“You’re Going to Lose People Get Over It” Words of Wisdom with Kimberly Marek, Co-founder of 7 Charming Sisters
The team I have now isn’t the team I started with. Owning a business, especially a startup, is an emotional and financial roller coaster. You have to be a jack of all trades and a master of, well, all of it. That’s a lot of pressure. When you start, you aren’t going to have the same group as you do several years down the road. Some people just can’t handle the stress that comes with riding this ride. Here is the kicker, you have to let that go.
I had the pleasure of interviewing Kimberly Marek, MS, is the Chief Creative Officer, founding member, owner, and creative brainchild behind the e-commerce international jewelry brand 7 Charming Sisters. Starting from an initial e-commerce knowledge-base of zero, she created a jewelry empire that in its first 2 years of operation has been featured in Oprah Magazine, Redbook, People Style, and has a social reach of over 1 million people. At only 33, she is a champion for young female entrepreneurs, social change issues, and giving back to the community.
Yitzi: Thank you so much for doing this with us! What is your “backstory”?
I did not start where I am today. My mother was a single mom and I was molested as a child. Due to issues resulting from the molestation, my mother was told to lower her expectations for me in school. She never did and continued to push me to be the greatest ‘me’ I could be. When I went to college I was diagnosed with a learning disability. After I was diagnosed and a treatment plan was developed, I was unstoppable. My grades skyrocketed and I continued my education at the graduate level and then entered the workforce serving people with disabilities.
The point here is that you cannot let your circumstances define you. YOU are in control of your perception and you’re in control of your attitude. This is the reason why, despite my past, I am so tremendously successful.
Yitzi: Can you share the funniest or most interesting story that happened to you since you started your company
We were invited to participate in an Emmy celebrity gifting suite last year. Keep in mind, we are based in rural Virginia so the thought of going to Los Angeles for anything was mind boggling. I get nervous before I interview or meet celebrities, very nervous. I was freaking out prior to the event starting. Like a true professional (lol) I got it together and composed myself. I’m a nerd and love Game of Thrones and who else walked in first but Maisie Williams. I fell over…literally. Paula, my business partner caught me as I lost my footing and stopped me just before I knocked over our audio equipment all while making eye contact with Arya Stark herself — I was so embarrassed!
When we first started our business, we wanted a mascot. Logical, right? This should give you some insight into how wacky we really are. We tossed around some ideas and came up with nothing. That is until we were walking in a Home Goods store and found a giant, crystal lion. It was entirely too much, gaudy, and huge which made it PERFECT for us. Think disco ball in the shape of a lion. It took 7 people to bring it back to the office (again, it’s huge). On a whim, we named her Cassandra. She is with us to this day.
Yitzi: What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
We are wholeheartedly committed to helping others and have a passionate dedication to persons with disabilities. Is that because of my past and my own diagnosis? Perhaps, though it goes much deeper than that. We believe serving disenfranchised populations is the responsibility of those with the platform and means to do so.
We also believe in showing real beauty. My business partners (the other 6 of the Charming Sisters) and myself are all average to plus-sized women with children. When we looked into the online fashion world, we didn’t see ourselves represented and that was a big problem for us. We are a target demo for this industry yet we weren’t being represented. We created the business to see ourselves. Narcissistic? I don’t think so. A lot of women feel left behind by the fashion industry. We are just here to fill in the gaps.
I had someone say to me once, wow, you ladies (referring to the 7 Charming Sisters) want to do it all, don’t you? That question always made me giggle because the answer is of course we do. Duh.
Yitzi: None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are?
Absolutely, there are two actually. The first is my mother who I mentioned at the beginning of this interview. She pushed me to not accept my circumstances ‘as is’ and work to define them for myself. My grit and unwavering work ethic comes from her and I am forever grateful for her love and support.
The second is my friend, business partner, and mentor, Paula Welsh. Paula is the CEO of 7 Charming Sisters and has been my mentor for over 10 years. It is critical for people, women in particular, to establish mentor relationships with others. Paula has guided me from a hot-headed 21 year old to the totally normal businesswoman I am today (insert sarcasm here). The true brilliance of Paula’s efforts is that she actually embraced my eccentricities and empowered me to push past my comfort-zone. I look at her like my personal Yoda (support and encourage me she does).
Yitzi: How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?
Persons with disabilities are overwhelmingly affected by hunger, poverty, and other safety issues compared to people without disabilities. We offer people with disabilities an opportunity to earn wages by hand making jewelry. In an effort to normalize their work, we place their handmade pieces throughout our site and include them in a variety of different jewelry collections.
We partner with local businesses who support people with disabilities in the community to craft some of the beautiful jewelry you see on our website.
Yitzi: What are your “5 things I wish someone told me before I launched my Start-Up” and why.
1. Learn from Your Mistakes: I realize a lot of entrepreneurs say this but you have to learn from your mistakes because you’re going to make a ton of them. And when I mean a ton, I mean like weekly, heck even daily. If you’re not making mistakes, you’re not taking enough risks. Every mistake is an opportunity for growth. If you look at a mistake as a failure, you’re doing it wrong. Embrace your mistakes, it will make you stronger.
2. You’re Going to Lose People (get over it): The team I have now isn’t the team I started with. Owning a business, especially a startup, is an emotional and financial roller coaster. You have to be a jack of all trades and a master of, well, all of it. That’s a lot of pressure. When you start, you aren’t going to have the same group as you do several years down the road. Some people just can’t handle the stress that comes with riding this ride. Here is the kicker, you have to let that go.
3. SEO is REALLY Important: Don’t underestimate the power of a strong SEO plan and web-team. When we started we didn’t have either (yikes) and it took us until now to get organic search numbers where they should be. Take the time to work with a knowledgeable consultant to get yourself off the ground from the beginning. We wasted a lot of time before we invested in keyword research and if I had known in the beginning how important it was compared to other forms of marketing, I would have spent much more time on it.
4. Be Patient: There is no such thing as overnight success. To be successful you have to keep learning (see tip 1), implementing and improving and you’ll get there. Being an overnight success is nearly impossible and it takes years to perfect your craft before you can truly be successful. YouTube went from a startup to being worth $1B in 15 months but you’ll find the founders of YouTube paid their dues as part of the start up team at PayPal. They had already developed their skills there and knew how to hit the ground running. Cut yourself some slack and be patient.
5. Keep it Real: Be real with yourself and recognize what you’re amazing at and where you need help. When you’re starting a new business you have to do it all but realize when something isn’t working and adjust accordingly. Be real with yourself and understand when things just aren’t working and pivot quickly.
Yitzi: Some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might see this. :-)
I’m inspired by women in business who have positioned themselves as leaders in their respective field.
I’d be honored to meet Arianna Huffington specifically because of her tenacity, her diverse business interests and her commitments to helping others. I’d love to meet Melinda Gates. I find her commitment to children inspiring and I believe in the power of education to better communities. I’d be beside myself if I met Tina Fey or Issa Rae. They are both talented business women, producers, and writers. I find their comedy smart and with message. Both of their commitments to social justice issues including racial equality and sexual assault survivor support is important and needed.
Yitzi:This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!
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