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What These Female Business Owners Say About Starting Your Own

by Amanda Smith

It’s no surprise that there are small businesses popping up everywhere these days, but how does one really start a business? How can you really take a hold of your passions and turn them into money? Well, I have always wondered the same thing – until now. I spoke to female three business owners I personally know and respect and interviewed them about their journey. Let’s hear what they had to say about their start, their struggle, and how we can do it too.

Alex Martinez, Founder & CEO of Rebel Creative 

Tell us a little bit about what Rebel Creative is, how you started it, and what you hope to do with it?

Rebel is a collective of remote female creators who use non-traditional approaches to building brands. I founded Rebel as a way to unite freelancers and match them with purposeful brands. By creating a collective agency and connecting fellow boss babes, I can offer more services to my personal clients, find freelancers meaningful work, and cultivate a community with other rebellious ladies. The [plan for the future] is to keep growing, bringing more quality female creators together, into a community where they have the freedom to choose when and where they work from ([Incase you can’t tell], I’m VERY big on remote working).

As a young small business owner, what are some of the struggles you faced starting your business and how did you handle them?

[First and most importantly], MAKE YOUR OWN CONTRACTS! [When I was just starting out], I would only sign their [contract], and that led me to get majorly f*cked. Lesson one, sign their contract and have them sign your OWN. [With my own contract], I can protect my intellectual property if shit hits the fan. If payments are late, I tag on fees after a three day grace period. I also have the right to change days of work and make it up within 1 week if it’s not a timely task. I needed to be my own boss for a reason, so I must make sure my contracts come across that way. Never let your clients be able to test your limits because you didn’t clarify them enough in the beginning.

What advice would you give to young women who also want to start a business but don’t know where to start?

You have to market yourself and your own brand, just as you would your client’s companies. [Otherwise], how can you attract clients that trust you know what you’re talking about? When first starting off, use platforms like UpWork to find [freelance] gigs and beef up your resume. After ditching the third party site and forgetting about finders fees, you’ll gain confidence in reaching out to companies yourself. Also [worth noting]: pitching to brands through their social media is just as important as a LinkedIn message these days! Having a following helps if you work with social media, but [it’s] not necessary. Establishing trust with your clients is most important, and to do that, you must genuinely relate to their product. For example, I’d much rather put in my time for a travel company than a product I don’t care about. After putting in the gritty work to start, you’ll have more freedom to choose partners you actually want to work for.

The best part of being your own boss is establishing your own rate. Don’t forget to know your worth: add in taxes, the fact that you’re not getting benefits, and cover your own material costs (even wear and tear on your computer). Most of all, stay patient, be relentless, and push yourself. At the end of the day, remember 1) Why do you need to create your company now? 2) What will happen if you put it off? and 3) What is stopping me? Curate a plan and don’t stop until you hit your goals. That savings account isn’t going to grow itself. For anyone looking to chat personally, I’m available for consultations as well at rebelcreative.co

Brookelynn Starnes, Owner & Founder of Cloak & Dagger NYC

As a small business owner, what are some of the struggles you faced starting your business and how did you handle them?

Making money in NYC! [The biggest] struggle with my line [was] trying to produce garments and not compromise on quality without losing brand integrity (it was all made in the USA!) and [set a reasonable] wholesale [price]. [Once] I opened my first retail store, the struggle was keeping up with the demand. I would be up in the shop working on [my personal] line at 1 am, which is why I brought in other lines. From that point on I just followed the success and listened to my customers, while continuing to work my tail off. Failure was never an option and I love what I do and I think that shows.

What are some of the most surprising things you have learned or faced while owning your own business? 

That running and owning a business involves a lot of elements that I would not say I’m the best at – which is why it’s key to find great people to work with! [It’s important to find] people that can compliment you and help with the things you may not enjoy as much. Of course, in the beginning, I couldn’t afford to [hire more people], so I had to do it all myself… and THAT was an around the clock job. [Moreover, I learned that] having a boutique also means you are only off on the four major holidays off the year. Mentally, you are working every single day when the shop is open, [even if you’re “off” that day].  You don’t realize that until you live it.

