Trust. Trust in the magic and order of the Universe. If you are on your purpose and doing what you are meant to do, doors open. Be sure your business is from your heart then scream it from the rooftops. Do not be shy. YOU are the expert and the world will reward you.
Being a founder, entrepreneur, or a business owner can have many exciting and thrilling moments. But it is also punctuated with periods of doubt, slump, and anxiety. So how does one successfully and healthily ride the highs and lows of Entrepreneurship? In this series, called “How To Successfully Ride The Emotional Highs & Lows Of Being An Entrepreneur” we are talking to successful entrepreneurs who can share stories from their experience. I had the pleasure of interviewing Elizabeth Taylor.
A California native inspired by the beaches of Miami, former plus size model Elizabeth Taylor knew there was something missing in the swimwear market. She found herself longing for the luxury swimsuits that her smaller size friends were wearing and decided to take the leap of faith and self fund her own line: Curvy Beach.
After a viral video on Facebook reached 12 million views, her first stock of 100 bikinis sold out in 24 hours and she changed the entire fashion industry.
Combining her passion for 80’s vintage silhouettes and the fit expertise of a garment industry pro, Curvy Beach has grown so rapidly that in 2019 Elizabeth quit modeling to run it full time. She relocated to Miami and is living her dream of helping women love their bodies.
Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dive in, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your ‘backstory’ and how you got started?
My pleasure! I am from California, but had clocked almost 20 years in NYC going to NYU drama school and then becoming a plus size model. I was told by a big acting agent, “You are too pretty to be the fat girl and too fat to be the pretty girl”. I was devastated and took up a friend’s advice to start plus size modeling. My career came fast and furious, focusing more on ‘fit modeling’ where I was used as a live mannequin of sorts. I worked in showrooms and ‘behind the scenes’ of the fashion industry.
What was the “Aha Moment” that led to the idea for your current company? Can you share that story with us?
One freezing winter I came down to Miami (I had never been before) and was blown away with all the curvy women on the beach wearing the skimpiest bikinis I had ever seen. I thought I was so cutting edge with all of the sexy swimwear I had been given by the companies I model for, but it paled in comparison to a simple, black string bikini that women of all shapes and sizes were wearing strolling down Miami Beach.
Through my incredible connections in the garment industry, a pattern maker at a client casually said to me, “I’ll make your pattern”. BOOM! She not only made the pattern but introduced me to my American factory. I made 100 suits and they sat in my living room. Then we had the magic moment of a viral Facebook video, they sold out overnight and I have been “running and gunning” ever since. This was in June 2017.
In your opinion, were you a natural born entrepreneur or did you develop that aptitude later on? Can you explain what you mean?
Great question. I think I have always been an over the top control freak person which I do feel goes along with running a business. It has been a wild ride as you say, controlling my emotions. I remember getting my first return and I burst into tears. I took it so, so personal! My dad, who passed away also that year in a cruel twist of fate, said to me, “Everything in life is hard — you will make it, I know you will”. So I kept rolling, definitely in his honor.
Was there somebody in your life who inspired or helped you to start your journey with your business? Can you share a story with us?
Yes, 100% this is my mentor, Michele. She went to FIT (NYC’s premier fashion school) in the 80’s and is one of the last old school pattern makers in the industry today. Incredibly generous, like the Italian mother I never had — she not only made my first pattern (and does to this day!) but introduced me to my factory (also the same factory I have to this day) and comforted me when I was a mess.
Going viral is a true ‘once in a lifetime moment’ but the demands and stress are off the charts. I suddenly had to make 1,000’s of bikinis in the middle of the summer and my factory simply could not handle it. I would freak out and cry — Michele would say to me, ‘You are a CEO now — CEOs do not cry. Let’s try this solution.’ ‘But Michele, they said ‘no’! What am I gonna do??’ Cool and calm, Michele would say, ‘There are no ‘no’s, only different solutions’. I think of that daily.
What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
This doesn’t sound as wild as it is, but you would be surprised: we use the same size model as the clothing she is wearing. For example, since we exploded a lot of companies are using plus size models (women I know personally!) in their advertising but they are squeezing them into size Large. A 2x model in a Large bikini?! It’s irresponsible and obvious tokenism. We pride ourselves in using the correct size model in the correct size bikini! And thus, it results in sales as the customer can ‘see herself’ in the bikini.
