Lessons for life, lessons for work

Here, Danae Varangis, founder and COO, DV Closet, teaches us the lessons she learnt to achieve success.

It may sound trite, but for me, every day is a learning experience — whether I am talking to bloggers, interacting with customers, or working with the technical team. Looking back at my career in fashion, the same is true.

Each task, every project and especially the mistakes I made all provided valuable lessons that have helped guide me to where I am today. But make no mistake, where I am today is not the end goal. It’s just another stepping stone to somewhere and something else.

Beyond your goals, belief and getting started

I suppose my first piece of advice would be to take that sentiment a bit further — while you certainly have goals and ambitions, your career and your entrepreneurial journey is hardly likely to be linear. And it probably won’t have a distinctive start or end point. Rather, it’s more like a continuum.

So keeping that in mind, it’s crucial to keep those goals current, adjust your trajectory as you go and always push yourself and your company further when do you reach your goals.

The key attributes for entrepreneurs (which should go without saying) are devotion, hard work and passion. I also think that belief is a major one — you need to believe in yourself, your ability and your products / service. At the end of the day this is what you’re selling and if you can’t convince yourself, then how are you going to convince customers and investors?

There’s no time like the present. Again, a cliché, but so true. There will never be a better time, so stop over-analysing everything and just go for it. Even if you aren’t initially successful, the lessons you learn along the way will help you shape a better path the next time round.

It’s all about the lessons

As far as the lessons I’ve learned, there are four main areas that have had the most impact on my career — timekeeping, working under pressure, working alone and prioritising. Many of these lessons come from college and university, but likewise, starting off in the real working world puts these things into perspective. And, when you take the leap and do your own thing, they are critical.

Keeping on track

Throughout my career in fashion and as a start-up, I’ve learned that time is literally everything. Success and good time keeping work hand-in-hand, whether that’s relating to the launch of your new product or being on time for a fashion show, time is critical. This is especially true when working with other people — because no-one else has time to waste either.

Starting DV Closet, which we funded through Kickstarter, was one of the examples where there was so much to be done and strict timelines to adhere to. If you have poor time keeping skills it impacts your operations, the delivery of projects and can earn you a reputation for being unreliable.

Pressure, pressure, pressure

Ask any person, regardless of the job they do or the industry they work in, and you’ll find that working under pressure is almost a given. As I progressed from school, onto university and finally into the real world, the pressure persisted but I became better at managing it. And as my responsibilities grew, so did the pressure — and this doesn’t just apply to daily tasks, but chasing people for different things, or chasing opportunities.

With experience and good organisational skills I managed to use pressure to my advantage, being able to deal with things a lot quicker, and respond and react faster to unexpected events, opportunities or situations. This really helps for my role at DV Closet where there’s a lot of co-ordination to be done, from dealing with our fashionistas and bloggers, to working on our sales and marketing, and our external partners.

It’s all on you

One of the things I really struggled with was working with minimum to no supervision. In the fashion industry at the beginning of my career I was left largely to my own devices, but there was usually someone around to point me in the right direction when I got turned around, or answer any number of questions that I had. As an entrepreneur, however, you’re pretty much on your own. You decide when to work, how hard to push and what to say.

While there are resources available to help you, and give advice, starting your own business is a solitary pursuit. When I started out, it was tough. But learning to work by myself helped me grow — both as a person and a business woman.

It shaped my performance, my approach to things, my place in the start-up industry, and really helped me in developing those key skills which are essential when establishing your own company.

You can’t do everything

I guess this final point ties back into time keeping, but prioritising things is a true skill. I learnt early on that there are times when there is just no way you’ll be able to finish absolutely everything so there has to be a point where you learn some triage skills — deciding which tasks, calls, emails are the most important and need to be attended to first. Largely this comes with practice and experience, but it’s definitely one of the most important skills to have.

Conclusion

It hasn’t been a smooth, uneventful journey as an entrepreneur so far. There have been challenges, hiccups and issues. But I learned from my mistakes, and took my own advice to heart in terms of believing in what I do, in my product, and working hard to make my vision a reality.

Other entrepreneurs and start-ups are likely to encounter many of the same issues, but it’s just a matter of how you deal with them, whether that’s taking advice from others, working with mentors or learning from mistakes, that makes all the difference.

Written by Danae Varangis, founder and COO, DV Closet.

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