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Secrets of Success: Fernando A. Robert

There are some “rules” of business success most entrepreneurs abide by. But many also have their own “secrets”—things they do or believe that helped them achieve success. In “Secrets of Success,” a weekly interview series here at’s Small Business Forum, I ask some of today’s smartest, most innovative, most successful business owners to share their insights and success secrets with you.

Meet: Fernando A. Robert, an industrial designer who leads StudioFAR, an independent design house based in the Mission District of San Francisco, where they help companies translate ideas into desirable products. He’s also the founder and design director of the Shrine, a luxury soft goods company. You can find them on Twitter.

Rieva Lesonsky: What did you want to be when you grew up?

Fernando A. Robert: Ever since I was little, I’ve always wanted to design sneakers. I remember zoning out in class and sketching new sneaker designs all day long. This passion for drawing is what eventually led me to take drafting classes in high school, then take art courses in junior college, eventually getting into the field of industrial design at a university.

Lesonsky: Why did you start your own business?

Robert: I combined my love for sneakers and career in developing bags to create a backpack that didn’t exist in the marketplace—a bag designed specifically for sneaker enthusiasts that I knew this audience would love. I had to show this product to the world because I believed in it so much. I have a real passion for bags and want to translate that into a sustainable, long-lasting travel brand.

Lesonsky: Did you experience a pivotal moment on your way to success?

Robert: I think the pivotal moment was the Kickstarter campaign. Although not successful, it showed me there were people out there who truly got excited about the product. I knew if there were a few, then there would be more. I also knew that I was great at design, but wasn’t very good at marketing and sales. Through this campaign I found the right people who shared my passion for this product and would help bring it to life.

Lesonsky: What’s the best small business advice you ever gave and/or received?

Robert: Trust your intuition and don’t be afraid to fail. If you truly believe in something, go for it. Put your idea out in the world and see what response you get. If it is truly worthy, you will know it, and opportunities will begin to present themselves.

Lesonsky: What’s one “best practice” more entrepreneurs should be embracing?

Robert: Truly have a strong idea (business plan) of what path you want to take early on. Of course, you have to stay nimble and always be prepared for change. However, if you don’t have a clear vision, when things get difficult–and they will–you could lose your way by making impulse decisions.

Lesonsky: Do you have a small business prediction?

Robert: With the approval of new regulations, there will be an increase in crowdfunding being a legitimate way to invest in early-stage companies. It started with venture capital, then angel funding and now [there is] a legal way for everyone to invest in startups.

Lesonsky: What’s your favorite book?

Robert: Ignore Everybody and 39 Other Keys to Creativity by Hugh MacLeod

Lesonsky: Is there a quote you find particularly inspiring?

Robert: “If it’s not challenging you, it’s not changing you.” – Tommy Stracke, Barry’s Bootcamp

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Author information

Rieva Lesonsky

Rieva Lesonsky is CEO of GrowBiz Media, a media and custom content company focusing on small business and entrepreneurship. Email Rieva at [email protected], follow her on Google+ and, and visit her website,, to get the scoop on business trends and sign up for Rieva’s free TrendCast reports.