At Leatherology, we’ve worked hard to build an inclusive workplace where women can thrive. Our team is now made up of an amazing, diverse, and female-led team of creators, analysts, artisans, innovators, and entrepreneurs who celebrate each other's achievements. At the heart of that team as well as a mom, co-founder and creative director of Leatherology, we asked Rae Liu for a few pieces of advice and encouragement to empower women considering business ownership.
Entrepreneurship is wonderful, but it is HARD, and it’s not for everyone. Anyone who paints it otherwise isn’t being honest. If you are fortunate enough to have amazing opportunities within the company you’re at, and you’re happy, then that is amazing. I created an opportunity for myself because I wasn’t happy, and I didn’t have those opportunities, but it would have been WAY easier and potentially just as fulfilling to do this within an existing organization.
When is the right time to go into business for yourself and how do you stay motivated?
Just go for it. The timing will never be right, and you will never be fully prepared. If you wait until you have the perfect opportunity or ‘enough’ experience, you’ll never make the move. There are always rational reasons to wait, so you need some amount of irrational optimism to take a chance and make something great happen. And guess what—failing probably isn’t as painful as you imagine. Conversely, be prepared for some lonely days. Don’t give up. There will be great days, and there will be very hard days. Running a company can be very lonely, and it helps to surround yourself with people who you have strong relationships with that will support you, provide long-term perspective, and keep you grounded. Have mentors or a support network that you trust to give you honest advice.
How do you recommend new entrepreneurs plan for growth and success but maintain balance?
As you start to grow and scale up, it becomes critical to find the right people. Be honest with yourself about what really motivates you, and what you are good at versus what you are not. For example, I’ve waited too long to make some decisions. My nature is to analyze even when my gut instinct tells me something different, and that can lead to a long decision-making process. Sometimes that delay has financial implications, but more often, it’s an emotional drain I wish I’d avoided. I listen to my instincts more now, even if that means failing and course correcting later.
You may be the world’s best designer, but you’re not going to be able to run a business successfully if you don’t have someone who is great analytically and operationally to help you out, or vice versa. And scaling up gets complicated fast. You need to think about how your IT systems can evolve, how to anticipate and head off operational breakdowns, and how to manage the HR concerns of a growing business. It’s important to know where to get help fast. Finding good people will not only help you plug the gaps, but it will help you free up your time to focus on the aspects of the business that really motivate you, and massively improve your quality of life.
Are there any other not-so-secret tips you would have for your fellow businesswomen?
Learn Excel! That is seriously the tip I would give. Even in a creative field, in the early days you’ll probably be running most of the business yourself, and you’ll want to have a basic understanding of numbers and data so you feel empowered about your business.
Finally, above all else, be authentic. Your brand is an extension of yourself, and you’ll find the path so much easier if you fully believe in what you are doing.
Every International Women’s Day, we like to take time to recognize the importance of celebrating women every day. We want to foster an environment that challenges the status quo, where a gender equal world—free of bias, stereotypes, and discrimination—can flourish. This year’s theme for IWD invites you to help bring a world to life where difference is valued and celebrated, particularly in forging women's equality.
We will be making donations to the following organizations that focus on raising awareness against bias, empowering women from all walks of life, and building confidence in our young girls. We especially recognize and sympathize with women and children of Ukraine, whose lives have been upended. Our donations this year will go towards two special organizations, UN Women USA and Ukrainian Women’s Fund, to aid them in these uncertain times and encourage you to do the same. Collectively we can all come together, honoring women’s past and future achievements while supporting everyone doing their part to #BreakTheBias.