It is important to set clear goals, with attainable milestones. — Setting goals helps me to stay grounded. Setting clear and detailed goals with defined milestones (to measure the failure or success of our work) insures gradual progression. This helps me to not get overwhelmed.
As a part of our series about entrepreneurs who transformed something they did for fun into a full-time career, I had the pleasure of interviewing Izzy Spears.
Izzy Spears is an entrepreneur, content creator and marketing professional. She can always be found rocking a fro paired with a red lip, while sipping on a coffee. As the owner and creative director of PaSH Inc., a digital marketing and creative agency, Izzy has taken her passion for body positivity and self-love and turned it into a career.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a bit about your “childhood backstory”?
Sure, as a child I was always “keeping busy”. My earliest memories are of me trying to “create”. I would play “toy factory” with my sister. This game involved me making toys for us to manufacture from items we found around the house. I remember always being curious, asking questions and trying to invent things. Something that has never left my personality is the desire to own a business. As a child I would decorate and organize my relatives’ homes. The items they would discard would then be sold in my backyard store, which was essentially a yard sale. When I got tired of that, I began selling stickers and trinkets. I feel I was slowly evolving as a young entrepreneur; laying the foundation for who I am today. As I got older, I made pillows and sold those to family and friends. The creative entrepreneur has always lived inside of me.
What was the catalyst from transforming your hobby or something you love into a business? Can you share the story of your “ah ha” moment with us?
Absolutely! My ah ha moment was in one of my undergraduate business classes. Everything my professor was saying was everything I needed to hear. His class essentially connected the dots for me. I remember sitting in class telling myself, “You can do this. You can take the leap and start a business.”
There are no shortage of good ideas out there, but people seem to struggle in taking a good idea and translating it into an actual business. How did you overcome this challenge?
Honestly, when it comes to taking an idea and expounding on it for it to grow into a business; practice makes perfect. Unless you have a solid team of seasoned veterans that have a blueprint (most of us don’t) then the path is typically the same, trial and error. You read, study and educate yourself on best practices of business and with time you become better and better. I learned the fundamentals of business while in college. I also mirrored the business practices of some of my previous employers. Overall, my best teacher was jumping in and testing the water. Making mistakes has taught me what works and what doesn’t. My first business was abandoned for my second business and my third business found success due to my failures (which are really successes) from my first two businesses. Each time I learned, I grew and became better. With all the skill and knowledge I have acquired, I can start my first business again and have it up and running within a fraction of the time and a fraction of the cost (money and effort). That is why people say hindsight is 20/20.
What advice would you give someone who has a hobby or pastime that they absolutely love but is reluctant to do it for a living?
My advice for anyone who has a hobby or pastime that they love but hesitate to do it as a living would be to take baby steps. Entrepreneurship is hard work, clocking in and out at a job is hard work as well. Having a plan and taking baby steps is always a good place to start. If you require a bit more meat on the bones of this advice, I would take it one step further by saying resources are number one. Do you have money saved for living expenses? Do you have means of investing in the business (time, money, supplies)? Are you in a balanced space (mentaly, physically, spiritually, emotionally)? All the previously mentioned aspects of your personal life will definitely play a role in the success or failure of your business.
It’s said that the quickest way to take the fun out of doing something is to do it for a living. How do you keep from changing something you love into something you dread? How do you keep it fresh and enjoyable?
The motivation to keep growing my business comes from within. I believe in the business and I believe in myself. But, I will say, it is important to write down your “why”. Having your “why” as well as your goals written down, in an easily accessible place. will keep you focused and grounded. Personally, I have a love and passion for the work that I do. I absolutely believe that once the love and passion leaves then the enjoyment will leave as well. Unfortunately, the moment that happens, I will know it is time to move onto something else.
What is it that you enjoy most about running your own business? What are the downsides of running your own business? Can you share what you did to overcome these drawbacks?
In regards to running my business, I enjoy having the ability to use a wide range of my skills. I am a creative, an analytical thinker and a problem solver. Some of the downsides of running a business include: a lot of pressure, not always having all the answers and learning to have patience. Overcoming these obstacles became easier overtime. In all honesty, the pressure of having a business doesn’t ever disappear. Building a team of people you can trust, implementing scalable processes and controlling expenses will always alleviate a ton of pressure. Regarding not having all the answers, this part depends on your personality as an entrepreneur. For me, I am always reading, always asking questions and also, I am always willing to take risks. Lastly, patience is a virtue. I am excited about my business, but I also get very impatient. I understand that things don’t happen overnight. Consequently, I have to remind myself that no empire was built overnight, quite often.
Can you share what was the most striking difference between your actual job and how you thought the job would be?
