It takes a lot to build an empire. Take it from those who’ve done it.
Six of the best-known women in business sat down on Wednesday for a leadership roundtable at Martha Stewart’s second annual American Made event in New York City. The event serves as a venue for successful entrepreneurs of all stripes to network and showcase their goods.
In their discussion, cosmetics bigwig Bobbi Brown, fitness entrepreneur Tracy Anderson and several other all-star business leaders including media mogul Martha Stewart herself, shared some of the keys to their success.
Here are five tips that anyone – male or female – should know as an entrepreneur.
1. Be open to change.
Whether entering a new field or facing unexpected challenges on the job, entrepreneurship requires keeping an open mind. Martha Stewart started her career on Wall Street, while Tracy Anderson was inspired by her work as a dancer. When Fern Mallis, creator of New York Fashion Week, realized back in 1991 when she was working as the Executive Director of the Council of Fashion Designers of America that there was potential for a major fashion event in New York, it led her to a big career shakeup. She recalls thinking to herself, “I think my job description just changed.” From these changes, however, the panelists were able to achieve their greatest successes.
2. Realize friends and friends of friends can help your business.
When Mallis was setting up the first New York Fashion Week, she found support in friends and acquaintances that helped the idea take hold. Bobbi Brown, founder of Bobbi Brown Cosmetics, did the same. “All I did was invite some friends, some models, some editors – and I guess that’s called marketing,” says Brown about the launch of her first lipstick. The panel itself was proof that friends and friends of friends can be brought together in unexpected ways: Martha Stewart had catered another panelist’s event decades earlier, while eBay vice president Richelle Parham uses fitness entrepreneur Tracy Anderson’s workout tapes and every panelist had some experience with Bobbi Brown makeup.
3. Be naïve…
“The reason I’m successful is I’m the most naïve person on the planet,” says Bobbi Brown. A common thread in the panel was a willingness to venture into uncharted territory. Martha Stewart created the idea of marketing a lifestyle with few guidelines to work from. Ditto with Mallis and Fashion Week. Rachel Shechtman’s gamble founding STORY, a retail and events business, has not yet established itself as a clear success in the same way other panelists’ efforts have. However, the buzz around STORY has shown that revolutionizing retail by focusing on theme instead of a specific brand or product can pay off – especially if no one else has tried.
4. …But know who you can trust
While entrepreneurs need to take chances to succeed, they also need to be careful in who they take these chances with. “Have people around you that believe in you,” says Tracy Anderson, who struggled to find trustworthy and helpful business connections early in her career. Even more established entrepreneurs need to pay attention to who they hire. “I wish I had focused more on the people I was working with,” says Martha Stewart, reflecting on whether she would have make any changes in her career. “Find people as entrepreneurial as you are.”
5. Don’t dwell on the past
“When bad things happen, as bad as they are, you never have to do it again,” says Shechtman. All six of the panelists emphasized the importance of thinking of the future instead of dwelling on the past. Entrepreneurship can be disheartening and exhausting. For women entrepreneurs, especially those balancing pregnancy and motherhood, it can be even more so. However, “You do it, you get through it,” says Brown. “Just like anything in life, [take parenthood] one second at a time.”
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