The thought of starting a business can be daunting – but what about starting a business with your best friend? We understand that some of you may think that sounds like a terrible idea (because, you know, what happens if you argue?Continue reading →
I love being a part of the Leaders In Heels community as it offers the ability to network and meet inspiring women worldwide. Sarvin operates her self-titled international sustainable luxury clothing brand from the UK. Leading up to International Women’s Day, I wanted to include her interview about starting a sustainable fashion brand as a source of inspiration to those who are looking to start their own company. Whether it be in the fashion, food and beverage or tech, I have come to realise that entrepreneurs all have the same struggles and doubts, but possess similar qualities to succeed.
Can you give a background on yourself and your business?
My name is Sarvin and I am the owner of Sarvin, which I launched three years ago in the UK. It started as a hobby, sketching in my flat while I worked a full-time job. I always loved dressing exclusively and the feeling of luxury fabric. I decided to work with a self-employed dressmaker, and once the garments were ready, I would upload a few images of myself wearing the samples either as a selfie in front of the mirror or attending various events. I still remember it as if it was yesterday when I received my first few orders via email and Instagram. It was at this moment that I realised that this is what I love doing. As a result, I decided to create a brand focused on sustainable fashion made from high-quality fabrics and distinct attention to details.
What is sustainable fashion to you and why is it important?
Sustainable fashion focuses on reducing textile waste and environmental depletion while increasing ethical treatment of workers; the goal is to slow down the global production and consumption process to form an industry that will be more sustainable in the long run.
At Sarvin, sustainability is the core of our business. We aim to increase the message behind sustainability by providing quality garments and using eco-friendly material.
In our latest collection, we have used ethically sourced, eco-friendly fabrics to create extraordinary garments. All manufacturing methods are sustainably based, with 75% in the UK supporting local artisans.
We keep our supply chain local to the fibre origin to minimise transportation through the production process.
“We aim to increase the message behind sustainability by providing quality garments and using eco-friendly material.”
Were you always interested in entrepreneurship?
Yes, I always loved working for myself. I knew it would not be an easy journey and I was aware I would not be earning a steady income. However, this was a path that I knew would make me incredibly happy and excited to wake up to every day. I grew up in a family where both of my parents were self-employed and from a very young age my Dad would take me to his company and teach me important matters about his business.
What are the three skills needed to be a successful entrepreneur?
- Patience – I have learned in the past three years that nothing comes easy. Nothing happens overnight and you have to stay on top of everything to make and see progress.
- Consistency & persistency – You have to stay consistent. Although the majority of time spent goes towards the business in the first couple of years, you’ll find that consistency and persistency pays off immensely.
- Faith – Never lose hope if you fall once or even a few times! There have been times in my business where I felt like I couldn’t do it anymore, but once I made it through the difficult times, I became much stronger.
What does a regular work week look like for you?
A regular day starts with exercise so I feel energetic all day. I work from home for a couple of hours and then head to my second part-time job in the afternoon.
I believe scheduling downtime is essential. In my spare time, you can find me experimenting with new recipes or hiking with my partner.
How was the process of gaining international popularity for you?
The entire process was very organic and selling from different marketplaces helped me gain exposure.
I honestly never had a feeling of giving up completely, but there were times I would think that it would be much easier if I had a 9 to 5 job and a steady income. After experiencing such thoughts though, I would remember why I started in the first place and think about where I am now. It would only provide me with the courage to move forward and not look back.
I remember the first time I got an international order. I turned around and said to my partner, “Can you believe that there is someone on the other side of the world that loves my design?”. He just smiled and said, “let’s work hard and turn that one into many more”.
“Can you believe that there is someone on the other side of the world that loves my design?”. He just smiled and said, “let’s work hard and turn that one into many more.”
What has been your biggest hurdle in starting a sustainable fashion brand?
Starting a sustainable fashion brand takes much longer than fast fashion garments; we take our supply chain process very seriously and test our garments many times before launching. Before creating a new line, we take action on a long-term strategy based on a sustainable environmental philosophy. We consider every aspect of our production process, from our handcrafted accessories to our finished garments. We make sure we are using quality sustainable materials and working with the right people. As a small business, this takes a lot of time and energy.
