Maveriqs Profile - Roosevelt Williams III - Young Black and 'N Business
By Lamin Turay
Attending networking events is a fantastic way to meet potential clients and business contacts. They help you to learn more about the entrepreneurs, businesses, and services that are offered in your area. They're also a great way to maintain your in-person business development skills. Last month I attended my first Young Black and 'N Business networking event. It was great! They had close to a dozen business exhibitor booths, showing off their goods and services. They were providing free haircuts and shoe shines. They even had guest speakers educating attendees about useful business techniques. The event was hosted by the founder of Young Black and 'N Business, Roosevelt Williams III. He's created a powerful platform for generating positive group economics in the community. After meeting him in person we decided it would be a good idea to schedule a discussion so I could bring his story, and the story of his company to a wider audience. Here's how the discussion went...
What is it that your company does, and what problem do you solve?
Young Black and ‘N Business is a platform for entrepreneurs to work together cohesively in order to ascertain financial freedom by sharing and expanding their network. We solve some of the issues that I have witnessed in the San Diego community. Issues related to the disconnect with entrepreneurs in the area. There has not yet been a working unit that practices group economics. Everyone is pretty much fragmented. They don’t know who each other are, or what each other does. There’s a lack of coming together to work together. We’re bringing entrepreneurial understanding to the community.
What is unique about the way you approach the industry that sets your company apart?
What’s unique about the company is the pathos, ethos, and logos that we use. We leverage direct and in-person marketing. It’s about shaking hands and making a friend. We’re building a network one person at a time by highlighting unsung heroes. We’re giving these individuals a space to market themselves and their brand, and we’re doing it for free. We create the platform by paying for the venue, providing food, booking entertainment, and maintaining an environment where they can thrive.
So it’s almost like a turn-key platform to showcase your brand?
Absolutely! Also, the fact that it’s free of charge sets us apart from other companies. We don’t have an entry fee. If you’re young, black, and in business we understand that your business may be brand new, or that you may still be learning certain aspects of business. You can come to Young Black and ‘N Business and develop those skills.
Given your own experience, how did you arrive at creating a platform like Young Black and ‘N Business?
In the past I’ve worked for a number of elected officials, and I was able to see a lot of things from a 5,000 ft. (high-level) perspective. From that high of an elevation I began to notice that there were disconnects within the community. So I decided to use the political skills that I had gained and apply them to the business arena. Politics is business, and business is politics. There are certain individuals who don’t know how to speak to an audience or how to gain access to certain places because they don’t have the background or the knowledge. So I’m using my skills to bridge that gap and bring everyone together. We all have a common goal, which is to be successful, healthy, and happy.
What was the moment that you decided to make a business out of the idea of bringing people together to achieve that common goal?
So I’m a cobbler as well. I repair men’s and women’s shoes, handbags, and luggage. One day I was working on a pair of shoes, and as I was putting them together I thought, “If I can put together a pair of shoes, I can put together the community!” I began to think with the end in mind. By thinking with the end in mind I started to see us all (the community) in a healthy and successful environment. I saw a whole sector of people practicing group economics. I decided that if I could be a cobbler and put together shoes from the sole up, then I could also be a cobbler for the community. Given my experience with both business and politics I felt comfortable pursuing that goal.
In what ways has your life changed since you’ve been executing on that idea?
I continue to be associated and affiliated with positive-minded individuals. They’re people with a millionaire mindset, positive thinkers, movers & shakers, and people that are resourceful. When you’re thinking positive, the positivity comes to you. A lot of individuals achieve success by attending one of the mixers or networking events that we put on. I’ve read and heard multiple testimonials from our attendees where they talk about the connections they’ve made just by being involved in our platform.
When you come to one of our events you can get a free shoe shine, a free haircut, and you can have a successful day! We offer those services free of charge because we know that when you look good you also feel good, and that helps you to perform well.
Success is not a doorway - it's a staircase. It takes one step at a time, one meeting at a time, and one day at a time. You have to take the steps to reach success. You can't just walk into it."
What’s something unique about your offering that not a lot of people know, but that you wish more people did know?
I wish more people knew that we have a lot of resources in-house. I want more people to know what we do and how we do it. We’re about connecting individuals. It’s about going past just the first name, and knowing how they think or what they’re working on. We want our community to know what each other’s end game goals are so they can help each other out. Part of all that is simply knowing what services everyone provides. For example, a lot of people don’t know that I’m a cobbler because I wear suits, but if you get to know me and we build a relationship, that opens up more opportunity for both of us. There’s a power in that. 2017 is a P.O.W.E.R. year, and our next event is the P.O.W.E.R. Mixer. That stands for…
P - Purpose-Driven
O - Opportunity Chasers
W - Willing To Go Solo
E - Energetic
R - Relationship Builders
When you come to one of our mixers you can know that there are P.O.W.E.R. people in the room, and we’re all following that mantra. We’re looking to create a culture of more P.O.W.E.R. people.
