Life Lessons from a Girl-trepreneur… A How-to Guide
By Kimberly Barth
A typical day in my atypical life… How do I begin to explain who I am… A walking identity crisis. What do I do? Depends on the time of day…
My name is Kimberly Barth, I'm a designer, the CEO of a start-up company, an activist, a musician and today an author. I spend my life on an airplane, I work in three time-zones and I run with the big boys. Every day's filled with trials and tribulations. I laugh, I cry, I try to maintain my sanity. Such is the life of a girl-treprenuer.
Every day I learn something new, realize everyone has a lesson offer and every time I think I've seen it all, I get schooled. Allow me to share some of my revelations…
LESSON 1: GO BIG OR GO HOME
My life has never really gone according to plan. A year and a half ago, I hadn't anticipated on starting a clothing company. But, when the opportunity arose, I was on board 1000 percent. I met my partners Patrick Schwarzenegger and Nick Sheinberg in late 2008 and we immediately began building the foundation for our business. It was no easy task. People were skeptical. After all, my background is predominantly in music and my partner's are in high school! What business did we have starting a business?
The boys and I spent a year developing the Project360 concept, a socially responsible clothing and accessory company, where every product represents a different global cause. For every item sold, we donate a portion of the proceeds to one of our partner charities, such as Save the Children. We wanted to make more than a fashion statement, we wanted to get involved.
Initially, the plan was to start small and test some bracelets. As we got closer to our preview, we decided if we were going to do this, we'd do it all the way. With barely a month to go, we created an entire t-shirt line in time for our debut at the California Governor and First Lady's Women's Conference. The big day arrived and the moment those convention center doors opened, our booth was flooded with customers. Project360 was an instantaneous success, and we completely sold out within hours. The following month our Empower bracelet graced the cover of Glamour magazine. Now almost a year later, I can proudly say our new Unforgettable collection, benefiting Alzheimer's research, will launch in Bloomingdale's in mid-October.
Moral of the story… Bring it! Commit or quit. Roll with the punches and never lose your mojo.
LESSON 2: DON'T UNDERESTIMATE THE UNDERDOG
Just because the guy next to you had been doing something for 10 years, doesn't mean you need to look like an amateur. In the past year I've learned so much. When I didn't know what to do, I asked a million questions. You have to educate yourself in every aspect of your business. We take a grass roots approach with Project360. No matter what the process, we know how it's done. If I didn't know how to do something before, you bet I do now. Just because I don't have experience in pattern-making, doesn't mean I can't learn to create a garment from scratch. Not only did I pack every shipment, I was in the truck hauling a thousand hoodies myself. I can read a P&L statement, better yet, I can understand it. If you're going to have a business you have engross yourself in it. If you don't know how to do something, ask. If there's no one to turn to, google away.
Moral of the story… If something's not your expertise, listen, learn and take direction. You'll figure it out as you go along.
LESSON 3: BETTER TO BE WEIRD THAN BORING
Standing out is a key element of success. Being memorable will take you a lot further than being a wallflower. Even if your product is the best thing since sliced bread, nobody will care about it if they don't know about it! Every time we sell Project360, we put our heart into it. Don't be shy, talk with anyone who's willing to listen. You never know where a conversation may lead you, perhaps a sale or a networking opportunity. Be it Twitter, Facebook or good old fashion conversation, never stop PR-ing your stuff! As a matter of fact, we met Naomi, our teamproject360.com architect, from using the Women's Conference hash-tag on our twitter feed. Never underestimate the magic of social media.
Moral of the story… Be America's favorite tweetheart and above all, be yourself!
LESSON 4: DON'T DRINK THE HATERAID
In any arena, you have to be confident. Don't let anyone put a chink in your armor. With Project360, we give talks about giving back and being social entrepreneurs. I discuss building my company, my life and my dreams. Last year I had a awkward experience during a break-out session. I often speak about my, very personal, battle with Steven's Johnson's Syndrome (a life threatening toxic reaction caused by Accutane.) I reference SJS, because instead of letting it defeat me, I conquered it. Being sick made me appreciate life and inspired to want to make a difference in this world. A midst my Q&A section, a woman in the audience reprimanded me because she disagreed with Accutane and scolded me for letting what she perceived as vanity get me sick. First off, if I was that vane, I wouldn't admit taking it. I just spilled my guts about escaping death and bam this woman goes right for my jugular. I kept my cool and kept it moving as I watched the silenced crowd stare at her in horror. She who picks on the pimple, blemishes her own reputation. Let it go. People are always going to have something to say, listen with one ear. Sometimes they may even have a point or two.
Moral of the story… Whatever! Don't let anyone bring you down. Pity parties are strictly forbidden.
LESSON 5: SUCCESS IS LIKE SKINNY JEANS
Think of success like your tightest vintage Levi's, you can never get too comfortable. Just because things are on a roll, doesn't mean they'll stay there. You are not the only person climbing the proverbial latter, so stay on top of your game. Everyday is an opportunity for growth. If I'm attending an event thrown by one of our retailers, I'm not dancing and having drinks, I'm studying the customers. If I'm at a party, I have three bracelets and a t-shirt stuffed into my clutch in the off chance I bump into P. Diddy. One never knows what the day will bring. So, always be prepared. Luck happens when opportunity meets readiness.
Moral of the story… There's always someone waiting in the wings. If you snooze, you lose.
LESSON 6: CLICK YOUR MANOLOS THREE TIMES
There's no place like home, so remember where you came from. Don't get caught up in your own hype. When others won't friends and family will keep it real. In a jam, they're the ones you'll rely on. Be sure to reciprocate. Recently, I helped my friend Ryan promote her start-up company and helped connect her with some big time contacts. Call me Posh, I'm all about “girl power.” I know first hand how difficult it is to juggle a start-up. Flash forward a few weeks later, Ryan's become an integral part of helping Team Project360 build a rec-room in an LA children's hospital. I never expected or anticipated on that. I just did what I would hope a friend would do for me. Don't take people for granted and offer a helping hand. You don't know where life will take you, or anyone else for that matter.
Moral of Story: Check yourself before you wreck yourself. Don't get too big for your britches. Channel your inner Spice Girl.
Meet Kimberly and the Project 360 Team at Bloomingdale's in Santa Monica on Saturday, Oct. 23 or at the 2010 Women's Conference in Long Beach, California Oct. 25 and 26.