Business is about relationships- We prefer to work with people we respect and like. Show your personality and be sincere in business relationships. It is those real and sincere connections that matter. The Sharks partner with people who they want to work and spend time with, so nurture relationships in a genuine way.
As a part of my series about the ‘5 Important Business Lessons I Learned While Being On The Shark Tank’ I had the pleasure of interviewing Talia Bahr Goldfarb. Talia is the co-owner of Myself Designs, Inc, the company that invented and sells Myself Belts, a patented, one-handed belt, easy to fasten belt for children and adults. Talia grew up in Providence, RI and graduated from Williams College in 1994, with a major in Psychology, and received a Masters in Social Work from the University of Alabama in 1996. After relocating to St. Louis, she worked as a school social worker and therapist for children in foster care. Motherhood altered her professional path, as it was her son’s sagging pants that led to the invention of Myself Belts. Talia was featured on ABC’s Shark Tank Season 6 in October, 2014 and partnered with Daymond John. Myself Belts have been featured in numerous magazines such as The Huffington Post, People Magazine, US Weekly, Woman’s Day, and Forbes.com. In 2017, Talia launched Entrepreneurial Insight LLC, a consulting business that blends her training as a therapist with her entrepreneurial experience as a way to provide guidance and support to entrepreneurs.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit more. Can you tell us a bit of the backstory about how you grew up?
I grewup without any plans to be an entrepreneur. My closest thing to a business background was playing “Store” with my sister as kids. We did love that game. Ordering things and creating invoices- who knew that would be a sign of things to come! In college, I was a psychology major and was on a path to spend my professional life helping children and families in need as a social worker. Prior to creating Myself Belts, I had purchased a book about how to start a non-profit so perhaps there were little signs that I wanted to take the reins on creating something new and making an impact in the world around me.
Can you share with us the story of the “aha moment” that gave you the idea to start your company?
Myself Belts was born when I was potty training my then 2-year-old son. Without the added bulk of a diaper, his pants were loose and required a belt. I struggled to find a solution because the belts with buckles just didn’t work with his small hands, and he wanted to be independent after having mastered potty training. Also, he needed something that could be quickly undone at a moment’s notice. I discovered that there weren’t any belts on the market geared towards young children. I mentioned my frustrations to my sister, Danielle, who said “we should do something about this!” Out of this frustration (and my living room) Myself Belts’ patented one-handed, easy to fasten belt closure was born.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company?
We were thrilled when about 5 years in to the company, Madonna’s daughter was photographed in our Metallic Heart belt. It was such an exciting moment and led to some interesting lessons. First, I learned how to buy a picture from the paparazzi. Cheaper than I thought it would be! But the more interesting story was about how our interactions with our customers matter. We sent an email blast to customers with the Madonna image and received an angry response from someone who stated that Madonna was not a proper role model and that she wanted to be removed from our mailing list. Instead of just removing her, I wrote her back. I apologized for offending her, but also explained that as a mompreneur who had invented a product to keep her son’s pants up, it was wild to me that Madonna had packed our belt for a trip with her family. It was a moment that symbolized the impact of what we had created. This customer responded, apologized to me for her reaction, and said how proud she was of what we had created also. Not only did she not want to be removed from our mailing list, but she would spread the word and be a loyal and long term customer. Such an important lesson about customer service and the power of personalized customer interaction.
Can you share a story about the most humorous mistake you made when you were first starting?
When thinking about funny mistakes I have made over the years, I think about our interactions with our sourcing company in Hong Kong and factory in China. As a social worker starting a belt company, I truly knew nothing about manufacturing, fabrication, and product development. I literally didn’t know the difference between canvas and twill! I would read emails from our factory that were written in English that could have been a foreign language. I quickly appreciated the beauty of email. I could get someone to explain what the email said and then respond in an educated manner without making a grave mistake. I could google what an manufacturing acronym meant and disguise my cluelessness.
Can you tell us what lesson or take away you learned from that?
