Lately the phrase “intuitive entrepreneurship” has been popping into my head. Perhaps these are buzzwords which are being used more often. Or perhaps, the need to employ this way of thinking is more crucial than it has been before. Letting go of old paradigms is really hard, but I guess it’s much harder when you find yourself left behind because you were afraid of change and taking a risk.
“Entrepreneurs are different. They have the ability to deal with uncertainty, to take risks and tolerate ambiguity. They usually have a personality that is mercurial, and they have highs that are really high and lows that are really low. There’s good evidence that they have strong self-confidence but also tend to be overoptimistic. They rely extensively on their own intuition.” -James V. Koch
Old Dominion University
As natural-born entrepreneurs, we are kind of wired to take risks and be rebellious. We learn really early in life what interests us and what doesn’t. This is probably why I sucked so much in school. I never understood the point. I was incredibly bored. I saw myself, my life and my future in a space that had nothing to do with anything going on in those classrooms. Life was more interesting, more intelligent and grander than the education I was getting there. I couldn’t wait to get out of school to actually create my life the way I saw it.
I think this is one trait of an entrepreneur that really stands out. If you are a natural born entrepreneur, you probably know you are a bit of a stubborn individual. You live in a bubble of your own ideas, often times feeling like you speak a different language than others. You are totally driven and would rather stay up all night planning and doing research than sleeping. And for anyone who tries to sway you from your vision, your hustle and gut instincts -well, that’s all but impossible.
I have been exercising my intuition and trend forecasting skills for a long time now. So the methods and skills I use are pretty natural to me. My career as a fashion designer has meant that using intuition, and awareness with research is vital to creating collections or pieces that are relevant. I was told in my career that, “If it didn’t scare me, I wasn’t thinking big enough”. A design manager at a company I worked for wanted us to “make him a little uncomfortable” with our designs. So taking risks has been a huge part of my life in my career and in my own entrepreneurship. And I embrace it wholeheartedly.
What exactly does it mean to be an intuitive entrepreneur? Sometimes it means taking a little time to think over and research an idea, and sometimes it means moving rapidly on an idea that sparks almost out of nowhere. With so much information being served to us on a daily basis, sometimes all we have is our intuition to go on. Taking your time on an idea just for the sake of pragmatism isn’t the wisest choice, even if it sounds wise to everyone else. If you feel deep in your gut that an idea is a hot one, I encourage you to go for it. This, in my opinion, is the purest form of intuitive business strategy, and the nature of an entrepreneur.
The ability to be creative, think on the fly and make key business decisions with little time amidst the tsunami of external information is vital. Intuition is the natural intelligence that allows us to see ahead of the curve, to generate innovative ideas, to communicate powerfully and to do so without having to study spreadsheets or gather piles of data. -Simone Wright
On more than a few occasions, I was designing 3-6 years ahead of the game. And because of that, I either hit it out of the park or swung too quickly and struck out. In 2008, a collection I worked on wasn’t market relevant, yet. Prospect Denim, a denim collection I helped create and launch in 2008, become relevant – 5 years later. In fact, every denim company launching in 2013 offered that ‘homespun, made in USA the old fashioned way’ branding message that I created for Prospect in 2008. My partner at the time had the foresight to predict the laser technologies in denim finishing long before any other mainstream denim companies were doing it. In 2007-08 I foresaw the return to the small batch, USA-made apparel roots happening before it did. Collectively, we saw the direct-to-consumer selling approach. Unfortunately for Prospect Denim in 2008, the rest of the denim world needed more time to “catch up”. We made our dent in the fashion industry with our innovative thinking and award winning website but it wasn’t enough to translate that into multi-million dollar conversions. Had we launched two years later, we would have completely crushed our competition.
Being too far ahead isn’t aways a bad thing, but timing is important.
I struck at the right time in 2009 with my first real apparel company, Berry Jane. At the time, the ‘leggings as pants’ movement was still really new. It was Berry Jane and Black Milk who were paving the way. It was hugely successful in it’s first 6 months, and by month 7, we were already on our way to multi-million dollar revenues by year 2. My only kiss of death with that brand was allowing three of the four devils of branding and the wrong partnerships to enter into the picture.
COMMITTEES (water down inspiration)
BUREAUCRACY (rules override initiative and the ability to think)
RED TAPE (not being nimble and adding layers just because we think moving slowly is somehow smarter than moving swiftly)
As a creative entrepreneur, you simply can NOT let other people into your sandbox or business before the vision (or business) is fully realized. I can’t stress that enough. Your brand and vision cannot afford to be compromised before it is fully realized. As an intuitive entrepreneur, you can seen how this will play out. Chances are, you have visualized the success of your project like no one else can. You can’t let other people change that. Most importantly, if you are going to change anything, it needs to be because you saw the areas that needed improvements or changes and you did it. Use your intuition.
Be brutally honest with yourself. This is lesson #1 in intuitive entrepreneurship.
Be OPEN to seeing, hearing and feeling when something isn’t right and quickly adjusting or tweaking areas where you feel it needs to change. If you discover that your idea simply sucks, or there is just not enough white space for your brand or business, it’s OK to adjust the sails or just fucking scrap it. Spending time beating a dead horse or living in the past keeps you in that present state: beating a dead horse that will never rise and living in the past that will not propel you forward. If you see something changing, or if the old ways of doing things aren’t working anymore, you owe it to yourself and your company to figure out why. Spend some time observing and taking it all in. Pay attention to what is going on around your space.
Ask yourself: What does this project feel like? Am I doing everything I can with it? What are the successful people doing? Where is all of this headed? As a consumer, what do I want? What does all of this feel like?
When you tune in more, you will get better at it. Take time to be alone with your thoughts and meditate. Analyze your questions and answers.
In my past experiences, I learned to strike when it felt right and to avoid big decisions if I felt hesitant. I also learned to avoid too many naysayers or partners who tried to change or complicate my flow of things. I learned how to walk away quickly from a person who felt “off”, or a project that just didn’t have the legs I thought it would have. Nor did I partner up with a person because I was desperate for funding or creative collaboration. I was not attached to the projects or brands simply because I had invested so much into them. That’s not a good enough reason to continue investing your time, your life, energy and money. If it’s a project that needs changing in order to be successful, do the necessary changes that it needs, otherwise, be OK growing it slowly or toss it. There has to be a return. If it isn’t paying you back financially or emotionally, it’s not worth it. This is another area where your intuition will not lead you astray. If it feels sucky, let it go and move on.
You have to be willing to hear and see what’s going on around you and predict what’s coming next. Where do you want to be in that game? In 2008, Tony Robbins hosted a seminar on entrepreneurship. He talked about the economy in the USA, starting a business, and how it was going to challenge all of us. He also spoke about the power of giving back and truly connecting with our clients and customers in a very personal way (through social media). If you have 30 minutes to spare, I highly recommend this video.
Anticipating is the ultimate advantage in business and in life. Be ahead of the game, don’t wait to react. Play the game. KNOW the road ahead.