A founder shares the wisdom that's gotten her through the process of starting up thus far.By Katherine Hanson (Founder & CEO, SheTrusts.com)
I was excited to write a guest blog for Women 2.0, but was struggling as to how I could humorously tell the story of what led me to found my fashion startup SheTrusts.com and what I’ve learned in developing it thus far in a way that would be refreshing and inspiring. The more I thought about it, the more I kept thinking about four quotes (some with unknown origins, others by quite famous and inspirational people), and how they’ve inspired me in this process.
So here is the story of SheTrusts.com through the words of wisdom that have caused me to bring it to life and nurture it through is infancy.
“Find a need, be the solution.” – Unknown
You could say that one of my biggest fashion mistakes led me to one of my greatest ideas. For me, SheTrusts.com all started with a disappointing experience with a pair of Tory Burch "Reva" flats, and my need for a website that would be able to tell me what fashion products I could trust to invest my hard-earned money in.
As a young woman working her way up in the world, I was always looking for the perfect "go-to" classic black flat, and it meant something to me to buy these shoes (which retail around $230). I saw it as an investment in my future, a visual ticket to success. Two months later, the shoes looked like something that had been sent through a wood chipper. I was astonished to realize that these shoes, which I had invested so much of my (limited) disposable income on, could not hold up to the pace of my life (and let's face it, it wasn't like I was climbing Mount Everest). If I had known the lifespan of these shoes, I don't believe I would have purchased them in the first place.
During one vent session over tacos and SkinnyGirl margaritas, I wondered out loud: “There's got to be a website where women can just be real and give it to each other straight about the quality of these fashion products that we're all spending thousands of dollars each year on!” So to fill a need in my own life, the idea for SheTrusts.com was born! After discussing this idea with other women I realized that I wasn't the only one who has a need for such a website, and I saw the opportunity to create and provide a platform for women to review and share with one another what they depend on and what has let them down. SheTrusts.com provides a place for us to learn from one another and insert the conversation about quality and durability back into the fashion dialogue.
"No one is smarter than you." – Bethenny Frankel, Founder of the SkinnyGirl empire & talk show host
Once I had committed to founding SheTrusts.com and had laid the foundation for the company (by developing my ideal wireframe and site functionality, establishing the business structure, etc.), I began to network like crazy to meet other startup founders and potential investors, attending all sorts of tech meet-up events around Los Angeles (the first of which was actually a Women 2.0 Founder Friday event).
At first it was incredibly overwhelming to meet all of these people who seemed to be on their third, fourth or fifth (or more!) startup and who were able to hustle their way out of actually having to have a full-time job. I just assumed that everyone I met was much smarter than me. But the more I networked and the more I listened to both solicited and unsolicited advice and opinions, the more I learned to listen to my own voice, and to identify things that were in line with my vision for SheTrusts.com and ignore those that were not.
Now I see these functions not so much as a gathering of people who were ready to tell me how smart I am not, but as an opportunity to hone in on my own voice and vision. Most importantly, I now realize that everyone has their own way of building what it is they aim to achieve. That is their path, and this is mine.
“You don’t have to go in order.” – Sara Blakely, founder of Spanx
One of my biggest obstacles with SheTrusts is that I have yet to built the perfect website. As I learned early on in this process, there are a lot of steps towards building my dream site and I thought that without it, I couldn’t truly start to provide the fashion quality and durability reviews that women need. However, I soon realized that in order for this idea to actually gain the steam it needs to move the train forward (finding a technical co-founder, get into an accelerator, pitch investors, etc.,) I needed to produce a "minimum viable product." So, I created a basic website to support the bare bones of what I want SheTrusts.com as a company to do, I enlisted my female friends to be contributors to the site, and I launched the MVP of SheTrust.com in April of this year.
Don’t get me wrong, its not all roses just yet: even at this infancy stage it needs to be fed, tweeted, marketed, etc., and often I’m terrified that it is more than I am able to do perfectly (hence my search for a co-founder). But in the few weeks since its launch, my MVP has allowed me to form partnerships for collaborations and cross promotions, and to learn valuable lessons that I can apply when it's full grown. So another take-away: don’t be afraid to do things out of order, and don’t wait for everything to be perfectly in place to start doing whatever it is that you want your company to actually do.
"The true test of character isn't how you are on your best days, but how are you on your worst days." - SELF Magazine editor-in-chief Lucy Danziger
This quote has stuck with me through a lot of tough spots in my life, and it continues to ring true in building SheTrusts.com. As any entrepreneur can attest, you have some great days where it all moves swimmingly forward, and then you have days where you run into walls or when it feels like you’re crawling through broken glass. Whatever it is that’s giving you trouble, you have to acknowledge it and look at it straight on. Maybe you just have to try harder, or maybe you need to approach it differently, or perhaps you need to pivot your business plan or rework your idea. But you have to know that giving up is never the answer. So whatever you do, no matter what phase of the startup process you’re in, just keep moving forward. About the guest blogger: Katherine Hanson is the founder and CEO of SheTrusts.com, the first website created to provide fashion quality and durability reviews based on the lives and experiences of real women. She developed the concept while working as a director of Ace Gallery in Los Angeles after obtaining her degree in Art History from Auburn University. Follow her on Twitter at @KHansonLA. Photo credit: Helga Weber via Flickr.