I find my value in involvement and success. I was that person in high school. President of the Model United Nations organization, captain of both the girls’ field hockey and track teams, editor of our school newspaper, board member of a non-profit organization, and salutatorian of our graduating class. At Boston College, I was the same way: I involved myself in seven different clubs, was a Resident Assistant, studied abroad, and graduated cum laude with a B.A. in Political Science and Spanish. It was through these various opportunities that I was able to truly find myself. I possess an innate desire to constantly try new things and flee my comfort zone. As a twenty-four-year-old millennial, I believe now is the time to do just that: Catapult myself out of the everyday run-of-the-mill drudgery, and try new things. As many as possible. Now is the time to grow, change, explore, and most importantly, fail. That’s how I found myself saying yes to starting a new business. I was subconsciously expecting to fail, but at the time, I was itching to try something new, something completely and utterly outside of my comfort zone, something I expected would truly push me to the limit. And it has.
Here’s the deal. If you’ve read my other blog posts, you know that I have an incredibly demanding full-time career that requires constant travel, and in conjunction with this new blog, keeping up with friends, exercise, and my own mental sanity, I definitely was not looking for something extra to take on when I was presented this opportunity. Nor was I looking for extra income. But I had that deep-seated itch to start something new, and this expansive network of women was appealing to me. Especially as many of them have this gig as their “side hustle” and while I am exploring law school and other career avenues, I saw it as a great way to meet new people, explore a unique opportunity, and learn in an empowering female-driven environment. As suspected, the support network I’ve found has already been phenomenal. I’ve made friends (virtually, mind you) and have been cheered on by this incredible team every step of the way, with astonishingly uplifting mentorship and leadership.
While the team has been extraordinary, the business, well, it definitely posed challenges at the onset. While the majority of the individuals I reached out to were incredibly supportive at the onset, a few select individuals were a bit judgmental, imploring why I would do something like “this” while studying for the LSAT, working crazy hours, traveling, and aspiring to one day work for the UN. They questioned how exactly “this”aligned to those passions. A few people (some of whom I hadn’t spoken to in years) even responded to a congratulatory post regarding my first month in business with “Pyramid Scheme” or a pyramid emoji. My heart began to race a bit. As much as I preach Mark Manson’s “The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F***,” the thought of others judging me about this new venture crossed my mind on countless occasions. I also got a ton of “No’s” and straight up no-response’s as I reached out to people in an effort to pick their brain on my business (i.e., bring them on as new business partners, have them try the products, or introduce me to others in their networks who might be interested in the former two options). Those vague “crickets” left me thinking: Did I have the wrong number? Hello? Bueller?
But then I thought to myself, Wait. Hold up. Pause. Excuse me. While I was incredibly excited to share my new business venture with you, and would be happy to point you in the direction of a book full of encouraging phrases that you might be lacking, I was not looking for you to impose your opinions on my life. I was looking for support. That’s what friends and family are for. By support, I don’t necessarily mean monetary. There are a multitude of ways in which you can support a new business owner for free. (Let me start by saying that grimacing and making negative comments is not the best route.) You can support a business owner by sharing their page on social media, liking their posts, referrals, and simply by cheering them on along the way. Because it’s not easy. We need our closest circle to push us along. As well as our business mentors and coaches. As well as Romi. So let’s chat about her.
Romi Neustadt, best-selling author of Get Over Your Damn Self, provided immense moral support throughout my very first month in business. Her experience resonated with me, because when she started her biz, she also had “an insanely full plate”. Her rationale behind this business also made sense to me: “Maybe you’re just a savvy woman who understands how brilliant it is to develop another stream of income that can grow while you sleep,” she postulates in the initial chapter. Romi also mentions that this business is all about helping others to be successful. The so-called “pyramid” is really a smart business model. While the financial incentives to having a successful team are great, mentoring other women through the process of building their own businesses is the ultimate reward for me. Romi ends her first chapter with, “Life begins at the edge of, and keeps expanding outside of, our comfort zone.” That is precisely why I joined this business.
This business is HARD, Romi attests, and she is absolutely correct. This business has tested me in ways I’d never imagined. I’ve gotten “no’s” from people on my dirt list (the list designated to those who we believe would support us through anything in life), so much that they would literally buy dirt from us. However, I’ve also had customers who’ve said, “I’ve been saving up extra cash just to try these products.” Yes. My belief bubble grows. It’s a lot of that: reverberant low’s, but high’s that will make you float through the air like a balloon. At the beginning, it’s the small wins. The small order which reminds you that someone out there believes in you, this business, and your success. As Romi says, “… there were little and big victories that gave me small glimpses of what this could really be.” This is the message I pass along to all of my new teammates and business partners. I say precisely this: “You will get no’s, so be prepared. Let’s celebrate the small victories, though. The first customer who joins you. The first person who reaches out to someone in their network on your behalf. A new business partner.” These small victories will feed your belief in the business. And like Dory, we all just keep swimming.
Romi’s first point, “WIIFT” (What’s In It For Them), was my saving grace when I began to reach out to others. I started the conversation with my Why, and then spent the majority of the call listening to their wants and needs. College students looking to make more money throughout the school year. Those just starting out in their professional careers who are seeking new adventures or alternative streams of income. Adults who wish to be financially independent. Those who have lost their eyebrows in chemotherapy and desperately want them back. Others who are afraid to show their face in public or lack the confidence to give a presentation at work due to their acne. Anyone can play a role in this business; the keys to success are sympathy, compassion, and altruism.
