Most flourishing entrepreneurs were certainly not born with comfortable lifestyles. Before they taste success, they need to overcome a slew of economic and emotional challenges by working hard and being tough.
The path to the top for women entrepreneurs is usually even trickier than it is for men, but many of them prevail and achieve their dreams.
Here we invite you to imagine a day in the life of woman entrepreneur in the garment industry, even as she goes about giving her startup the fit and finish of a thriving business.
Your Google Home goes off at 6 am, gently waking you up with your favorite melody. You’re not really a morning person, and you need coffee to bring you to life. Coffee in one hand, you check your email, prioritizing five or ten messages you should tackle first.
Yoga and some meditation later, you go for a shower and get dressed for work, in your best formal attire, as you know you have important meetings lined up for the day — if it is an ordinary day with only colleagues, you would like to go casual, though fashionably, since you’re after all running a clothes business.
On work days, you try to wear something that your company, Hep&Happy (H&H), has created, to inspire your team and show your clients, vendors, and other business associates how proud you are of your creations.
While having a breakfast of cereals and fruit, you have your planner open. You see that you have time after your first meeting — your regular team huddle — to prepare for the next and most important meeting, with a venture capitalist (VC) who has shown interest in funding your expansion program.
You drive to work, and depending on the traffic, reach office in half an hour to 45 minutes. You’re a fan of audiobooks, and while driving, listen to a chapter or two from “The Lean Startup” by Eric Ries or a Mel Robbins book on Audible.
At your office, your personal secretary promptly brings a cup of ginger tea as you try to catch up on the general and business news.
You exchange small talk and discuss the upcoming day. She is an experienced person and has the added advantage of having worked in the garment industry.
First up, your team meeting. Your team knows you value punctuality and assemble in your well-appointed conference room: although yours is only a startup, you have taken care to set up the H&H office, a spacious 5,000 sq.ft. floor in a posh locality, with select décor that echoes the company brand name and values. You also have a factory located in an industrial area not far from your main office.
A general manager (GM, who is also your legal expert), two designers (who are also responsible for quality check), a fabric specialist, a logistics and vendor manager, a finance professional, a marketing executive, and a communications expert, besides your personal secretary, and you (three men and seven women) make up your 10-member team.
Your USP, encapsulated by the marketing and communication experts in a tag line “Class and comfort intertwined,” is obvious in your international designs and specially sourced fabrics.
You went to a top MBA program and have expert knowledge in various business areas, which gives you the confidence to tackle the problems your team raises at the meeting.
Your experience of diversity at your b-school, with students from over 50 countries, makes it easy for you to work with your team members drawn from seven nations.
Toward the end of the 30-minute team huddle, you’re already thinking about the meeting with the venture capitalist (VC) at 10 am. You have invited the VC team over, instead of going over to their office, so they can see how you run your business and how far your startup has progressed since its launch two years ago.
It is the same investor who advanced an initial $1 million for the launch in return for 30 percent of the profits (the total investment was $2 million) and then followed it up with a similar amount at the end of our first year, because H&H had met its sales target much earlier, in only ten months.
Of course, it also helped that the VC was once a fashion designer: his initial investments endorsed the feasibility of the start-up!
At that time, it was your MBA from a top b-school in USA that gave you credibility in the eyes of the VC, besides your pre-MBA master’s degree in garment designing and manufacturing in the UK and four years’ work experience for a top brand in that country.
Of course, you were always sure how you were going to use your MBA degree!
You check your inbox once again, even as your GM ushers in the VC team of three people — the investor and his two aides.
After a quick tour of the H&H building, you settle down to crucial business. You have asked for $5 million for your expansion plans, mainly for doubling factory/production capacity, improving logistics/shipping/packaging, and accelerating your marketing campaign.
You share your detailed plan with the VC team and, even as you make a presentation, can’t help silently thanking the funding and pitch competitions during your MBA program and your MBA finance courses that taught you terms such as DCF (discounted cash flow) and now enable you to talk to investors in their language.
The innovation and incubation center at b-school developed your confidence, with experiences such as development of an app along with a classmate to match footwear and garment styles, which hit 20,000 users in just over a month.
This was part of a start-up boot-camp for aspiring entrepreneurs who presented their projects to a panel of professors and investors, worked out the nitty-gritties of launching their business, and actually launched them on a small-scale.
The VC team seem impressed, but want to ascertain your factory/production expansion plans with a visit to the site proposed. You schedule a visit for early next week.
You realize that your team and you may soon have a great reason to celebrate — receiving $5 million from a VC is no mean achievement for a two-year-old start-up.
It’s a little too early for lunch, but since you have an important meeting with a big, potential client at 2.30, you think it will be worth it to have an extended lunch, along with your GM, finance expert, and marketing professional, for a quick, final review of your pricing strategy for the client and tie up a few loose ends before the meeting.
