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 Web.com’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: Sally Waite, the cofounder of Sally Jane, a jewelry company that inspires the wearer to Bee Courageous, Bee Bold, Bee a Survivor and Just Bee! They use the bee to show the wearer that, like the bee, they can accomplish the impossible.
Waite started her company in 2012 with her aunt, Sally Algiere. While building the company, at the age of 31 and seven months pregnant with her first child, Waite was diagnosed with cancer, leading to the launch of Sally Jane’s “Buy 1 Give $1” program. The company donates $1 for each purchase to Massachusetts General Hospital’s (MGH) research campaign toward Immunotherapy as well as supportive care provided for patients and families by Friends of The Massachusetts General Hospital Cancer Center.
Rieva Lesonsky: What did you want to be when you grew up?
Sally Waite: Growing up I was a dancer. Every so often my dance teacher would take us into New York City for a master class. I was absolutely in love with the idea of being a performer and living in NYC. So I guess I always knew I wanted to do something creative.
Lesonsky: Why did you start your own business?
Waite: I was really feeling like I was lacking a creative outlet in my life and my aunt and I both wanted, and were able, to do something new at the same time. We felt we could create something that would have a positive impact on people. My husband is also an entrepreneur, and I absolutely loved hearing about the nitty-gritty business of startups. I knew I loved both the creative and business side and I was willing to put the work into executing on the idea. We figured, Why not? Let’s go for it!
Lesonsky: Did you experience a pivotal moment on your way to success?
Waite: I thought the pivotal moment while we were building Sally Jane happened when I found out I was pregnant, yet at 31 years of age and seven months into my pregnancy I was admitted to the hospital with serious abdominal pain. After emergency surgery to remove what we thought was a twisted ovary we discovered that I had advanced-stage cancer. That put the company on hold for over a year, and I never truly thought I would be here working on it again. It changed my entire outlook on life and business in general. Very little holds me back anymore from going after what I love and it has to be worth it if I’m going to spend time away from my family.
Lesonsky: What’s the best small business advice you ever gave and/or received?
Waite: I have had a tremendous number of mentors and [a lot of] help along the way. I have never taken their advice for granted. The 15 minutes of time they may give you is an accumulation of years of experience and mistakes. The best advice I can give is to seek out mentors and listen! The best advice I’ve received from my mentors is to identify your industry’s biggest influencers on social media and build relationships.
Lesonsky: What’s one “best practice” more entrepreneurs should be embracing?
Waite: Large companies have made the online buying experience very easy and enjoyable for the consumer—think Amazon’s “one click” buying option. Small businesses have a long way to go to replicate the immersive, enjoyable buying experience consumers are used to with large ecommerce brands. Improving the user experience can be an effective differentiator that more entrepreneurs should be focusing on.
Lesonsky: Do you have a prediction for small business?
Waite: The U.S. economy is still improving. Small companies, especially in my industry of fashion and jewelry, rely heavily on discretionary spending, so I predict improved potential for small businesses operating in the discretionary consumer market.
Lesonsky: What’s your favorite book?
Waite: I am an especially curious person and love history. My favorite book is Abigail Adams by Woody Holton, but I believe that Lean In by Sheryl Sandberg is a must-read for all women working in business.
Lesonsky: Is there a quote you find particularly inspiring?
Waite: “Courage is resistance to fear, mastery of fear, not absence of fear.”—Mark Twain
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Rieva Lesonsky is CEO of GrowBiz Media, a media and custom content company focusing on small business and entrepreneurship. Email Rieva at firstname.lastname@example.org, follow her on Google+ and Twitter.com/Rieva, and visit her website, SmallBizDaily.com, to get the scoop on business trends and sign up for Rieva’s free TrendCast reports.