26_Barley-Birch

Forever Learning! Never Smart Enough!

Posted on August 19, 2014

Regardless of where you are in your career as a student / entrepreneur it is imperative to keep a learning mind. We’ve seen it firsthand in our generation’s ability to embrace the internet: one day there is a Facebook  and the next there is a Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest. We quickly adapt to it because of one reason – we want to figure it out!

In the same manner (in our businesses) we have to quickly figure things out. There’s a quote that I live by: “if you keep running, the competition will bite you. If you stand still, the competition will swallow you!” Most of us young entrepreneurs don’t have the capital or experience to compete effectively with established competition. But we do have something innate in our generation – we learn quickly!

I founded my company after doing  a summer research internship in Washington, D.C. Working for a quaint boutique, I was looking into whether or not companies claimed to have organic or green products and taking a deeper look into their supply chain. What I found was very discouraging! I learnt that most brands were making false claims about their products and making money doing it. The clothing that the brands had claimed to be organic had many heavy metals and harsh chemicals that linked to various skin conditions. Instead of sitting back, instead of complaining about my discovery, I decided to create a solution to give the consumer an alternative to these brands…and like them, make money from it!

The need in the market was obvious to me. Although I had no knowledge of and experience in the clothing and textile industry, I knew that I could figure things out along the way. I  dove in and taught herself the means to a great company, which would be accountable to both its customers and the environment. I let my missteps guide me and I committed to finding out what I didn’t know. For example: regardless of my good credit standing, banks refused to give me the loan I required for capital. I couldn’t allow the “no’s” determine whether or not I proceed with the idea. So, I looked for alternative means for funding and found micro-financing institutions.

Understanding that I didn’t know enough, I began to surrounded myself  with talent in areas where I was lacking, like fashion experience, to bring her clothing idea to life. I worked with someone with design experience and a web-developer. It took two people, a solution to a problem and a small cash injection to get the idea off the ground.

I think the greatest challenge I experienced, yet, was finding a way to work through the hesitation of stores to carry my stock. You can imagine the level of second guessing myself I began to experience: there was a problem which I created a solution for, check! I found my team, check! Banks refused to give me money but I got it elsewhere, check! We created an organic yet stylish brand that we believed had the opportunity to compete in the market … yet no one else believed in it, enough to stock it.

To overcome this, I recognised the power of referrals. I used the blog world to get attention for the brand. I informed the market about the products and gave the first users specials and discounts for trying the brand. I knew that by creating an unexpected experience for the first customers, I would be empowering them to market my company well. And they did. Before long, stores were coming to me to carry the brand.

Experience has taught me that there is always a plan b. Always. There is always hope – just be teachable.

Kyle Smitley

President: Barley & Birch