Her Story with Selena Alexander: Shake it Off and Make that Move
This week’s Her Story Spotlight is with Selena Alexander, who is such a fun human being and who runs such a fun business (a women’s apparel line!) with her business partner. But the reason you’re going to love Selena’s story is because of how real and honest she is and how much her story could be any one of ours. She has had her ups and downs in her business and has been dealt with some very tough cards personally over the past year, but she’s kept getting back up and making moves towards her big dreams.
We all get off track and get knocked down, in the work we do, in our relationships and just living life in general. That is a given. It’s the getting back up part and the belief in ourselves that we can do it, that really matters and where all the growth happens.
To steal from her celebrity crush, Mariah Carey, we “gotta shake it off, gotta make that move.”
And that’s exactly what you’ll find Selena doing in her story below. We’re catching this gal on her way up and I cannot wait to see where she’s at even just a year from now.
She also shares some really unique resources and tools for small business owners to check out that you may not have thought of before so be sure and read to the end!
Meet Selena! - Fun Facts:
1. I'm a new aunt. My niece Addison was born less than a year after my father passed away-- on his birthday!
2. I was raised in eastern Kentucky as a Wildcat fan and definitely bleed blue, but I'm actually a proud Hoya! I got my master's degree from Georgetown University in 2016.
3. l'm a Mariah Carey fanatic.
4. My favorite cocktail is a Long Island Iced Tea.
5. I eat Taco Bell once a week-- it's an addiction (Don't judge me!)
Where you can find her: Washington, DC
Tell us about your business, Persuasion!
At Persuasion Boutique it is our goal to help every woman dominate her look. Women are the most beautiful creatures on earth, but we are so uniquely different, and my business partner and I aim to celebrate and accommodate that fact for each and every one of our customers.
We hand select and stock pieces WE love and are dying to wear ourselves, with the hopes of sharing that excitement we all feel when a new package arrives at our door with everyone who shops with us.
We also specialize in customizing those pieces. Want to represent your school? Express yourself with a sassy saying? Show off your wedding hashtag on your bachelorette weekend? Adding custom text to our garments is one of our favorite things to do!
How did it get it’s start? Did you know this is what you always wanted to do?
I operate Persuasion Boutique alongside my best friend, Ginger. She brought the idea to me and is our main creative force. We knew we wanted to work together in some capacity and had toyed with other business ideas in the past, but once we talked this one out, we knew it was it.
When we started, we focused only on swimsuits, but in the year and a half we've been in business, we've expanded to include bodysuits, tube tops, sweatshirts and more.
We cater to women exclusively for now, but that will be changing soon. Stay tuned! :)
What gave you the courage to make the leap from employee to entrepreneur?
Truth moment: I actually didn't have the courage to make the leap from employee to entrepreneur right away. When we launched Persuasion I was still working full time, but after a couple of months my employer and I both knew my heart and focus was with my own business and we parted ways.
I took several months off from working full-time to hone in on Persuasion and its growth, but am again working to supplement the goals I have for the boutique-- and I want any aspiring entrepreneur to know that's OK.
DO NOT let your dreams put you in a bad financial situation-- bills still have to be paid! My business partner and I are not in debt to anyone because we are able to run Persuasion not only off of its profit, but with our own money as well because we both still work traditional 9-5’s.
The goal is obviously to be able to run Persuasion on a full-time basis, but it has to make sense for us before we're able to abandon steady paychecks completely! So I absolutely encourage other entrepreneurs to be patient and make that leap when it's right for you.
So many of us have limiting beliefs that need to be overcome or we've "failed" and might need some encouragement to keep going...Can you tell us about a challenge you have you had to overcome to get where you are now with your business? How were you able to overcome that or what are you doing now to overcome that’s working?
Not long after launching Persuasion, balancing my personal life with entrepreneurial life became a major challenge for me. I went through a devastating break-up and lost my dad to a heart attack in a really short time period and my emotions were all over the place.
We all have chaos going on in our personal lives, but when you don't have a traditional boss and job anymore, and no one is forcing you to be at a certain place at a certain time, it can become easy to lose the motivation and will to put forth the necessary effort to grow your business daily.
Step one in getting through that tough time was admitting that I was in a bad place to begin with! If you ever find yourself not doing everything you possibly can for your business because of outside distractions, admit it and reset. Thankfully, I had a business partner and best friend who gave me a reality check, but even if you don't, you know what you're capable of and if you're not giving it your all.
I then went on a mad hunt to find any and every resource I could to get me back in a positive place. I prayed, meditated, read self-help articles and books, exercised, WHATEVER I could do to get myself into a positive space-- that was key for me. During that time a good friend told me to "protect your peace," and that sentiment is now one I live by both as a woman and an entrepreneur-- I believe doing so helps me to excel as both. There is absolutely no room for negativity in an entrepreneur's life.
