Recently, I met with gorgeous blogger Kate of The Styley. Kate launched The Styley in March and was looking for some blogging tips. Like a lot of other new bloggers, she wondered if it made sense to start a blog now, when there are so many big bloggers already out there. In our discussion, I mentioned that fame doesn’t necessarily equal fortune. People are so used to hearing the words “rich” and “famous” together that they think that one of those qualities can’t exist without the other. It’s like one word: “richandfamous.” Not only can you be rich without being famous, but you also can be famous without being rich.
It’s especially easy for random-ass people to fall into the “famous but not rich” category nowadays, thanks to YouTube and reality television. But it’s nothing new in the business world, where it can take 10 or even 20 years for finances to catch up with public perception. I’ve seen plenty of smoke and mirrors in the fashion industry. More than one designer has told me about being broke while his dresses appeared in the pages of Vogue and the Fifth Avenue windows of Bergdorf Goodman in the ’90s. And last year, the New York Times reported that designer-to-the-stars Zac Posen hadn’t turned a profit since he started his business in 2001.
Today, The Wall Street Journal reported that venture capitalists are investing $138 million in luxury-goods discounter Gilt Groupe, giving the e-commerce company a valuation of $1 billion. Here are the first two paragraphs of the article:
“Gilt Groupe Inc. hasn’t made a penny in profit since it was founded in 2007 as an online discounter of hot designer goods like Reem Acra gowns and Rebecca Minkoff handbags.
A recovering economy is drying up the flow of excess goods that supplied Gilt’s inventory during the recession. The company needs heavy investments to turn into an all-purpose luxury retailer. And competition from a flock of high-fashion copycats is getting tougher.”
Surprised? You shouldn’t be. A four-year-old company is still in its start-up period — a time when a business-owner is often spending more than s/he is making.
If you’re thinking this knowledge isn’t relevant to your life, you’re wrong. Have you ever been scared to embark upon something new — whether that’s taking up ice skating late in life, blogging for fun, starting a business, or applying for a job — because you’re intimidated by the perceived success of others? Have you thought, “I’ll never be as big as so-and-so; why even try?” I bet some of you have. And those of you who have had that conversation with me in person have probably heard me say, “Don’t you know so-and-so is dead broke? Put some effort in and you can get attention and lose money too!” Here’s my “fame doesn’t equal fortune” business (and life) advice.
- Be brave: Don’t be scared by other people’s perceived fame. The attention doesn’t prove they’re smarter, more talented or wealthier than you. If you’re convinced you have a great idea, try it out. (But be prepared to lose money if you’re starting a business.)
- Persevere: If you’re getting recognized for your efforts — yay! — don’t give up just because you’re not making money yet. You’re not the only one who has discovered that magazine clips can’t be deposited at the bank like cash.
- Fake it till you make it: Everyone who doesn’t read my Bitchtastic Guide to Business™ will still believe that fame equals fortune. Encourage that belief. The appearance of success attracts opportunities that lead to actual success. See Gilt Groupe’s $1 billion valuation for proof.
The Bitchtastic Guide to Business™ is on its way to becoming a book. This is y’all’s free nibble. It’s like getting a delicious food sample in a grocery store. Pretend I just gave you a shrimp wrapped in bacon. (If you’re kosher … pretend something else.) Remember how much you enjoyed it and come back for more later. While you’re waiting, you can check out The Styley here.
Are you really writing a book? I love your advice!
As far as starting a blog now, of course! I was totally disillusioned by all the big bloggers, thinking it would be easy to start getting ad offers and whatnot. Now, I don’t care. It’s not my job, it’s a hobby and I’ve met so many wonderful people through it, that’s all that matters to me!
You can tell I’m serious when the “TM” appears 😉
It’s really trademarked!
I had a feeling you meant business!
Great post and book nibble. Similar to what I tell new bloggers to do it, but be careful, because the Internet is a sucking hole of free. (you can quote me ; )
“Free” is a different chapter!
Chic and Charming says
Fantastic advice! A great combo of reality check and “go for it!” encouragement. Usually you don’t get those two things at the same time.
That’s why people need my book — because everything else is too depressing or too encouraging! I’m into realism.
I’m so happy to see Bitchtastic happening! Yeah!!
Zac has had 10 yrs. to try to make something and he hasn’t, so I don’t feel too badly about my situation after less than a year!
Suzanne aka Punk Glam Queen says
Stacy, you’re doing fine, I have faith in you! It’s a tough biz, and you’re probably doing a lot better than you think!
Julia, the Thanksgiving Girl says
These are fabulous tips and congrats on the book idea! Yay! 🙂
Madeleine Gallay says
Ossie Clarke died penniless, Galliano before the Wintour intervention tosses out of his Marais apartment twice, I could go on and on with these stories.
I need your book. Bitchtastic is so marketable. Yay for you.
I need to interview you for the book!
GRIT & GLAMOUR says
Can’t wait to read more!
