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Christine Syquia contacted me about starting a column on Entrepreneurs-Journey. I asked what business experience she brought to the table and she quickly impressed me with her story of starting a million dollar accessories business with her sister, with distribution in some of the largest fashion stores in the USA.
I know you’re going to enjoy what Christine has to offer because she has stories from running a real world business selling real physical products – fashion accessories. Christine has some great advice to share for any entrepreneur, and she’s starting today with a brief background story and some business mantras worth living by. Here we go…
Eight years ago, my sister and I began a journey which took us around the globe many times over and catapulted our product into the hands of many devoted fans. This is my story about my company and the invaluable lessons I learned along the way.
My name is Christine and I was the co-owner of a handbag company called charm and luck. My sister Jenny and I owned the company and in our official titles, she was the Designer and I was the Sales Director. Once we started growing and had a staff, I would privately refer to myself as the ‘babysitter’, but more on that in later posts.
Both of us had backgrounds in fashion. I worked in management for Nordstrom while I put myself through college. My sister took a job at Vogue Magazine after she graduated from college.
While working at Nordstrom, I felt as if my life was literally passing me by. It was mandatory that all management had to sell, so I would spend the majority of my time on the sales floor interacting with customers and overseeing my sales team. I was envious of the freedom of the customers who would breeze in and out of the store on a weekday afternoon. I could not stomach the thought that I could possibly spend my entire career working for one company.
I always had wanted to have my own business so I could have the freedom to do whatever I wanted. From time to time, I would look into various opportunities – flipping real estate, buying a franchise, consulting – but ultimately they did not appeal to me for one reason or another.
It was during a trip to the Philippines that I began to think about importing to the US as I saw many handicrafts that were made and sold for pennies. I mentioned it to my sister Jenny, and soon after we decided to start our own business.
We chose to work with accessories because their fit is universal. Clothes need to be graded and the minimums per size can be high. Shoes are difficult and risky since they require experience to get the fit correct. With accessories, any woman can throw a purse over her shoulder, look in a mirror, and decide if she likes it or not. And it was a good time to enter the accessories market; when we started, the accessories market was enjoying double-digit growth increases year after year.
We picked a company name and were off and running. Our initial business plan included our major goals but we did not do profit projections because I personally felt that was a waste of time. We both knew where we wanted to be, but writing down on a piece of paper that we wanted to make $250K in Year 1 felt futile to me as mere speculation.
My partner and I were very clear on one thing: we wanted the company to make money so we could have financial freedom. We were devoted to doing whatever it took to get us to the next level, and that is part of the reason the company was successful. We sacrificed personally to see our company grow.
As the company expanded, I would often see individuals or companies who were struggling to get off the ground. My general business mantras included the following:
Action Attracts Action
Course Correct If You Need To
Research Your Competitors
Starting a business can be the most rewarding thing you will ever do in your life. It can also be the biggest mistake. I would urge you to really examine your life, personality and most importantly, your work ethic and be real with yourself to see if you are truly up for the task.
It requires an enormous amount of effort, discipline and self-motivation to be your own boss. But, as I wrote, for me it was the most amazing experience as I was able to visit places, meet people that I would not have met and ultimately, grew personally in ways I would never have dreamed of. This would not have happened if I had stayed on my management career path.
Next I will be writing on how we chose our company name and the adventure I went on to have our first products made.
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