Small Business Hustle & Bust?

I am a small business owner. I may not have any fancy degrees or certificates, and I am certainly no expert on business strategy or financial planning. I don’t know much about stocks and investments, nor am I well versed in wall-street lingo. I am a 29-year-old entrepreneur. I didn’t grow up in a wealthy family, and I had to pay for my own college education. I’ve had many jobs and I’ve made many mistakes. I know what it’s like to be broke and what it feels like to be broken. I’ve never been the kind of person to wait around for something I want. I go out and take it. I jump without looking. I am not a planner. I just DO. I’m a risk-taker & an adventurer. I don’t follow scripts, plans, and outlines. I wing it. I am an innovator. I don’t follow the crowd. I don’t listen to people who believe that riding the coattails of successful leaders is how you get to the top. Those moguls got there by doing things their own way… by being different, bold, and daring. I AM different, bold, and daring. I am ONE of the twenty-eight MILLION small business owners in the country. I am passionate, knowledgeable, and determined. I am not just good at what I do. I am GREAT at what I do.

Over the last year, I’ve learned that it doesn’t matter what you do, but rather, how you do it. There are over 20 stores that exist within a 50-mile radius of my shop, that fall into the same category as mine. I didn’t choose to start a business because I wanted to do what they do. I started a business to do what they don’t do. To fill in the gaps they create. I wanted to raise the bar and create a higher standard.
Along the way, I’ve discovered that many people (mostly bankers, lenders, investors, etc.) view my business as just a retail store. A retail store that offers “luxury” items, instead of the “necessities” they actually are. Within my 6-month search for capital, not once did I speak with someone who asked about the impact I’ve made in the community, or how many women I’ve been able to help since I opened. None of them were interested in how many people come to the shop on a daily basis, and how most of them refer their friends and family in to experience what I offer. None of them cared to understand how my business has been surviving without credit cards or money in the bank this whole time. All they cared about were numbers. Did I meet their required minimum revenues? Did I have excellent credit? Did I own a home or a car?
No, no, and no.
While I understand the risk involved in lending and investing, I don’t understand why there aren’t more options available for business owners in my situation. I run a successful business (despite the lack of available funds) and I need capital to meet the high demand for my products and services. I can’t tell you how many organizations I’ve contacted who claim to help businesses like mine – with owners who may not have good credit or any assets. None of these organizations actually do what they claim. They all have the same requirements and expectations, and if you don’t meet them, you’ll be asked to call back later when you are more appealing to them- that is, if you even still exist in a few months. I’ve realized that no matter how much time I spend looking, and how many people I talk to, I’m NOT going to find what I need from companies & organizations only interested in the bottom line.

It’s a sad moment when you realize that the last option you have, is to ask your community and clients for help. I recently launched a crowdfunding campaign, and having to share my struggles with the people I serve has NOT been easy. I feel like a failure, despite all that I’ve accomplished. The campaign has been live for a little over a week now, and I’ve barely reached 1% of my goal. I’m finding it hard to promote it, pushing people I know into “helping me”. I don’t want to have to ask for their help. They already do enough! It frustrates me, regardless of whether it’s a lack of planning and/or research on my part, or a lack of available assistance from lending establishments.
It’s difficult, too, to sift through all of the advice I get from various people trying to help. I’ve received some really great suggestions on how I can “stay afloat”, but they all require me to change my business model, or do things a little differently. I refuse to change what’s unique and special about what I do just to make money. I might as well be any other lingerie store.
I’m really disappointed with the deceptive information advertised by lending establishments and other small business & start-up development organizations. To new business owners, the options seem so vast and promising. I’m saddened by the thought that thousands of other innovative small business may have been forced to shut down because of this. If small, local businesses are supposedly re-building our economy, and over 50% of working Americans are employed by small businesses, shouldn’t there be a larger focus in helping us succeed???

Rant over.