The would-be client is an airline company, Justfly, which wants you to create new uniforms for cabin crew and ground staff for both its male and female employees.
This is your third meeting, after an initial meeting with just you and the GM, a second meeting with your designer and a fabric expert, and now a third and possibly final meeting that will hopefully clinch the $1 million dollar deal.
The business lead was given by the Justfly CEO, an alumni of your b-school, whom you had met several times at seminars on campus while doing your MBA.
His lecturers on networking had impressed you, and you had always seen him as your networking guru. Quite coincidentally, here he was again, teaching you the value of networking, by example.
Your team — your GM, finance guy, and you — start off early enough to compensate for any traffic snarls on the way and reach the Justfly office on time.
As you ride in a taxicab, you take a habitual glance at your inbox, and sit back feeling some pride about how discussions have steadily progressed thus far with Justfly.
It is surely the H&H designs and color and fabric choice that are being appreciated, but certainly also your pricing and delivery timeline that made the CEO think of selecting the start-up from among the many bidders.
Of course, your timeline commitment for this project hinges heavily on doubling the H&H production capacity, which, in turn, depends on the VC’s final green signal to your expansion plan. So far, so good.
The Justfly CEO and three other top functionaries of the airline attend the meeting. You lead a project review presentation (you are an expert presenter post-MBA) and clarify a few doubts raised by the airline officials.
They seem happy with the design and fabric choice and the timeline, and say they are willing to advance one-third of the total project cost, with the second and third investment tranches to be released on the completion of individual phases of the project.
That’s game, set, and match!
The fag end of the day is usually reserved for marketing issues, and at 5, you meet with the managers of H&H’s three exclusive brand stores (franchisees) and other retailers in the city to discuss general issues, including a festival-season sales push. Your brand shops are generally doing well and the retailers are upbeat about business
One of the exclusive brand stores, however, is not doing as well as the others, and you, along with your marketing and communication executives, meet the shop manager separately after the retailers’ meeting. The manager points to the disadvantages of the shop location on a street off the main road, and suggests shifting to a mall nearby.
This seems like a good idea since the mall is posher and sees footfalls of a large number of college students and other younger crowd.
You make a note to discuss the matter with the GM and the finance guy first thing after the team meeting tomorrow, as this may involve a considerable higher shop rent and you may need to ask the franchisee to share the additional financial burden.
It’s time to wind up for the day, you tell yourself, even as you take yet another look at your inbox. Your secretary and you sit down together, go over the day’s events, and what is being planned for tomorrow.
She takes down copious notes, and types and prints them out for reference. This way, you can see what has been has achieved, what progress is being made on projects and tasks, and what plans need to be prepared.
This done, your secretary reminds you of the H&H social responsibility program, launched based on a community-giveback lesson you learned from your MBA.
The plan is to stitch garments for children in orphanages using cloth rendered unusable in the tailoring process and to donate unsold but usable garment stock to shelters and old-age homes.
You need to work out the details, particularly with regard to committing a small part of your production facility and a little of the time of the tailors and other factory employees to the program.
You thank your secretary, and seek her help to plan the program, which is close to her heart as much as it is to yours. She then bids goodbye for the day, the last one to leave, save one: you.
It suddenly comes to your mind that you need to see your GM to discuss your ideas to strengthen business ties with your fabric supplier. You call and say you will meet first thing tomorrow.
A special fabric, a blend of natural and synthetic fibers, is used for many designs under the H&H label, and your supplier, a much smaller firm than your startup, has been ensuring timely supplies of good-quality fabric.
But you are looking at the future, and feel you need to start planning for a long-term contract or, later, even draw up an ambitious backward integration to avoid the danger of some other company buying out the fabric supplier and closing up your supply channel.
Your GM has already worked out the details of a long-term contract, and it needs to be finalized at a meeting with the finance and fabric experts ASAP.
End of your work day. You take a final look at your emails before you reach home. You have a meetup planned at night with friends at the apartment of one of them.
It’s a few minutes past 7 when you leave your office and you rush to your car parked in the basement and reach the apartment.
You wind up the evening, reach home, and check your inbox and SMSes one last time before hitting the bed. No urgent messages. That’s a relief. You had a productive day.
You call your parents on WhatsApp video and talk for about half an hour. Mom wants to know when you will visit, and dad asks how business is doing.
After the call, you say a silent “Thank you” to them. It was, after all, your parents who gave full encouragement when you told them of your plan to quit your full-time job and launch H&H.
To your team, you whisper a “Well done, guys” for their hard work, and you also pay gratitude to your investor for his faith in you.
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References: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24, 25, 26