One of the most striking differences between my job and what I thought it would be has to be the amount of thinking I do on a daily basis. I do more thinking than actual “labor”. I say I spend 40 to 50 % of my day thinking rather than executing on “action items”. Planning, making projections, estimating, forecasting and visiting the past are all things I do while thinking. Most of my work is done in my head. I then put my ideas, thoughts and findings into action items for the team and I to execute.
Has there ever been a moment when you thought to yourself “I can’t take it anymore, I’m going to get a “real” job? If so, how did you overcome it?
It is important to understand that owning a business and working within your business are two different things. As a business owner, especially in the early days of starting up, I worked a full time job and worked on my business in the early mornings and late evenings. Every business model does not require the owner to be present. For those that do, there is no shame or horror in working as an employee within your business and working a full time or part time business simultaneously. Overall, balance is key. The business needs capital and you as a person needs capital to live, eat and for some, raise a family. Do what works for you, do what moves you forward at a reasonable pace.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
Regarding mistakes made within the business, I can’t isolate one “mistake” I made in terms of an action, but I can tell you a “mistake” I made in terms of the way I was thinking. I made the mistake of thinking I had to be perfect inorder to grow. I made the mistake of thinking I had to mirror my competitors (even though I did not have the resources they did). I let my fear and lack of perfection hold me back. Once I changed my way of thinking, everything else changed, for the better.
Who has inspired or continues to inspire you to be a great leader? Why?
I have always had the drive to become a leader, but it is my son who has given me the “permission” to do so. I know the type of world I would like to live in, but my son inspires me to push hard to get there. I couldn’t live with myself knowing I didn’t work hard to make the world a better place for him.
How have you used your success to make the world a better place?
It is my intention to make a positive impact and make the world a better place… I strongly believe in using my voice and my platforms to shine positive light on people of color, reduce the impact of stereotypes and give people the resources and encouragement they need to follow their dreams. I am a plus-sized, black woman, rocking her natural hair, working in a career that doesn’t have a lot of people that look like me.
What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started” and why? (Please share a story or example for each.)
Five things I wish someone told me before me before I started my business would be:
- It is important to set clear goals, with attainable milestones. — Setting goals helps me to stay grounded. Setting clear and detailed goals with defined milestones (to measure the failure or success of our work) insures gradual progression. This helps me to not get overwhelmed.
- Mentorship is important — Finding a mentor helped me find balance. A mentor is there for advice, support and because a mentor is typically a seasoned veteran with more experience, a mentor helped me avoid costly mistakes. This mentor may not be the same person your entire career.
- Finding your tribe is important — Once I found a group of like minded individuals my world no longer felt so big and lonely. I now had a group of people that I could network with, ask questions and communicate with on a regular basis. Facebook groups or professional organizations are a great place to start.
- Success does not look the same for everyone — Realizing that each and every business is different helped me to understand what success looks like for my business. What are our goals, what are the action items that we need to execute to move us to our next lever? I had to stop worrying about what external parties may deem successful and define what success looks like for us.
- Build a team — Building a team is something that changed the game for me. At first, I felt like I had to do it all myself. Honestly, I don’t know exactly where I got this notion, but it was my impression that I was not “legit” unless I could wear all the hats within my business. As we grew, I quickly realized the opposite. It became clear that I needed to surround myself with people that could support me, my dreams and my vision.
What person wouldn’t want to work doing something they absolutely love. You are an incredible inspiration to a great many people. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger.
There are many passion projects I dream of executing, long term. A few include housing, healthcare, the criminal justice system and helping youth in lower income areas. As a society, we have so much work to do. Although we don’t live in an utopia, I would love to tackle some of the day to day issues a lot of the people living in this country face. One example is housing. I have a dream to create modern, comfortable and most importantly, affordable housing for families, especially single mothers. Another issue I would love to tackle is the lack of resources and opportunity for youth in lower income communities.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
One day my son came home and told me his teacher uttered the phrase, “You get what you get and you can’t pitch a fit.” At first I was annoyed, then I began to appreciate the premise. Life deals everyone a different hand. You can’t control the hand you are dealt. But, you can make the most of the hand you have. Life is not fair, nor will it ever be. Personally, I try to counter the fact that life is not fair as much as possible by helping others, reaching back and creating opportunities for others. Especially people of color, women and other marginalized groups.
We are very blessed that some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them.
I would love to have lunch with Marcus Lemonis. I love watching his show, “The Profit”. I admire his ability to grow and scale businesses. I also admire his transparency and wit when it comes to identifying pain points within a business..
Thank you for these fantastic insights. We greatly appreciate the time you spent on this.