Lady In Red

One of my favorite man-clients stopped in at the shop last night, and we somehow got on the topic of the color red (i.e. why is red lingerie so popular).
I decided to do a bit of digging around on the subject, and surprisingly found VERY little written on the color in relation to the psychological effects red lingerie has on people.
jessica-rabbit-jessica-rabbit-29119802-900-1082In general, the color red represents extremes. It’s the color of passion, love, seduction, violence, anger, and power. Although certain shades of red are recommended for specific skin tones, the color is still attention-grabbing regardless.
Psychologists (according to The Telegraph), say the color red “carries subtle but powerful messages about how receptive a woman might be to romantic advances”, which, they say, is why men find it more alluring.
According to Psychology Today, the majority of men find women wearing red more attractive than women wearing any other color. To test this theory, two psychologists showed a group of men two photographs of the same woman wearing two different colors, and then asked which one they found more attractive. “The results showed that the men rated the woman in red as more attractive and more sexually desirable than the same woman in blue”, but most of them said the colors had no influence on their opinion.
So obviously, the link between red and sexual attraction appears to be subconscious and involuntary. And it get’s worse when you throw in some red lipstick! Scientists say that
lipmen are MOST drawn to a woman’s lips, and will spend an average of 7.3 seconds fixated on a woman’s lips specifically when she’s wearing red lipstick. That’s distracting…
But men aren’t the only one’s who benefit from this colorful accessory. Poppy King, creator of Lipstick Queen says, “‘Red lipstick is a source of strength. You put it on and suddenly you feel more capable than you did without it.” It has sort of become a symbol of power and dominance… a “look at me!” accessory.

How do YOU feel when you wear red? Do you wear it with a purpose?

Irritations & Indentations Caused by Your Bra

There are many theories out there regarding bras that leave red marks and/or indentations, and whether or not they should be tolerated. A fine line exists between these common side effects versus other more irritating ones, but most women come to the wrong conclusion when determining what is acceptable.
Bra MarkingsNot ALL markings left on your skin from clothing are bad. Think about what happens when you wear pants, socks, tights, shape-wear, and pretty much anything that doesn’t just “drape” over your body. The pressure caused by fabric placed firmly against your skin will likely leave a mark, but these are only bad if they cause pain and discomfort.

Bras are designed to support breast tissue. Period. Finding a bra that is right for you should be based on what feels comfortable and supportive to you, not on what any experts, celebrities, or magazines say. When I first started my career as a bra fitter, I remember helping HUNDREDS of women who flocked to the store to buy the bra that Oprah had been promoting. Little did they know, Oprah’s bra really only fit about 1 in 10 women. We all have different-shaped bodies and breasts, there is no ONE bra that will fit and feel like a dream on everyoneSome women find more comfort in an “industrial strength” fit, while others prefer softer, lighter fabrics, with a more relaxed fit. If you purchase a bra for any reason other than the fact that you feel fabulous, comfortable, and supported in it, you probably won’t be happy with it.

As a fitter, my opinion is always contingent upon whether the bra is supportive enough to do it’s job on each different body. It’s impossible to know what hang-ups or sensitivities a woman has unless she tells me. Some annoyances and discomforts stem from the unfamiliarity of wearing a properly-fitted bra, while others can come from a number of different things.
RashWhenever I meet a woman who complains about a bra irritating her skin, here are some questions I ask:
1. Is the bra causing a skin rash or actually cutting into the skin?
3. Has the bra been washed since it was purchased?
4. Is the band sitting where it should? Are the straps adjusted to the proper length?

Skin rashes that occur from wearing a bra are typically caused by the fabric or finishing materials, and NOT the fit. Some women have allergies to certain fabrics such as latex, polyester, nylon, etc., and even more women have allergies to formaldehyde and other chemicals used to make fabrics waterproof and resistant to wrinkles and shrinkage. If you are unsure of what is causing your rash, trying washing your bra a few times before wearing it again. Skin chafing is completely different from skin rashes, and is usually caused by friction, or the constant rubbing of skin on skin or fabric on skin. The majority of women who complain about chafing from their bra, are generally wearing the wrong size. Wearing a bra that fits snugly against your rib cage (along with the right cup size) will eliminate the discomfort caused by unnecessary movement of fabric that’s too loose.