You are a successful business leader. Which three character traits do you think were most instrumental to your success? Can you please share a story or example for each?
1)Transparency — When my father passed away in the height of our viral year insanity, I was very honest and told the customers about it. I clearly remember one customer saying to me: “Until you spoke about your father passing away, I thought you were just a celebrity like Kylie Jenner who had made a swimwear line.” I will never forget that!
2)Obsession — I will stay up until 4 in the morning working on our website until it’s perfect and sending customer photos and videos on how to make the product fit perfectly. I have literally been driving on a busy street, pulled over, sent a customer photos and then got back on the road!
3)Joy — Friends make fun of me, but I literally send happy selfies to the customers when they send me their photos! It’s SUCH a hard thing for women to share photos of themselves, especially in a bikini. So I always send a silly selfie back to assure them and it’s truly my pleasure!
Often leaders are asked to share the best advice they received. But let’s reverse the question. Can you share a story about advice you’ve received that you now wish you never followed?
Great question! I have been told by even very close friends what sizes/prints/styles to make and they bombed. I should always trust my gut! Especially with clothing when there is such a financial commitment to picking the fabric and production, the ‘Founders Vision’ should always stay pure. Or you end up with items that you can’t get rid off — even with a major sale!
Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them create a work culture in which employees thrive and do not “burn out” or get overwhelmed?
I truly feel burning out and getting overwhelmed is part and parcel of running a business. And only then are you able to open your mind and seek help. But it’s a vicious cycle, because once you accept ‘help’ you spend all your time explaining to that person what to do. Ha! And this is my first year with one employee so I cannot speak for them but I can only say, training, training and more training. Sadly a lot of the training comes when it’s ‘go time’ and there is little time to learn. So I have learned this year, as always, to say “I’m sorry” and do my best to listen to what the employee needs.
What would you advise other business leaders to do in order to build trust, credibility, and Authority in their industry?
Paying your bills on time, being polite but firm and as always, saying “I’m sorry” and “I need help”.
Can you help articulate why doing that is essential today?
Other business owners need to know you are reliable and consistent. It always comes back to you! I have had to ask favors from people I started relationships with over 5 years ago and I always think, “Thank goodness I paid all those bills on time and was as nice as I could be. They really helped me out today”. I also now have full and total compassion for other business owners so I try to be as understanding as possible.
What are the most common mistakes you have seen CEOs & founders make when they start a business? What can be done to avoid those errors?
They do not listen to advice! It’s amazing. I have a few friends who have started their own business. I give them advice based on what I have learned and I am truly shocked when they don’t. It’s a case of “You can bring the horse to water.s.” What could be done is accepting that you feel uncomfortable but taking advice from those you trust. If I had not done that, I would not be where I am today!
Ok fantastic. Thank you for those excellent insights, Let’s now shift to the main focus of our interview about How to Successfully Ride The Emotional Highs & Lows Of Being An Entrepreneur. The journey of an entrepreneur is never easy, and is filled with challenges, failures, setbacks, as well as joys, thrills and celebrations. This might be intuitive, but I think it will be very useful to specifically articulate it. Can you describe to our readers why no matter how successful you are as an entrepreneur, you will always have fairly dramatic highs and lows? Particularly, can you help explain why this is different from someone with a “regular job”?
The highs and lows are literally indescribable. It’s truly because and I say this 100% honestly: it’s all your fault. Production takes longer because you took months to design new styles? Your fault. Customer got the wrong product because you put the wrong SKU on the bag? Your fault. Alternatively: the successes are through the roof. A 50,000 dollars day in sales because you are on The Today Show? All you! A customer email about how she had an amazing honeymoon because of your bikini? All you!
This is different from a ‘regular job’ because you take the stress home with you. Woo hoo! Sleepless nights, tears, all of it. You also have no consistency but when it rains, it pours.
Do you feel comfortable sharing a story from your own experience about how you felt unusually high and excited as a result of your business? We would love to hear it.