What are some business challenges you have run into that you weren’t previously aware of, and how have you overcome them?
There are challenges every single day, but I look forward to them. I like to get a hundred “No’s” a day, because that means I’m out there looking for the one “Yes” that will make a difference. There are plenty of things I’ve had to learn. Knowing how to build a website, certain tax codes, how and when to promote on social media, tons of things that I didn’t initially know. However, by tapping into my network I’ve been able to make the group and team a lot stronger.
I also truly believe in positivity. A random text message saying “Keep up the good work!” really means a lot. That helps you move forward. Every single day is a challenge, but I like to say that, “If there’s not a challenge to it, then it’s not worth doing it.
What’s some of the best advice that you have received about entrepreneurship?
Some of the best advice I’ve received was from an attendee of one of our mixers. His name is Leonard Mack, and he has his own sauce business called Mack & Pepper Sauce. What he told me was, “You can take this mixer that you’ve had here in the neighborhood and have it in the convention center.” That was a great piece of positive reinforcement. I’ve also had a number of mentors that send words of encouragement, telling me to keep up the good work and to continue to think with the end in mind. More recently some of the best advice I’ve heard is that, "Success is not a doorway - it’s a stairway. It takes one step at a time, one meeting at a time, and one day at a time. You have to take the steps to reach success. You can’t just walk into it."
How do you continue to learn about your industry and self-educate?
I like to read. Right now I’m re-reading the book Machiavelli “The Prince.” I’m also reading “The Law of Success” by Napoleon Hill. Another book that’s one of my favorites is “Good to Great” by Jim Collins. I also like to watch the news, and check out different news channels. From Fox News ,to CNBC, or KUSI. I like to keep my education diverse, and be a diverse thinker. I don’t judge a book by it’s cover, and I like to relationship build. It’s about keeping my saw sharp. I’m keeping myself aligned with my one hundred year plan. I have a one hundred year plan that I wrote a while ago, and I like to keep aligned with that plan and purpose.
What do you see as the future of Young Black and ‘N Business?
The future is to create a model here in San Diego that we can then implement in other cities such as Chicago, Orlando, or Atlanta. We’ll be bringing a platform for young entrepreneurs in these cities to get exposure, and to share in the one hundred year plan. We want to create an entire culture around Young Black and ‘N Business. We want to catch aspiring entrepreneurs at a young age and help them move forward, and before you know it they’ll have their own old money. At that point they can teach the next generation how to do things like open up a checking and savings account, how to get a credit card, how to leverage your network, and how to be resourceful. So it’s about creating that business culture for everyone involved. We’ll eventual want to spread the model nationally, and then globally after that. That way we’ll have both an economic and political impact for positive change.
What’s some advice that you would provide to others who are looking to execute on an idea and turn it into a business?
I hate to be redundant, but P.O.W.E.R.! You’ve gotta be purpose-driven, an opportunity chaser, willing to go solo, energetic, and a relationship builder. Beyond that I’d like to share the ten most powerful two-letter words in the world, “If it is to be, it is up to me.” When you’re an entrepreneur that means it’s up to you! If you’re lazy, your business is gonna be lazy. If you’re motivated and driven, then your business will be the same. You also want to be part of a good team and be a good team member. Good team members are the people that bring resources, ideas, and solutions. Bad team members are the people who you have to constantly tell what to do, where to go, and how to be. That’s dead weight. So you want to both be and be with good team members. Associate with people who are driven to be even better than what you’ve imagined is possible. That will keep pushing you further toward success. Also, write all of your goals down. That will keep you accountable.
Where can we find and follow you?
Company Website: https://www.youngblackandinbusiness.com/
Company Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/ybandnb/
Company Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/ybandnb/
Direct Number: (619) 665-3031
I'd like to thank Roosevelt Williams III for taking time out to tell us the story of himself and his company Young Black and 'N Business. We support platforms that are centered around the growth and prosperity of aspiring entrepreneurs, and look forward to attending more P.O.W.E.R. mixer events. What do you think of Young Black and 'N Business? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below!
Maveriqs Profile - Alejandro Ramirez - Founder, Fiesta Ziesta
By Lamin Turay
The dictionary defines the word handmade as, "Made by hand not by machine, and typically therefore of superior quality." This is not only one of the unique aspects of Alejandro Ramirez's company's products, but also of himself as an entrepreneur. Alejandro's life journey has made him into the entrepreneur who he is today. From learning the ins and outs of the lifestyle product industry at large corporations, to spending time studying international business in foreign countries, he has tread a positive path toward creating something of his own. Now, as the Founder of Fiesta Ziesta, a lifestyle goods company, he continues to follow that path and drive his company toward an admirable purpose for all those involved. I recently spoke with Alejandro about how his journey began and what sets his company apart from all the other lifestyle brands out there. Here's what he had to say...
