Find your passion. — It is hard to be resilient when you don’t believe in what you are doing. Sometimes when tested, especially under tremendous pressure, it allows us to reflect on our current situation and forces change. It’s a cliche, but life is too short to do something you don’t care about. Find your passion or find passion in what you do, and no matter what happens, you will be able to flex, bend, and adapt.
In this interview series, we are exploring the subject of resilience among successful business leaders. Resilience is one characteristic that many successful leaders share in common, and in many cases it is the most important trait necessary to survive and thrive in today’s complex market.
I had the pleasure of interviewing fashion designer and product startup expert Jacqueline Snyder. Jacqueline and her business partner, Minna Khounlo-Sithep, are the combined force behind The Product Boss coaching platform and podcast. They have grown a community of high-achieving product-based small business owners and have helped them scale their physical product businesses through masterminds, group coaching and digital courses designed specifically for product-based business owners ranging from start-up conception to multi-million dollar companies. Together their goal is to change the landscape of product entrepreneurship by connecting women around the world through a blend of real-life business tactics, creative strategy and modern leadership.
Thank you so much for joining us! Our readers would love to get to know you a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your backstory?
Minna and I have been entrepreneurs since our early 20’s and have each owned multiple businesses.
I am a fashion designer and business strategist. I am the founder and CEO of Designer Consulting Co-Op. I have over 13 years of coaching over 2,000 start-up fashion apparel and accessory brands, and even launched my brand of accessories, Cuffs Couture, in 2008.
My business partner Minna Khounlo-Sithep has over 15 years of entrepreneurial experience. She has her MBA and is the owner of Lil’ Labels, where she sells waterproof daycare labels. Lil’ Labels currently sells on multiple platforms, including Amazon, Walmart, and Jet. Minna is an Amazon expert and has helped many fellow business owners start and grow on Amazon.
We met online and started a business before we ever met in person. But our origin story is not what you would expect. While stuck in LA traffic and listening to my favorite business podcast, I began contemplating how I would liquidate inventory of an accessory brand of mine that had many successful years before fizzling out. The podcast host mentioned Minna’s name and stated that Minna, a successful business owner that sold her products on Amazon, could potentially be an Amazon expert and teach others what she knew IF she ever wanted to be a business coach. I reached out to Minna the next day after searching for her on Facebook, and we set up a virtual coffee date.
Entrepreneurship is lonely, and we quickly realized we spoke the same “love language,” which was business (specifically product-based business) and began talking every day. We supported each other as we both navigated running our companies and juggling our families as we are both mothers.
We realized a considerable gap in the market through the hours of business-related conversations we would have. As avid podcast listeners, we found ourselves listening to service-based business podcasts and tried to convert their advice and relate it to product-based businesses. We had each other to learn from, but what about everyone else? In a sea of service-based business podcasts, we decided we would create The Product Boss Podcast.
Can you share with us the most interesting story from your career? Can you tell us what lessons or ‘takeaways’ you learned from that?
We attended an in-person business retreat back in 2019. We signed up for the event because a leader in our industry would be there as the keynote speaker, and we would get direct access to her by attending. We did not anticipate the incredible group of fellow online business owners that would be there and ultimately changed our business course, and thereby our lives. Not only did we meet the keynote speaker a year later, but we would also be one of her “student success stories” and featured on her website and podcast.
But at that event, we figured out three things that would change the course of our business. We realized that our business could grow to a multi-million dollar company, a number we had never considered before. We decided to build our first online course explicitly geared to helping product-based business owners grow their revenue, and we met and hired the marketing team that would help our company scale quickly.
So our most significant takeaway is that if you put yourself out there, take risks, and try new things, unexpected, marvelous things will happen.
What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
The Product Boss Stands out because there are very few coaches, courses, and podcasts created explicitly for small product-based business owners and the struggles they face as they grow from solopreneur to CEO.
A story that stands out is a recent one…about six weeks after the global shutdown in March, we received and a message from Jessica, a candle maker, and couples counselor. Jessica’s counseling business had to shut down due to the pandemic, and she needed to find a way to continue contributing to her family financially. Jessica had a small side hustle candle business, and when she had to close her practice, she decided to lean into her candle company. Jessica was a podcast listener and started to implement what we taught on the podcast and became a student in one of our digital courses. In about six weeks, Jessica made four figures a week by selling her candles online and wrote to us to thank us for helping her and her family survive and thrive during the pandemic. We realized the impact we were genuinely making by supporting business owners, like Jessica, especially in a year like 2020.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?
