9 lessons from a woman with a startup

I had the privilege to pursue my passion for quality swimwear and sustainability with the launch of my company, January and June. Coming from a small surf town in the Eastern Cape, building a brand of my own in the big city has always been a dream of mine.

What I quickly came to learn was that no matter your passion, no matter how dedicated, no matter how much energy you give, no matter your talent or possible dumb luck you experience, no matter your connections or network, there will always be unexpected challenges along the way.

Here are just a few lessons I have learnt along my journey that I feel many starting out or even already established entrepreneurs can relate to:

1. Dreamer & A Doer

I have always had a creative and inquiring mind. They sky was always the limit and sometimes this led to people not taking me or my ideas seriously.

First lesson learnt – a dream won’t work unless you do. From personal experience, I’ve found a healthy combination of head in the clouds and feet on the ground running will get you there.

2. Community

A quote that stood out for me from Steve Jobs – “If you want to know who your friends are, start your own business and ask for their support.” I am blessed to admit that over this journey friends, friends of friends and even strangers have surprised me time and time again with their endless support.

I am so grateful for the community of customers that have contributed to the growth of the brand. There are so many different ways in which people have supported me throughout this process. Through product sales to lessons on excel spreadsheets – I could not have done it alone.

3. Know your Numbers

Accounting and financial management might not be one of your areas of expertise, but if you want to run a successful business, you should monitor, track and review financial numbers. As an entrepreneur, you’re bound to be wearing many hats and this needs to be one of them.

I know that it is probably more exciting to work on creating a great product for your customers or launching a powerful marketing campaign that will boost your sales, but unless you know your numbers, your business could make expensive mistakes.

4. Cash Flow

The challenge: Cash flow is essential to small business survival, yet many entrepreneurs struggle to pay the bills (let alone themselves) while they’re waiting for checks to arrive.

Keep going! Understand that you won’t be reaping rewards immediately and that getting a business to be profitable takes time. Do not keep injecting cash without understanding, however and have a thought out business plan that accounts for how much you need available at any point.

5. To Partner or Not to Partner

A business partnership is like a marriage, and as with any marriage, staying together is progress and working together is success.I learnt a very hard lesson early on by having to buy out my business partner straight after launching.

A day I won’t forget easily is sitting in the lawyers office while he explained to me that I didn’t need to do this – we could dissolve the company completely and I could walk away. To help me come to a conclusion he then asked “Do you believe in this brand?” and “Do you believe in yourself?”. And here I am – one year later and one week after my new collection launch.

Lesson being – make sure roles are defined, respect is present and that by partnering up you are bringing more meaning and value to the business.

6. Authenticity

Authenticity is the alignment of head, mouth, heart and feet. Thinking, saying, feeling and doing the same thing consistently to build trust. Be it in business, in products, in relationships, in friendships, in yourself.

Knowing who you are, what you want for your company and then being brave enough to live it. Never perfect, always growing, forever genuine.

7. Sustainability

Sustainable development is the masterful balance of meeting our own needs without jeopardizing future generations ability to do the same.

After university, I decided to travel the world working on sail yachts. This enabled me to see first hand how pollution is affecting our oceans on a global scale. It may seem like an impossible task to attempt to clean up the mess we’ve made but cliché as it may sound, every person doing their bit really does make a difference.

As consumers , we have so much power to change the world in just being careful in what we buy. There is no beauty in the finest cloth if it is causing harm to the environment, hunger or unhappiness

As a result, January & June swimwear is made from recycled fishing nets and nylon waste. Turning trash into treasure, I focused on creating a product that is contributing to a cleaner future.

8. Purpose over Profit

Linking to sustainability, it is important that your business focus is simply not just to make money but also to make a difference. Making sustainable swimwear for example may decrease my margins, but it also decreasing my carbon footprint.

Success will be so much sweeter when there is a higher purpose to your product. Surround yourself with like minded people who share that same purpose.

Here are a few of my favorite local and sustainable brands:

Esjay Sports | Float Apparel | SKOON Skincare | Sealand | Style Rotate | Matter of Fakt

9. Don’t stop until you’re Proud

If there’s on thing I’ve learnt it’s that challenges can be expected. Just when you feel like you finally have it all together, something comes to shake things up again. I call it “School Fees” as they seem to always come in expensive lessons.

One of my favorite autobiographies, Shoe Dog by Phil Knight, outlines the everyday ups and downs you go through as an entrepreneur. A quote that stands out is: “Let everyone call your idea crazy.. just keep going. Don’t stop. Don’t even think about stopping until you get there, and don’t give too much thought as to where “there” is. Whatever comes- just don’t stop!”

To all those out there brave enough to put their dream onto paper – Don’t stop – Keep going.