Another good way to avoid unnecessary digging or cutting into the skin, is to wear bras with thicker/sturdier bands, which tend to offer more of an even distribution of pressure and support. Additionally, although it’s a rare occurrence, defective bras are often produced and can sometimes slip through the cracks. If something in your bra is poking you, feels sharp, bent, or uneven, RETURN IT… it’s probably a defect!
IndentationsThe most common cause of markings and indentations are due to the fact that most women are not used to the way a bra is supposed to fit, and they revert to old habits; tightening the straps, hooking the bra on the middle or last hooks, etc. Doing this with well-fitting bras, however, can cause discomfort, a decrease in support, and an increase in red marks and indentations. Be sure you are wearing your bra properly, with the band straight across or a bit lower on your back, and the straps loose enough to feel comfortable, but tight enough to stay put.

Remember that some red markings/indentations are inevitable (check out the image at the top – these are normal markings from wearing a bra). As long as you feel comfortable and supported, these are okay!!!

5 Lessons I Learned My First Year As A Business Owner.

This Thursday marks a very special day for me; one year ago, I quit my steady job and became a full-blown, full-time business owner. Although I’ve kept pretty quiet about my personal and financial experiences throughout this (somewhat public) journey, I’ve decided to share a bit of insight in hopes that those who are also struggling, won’t feel so alone.
Like me, most new entrepreneurs begin their business voyage with LOTS of research. Research on their desired industry, products and services, competitors, demographics, financial options, etc. There are TONS of articles and books written on the (vastly uncommon) “rags to riches” success stories, and “how to start a business with no money”. To a brand-new, wide-eyed entrepreneur, at first glance, it appears as though starting and running a business is quite simple. It CAN be, if you have the right people involved, good skills, lots of money, and a freakin’ awesome business idea. But don’t be fooled into thinking you’re invincible if you have all of these things. Big success requires lots of growth (sometimes in the form of “struggle”)… it’s impossible to go from an “employee” to an “employer” without quite a few hard lessons learned in the process.

Business success depends heavily upon the owner’s ability to make the best of every situation; good AND bad. Although I don’t have any regrets (just lessons learned!), there are five BIG things I really wish I would have known prior to starting my business:

1.       Obtaining Business Funding is NOT Easy.

When I started my business, I didn’t take out any loans, open any credit cards, or apply for any lines of credit. I didn’t have any savings, big assets, or collateral. I did quite a bit of research on my funding options for down the road if/when I would need it, and it looked as though obtaining it would be fairly simple when the time came. Experts say that bootstrapping (using your own funds) is THE BEST way to start a business, and that’s what I did. I had a very small inheritance, 7 years of hands-on experience, and the support of friends & family. Along with guidance from an industry advisor, this was just enough to get me started. I was able to lock down a location, get all of the necessary permits and licenses, decorate the shop, and order inventory. My mom dedicated much of her time and income in the beginning, to help me get things off the ground. I was incredibly lucky to have that extra financial and emotional support, PLUS the in-house marketing & graphic design. However, after a few months of working so closely together, our personal relationship began to suffer, so we decided to part ways (professionally) in order to preserve it.
After that, I was on my own, 100%. Because I had no back-up funds or credit cards, I was running my business solely off of what I was making every day in sales. As most of you already know, business owners don’t get paid until the business is doing well enough to sustain it. This stage, I would assume, filters out the entrepreneurs who aren’t very passionate about what they do, as there are LOTS of sacrifices made and priorities rearranged. It is NOT easy or fun.
After a busy first summer, my inventory levels became too low to even think about growth. I had to cut my marketing, events, and inventory budgets just to make ends meet, and I fell behind on many things, struggling, at times, to even keep the lights on (I still am!).
Around the middle of August , I began to dedicate most of my time to searching for funding, talking to lenders, and building my business plan. I met with small business advisors, financial consultants, and the Small Business Administration (SBA). I discovered that in order to get a loan from a bank, my business had to be established for at least two years, and to get a line of credit or a credit card, my personal credit score needed to be much higher than it was. Many of the lenders I spoke with would seem very enthusiastic about my business, but for one reason or another, “couldn’t help” me. The most irritating part was hearing almost ALL of them suggest that I lean on wealthy family members, as if I somehow “overlooked” that option.
Apparently, without good credit, savings, assets, or wealthy relatives, obtaining financial support for a new business is nearly impossible. But no one tells you that up front. If I could go back and do things over, I definitely would have done deeper research, and fixed my personal credit prior to opening. Knowing ahead of time that getting financial help during the first crucial years in business depended on my personal credit and assets, would have absolutely changed the way I did things from the start.