When you are starting a sustainable fashion brand with no background or knowledge in running a company, the lack of experience makes it much harder to find the right people to work with and that understand your vision. I have learned not to be too trusting with people you have just met and to be more diligent with background checks regarding their skills and reputation.
I think it is so important to monitor every aspect of your business and to often look from an outsider’s perspective to see what needs to be done to take your business to the next level.
What do you love most about your brand?
Focusing on quality rather than quantity. I don’t follow fast fashion and I do not follow trends. I love designing for women that love and appreciate the touch of luxury fabric and have a strong desire to look rare wherever she goes. I am also so excited that Sarvin will soon be launching our first ever print collection that is vegan, eco-friendly fabric.
By taking pride in being a sustainable-focused business, I am:
1. reducing waste by choosing the right manufacturer and fabric companies;
2. one of the first few independent sustainable luxury labels that use vegan fabrics in their garments;
3. increasing productivity and working with like-minded businesses;
4. “doing good” for the planet and creating quality garments over quantity;
5. spreading the message behind sustainability and caring about our planet’s future.
What is your advice to someone starting a sustainable fashion brand or business of their own?
Do thorough research in the months before launching your business. Take on internship roles for start-up companies because this will help you gain more experience and exposure in your field. If you feel like giving up, take a deep breath and remember why you started this journey. Take the time to celebrate how far you have come.
What do you love most about Leaders In Heels? Any last words for all the fellow inspiring female leaders reading this?
I personally love all the Leaders in Heels products, but my favourite has to be the Phenomenal Woman Planner. It helps me a lot with planning my daily tasks and keeping me on track with my schedules and appointments. What is great about this planner is that it gives you that kick every morning to make you feel like a phenomenal woman. For my fellow female leaders, you can do whatever you want in life as long as you work for it!
See Sarvin’s most recent collection for yourself at www.sarvin.eu.
Choosing a business name is crucial as it is typically the first thing people will learn about your new brand. Although it is a challenge, these three steps will encourage you to get the most out of your business name. By the end of the process, you will feel confident in your decision (and not like you’re stepping off the edge of a cliff).
Step One: Mission and Vision
Consider your audience when choosing a business name
When choosing a business name, it’s important to know who you want the name to appeal to. The name should be a reflection of you AND your target audience.
For example, a fashion brand targeted at professional women will be nothing like one geared towards fashion-forward students.
The best names are the ones that target a certain audience and engages them with values and emotions that they connect with.
A great example of this is the subscription service, Dollar Shave Club. This company markets themselves as a disruptor within their industry, with a quality product that is mailed to their customers. Unlike many of their competitors, the Dollar Shave Club doesn’t market their razors to a specific gender. Their name implies that it is an affordable subscription service, which are two elements that attract millennial consumers.
It’s important to consider the future of your business and where you want it to be in five years. If you want to start a flexible company that could grow into new areas, be careful not to pigeonhole your business. In the beginning, you might be launching a tech company and creating a new social media app, thus deciding that the name Chit Chat could be a great fit. The problem is that if you plan to expand into other territories later down the line, like adding a photography element to your app, Chit Chat is no longer an acceptable name for your business. If you plan ahead when choosing a business name you can prevent having to go through an expensive rebranding process in the future.
Try to summarise your brand’s mission and values in a short project statement. Here are some great examples of project states to get you started:
- We need a name that captures our innovative and unique approach to selling insurance.
- We need an effective name that sets us apart as a modern, youthful brand.
- We need a reliable name that hints at our environmentally-friendly practices.
Step Two: Get Creative when choosing a business name
It’s a great first step to gather all of your brand ideas in one place and figure out what kind of name you want for your specific business. The fun part starts now; you can begin coming up with name ideas!
A solid brand name should be:
- Simple to say.
- Easy to spell.
- Understandable when heard.
If people have difficulty sharing your brand with their friends and family then they won’t share it at all. This lack of sharing will likely stunt your brand’s rise to success.
