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Secrets of Success: Sonia Kanner

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: Sonia Kanner, the founder of hipS-sister, a company that makes functional accessories for active women. The company is a over 2 years old and already topped the $1 million mark in sales for 2014.

Sonia got the idea for her business while hiking with friends, who were all frustrated they didn’t have a place to put their keys and smartphones. She realized there was a gap in the market for practical, yet functional accessories—and came up with the hipS-sister design, a stretchy, fabric waistband with pockets that comes in variety of fabrics, styles and colors (shown above).

O: The Oprah Magazine recently featured the product, calling it the “perfect accessory for anyone who’s juggled her phone, iPod, and baby at the supermarket—or gone for a jog with her keys.”

Each hipS-sister, designed to be fashionable, functional and flattering, has at least two zippered pockets and one top-loading pocket, so you can be active and go “hands free.”

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

Sonia Kanner: An elementary school teacher.

Lesonsky: Why did you start your own business?

Kanner: I am a single mom and I need to provide for my family. I began as a small activewear line and quickly realized it was too difficult to compete with others in the market. I was trying to think of something [competitors] were not selling, and I came up with the idea [for hipS-sister].

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

Kanner: I have struggled with anxiety in my life, especially when having to give a speech. I was asked to go on Home Shopping Network and my immediate thought was “I can’t do that, I am terrified.” But I fought through the fear and made it happen. Tackling my fears has been the biggest challenge for me in this entire process.

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

Kanner: Know what you know; know what you don’t know. Surround yourself with those who can help you with your business by adding talents and gifts that you are lacking. Realize that a successful business requires a team.

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

Kanner: Self care. You have to find the balance. It is too easy to work 80 hours a week, because you realize that the potential is there. Working longer doesn’t necessarily mean working smarter. Force yourself to take time away from business. Take it from me—I have learned this painful lesson the hard way. I have suffered from stress burnout too many times in the past three years.

Lesonsky: Do you have a 2015 small business prediction?

Kanner: For my own business, I would like to triple our 2014 sales.

Lesonsky: What’s your favorite book?

Kanner: Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell.

Lesonsky: Is there a quote you find particularly inspiring?

Kanner: “Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma—which is living with results of others; opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.” –Steve Jobs, Steve Jobs: His Own Words and Wisdom.

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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.