Of course! A high was meeting all my customers at ‘Curvy Beach Swim Week’ in 2019. Hugging them and seeing their beautiful faces made it all crystal clear that it IS real — a real business! As I was balancing my regular modeling job, it took me a long time to truly accept this was my life. So that moment will always stick in my brain.
On the flip side, stepping out of a pool and realizing my ‘white bikini’ was see through but production was already on it’s way to the warehouse and bracing myself for angry customer emails was a true, tearful nightmare. Also, not understanding production and getting hit with a 13,000 dollars bill from my factory and having to sit down in Bryant Park, NYC and cry staring at my phone also is a memory I would like to forget.
Ok super. Here is the main question of our interview. What are your “Five Things You Need To Successfully Ride The Emotional Highs & Lows Of Being An Entrepreneur”? Please share a story or an example for each.
- The Phrase “I’m Sorry”. Nothing resolves conflict or an uncomfortable moment as a sincere I’m sorry. Hard part is: You have to mean it!
- A Mentor. Mentors are there for you: so listen to them! Don’t let ego get in the way of someone who has been there before you and knows what they are talking about. Be a good student!
- Compassion. Especially for a swimwear company owner: everyone is unhappy with their body in some way. Be compassionate and kind and you will have a customer for life!
- Phone Down! Learn to let off steam and have FUN. Don’t get so obsessed (ha ha) with your business it becomes a burden. Remember you quit your day job to have this dream one. Put your phone down for a few hours and zone out.
- Trust. Trust in the magic and order of the Universe. If you are on your purpose and doing what you are meant to do, doors open. Be sure your business is from your heart then scream it from the rooftops. Do not be shy. YOU are the expert and the world will reward you.
We are living during challenging times and resilience is critical during times like these. How would you define resilience? What do you believe are the characteristics or traits of resilient people?
I agree. I would say resilience is as my father said, “Sustained hope is greater than any realized dream”. You must know all things are possible. That to me, is resilience. So a hopeful person, a hard working person and someone who can ride the waves of life.
Did you have any experiences growing up that have contributed to building your resiliency? Would you mind sharing a story?
I would say my father’s 35 years of sobriety, and no relapses, in Alcoholics Anonymous have shown me that although hard, being resilient and knowing you are on your right path is the only way. He was even in a hit and run a few years before his death, a terrible one breaking both of his legs, and he told the doctors he did not want any opiates for pain so he could maintain his sobriety. He learned to walk again and did up until the day he passed away.
In your opinion, do you tend to keep a positive attitude during difficult situations? What helps you to do so?
Honestly, I remember the good times, the glory. I have another mentor in the garment industry (former CEO of Maidenform) and the day of one of Curvy Beach’s new launches, I said: “Ugh, I’m nervous”. He said, “Don’t be. Success breeds success.” And dammit, if we didn’t sell out again that day!
Can you help articulate why a leader’s positive attitude can have a positive impact both on their clients and their team? Please share a story or example if you can.
Of course! It’s like being a coach of a sports team. If YOU don’t believe in your business, no one else will, especially your employees. So I have ‘hype up moments’ where I turn on some 80’s booty bass and we jump around my apartment (our office) for a few minutes then simmer back down and get to work.
Alternately, I am blessed with an amazing employee who can pump ME up when I need it after a production issue or something that has gotten me down. She can see the whole picture while I am stuck in the details.
Ok. Super. We are nearly done. What is your favorite inspirational quote that motivates you to pursue greatness? Can you share a story about how it was relevant to you in your own life?
“Let go or be dragged” was said to me also by my amazing employee, Megan Stancill. I was juggling my modeling career along with running Curvy Beach and it became a nightmare. I was sending emails in between modeling jobs, in changing rooms, in bathroom stalls, taking phone calls on busy NYC streets with traffic in my ear. So of course, we had bills for 14K dollars I had no idea what for!
So taking that quote to heart was a major changing point for me and I encourage all other CEOs/founders who are in a, “Should I take a leap of faith?” to be like another favorite success story of mine, and “just do it!”
How can our readers further follow you online?
This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for the time you spent with this. We wish you continued success and good health!