What would you say has been the main key so far to helping you get to where you are now?
God, first and foremost. My faith in Him and His word are without a doubt the reason I am where I am in my life now and pressing forward towards more, always.
He has also blessed me with the most amazing tribe of women who, without whom I would not be classified as a sane person. My girls keep me grounded, they support me, they let me know what products they love and would like to see more of-- they're just the best and provide me with the balance I need in order to be able to work hard but sincerely enjoy life all at the same time.
What advice would you give to other women looking to start their own business?
Use your resources-- especially the free ones! Check with your local government, they often have classes and departments you can sign up with to get you started with the technical, not-so-fun side of business, like taxes!
One of the first things we did once we decided to launch Persuasion was contact mentors at SCORE, a partner of the U.S. Small Business Administration (almost every city has one). We had a great idea and creative plan, but we needed to know how to make it happen on the business side, and that's where our experienced mentors came in-- again, for free! With them were able to map out a to-do list, register and form our LLC, and even file our business taxes for the first time.
Secondly, get organized. I struggled with this step, still do. God blessed me with many talents, but being organized is not one of them. Write down everything. Set goals and plan accordingly. Every day, set a goal for yourself and your business and do your best to knock it out.
I would also advise budding entrepreneurs to research your market aggressively. Who else is already doing what you want to do? How can you attack the market in a different way? What can you provide consumers that isn't already out there, or how can you improve something that is? If you can't answer some or all of those questions clearly and concisely, you may not be ready-- and that's OK! Just get back to the drawing board and make your vision as clear as possible before moving forward.
Most importantly, never ever stop learning.
Any advice for those of us looking to start something with a business partner? What to look for? How to make it work? How to determine who does what?
A business relationship is just like any relationship-- communication is key. Persuasion is a joint venture between my best friend and I, so we already communicate on a personal level, but communicating on a business level is a different ball game entirely. We disagree daily, but it is inevitable and the only way to make it work is to communicate your frustrations and be able to receive construct criticism without taking it personally.
My main suggestion for working with a business partner is to clearly define the roles and responsibilities of each party involved from the beginning. Those might change, but establishing expectations early on is essential. Do the work to understand each other's strengths and do not be afraid to be transparent with your partner about your weaknesses.
In my situation, we work from different cities, which presents some obstacles as well. We try to combat that by having a call once a week where we discuss ongoing expectations, new ideas, scheduling, and anything else that may have gotten lost in translation during the prior week.
I also try my best to compliment my partner when I can! She motivates me and we push and inspire one another, so when you see your business partner going the extra mile to help push your shared goals to the top, show them some love! It's so appreciated
What are some tools that help make life easier/better?
G Suite by Google is my go-to! Their calendar, sheets, documents, everything keeps me as organized as I can be-- which is not an easy task. It's also easy to share between partners and keeps everything in one cohesive space.
I'm also not ashamed to admit I'm old-school and rely on post-its as well!
On a personal level, the meditation app Headspace is a life saver for me. Aside from coaching me through mediation, it sends reminders throughout the day to just step back and breathe-- something that you can forget to do when you're running a business.
What routines do you have that helped you be successful?
I try to start and end every day with at least 5 minutes of quiet/meditation time where I don't really think, I just exist. I'm present, but I'm not looking at my phone, thinking about the massive amount of work that lies ahead, or anything like that; I'm just calm and thankful for another day.
I also stick to a strict social media schedule which is essential if you're running an online business. Consistency is key on social media, so I'm posting throughout the day and that helps keep me on task every day.
What are common mistakes you see other business owners make when it comes running a business and what tips do you have to help?
Sometimes I see other business owners try to take on too much and ultimately get discouraged. It's easy to avoid this by making sure your vision is clear and you're as organized as possible before you hit the ground running.
Be optimistic, but realistic in the goals you set for yourself. If you see that you're not on pace to reach a goal you've set for yourself, reevaluate the steps you're taking to get there, and change the deadline you originally set if you need to-- there is no shame in that!
I also see some entrepreneurs under-utilize the resources they have available to them. Don't limit your learning to just books, articles or podcasts. Reach out to people around you who are doing what you'd like to be doing! Networking should be key in an entrepreneur's game plan, but people can't share tips or advice with you if you don't ask.
I would also urge more established entrepreneurs to be open and willing to assist those who seek them out-- there's room for us all and there's no need to feel intimidated or shy away from helping new game changers if you can.
What are your next big plans for Persuasion?
We have so much in store! We love, love, love our swimsuits, which are what got us started; but we are absolutely looking forward to and have already begun adding more pieces to our catalog. We're going to offer a plus size collection soon and further down the line we'd love to add pieces for men, kids and babies as well. The sky is the limit and we plan on enjoying every bit of this journey!
How can people find out more about you and your business?
You can shop with us at www.persuasionky.com.
Show Selena some love and comment below to let her know about a key takeaway you got from her interview!