Starting and running a clothing business has been both the most rewarding and challenging things I’ve ever experienced. It has pushed me far beyond where I thought I could be and has enriched my life in so many ways. Like any venture into the unknown, there were many times when I’ve had to learn the hard way. Despite all the setbacks, I feel very blessed and proud of what I’ve been able to create. I am very grateful for the practice and philosophy of yoga to help guide me through the tough times. “Just Breathe” has been my daily mantra for a solid 4 years! Here are 5 lessons I’ve learned from creating and running a yoga clothing business.
1) PERFECT IS THE ENEMY OF GOOD
Before I started my own business, I used to be a perfectionist. When I worked in corporate marketing, I would spend hours planning out the perfect strategy. When I taught yoga, I would plan out each class meticulously ahead of time. I had a tendency to make sure I was in control of every situation. Once I dove into the world of entrepreneurship, I no longer had the luxury of that extra time. I was forced to operate in a mode where I couldn’t strive for perfection. There were simply not enough hours in the day to get everything done. I had to allow myself to throw stuff out there before I felt ready, which initially made me feel very uncomfortable. I remember the first website I built out was absolutely hideous, but I had to publish it anyway because I needed it to apply for some shows I wanted to do. The first few shirts I printed had some minor imperfections, but I didn’t want to waste a perfectly good shirt, so I sold it anyway. The first product photos were done on my phone, because I didn’t have the budget to get a pro to do it or buy a better camera. I knew nothing about fashion design when I started making my own leggings. So without even realizing it, I was getting out of my own way by embracing the philosophy of “good enough.” This helped me progress quickly and get my stuff out there. By having it out in the world, I was able to get the valuable feedback I needed to improve and move forward from there.
2) FEAR IS THE ONLY THING THAT IS HOLDING YOU BACK
As I continued on to run my business past the first year, I found myself coming up to big chasms that forced me decide whether or not to take the leap. The first one was deciding whether or not I wanted to take my business full time. As someone who’s always kept a couple of jobs going “just in case”, I was plagued with the anxiety of whether or not I was I ready to remove my safety net. What if I fail miserably? What if I won’t be able to make rent next month? All of these questions were causing me to second-guess myself and stifle the spark inside me to follow my dreams. Then one day, I realized that I was driving myself crazy by being spread too thin, by constantly working day and night and neglecting to take care of myself. I had no choice but to make the big decision. Right away, I realized that what was holding me back was the fear of failure, or the fear of judgment after failure, or simply the fear of the unknown. I learned that fear will always creep up in different forms, and if we can learn to move past it, we can really start to experience the magic on the other side.
3) COLLABORATION OVER COMPETITION
When you’re putting yourself and your ideas/creations out there for the first time, it’s hard not to feel like a small fish in a big pond. It’s so easy to compare yourself to others, or more established companies or figures who are in the same marketplace as you. When I first started doing events and festivals, I used to get in a funk when I would see another vendor doing something similar to me. I used to avoid talking to them because I saw them as some sort of enemy. Then I realized that this feeling was coming from my insecurities. My labeling of them as competition was a construct that I made up in my own head. Once I realized this, I made the decision to reach out to get to know them. Whatever assumptions I was projecting on them disappeared and I was able to see myself in them. All the same challenges, the same joys, the same victories; just on a different timeline. Once I started to relate to my competition as colleagues, then the collaborations started to happen naturally and I was able to boost my business through cross promotion. By lifting others, we rise as well. Entrepreneurship can be a lonely pursuit, so having people to relate to and who know what you’re going through, is truly priceless. It’s definitely saved my sanity on more than one occasion!
4) YOUR STORY MATTERS
Looking back, one of the main reasons why I think I have been able to experience success with my business is because I began by telling my story. The company started when I was on medical leave after I had emergency surgery to remove a large ovarian cyst in my belly. That event was a catalyst that led me on a completely new life path to pursue my creative passions, so it seemed natural to build my brand around my own experiences and values. This allowed the brand to grow in an authentic and organic way. Often people feel the need to be validated through followers or likes (or attention in general), but what creates true validation is when others are touched by what you do. They feel inspired to make a change in their lives because you had the courage to tell your story and create an impact. This is much harder to quantify and measure, but it makes up the unseen core of the business. This in turn contributes to quantifiable measures for success, such as increased sales, exposure, opportunities, etc. The secret is authenticity and communicating your “why”. What you do is far less important than why you do it. Your purpose and passion matter the most. As long as your target audience gets this, then everything else will fall into place from there.
5) THRIVE WITH YOUR TRIBE
Once you open your life up and start connecting with customers, clients and colleagues, you start to attract your tribe. They say it takes a village to raise a child; well it sure takes a village to raise a business! This has been in no way a solo pursuit. I’ve had to let go of my ego and ask for help on so many occasions. I never quite understood the power of a tribe until I started bringing on other people to join my team. All of a sudden, I was no longer a solo entrepreneur in my own little bubble. I had a team to share this experience with. Another example is when I started my ambassador program. Initially, I thought that what I was gaining was promotion and marketing perks. Little did I know that what I had gained as actually a community of likeminded, passionate individuals. Being the hub of that community has made me very proud to be able to facilitate countless meaningful connections that would have otherwise never existed had I never created a platform to bring them together. So in short, your biggest asset is your tribe. When we take action to support, nurture, connect and give back to them, abundance starts to reveal itself in many forms. Watch the video below to learn about Inner Fire and Leah’s journey into the world of yoga fashion.
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