Entrepreneur's Guide to work/life balance
How I became an entrepreneur without ever wanting to be an entrepreneur:
You know what they say...there is no rule book for becoming an entrepreneur. No one tells you what this role is going to look like before you start, because most of the time you are the first to walk on those waters. You become a founder or an entrepreneur because you are STARTING something, usually something that no one else has started before. My best advice: DIVE IN HEAD FIRST.
Take my journey as an example...
People often ask if I always knew I wanted to become a designer or own an underwear company. NOPE! I gained dual degrees in Journalism and Fine Arts at University of Missouri. I really honestly had no idea what I was going to do post-college, and it really stressed me out. I had a big interview at a really cool PR firm in Santa Monica right after I graduated. This job was my ticket into a career in marketing. But, I couldn't get past my gut feeling that I should not be there...something else was waiting for me...just be patient. Everyone has gut feelings like this, listen to them!
Shortly after, I moved to a little beach town in Florida - New Smyrna Beach - with a college friend Molly. Molly and I started serving and bartending at local restaurants, and this was when we really started to relax and just live life without the pressures of settling in a career just because it was one we majored in.
^^Here we are letting loose. We weren't really sure what we were going to do with our work lives at this point...But as they say the creative juices start flowing when you feel freed from pressure!
We thought about starting a collective brand of reclaimed clothing. As we were doing some internet research on fabrics and the sort, we came across a blog post written by an African missionary talking about how UNDERWEAR IS THE MOST NEEDED, UNDER-DONATED ITEM OF CLOTHING.
This is really where it all started. I listened to a bunch of little cues and lightbulbs turning on in my head, and dove head first into an IDEA. We wanted to create the most impactful intimates on the planet. We wanted to employ local people and provide fair labor to our cut/sew teams. We wanted to use sustainable fabrics that were very high quality and soft. We wanted to donate a pair of underwear to a woman in need for every intimate sold. We wanted to NEVER SETTLE and allow an opportunity for our customers to not have to settle on their intimates either. But - how would we accomplish all these things??
^^Original co-founder Molly and I getting ready for an interview with KTLA in Los Angeles. Check out that old logo!!! We revamped our branding about six months later in 2015.
I actually got nervous because Molly decided that entrepreneurship/starting a business wasn't her thing (and I totally understood why.) It was brutal. We were spending thousands of our own dollars on pattern making, prototypes, fabric, etc. We were spending so much of our own time coming up with concepts and a business plan and trying to forge relationships. So the plan was left to just me. It was in the way beginning that I had to slowly determine a plan for my personal life. How would I push to make this concept a reality and really MAKE A DIFFERENCE while maintaining a lovely personal life?
What to do when shit hits the fan:
"Don't lose your cool. Keep your zen and keep moving"
It's not a matter of "if" it's a matter of "when". For me, this happens weekly. In 2013 when I was beginning this journey, I knew I wanted to keep all production in the US, but I had no idea how to do this - literally. I had zero knowledge about cut and sew production. So much so, that I was googling "underwear manufacturing." I was confused why brands like Victoria's Secret and Hanes were coming up. Then, I realized the MANUFACTURER would be MADI Apparel (or Victoria's Secret or Hanes.) We are manufacturing products that hit the market for customers to buy. What I needed to search for was "cut and sew production." Just a tip for anyone just getting started wanting to construct apparel! These are things no one taught me, since I didn't have a background in design, manufacturing or businesses. After now knowing the correct terminology :), I started finding cut and sew operations in the Carolinas. I'd call one after the other only to realize they were out of business. I was determined not to give up, I think I even cried to my mom over the phone wondering how I was going to keep production in the US. I remember finally getting ahold of one in South Carolina. I spoke on the phone to the owner, and he was hesitant to work with us since we were a startup. He said if you come in person, I will give you a shot. In early 2014 I went in person, and turns out they were now a team of about 30 (when they had about 300 on staff a few years prior) because so many of the brands contracting them moved all of their production off shore. This made me more determined than ever to keep production in the US! Now, we employ solely women in Kansas City where we're headquartered!
^One of our KC contracted cut/sew teams
3 time management tips for staying organized as a startup entrepreneur:
1. Schedule your days ahead of time and do your best to stick to not only your meetings but your to-dos.
I bought my May Designs planner affordably at Target. It's not only cute with a hardback (easier to throw around multiple times a day with longer wear and tear), but I'm obsessed with the fact that it has a full page with time slots for each day. It also has the monthly calendars so you can mark something way ahead of time and look at the full month at a glance. Daily planners are VERY IMPORTANT for entrepreneurs who wear a million hats.
Here's what I do: on my planner there is a tab for notes on the right side of each hour by hour page. I write all of the to-dos I have for that day as they come up. Then, before I start anything that morning, I transfer those to-dos to certain blocks of time in the hour-by-hour section. This helps ensure that you get them done. Treat high priority to-dos like actual meetings.
3. Only check your email once per day or once every two days for 2 hours at a time. This is huge for productivity otherwise you'll allow emails to control your life from sun up to midnight when you should be relaxing. Block this out on your planner like a meeting so nothing else can interrupt it. First, take 20 minutes to scan through all of your emails and delete the spam, star the important and respond quickly to the ones that only need a short answer or response. Then, start tackling the big ones. Automatically put your email inbox on pause. Install the free widget boomerang - I tell you it is a lifesaver/timesaver!!
How to achieve work life balance as a busy entrepreneur?:
1. Block out your gym time or daily personal activity on your planner as a literal meeting - that way you can't get out of it and no one else can interrupt :). This also works and is necessary for busy parents. Maybe you dont go to the gym but you like clearing your hear mid-day. Block out one hour maybe at 2pm to take a long walk.
2. Stick to your day(s) off and do something fun by yourself or with loved ones! Even if it's just one day - make it count!
3. Turn your computer off when you get home. I literally used to work until midnight (and my husband would say I'm still guilty of it occasionally when I have a big deadline), but you owe it to yourself and your significant other - if you have one - to switch out of work mode and into relax mode. Give relax mode or home mode your full attention. Your family, your significant other, or even you will feel the love and effort! Personally, you need this time to unwind so you don't get burnt out.
^^me and my hubs living that busy busy happy life :)
4. If you are the #1 person making the wheels turn at your business, you have to be refreshed and ready to go each day. Make a budget and include personal travel/vacation in your budget. This is very important as it helps you unwind and have a little fun. LET LOOSE!!!!
GOOD LUCK and happy entrepreneuring :)).