MasterClass recently had a Q&A on Instagram Live with Sara Blakely, Founder of SPANX. Sara offered up practical, immediately-actionable advice for anyone who is an entrepreneur, freelancer, or has goals they want to meet. I took notes and posted them over on Medium. If you like this post, please hop over to Medium, and give it some claps!
Thank you to Sara and to Masterclass for organizing this Q&A. It’s exactly the shot in the arm I needed today. Sign up for Masterclass at https://www.masterclass.com/ and follow Sara on Instagram at https://www.instagram.com/sarablakely/
This week is perfect for establishing goals. This week I’ve been writing a business plan that uses science and biomimicry as a basis to develop sustainable products, systems, and processes while helping at-risk youth, reducing recidivism, and providing training and jobs to people with low incomes. I’m working hard to roll everything I love into one endeavor without compromising and helping as many people as possible. You’d think I’d be scared to start my own company again, to try my hand at entrepreneurship knowing how hard it is and having suffered my fair share of hard knocks the last time. But I’m not. I’m not afraid at all. On the contrary, nothing fills me with more hope.
Thrilled that the talented, funny, and feisty Julie Gaines, founder of Fishs Eddy, will be our special guest at New York City’s Secrets & Lies storytelling show at Caveat on October 9th at 7pm. We’ll talk about design, activism, entrepreneurship, and her new book. She rarely speaks publicly so this will be a real treat for all of us. Grab your tickets at https://www.caveat.nyc/event/new-york-city’s-secrets-and-lies-10-9-2018
Meet Mo Bridges, the 15-year-old fashion designer from Memphis who started Mo’s Bows, a bow tie company. His mom is his business manager and together they are defying the odds and stereotypes in the fashion world. Mo plans to attend Parsons in NYC and create his own fashion line by age 20. Further proof that belief in yourself and following your passion with action yields incredible results.
One of the main tenants of business and new product development is to develop the least expensive, least time intensive version of your product to test with exactly the people you hope to become your customers. You want to put in just enough money and effort so that the idea of what you’re trying to do is clear and the experience is positive. And you want to keep from putting in too much money and effort on an idea that just doesn’t work. It’s all about using resources wisely and conserving as much as you can while also still giving the idea a fighting chance to show its value. It’s a tricky balancing act, but it has to be done.
With A Can of Coke, my online platform to provide college- and career-readiness counseling for high school students, I can use an easy, light-weight combination of Google Calendar and Google Hangout with a small handful of students to help them in the evening and weekend hours for a couple of months. This way I can see if the idea works and what needs to be improved without incurring a lot of cost.
Fast, simple, small. It’s how all great ideas start.
I’m so tired of the acceptance that zip code is destiny. My entire life is a rejection of that belief, and I will keep rejecting it until I’m out of breath and out of strength. Somewhere along the way, our society decided that a child born into difficulty on the south side of Chicago won’t have the same chance to rise to their potential as a child born with every privilege on the south side of Central Park. Is the life of that child in Chicago any less valuable that the life of that child in New York? I don’t think so. I know you don’t think so either. So let’s change that, together. Let’s stack the odds in favor of all kids everywhere.
There are too many kids who are cold, and tired, and hungry, and frustrated. There are too many kids who don’t see a way up and out of their circumstances because no one they know ever got up or out. Imagine what our world would be like if every child alive right now got everything they needed to grow up healthy, educated, kind, and confident. That’s the image I hold in my mind as I think about ways to offer virtual and on-demand guidance counseling to kids across the country, and eventually across the globe. It’s a big vision, a big dream, and our kids deserve nothing less. They have to know that somewhere out in the world, there is an adult who believes in them, who is holding a light for them so that they can find their way forward even in the darkest of times. To that child, that one light can make all the difference. And that’s worth fighting for.
F*ck it. I’m going for it. I’ve been kicking around the idea for a new business I’d like to start, and after several months of gnashing my teeth and wringing my hands, I decided I’m just going to do it. As I’ve mentioned several times, I was lucky to have an amazing guidance counselor, Jim Wherry, when I was in high school. I’ve learned over the last few months that I was luckier than I thought. In some schools, the ratio of guidance counselors to students is 1:500. And though we spend thousands of dollars every year per student on educating them, we spend the equivalent of a can of Coke per student on guidance counselors. A can of Coke. Bill Symonds, Director of the Global Pathways Institute, calls this “the black hole in the American education system.” I can’t get that idea out of my mind so I decided to embrace it and do something about it.
My therapist, Brian, once said to me that the best way for me to make my past mean something is to pay it forward. I think about how hard I worked and how much I struggled as a student and as a young adult. I think about the free lunch program that I was simultaneously grateful for and embarrassed by. I worked, and worked, and worked so that my life as an adult could be more secure than my life as a child. I think about the fact that despite my many hardships, there are far too many kids today who are in the same boat or even worse off. The boy I met on the streets of D.C. a few nights ago is a prime example of the people who need me to make this business a reality. Every student deserves to have a Jim Wherry. And I’m going to find a way to make that possible while also creating a company that creates jobs and has the kindest, bravest, most passionate, and most respectful culture imaginable because our work is something we should love to do. Our kids all across this country need us to stand up for them and support them as they make their way in a world that is becoming an increasingly difficult place. This is my act of resistance.
That’s my side hustle for now that I hope becomes a full-time venture over time. I’ll still need to work full-time in another job I enjoy (and let’s face it, the world is now full of opportunities for me to do good work) so that I don’t have to worry about money while I build this new idea. And that’s A-OK with me because I want to do what’s right for our kids without making choices based on my own personal finances.
So here we go back into the world of entrepreneurship, and this time a little older, hopefully a little wiser, and just as determined to use my business skills to build a passion project that builds a better world.
If you’d like to offer advice, help, ideas, or encouragement, I’ll take them.
As much as the security of a full-time job is comforting and the angst of being an entrepreneur is anything but, I’ve begun to think about striking out on my own again. This next leap is likely at least a year away as I start small, test ideas, ask for feedback, and develop a solid plan. I just know in my gut that I’m meant to do my own thing, to use opportunity to its full advantage where and when and how I see it, not how it’s defined by others. I’m only at the very, very early stages of this process and the lessons (tough and otherwise) of my last independent venture are looming large in my mind, and I plan to take all that wisdom and reinvest it in this new venture.
Last week I went to the U.S. News & World Report Healthcare of Tomorrow conference here in D.C. and I left every panel inspired, energized, and hopeful. There is such an immense amount of innovation happening and we are just beginning a new era of medicine in which we’re literally outpacing science fiction. From genomic and precision medicine, to transplants and prosthetics, to life-saving nanotechnologies and artificial intelligence paired with human creativity, there is so much possibility. I want to do my part to usher that possibility into reality.
I’m just now floating early ideas by some trusted people who aren’t shy with their critique and also unfailingly supportive of my dreams. It is a fine line to walk and they do that with grace and intelligence. I can see the future now, out there on the horizon, and I’m taking steps toward it every day. Like all things, it’s a journey and just knowing where I’m going has given me a lot of peace in the pursuit of the next adventure.