Leah has such a positive, welcoming energy and every time I am with her I get so inspired! I loved her responses to the questions that are in part 2 of her interview. Enjoy!
Tell us a bit about the Inner Fire community and how they support you, and each other.
When I started this company, it was mainly a creative outlet and I wasn’t really thinking about the kinds of people it would attract. Pretty quickly, I realized that it was connecting me to some really awesome people in the yoga community and beyond. It certainly takes a village. I really couldn’t have done it without the support of colleagues, mentors, staff, collaborators, ambassadors, customers and countless other allies. When I started my ambassador program, I initially thought that what I was gaining was promotion and marketing perks. Little did I know that what I had gained as actually a community of like-minded, passionate individuals. Being the hub of that community has made me very proud to be able to facilitate countless meaningful connections that would have otherwise never existed had I never created a platform to bring them together.
What are some of the biggest lessons you've learned since starting your own business? Do you have any tips for any aspiring entrepreneurs?
1) PERFECT IS THE ENEMY OF GOOD
Before I started my own business, I used to be a perfectionist. When I worked in corporate marketing, I would spend hours planning out the perfect strategy. When I taught yoga, I would plan out each class meticulously ahead of time. I had a tendency to make sure I was in control of every situation. Once I dove into the world of entrepreneurship, I no longer had the luxury of that extra time. I was forced to operate in a mode where I couldn’t strive for perfection. There were simply not enough hours in the day to get everything done. I had to allow myself to throw stuff out there before I felt ready, which initially made me feel very uncomfortable. I remember the first website I built out was absolutely hideous, but I had to publish it anyway because I needed it to apply for some shows I wanted to do. The first few shirts I printed had some minor imperfections, but I didn’t want to waste a perfectly good shirt, so I sold it anyway. The first product photos were done on my phone, because I didn’t have the budget to get a pro to do it or buy a better camera. I knew nothing about fashion design when I started making my own leggings. So without even realizing it, I was getting out of my own way by embracing the philosophy of “good enough”. This helped me progress quickly and get my stuff out there. By having it out in the world, I was able to get the valuable feedback I needed to improve and move forward from there.
2) YOUR STORY MATTERS
Looking back, one of the main reasons why I think I have been able to experience success with my business is because I began by telling my story. The company started when I was on medical leave after I had emergency surgery to remove a large ovarian cyst in my belly. That event was a catalyst that led me on a completely new life path to pursue my creative passions, so it seemed natural to build my brand around my own experiences and values. This allowed the brand to grow in an authentic and organic way. Often people feel the need to be validated through followers or likes (or attention in general), but what creates true validation is when others are touched by what you do. They feel inspired to make a change in their lives because you had the courage to tell your story and create an impact. This is much harder to quantify and measure, but it makes up the unseen core of the business. This in turn contributes to quantifiable measures for success, such as increased sales, exposure, opportunities, etc. The secret is authenticity and communicating your “why”. What you do is far less important than why you do it. Your purpose and passion matter the most. As long as your target audience gets this, then everything else will fall into place from there.
3) COLLABORATION OVER COMPETITION
When you’re putting yourself and your ideas/creations out there for the first time, it’s hard not to feel like a small fish in a big pond. It’s so easy to compare yourself to others, or more established companies or figures who are in the same marketplace as you. When I first started doing events and festivals, I used to get in a funk when I would see another vendor doing something similar to me. I used to avoid talking to them because I saw them as some sort of enemy. Then I realized that this feeling was coming from my insecurities. My labeling of them as competition was a construct that I made up in my own head. Once I realized this, I made the decision to reach out to get to know them. Whatever assumptions I was projecting on them disappeared and I was able to see myself in them. All the same challenges, the same joys, the same victories; just on a different timeline. Once I started to relate to my competition as colleagues, then the collaborations started to happen naturally and I was able to boost my business through cross promotion. By lifting others, we rise as well. Entrepreneurship can be a lonely pursuit, so having people to relate to who know what you’re going through is truly priceless. It’s definitely saved my sanity on more than one occasion!