Narrow your list
Once you’ve created a list with a wide variety of ideas, you can start crossing off names that don’t work. Keep crossing off name ideas until you only have five or six favourites left. This part of the process is an excellent opportunity to gather feedback from your friends, family and target market.
When approaching your target audience, frame questions neutrally by asking “Which brand would you want to find out more about?”. Rather than “Which of these names is the best?”.
Keep working your way down by picking a name that you feel is unique enough to help you stand out and supports your business. Your business name is more than a word – it is a tool that can help support your growth.
Remember, when choosing a business name, it is more important to prioritise something that will boost your business over one that you feel emotionally attached to.
Step Three: Check your Boxes
Secure your domain
A solid domain name goes perfectly with a good brand name. Your website is where people will find more information on what you do, so it is vital to have your domain and business name match closely. When you’ve narrowed your list down to just a few names, try searching if there are any available domains for those names.
Choosing a business name can feel like a daunting task before you start, as a lot rests upon a name. The name summarises your brand’s identity and serves as the first point of connection between your business and your target audience.
If you feel like there aren’t any good names left for you to choose, don’t worry! Keep brainstorming and go through each of these three steps and you’ll find your perfect name in no time!
About Grant Polachek
Grant Polachek is the Director of Marketing at Inc 500 company Squadhelp, a global naming platform, with customers from small startups to large corporations including Nestle, Philips, Hilton, Pepsi and AutoNation.
The glass ceiling might be shattered in places, but plenty of shards are still there. According to research from Carta, despite women founding roughly 13 percent of companies, they hold less than half that percentage in equity. It’s a gap just begging to be addressed.
Perhaps the best way to attack this equality disparity is for female entrepreneurs to take charge of their own destinies with personal branding. Women are in a unique position to brand themselves and the companies they start. It all boils down to firmly knowing who you are and forging ahead without fear of barriers.
Earning a Place in Any Field
Ruth Bader Ginsburg knew all about pushing the boundaries and creating her own brand.
As a female lawyer in a man’s world, she rose through the ranks by ignoring the status quo and doing her job on behalf of everyone she served, including minorities. We all know what happened as a result: She received a coveted spot on the U.S. Supreme Court.
While I could only hope for Ginsburg’s recognition, I’m devoted to being just as stubbornly tenacious, and I encourage other women to do likewise.
My world is venture capital (VC), which is also traditionally male-dominated. Except it’s changing by quantum leaps — the industry has been shaken up by public sexual harassment claims. Add to those accusations the fact that 74 percent of VC firms don’t have a woman partner, and it’s plain to see the field is ripe for disruption.
This is an exciting opportunity for anyone willing to flood the venture capital realm with gender diversity. Forty-three percent of people think female corporate leaders create safer environments for everyone, according to Pew Research. It’s an awakening of massive proportions, and it’s fueling great innovations.
Of course, you don’t have to be in venture capital to make waves of your own or develop a strong personal brand. Almost every field is trending toward diversity. If you can create your own story and path, you can own a piece of your industry’s real estate.
If you’re ready to wake up and leverage your unique perspective as a woman in the business world, solidify your story (and your brand) by following these four tips:
Be consistent and persistent
Your company’s brand and your personal brand must work together to effectively support your messaging. This is especially important when you’re recruiting and bringing other people into your business.
Instead of hoping for confluence, construct a plan to ensure your business becomes an extension of you as a leader. Neelima Jain is a great example of a powerful leader who understands this point: As the regional head of Energy Efficiency Services Limited, Jain believes a woman’s personal brand is enhanced by unwavering persistence.
“Doubling the effort to achieve the organization’s objectives has enabled me to neutralize the gender divide in a technical field that is still predominantly male-dominated, even in mature markets,” she said in a recent Entrepreneur article. “Commitment to this belief has enabled me to grow as an individual and a professional, today leading the establishment of my company’s operations in the UK toward making this organization a formidable force for change in international energy efficiency markets.”
Make a memorable first and lasting impression
Many professionals — especially women — often mistake pride for cockiness. However, if you don’t sing your own praises and share your expertise, no one will realize your value. To avoid getting left in the dust, solidify your personal brand and highlight your strengths.