What does your company Fiesta Ziesta do, and what problem do you solve?
We manufacture handmade beach blankets, ponchos, and dog collars. All of our products are individually crafted by local artisans in Mexico. The problem that we solve for our customers is providing quality goods for the beach and outdoor lifestyle market. That lifestyle in particular, is ripe for disruption. We wish to inject commodities and accessories that possess really well crafted design, and that are sourced from skilled craftsman. That's the motivation behind the beach blankets, ponchos, and dog collars we provide.
Our artisans are located in various locations across Mexico. Some of them are from Oaxaca, some are from Chiapas, and others are located in multiple areas of South Mexico. Each of them have specific skills. Some will manufacture the beach blankets, while others create our ponchos and dog collars.
What is unique about your approach to business that has made you a successful entrepreneur?
I originally came up with the idea for Fiesta Ziesta while thinking about the products that I was constantly using when I traveled in Mexico and around the world. They were something very natural that I would consistently have with me. When I used to go surfing I’d carry a beach blanket, and maybe a hammock as well. I’d also have a collar for my dog. At night I’d always whip out my Mexican poncho to keep me warm while near the ocean breeze. I thought about developing a brand that provided the same lifestyle I had grown accustomed to, while offering purpose-built products. I wanted to make sure the products were being created by skilled artisans, from sustainably sourced materials, and that they were of the highest level of quality.
In school I studied International business, and worked for many years with different brands at their retail locations. In the early days of my professional career I worked for electronics companies like IBM and Siemens, where I gained a lot of experience in planning, buying, production, and sourcing. I also worked for Quiksilver, and for a friend of mine’s company called Everyday California. I was highly valued there due to being bilingual. That was great experience, and also drove me to want to start my own business.
After gaining that experience how did you get your initial start with entrepreneurship?
When I was younger I always wanted to work for a big corporation in order to gain experience, learn business curriculum, and use that as a solid reference. However, in my late twenties I felt like it was time to get back into school and gain another degree so that I could leverage that knowledge and use it in starting something of my own. It’s been two years since I began, and i still feel like I’m learning everyday.
Before I started my own brand I had moved to San Diego to support my friend in building his company, Everyday California. Working for another company, making good money, and being in that corporate environment is starkly different than entrepreneurship. I’m currently doing most everything on my own with the help of a very small team now. You learn a lot, you sacrifice a lot, and you work even harder when it’s your own. I think it’s something that will pay off, but I have to remain patient.
Describe why you decided to create this type of company and not something else?
I always wanted to live close to the ocean, and I’ve always used these types of products when I venture out to the beach or just going on outdoor adventures. So it’s kind of always been in my mind that I should create a brand, and live the dream! (laughs). That’s what I’m attempting to do. I love the products. They’re something that have been in my family and my background. They’re something very natural that I use everyday.
I decided that I should create my own brand and produces the same products that I use in my personal experiences. The goal is to make products that are better than what’s currently available in the market.
Another factor was the fact that I studied International Business while in an undergraduate program in Mexico, and that Mexico and The United States have a free trade agreement. I also learned a lot more while pursuing my master’s degree at a university in Sydney, Australia. The information I absorbed from those activities are things that crossed my mind when developing the idea for the company, and that motivated me to get started.
Has travel affected the way you go about your business?
Yes! I think that through traveling and working with people in other countries or from other cultures you learn a whole lot. Creating a brand that encompasses elements of my own culture and nature has been made a lot easier knowing that I’ve experienced various differing cultures across the globe. It’s something inspired by my experiences traveling, the interesting individuals that I’ve come across, and products that I’ve enjoyed using.
Traveling and being exposed to different beach scenes in the United States, Mexico, and Australia I’ve seen a lot of beach and outdoor lifestyle products. One of the things I noticed upon returning home was a market opportunity to create a brand that brings all of these products together under a quality banner. I saw a lot of beach blankets with no brand, or beach blankets from Mexico that were cheaply made with poor materials. There needed to be a brand that people could rely on for well-made goods. So I came up with that brand.
How has pursuing your entrepreneurial journey changed your life?
It’s changed a whole lot! I fell at the beginning when I was getting my start. It felt like I was pushing the “reset” button on my life. A lot of sacrifices were made. Especially when it came to budget. You learn a lot. I’ve met, and I’m still meeting a lot of people. It’s all part of the process. You absolutely have to work hard, and be busy. I’ll add that you should work smart, and be patient as well. Those things will keep you in the game. I know that all of the hard work will pay off. It’s been two year so far. We’re getting better and better everyday. Keeping yourself motivated I think is one of the biggest challenges all entrepreneurs face. You are your own boss and must be positive and motivate yourself every single day...no matter what!
What initial challenges did you face in going from a safe and secure corporate job into starting your own company?
