Sole Discretion was founded in 2010 in Cleveland, Ohio.
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Tell me about your current business. What are you doing exactly?
Sole Discretion is a shoe company that specializes in producing compact flats. We have just launched the first line of our series. Our goal is to always let women have to option of being comfortable and discreet.
What were you and your partners doing before founding Sole Discretion?
There are three owners at Sole Discretion. After graduation Ohio University I moved to New York and worked for the daytime soap opera As the World Turns for 2.5 years. Alyxaundria is a student in John Jay's criminal justice master's program and Sherrae just completed a Master's from NYU and is currently doing a professorship with the CUNY.
Did you write a business plan? Was it an effective tool for you?
Because starting a business was foreign to the three of us we wanted to do things the right way and we did create a business plan. We didn't use every portion of it but it definitely helped us in the long run. It made us clearly define our goals and what the company stands for. I would say that it is a necessary tool because without some sort of structure you will be all over the place.
For women entrepreneurs, what specific advice would you have for young women who would like to become an entrepreneur? Are there specific advantages, disadvantages to being a women business owner?
In the retail industry, there are a lot of men designing and selling products, but who knows a woman better than a woman? There are several challenges to being a woman entrepreneur but when you specialize in products for women you kind of have the upper hand. Of course you have to make sure that you are business savvy and well spoken, but when you have something that you believe in, you have to go for it.
Finding employees to work in a new and growing business can be a challenge. How did you find your employees?
I am an advocate of hiring interns. In most cases they will work for free and working for a small or start up business will give that person way more experience than working for a large corporation. Currently, we don't have any full time employees. We have been fortunate to be able to utilize our resources and kind of lean on people that we know for assistance as well as get freelance workers.
Social marketing is consistently being written about in the small business space. Has it worked generating business for you?
Generating buzz and keeping the momentum up about a brand is definitely trying, however social media is really taking over. It is a free way to keep people think about your company and brand. I would suggest that you definitely devote time to being involved in social media because it creates a relationship with customers and fans.
How has your experience in running the business been different from what you expected?
Being a co-owner at Sole discretion has taught me that you have to have confidence in yourself because you never know what you can do until you do it. I have to say that when we first started this process I thought that it would be a cake walk with just a little of this and a little of that. Now I know that there is a great deal that goes into starting a business. You will be stretched thin, and your faith will be tested, but you have to know that it is a process and that however long the road; you can travel to the end.
Specifically with SD, once the groundwork was laid we hired an intern; two weeks later the intern quit. But that didn't stop us, we posted on intern wanted sites to find a new one. One of the manufacturers we used proved to be substandard. This drove us into overtime to find a new manufacturer with better quality and a cheaper price. The day of our first photo shoot which was the very last day we could have it in order to meet our deadline, there was a torrential down pour. We had to dodge in and out of the rain to find sparks of sunlight and ultimately the day was a success.
What advice would you give to somebody else who wanted to start a similar business?
Honestly there is a great deal of work and planning involved in starting a business but if you are serious you have to dive in. There are too many people that sit around and wait and once they are ready it is too late.
Thanks for your time, Sheree. It sounds like you and your partners are off to an exciting start!