Starting a business takes guts. GRACE BONNEY asks high-achieving entrepreneurs about sacrifices, career challenges and what SUCCESS REALLY MEANS
1. GENEVIEVE GORDER, Interior designer and US television host
What called you to your field of work? My childhood would have been a renovation show if there had been a camera present. We restored Victorian homes throughout the 1980s and 1990s.
What is the biggest sacrifice you’ve made in starting your business? Time … and my 20s. I think when it’s a passion, it’s hard to call anything you do for it a sacrifice, but I know I’ve missed many important events and happenings in my family and my own life.
Name a fear that keeps you up at night. The juggle. How do I keep all the balls in the air and make sure they are perfectly polished?
What is the biggest lesson you’ve learned in running a business? You have to stretch to grow. And surround yourself with not only talented people who you can delegate to, but also with good souls.
What resources would you recommend to someone starting a creative business? Embrace social media completely. It is the most incredible tool. Create a “no assholes” policy. And travel. It is not a luxury – it is a necessity.
2. LINDA RODIN, Stylist, founder of Rodin Olio Lusso skincare
What is your favorite thing about your workspace? That it is wherever I am. Mostly in my head. Or at home.
What is the biggest sacrifice you’ve made in starting your business? I didn’t make one. I kept all things going all the time.
What does success mean to you? Success means feeling passionate about what you do.
Name a fear or professional challenge that keeps you up at night. Things that are out of my control.
Name something you’re most proud of in your business experiences. Keeping very long-term relationships.
What is the biggest overall lesson you’ve learned in running a business? Patience.
Has learning from a mistake ever led you to success? I think most things in life are trial and error. So a bit of self-doubt is a good thing.
In moments of self-doubt or adversity, how do you build yourself back up? I keep moving forward. One step informs the next. For better or for worse.
What called you to your field of work? I could not find a product that I liked for my skin, so I created my own. I was 59.
What resources would you recommend to someone starting a creative business? Your own vision and your own imagination.
3. TAVI GEVINSON, Actress and editor-in-chief of Rookie
What is your professional motto? Do what’s in front of you.
What is the biggest sacrifice you’ve made in starting your business? What would otherwise have been free time, like after school or post-graduation. But this is what I wanted to do with my free time, so it doesn’t feel like a sacrifice, just nontraditional.
Name a fear or professional challenge that keeps you up at night. Not filling the day as much as I could have.
What is the biggest overall lesson you’ve learned in running a business. Honour audience feedback.
Has learning from a mistake ever led you to success? There are ongoing conversations with Rookie readers, and it’s always valuable to hear what they need more and less of, and learn what our blind spots are.
In moments of adversity, how do you build yourself back up? Self-care, which for me means taking walks alone, journalling, and doing yoga.
Which of your traits are you most proud of? I have a physical aversion to wasting time. It helps to recognise self-doubt as such.
What was the best piece of business advice you were given when you were starting out? Own everything.
What’s the first thing you do every morning? Put on a podcast. I need to be engaged with something and listen to people right away.
What’s your favourite thing to come home to after a long day of work? Seinfeld and cereal.
4. EILEEN FISHER, Fashion designer and sustainability activist
What was the best piece of business advice you were given when you were starting out? Grow organically. If you create a product that people truly enjoy and benefit from, profitability will always follow.
What does success mean to you? Happy customers. Having a positive impact in the world: sustainability work with other initiatives like women’s leadership.
Name a fear that keeps you up at night. Public speaking – anything from speaking in front of a small group of people to giving a speech to a large audience.
Has learning from a mistake ever led you to success? In the early days I chose to use only French terry as the main fabric. It was a minor disaster. I learned that if I broadened my fabric choices, it would expand my collection – the business exploded after that. All the challenges I have faced are just new opportunities presenting themselves.
Name your greatest success in your business experiences. My core design concept is still relevant after 30 years. It is nice to see that the clothing lasts and is still meaningful and relevant.
Knowing what you know now, what would you have done differently when you were first starting out? I would have been less driven – I would have tried to be calmer and take it a little slower; tried to make more conscious decisions. I would have liked to have put myself at the centre earlier and kept my own life as more of a priority.
What does the world need more of? Less of? The world needs more love, happiness, and joy, and less stuff. You still need stuff, but just the right stuff.
What is your no-fail go-to when you need inspiration or to get out of a creative rut? I have a purpose chair that I like to spend time in. I also like to write. For me, taking time to just ramble-write in my journal for pages at a time energises me. If I write it down, I can see through the mess and gain clarity in what I need to do and the next steps.
Extracted from In the Company of Women by Grace Bonney (Artisan Books). Principal photography by Sasha Israel.
This article appeared in a previous issue, for more features like this, don’t miss our December issue, out Thursday, December 1.
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