Capitol was an issue at first. I used my savings and had to acquire a family loan as well. You’re usually limited when you first start out. Before, when I was working for other people, I had a steady and consistent income. I knew how much I could spend and on what. Now it’s much more defined and budget-based. That’s one of the more explicit challenges up front. It’s one of the reasons that I’m developing a Kickstarter campaign for my products.
All that said, I believe it’s (Fiesta Ziesta) going to be a successful business, and the Kickstarter campaign will be a successful project. Once it all starts to pay back in beneficial ways it will all be worth the effort. It will be even better than the safe route of being an employee.
When I worked for other corporations like IBM Computers and Siemens Electronics I didn't feel like the scenario I was meant to be in. I saw how they’d fire some of their older employees, people in their 50’s or 60’s, to make room for younger, less-expensive workers. I thought to myself, “I don’t want to be like these guys.” That also pushed me to start my own business, and to offer opportunities to a diverse workforce.
What’s something unique about you as an entrepreneur that you wish more people knew?
That’s an interesting question. I think it’s a combination of my cultural background, the companies where I’ve worked, and the way I go about accomplishing tasks. I’m pretty organized and a hard worker. When it’s time to work I work, and when it’s time to party and be with friends I know how to manage that balance. I know how to manage my time and budgets effectively as well. That's a crucial component of running your own business.
My skills, background, experience, travels, being bilingual, and my attention to detail all help to create my superpower. I’m very involved in all facets of my business. I work close with our artisans and explain how we can make products better. I sit down with them and map out designs. That’s something which is very fulfilling as the business owner. Getting involved and working with everyone in the company is a must for me. I know that’s not so common. Some people like to be more hands-off and delegate, but that’s just not me. I need to be incorporated in all of the challenges and business channels at Fiesta Ziesta.
How have you overcome adversity in being an entrepreneur?
I’m not afraid to raise my hand and ask for help. I also ask for advice and feedback from friends who have their own business. I go to meetups as well. Within all of these methods is the ability to listen to other people and learn about their experiences as well as their failures. I am able to absorb that information and use it help grow my own company. I don’t like to be quiet when things are not working. I like to share what’s going on, learn from the current state of things, and move forward.
What’s some of the best advice you have received about entrepreneurship?
Be patient, work hard and smart, talk to others and learn from them, read a lot, and watch a lot of videos. Always be learning. Something that I see as the most important thing is to believe in yourself and in your dream. If you don’t believe in yourself you’re screwed. You have to have a stubbornness that drives you to accomplish what you’ve set out to do. Those are some things that I’ve come to understand, and I’m always trying to keep them in mind. I meditate everyday, and remain strong.
You also have to motivate yourself as the leader of your business. You have to be the one who is showing strength to your employees and partners. You also need to maintain a positive outlook in order to make it all happen. Even when it seems like it’s not going be the greatest of days, you still want to exude positivity. It takes time to learn all of these things as well. I’ve been told many times that it takes a lot of time to develop your entrepreneurial skills, and it’s true. You need to be patient and enjoy the journey. That’s what I try to do. Take it day-by-day and step-by-step.
How do you maintain your industry knowledge and self-educate?
I like to go to meetups. I like to go to trade shows. Sometimes I’ll meet with people who work in the companies that I used to work in, and I’ll listen to what they have to say about what’s going on at these large corporations. I like to know what’s going on at the large department stores as well. What are they selling, who are they partnering with and why.
Reading is also very important. I like to read the newspaper or relevant articles on the internet. I always want to know what’s going on in the industry. What are my competitors doing to get ahead? I need to know these things to have a pulse on my space.
What does the future hold for you as an entrepreneur? Where are you focusing your energy moving forward?
Right now most of my passion and energy is focused on the project that is Fiesta Ziesta. I want to make it happen! To help it grow and bring more people on board. Hiring more artisans and generating enough demand for my artisans to maintain full-time work for this company. We’ll continue to create products that are handmade and support the artisans that we source from. Eventually we’ll be donating ten percent of our net profits toward education opportunities for the artisans that we partner with. They help us develop our brand and our products, so we should be able to help them grow and prosper outside of just pay for their labor. It’s a worthy cause that I choose to champion.
The world is changing. More people are thinking about corporate social responsibility. Things like global warming, sustainable materials and jobs, and fair labor practices are all prominent issues. I want my company to represent a brilliant example of how things should be done.
What’s the best advice you can offer to someone who wants to build a brand like Fiesta Ziesta?
First you need to gain some experience. Work for a couple or a few companies in your industry of choice. Learn the ins and outs of how these larger companies operate. Once you have a base understanding of business, do not hesitate to chase your dream. You have to try it at least. It doesn’t matter if you’re successful or not. You’re going to learn, you're going to get experience, you’re going to get some great contacts. You HAVE to try! Otherwise you’re going to grow old and be filled with regret, thinking about what could have been if you had tried. If you try and it doesn’t work out at least you can say that you learned how not to do it. Believe, try, and work as much as you can.
Where can we find and follow you?