My learning curve with manufacturing taught me how critical it is to truly understand a situation before reacting. Not understanding something isn’t bad in itself, you just need to take it as a learning opportunity. It is essential to gather accurate information, think through how you want to respond, and then respond in a thoughtful and educated manner. Asking mentors for advice or explanation only makes you stronger and better prepared.
Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?
We are so excited to have just shipped our first order to Zappos through their Zappos Adaptive department. We are so excited to have Myself Belts highlighted so that more people can benefit from having an easy to use belt!
Ok, thank you for all that. Let’s now move to the main part of our interview. Many of us have no idea about the backend process of how to apply and get accepted to be on the Shark Tank. Can you tell us the story about how you applied and got accepted. What “hoops” did you have to go through to get there? How did it feel to be accepted?
I applied to Shark Tank by sending in a 7 min video about Myself Belts. I clicked submit on the video before getting on a plane with my family for a spring break trip to England. I never thought I would be contacted, I just wanted to make myself feel like I had exhausted all opportunities by throwing my hat in the ring. My office called a few days later while we were in a pub in a tiny town in the English countryside to let me know that Shark Tank had left 2 messages. I couldn’t believe it and will never forget that crazy moment! That first phone call was in March and we taped in June. The spring months involved a lot of preparation, and I didn’t know if I was officially taping until my plane ticket was purchased in June.
I’m sure the actual presentation was pretty nerve wracking. What did you do to calm and steel yourself to do such a great job on the show?
I prepared and prepared and prepared. It was definitely a nerve wracking experience and it is hard to truly be ready for the Shark attack, but I just believed in myself and the sincere reasons that I was there and let that guide me.
So what was the outcome of your Shark Tank pitch. Were you pleased with the outcome?
My time in the tank was rough, but I partnered with Daymond John so that was an amazing outcome. He and his team are extremely supportive and awesome to work with and I am so grateful.
What are your “5 Important Business Lessons I Learned While Being On The Shark Tank”? (Please share a story or example for each.)
- Know your company- I had to learn about Myself Belts like a student in my preparations for the show. Understand our trajectory, our numbers, our customers, our challenges. This is an important thing to do for all businesses, not just in preparation for TV.
- Be confident in who you are- The sharks are there to stump you and derail you, but you have to be strong in your foundation of who you are so you are not rattled. On the show and in the real world, you get to define yourself. Don’t let others define you, you know yourself best.
- Be open to feedback- it is important in life and in business to be open to criticism and adjust accordingly. Feedback makes you better and allows you to think about something in a different way. Use critique to make you stronger.
- Business is about relationships- We prefer to work with people we respect and like. Show your personality and be sincere in business relationships. It is those real and sincere connections that matter. The Sharks partner with people who they want to work and spend time with, so nurture relationships in a genuine way.
- Keep your composure- There are many instances in life where we can get rattled, not just in the Shark Tank. It is essential to stay composed. Breathe, know who you are, stay in control, the insanity will pass, just breathe.
What advice would you give to other leaders to help their team to thrive and avoid burnout?
Being an entrepreneur is a marathon on a roller coaster. You have to celebrate the awesome little victories and let the low moments roll off of you. Staying positive and not taking things personally is essential to avoiding burnout.
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. 🙂
Myself Belts is all about promoting independence- whether it’s children who are potty training, older adults who have hand dexterity challenges, or people with special needs, we all want the same thing to be independent and able to get through our day with ease. A movement that promotes independence, both with products and policy, would be pretty empowering for all.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
“You can only control yourself”. What you do, the kindness and energy that you put out into the world is powerful and is all that you can control. It is powerful in itself. An an entrepreneur (and on Shark Tank!) there is so much that you can’t control, but you need to focus on your own power and influence and impact surroundings through that energy.
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 🙂
A private breakfast with Oprah would be pretty awesome. Her wisdom, vision, and influence is inspiring. Different quotes and things that I say originate with her so it would be incredible to meet the messenger.