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?

Wrong.

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
Instagram: marielamode
Facebook: Marie La Mode


I didn’t really consider myself an ‘entrepreneur’ when I first opened my fairly niche rehab counselling private practice about 7 years ago. I didn’t even consider myself one when I conceived my second business almost 3 years ago. But apparently that’s what the cool kids are called now. Entrepreneurs.

But I don’t feel like a cool kid. In fact a lot of the time, I feel a bit like a lost puppy, struggling to keep my nose of the water in the swimming pool that I’ve somehow fallen into. But no, I’m going to give into the old ‘imposter syndrome’ analogy here…

You see, I’d dreamed of working for myself for many years, though wasn’t sure exactly how I was going to achieve this or how I was going to manage pivotal aspects of business like cash flow, IT, and marketing – none of which are key areas of strength for me (my family would argue that I suck at all three of these areas). But nonetheless, I knew that it would eventually happen.

I’d enjoyed a great career through my twenties, and had many experiences that I never thought I would have (cue the counselling of the guy who was on his way out of gaol for “you know, a bit of a brawl with my sister….I had a machete”). I just never thought that I would make the leap into my own venture until I was older and wiser. But my life had to change drastically when I became incredibly sick with a life-changing autoimmune disease, as the disease made it virtually impossible for me to continue doing what I was doing. And thank goodness it did – because it forced me to take action and kick-started my entrepreneurial streak.

Like many, I’m somebody that naturally feels more comfortable when I have mastered a skill than when I am learning it, but being your own boss means a LOT of learning. And believe me, the last seven years have been a HUGE learning curve. A huge effing learning curve. Every. Single. Day.

But the funny thing is, that no matter how much time or space in my mind that these questions and learning curves take up (today I learned a new IT trick….WITHOUT TEARS!). I have never questioned whether I want to continue down this path. In fact, in a strange and almost counter-intuitive way the struggles that I have faced have actually reinforced that this is MY path.

And in an even stranger phenomenon, those around me who love me and have had the ‘pleasure’ of hearing my complaints along the journey actually keep encouraging me to keep going. Even those who have been forced to listen me bang on about the evils of BAS. Or worse, my very dear and usually kind friend Sheela who famously said to me with a smirk on her face, “I don’t know how many more computer crises I can sit through with you, Lauren.”

So would I change a thing? HELL NO!

But I have some advice for you brave sisters who are looking at “doing it for themselves”.

Get comfortable with NOT being the expert

That’s right. Don’t expect to feel like the expert in MANY areas. Sure, you ARE an expert in your chosen field – that’s probably why you’re planning on going out on your own. But there are many areas that you will need to accept help in. And you’ll need to learn to get comfortable with …wait for it… asking for help in areas that you are not the expert! This can be confronting, but without a bit of insight and humility, you can’t succeed on your own. As John Donne once posed “no man is an island”. Well, neither is a woman, which brings me to recommendation two…

Find your tribe

Now I’m not usually one who goes in for the platitudes of modern ‘gurus’ but this one rings really true. Your support network should ideally include at least of the following: someone who loves you unconditionally; someone who challenges you to punch above your weight; someone who isn’t afraid to tell you when you need expert help (see recommendation one); and someone who can switch off when you repeat yourself….which you will.

Get OK with regularly redefining your goals

Getting a good understanding of the difference between immediate, short term and long term goals is essential. Simon Sinek talks about the importance of finding your ‘why’, which is generally the reason you decide to do the hard yards and tread the road less travelled and your long term goal, but it’s also really important to understand that your immediate and short term goals are likely to change, and you need to be malleable and resilient enough to change with them.

Get ready to shine baby

You’ve made the decision to go into business for yourself because you’re passionate. You need to get ready to shine and show yourself to the world! This one sounds simple enough, but the reality  of shining means getting better at networking, being comfortable telling your story, and deciding whether you’re going to be the ‘face’ of your business. All of this can be confronting, and you need to be ready for it.

And the rest of it

Read the fine print. Get a hobby outside of your work. Stay true to yourself. Never feel pressured into saying ‘yes’. Remember that it’s ok to take on employment as well as unemployment. Even during those periods where you feel like a failure (and there will be those times) remember that YOU AREN’T – you are a woman brave enough to take on the business world… and you ARE an entrepreneur!

