The media glamorizes and shares the shiny parts of running a business, like making your schedule, traveling to fancy places to work, and creating a morning routine. It makes everyone want to find an idea and run to it to create this magical life entrepreneurs have. Luckily I didn’t see that side of it. I grew up with a family that ran their own business in Peru. I saw the rocky side of business, like the hardship of working from the crack of dawn until closing time and finding the right employees to run their store.
I’m grateful to see firsthand how to take new actions, change things, and take risks. As a business owner, I love sharing my knowledge and own experience to help others pave the path to create their dreams.
I have to add here that I get to travel, make my schedule, and have a morning routine, but there’s an expense. There are a lot of hours I put in, and there’s a lot of moving things around, adjusting, and figuring out how to keep going when things don’t go as planned.
Business is all about risk-taking. It’s about learning constantly and moving forward. It’s about not getting too comfortable in one place of your business and always learning. Today, instead of giving tips on what to do and what not to do, I want to share true stories of how I overcame obstacles in business and life.
I hope this sheds light on the reality behind the perfect photos and the success you see online. I hope you find the strength to make a new decision to help you move forward in any challenge you currently face in your life or business. That’s what it is. It’s not giving up but pivoting to make your dreams come true. It can be changing your product’s name, your ad’s wording, or the people you are targeting. There is something that can be altered to make your business a success. It takes some failure and picking yourself up again to make it happen.
I have more stories about every time I took a risk in my business. Some were a fail; some were total wins. I don’t even see fails as failures anymore. I see them as a lesson. I’ve learned about my resilience as a business owner and person through each experience.
The very first risk I took was even starting my business. I had dabbled here and there, working on photoshoots but not one-on-one with personal clients. I went to school for fashion marketing, took some classes on styling, and got to shadow a stylist for a quarter. There was something in me that knew I was meant to be a stylist, to help people look and feel their best. All I ever wanted growing up was to somehow feel good in my skin. I learned early on how to find my style and dress in a way that felt good, and I knew I could do this for other people.
Even though I had ZERO clients at the time, I kept telling everyone I was looking for office space. Then in Ballard, I saw this beautiful hair salon. I wanted to be around success, around people doing big things that were living that entrepreneurial life I wanted.
I walked in and asked for a haircut from the salon’s owner. At the time for me, it was so expensive, but I didn’t care. I was there to learn and wanted to pick her brain as she cut my hair. While getting my haircut and admiring everything about this woman, I mentioned that I was looking for an office space for my styling business. She was so excited that she turned my chair around and told me she was renting her space upstairs.
After the haircut, she walked me up and gave me a tour. I swear to you, it was like those moments in a movie where you see someone scan a room and their life. Looking at that office space, I envisioned everything I could create. What I saw in my mind felt so real and tangible. I walked through the french doors to the windows overlooking the city. This was it.
“Yes, sign me up! I’m in!” I exclaimed. There was no fear in me about how I would pay rent, and I didn’t care how much it cost a month. This was a one-year lease, and this was going to happen.
Driving home, I was excited to share the news with my then husband. When I showed him the copy of the lease and my plan, he was shocked and asked me where the money would come from. We didn’t even have savings, and I was a 22-year-old recent grad with college debt. Everything he said to put more and more fear into me, he questioned everything wrong with my decision, and it scared me.
I couldn’t believe none of that had come to my mind. I was in my world, my vision, and I needed to think things through.
The following day I called the salon owner and told her I didn’t talk to my husband or even go through all the obstacles that could come from renting this space. I’ll never forget this moment because it put everything into perspective moving forward for me. She told me, “You must put your big girl pants on now. This is a lease you signed, and you can’t take it back. You saw something I couldn’t see in this space when you were here. You will make your vision happen.”
I cried and cried and cried for hours, thinking of what to do first. How was I going to get my first client? How was I going to pay the rent every month for a year?
This is the first story I want to start with today because it’s the hardest and the first big risk and scary step. Once you overcome this, you feel like a superhero, and you feel like you can take on anything that comes your way.
The first thing I did was buy a desk and two chairs on Craigslist. I had no money to put into my office to decorate, so I got to work. I found an intern from UW that same week, and together we started a business that has now reached people in other states and other countries.
Within the first couple of months, I sent press releases like crazy. I learned how to write them, researched who to send them to, and got to it. The woman who used to write for Seattle Magazine replied and wanted to share how to wear a scarf three different ways. She came to my empty office, I went next door to the boutique and asked to borrow a scarf, and there she interviewed me and filmed a video for the Seattle Magazine website.