Another Romi tip that generated success in my first month in business was the “They’re not that into you” ideology. She says, “Just because you were raised or trained with social graces or business etiquette, doesn’t mean they were. Don’t take it personally. Don’t let it drain you.” Romi is referring to the No’s (both the insensitive and the pleasant). In this section of her book, Romi points not to the No’s, but how the No’s get us all closer to the Yes’s, and “…closer to the people who are way into you”. Her coaching point here is simple: If you talk to enough people, you will find the right ones. In my experience thus far, I have reached out to people who I initially presupposed would shun me away as quickly as my cockapoo eats his scrambled eggs and shredded mozzarella. However, those people on my “Scary List” were some of the first to sign up as business partners or customers. Conversely, some of the people I had assumed to fall on my “Dirt List” ended up as one of the “No’s”. Golden rules: 1) We cannot make the decision for others without asking first, and 2) No’s, regardless of who they come from, are opportunities to get closer to the Yes’s.
Another facet of the business that has been difficult to navigate is the double standard female go-getters and high-achievers are beholden to: being too pushy or intense. As business owners, though, we all have to be hungry. We have to believe in our most grandiose of goals, and aspire to achieve them. To do that, as the prior paragraph outlines, we have to reach out to as many people as possible, and we absolutely need to follow-up when we receive no response. (Side note: Since when is it okay not to respond to people?) I’ve never felt sorrier for those LinkedIn recruiters who even I have ghosted from time to time, and now make it a conscious effort to always respond with a straightforward “Yes, please” or “No, thank you”. Simple as that. When I get those infamous crickets on the other end, I’m intrinsically reluctant to follow-up for fear of being “pushy”. Nonetheless, whenever those thoughts cross my mind, I repeat after Romi: “I’m not being pushy, I’m being professional.” Such. An. Amazing. Line. Men who consistently follow-up are more often than not seen as tenacious, persistent, fearless, go-getters, whilst women are oftentimes seen as annoying, weird, sketchy, and pushy. I remember the first time I ever followed-up with someone, after having sent two messages about the business that had brought our flowing catch-up conversation to a silencing halt. When I followed-up two days later, they asked, “Was your phone hacked?” I was stunned. Nonetheless, I repeated to myself: You are not being pushy, you are being professional. My follow-up mentality is close to bullet proof just about a month later, and FYI, my cellphone is securely locked.
One of my absolute favorite chapters of this book revolved around “Go-Giving”. Not too long ago, I reached out to a friend of a friend, who was referred to me as a good candidate for the business. Soon after we hopped on the phone, she informed me that she was already in business with a competing brand. Instead of quickly closing the conversation, I asked her about the other brand she was involved with, what she’s liked about it, and what she hasn’t liked so much. She asked me about my full-time job and I was able to provide some guidance there. At the end of our call, she was candidly grateful for the advice, and referred me to two people in her own network who she believed would be good fits either for the business or as customers. That type of networking (which comes naturally to me) is a very successful way to run the business. Keep connecting with others, without an end goal in site. Connect simply to connect, and really listen. As Romi says, “It’s all about how you can serve.”
Failure. This business came with a bundle of stuff. It came with a lot of no’s. It came with judgement. It came with mistakes. However, as Romi quotes Sir Richard Branson, “Failure is simply indispensable to the entrepreneurial experience,” and “Nobody gets everything right every time, and it is how we learn from our mistakes that defines us.” While this business came with character-questioning and a taste of failure, it also came with an amazing, supportive network that I wouldn’t trade for the world. It came with new teammates and new friends. It came with personal growth and resilience. Most importantly, it’s taught me to be kinder to myself.
Success. In my first month, I was surprised by my achievements and accomplishments. I had a much thicker skin, higher morale, alongside more grit and determination. I was confident enough to hold my own calls, thanks to the countless calls my own sponsor had led for me over the first few weeks. I had made it onto our team leaderboard, and I proceeded to hustle and bustle. I was talking to people everywhere. The woman seated next to me on the plane. The new friend I met at a house party. My sister. My sister’s friend. My sister’s friend’s friend. As Romi says, “The truth is, we each have everything within ourselves to succeed. But in this business, you have to have a few other really important things. Hunger. The willingness to be completely coachable and learn how to do this. Consistency. The willingness to be uncomfortable. And the resilience to keep going in the face of No’s and disappointments.”
Finally, #FuckFear, as Romi says. But seriously. Fear is the only thing holding us back. Fear of what others will think. Fear of being told “No”. Fear of failure. I’ve had friends (and strangers) outwardly judge me. I’ve had a business partner suddenly quit. I’ve been told “No” or received no response at least four-hundred times already (in my first two months). I’ve even had someone question the authenticity of my full-time job (i.e., did I actually work there?), because in their mind, Why on earth would I be doing this business on the side? All of those experiences would have initially prompted me to curl into a miniscule ball in the corner of a really dark room, but nevertheless, I persisted. Why? Romi writes on fear, “It’s our job to act in spite of it.” She proceeds to quote Maya Angelou, who I also look to for inspiration: “There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside of you.” In accordance with Angelou, Romi says: “What scares me more than anything is not living the life I was meant to live. Not touching the lives I was meant to touch. Not teaching our kids to go after their dreams and live their truth… You’re going to have fears. We all will. But make the biggest, loudest ones revolve around this: fear of what you’ll miss out on if you don’t go after your dreams.”
Currently, I am loving this business. I am loving the people, my team, the products, the incentives, the mentorship, and the growth. I love the resilience and thick skin I’ve developed throughout the journey. As Romi concludes, “To all the people who didn’t join me in business, or did and then quit, you taught me just as much as the success stories, and I’m grateful.” I’ve loved flinging myself out of that comfort zone, promenading through the unknown, ascending to more, and as I followed Dory’s “just keep swimming” motto, I’ve found success, fewer and fewer cares in the world as to what others think, and sheer, utter, happiness.