We would like to thank Alejandro for sharing his story of entrepreneurship with us. It's refreshing to hear from a purpose driven founder with meaningful cause that will affect both his business partners and customer following in a positive way. We will continue to support Fiesta Ziesta on its path toward prosperity. Do you have any questions or feedback for Alejandro? Feel free to sound off in the comments below!
Maveriqs Profile: Larissa M. Miller, Founder, Pi Yoga Pants
Video Interview Recorded on January 16, 2017
By Lamin Turay
As we continue our series of video interviews with entrepreneurs across all walks of life, we are proud to have had the opportunity to discuss the journey of Larissa M. Miller. Larissa is a well-traveled and very worldly yogi and entrepreneur, who's founded a fast-growing yoga pants company called Pi Yoga Pants. Through creative ingenuity, natural inspiration, and a zest for connecting with her community she has experienced rare forms of success in only her first year of doing business. It was a pleasure to discuss her path to success and learn more about her overall vision for the company. Here's how our discussion went...
How did you get started with your company, and what problem is it that you solve?
When I first started Pi Yoga Pants I was originally traveling in Southeast Asia, and had just quit my previous job to travel the world for a year. I invested two year of my saving into the trip, and decided to finally make the move - make the jump and start traveling. I always knew while I was doing it (traveling) that I wanted to start a business. That was always in the back of my head. I always had my eye out for different business opportunities or different things that other countries were missing. I thought that, eventually I would bring a new business to another country, but what I didn’t realize was that I could bring a product or an idea back to the United States.
While I was traveling over there I was wearing regular yoga pants, and I was trying to do yoga. When you’re in Thailand you have this vision ya know? You’re gonna go to that pool by the beach and do some yoga (laughs). But it was really hot over there, like 90 degrees with 80 percent humidity. Super hot! The pants (regular yoga pants) got super uncomfortable super quick. If you’re walking all day, (which you do) and you’re in Bangkok which is 90 degrees, the first day I walked 13 miles and you start to get some chaffing. That’s a little uncomfortable. Your pants start sticking, and yoga pants in general since they’re so tight, actually start to block up your pores and your skin is not really breathing either. Day 1 I realized that, and decided that I needed to find some different clothes. All of the clothes I had brought pretty much weren't going to help.
I started designing in my head a yoga pant that would be more versatile for hot weather, while also being a little bit more comfortable. In the back of my mind I was trying to solve this problem of what would work for yoga or for travel, and would be more comfortable. So I started looking for a seamstress in Thailand. I look around for about a month, and no one wanted to give me their seamstress. I was having such a problem (finding a seamstress). All of the little boutique shops that I went to only wanted to sell me their merchandise. They didn’t really want to do any custom work. They just say, “Oh, you can buy one of these or those!” No one really wanted to help me.
My visa was up and I decided to go to Bali. That was the next place on my list. When I got there I was super excited to start the brand. I was telling a guy (my taxi driver), “Ya! I really want to start this brand of yoga pants called “Pi” Yoga Pants!” I had the name, and I had the vision. I was also telling him about how I wanted to give back, and have a conservation aspect be a big part of it. My taxi driver was like, “You’re kidding!? I actually know a seamstress!” It literally fell into my lap. I was like, “Are you kidding me!? This is the moment I’ve been waiting for!”
So where did you take it from there?
While you’re traveling for such an extended period of time you can kind of change your plans any minute. While we were taking the taxi toward our destination, the driver told me about the seamstress. I was like, “Oh my god! Turnaround!” He literally took us back down, and we met the seamstress. I ended up staying another two or three days down there working with her to make a prototype.
It was a little bit of a struggle to be honest, because when we first got down there I realized that she (the seamstress) didn’t speak any English. Obstacle number one! That was definitely a big struggle, and it was really hot in Bali during that time, which was March of last year (2016). It was 100 degrees and 100 percent humidity. There was rain and lightning every day, and we’d be in her little house trying to make the internet work so we could use Google Translate to try and explain the designs and get the prototype made. The next day she came up with the prototype based on the design that I had given her. She said, “This is really good. Let me take you to my label maker, who’s my friend.” She always has a friend! (laughs). She then said, “I have a friend who can make a tag for you.” So after that we met with the guy who could make the tag for the labels. As soon as we got the prototype for that made, and put it on the pants, that was definitely the moment when I was like, “OK, I’m 100% in! What do we need to do to take this to the next level?”
So essentially the problem that your company solves is the same problem you experienced while traveling. You needed versatile and comfortable clothes for both yoga and travel?
Yes! Especially in the heat, and when mosquitoes are around, if you’re wearing long pants for protection in that kind of heat you’re going to be sweating. However, with the pants that I’ve designed, we use rayon instead of cotton. It’s much more breathable than cotton and actually dries a lot faster too. In high heat, especially doing hot yoga, sweat or water evaporates much faster and leaves your skin feeling more comfortable. Not only are the pants not tight (like normal yoga pants), but they’re flowy so you get air ventilation and a product that dries faster. We’re solving that problem for travel and yoga at the same time.