 

Lauren Maxwell is an expert in women’s career development and an active ‘mojo seeker’. Her dream is to empower women everywhere to live the life they want, and develop confidence in their career and themselves. She is the founder of Headstrong Women, a writer, speaker, and a chronic over-thinker.


Confessions of an Entrepreneur is a series of events run by Leaders in Heels that showcases stories of entrepreneurs who have gone through hardships and difficulties of launching and growing their business. Some were wildly successful, while others failed. You’ll get to hear both sides of the story for a change!

Our first event is on Tuesday April 12 at 6:30pm, and we have four amazing entrepreneurs telling their stories on the night. Sound interesting? Purchase your tickets here!

To give you a taste, we’ve asked each of our speakers a series of questions about themselves, and a teaser of what they’ll be sharing on the night. We’ve previously interviewed Elyse Daniels of Exodus Wear, and today we’re talking to Yifat Shirben, founder of ILoveThisBox.com.au and now an entrepreneurial marketer.

Yifat is combines her entrepreneurial and vast international marketing experience to help grow businesses by planning and implementing a marketing strategy that will fit their business, target audience and budgets.

yifat_shirben-pBriefly describe what you do during the week.

Being an entrepreneurial marketer and helping to grow businesses means every week is different from the previous one, as it depends on the current companies I’m working with. However, the building blocks of each week are more or less the same and include:

  • Working – developing and implementing marketing startegies for my clients.
  • Professional growth – dedicating some time to learn (reading professional blogs, industry news, participating in events etc)
  • Networking – catch up meetings, attending relevant events and online social interactions
  • Writing – I recently started writing my own blog and I write at least one article a week.
  • Mentoring – whether it’s by phone, email or 1 on 1 meetings – I dedicate a portion of my time to help starting entrepreneurs.
  • Trying to keep up with my inbox…. :)

Why do you love doing what you’re doing?

Diversity and impact. I like the fact each project brings new challenges along and that I get to learn about new industries. I also enjoy the ability to make a difference.

What will your confession be about… without spilling the beans?

4.5 years ago I shipped my first ever batch of ILoveThisBox.com.au beauty boxes to our customers. Something happened to the box while it was making its way to the girls, that made it very successful. A box that everybody was talking about…

How did you grow as a result of it?

Besides the fact that it helped with the word of mouth factor back in the days, I learned a very important lesson about the importance of first impression.
Since then I’m looking for as many ways as possible to implement it with other products and services I’m working on. I also understood that a good marketing manager is one who is involved in the product as well (as it is very hard to implement new ideas once the product is finalised).

If Yifat’s teasers about the mysterious happenings of her boxes has intrigued you, pick up a ticket to Confessions of an Entrepreneur and get the full story!

Confessions of an Entrepreneur is a series of events run by Leaders in Heels that showcases stories of entrepreneurs who have gone through hardships and difficulties of launching and growing their business. Some were wildly successful, while others failed. You’ll get to hear both sides of the story for a change!

Our first event is on Tuesday April 12 at 6:30pm, and we have four amazing entrepreneurs telling their stories on the night. Sound interesting? Purchase your tickets here!

To give you a taste, we’ve asked each of our speakers a series of questions about themselves, and a teaser of what they’ll be sharing on the night. In this interview, we talk with Elyse Daniels of Exodus Wear!

In 2009 Elyse took a niche idea for jackets you could customise inside and out and turned it into a multi-million dollar business. Exodus Wear now produces a range of custom apparel sold Australia wide to schools, sporting and community groups.

Elyse-Daniels-Exodus-Wear-pBriefly describe what you do during the week.

My week is spread into the following main areas:

Managing our team 

With the sales team a lot of it is just checking in over the phone. They are pretty self sufficient. With the factory I spend a lot more time emailing backwards and forwards making sure we are on track with all of our ETA’s, that we are going to make the cut off’s for sea freight shipments and getting involved with urgent orders that have really strict lead times. The other area I spend a lot of time talking to the factory about is product development. I am constantly looking for and developing products that we can add to our range

Finance

A big part of my role is spent on managing cash flow, payments, reviewing reports, etc. For me this is the hardest part because I am much more creative and so I have had to learn to love spreadsheets!

Marketing

I try and get involved and post on social media accounts, write blog posts and I do a lot of research by following what our customers are doing on social media.

