How to Keep Your Business Daring and Innovative with Rebecca Minkoff
“When you are an entrepreneur, you have to remember what it feels like to be scrappy and creative with nothing.
You have to be one step ahead of what’s happening,” explained fashion designer Rebecca Minkoff during SoFi’s live chat with life coach Ashley Stahl .
Minkoff founded her eponymous global fashion brand with her brother, Uri Minkoff, in 2005. Since then, the brand has taken off, selling apparel, jewelry, handbags, and accessories in over 900 stores across the globe.
In the meantime, the global business owner Minkoff co-founded the Female Founder Collective , a community for female business owners to connect, learn, and enact change in their business.
Minkoff took time out of her busy, albeit work-from-home, schedule to share how entrepreneurs can stay daring and innovative in their business—even during times of uncertainty and distress.
Stay Nimble, Pivot
When the shelter in place orders rolled out across the country in early March, Minkoff saw her company’s wholesale offers come to a standstill. Boutiques, department stores, and shops closed suddenly, drastically cutting off the customer’s access to the brand.
Instead of waiting for things to go back to normal, Minkoff worked fast to make a pivot with the product. “We had to become a ‘direct-to-consumer’ brand,” she said, “we’re really prioritizing us, what we want to stand for as a brand.”
Instead of relying on stores or third parties, she asked her team to put effort towards making strong connections with their fans—with everyone stuck at home, it was the only way to connect.
Minkoff explained this lesson can apply to any entrepreneur trying to accelerate their small business. While they may feel small, there’s a benefit to that scale right now.
“Huge companies have legacy debt, and a big retail footprint,” Minkoff reasoned. In some ways small businesses and startups are in a safer place, playing at a smaller scale.
Additionally, startups can pivot more easily, just as Minkoff decided to shift her brand to direct-to-consumer. “You don’t need to focus on growth [right now],” she advised, “just focus on staying alive.”
Here’s what Minkoff has learned at this time with her business, and how other entrepreneurs can apply these lessons:
• Focus on the “golden product.” With everything else so uncertain, now’s not the time to take huge risks with the product. Instead, business owners should put their funds and efforts towards that “golden product,” the items that keep working and selling.
• Keep up marketing. Find ways to connect to your consumer, and stay in communication. Lots of people are looking for connections while at home right now—providing content or entertainment to the customer is valuable content right now.
• Focus on less inventory, not more. “You don’t want to get stuck with inventory that ages out fast,” Minkoff explained. She’s chosen to under order items and have them sell out fast, rather than sit.
As times change quickly, smaller businesses have the ability to move quickly too, immediately reacting to the market and making changes to reflect the way we shop, work, and interact during these times.
Creating Connection in a Time of Distance
Prior to the coronavirus outbreak, “you couldn’t pay me to believe in the idea of working from home,” joked Minkoff. “Now that we’ve survived and thrived, I believe in it.”
Working from home in pajamas with kids around all day might not have been Minkoff’s dream, but it’s now the reality. As it became the norm, she realized her team also had to grow and sustain a culture and connection while they weren’t together in the office.
A big lesson came early.
“Employees want to know what you stand for,” Minkoff said. During a time of financial and health uncertainty, she realized communicating clearly to the entire team with honesty and integrity would be essential, even when it came to the subjects of furloughs or pay cuts. Involving the team in decision making, “matters even more right now,” than it did before, Minkoff explained.
Additionally, the time at home has fostered a greater sense of compassion, company-wide. With calls interrupted regularly by kids or barking dogs, everyone got to know each other on a more personal level much faster. When things adjust to a “new normal,” Minkoff wants there to be more space for flexibility in the team.
“We’re sending out a survey now, about how many days you want to work from home or the office.” There’s a sense of more flexibility to foster creativity and new ideas.
Making Work From Home Work
Minkoff is first to admit that working from home was a struggle in the beginning; “The first two weeks were really dark, but you’ve got to remind yourself to stay positive. This is a test of if you can make it, not when business is easy, but when things are tough.”
Juggling childcare, schooling, and business, Minkoff wasn’t afraid to ask for help. Bringing her nanny on for additional hours each week, she knew things like dishes or laundry might slide, but she needed to be intentional with her time.
She and her husband blocked off time every day to teach the kids from home, “it did mean late nights, but we’re not aiming to be perfect at this time.”
Working, teaching, and taking care of kids from home meant lowering expectations a little, exhibiting that same compassion for self as we are for others.
“The kids are watching more TV in the morning because I need to exercise,” Minkoff admitted. Being able to take care of yourself is essential when it comes to taking care of others.
Things are as busy as ever, but Minkoff takes care to “schedule time for nothing to happen” for a quiet lunch or walk outside. Small actions of self-care, like taking calls out in the sun, drinking water, and moisturizing help her stay balanced.
She’s also had to get creative when it comes to staying creative. It used to be travel, vintage shopping, and a good meal out that sparked creativity, but with most avenues cut off, Minkoff is searching for inspiration within her own home. “I’m listening to music a lot,” she explained, and heavily collaborating with her design team to create content that delights her viewers.
Stay Resilient, Take Risks
This time is challenging for everyone, and Minkoff has to remind herself not to make failure personal.
“Hits are going to come every day,” she said, “but you have to exercise that muscle and be reliant,” in disconnecting personal emotion from failure.
Instead, focus on asking for help. From more childcare to collaboration, “people are usually so scared to ask, but you have to,” Minkoff explained. “You’re going to get told no all the time” but that one yes can lead to help, a big favor, or a life-changing introduction.
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