'You Can't Do Everything Well.' How This Advice Helped the Founder of TwoBirds and Hatch Focus Her Priorities.
Ariane Goldman and Serena Dugan have been close friends for five years, and have learned that the advice they can offer one another is constantly changing but always valuable.
In the Women Entrepreneur series Mentor Moments, female founders sit down to chat with their own mentors (and us!) about how and why the relationship developed, and the lasting impact it’s had on their careers.
Ariane Goldman was running two young businesses -- TwoBirds, a bridesmaid dress brand, and Hatch, a collection of stylish maternity clothes -- and was about to become the mother of two young kids when she first met Serena Dugan. At the time, Dugan had nearly 10 years under her belt as the co-founder of home decor brand Serena & Lily. The two formed a fast friendship, one built on mutual trust and respect. As their lives and businesses have evolved, so has their relationship, which they both rely on for support in the ever-changing world of entrepreneurship.
Women Entrepreneur: How did you two first meet?
Ariane Goldman: We were introduced by mutual friends who were convinced we were going to love each other. Serena lives on the West Coast and I’m on the East Coast, but about five years ago she was bringing Serena & Lily to the East End of Long island. I was a very young, very new entrepreneur at the time. Her brand was on my radar not only because I’m a business girl, but because I was a new mother and Serena & Lily was a trusted resource. I was over the moon to meet her, just so intimidated and excited.
Serena Dugan: We’re both busy girls, so that first meeting was postponed, postponed, postponed, but when we did meet, it was an instant love affair. Serena & Lily was much smaller five years ago than it is today. We were a few paces ahead of Hatch, but I never felt that ahead -- Ariane and I both had a lot to learn from each other.
WE: Ariane, had you had other mentors up to this point?
AG: I’m very good at asking questions and I’m very aware of what I don’t know. I’ve been able to surround myself with smart people, take meetings, and that’s how I got to Serena. When we met, it hit on areas I didn’t realize I was craving insight to -- being a female driving growth, being a female raising money, being a mom. It dawned on me: Oh, this is what [having] a mentor feels like.
SD: Beyond the quantitative advice you can get from other people in the industry, there’s an amount of emotional support that’s necessary when you’re brand building. I was able to get that from my business partner, but I can’t imagine going through the trials and tribulations of building a business without someone by your side to bounce ideas off of and celebrate the successes with. Whether you have a partner or are going it alone, the greatest importance of a mentor, for me, is the emotional support.
WE: How much greater is that need for women entrepreneurs?
AG: I don’t want to imply that I have been set back as a woman -- I never felt ostracized or behind because I’m a woman. But when you bring motherhood into the balancing act, it does make it harder. As an entrepreneur in those early days, I didn’t have anyone doing my finances or creating financial models for me. So when I was first thinking of raising money, pregnant with my second child, I realized I wasn’t good at this particular aspect of the business. I remember walking home from work, and I had Serena on the phone, and I was just like, How can I do this? How can I do this and be a mom and get in the room and fight the fight when I don’t even have my financial models figured out?
SD: One bit of advice I had was try to not do everything. There comes a point where, if you reach for one more thing, you drop everything. I’m a mother of two, as is Ariane, and it’s a very precious time. I understood what she had to lose if she didn’t maintain a command of everything happening at work, but you just can’t do everything well. So my advice was, take a pause, and resume those fundraising efforts with a greater amount of vigor and intensity once you’ve absorbed and appreciated the experience of new motherhood. I’m a big believer in thought partnership. When you birth -- interesting choice of words -- a company, it’s very personal, and it’s hard to relinquish control. Taking a pause and delegating some work allows you to scale yourself, create velocity in your business, and get back to focusing on what you most enjoy.
AG: The idea of pausing and focusing -- and hearing that it could be OK -- was huge for me. And fortunately, today, I have 26 employees in-house and a staff of five in my retail locations.
WE: How frequently are you in touch at this point?
AG: I’ll be candid -- our conversations are less, because neither of us has as much time and my kids are needy. But the trust we have has gone untouched. We try to catch each other when we can, but we’re both championing the ships we’ve built. The analogy I use for Hatch is, I’ve been stuck in turbulence in the clouds, and finally, the plane has risen above the clouds, and I’m seeing fresh sky. With that comes all new potential.
SD: I’ve taken a step back from Serena & Lily and am focusing on art and design for my own studio. What Ariane doesn’t know is that I need to hit her up now for advice, and this is the way it’s going to keep going. There’s a never-ending cycle of things to learn. With our businesses at different stages and with different focuses, there will always be a need to consult one another.AG: It’s so beautiful to go through these cycles and complement each other at different times with different bursts of information.
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