2.       Running The Show On Your Own Is NOT Always Better.

At the time, I didn’t realize how much emotional support my mom unknowingly provided over those first few months. Having someone to go to for advice, ideas, or feedback on clients, events, inventory, and money, really made a HUGE difference with my stress level and emotional sanity. Once I started running things on my own, I had to take full responsibility and credibility for every aspect of the business. As my mind was constantly half-focused on a million things at once, I very quickly became MUCH less effective in my work.
As with everything, there are pros and cons to working alone versus working with a partner. It really all depends on what’s important to you… overall control over the business, financial dominance, emotional sanity (haha). I’ve toyed with the idea of finding a business partner, but at this point, I’m terrified to give partial control to someone who might not entirely get my mission. If I brought someone in who isn’t passionate about my business like I am, all could be lost.
You also have to consider your personal & social life. Taking on ALL aspects of your business by yourself means your brain will be preoccupied with work most, if not all of the time. I read somewhere that single people are the most effective business owners, because they can allocate as much time and effort into their work as they please. If you are married or in a committed relationship, it is IMPERATIVE that you make the effort to carve out time for your significant other. Not separating your work life from your home life is one of the top reasons marriages fail. Make sure your partner understands the rough road that could potentially lie ahead, and you’ll be able to determine your priorities right away instead of dealing with a bad break-up or multiple arguments later on.

3.       Be VERY Picky About Who You Associate Yourself With.

Within the first few months, I discovered that being in the brick-and-mortar entrepreneurial pool (no matter where the location) is much like being in high school. There are cliques, loners, a few crazies, and TONS of gossip. Of course it’s important to be supportive and kind to everyone, but don’t make the mistake of expecting the same in return. Many business owners are in business for themselves…they don’t care who they have to step on or back-stab to get what they want, and you won’t see it coming. As for the gossiping: DO NOT involve yourself in any part of it. Don’t believe or repeat anything that is said about someone else’s business or personal life, and absolutely do not give your own opinion. Involving yourself will only make you look like a fool, and could potentially isolate you and destroy all of the professional relationships you have. So, make sure you’re always aware of how you contribute to a conversation involving other businesses!

4.       Own Your Situation. No Excuses Allowed.

One conversation I will never forget was with a local business owner who came into my shop to inform me that her business was closing. I had been open for maybe 3 months at the time, and had only spoken with her on a few occasions. The conversation we had that day was SO negative and hostile, and I remember her saying (not so directly) that my business would eventually “go belly-up” too. The town sucked, the economy was terrible, and people just weren’t shopping or spending money. In all honesty, it was extremely disheartening to hear, but I wasn’t buying it… I couldn’t imagine what on earth could possibly happen for me to voluntarily close my doors. I mean, yes, the economy sucks and people are cutting back on spending right now, but that doesn’t mean small businesses should just shut down. It just means that it’s time to change things up, or do things differently.

Recently, I thought about this conversation and how it relates to my current struggle with finances. I realized that I wasted an entire three months, searching for an “easy way out”. I was telling myself that I wasn’t making money because I didn’t have the inventory (which is totally true), I didn’t have the inventory because I couldn’t get funding, and I couldn’t get funding because the banks, lenders, and financial institutions were unfair and stupid! Whatever the case, making excuses didn’t get me anywhere… my bank account is still empty. I’m the one who didn’t plan properly… I’m the one who leaped before looking. So therefore, it’s not up to anyone else but ME to get myself out of this mess. Taking accountability for your mistakes and decisions can open up a whole new world of options, and making the decision to take control of every situation will change your outcome.
There is a reason for struggle… a good reason. The first year in business isn’t supposed to be about astounding success, it’s supposed to be about learning and growing. You never know what you’ll discover or accomplish while trying to get from point A to point B, forcing yourself to think outside the box, and evolving with unforeseen changes. If you resist change, you are absolutely bound to fail.

“A woman is like a tea bag… you never know how strong she is until you put her in hot water!”

