Beginning the path of entrepreneurship can seem a daunting one, yet one in 18 people own their own business worldwide. Part of the draw of working for yourself can be the flexibility to pursue a passion that a more traditional workplace doesn’t support. But once you’ve launched your business, how do you figure out what success means to you? At WELL Summit Boston in April 2018, four female founders chatted about how they created success on their own terms, and how they bring those principles to their businesses today.
How to Create Success on Your Own Terms
1. Ask yourself: Are you an un-employable? Jess Edelstein, co-founder of the natural deodorant Piperwai, says she didn’t realize entrepreneurship was the right path for her until she was 24—but she needed it way sooner than that. She skipped from job to job in her early 20s, confused about why she couldn’t fit into the culture of all these different companies. “I had this shame around not being able to hold a job,” she says.
As it turned out, corporate life just wasn’t for Jess. “I loved problem-solving (that’s why I chose to reinvent natural deodorant), and I believe anything is possible,” she says. “But I don’t fit into a box.” Instead, she adopted the mantra of “nothing to lose, everything to gain,” and launched Piperwai with her childhood best friend. “It was inevitable,” she says. “Since the lemonade stand we had when we were kids, we’d been talking about our million-dollar idea.” And after a successful Shark Tank appearance that helped grow their company 6000 percent in a year, they’ve achieved their goals, all without conforming to the traditional workplace.
2. Get comfortable with the uncomfortable. Gianne Doherty, founder of Organic Bath Co. and WELL Summit, launched her skincare company after her own skin issues got out of hand. She was working in a fast-paced sales career when her skin started freaking out, and she developed terrible headaches that no MRI could diagnose. Then, she got laid off from her corporate job, where she’d built a multi-million dollar book of business, and moved to Boston to try something new. “My headaches disappeared,” she says. “They were tension headaches from my high stress job and never being able to shut off.”
The miraculous recovery got her thinking about what she really wanted. “I had a life that looked good,” she says, “but I wanted a life that feels good.” After she discovered natural ingredients to help treat her own skin, she developed Organic Bath Co. to help other women who were using traditional products and not finding suitable solutions.
But that doesn’t mean her transition came easily. “When you’re redefining anything for yourself,” Gianne says, “that’s going to feel uncomfortable. Embrace it. Get comfortable with the uncomfortable.” Because if you can push past that, she says, you’ll be happier in your next life chapter.
3. Trust yourself. Jessica Maniatis, CEO and founder of the design studio JSGD, started her firm in 2008. As her business grew, she found her role becoming further removed from the creative aspects she loved, and her clientele began evolving away from the small businesses she was passionate about helping. On the way to a six-figure pitch meeting with a tech company, she got so sick she had to make an emergency stop at Target to use the bathroom and guzzle some Pepto-Bismol. “I thought it was nerves,” she says, “but after 10 days in bed, being forced away from the daily grind, I finally had the space to realize I was on the wrong path—my body was speaking up to me.”
A few weeks later, she says, “the universe provided me an opening to close the studio quietly and peacefully. After many long nights and with the support of my team, I took it. I was finally honoring myself, trusting myself.” As a solo practitioner now, Jessica says she’s back to working with clients she loves. “There was so much fear in closing, but trusting myself and realizing my resilience was the best thing I could do. Even if it takes a long time, if you’re on your path, you’ll succeed.”
4. Give yourself permission. Kristina Tsipouras, CEO and founder of Moroccan Magic and Boston Business Women, knows about failure—by age 30, she’d already had a successful company go under, and launched a second business. She says she’s been failing forward her whole life, which helped her overcome the fear of trying something (anything) new.
After deciding wedding planning wasn’t for her, she took an extended trip to visit family in Greece, and discovered an herbal tea she thought was perfect for an American audience. At 26, without a business degree, she “went big” she says, and launched ZOOS Greek Tea, with a million dollars in funding. “I was in way over my head,” she says, “and I’d never done the work on myself that I needed to make sure I was ready to lead a business.”
One bad business partner and some debt later, the tea company went under—but that didn’t deter Kristina. “I used rock bottom as a spring board,” she says. “Women are often waiting for permission, but we need to give permission to ourselves. You’ll only get out of life what you have the courage to ask for.” We’d take her advice, because her organic lip balm company Moroccan Magic just secured Walgreens, Bed Bath and Beyond, the full chain of Wegmans supermarkets, The Paper Store, Vitamin Shoppe and Vitamin World as national distributors.
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