This is my first post on entrepreneurship. Prior to this, I’ve spent most of my life and energy on breaking through as a musician, and I imagine that most people who know me from my work will be surprised that I am writing about anything other than the music industry. But, the more I think about it I realize that there are few professions that could have better prepared me for the bumpy road that startup founders take. While musicians have historically been viewed as self-indulgent party animals, these days many artists single-handedly find ways to build their brand, reach huge audiences, and find creative revenue streams. So much of what I have learned that has allowed me to survive as a musician is coming in handy now as I am launching my own fashion startup.
Let me share a few words on my background to give you some context. All my life I’ve been split between the soft creative world of music and a part of my brain that loves to predict, plan and build. For example, I got a degree in Statistics, but didn’t even wait to pick up my college diploma — a few days after passing my last exam I was in the car with my band heading to LA. The years that followed were all about touring, production, and growing a fan base.
I consider myself very lucky to have worked with some of the biggest DJs, including Armin van Buuren, Paul van Dyk, Ferry Corsten, ATB, and others. But my somewhat dormant left brain was itching to be used in more significant ways. To boot, I also became obsessed with a product idea that I discovered a need for as a performer, and this is what ultimately lead to me sitting here and writing this post.
There’s something about musicians that echoes the insanity of startup founders. First of all, we are both total dreamers who are 100% willing to expose ourselves to the high risk of failure for the possibility of making that dream real. The swing between highs and lows is our natural state of being, and many on both sides develop a strong immunity to criticism. We love being on a journey and are fueled by our dream destination, which is to create something people will love.
Speaking of creating a product — the motivation for HoneyBuns came when I was dressing for performances and photoshoots. As someone who performs for a living, I own some different shapewear products that I like to wear under certain fitted outfits. But here’s the problem — while millions of women wear such products, the truth is they really don’t work as advertised. So I set out to create a better version.
While honing the design and functionality was an exhaustive process, the upside is that I met some really impressive people who helped guide the development of my company. The first sample maker I teamed up with was someone I met randomly at a fabric store. Unfortunately, the first versions we made together just felt wrong, and that was a moment when I genuinely questioned if my vision was achievable. Thankfully, soon thereafter I met Zach Vorhies, a former Google employee who had his own LED smart jewelry company, Zackees. Zack opened his brain and contact list, and I was back on course with an excellent sample maker and a rep who helped me to find a factory to produce my product (more on this later). I also brought in Antonia Saint Dunbar — one of the founders of THINX as an advisor.
Despite having found an amazing sample maker, it quickly became clear that to keep the project moving at a good pace, I had to brush up on my sewing skills and do a significant portion of the sample construction myself. There was just too much downtime between sessions with my sample maker, and by contributing I was able to accelerate the research process. Also, the statistician in me tested the product throughout its evolution, and over a period of 12 months we ended up creating over 10 iterations which were tested on over 100 women. It’s amazing the things you uncover when you ask a diverse group of people about your product.
As I’ve been preparing myself for this journey, I’ve come across a lot of conflicting entrepreneurship information from around the web. However, there were also a handful great startup founders who were willing to sit down with me and give me a candid account of their victories and failures. Many of those lessons I am applying to my startup every single day, and my goal with this post is to share some of those learnings with anyone else who is about to embark on a similar journey.