I’m grateful for Minna and I know she’s grateful for me after all we’ve been through. Now that is not to take away from all of the beautiful, incredibly smart, and talented people that have helped us get here. But finding each other, being a part of this partnership, is genuinely rooted from a place of uplifting and supporting one another, and our dreams have transformed us both. We model what we hope to teach. Women supporting women. Allowing them to exist in whichever way works best for them, but always supporting each other and lifting each other.
Ok thank you for all that. Now let’s shift to the main focus of this interview. We would like to explore and flesh out the trait of resilience. How would you define resilience? What do you believe are the characteristics or traits of resilient people?
If it is fragile and you put just a little bit of pressure on it, it breaks. But something resilient can bend, flex, and adapt even when there is immense pressure.
But even something resilient can eventually break. And as business owners, especially in a year like 2020, we need to take the idea or resilience a bit further. We are personally working on and teaching our community the characteristics of becoming antifragile. Nassim Nicholas Taleb inspires this in his book, Antifragile. It is the idea that even when you break when there are obstacles, failures, mistakes, and stressors, you take what you learn to make you and your business stronger.
When you think of resilience, which person comes to mind? Can you explain why you chose that person?
Can I say the 25,000+ Product Bosses in our community? It is hard to name just one because the resilience we have seen in our community as a whole has been awe-inspiring.
We work with thousands of small business owners globally that were deeply impacted when the pandemic changed everything. Many of them were already struggling to grow their businesses, and when the world shut down, so did the retail stores, tradeshows, contractors, suppliers, and markets. The pandemic wiped out their plans, and they would need to make new plans that they had no idea how to execute or if they would work.
But our advice to them was to be resilient, even be so bold to be antifragile. Business owners would need to adapt, try something new, and keep going. And they did! Jessica is just one of many examples of the the business owner success stories we’ve seen come out of these hardships. Not only did she survive, but really is truly thriving.
Has there ever been a time that someone told you something was impossible, but you did it anyway? Can you share the story with us?
As children of the ’80s, we grew up believing women could do anything….but while people said those things, there were very few women in our lives modeling that for us. My mother told me she could not follow her dreams of going to art school or having a business because she chose to raise her children. It was an either-or for her. Minna’s mother had to work, so her grandmother raised her and her sisters. It was an either-or for her as well. We did not have many examples of women who worked or ran businesses that could be career-focused and mothers. We wanted to have it all.
We are trying to model for our own families, children, and community that we can be mothers who volunteer at our kids’ schools, run two successful companies, and cultivate our relationships with our husbands, all while practicing self-care. But we are throwing away the concept of “having it all.”
What does that even mean? Having it all means we are comparing to someone else’s “all.” Instead, we are discovering what is possible for each of us, individually, when it comes to balancing relationships, self-care, children, and business. It is messy and imperfect. Somedays, we will feel like we are winning at business, and sometimes we will be the mom of the year. But we also allow those days to feel like we are dropping the ball on all of it. But we get back up, we learn, we adapt, and we keep going.
Did you have a time in your life where you had one of your greatest setbacks, but you bounced back from it stronger than ever? Can you share that story with us?
Hello, 2020. We all had such huge plans and expectations for 2020. And three months in, all of it changed. This was going to be the first year we hit our first seven figures in revenue. We had our ideal team, our strategy, and our course launch plan ready to go. And then, during our first launch of the year, the world shut down. Suddenly our course seemed irrelevant, our strategies for a world that no longer existed. We panicked. What would we do?
So we did what we knew best, we leaned into our community. We showed up for our community every day, encouraging them to keep going. We came up with creative and alternative ways to keep selling their products and transition to working from home. We knew that the best way to get in front of their customers was to show up on video using social media. We built a brand new course called The Survival Kit Course Bundle, which helped product-based business owners get their businesses online, even without a website. We created a course in four weeks and launched it with the tools we thought would help other businesses survive.
