Be confident in your expertise, but “faking it ’til you make it” is probably not the best strategy with informed investors or clients. Talia Goldfarb shares some lessons she has learned as owner of Myself Belts.
Tell us about the biggest mistake you made with your business. What did you learn from it?
As an entrepreneur, one must remember that you know your business better than anyone. You are the expert. When I started, I was so excited that a buyer from a large department store wanted to order that I didn’t say anything when they ordered during our slowest month. I was afraid that if I did, we would lose the order. Often in the beginning stages of building a business, you want to sell no matter what and are so grateful when a store or customer wants to buy your product, even if you may know deep down that the timing for that customer may not be perfect or they are ordering something that may not suit their needs. Feeling confident in your expertise is imperative. Saying to a buyer, “you know, I think you should delay your order a month to hit the best selling cycle” may initially seem like a risky thing to do but in the end, the relationship will be a success. It is better to lose a sale than to have an unsuccessful experience with vendor. I have learned this the hard way!
Besides learning from mistakes, we can learn from successful moments as well. Have you ever learned something from a great success?
Success is a result of perseverance. Often when we are in the trenches for a long time, we can feel frustrated and think that we are not making progress. In actuality, business relationships can take a very long time to close and goals can take a long time to accomplish (it often can feel like an eternity!). When great successes occur, it reminds me that patience is essential and that we must keep our eyes on the prize no matter how long it seems to take.
What is one thing you’ve learned that you wish you knew when you got started?
I have learned that entrepreneurship is a roller coaster, with extreme highs and lots of lulls. I don’t think you can understand the emotional ride until you are on it, so I don’t think that it is really something that you can prepare for. The highs keep you going, and belief in yourself and what you are doing propel you forward during the moments you feel you are spinning your wheels. Staying positive and not taking things personally are essential.
In your opinion, what are 3 key elements for starting and running a successful business?
3 key elements for starting and running a successful business are expertise in a needed product or service, an eagerness to learn, and self-awareness. A business, of course, must have a good idea or product at its core. That will lead the way. Beyond that, the entrepreneur must always seek knowledge and expertise from others. Mentors, fellow business owners, books, blogs, etc. provide necessary wisdom in this constantly changing world. If an entrepreneur thinks that they have all of the answers or acts like they do, it is a recipe for failure. Self-awareness is also incredibly important: knowing what you are good at and skills that you need to hire, what causes you to emotionally react and what you are afraid of, what your goals are and what is important to you as your business grows are all important characteristics of a healthy business and entrepreneur.
“An entrepreneur must always seek knowledge and expertise from others. Mentors, fellow business owners, books, blogs, etc. provide necessary wisdom in this constantly changing world.”
What do you wish you would have done differently? And what did you nail from the start?
When Myself Belts began we had an amazing invention. We nailed it. We were solving a problem for parents and children and the way that the Myself Belt belt functions hasn’t changed from the beginning 13 years ago. We have evolved with new styles, buckles, adult belt offerings for those with special needs, etc., but our invention was perfect from the start. Our business organically grew and we grew as entrepreneurs. Without a business background, we had to learn as we went along and we tackled obstacles as they came our way. There really isn’t anything fundamentally that I would change. Mistakes were made, but those were necessary teachable moments.
Let’s talk about advice. What is the best advice you’ve ever received? The worst? What advice would you give to a young woman thinking about starting her own business?
The best advice that I have received is to be sincere. This is important in life and in business and will take you far. Customers can feel sincerity, business partners can feel sincerity. The worst advice is sort of related. I don’t like the expression “fake it ‘til you make it”. I understand its premise and agree with elements of it. You need to get yourself and your product out there. A positive element of this is spending money in places where it matters like building a great website and creating strong marketing materials which perhaps give the impression of being more successful than you actually are. The negative part of this expression is pretending that you actually know all there is to know and I think that this can be dangerous. If you “fake it” with mentors or other business owners, you lose the opportunity to learn. If you are not sincere in your needs, concerns, and insecurities, then you can’t seek necessary knowledge and grow as an entrepreneur.
Of course, we have to ask you about Shark Tank! What was your experience like? You ended up getting an investment. How has that changed your business? Would you recommend applying to Shark Tank to other entrepreneurs?
Shark Tank was a crazy, exhilarating, wild ride. I partnered with Daymond John, who is awesome. At his core he is an entrepreneur, and he sees his role as helping other entrepreneurs to succeed. He and his team have been an amazing support to me and Myself Belts. Shark Tank is not for the faint of heart. It is an exhaustive and emotional process that reaps great rewards for those who maneuver it correctly. It was definitely worth it for me. It breathed new life into my business and gave incredible exposure for my brand. Daymond and his team have taught me so much and I am grateful that I was lucky enough to be a part of his Shark Tank family.
Product businesses that require a lot of inventory and many retailers can be difficult. How do you manage all the working parts involved with selling a product (such as quality control, inventory management, shipping) including forecasting demand?
There is a huge learning curve to running a product based business. Managing the working parts is learned over time. I have amazing employees who bring their enthusiasm and expertise to their own areas. We are constantly adjusting our processes to the needs of our customers, as we pride ourselves on our customer service and want to provide the best product and ordering experience to our customers. We are always open to new technology that can aid in shipping, data management, customer service, etc. The world of online retail is constantly changing and businesses have to adjust accordingly.
Follow Talia on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram @myselfbelts and visit their website www.myselfbelts.com
Myself Belts are a line of belts with a patented, one-handed belt closure. Myself Belts promote independence and boost self-esteem by allowing children to easily fasten and unfasten their belt on their own. Myself Belts are also extremely helpful for children, teens, and adults with hand dexterity difficulties stemming from physical or cognitive challenges. The only one-handed belt on the market, Myself Belts’ patented closure are a unique solution to a common dressing challenge. Myself Belts were featured on Season 6 of ABC’s Shark Tank, and we partnered with Daymond John.
Talia Bahr Goldfarb is the co-owner of Myself Designs, Inc, the company that invented and currently sells Myself Belts. Talia grew up in Providence, RI and graduated from Williams College in 1994, with a major in Psychology, and received a Masters in Social Work from the University of Alabama in 1996. After relocating to St. Louis, she worked as a school social worker and therapist for children in foster care. Motherhood altered her professional path, as it was her son’s sagging pants that led to the invention of Myself Belts.