By Sarah Coronado (Founder & CEO, Lotus Premium Denim)
In 2011, I started my entrepreneurial journey in an industry pretty foreign to me: the over saturated market of fashion and premium denim. In the process of learning about the industry, the customer market and the challenges and pitfalls of manufacturing and product development, I uncovered so much more about my own limiting beliefs than I could ever imagine.
Many startups don’t make it past their first year in business and it can mostly be attributed to how a lack of proper mindsets or beliefs can cause major setbacks, dissuading even the strongest entrepreneurs. I’ve come close to hanging up the dream several times. In September of 2013, I re-calibrated my focus after learning some indispensable knowledge.
I’ve recently just launched our Kickstarter campaign and would like to share the following five methodologies that helped get me back on my feet.
1. Don’t Sell Stuff; Fix a Problem Instead
Every product or service aims to solve a problem for someone in a market or demographic. The market you decide to help should be interesting to you.
When building a solution, are you solving a real pain for them or just creating more options of the same thing? For Lotus Premium Denim, I aimed to solve my own need in finding the perfect fitting jeans. Being 5’2”, I hated the lack of options, fit and comfort in denim for women of my stature and shape. I did my research just to validate there was a large enough market to address this same problem for other women and was over the moon when I discovered that the average height woman in the US is 5’4″ — that means half the female population is in fact petite!
Furthermore, finding the right fitting jeans that enhances our best asset (our derriere) was practically non existent. The fact that I was solving my own problems explains why I am so obsessed with my product. If I’m able to feel good in my own jeans, imagine the self-esteem issues I can help address for so many other women in this world.
2. Build a Story with Your Product
When you take the heart out of the product, all you have is just a thing. I never wanted to be just a thing. Yes, I wanted to solve a problem, but that’s just one half of the equation. The other half is the story.
We all connect and relate to stories, especially when they relate to universal expressions of love, loss, dreams and struggles. I connected so deeply with the symbol and meaning of the lotus flower. Born in murky water, it flourishes despite harsh conditions, and thrives. This is the universal journey for us all. It’s a powerful reminder of our own struggles, strength and beauty.
Every product or service should be driven from passion, which is uncovered by its story. And as it evolves, so does the story. The beautiful thing about this approach is that it stays authentic, which is more powerful than any form of marketing.
3. Stay Curious
I’ve come to realize that curiosity is the highest form of intelligence. The act of creation means never saying, “I think I’ll stop now. Everything is done.”
There will always be new ways to express, elaborate, develop and enhance on your ideas. Once you’re no longer curious about your product, customer base, story and journey, you can bet that you will no longer be inspired to grow.
With my own product, my team continues to expand with different styles to build our brand story and community. We continually get inspired to create new forms of expressions within various forms of media, fashion and art. In fact, we are currently in the works with a dance video coming soon! Believe me, the ideas are endless.
4. Embrace Your Falls
So many of life’s biggest lessons are taught from failures. It’s easy to be discouraged from mistakes that have led to loss in capital, time, resources and inspiration, especially if those mistakes were out there for all to witness.
But what I can tell you is that there is no secret sauce for success. You can’t get there by avoiding failures. If anything, I think failure is a critical component to success, simply because you get to take what you’ve learned and apply that wisdom to better your outcome in your next approach.
In building my product, I tried every business model in selling jeans: personal home trunk shows, retail consignment, wholesale, trade shows, online e-commerce and pop-up shops. Every experiment proved the same thing: Each way is equally hard.
I would not be here had I given up at my first no show pop-up shop or trunk show. It is not in falling that you discover your strength; it’s in rising every time you fall. Try to remember it’s all relative. As an eternal optimist, I look at every failure I’ve made or will ever make as another experience necessary in the journey of my dreams.
5. Take a Break
Balance is not overrated. Working yourself to complete delirium and exhaustion will have reverse effects on you. For many entrepreneurs, this is much easier said than done. It’s in our nature to keep working, rarely making time for rest and play.
Please don’t get fooled by this irrational logic. Inspiration, ideas and focus all need one thing — for you to be present. The mind, the body and the soul need regeneration every so often so you can function and perform your best!
I’m sometimes a hypocrite when it comes to heeding this advice, but after raising two kids and working two jobs, my body is now quicker to flag me warnings when it needs more sleep or exercise. And sadly, even my best friend coffee can’t save me in these predicaments.
Although my business is like my third baby, every now and then I need to take a break and refuel myself. So when you feel off balance or really stuck, let yourself rest and recover! (Oh dear, let me add that I’m proof editing this post at 2:45 a.m. Sunday morning.) #SorryNotSorry
These five methodologies have helped me to remain grateful and driven in my startup journey with Lotus Premium Denim. I’ve fallen plenty of times and have taken some much needed breaks, but along the way, I’ve been able to connect with so many beautiful women whose stories identify so well with our mission and purpose.
This collective experience inspires me to keep innovating our denim line to better fit women in our communities. I encourage you to take these 5 methods and apply it in your work as well. No matter how difficult things get, stay focused in solving a need for your market, build meaning in your work, continue innovating, embrace your failures and rest when needed. You will succeed simply because you are doing what you love and appreciating every moment of it. That is the real definition of success.