeing the customer come back is really beautiful.
7. It’s okay to stick to your guns.
Coco Rocha: In the beginning [of her career], someone told me they wanted me to be nude, and I was in Asia, and they told me if I didn’t do it they would ship me back home and I would owe them all the money they spent. To this day, I’m still mad at those people for doing that to me. If it wasn’t written, they didn’t care. I really believe that from the beginning, you should figure out what should be in that contract. Sometimes, even when it’s written down people don’t care and I have to take the physical contract and show it to the stylist.
8. Create a culture you would want to work in.
Piera Gelardi: Today was our last day in our office, and it was just this really emotional moment of knowing we created this place that is a really fun place to work, and I feel compelled to inspire the people around me but also feel so inspired by the people that work with me everyday. I think for me, that work environment and our relationship with our readers drives me.
9. If it doesn’t exist, create it yourself.
Iman: To make the statement [of her multi-ethnic ad campaign] bigger, I wanted an American Indian model. Needless to say, no one had an American Indian model. So I went to the Native American community in New York and asked them to help me find a girl. She was absolutely stunning—and identifiably Native American. [FYI: That girl would go on to become the model for Disney's Pocahontas!]
10. And finally, do what you love–and you’ll never work a day in your life.
Dylan Lauren: I love that I do what I love. Candy is my passion, and I love window shopping for ideas and inspiration, I love that I can produce things and share with my friends and the world. That’s great and fun.