V5. The Collective (of Us): BOLD Broads *Liz Long of Learn to Make a Product*

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Bold Broads highlights women founders and creative [read: BADASS] small business owners about how they really deal with the ups and downs of running a BOLD business. These women share honest wisdom and tough lessons to support you in collectively making good shit happen in your own women-led startup or small business. Meet Liz Long, as a leader in the "maker's movement," she has worked with thousands of entrepreneurs to bring their product ideas to life.

Let's meet her, shall we? 

1. STARTING A BUSINESS IS HARD AND SOMETIMES LONELY. WHAT THE F*CK MOTIVATED YOU TO START YOUR OWN BUSINESS?

Yeah, so I probably wouldn't have started one if I had known what was coming, lol! I only half mean that, but when I launched my first company I was 23 and purely motivated by an idea. I had just finished my degree and never had a "job" (and haven't since), so I had not yet experienced having a nice income, stability etc. If I had experienced those things FIRST, it probably would have been harder to go out on my own, but since entrepreneurship was the only thing I knew, I guess it was easier to navigate those early hard years. I do feel more stable at this point, but the insecurity about if you're good enough, if your latest project will succeed etc are still there. In fact, it's probably worse now because I have quite a few failures to reference! What keeps me on the path now is friends who are also entrepreneurs. Can't stress this enough. They get it, and when I'm down, they make me feel understood.

2. HOW DO YOU STAY MOTIVATED TO KEEP THRIVING IN A CREATIVE SPACE WHERE EVERYONE SEEMS TO ONE-UP EACH OTHER?

Eh, I try not to pay too much attention to other people's surface level wins. You never really know what's going on behind the scenes and so much can be smoke and mirrors! What motivates me is steady, incremental growth. When I feel a sense of progress in my work, no matter how small, it gives me the confidence and motivation to keep plugging away!

3. SUCCESSFUL BUSINESSES ARE OFTEN QUIETLY SUPPORTED BY A COLLECTIVE OF WOMEN MENTORS, FRIENDS AND BUSINESS OWNERS. WHAT COMMUNITIES AND RESOURCES HAVE BEEN MOST PIVOTAL TO YOUR OWN BUSINESS SUCCESS? 

I have a few small circles that I interact with regularly. The women are in a variety of fields (the arts, medicine, small business etc) but we are all charting our own course to some degree, so we exchange tips and support. I've also been a part of bigger collectives over the years, such as the Tory Burch Foundation and more recently, Dreamers and Doers. Whatever the group is, I really like variety. I don't want everyone to be the same type of entrepreneur, otherwise it's too much of a bubble and there isn't any cross-pollination of ideas, connections etc.

4. NO BULLSH*T; WHAT'S THE MOST CHALLENGING PART OF RUNNING YOUR BUSINESS? AND EQUALLY IMPORTANT; HOW ARE YOU WORKING TO OVERCOME THIS?

Not knowing if your investments will pan out. Particularly if you are funneling resources that could otherwise be going to things like your mortgage or savings to support your family. I always want to do the most responsible thing for my family, but business requires risk... squaring these demands is not easy! At this point in my life, I'm not okay with bringing a lot of stress home because I want to be as present as possible with my family. So I choose to grow a bit more slowly, knowing that there will be other seasons to my work life! And when I do have a new project that requires a significant investment, I try to give it 100% focus. In my 20's I'd be trying 10 new things at once, but now I like to "put all my eggs in one basket and then watch that basket" as the saying goes!

5. SHARE THE MOST HELPFUL PIECE OF ADVICE YOU'VE EVER BEEN GIVEN.

It's so cliche, but the importance of listening to your gut! I keep a "mistake journal". Whenever I lose money or experience a lot of frustration, I write my mistake down and think about what I could have done to prevent it. Nearly EVERY TIME I had a sense earlier on, but I ignored that little voice. I still have trouble listening, but I'm trying to get better.

I UNAPOLOGETICALLY OWN MY BOLD BROAD BADASSERY BECAUSE...

I work with makers who have a product idea they want to bring to life. Usually they've come up with their concept because they're passionate about solving a particular problem, or filling an untapped need. The idea phase is really exciting for them, but when they get into the nitty gritty of product manufacturing - finding suppliers, testing and quality control, dealing with logistics - they tend to get overwhelmed. It's gratifying to be able to take them through the process and give them a greater sense of calm and control, not to mention help them avoid the same expensive mistakes I made! I've developed an approach that includes a combination of education around best practices, manufacturing-specific project management, and regular accountability. When we combine these things, it drastically improves their chances of success when launching a physical product!

BOLD BROAD BONUS***FAVE APP?

Is it too boring to say Google Keep? I am a to-do list fanatic and I love being able to have so many different lists going at once (i.e. "home" "website launch" etc).


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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

 

A leader in the Maker's Movement, Liz Long has worked with thousands of entrepreneurs to bring their product ideas to life. Through classes, live events, and one-on-one support, Liz demystifies topics like design, sourcing, and quality control, and provides a step-by-step formula for turning concepts into successfully manufactured goods. Liz is the creator of Learn to Make a Product, the "in-house sourcing expert" at Maker's Row, and has a decade of experience running her own product-based business, Bag the Habit.