The Entrepreneur Behind This Oprah-Approved Fashion Brand Shares How to Find Your Purpose
In this series, Open Every Door, Entrepreneur staff writer Nina Zipkin shares her conversations with leaders about understanding what you have to offer, navigating the obstacles that will block your path, identifying opportunity and creating it for yourself and for others.
Since the late 1990s, every year Alina Villasante would throw what she called “The Love Party.” She would make her own jewelry, special t-shirts and apparel for the occasion to celebrate and connect with the women in her life.
After she and her partner Frank Villasante sold their aerospace maintenance and repair company in 2009, Villasante wanted to see if there was something more she could do with her apparel and jewelry ambitions.
The Cuban-born Miami-based designer knew that there could be a demand for her clothes outside her circle of friends. So she decided to bootstrap the idea and invested $50,000 to start printing the t-shirts, with no concrete plan for distribution -- all while finalizing the deal for High Standard Aviation during the height of the financial crisis.
Amid that upheaval, Peace Love World was born, a brand focusing on bringing happiness people. Even before Villasante opened her official storefront in Miami, she sold $85,000 worth of merchandise out of her home with lines around the block.
Since then, Villasante hasn’t looked back. “I've probably made every mistake in the book,” Villasante tells Entrepreneur. “And here I am 10 years later, so blessed to be doing what I'm doing and having this purpose.”
Part of that purpose is the responsibility she feels to give back. Villasante is passionate about raising awareness and funds for research into autism, breast cancer research and multiple sclerosis.
An organization close to her heart is Zanmi Beni, a shelter in Haiti that gives a home to disabled and abandoned children. Peace Love World also joined HSN and QVC's International Women's Day Initiative where companies work together to donate more than $325,000 of proceeds to Nest, an organization that supports female artisans.
“Where you give love, you give life,” says Villasante. “While building a life and business, it's very important to continue to lift others in the process.”
Villasante shared her insights about learning how to trust your gut.Related: The First Black Woman to Own and Run a Billion-Dollar Company Says That Trusting Yourself Is Key to Success
What do you tell yourself to work through setbacks and tough moments?
I try to remember the five greatest things that I'm grateful for at that moment. I focus on the positive; I focus on the glass half full.
I work through the hurdle of the negative and in the world of an entrepreneur, there's always ups and downs. There are daily challenges in everybody's business that you need to overcome. You're presented with a problem, you strategize yourself out of it, focus on the positive and keep going. That's really where the winners are.
Was there ever blindspot you had about leadership that you had to change within yourself?
I trusted others sometimes more than I trusted myself. Sometimes, we invest in consultants and other people to give us answers when we have fear or doubt. In reality, we know the answer, and the lesson here is to trust your gut. Trust your intuition.
What advice do you have about being your own best advocate?
Align yourself with your community -- friends, family and most of all your voice. Find your passion and strength and stay true to them. Don't change to conform to somebody else. Stay true to who you are. Let your voice be heard. Identify your superpower.
I found through making t-shirts that everyone was looking for the same thing: peace, love and happiness. I translated that into the world in fashion. I found my platform and how to share it with the world.