By Geri Stengel (Founder, Ventureneer)
Dareth Colburn always thought men were smarter than she was. It was what she’d been taught as a child. Her brothers were told to be their own boss; she was told that if she went to the right school, she could be an executive secretary and to forget about design school in New York; it was too far away for a girl from Harvard, MA.
Eight years ago, as a single mother with $30,000 in debt, Colburn started USABride, an online store that sells bridal accessories – jewelry, veils and tiaras. “I was always a girly girl,” she says, so when faced with destitution and a desire to avoid a return to her corporate career (work-life balance was important for this single mom), she started selling girly stuff online.
Her company started with 10 items, literally: five veils and five tiaras. It now has more than 1,500 different items — some of which she designs herself — and is pushing the $3 million revenue mark. So much for that smarter thing. Hers is a story of e-commerce but it is also a story of overcoming self-doubt.
She sold those 10 items, went to classes to learn about search engine optimization and Photoshop, enlarged her inventory, lost suppliers who began to view her as competition, and found new suppliers with better prices. She kept the books and steamed the veils when she took her shower.
Her business grew. So did she.
She listened to self-empowerment tapes and attended seminars. She began to set goals for herself and to realize that she could reach them. “The biggest change was the change in what I believed I could accomplish,” she says.
Remember the Little Engine That Could? The “I think I can, I think I can” one? Well, that’s the role model Colburn adopted. Constantly learning about yourself and about possibility is key. She turned to business coaches to help her ask the right questions. “So many people have everything they need inside them, but they need to be able to pull it out,” she says.
Yes, her success is due to the low-overhead of a start-up e-commerce site. And to long hours and hard work. But, after listening to her story, it’s clear that her success is also due to finding self-confidence by:
- Seeking help from whomever has information or experience that might be useful: business coaches, mentors, seminars, motivational speakers, books, people in networking groups, seminars.
- Setting goals that are just outside your comfort zone so they are achievable but challenging. As you reach one, set new ones so you are always being pulled up.
- Being willing to change both your attitudes so you can grow.
- Finding out what you love and doing it, even if you make mistakes along the way.
Needless to say, Colburn’s 11-year-old daughter has quite a different view of her opportunities. A few years ago, Colburn told her daughter about the idea of setting 100 lifetime goals. Colburn couldn’t stretch herself beyond 60 goals for her lifetime.
Her daughter came up with her own 100 in one afternoon, without adult interference. “My daughter had no limitations, no boundaries. She doesn’t have self-imposed limitations,” Colburn says.
As goals are accomplished, new ones. Aspirations aren’t pared down; they are expanded. Six months ago, reaching $3 million in revenue seemed an unrealistic goal for her company, she says. Now she’s thinking $5 million.
For more articles about high-growth women entrepreneurs, visit Guiding the Way for Ambitious Women Entrepreneurs, Ventureneer’s curated source for information women entrepreneurs can use to power-up their businesses.
Editor’s note: Got a question for our guest blogger? Leave a message in the comments below.
About the guest blogger: Geri Stengel is Founder of Ventureneer, providing knowledge and resources for values driven businesses. She is a Kauffman FastTrac GrowthVenture facilitator, former adjunct professor of entrepreneurship, and past board member of the NYC Chapter of the National Association of Business Women Owners, she understands the unique challenges women entrepreneurs face when growing their beyond $1 million. Follow She blogs regularly at Vistas. Follow her on Twitter at @ventureneer.