Creating content, for example, can boost your reputation as a thought leader by strengthening people’s overall impression of you and establishing your mettle. Case in point: I’ve written a guide to help other business owners take initiatives and avoid pitfalls, which allows me to help others while also putting my name out there.
Another method to establish your personal brand involves speaking at prestigious, cutting-edge events. To cement my role as a VC player, I’ve talked at events like Slush, Collision, APEC CEO Summit, and Davos World Economic Forum.
I have built my overall reputation and track record from the ground up, and holding these talks is just an added bonus. But securing these coveted speech spots did land me a place on Forbes 30 Under 30 and the 2018 Young Global Leaders by World Economic Forum. People recognize my work, my name, and, above all, my brand. And it’s because I’m deliberate in making impressions about what I’ve done and can do.
Achieve results that matter
You can’t talk your way into street cred; it comes directly from the outcomes you and your business generate. Your personal brand affects collaboration with your team and what your team can accomplish, which in turn spurs innovation. But how do you get closer to innovating?
Several studies suggest diversity can be a key. No wonder organizations across the country are adding people of all backgrounds to their teams. Perhaps they’ve read the North Carolina State University research, which reveals that diverse workforces have higher productivity averages and ingrained cultures of resiliency.
When recruiting, hire people who offer differing perspectives while supporting the company’s core brand. That way, your culture will become richer without losing the principles it’s grounded in.
Execute and deliver
From a client perspective, what could be better than working with a firm that offers consistent branding and predictable results? At Fusion Fund, our team works hand-in-hand to raise the bar and collaborate. For instance, we don’t babysit founders. We look for founders with clear solutions and wait for them to ask for resources when they need assistance.
Having this kind of reliable energy and operational foundation means a great deal to our clients. Even founders we’ve rejected have referred us to their friends — that’s the power of the credible brand, both corporate and personal, that Fusion Fund and I bring to the table.
Women are continuing to make the tech and VC industries their homes as rulemakers, not rule breakers. Those that find, explore, and embrace their individual brands early will no doubt shine brightly as they rise through the ranks.
Lu Zhang is the founder and managing partner of Fusion Fund, a company dedicated to promoting early-stage venture capital for entrepreneurs. She is also a member of Forbes’ 30 Under 30 list and was nominated as World Economic Forum (Davos)’s 2018 Young Global Leader.
Could you realize your dreams if you just had $2000 to start with? Liz Haan, the founder and owner of Marie La Mode Boutique, did just that. Marie La Mode began as a mobile boutique and now boasts a gorgeous storefront and online store along with the mobile boutique where it all began. Liz grew up with a passion for style, a generational gift from her grandmother, which manifested itself in putting together eclectic outfits curated from second hand stores. She started Marie La Mode after a short stint ‘behaving’ and following the rules of regular business. She hated her day job and dreamt of starting her own boutique with all the style and flair she flaunted in her own wardrobe.
Liz started slow. With just $2000, she had enough money to display a few pieces at shows or farmers markets. One thing led to another, and she moved to part time at her normal, acceptable, business job…and then quit all together to launch the business of her dreams: Marie La Mode Boutique. She bought a trailer and hauled her mobile boutique to private parties, farmers markets, shows and more. She did it all with no debt. As demand grew, so did her brand, along with her inventory, allowing her to reach more customers. Soon enough, she had the demand to open a retail store. With an incredibly small loan, she got creative with her displays, snatching up second hand mannequins, and putting in all the hours with her husband to build her dream storefront.
It all sounds like this entrepreneur lived happily ever after, right?
Liz opened up on the Shine Strong Podcast & to Leaders in Heels, sharing the nitty gritty details and all the struggles behind the scenes. Let’s dive into Liz’s authentic advice on owning your dream business.
1. It won’t always be easy
There are so many times when Liz finds herself crying on the couch with her two dogs and husband wondering what’s going on. She says, “Just cry. Just let it all out, and then you’ll be fine.”
Another way to put it is, find your outlet. If that’s crying — great! Cry your beautiful eyes out. Release it. If it’s going for a run, run as far or as fast as you need to in order to release what you’re wrestling with. If it’s something else, do what you need to do in order to move on. Holding onto it with white knuckles is only going to make things worse.
