Last week the Outdoor Industries Women’s Coalition (OIWC) hosted a webinar with Ironman champion and SkirtSports founder Nicole DeBoom who is currently pregnant with her first child.
I had met Nicole at industry tradeshows and at trail races here in Colorado and she always has a magnetic personality that probably has a lot to do with her success as a pro triathlete and now, business owner. No matter what she’s doing, Nicole seems to be having a lot of fun–and being CEO of her own athletic apparel brand is no expception.
In this interview, Nicole DeBoom shares some great advice for women in business or aspiring entrepeneurs, often drawing from her career as a professional triathlete to explain her approach to business.
What advice do you have for women thinking about start a business?
When you have an idea for a new business, the question to ask yourself is, does your idea address a problem or void in the marketplace? What about your idea is special or different that what’s already available? What problem does your idea solve? For me, the problem was a lack of athletic wear that let me feel feminine.
The next step is research. I bounced my idea of starting a women’s athletic apparel company off every person who could contribute a valuable opinion. I had coffee dates with retailers, other runners, attorneys, accountants, you name it. My goal was to walk away from each meeting with at least one action item I could follow up on.
We tend to only tell people we love about our big ideas, but we need to speak to people who will give us realistic answers and tell us what it takes to get something off the ground.
What are your strengths when it comes to business?
I’m good and turning a negative into a positive. You have to develop pretty tough skin in business, which includes being able to take criticism and learn from it.
What other qualities does a successful entrepreneur need?
1. Flexibility. You’ll learn a lot on the fly, so you may end up going in a direction you didn’t anticipate in the beginning.
2. Tenacity. You can’t be weak willed because you’ll encounter plenty of reasons why something can’t be done. You have to be prepared to find the solutions to every problem that comes along.
3. Unwavering belief you will succeed. Any doubt that won’t succeed will make it impossible to deal with the problems. Pure will is only way to get through them.
4. Be a good listener. Listen to your customers and employees because they will give you the best feedback about how to do things better.
5. Collaborate with others. Leverage business partnerships that are a good match with yours to build your brand.
6. Keep your ego out of it. Your business will be better off if you don’t make it about you.
As a business owner with a baby on the way, what’s your plan for work/life balance?
Well, that’s tough because experience has shown that a business plan is like a birth plan—you can plan all you want, but the reality will be totally different from what you anticipated.
Do you believe it’s possible to have it all (family, life, career and sanity)?
No! Having it all is a scary concept because it implies that there’s a perfect result or finish line. Like in triathlon, you never perform all three sport perfectly at the same time, rather, when you do well at two, the third will invariably suffer.
Instead, I think of work/life balance as a teeter-totter. You go back and forth between too much of one thing, not enough of the other, but it’s never totally balanced. I strive to reduce the teetering as much as possible.
What techniques do you use to reduce work stress?
1. Cut out the junk. As I learned as a triathlete, a good training program is designed to cutting out the junk, which is any training that doesn’t improve your fitness and only makes you more tired.
This principle applies to work effectiveness as well. Email can be a major time suck. For every one you answer, three more come in! If you spend all day at your computer, set aside certain times to check your email, say, morning, midday and afternoon.
2. Schedule time to work out. I work out in the morning because if I don’t, my head is not in the right place during the day. Running, biking and swimming helps me arrive at work with a clear mind, which makes me more effective.
At SkirtSports, we have a program called Kick it Forward that helps women with barriers to fitness complete their first 5K. A woman who went through the program and became a Kick It Forward mentor recently told me, “The last thing I have time for is running, but when I do run, I have more time.”
For more about Nicole DeBoom, follow her entertaining blog at: http://www.skirtsports.com/blog/
NOTE: this is a synopsis of the interview, not a precise transcript.