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Personal Growth

Personal Growth

The Most Important Lessons I’ve Learned as a Female Entrepreneur

In my business and life, I have made it my goal to inspire other women to be their true authentic selves. Throughout my career as a fashion designer, I always thought of myself as a woman designing clothes to empower other women and that has definitely translated to my experience as a female entrepreneur. I hope my journey and experiences will help you on your own path to finding business success.

Our beliefs and experiences can guide and shape our lives. I know mine has! As a child, I always dreamed of being a fashion designer. I used to create art on my Spirograph, sewed clothes for my Barbies on my Barbie sewing machine and traced clothes over my paper dolls.

However, my dream couldn’t come to fruition until later in life. As women, we are capable of doing anything we put our minds to, but it is challenging to do it all at once. We need to define what it is we want to achieve at the specific time of our lives. During this time in my life, I was raising two little girls and working in the corporate world. I had to wait for the right time for my fashion dream.

It was my husband, in his many years of business experience, who taught me that it is not what you are willing to do but what you are willing to sacrifice. That was certainly the case for me living in New York while my family was in Toronto.

In 2010, I founded FOTINI, my New York-based fashion design house. Two years later, I was honored to showcase my first of five collections at New York Fashion Week, and later at Houston Fashion Week.

Throughout my experience, I have learned more about myself, my fears and what it means to be a successful female entrepreneur. I hope the following answers inspire your own story:

What Does Success Mean to Me?

Describing success is very personal to each human being. As a fashion designer, it is when I see real women wearing my clothes. What I dreamed of in my mind–from fabric to silhouette to fit–are produced and worn by real people. It’s also when my clients express gratitude and appreciation for the art and craftsmanship that goes into each garment. When they tell me “I feel fabulous in your clothes,” that is the ultimate reward.

In general, I believe success is when you are doing something you are passionate about. Design your life.

What’s the Best Business Advice I’ve Been Given?

Surround yourself with people who you can learn from. These are people that have more knowledge than you that could be advantageous to your business’s growth and vision. Do not be intimidated by the right type of smarter people–the ones that want to see you flourish. It is key to your success and prosperity.

Understand that you need to build a sustainable business. Be clear on your business goals, and ensure you are aligned with those who are helping or mentoring you. Stay passionate about your goal and focused.

What Are the Characteristics I Admire In Women?

Women are tenacious, courageous and generous, and we generally possess empathy. Sometimes we do have to take a step back and realize we cannot please everyone. I love a woman who owns who she is.

What Are My Best Qualities?

In simple terms, I would say I am upfront and I get my message across, but in a charismatic way. I listen to people and can connect while relaying empathy. I am disciplined, focused and driven. I’ve found that when I have applied all these attributes I’ve been able to reach my goal.

What Are My Fears?

I fear being stagnate in my own progress and being idle (except on vacation). I also fear putting limitations on myself and ever losing authenticity. In moments of adversity, I turn to physical fitness, my faith and those few people I can trust to uplift me.

What Does Luxury Mean to Me?

It’s time with those who count including making time for self-care. For me, that means enjoying snuggles with my Yorkie, Bronx.

Now that you know more about who I am and what brought me success, let me get into the most important lessons I’ve learned as a female entrepreneur:

  1. Creativity cannot be stifled unless you stop using it. Find ways to be creative and to create.
  2. Follow your common sense and intuition—This has been instrumental to my success.
  3. Don’t believe in regrets. I feel the word “regret” is negative. I prefer to think of what I could have done differently, which then becomes a life lesson. What didn’t turn out quite the way I expected or hoped for is what shaped me today. It led me down a different path—there is a reason for that. I’m a believer of “some” luck and being at the right place at the right time, but if you don’t grab the opportunities life gives you, it is meaningless. You also have to have a hand in creating your own path.
  4. Follow a personal mantra. My mantra is discipline, focus, and perseverance. Be polite when you don’t agree with something or someone, but be firm when you mean NO. Be enthusiastic and positive about what you love. Remove naysayers and be wary of the posers—not everyone may have your best interest at heart. Remove them from your life—no one has time for that. Be worthy of your life.
  5. Live your life with purpose. My business purpose is to inspire others to be their best versions of themselves—not to change them but to enhance their already beautiful selves. In a sense, I advise and consult them, and they reciprocate by being fulfilled in that area of their life. When you feel your best, it radiates onto others and is contagious. This concept came organically to me and was something I was already doing over the years without realizing it. Now it is my focus.
  6. Learn from your competitors. Competition is real and somewhat healthy if approached in the right manner. Learn from competitors, but do not try to emulate them. It won’t work! Be your authentic self and consider yourself a niche. You’re special—you’re your own brand. I personally admire people and have my style icons, but I do not want to be them.
  7. Take away something positive no matter what. People may try to take your ideas or stifle you so that your voice is not heard. There are very insecure people out there, some calling themselves industry experts. Their only way to be heard is by being either loud or unkind—they may be intimidated of your knowledge and fresh ideas. Learn from this and always look at the takeaway. Don’t repeat.
  8. Find ways to connect with others. Narcissism is somewhat in front of us. We need to put our phones down, have conversations face-to-face and really listen to others. Next time you want to thank someone, send a personal note that is handwritten. It will make someone smile.

Above all, it is important to remember to be authentic to yourself. I hope these lessons inspire you as a female to get the most out of your experience as an entrepreneur.

fotini xoxo

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Written by: Fotini Learn
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