If you have a secured job like “attorney”, do you have the courage to jump into an entrepreneurial world? Since I used to work for a traditional huge corporation, I got so attracted by the article about Sarika Doshi, the Co-founder and CEO of Rank & Style, which is arguably one of the biggest and greatest websites for fashion and beauty. In the personal interview, she shared with me the essence to be a successful entrepreneur. No romanticized story, but only the truth.
-----Why did you decide to change your career so drastically from an attorney to an entrepreneur?
I always had had a dream of starting my own thing. For me, it was just a matter of ‘when', not 'if'. When I graduated a law school, I knew I was going to practice for a couple of years. The legal education and an experience of being an attorney is really helpful for what I do now because my job now is negotiating and convincing people to believe in me and to work with us.
After a law school, I committed to work in a corporate world for a couple of years, I thought you can learn a lot about how the world works in those settings. I felt very strongly that before I did my own thing it was important to learn how others built and run a company. I've spent five years at a venture-backed company in London and New York, shadowed the founders, the CEO, the COO and other senior managers there, and learned everything I could from them. It's a very different company, very different industry but the skills were the same around recruiting, operations, business development, strategy.
My goal was to have that experience, Then, I focused very much on coming up with my own idea and worked on it nights and weekends. Working there gave me great experience and fueled my fire to be an entrepreneur.
-----What was the right timing?
The right timing was the right idea and the right personal timing. It's a big risk and a big sacrifice personally, professionally, and mentally. I was in a stable place financially, socially, and mentally. It gave me the foundation to shift my lifestyle dramatically.
Starting a company from scratch turns your world upside down very quickly, and it requires all of your attention and energy. You’ve got to make it sure that all other things in your life are in stable condition and taken care of. Ultimately, there is no perfect moment. I tell people about that all the time. The perfect moment never really arrives. You've got to decide what your personal ‘readiness’ equation is.
For me, it was a certain amount of money in my account and a certain amount of personal things that I wanted to work out. So I just worked on those goals and then once I got to that place, I resigned from my full-time job and took the leap.
-----Normally people, who have sort of a secure job, are hesitant to take a leap of face to start a new company.
I tell people 'Do your own thing and start your own company if you can’t ‘not’ do it.' I came up with the idea and felt I really had to do this and make it happen. The thought of it made me jump out of bed everyday. It never felt like “I was working. .
-----When you quit that company, when you actually started your business, what exactly you did?
It was really overwhelming. Suddenly, I didn't have an office to go to, a paycheck, and a health insurance. I swear that having no backup plan is the best motivation to get things done and make things happen. Then you will find the way to make things work. Hustle and necessity do lead to an invention.. You become resourceful. You can make things happen.
-----Many people love to talk about entrepreneurship, but at the same time, most of them are looking for plan B. Only few people actually take actions.
That's what I tell people: a good idea is 1/3 of the way to there. The rest is all about persistence and follow through. It takes years to see the results of a good idea come to life. We live in the society that focuses on the immediate gratification. However, I tell people, 'This is not the world to pursue immediate gratification. It's just not.' You don't get it for a long time. You will get a lot more No's and setbacks, than Yes's early on.
-----What was the difficulty you had in the beginning and how did you overcome it?
Fundraising was really hard. Also growing brand awareness, user acquisition, taking customers as well. It sounds very basic, but I would say that the fundraising takes real persistence. It's truly about being relentless and not giving up. You have to keep at it and, try a bunch of different things, and be thoughtful about it. The key is persistence. To me, there is no replacement for using your network.
Leveraging your network has been the most helpful thing. I came from a very different background that I had no experience in media, fashion, beauty, or e-commerce. The power of Linkedin and in-person networking is huge. My entire social life for the 1st year was going to local meet-ups, making a name for myself, and quickly developing my network. There is no replacement for human help and contacts. Using social media is so easy, at the same time exhausting but it really does work.
-----In many cases, mental failure causes companies to fail. How do you manage your mental state?
Building your first company is one of the most stressful and challenging things in your life. You want to be your best self for your company life. It can take your mental, emotional capacity. My recommendation is making sure that you spend meaningful time every day that is sacred and special. It should be truly an outlet. For me it’s working out. I love going to the gym. No matter how busy I get, it has been constant for me and I feel like I owe it to my business and to my investors to keep that time sacred, because it does impact your success.
I'm a better thinker and entrepreneur when I've done it. For everybody, it looks different. It may be cooking, taking a walk or whatever. You’ve got to find your own thing and don't compromise on it. When you start a company, you are forced to sacrifice most of the things for the first 1 or 2 years, but you've got to keep one thing that's untouched. It doesn't have to be million of things, it's just has to be something that special and sacred.
-----How can you change your negative habits to positive habits?
It's about reflection. Sometimes I stop and say to me, “Wait, something isn't working here”. For example, I was struggling to sleep because I never stopped thinking about work. So I asked myself “OK, how do I fix this?” and tried different things. I tried yoga even though I had never done yoga. Stop and then you can ask yourself, “OK. How do I make this work?” Just don't ignore those signs and look within and always be focused on how I can make things better and more calm and stable for myself.
-----You are good at self-observation. If you had had the same amount of knowledge and experience that you have now when you started your business, what would you do differently?
I would take more time to celebrate along the way. Sometimes good things would happen and you get excited. Then something bad happens and you feel so easily setback. I want to make sure we acknowledge and celebrate more along the journey.
-----That's an interesting point. If you have a chance to make a call to 20-year-old Sarika Doshi, what kind of advice you would give to her?
No worrying. I like to live a life without regrets. The only regret, I might have, is that I had a lot of time worrying. Second, be really grateful people for everyone you meet. They become your network along the way professionally and socially. They are your networks and your world. No matter what you do, whether start your business or maintain a traditional job, people will inform how meaningful and significant your experience and journey is.
-----If you can leave a message to the next generation, next entrepreneurs to make the work better, what would you say to them?
I think the key is that good ideas are just part of the way. It all comes down to a hard work and grit, and being gutsy and brave. If you are up for that, you'd be successful and you can make anything happen. It's not about luck. It’s not about magic. It just comes down to hard work, persistence, and belief. It is wonderful because it means it is on your own control.