5.       Enthusiasm Is Key… Just. Keep. Swimming.

It’s easier said than done, but what they say is true: positive thinking produces positive outcomes.
One thing many business owners (well, people in general, really) have trouble with is criticism. Rejection, disapproval, and negative feedback are all hard to hear, and even harder to process. One of THE MOST beneficial things a business owner can learn is how to turn a negative into a positive. This applies to EVERY ASPECT of your business and personal life.
Bad online review? Don’t delete it. Don’t hide it. Don’t Dispute it. RESOLVE it.
Behind and overwhelmed with bills or debt? Reach out. Make an effort to resolve the situation, even if it means making tiny payments every week. Most companies/institutions are willing to work with someone if they are truly making a real effort.
Unhappy client? Learn everything you can from them on how to avoid the same situation in the future, and thank them for their honesty and feedback. Use their dissatisfaction to your advantage!

We ALL have those days we don’t want to get out of bed and go to work… even though our work is supposed to be our passion. Try waking up to the idea that today could be a game-changer. If you try your hardest to be productive while keeping a positive attitude there is NO WAY you could have a bad day. Your struggles yesterday are in the past, and every day you get a chance to start over and make improvements.
Remember that everything has a silver lining or positive side. Sometimes it can be REALLY difficult to find, but it’s there if you search for it. Just keep your head high, and just keep swimming. Those who force their way through obstacles, and keep going even when it seems impossible, are the most successful, most grateful, and most happy people.

Sending a shout-out to those who have truly inspired, supported, and encouraged me over the last year. I can’t thank you enough!!!
Mark A., Teresa A., Sean B., Elisabeth R., Eli K., Kayla M., Anna C., Sarah N., Faya S., Dana G., Leah B., Amanda M., Jonelle J. <3

New & Expecting Moms: Your Bra Questions Answered.

Being a new mom is full of surprises. There is no “normal” when it comes to your changing body & emotions, and when it comes to boobs, forget about it!
pregnant-momWe see loads of expecting women and new moms every week, some of whom know very well that things can be very different with each pregnancy. You’d think there would be a pattern of some sort, but surprisingly (and sadly) – there isn’t.
Here are a few common questions we get asked at the shop from our expecting moms.

What’s the difference between a “maternity” bra, and a “nursing” bra?
You may find some styles that are one or the other, but most Maternity & Nursing bras are the same thing these days.
Maternity Bras are designed to support growing breasts & rib cages. Many of them are wire-free, but you’ll find more and more flex-wire options appearing in stores and online.
Nursing Bras have the same features as maternity bras, but are also designed to allow breast-feeding without having to take the entire bra off. 

What are the benefits of wearing a maternity bra as opposed to a regular bra during pregnancy?
As I mentioned before, maternity bras are designed for changing bodies. They have many features to help offer support and comfort before, during, and after pregnancy! 

When should I start shopping for maternity or nursing bras?
Some women experience major changes within the first trimester, including weight gain and breast growth, but some don’t experience these things AT ALL! Whenever you no longer fit into your normal bras, or if you find them uncomfortable, it’s time to 
EN1052__98638.1337460496.1280.1280get a maternity bra. If you find that your breasts are growing very quickly, be sure to tell your fitter. Although most of them are already designed for breast expansion, it may be a good idea to get one that’s slightly too big in the cups to accommodate significant future growth!

What styles are most recommended?
To start, seek a professional fitter to get you into a great fitting every-day bra, and a sleep bra. I usually recommend starting with one of each, because you may grow out of them very quickly. 
Your best bet would be to start with a seamless every-day bra (Cake “Toffee” or Elomi “Smoothing”) that will allow you to wear anything in your current wardrobe. If you prefer no wires during the day, try the Elomi “Beatrice” (which offers separation and max support for larger cups), or the Elle Macpherson “Momamia” (mild support, max comfort for smaller cups). For your sleep bra, try the Bravado “Original” (cotton, comfy, and supportive!). 

If you have a sensitive rib cage (like many of my clients), be sure to tell your fitter. You don’t want to sacrifice support for a looser fitting band… that will only cause more breast soreness. Instead, try a wire-free option, or a bra with a wider band that distributes the pressure evenly around your rib cage.
Remember that comfort and support are the MOST important things to look for when purchasing maternity/nursing bras. Good luck mamas!