2. Know Why
Marie La Mode is unique to Liz’s style and personality and the pieces are unlike anything you’d find at another boutique. Everything has been hand-selected by Liz herself. This is because she knows what her style is, and she knows why she founded MLM. She advises, “Stay your path. Be who you are.” No matter what— no matter if you see a similar business with a different style achieving success — stay true to who you are and why you started down your path in the first place.
Sometimes “your path” isn’t always as clear as one would think. You might find yourself veering to wear a certain outfit because you saw someone else pull it off really well. There is a difference in experimenting with something new and veering off your path. To help you stay true to who you are, it’s a really good practice to sit down and write out your passion. Why are you doing what you do? What ignites your soul on fire? Is there a reason bigger than yourself? Dig deep into your soul and dedicate at least a few hours to this practice.
And if you haven’t launched your dream business yet, Liz says with all her heart, “JUMP!! Just jump ‘cause the worst thing that can happen is you fail, and fail…you learn.”
3. Be realistic
Sometimes entrepreneurs can overestimate themselves. Sometimes they underestimate themselves. The best thing you can do is get very realistic with your situation, what you’re capable of, how much capital you’re working with, and make a plan.
Liz (someone who hates numbers) created countless spreadsheets to crunch the numbers before she quit her day job and launched MLM. She has come to realize that talking to herself is a good way to get real on what she can actually pull off. She says, “Just talk to yourself. Ask yourself, can I be this person? Can I pull this off?”
Oftentimes, entrepreneurs think they can do more than is actually possible. The best way to truth test yourself is to establish your goal – and then backtrack to identify everything needed to get from your goal back to where you are today. When Liz does this, she’ll realize, “Wow, this will mean I need to work 7 days per week for the next 5 weeks. Can I really do that or will I burn out?”. She knows herself well enough to know that by the end of that 5 weeks, she will be completely spent and need a long weekend away, with no contact to the outside world. A stretch of work that hard and long will leave her empty and it’s not something she can do over and over again, but it is possible. Clearly laying out what it takes to accomplish a goal helps her remain realistic.
4. Outsource what you can
As a business owner, focus on your unique talents — the things that energize you and embody your mission. Liz found herself spending countless hours tagging merchandise when she could have been focusing that time on finding new pieces that would wow her customers. She realized that it was a more profitable decision to hire an employee to tag merchandise and to hire an accountant to do the books. Now, Liz has more time to focus on the things that make MLM the best boutique it can be.
5. Be aware of your inner voice
Liz says, “I think that your inner voice in your head is your biggest rooter, and also your biggest downfall”. Allow your inner voice to cheer you on, give you the courage to take huge jumps, and take your dream to new heights. But at the same time, be aware of the negative things it’s telling you, too. You are the only person who hears it, so you are the only person who can control it. If it’s being more of a bully than a supporter— it’s up to you to keep it in check.
Liz’s voice tells her, “You can do more. You can do better.” That type of message can be motivating — but it can also lead to a destructive behavior of never stopping. Liz has realized when she needs to quiet the voice long enough to realize if it’s motivating her or being destructive.
6. Get out of your comfort zone
Finally, as the style and fashion expert, Liz offers one last piece of advice. Most of us don’t have the eye for incredible pieces that Liz has, nor do we have the style expertise to know what to put together. Liz encourages us to get one piece out of your comfort zone. Notice how you feel in it. Wear it out and notice the way people look at you or the compliments you receive. Then, decide if you want to explore other options similar to this style.
Leah LeRae is the founder and host of The Shine Strong Podcast. Shine Strong creates a place where driven women can come to be encouraged by the authentic, vulnerable and experienced women who are guests, like Liz, on the show. Hosted by Leah LeRae, new episodes are released every Monday at shinestrongpodcast.com, on iTunes, Stitcher, and Google Play.
Find Liz and Marie La Mode at marielamode.com. She also has
Facebook: Marie La Mode
From the outsider’s perspective, working from home probably seems like the ideal set up. You don’t have to worry about the daily commute or office politics, you have flexibility over your working hours, and you can freely work in your pyjamas if the mood strikes. The laptop lifestyle most certainly has its perks.