What else is unique about your brand or product that helps you to differentiate?
The fact that they’re made from rayon instead of spandex or Lycra material definitely sets them apart. We also have a wide range of colors and designs. I currently have over 50 different styles and patterns available online, and I’m looking to develop more for the spring collection that I have coming up. There’s a lot of variety there, and I’ve tried really hard to make sure that there’s something for everyone.
We have dark color schemes, boutique designs, solid colors like the “Crimson Confidence,” just something for everyone. It’s great! Now when I see customers, there’s so much selection, but there’s always one that they’re drawn to, and they (the designs) all have their own name. When Someone picks out a pair of pants they start to create that bond with those pants.
When did you decide that you were 100% in with entrepreneurship, and that you wanted this to be your career and profession?
The moment when they put the label on the prototype was when I knew that I definitely wanted to fulfill the dream of making the pants and the company. However, it wasn’t until about 4 months later that I really decided this was where I wanted to put 100% of my attention. At that time, business was going good. I was going to a lot of yoga festivals in San Diego, Los Angeles, and Seattle. I was getting good feedback from a lot of people from all the places I went. That’s when I was like, “I could really make a lifetime career out of this.” Knock on wood! (laughs) It’s only been about eight months, but I think that if I continue in the direction I’m going and I’m able to adapt to change, which is one of the biggest problems that a lot of companies encounter that I’ll be OK.
I’m not sure if you’re aware, but I quickly learned, that the fashion industry is nine months ahead. Let’s say I’m selling clothes to everyone here (in San Diego) in the winter time, but the big stores or big chains are actually shopping for Fall of 2017 already. So even when I started doing business I was already nine months behind.
What are some challenges that you have faced during this eight month entrepreneurial journey, and how have you overcome them?
Starting from the beginning I feel like almost everything was a challenge. Aside from meeting my taxi driver who introduced me to the seamstress. That was an honest blessing. It was something I just had to take. Up until that point it was challenging to find a seamstress to work with. Another challenge is the communication barrier. I still work with this woman (the seamstress), her husband, and their daughter. None of them speak English. We’ve had to get her daughter-in-law to help us translate. So we’ve got a way. It’s kind of a roundabout way.
The next challenge I think, has been the internet. I was hoping that I could do all of this overseas. I wanted to start it in Bali, and be based over there. I wanted to live in Bali in order to really embody the culture of the brand, but the wi-fi is so terrible. We are so lucky to have good and fast internet. What took me almost a week over there, took me a matter of hours when i came back.
When I came back to the states from Bali I got things launched in about a week. Since then I’ve been going to events. Those have been a bit of a challenge, but also really insightful. I see a lot of different demographics, and how I can work in different markets. Every market has different trials and errors. I’ve taken chances to see if this market is good for me. Some events are good, some are bad. I’m quickly learning that the demographic is very important. Yogis! You’re my girls, you’re my guys! I love my yogis!
With all the different methods you could use to promote your brand what made you decide to attend events? What have you gotten out of it?
The inspiration behind the events actually started because the first two events that I went to were hosted by friends that I met. One was the International Day Of Yoga in San Diego. She’s (the event runner) actually hosting it again soon. She has an event coming up at Balboa Park. She’s been doing it for almost three years. I told her, “OK. I’ll go to your event. I’ll support you, and you’ll support me.” It’s good to help out with people in the community. That’s how you start to grow an audience, which is so important when starting a brand.
Another one of the festivals that I’ve been to is Tulafest up in Seattle. My friend Alondra started that. She also a big influencer in my brand as well. I met her about a week after I had this idea. She was telling me how she wanted to start a yoga festival in Seattle. She doesn’t live in Seattle though. She lives in San Francisco. She definitely gave it her all. She was working on the website while we were traveling. I just thought she was so ambitious for trying to do it ya know? I was like, “If she can try to start a yoga festival that takes place in Seattle, a place where she’s never lived, while traveling in the Philippines, then I can certainly accomplish my goal.” She’s gonna try to pull it off, and she probably will. If you never stop trying, then you’re going to make something happen. So I promised her that if she started the festival that I would drive up from San Diego to Seattle to support her. I then ended up going up there for the actual event. It ended up pretty good. She had about 300 attendees.
What are some interesting partnerships that you have been able to establish from attending events on behalf of your company?
Yeah! I think collaboration is the funnest part for sure. When I met you (Lamin Turay of Maveriqs) at the Pineapple Project event, that’s collaboration right there. Collaboration is key because you may meet people in person, or meet them online, or you see that their Instagram is in parallel with what you’re doing. One of my big marketing aspects is Instagram, so if I find someone who is in parallel with that who I can cross-market or work with, it really opens up your audience and brings people together. That’s one of the really big things you can accomplish with collaboration. Working together to expand your market.
