Luv Aj Owner and Designer Amanda Thomas gives us a little expertise (and inspiration!) about starting a business at any age.
When did you know you wanted to pursue your business or venture? I started Luv Aj on a whim, and only because there seemed to be a demand for the product I was creating. I started making jewelry when I was 14 years old, and then worked and interned for several years. After a process of elimination, I knew that being a jewelry designer was the only job that would truly make me happy.
Did your former career/job prepare you for running your own business? Absolutely. Since I was still in high school when Fred Segal picked up my line, I made sure to try every single facet of the fashion industry before settling on doing Luv Aj full-time. After working for a stylist, PR firm, clothing designer, and online website, I knew that this was what I wanted to do.
What advice would you give to someone who feels overwhelmed by the competition? There will always be competition, and it’s healthy because it pushes you to be a better designer. You can only do your best so you can’t compare yourself to everyone else, as hard as that is to do sometimes.
What has been your biggest challenge to date? Controlling your finances is a lot tougher than I expected. You start your career wanting to be creative and design pretty things but then all of a sudden you’re also a part-time accountant, managing cash flow, payroll, and manufacturing bills. The business side of it is just as important as the creative.
What top three tips would you like to pass along for those who have just started to use social media? Post original content! It’s so easy to regurgitate other people’s photos, but producing your own is what will gain you followers. Don’t post anything pixelated, it’s a bad look. And cool it with the hashtags, a few are fine but you don’t want to look spammy.
When you think of the best people to work with, what traits do they share? They are kind to everyone, even (or especially) those below them. They are creative in their hustle – coming up with original ways to reach out to people and network always gets you further.
Give a budding entrepreneur your best hiring and firing business practices. For hiring people, put everyone on a trial basis, at least for a week or so. Someone can give a great interview but may not be what you are looking for, or your job may not be what they’re looking for so it’s nice to have a grace period. For firing, keep it short and sweet. They are already upset that they’re getting fired, so give them less ammo to walk away with.
Entrepreneurs often say that “you can’t do it all.” What three things do you always outsource?Financials, shipping, and photography.
“There are people out there that do those things better than me so why not utilize their skill sets to my benefit?”
How did you fund your dream? What are your thoughts on raising capital? I funded my dream by selling jewelry locally in LA and online. I had no overhead so I was able to save up enough to start kicking things into full gear. I think raising capital is a fantastic idea, if you have the means to do so. But don’t go in over your head – remember whatever you take, you have to pay back. Sometimes having less to work with forces you to make more frugal and smart decisions.
What piece of invaluable advice did you receive that you would like to pass on to women pursuing their dream? It only gets harder from here. If you can’t handle it, then move on to something else that truly makes you happy.
How long were you in business before you started to see real growth? What do you attribute that to? I had been in business for seven years before I started doing Luv Aj full-time. It wasn’t until I got a showroom that I started to see real sales. A showroom is your way to start making big sales, but make sure you have your production all sorted out before you bite off more than you can chew.
How do you organize your day to best optimize your time? MAKE A LIST! And make it in order of importance. It’s so easy to get side-tracked so make sure you do what needs to get done first before you get distracted with other emails and tasks.
If you could have a one-on-one meeting with any woman, who would it be and why? What’s the first thing you would you ask her? Tory Burch. I admire how she has grown her business to an empire, and she started with a pair of ballet flats. I would be interested to know what it’s like to run a company of that scale.
What is the most important lesson you have learned as a business owner? There is no task too small or too large. You may be doing fancy photo shoots and interviews but you need to be humble and be able to do things like answer customer service emails and take out the trash.
Image: [Miha Matel for Glamour]