But while there are health benefits of working from home, such as reduced stress and more sleep, it can equally become harmful to your mental wellbeing if you don’t look after yourself properly.
Loneliness and social isolation top the list of issues faced by homeworkers. Freedom away from colleagues creating distractions may feel like a good thing at first, but this lack of social interaction can be detrimental to your mental health, productivity and general wellbeing.
Further to this, by working from home you’re at risk of blurring the boundaries between your home-life and work-life, which can interfere with your ability to truly relax and turn ‘work mode’ off during your free time.
Occupational health specialist Gail Kinman advises homeworkers to, “avoid being ‘always on’, as downtime is essential for mental and physical health and effectiveness at work,” adding that, “a lack of boundaries between work and personal life (physical and psychological boundaries) can prove a challenge.”
Following on from Gail’s recommendations, here are a few more tips for staying happy and healthy when working from home.
Create a dedicated ‘home office’
By setting up a dedicated space in your home to act as your ‘home office’, it will maintain a clear segregation between your job and your personal life. Working from your bed may be the cosy option, but by doing so you’re at risk of developing a sub-conscious association between a place that is supposed to be relaxing and the stresses of work.
Creating a comfortable, aesthetically pleasing workspace away from your bed or sofa will do wonders for your productivity and creativity as well. Factors such as an ergonomic chair, a tidy, clutter-free desk, and a calming colour-scheme can all positively contribute to your mood, focus and motivation.
Interior designer Catchy Phillips explains that, “having everything in its place, and furniture arranged in a pleasing and practical way, will make for a calming environment. If you can’t find what you need, or you can’t reach that all important file, your mood is bound to be affected.”
Stick to your morning routine
You’d be amazed how much something as simple as having a shower and getting dressed can alter your mindset and prepare you for your day ahead. The temptation to bypass the morning routine is understandable when you don’t have plans to leave the house, but an invigorating shower and a clean set of clothes will leave you feeling refreshed and energised. On top of that, opening the door to the postman needn’t be an embarrassing experience if you’re not sporting your PJs at midday – save this for the weekend!
Set a routine, so that you wake up at around the same time each morning and get ready as though you’re leaving for the office. One of the luxuries of working from home is flexibility but sticking to a rough routine will help you avoid too much procrastination, which can leave you feeling lethargic and demotivated.
Arrange to see friends and family
Research from Acas found that around a fifth (20 percent) of homeworkers often feel socially isolated – a worrying statistic considering more people are telecommuting today, than ever before.
If you spend long hours glued to your desk, make the effort to arrange regular plans to see friends and family throughout the week. It can be as quick as a coffee in a local café or joining a friend on their lunch break from work. Just a short period of social interaction each day is sure to give you an emotional boost.
Desk jobs can encourage sedentary lifestyles, which can not only have negative consequences for your physical health, but also your mental wellbeing. For those whose jobs don’t require you to get up and about, it’s crucial that you’re proactive about fitting some sort of exercise into your day.
If your arrangement allows for flexible working hours, why not incorporate an exercise class or morning trip to the gym into your routine? If the gym isn’t your cup of tea, a jog or brisk walk around the block will provide you with a healthy hit of fresh air and mood boosting endorphins.
Gail says that the key to maintaining good mental health is, “taking regular breaks away from the computer, preferably in a different environment and doing something different to what you do in your job, for example going for a walk.”
Introducing a canine companion to the home is a great way of encouraging yourself to get out of the house and exercise, as they need their daily walks as much as you do. Dogs also provide fantastic company if the feelings of loneliness creep in too.
Keep the kitchen stocked with healthy food
Having the kitchen in arm’s reach is both a blessing and a curse. If you buy lots of sugary or salty snacks, it’s likely you’ll give into the temptation and develop unhealthy habits, whereas stocking your fridge with the ingredients to make a healthy lunch will keep your energy levels up and your body nourished. A healthy body equals a healthy mind, after all.
By incorporating a few of these pointers into your routine, you’re sure to reap the benefits of working from home, while staying happy and healthy. For more tips on creating your home office heaven, you can also take a look at this article.