Though I speak to groups of women and children about following your dreams and becoming an entrepreneur, I often refer to myself as The Accidental Entrepreneur. One of my favorite pastimes is making perfumes for myself, which then turned into a hobby making lotions, creams and massage oils in my kitchen, which then became a business only after my mother encouraged me to sell at a flea market nineteen years ago. Thanks, Mom!
I stumbled into entrepreneurship and I stumbled into the beauty business, and for a number of years, that was okay. The process of discovering opportunities, falling down, getting back up and then falling down again was exciting and encouraging. Everyone around me would always say, during the tough times, "Well, Lisa, if it was easy, everyone would have one."
Which leads my first tip -- it takes a lot of hard work to be an entrepreneur. You will work harder for yourself than for anyone you have ever worked for in your life. I used to work in television production and my hours were 10a.m. to 2 or 3 in the morning, six days a week and that was a walk in the park compared to what I have had to do to build a business. I remember setting up a booth for a show and falling asleep as I unpacked the boxes. I used to hear about people talk about falling asleep while standing up and I did not think it was possible. It is.
This brings me to tip number two -- Passion. You absolutely must be passionate about your business. It is not enough to simply have a desire to succeed or a desire to make money. That will not keep you going when you are falling asleep whilst unpacking boxes. Passion does that. The love for what you do and the passion to share what you love with the world and the ability to be able to explain why the world needs your goods and/or services is one of the keys to your ultimate success.
The third tip is knowledge. You must have it. I am sure you have heard the saying, "information is power." So true. You must know where your industry began, how it was innovated, why it is still around in order to know where it is going and know the role you will have to play in it.Think about a brand like Coca Cola. I am fifty years old and Coca Cola has been around my entire life. It is still as fresh and new today as I remember it as a child. Its advertising and position as a lifestyle are at the forefront of our lives, whether we drink soda or not. Not quite the same story when I think of a brand like RC Cola or Tab. For some of you reading this, you don't even know what I am talking about because you are too young, but these were HUGE brands in the beverage world. Without arming yourself with as much information as possible about your industry, you will not be able to stay relevant.
This is the perfect lead in to tip number four -- Authenticity. You must be mindful of who you are and what it is that makes you and your business unique. What is the DNA of your brand? You want to grow and evolve but not lose who you are in the process. For this I use the example of Madonna. Madonna began her career in the mid 1980's and throughout the years has had many different looks, her music flows through different genres and she has expanded her brand into films, fashion, fragrance, and even the Kabbalah. But, through it all, she was and always will be Madonna -- a strong woman, an artist, a mother, a woman who is not afraid to challenge herself or us, controversial, innovative, proactive about her health and transparent about her lifestyle choices. That authenticity is always there. It is at the core of all that she does.
Last, but certainly not least is one of my favorites, tip number five: "Be comfortable with being uncomfortable." All that you must do to be a successful business person will put you into situations and scenarios that will be foreign to you. They will be scary, nerve-wracking, and uncomfortable but I promise that you will grow from them. You must be challenged in order to grow. You have to be comfortable with self-scrutiny. It can be very easy to sit back and be the victim because most of the time, you will be victimized. People who work for you may not always like you. Your customers may not like the same things you think are fabulous and they will tell you and not usually in a nice way. But, you have to take it. It is a part of the process. There are so many variables in business that are completely out of your control but the one thing you can control is how you respond to those variables. The economy will shift up and down, your health may suffer, technology may make things good for your business or threaten it. What will you do? Will you let it take you down or will you stand your ground and adapt and flow around and through the challenges?
Like I said at the beginning, "If it was easy, everyone would have one."