We didn’t know if it would work, but we knew we had to do something to help. And as the year went on, that would be our driving force. Show up for our community, support them in education, and use our platform to shine a light on them.
We stayed focused as we remained adaptable and flexible and kept showing up. At the beginning of Q4 2020, we hit our seven-figure goal. But the craziest part was that while we were proud of hitting a revenue goal, we could have never imagined the impact our community would have on us. Their stories of resilience and antifragility helped us realize a greater purpose. Now we knew our platform could reach an even bigger audience than we ever thought possible before.
Did you have any experiences growing up that have contributed to building your resiliency? Can you share a story?
I moved so many times as a child that I attended seven different elementary schools! As a kid, making new friends over and over again is quite daunting, especially as you get older. I would say that my ability to adapt to new environments and new people helped me learn resilience. I wouldn’t say I liked it when I was a kid, but now I realize that having to adapt constantly truly made me stronger.
Resilience is like a muscle that can be strengthened. In your opinion, what are 5 steps that someone can take to become more resilient? Please share a story or an example for each.
Step 1: Find your passion.
It is hard to be resilient when you don’t believe in what you are doing. Sometimes when tested, especially under tremendous pressure, it allows us to reflect on our current situation and forces change. It’s a cliche, but life is too short to do something you don’t care about. Find your passion or find passion in what you do, and no matter what happens, you will be able to flex, bend, and adapt.
Step 2: Practice the “What Ifs.”
We all have fears, founded and unfounded, reasonable and unreasonable, but they are fears nonetheless. When you start to go down the road of confronting, your fears ask yourself, “what if?” And then answer that with a solution. For example…
What if my retail store shuts down?
Answer: I will get my business online.
What if no one finds me online?
Answer: I will ask my friends and family to share.
And you keep answering your “what if” questions until you face your fears and realize you have options.
Step 3: Create Opportunities
Step 2 helps you face fears and start to come up with ideas for options. Step 3 is to create opportunities for yourself. We tell our business owners that being scrappy and creative will set them apart. Being a business owner is already such a courageous feat that they have all the skills they need to create new options and new opportunities for themselves. They started a business from scratch and they can do this, too!
Step 4: Try and Try again
As Thomas Edison famously said, “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.” The same goes for life and business; it is all one big experiment — perseverance, trial, and error. If you keep at it, you will find the thing that works!
Step 5: Be like Silly Putty.
Business and life can change quickly. But if you are like Silly Putty, you can bend, stretch, and transform as needed. Silly Putty can even be pulled apart and snap. But you can always put it back together. Believe in your ability to create endless options and opportunities, and know you have the ability to execute them all.
You are a person of great influence. 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. 🙂
I would say that the 2020 setback we had in March led us to create a movement! We founded the Shop 1 in 5™ Pledge. It’s a commitment to make 1 in 5 of your purchases from a small business, online or “offline.” It’s a way to make an impact together where (and when) it matters most.
We wanted to make it easy to discover small product-based businesses to buy from, especially this gift-giving holiday season! So we created a directory of small product-based companies from our community that you can shop right now. The Small Biz Shopping Directory will help you commit to your pledge as you commit to purchasing 1 in 5 of your purchases from a small business. This directory is full of almost 600 online shops with everything from toys, bath and body, home, and jewelry. Imagine a holiday gift market all bundled up and delivered to you to shop from and share about easily. Shop 1 in 5™ of your gifts right here. You may get ALL of your holiday shopping done!
We are blessed that some very prominent leaders 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, especially if we tag them 🙂
I would love to have a meal with Oprah Winfrey. Why? Because she is the ultimate embodiment of antifragility and perseverance. As a woman, she has led the way for so many other women and she has shown us what is possible. And with her influence and fame, she has always used it for the good of others. She shines her light on others helping to lift up as many people as possible. But what I really want to know is what does she say to herself or do when she is feeling down? How does Oprah pick herself back up to keep forging through?
How can our readers follow you on social media?
Please follow us @TheProductBoss if you want support to grow your business and want to discover small businesses to shop from, plus you can take the Shop 1 in 5™ Pledge by following us at @Shop1in5. They can also check out specifics on our new programs at TheProductBoss.com.