The lesson is that your gut feeling or instinct is always right, and there doesn’t need for a rhyme or reason. I have followed that ever since, and trouble happens when I don’t listen to that little thing.
People don’t talk about it enough, but ALL entrepreneurs that succeed HAVE to fail. You need to hire the right person, make the number of sales you wanted for a launch, trying a partnership that fell through. It’s not ever a ‘fail.’ It’s a learning experience. If you don’t put yourself out there, you’ll always wonder, what if?
I have failed many times, but I wonder if anyone ever knew because business keeps going on as usual.
Something I had failed at doing a lot in the beginning, was how to lead a team. After a few years of styling, my office had expanded to a consignment store, and we had to move into a bigger space to carry everything we had. No one talks either about how hard expanding is or how to do it. It would be easy to determine if your product or service demand is high. They say it’s a good problem but like any other problem. You need a solution.
I knew that getting a bigger space was what we needed to grow, but I needed to figure out how to do it. It was two other people and myself on my team, and even that was a challenge sometimes. I had to learn how to lead, and I still am learning 14 years later. Having a bigger space meant hiring more people, managing a store that was open to the public a set amount of hours a day, keeping track of the inventory in a new way, and finding a new system to make sales. And so much more!
I couldn’t keep it up on my own. My styling business was the main one, and the consignment was my side business. I also had many personal problems at the time, going through a divorce and figuring out dating. It was messy.
The best solution would be to find a business partner for the store. Without doing much research on how to find the right person, finding a lawyer to help with the contract, or figuring out all the other small details, I just went for it like I usually do with things. I had asked someone who I had gone to school with. She hosted many big events in the city and was well-connected. She would be perfect since she could share her experience and build the business with her connections.
It ended up being a total failure. She hardly went into the office, made appointments with clients to consign, didn’t show up, and clothing was stolen from the store, and the employee turnover rate was high. It became too much for me to handle. Luckily, the unprofessional contract I put together said I could take her off as a partial owner for six months if too many problems arose.
Off she went, and I ended up clothing my store only a few months later. It was the hardest thing for me to let go of. It was a dream I had to build on the side, but it didn’t have my full attention or heart, and I knew it from the beginning.
The lesson here for me was I only need to get it right sometimes. It’s okay to let go of something I don’t want to put as much time into. Instead of taking ownership, I was trying to pass it off to someone else when it needed to be in a better place with processes or the right employees to keep it steady.
It’s hard to start from the beginning and see what others before you have created. And if you’re a super creative individual, you still sometimes compare yourself even after years. It’s important to find what is true to you, how you are different in how you serve your audience, and how you build relationships. There is more than enough space for everyone because someone that hires you is connected to what you are about. What you share gets to them, and they are attracted to it.
This is a lesson and something I go through even today! It takes constant work to remind myself that being different is okay.
Back then, I felt like I didn’t fit in because I had started my business at 22 years old, and the people I was hanging out with were in their 40s, having had success for a long time. I was there absorbing it all in. I had ideas and spoke up, but there wasn’t a lasting connection in our friendships outside of work.
Now that comparison comes in the form of social media and influencers.
Your success can be something other than a public display. The numbers on your Instagram or TikTok account don’t add to your worth. I know it’s a hard reality when it’s such a big part of our society now, but it’s the truth. There are friends of mine that have thousands of followers and have three jobs. I have one friend who doesn’t even have a social media account, and she’s one of the most successful photographers I know.
Growing and trying new things is important as a business owner, but staying on your path is important. Make whatever you create with your touch. I do have an Instagram and Tiktok. Throughout the years, I’ve hired someone to help me record, edit, and post. It never resulted in even one client, but I have so much fun doing them.
I love to try new things like that. I still take online classes to continually learn new things about PR, creating online courses, and all the things. Don’t add something to your plate to keep up, do it for your fulfillment, to remove the what-if factor. Do it because if you don’t try, you’ll always think of the what if.
As you do new things keep track of what brought you joy from it, what you learned, what didn’t work, or how you can do things differently. That’s what being an entrepreneur is really about.
Behind closed doors, you don’t know what’s happening in people’s lives. Their success on Instagram could be them hiring someone to be their friend, renting places that aren’t their home, or going into large amounts of debt trying to create a lifestyle that isn’t real.
Get to know others, and get to know yourself before judging or making assumptions.