Girl Bosses: We all know them. We all love them. We all secretly (and not-so-secretly) want to be them. It’s a way of life for some, and for others, it’s a baller hashtag to use after crushing a day at the office. With a millennial culture geared towards encouraging women to reach higher and push harder, the “dream” of becoming a girl boss is now more attainable than ever.
Having started a women’s online clothing and gift store, let me tell you—I read the books. I dreamed the dream. I quit the full-time job and I became the girl boss I hoped I would one day be. And along the way, I’ve discovered a thing or two about entrepreneurship.
1. If you build it, they may not come. And that’s totally cool.
When starting your own business, a launch can go one of two ways: You build it and everyone comes running, or you build it and wonder if everyone got lost. My business requires seasonal updates of new products, and I can specifically recall a launch where I felt like I was standing out in my own field of dreams, waiting for the DJ to turn on the mic because my customers must not have heard me! I loved my products.
I worked endless hours. Everything on my end was perfect. But then the panic of making my first big mistake as a business owner instantly set in, and I questioned all of my choices.
Little did I know, these moments are actually the most valuable if you want to be a boss babe. Those moments provide the time to take a step back and reflect on why you’re not an overnight success. Maybe your product is perfect for a niche audience, but your marketing channels aren’t reaching the right people. Maybe you’re priced too high compared to your competition. Maybe you need to demonstrate the value of customers choosing you over the big guys.
Every story is different, but behind every shortcoming there is a lesson to be learned. The key is to push aside that bruised ego, identify what you can do better, and keep going. Because it really is totally cool to fail if it pushes you to grow.
2. Don’t compare your hustle to their highlight reel.
This is a quote from the true girl boss herself, Sophia Amuroso, founder of Nasty Gal and author of the book (you guessed it) “#Girlboss.” If you ask me, truer words have not been spoken. While there are so many upsides to social media, it can also be a constant source of comparison when it comes to building a business. Connecting with your ideal customer at the right time, in the right place, and in the right way can be a game of trial and error when first starting a company. In an Instagram and Pinterest-run world, we all want images that reflect the beauty of what we’re selling, what we’re doing, and who we are. But beautiful images don’t just happen.
That picture of a bright, magazine-worthy office space you see on Instagram? I’m willing to bet that outside of the frame are papers strewn about, coffee cups stacked on coffee cups, and a worker bee more consumed with next month’s finances than with desk perfection. That confetti-blowing post by your favorite company celebrating their 100,000th sale? Beyond figuring out how to get confetti to flutter beautifully on video (which should be an article in and of itself), there was a time where they were figuring out how to make it to their 10th sale.
You will get there. You will have highlights in the form of glorious days when your business is rocking, and your social media feeds are perfectly groomed to make it look like it was a breeze. And you will have days filled with so much hustle, so much chaos, so much imperfection, that you will wonder if it’s all worth it. Spoiler alert: it is. But be wary of comparing the two—It’s the hustle that makes the highlights that much sweeter.
3. It’s OK to be vulnerable about your journey.
Ever been to a party where you feel like all you’re being asked is, “How’s [insert new thing in your life] going?” and your initial reaction is to talk about its fabulousness when in reality it has been downright hard? Welcome to life as a girl boss.
A few months into my business, I was dreading meeting up with an art director friend of mine, as I knew he would likely have some feedback on my website photography. For a girl who hadn’t even picked up a DSLR camera before deciding to pursue an online-only business, there was a high probability that his feedback wasn’t going to be the best. When we finally met for drinks, I downed two for liquid courage before asking the dreaded question: “What do you think of the photography on my site?” And as expected, a slew of feedback came rolling in—exposure, ISO, apertures, settings. It was all wrong. What I didn’t expect was how great it was to hear a friend who truly cared about my business’ success tell it to me straight. I walked out with a new energy and hired a photographer the very next day. Because, hey, I’m a believer that while we can certainly do anything ourselves, it’s sometimes best to not do everything ourselves.
It can be really tough to open up about your business journey when you’re constantly putting on a front. Find people you trust—a business mentor, a friend, a valued colleague in your field—and don’t be afraid to share your paint points. Those will be the people that will not only give you tangible feedback, but will inspire you to take a new approach as well.
4. Say HELL YES to your “yes” crew.
It will likely come as no surprise that when you’re an entrepreneur you’ll have to get used to hearing the word “no.” People will use it repeatedly and in ways you didn’t know existed. These will be the days when doubt creeps in. These will be the days that make you wonder why you told yourself you could. But these will also be the days that you can go back to those who supported you in the first place.
Call your parents and get a fresh dose of why you’re the best thing since your older sister. Talk to your bestie who believed in you before you believed in yourself. Ask your old boss to pull up your annual review, and take note of all of those qualities listed in the “strengths” section. Identify that “yes” crew and hold onto them tight. They are your cheerleaders. They find joy in watching you shine. They will empower you and help you see value in your leadership, even when you can’t see it yourself.
5. The struggle is, and will always be, real.
Walking into entrepreneurship, I admittedly had blinders on. I knew the start would be tough and that it would take a little time to develop a growth strategy that would consistently elevate my business. But I had assumed that once I got there—once I reached the mecca of what I considered to be success—the waters would become a little smoother. And in some regard, this is true; The more you learn, the more confidence you have in making tough business decisions. But every business, whether it’s a start up or a success story, is always tackling that next hurdle.
Before starting your business, establish your success markers—these can be anything from financial goals to product offerings to followers on social media. Move from one challenge to the next and take the time to celebrate those victories, while knowing that with each success comes a new challenge and a new thing you may have no idea how to do.
Don’t let these struggles daunt you, because you’ve been there before, and because you’re doing things right, you’ll be there again. Take that newfound confidence and jump in, just as you did before. The very definition of being your own boss is having the ability to motivate yourself. You can get there, and you will. I’m certain of it. You’ll be the boss who did it when no one thought you could. You’ll be the one we all look to with that “how does she do it?” awe. But girl, you better work.