You know that starting a business isn't easy, but you're also ready to put in the tremendous amount of time and energy needed to make sure your seedling of an idea — the one that keeps you awake at night with its promise for potential — sees the glorious light of day. But, uh, where do you even start? There's no shortage of empty and outdated career tips and tricks floating around the professional ethosphere, but if you're looking for actually good advice for starting your own business (you know, something that feels more substantial than "work hard" or "follow your dreams"), then the best place to look for help is from people who have already played this game before — and won, for that matter.
That was the unofficial theme at Create & Cultivate New York, a day-long conference in New York City that brought together women from all different backgrounds and experiences to talk about their dealings in the creative and business spheres — and to share how they're choosing to create and cultivate the career of their dreams. With Laura Mercier acting as presenting sponsor and an A-list lineup of panelists, no words were minced as women came together to talk about their entrepreneurial struggles and successes.
Whether you already have your own business or want to start one from scratch, are looking to take a project to the next level or simply want to make a career doing what you love, here's the best advice you should actually follow, from four successful women at Create & Cultivate who have been there, done that, and want to help you do the same.
Rebecca Minkoff, Creative Director & Co-Founder of Rebecca Minkoff
Rebecca Minkoff's eponymous design label is a force in today's fashion world, but the designer didn't build her empire overnight. It took Minkoff years to get her business off the ground, and it required a significant amount of risk for that matter, too — which is something she tells Millennial entrepreneurs to always keep in mind. Don't get discouraged if things don't immediately go the way you planned. "You cannot Uber your way to success," Minkoff tells Bustle. "You cannot Amazon Prime your way to success. I think with everything in our lives being so instant, you just assume your career success is going to happen overnight, and then you get disillusioned when it doesn’t. And so I keep harping on the fact that this takes years — decades. And if you really love something, it takes that long."
But while you're thinking big picture, don't be afraid to talk yourself up in the short-term either. Minkoff's other key to success is more concrete: Speak up for yourself. "I meet too many women who are afraid to ask for what they want," she says. "And they see men just asking for it. So don’t be afraid to ask for what you want."
Kendra Scott, Founder & CEO of Kendra Scott Design
Long before Kendra Scott Design made its debut, Kendra Scott knew she wanted to be a fashion designer. Even during her early days as a teenager working in retail, the jewelry designer says she had a passion for the business — and that passion is what fueled her success. Racked reports Scott's company brought in an estimated $160 million in sales during the 2015 fiscal year alone.
"I think for anyone who wants to start something of their own, it’s to really look for the white space in whatever industry or market that you’re looking at, figure out where there’s a void, and then make sure you’re doing something you’re passionate about," Scott tells Bustle. "Because if you’re just doing something to create a business to make money, you’ll never be successful. You won’t be happy. You’ve got to do what you love."
And, once you're ready to turn your idea into a full-blown business, try to surround yourself with positive vibes only. "My new thing to tell women is don’t ever listen to someone who tells you that you can’t do something," Scott says.
Jaclyn Johnson, Founder & CEO of Create & Cultivate
Jaclyn Johnson, founder and CEO of the Create & Cultivate network, is all about encouraging young women entrepreneurs to follow their dreams — but when it comes to doling out actual career advice, her biggest tip is more practical: Just start. "I think everyone’s like, 'What’s a good time? When do I make the leap? How do I make the transition? How do I come up with the idea?'” Johnson tells Bustle. "There’s no good time. There’s literally no right answer. You just have to start by starting."
And once you've taken that first step? Talk yourself up. "Confidence is key. Women undersell themselves a lot," she says. "Don’t go and just ask for a raise. Go ask for a raise, and have a Powerpoint presentation on what you’ve done in the past six months."
Johnson also advises women working for themselves to get offline every now and then and reach out to others with similar goals and aspirations. Yes, social media is an amazing way to promote your brand, but it's equally as important to communicate with people IRL. "Entrepreneurship is really lonely," she says. "You can feel really isolated, especially if you’re by yourself. You need to get offline, meet with other women, and be in environments that are positive and supporting — because no one else is going to do that for you, especially if you’re the boss."
Mariam Naficy, Founder & CEO of Minted
Mariam Naficy knows a thing or two about starting a successful business. Her company Minted has become an online go-to for all things design-related, whether you're looking for wedding invitations, stationery, or home decor. Before that, she sold her online cosmetics startup Eve for more than $100 million in 2000. Her advice? Don't shy away from taking risk, and know your worth. "Women need to understand that they are as capable in business as men, and can become successful founders," Naficy tells Bustle over email. "I also think that women hold back in salary and promotion negotiations. In my experience managing women and men, men tend to push a bit harder still. Speaking up can go a long way, so women should not be afraid to start the conversation."
And, if you have an idea you know is great, don't wait to see it be put into action, Naficy says. In many cases, time is one of your most valuable assets. "Start a business early in your career, or take risks early in your career in order to move faster up the career ladder — say yes to things that are a bit scary, and don’t underestimate yourself," she tells Bustle.
Of course, no two success origin stories are the same, and what works for one person isn't going to work for everyone. However, if you're looking for a dose of inspiration, talking to other women with similar goals and experiences about their journeys is an amazing way to start.