It takes a lot of characteristics to run a business. Ambition, intelligence and tenacity are just a few. It also takes love. It takes love for your vision, your work and yourself. Love is the thing that burns inside you when people tell you that you should give up on your idea. It’s the reason you get out of bed in the morning, ready to kick butt at your own business. Love is also the grace you grant yourself when you make a big mistake.
Love can take many forms, like showing vulnerability by putting yourself out there, trusting in a process to allow something to unfold and being authentic with the people you encounter everyday. It can seem uncomfortable to talk about these things in a business article, but the truth is -- that’s where all the magic happens.
I was lucky to speak with four entrepreneurs about love and business. The women that I spoke with expressed a lot of love for the work they do. They were honest with me about that -- and it was very inspiring. Below are excerpts from our conversations, and I’m certain you will share similarities to the stories that these women tell.
Shantell Martin is a visual artist based in New York and California. She made a business out of her art six years ago, because she wanted to be in control of her creations. When she moved to New York City, she quickly faced the possibility that being a working artist may not happen. She was challenged by the art business model and found that it wasn’t set up to work in the artist’s favor. So, like a true entrepreneur, she created her own business model and took galleries out of the equation.
I was most compelled by two things that Shantell talked about. When I asked her how she discovered her style, she said that she didn’t really discover it. She just kept drawing over and over -- and her style unfolded in front of her. She trusted the process -- the guide to what was already inside of her.
That’s a lesson that you won’t learn in business school. We all have what we need inside of us -- we just need to be brave and patient in order to let it be free.
The second takeaway from our conversation was the idea that mindset can change everything. Being an artist is not an easy career choice. It can be a long road of rejection, self-doubt and financial challenges. While Shantell was in the middle of a struggle, a friend asked her: “Has it occurred to you that you don’t need to struggle?” That simple question shifted things for Shantell, because she started to imagine what life would be like if she was a successful artist. It set her on a path of success that she continues to enjoy today.
Jahan Mantin and Boyuan Gao of Project Inkblot exhibit the kind of authenticity that make you want to be their best friend. “We want to feel like we belong” is what inspired the start of Project Inkblot. Even though women of color were featured in the media, it’s how they were spoken to that felt inauthentic to Jahan and Boyuan. They think that it’s important for women and communities of color to tell their own stories in their own authentic voices.
Their company creates cross-cultural campaigns, develops experiential workshops and mission-based cultural programming just to name a few of their services. They do this work so they can ensure that under-served communities have a seat at the table.
They’ve had early success in their business. It’s easy to understand why when you speak to them in person. They are unwavering and laser-focused on their mission. Their authenticity translates to everything they do, even the tough business challenges.
They shared a story with me about being too eager to work on a new project and entered into an agreement with the client without doing their due diligence. As the project moved along, they found themselves miserable, because things weren’t going the way they should. They took responsibility for their role in the matter and instead of being miserable anymore, saw the situation for what it was -- an opportunity for a deeper connection to the work and their client.
They decided to be honest and express their concerns with their client. They were coming from a place of shared commitment for the success of the campaign, so they had the right approach. The conversation wasn’t easy, but it was necessary. Once they spoke candidly with their client, the project went smoothly and turned out to be one of their biggest success stories.
Sometimes we need to remember to have compassion for people, even our clients. Sitting down face to face with someone and respectfully communicating with them can solve a lot of problems. Slow down and do this, it will impact your business and your life.
Lynne McDaniel owns An Orange Moon, a vintage interior furnishings and design center. She sells mid-Century modern designs, so people have beautiful pieces in their homes to eat dinner together or cuddle on the couch and watch TV.
Lynne grew up in an entrepreneurial family and has that unique combination of business savvy and creativity. She learned a lot about design while growing up, because her mother was a graduate of Vogue College of Design in Chicago. Weekends were spent going to design shows, art museums and the flea market on Maxwell Street, so her dad could hunt for vintage tools.
Lynne was bitten by the design bug early and started collecting vintage items at a very young age. She’s turned her love of design into a thriving furniture business and feels like she has created a fairytale life. She also believes that anyone can have the life they want. You just have to make that choice, work hard and keep moving forward. Success is a mindset, and it’s her genuine wish that everyone could understand that.
After speaking with these four impressive entrepreneurs, I learned that we all go through similar challenges as business owners and as women. The special thing about women though, is our ability to put ourselves out there as only women can. With that comes great power and responsibility, so trust the process, be authentic and always lead with love.