How do you interact with, and bring value to the following that your brand has generated?
That’s a really good question, and to be honest, it’s one of the vital parts of my company. I think that for me personally, it’s not just about starting the business, it’s more about creating the lifestyle. With fitness, with yoga, with staying healthy, and having a positive life. I’ve really tried to embody that with the brand, but also with all of my friends. Everyone that I’ve met, all of my girls that come to my photoshoots, and the constant events that I’m hosting in San Diego, are all part of it. I’m constantly posting events on my Facebook page if you guys ever want to come. Everyone is invited.
We’ve really created a nice community that is all of my friends, and all the people I’ve met who are friends of other friends. I’ll post something on Instagram, and four people may show up who I’ve never met before, but they’ll give hugs and be like, “I’m happy to be here. Let’s make some magic happen!” It’s grown into this really nice community that is my personal favorite part of the business. It’s also nice in that, as my friends travel, they’re taking their yoga pants with them. I have a friend in Minnesota right now, and she’s taken some really nice photos. She’s spreading the word. It’s not only the community, but I think it’s become a sort of “Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants.” It’s brought things to life!
What techniques beyond events are you using to grow your business?
I’m constantly trying to grow my business online, mainly through Instagram. That was the main marketing tool that I used from the very beginning. Even when I first had the idea I was like, “OK! (I’m gonna use Instagram)” . I bought the website, which was like 99 cents. Then I went on Instagram and it (the name Pi Yoga Pants) was there, so I started building that by posting travel photos. Even though it wasn’t directly related to the yoga pants yet, I knew where it was gonna go, and I didn’t add any of my friends from back home. I just wanted to create a real organic audience based around travel and yoga.
So I decided to take that (the brand message of travel and yoga), and grow the Instagram with that. I would use that as my main outlet. I’d get that going from the beginning. Pre-marketing is a really big part of business too. You can’t just come out with an iphone and have no marketing, then no one knows what it is and they’re like, “OK. Well why should we buy it?” You have to give people a reason to want it, or to want to be a part of it.
We’re doing our own events all the time as well. We have an event coming up at the San Diego Yoga Festival. We’ve also done a couples yoga retreat that took place on Valentine’s day. We were also at the Sedona Yoga Festival, and brought a three-car caravan to that event.
What about the design? How do you come up with the various looks for your products?
Part of it is my own personal design, and a lot of it is collaboration with my seamstress as well. I really wanted the pants to have a Balinese, international influence. I wanted them to be something different, something that people in America or in other countries have never seen before. I’ve been working directly with them (the seamstress group) to make sure the pants have the Balinese influence...to keep it tropical.
I originally started with a bunch of bright colors, and a bunch of white. Everyone was like, “We need some black. We need some blue. Tone it down a bit!” (laughs) So the crimson one and the “Onyx Flower Of Life” were later editions, but the bright ones are still very popular. We still get a lot of people that are very interested in the bright ones. However, for everyday wear the “Blue Boutique” is really popular, and the “Bohemian Princess” is really popular. They’re something that you’d wear right now.
San Diego is more of a metropolitan city, but we still have the beach. We have the best of both worlds in a sense, but in some places where they don’t I want to make sure that they’re not wearing this (the pants) and feeling totally out of place.
Moving back toward you as an entrepreneur, how do you self-educate so that you can continue to improve your knowledge?
That’s a good point. I feel like I know things, but also, when I started I felt like I didn’t know anything at all. I’m constantly going online and reading forums. I also watch a lot of YouTube channels on advice for how people have started their businesses. I just started listening to some podcasts as well. I’ve come to the conclusion that starting a business is like taking a class with no teacher. You just kind of have to figure it out. Talk to your friends who have done it before. At the events that I’m going to I’m constantly asking questions, because those people have been through the same things, but are a year or two ahead of me. They have the answers, and people are so willing to help out especially when you want to collaborate with them right then and there or in the future. It’s all about working together, and knowledge is power. You definitely have to harness those opportunities when they come by.
What advice would you give to someone who has an idea or solution that they want to put out into the world?
There are two things I would mention to someone that wants to start their business or start their idea. The first one is to test it. Test it in your market, and ask people if they would buy it or use the service. Ask online as well. Sometimes your friends and family don’t exactly know the industry that you’re trying to get into to so it doesn’t hurt to go online. If it’s on Instagram, post about your product and see if people are even interested in it. I’ve seen a lot of mine friends want to start businesses where they have this idea, but it’s very very similar to a lot of other things that people are doing. For example, t-shirts or water bottles, more generic things. You have to give people a purpose to want to buy yours versus somebody else’s. So I would say definitely test the waters before you just dive on in.
If you’ve done that, I’d say don’t be scared. Everyone is scared. I’m scared! (laughs) You’re starting something new, and you don’t know if it’s going to succeed, but the worst case is that if you try it and you fail, you know another way to go about it. That takes you a step ahead of where you were before you started.
