Introducing "Dear Bobbi," our monthly advice column, in which makeup mogul Bobbi Brown will be answering your beauty and wellness questions. Have something you want to ask Bobbi? Send it to firstname.lastname@example.org.
I’m at a crossroads in my career. I’ve been working at the same company for the past eight years and am itching to start my own business (but am also overwhelmed by where to start). As someone who has built multiple brands throughout the years, what are some of the most useful lessons you learned along the way?
Dear Seeking Inspiration,
When I first started my business, everything was a challenge. I had set out to create lipsticks that actually looked like the color of women’s lips. I had no idea it would become what it did. I didn’t go to business school either. I had to learn everything about running a business—marketing, logistics, product development, public relations—as I went. For me, it was the best (and only) way to do it. Here’s some of the most important things I learned along the way.
1. Learn how to think on your feet. When I first started out, I had to figure out how to change direction without losing sight of my goals. As I was getting ready to launch my collection at Bergdorf Goodman, the first lipstick cases came in and the caps didn’t fit. I freaked out momentarily and then we sorted everything out and ended up moving the launch date back. Bottom line: When you’re an entrepreneur, you have to think on your feet.
2. Be nice to everyone. You never know who you are going to meet. I learned the importance of this from my good friend, baseball player Yogi Berra. Treat everyone with kindness and respect. It will help you go far.
3. Follow your gut. Don’t be afraid to question things that don’t feel right. If you believe in something, stick to it. You don’t have to go along with an idea just because it’s coming from someone more senior than you or with more experience.
4. Do something new. Look for a gap in the market. When I couldn’t find natural-looking makeup, I made my own. In the 1990’s, my collection of natural shades totally disrupted the market. You need to create something new. Copying other products isn’t a business plan.
5. Save your money. It’s important to invest in your business but do it in a smart way. Cut out anything that isn’t essential to building your brand. Save money where you can and don’t quit your day job until your new business starts taking off.
6. Don’t be afraid to step back and switch gears. With any business, you’re going to have obstacles. But if you get to a point where you’re not making money or you’re not producing what you had in mind, it might be time to take a step back. It could just be timing or it could be a sign that it’s time to try something new. Just because one idea doesn’t work out doesn’t mean the next one won’t.
Wishing you much success in whatever it is you’re hoping to build!