What advice would you give to young women who also want to start a business but don’t know where to start?

I would recommend that anyone wanting to start a business should work at a business they respect to get some experience and learn a bit. I worked at TG-170 back in the day and that really helped me when I opened my shop. I think to pick a profession without working in the field and getting to know what the day to day is like is a bad idea.  I also think it’s HUGELY important to do what you love. As they say, “Do what you love and the money will follow,” and I feel that couldn’t be truer. People can tell when you are authentic and it carries over in business.

Brittany Maschal, Owner and Founder of Brittany Maschal Consulting and Strategy Girl 

Tell us a little bit about what your consulting businesses —how you started it and what you hope to do with it in the future?

BMC is a boutique college and graduates school admissions counseling firm I founded in 2012, and we focus on helping applicants find the best schools for their interests and goals. I started Strategy Girl as an extension of my role as a counselor. 

Through BMC, I work primarily with 15-25-year-olds, all of whom are extremely smart, ambitious, and talented, as they go through the process of applying to college and graduate school and everything in between—from applying to study abroad programs to finding internships and their first full-time professional roles. Over the years, I noticed that many of the girls I worked with lacked knowledge about, as well as the inspiration and support needed, to effectively goal-set and make their dreams a reality (academic and otherwise). I was also surprised by a lack of desire to collaborate with other young women. At the end of last year, I decided I wanted to try to do something about it and that is how Strategy Girl was born. I guess you could call Strategy Girl a passion project, and it is definitely one way I hope to pay forward what I have learned both personally and professionally through my over 15 years working in education.

What are some of the most surprising things you have learned or faced while owning your own business? 

As you grow a business, it can, at times, take away from your focus on client work – and you need to work hard to ensure that clients stay #1. If I don’t do my job well, I don’t get referrals. If I don’t get referrals, I don’t have a business. I don’t do formal marketing or advertising; it’s not my thing and when I have dipped into it, it didn’t attract the type of clients I sought for us to support. 

However, there’s a lot that can be done to “win” in business by taking care of the business end of things. Having proper contracts, revisiting them yearly, paying employees what they are worth, hiring an accountant that understands your work and goals, getting insured—all of these things have nothing to do with your day-to-day client work, but matter so much to the health of the business at the end of the day. I made some missteps in these areas early on, and now I feel like these are some of the driving forces behind our success—behind, of course, the amazing work we undertake with clients! 

What advice would you give to young women who also want to start a business but don’t know where to start?

Don’t quit your day job… and I mean that in the most positive way possible. I’ve never relied on only one source of income, and that (along with being a saver) has allowed me to take the time I needed to grow my business and take on passion projects while pursuing work that brings me joy. Some people call me a #hustler, but I call this diversification and, to me, that’s a smart strategy whether you are just starting out or are much further along in your career.  

Play the long game… because building a business, or a non-profit, or starting a club at your school, or a passion project, or whatever you want to create to make your mark on the world can take time. It’s not all about the end game! Society today likes to trick us into thinking that true overnight success exists (and is desirable), and that’s a myth if your goal is to engage in meaningful work that is sustainable and that works for you as your life unfolds. Nearly all success includes some degree of failure: welcome it, embrace it, and always learn from it. There is often a great deal of suffering along the path to success. Which leads me to this…..

Passions are not found, they are developed... and if you can develop yours, (and you might develop many over the course of your life) it’s a game changer. Cultivating self-awareness is one of the best ways to get in tune with what matters most to you and why, your strengths and weaknesses, and what simply brings you joy. In developing them and working in alignment with them, you’ll be better equipped to weather the storms—failures, losses, f*&ck ups (yup, I’ve experienced all of these!)—and come out on the other end a better business person (and person in general) because of it.

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I for one feel so much more inspired – ready to kick ass and take names. With this career advice in your pocket, hopefully your business can get off to a successful start.

Feature Image via Victoria Morris

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