What about your role models. Do you have any rock star entrepreneurs that you follow?
I know there are a lot of entrepreneurs out there, but the people who have influenced me the most are my mom and dad. Don’t let that go to you guy’s ego (to mom and dad). They’ve been entrepreneurs since before I was born. My dad started his own business buying and reselling antiques. He got into that industry by buying stuff, and learning the industry, which is hard since every industry has something that you need to learn. So buying stuff, fixing it up, and then reselling it. He even got to the point where he started creating his own furniture. Even if it would be a mock of a name brand, he’d still do it in a good way, and making a profit on it. He’d be selling his own art. He’s been doing that ever since I was born.
In more recent years they’ve (my parents) started turning their entrepreneurial side to real estate. They got their first house , and started to pay off their mortgage to the point where they could buy a second property. Now they’re at the point where they have seven different properties all around San Diego, and they’ve finally found storage for all that furniture. So they’ve put the furniture in the apartments that they have for rent, and they’ve been using them on AirBnB. They’ve definitely given me a different outlook on entrepreneurship. There’s no wrong way. It’s always OK to take a different route. If my dad had stuck to just antiques I don’t know if he would have been as successful, but by adapting to his environment and adapting to change, he found a way to maximize profits while learning a new industry. So they’ve (my parents) definitely taught me the most.
What are some habits that you’ve acquired in working as an entrepreneur that you may not have possessed before?
The number one thing that I’ve adapted to doing everyday is self control, and the aspect that if you try to do everything then you get distracted. You lose your self control because you’re focusing on ten things at once. For example, when I first started the company I promised myself that I would give the business 100% of all my energy, all my effort, all my time, and make Pi Yoga Pants become successful as a company. I’d take it like I was approaching school, and try to get A++’s in doing as good as a job as you can. Trying to impress yourself! I was really trying to do something where I could look back on it and be proud of myself. I feel like a lot of times people get scared and aren’t willing to fail. I’ve really wanted to make this my best.
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve been given, and what’s the best piece of advice you can offer to our audience about entrepreneurship?
I think the best advice that I’ve acquired over time is that you want to fail faster. That way you can also achieve things faster. I’ve taken that and applied it to myself. I used to be very frugal with my money, and didn’t want to invest in things. I’d think, “I don’t want to spend that much. I want to save it.” So for me it’s been learning to not be so guarded on my money, but to accept that something is a business expense, that’s it’s going to cost money - it doesn’t come free. So you have to just take the risk and let your money go, know that it’s going to come back to you, and hopefully you’ll get more in the long run.
That was definitely a hard thing for me to do because it was so embedded in my mind that I needed to save, save, save. However, you have to spend if you want to get something back.
What’s new and exciting with Pi Yoga Pants that you can tell us about?
Several good things have come my way recently. Number one, my really good friend Jillian that I met a couple years ago, has reached out to me saying that she’s going to get set up with Amazon seller accounts. So we got on the phone, and got to talking and she said, “Ya, it’s easy, I know how to do it. I’ll get you set up!” I was like, “Oh my god! Thank you!” It’s hard to get set up with an Amazon seller account. They have so many requirements and there’s a lot of back-end work. I’ve been trying to do it for about four months. We’re going to get on the phone and go over all that, and hopefully have it set up within the next couple of weeks.
Also, I’m going to launch my Indie Go Go Campaign this year! I’m really excited for that. I’m hoping to launch it on National Pi Day, which is March 14th (3/14). The date is to be determined. It depends on how much back-end work (needs to be done). I got a lot of the footage for it the last time I was in Bali. I did a lot of work with a few dive instructors and got to talk with them about the sea turtle conservation aspect of my brand. I give 10% back to sea turtle conservation. I really needed to get that expert advice, and deeper knowledge on what I can do. I think that will really help launch the Indie Go Go campaign and take it to the next level so the brand can get big and we can give more back to conservation efforts.
What kind of perks and incentives can we expect from the Indie Go Go campaign?
I first need to restructure the Indie Go Go. When I originally wrote it I was like, “OK guys, let’s give away hundreds of pants!” Now I’m realizing I need to slow down. The business is growing fast, so I need to make sure that things work out. I’ll still hook our customers up, and make sure everyone is taken care of. I want one of the prizes to be an all-inclusive trip to Bali to do a yoga retreat. How cool will that be! Some way to create community involvement. I feel like that’s the best way to go about it.
How can we find and follow you?
Indie Go Go Campaign: https://goo.gl/xVKMSE
We'd like to thank Larissa for taking the time to speak with us about her entrepreneurial journey and her wonderful company Pi Yyoga Pants. We wish you all the best with your coming Indie Go Go campaign. If you're interested in supporting the campaign click the button below, and let us know what you think about Pi Yoga Pants in the comments below!