Why do you love doing what you’re doing?

I love what I am doing because I can help my customers bring their vision to life. We go from concept all the way to end product with each customer and there is nothing that makes me happier than walking down the street and running into someone wearing a jacket our company helped design and make. Our customers are also extremely passionate about the product because it is something that they were involved in designing. I love seeing photos and videos of our customers opening the box and screaming with excitement when they get their order.

What will your confession be about… without spilling the beans?

I will be confessing about how I got Justin Bieber to wear one of our jackets without paying a cent!

How did you grow as a result of it?

Having Justin Bieber wear one of our jackets gave us a lot of exposure but also credibility and the cool factor with our target market. It is now something that all of our Sales Reps use as part of our their presentation. The ongoing benefits are priceless.

If Elyse’s teasers about getting celebrity exposure from Justin Bieber has intrigued you, pick up a ticket to Confessions of an Entrepreneur and get the full story!

After 22 years of running a successful small business I’ve accepted, and in fact embraced, the joy of being small.

I have a video production business and I have a part time editor (although he’s kept pretty busy) and I work with freelance cameramen, producers and directors. I see a lot of small businesses feeling pressured to grow, get bigger, take on more staff.

I’ve had opportunities to do that over the decades but each time I’ve looked at it and considered this question:

Will this be of benefit or will it cause more stress, more costs, less time and less profit to my business?

And you should ask yourself the same.

I guess for an entrepreneur I’m conservative. When I started my business I wanted to enjoy it. And I have.

For some people they want to be the next Steve Jobs and I wish them all the best. For me, however, I simply want to enjoy what I do and be rewarded appropriately for my creativity and expertise. It has always been about the journey. About enjoying the ride.

I’ve seen people who work relentlessly until they retire and then die. What’s the point? It’s as if they are working so that they can achieve a lifestyle but forget to have a lifestyle along the way. Now is the only time we have to enjoy ourselves.

So I keep it simple. I book in crew for the jobs as they come up. I have tried having full time staff in the past but I found myself spending days thinking about what I can do to keep them busy during the quiet times. It would have been easier for me to pay them to go the beach so I could focus on the next sale I needed to generate.

Today more than ever it is easier to run a global small business with virtual and freelance staff.

People are available throughout the world on sites like Upwork, fiverr.com, freelancer, and 99 designs. For a small price you can compete globally.

Having a small operation allows me the freedom to prioritise how I want to spend my time. I’m free to schedule the school pickups, the ski holidays, the long weekends.

Of course there is also the responsibility to step up and work the extra hours when it’s required. At the end of the day the bank balance will always reflect how well your business is working.

For many years the mantra of business experts is that growth equals success. But how do we define growth? Is it a higher turnover? More profit? A bigger office? More staff? Or is it personal growth and development? Or is the mantra misguided?

My turnover has remained fairly steady for the last fifteen years. I haven’t grown in the traditional sense. Personally I’ve grown and I have enjoyed myself. For me success is about being happy.

For me success is about being happy.

Having health, happiness and love around you and the time to enjoy it.

And there is always growth of sorts happening in my business. I need to embrace new technologies, set new goals, develop new markets. Being steady and stable is not the same as being still.

There still needs to be activity focused on current goals. I guess my point is how big, hairy and audacious do you need your goals to be? That comes down to the individual and where they are at in their lives.

If you have a young family then you will never have another time to watch your children grow and change every day. So is now the time to prioritise your business so you can be present for those moments? That’s a personal choice.

For me being a parent is a priority and by having a business that I run, rather than a business that runs me, I am able to make time to be present for my children.

Let me clarify a point however:

Being small doesn’t mean doing it alone.

On the contrary having a robust team around allows you the freedom to enjoy your business. The key is to develop a team of freelance workers who work alongside when you need and alongside others when you don’t need them.

It’s about being smarter in how you distribute your workload so that quality results are being achieved with or without you. So before you take that next leap, ask yourself why are you doing it? Is it because someone told you that’s what a business does, or is it because that’s what you really want?

For me I want to enjoy myself and this is how I do it.

What is your why? Tell us in the comments below!

Check out Get Your Life Back ebook by Kasia Gospos, founder of Leaders in Heels, on how you can streamline and automate your business and life so that you have more time for what you really love.