We’ve launched Secrets of Success, a new weekly interview series here at Web.com’s Small Business Forum. I’ve asked some of the smartest, most innovative, most successful people I know to share their insights and success secrets.
Meet: Liz Lange. Liz describes herself as a “designer, author, entrepreneur, fashionista, mom.” Many American women describe her as a godsend. Her fashion-forward, yet affordable line of maternity clothes has gotten millions of women through their pregnancies. She’s also created a ready-to-wear clothing collection for HSN. Liz is involved in numerous charities and is a passionate supporter of women’s issues all over the world.
Rieva Lesonsky: What did you want to be when you grew up?
Liz Lange: A fashion designer. I always knew that I wanted to go into fashion. My childhood friends will tell you how I used to modify the uniforms at summer camp so that they would look more fashionable.
Lesonsky: Why did you start your own business?
Lange: I didn’t start out wanting my own business. I had an idea for chic, fitted, non-maternity-looking maternity clothing and couldn’t get anyone interested in doing it. After hearing repeatedly about how it wasn’t a good concept and wouldn’t work, I had to do it for myself.
Lesonsky: Did you experience a pivotal moment on your way to success?
Lange: I think the key moment was when I started noticing my friends getting pregnant and trying to fit themselves into non-maternity clothes. They were all complaining to me about not having anything to wear. It was this epiphany that they [actually] looked better in ill-fitting designer clothes than in properly-sized maternity wear.
Lesonsky: What’s the best small business advice you ever gave and/or received?
Lange: Ignore everyone. It took me a little while to understand this, but there is no better path to success than being guided by your own voice.
Lesonsky: What’s one “best practice” more entrepreneurs should be embracing?
Lange: Focusing less on the potential of a big payoff at the end of the day and more on doing what you love and on your customers. If you have a decent product and great implementation, success will come. I find that all too often, entrepreneurs are focused on the end stage rather than on how to get there.
Lesonsky: Do you have a 2014 small business prediction?
Lange: It will be both more difficult and more important to start small businesses. We live in a climate of increasing barriers to small business creation, from regulation to taxation to financing. It has always been hard to start a small business and it will only get harder. That said, there are literally hundreds of great ideas that cross my desk every day. Customers’ needs are not being met. The opportunities abound.
Lesonsky: Do you have a favorite book?
Lange: Too many to possibly mention! In terms of great entrepreneur stories, I have been particularly inspired by Phil Knight’s Just Do It; Tony Hsei’s: A Path to Happiness: A Path to Profits, Passion and Purpose; Mary Wells Lawrence’s autobiography, A Big Life In Advertising; and More Than a Pink Cadillac: Mary Kay Inc.’s Nine Leadership Keys to Success.
Lesonsky: Is there a quote you find particularly inspiring?
Lange: I recently came across this quote from Robert Kraft: “Leadership is having the courage to go against the advice of the so-called experts and do what your instinct tells you is right.” It’s very similar to the small business advice about ignoring everyone. Too often we listen to the crowd.
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