On Valentine’s Day several years ago, Amanda Horan Kennedy was pulling a pair of chopped-up pantyhose over her head.
After a modeling and acting career that included co-starring in the ’70s comedy series “BJ and the Bear,” Kennedy stepped outside of the celebrity realm to earn a master’s degree in clinical psychology and become a therapist. Now, stretching old nylons over her torso, had she gone crazy?
No, she was just exercising entrepreneurship. The pantyhose experiment was an early prototype of slimming control-wear to fight “bra bulge,” a product she perfected when she founded Sassybax LLC. Within the first year of business in 2004, she sold $1 million in wholesale from her garage.
“You just keep pushing that rock up the hill, one step at a time,” says Kennedy, president, who has kept growing Sassybax and added 10 employees. “It’s a lot of hard work, but it’s fun and exciting to see your business growing and your product getting more and more acceptance into the marketplace.”
Smart Business spoke with Kennedy about five entrepreneurial traits it takes to turn an idea into a success.
Be persistent. ‘No’ means absolutely nothing. You’ll probably get more no’s than yeses. You will eventually find somebody that sees it your way, and you will find somebody to help you make it happen. You just have to be so driven and believe in your idea so unwaveringly that ‘no’ doesn’t really mean no to your idea; it means that person doesn’t get it.
You just have to talk your head off about it. You feel like you’re pushing the rock up the hill constantly and you just literally have to exhaust yourself.
Market the idea. If you don’t have the capital to market it, then you just have to constantly push it forward by talking about it to everyone you know. Talk about it in every magazine you can possibly get yourself into; if you can get yourself on a show, even better. You just have to keep preaching it until it goes viral.
Be concise. You have to have a clear, simple message in marketing. You don’t want to complicate it. My message was: This bra cures bra bulge. I did it visually with before and after pictures.
It’s called an elevator pitch. You have to be able to tell the story of your product in, basically, 15 seconds or less. A complicated message will just fall on deaf ears. People like sound bites, which is not very in-depth coverage, but it’s really all people sometimes have time for.
Get creative. Bigger companies would advertise, but I can’t afford advertising because (it’s) anywhere from $5,000 to $200,000 a page. It’s like Monopoly money numbers; it’s just totally outside the realm of possibility for a small entrepreneur. You (market) in a grassroots way where you use every possible tool available to you.
The Internet is your friend. Maximize the possibility of viewers coming to your site through SEO and online social media, getting bloggers to review the product, … [posting] videos on YouTube.
PR is good because PR gets you an interview (that) will go out to people that I couldn’t reach through my channels. It’s a lot more work; wouldn’t it just be so much easier for me to place an ad in the magazine? I’d just get a graphic designer, make up a beautiful ad, throw it in a magazine, pay $50,000, and there’s my message getting out to all of their subscribers. Well, that would be wonderful, but that takes a huge budget. So PR is wonderful.
Speaking to groups is very helpful. If you know how to talk to a group, go and talk about something that’s inspiring. I’ve done that for groups of women, networking groups, colleges. Talk to them about what it takes to build a business. Do you promote your own product when you’re out there speaking and being inspirational? Yes, you just don’t do it in the same glaringly obvious way. But just by virtue of being there, you are promoting your product — and at the same time, you’re giving back because you’re inspiring others.
Be ready to delegate. You can’t micromanage and be a successful person, because if you’re micromanaging, you aren’t doing what you need to be doing. You need to have, as a CEO, the big vision of the company — Where is the product going? Where is the distribution going? We have to look at the big picture. And if you’re micromanaging people on how they type their e-mails, you will never be able to succeed.
People that try [to micromanage] are either crazy or they’re just setting themselves up for failure. I never met an entrepreneur with a successful business that said that they could successfully micromanage — or even wanted to.
It’s also degrading to the employee to micromanage them because then you’re saying, ‘I have no confidence in you.’ If you don’t have confidence in an employee, then the employee shouldn’t be there.
Strive for success. You have to have stealthy resolve that you are not going to fail. I made up my mind that failure is not an option, because when I started the business, I needed the job. You’re even more motivated when it’s a must and not just an option. If it had been an option, there would have been about a thousand times in the very beginning that I would have quit.
But when you have bills to pay and other people’s lives at stake, their income at stake, you think long and hard every day about making it all work, because you’re responsible for yourself, but you’re also responsible for them in a big way.
It’s like your baby. It’s just not an option for it not to grow up strong and healthy and live a nice life. That’s what it feels like. There are a lot of big corporations that have lost any sense of humanity and they don’t care whether their people are working or not working. But when you’re a small business owner, there’s a much greater sense of responsibility to the people that work for you.
How to reach: Sassybax LLC, (310) 559-8001 or www.sassybax.com