“Believe in yourself and speak with conviction. Have you read that Harvard Business review article about how women entrepreneurs are perceived differently than men by VCs? It’s depressing. We have to work 2x harder and be 2x smarter to get to the same place. But there are tons of small tools we can use to make it slightly easier. For example, we can teach ourselves to speak in a way that men will experience as us speaking with conviction. Deborah Tannen wrote That’s Not What I Meant! It’s about how speech signals like rhythm, timing, and intonation affect how we respond to someone. If you make small adjustments in your conversational style to mirror a man who is speaking with a lot of conviction, he’ll warm up and trust you. It sounds a little creepy but it works.”
I had the pleasuring of interviewing Jolijt Tamanaha. Jolijt is the Director of Marketing and employee #1 at Fresh Prints where she has helped the company grow from $1 million to $10 million in annual rev. Fresh Prints gives students the working capital, tech, and mentorship to build custom apparel businesses on their campuses. They work with over 500 students at more than 290 schools. Before Fresh Prints, Jolijt co-founded two tech startups as a student at Washington University in St. Louis.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
I love cooking and food. I thought I wanted to be a restauranteur until halfway through my freshman year of college. I took a job as a busser to explore the industry and I took a job as a busser to explore the industry and learned that chefs were spending hours every day emailing and calling farmers in an effort to buy local food. that chefs were spending hours every day emailing and calling farmers in an effort to buy local food. I saw an opportunity to modernize that process and co-founded my first startup, Farmplicity. Farmplicity was an online marketplace where farmers could sell to restaurants. I soon realized that I loved building tech businesses and decided the restaurant industry was not for me. I sold Farmplicity two years later and started another ventureChampio, which successfully failed. After I graduated college in 2015 I knew I wanted to keep building businesses. I joined Fresh Prints as employee #1 and the rest is history. (Haha)
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company?
Almost everything we’ve worked on was an interesting adventure, but I’m most pumped about our culture doc. Fresh Prints is growing tremendously quickly. I was the first hire 3 years ago. Six months ago, we had 20 employees and we realized we were heading for the next level. Myself and the two co-owners of Fresh Prints, Jacob Goodman and Josh Arbit locked ourselves in a room and pounded out the culture doc — a manifesto of sorts — detailing the who, whys, and whats of Fresh Prints. As three people who have always railed against all things corporate, it was humbling to realize we did need to spell out a hierarchy and challenging to do so in a way that stay true to the business we want to build. We worked through standardizing titles, pay, and performance reviews.
That’s a scary thing to do when you’re doing it for 20 people who’ve already established some informal version of that on their own. Rest assured it was well-received, and reaffirmed my belief in the Fresh Prints team. Our 12 principles ground us as we scale rapidly (we have 43 employees and need more so contact me if you want to join the team!).
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?
I made a lot of funny mistakes that didn’t seem very funny at the time (haha). My first month was particularly interesting. We had an important meeting in a swanky office in midtown. As a young-looking woman and recent college grad, I knew I had to had to prove myself if I wanted to be taken seriously. They ushered us into the corporate chic all-glass conference room. I held my head up and power walked directly into the glass walls of the conference room. It wasn’t a slight bump. I fully body checked into the wall. It was mortifying. Unfortunately this wasn’t the last time it happened.
I also once ordered 600 pairs of socks when the operations team was away for a religious holiday. I didn’t realize they came in packs of 6. Thankfully we could return them.
Both experiences taught me to pay attention to detail.
What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story
Fresh Prints is composed of extremely fun, intelligent, and intense people. We just came back from our annual company retreat. This year we divided up into 2 teams and had color-olympics with athletic, academic, and work related events. Our soccer game was particularly intense. It was pouring. An intern body checked our CEO to get the game-winning shot. I’ve never been prouder. We are a meritocracy. We aren’t straddled with corporate bureaucracies or toxic egos. We compete at every level — vertically and horizontally. We also enjoy each other’s company. After the game we hung out and played cards. We even have a book club at FP. It’s a great time.
Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?
We are in a massive stage of growth. We added over 400 new campus managers just this summer. We’ve worked hard to develop a special screening process. I’m proud that ours minimizes biases in hiring, which plagues women in sales. Three years ago, less than 40% of our college student sales force were women. Today, 52% of our 500+ students are women. By teaching women how to build a business when they’re 18-years-old, we help contribute not only to a shift in the sales industry (where women hold just 39% of positions) but also to gender equality across all professional fields. That’s something I’m are very passionate about at Fresh Prints. I had so much support in my businesses in college. Unfortunately many young people, especially women, don’t have enough people who believe in them. We are the backbone to young people and help them achieve their highest potentials.
What advice would you give to other female leaders to help their team to thrive?
I’ve learned that the best leadership is to lead by example. I also read a ton of management books, constantly seek and give feedback, and get to know my people. This helps me reflect and evaluate what I’m doing.
What advice would you give to other female leaders about the best way to manage a large team?
Believe in yourself and speak with conviction. Have you read that Harvard Business review article about how women entrepreneurs are perceived differently than men by VCs? It’s depressing. We have to work 2x harder and be 2x smarter to get to the same place. But there are tons of small tools we can use to make it slightly easier.
For example, we can teach ourselves to speak in a way that men will experience as us speaking with conviction. Deborah Tannen wrote That’s Not What I Meant! It’s about how speech signals like rhythm, timing, and intonation affect how we respond to someone. If you make small adjustments in your conversational style to mirror a man who is speaking with a lot of conviction, he’ll warm up and trust you. It sounds a little creepy but it works.
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 about that?
I’m incredibly grateful to Jacob Goodman and Josh Arbit, the two co-owners of Fresh Prints.
When I started at Fresh Prints, I had just closed down a startup that I had poured every part of my body and soul into. Jacob and Josh quickly gave me the autonomy and feedback I needed to rebuild my confidence. They’re two of only a few people in my life who manage to both support me wholeheartedly and consistently challenge me, which is exactly what I need. Without their genuine belief in me, I’d have a serious case of imposter syndrome.
They have continued to give me the space to learn and grow with the business. Their professional and personal support will be at the core of everything I do for the rest of my career.
How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?
In general, if you are someone who operates on strong principles, you can add a lot of positivity to the world. Fresh Prints empowers young people and gives them practical skills that can be applied to countless situations, from business to philanthropy. Let me reiterate John Doerr’s words “Ideas are easy, execution is everything.” Ideas are important and so is the freedom to think and discuss. That being said, ideas don’t move the needle. We constantly ask ourselves and each other at Fresh Prints, is this moving the needle? Am I just grazing the surface or am I making change? Our campus managers are bright and fresh with perspective. We help promote thoughtful execution. In this way, I like to think that what we are doing is valuable.
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. 🙂
There are so many things we have to fix. For America specifically, I’m passionate about closing the social capital gap. Children born into low income and middle class families don’t have access to the shared norms, networks, and values that are crucial to wealth building. Closing that gap through education and ongoing support will increase social mobility, which will decrease racial disparity.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
My dad always said “If you are going to do something…do it well.” This quote can be mistakenly interpreted as “don’t do something new in case you fail” but that’s not how my father meant it. It’s about executing with all your might. It’s about putting 100% of your energy into what you’re doing at the present moment and being selective with what you spend your time on. I choose my projects wisely and do them with vigor. It’s pushed me to achieve excellency in my day to day life. You cannot half-ass good work. You can get lucky, but half-assing your work won’t get you very far in the long run.
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’m so impressed by Joanne Wilson. She’s vibrant. She’s a force. She managed a lot of people when she was barely in her 20s. I’d love to throw back ideas with her. She’s amazing. If you haven’t read Gotham Gal, I recommend you check it out.
Originally published at medium.com