Now this is a book I actually want to buy!
deja pseu says
Reminds me of something a friend of mine with a band once said when asked why he didn’t want to perform for nothing at ____ Music Festival because it would be “good exposure.”
“People die from exposure.”
Oh yes, the old “exposure” hustle.
Hi there-cannot wait to read Bitchtastic-sounds utterly fantastic!! Great post, very inspirational!! xx
Julia, the Thanksgiving Girl says
I came back to add: When you’re starting something, it migth also feel like you’re putting in lots of time and effort and get nothing for it. At some point you migth even question if your time is worth anything at all. But that’s okay. I think in order to get something, you need to be willing to sacrifice something, especially in the beginning. I also believe that a failure is never a failure if you learn from it. In the end, I guess you only get as far as you’re really willing to go… Hopefully what I’m trying to say makes sense, as I’m trying to speak from my humble expirience here – I started somethign oficcially (and officially here means getting lots of papers and signing up with teh government for various things – it really is not easy here), tried it and well I sort of failed. In the end it took me even more time to “finish” everything, as it involves even more paper work AND money. So yeah, I never made any money but spent a lot on nothing in the end. Yet, teh experience is priceless – I know all of my mistakes and set to never repeat them. And I guess my whole speech just drifted off somewhere else…
elena daciuk says
nice post wendyb! can’t wait for the book! i agree…starting a new business…blog…whatever…can be tough…and yes…you see a lot of money going out (speaking from experience)…but…doing what you love…is priceless…and if you have the passion to do something…i say…start…and quick! i did 5 years ago…and have never looked back…
A book deal–so excited for you! Congratulations Wendy. I’ll definitely buy a copy when it comes out. 😀
Suzanne aka Punk Glam Queen says
I’m so happy for you! Please, if you need any kind of support — even just a rah rah speech when the going is slow — don’t hesitate to let me know! I know all too well from my experience as an indie designer to when I owned my shop that famous does not equal wads of cash flying into your bank account!
Megan Mae says
Sign me up for a copy. I’ve been saying for the past 3 years I want to start my own business, but I’ve been rather chicken about even looking into the logistics. Maybe I should take that small business course after all.
Penny Dreadful Vintage says
Great advice for life in general too. There will ALWAYS be people who seem more successful/prettier/funnier than you, but that doesn’t mean you can’t go for things yourself!
The Styley says
Wendy, wow! Thank you so much for the shout-out. I couldn’t ask for a better place to be mentioned. I’m also grateful for your awesome advice, both when we met and now. I’m waiting with baited breath for “Bitchtastic.” The idea is genius!
And again: thank you, thank you, thank you! Anything I can do to help with book, blog, whatever else you can think of, please let me know.
What great advice!
Especially in this day and age
I started a business 5 years ago, it took 2 just to break even and get everything paid for and now i put much of my profits back into the business
I am not rich or famous, but have a lot of fun.
Only two years to break even? You’re a rock star!
Great advice Wendy and applicable into any aspects of our lives. I think some women are more careful about taking risks because we usually are the ones with more responsibilities. I was raised around guys who taught me to just go for it!
There will many downs before you get ups but keeping on going at it and eventually it going to even itself out.
Great advice! Did you read about Bethenny selling her Skinny Girl Margarita biz to Jim Beam? It’s a pretty unbelievable (formerly small) business success.
Yes, though I don’t believe the large number that’s been thrown around. I side with Ramona on that issue.
Ann Tindall says
Tasty morsel you shared there. Looking forward to a full plate!
Write the book, bitch! LOVE it!
I took up karate at age 42. I felt like a windmilling, out-of-control hauli gawkfest. Now it’s been two years, and I’m testing for green belt, seven levels above where I started—which was at the beginning. I can attest to being intimidated by others who I perceived as “better” than I was. I’m moving along, doing well, at my own pace.
I always remind myself not to compare myself with others when I’m trying to start something up.
I compared myself with others when I was blogging, and it ultimately killed my will to continue blogging.
Thanks for this.
Emma at Daily Clothes Fix says
That is very true. It all depends on what you hope to achieve. Kendi started her blog at the same time as mine and bless her, she’s nearly caught me up. 🙂
I think doing it cos you love it is the best way to approach these things. And if it’s blogging, be prepared to lose a lot of time too.
I needed this post! your friend made an interesting point about bloggers though, I often wonder whether there’s any room for new blogs to become ‘big’.
Hey, I don’t want to be rich OR famous, I just want to pay my rent and buy food! that would be a nice start.
There’s always room for the new because at some point, the old gets…old.
Companies go out of business because they make the mistake of thinking they’re so big that no one can challenge them now or in the future.
Susan T. says
Well, I’ll buy the book because I can’t resist your writing and humor, but given what I went through over the last 5 years developing my consulting biz, if I could visit my 2005 self with my 2011 wisdom this is what I say to her.
2006: Do you want to spend gobs of money and work your ass off and maybe scratch out a meager profit for the potential of making a bigger profit?
2005: Um, I think so.
2006: Or would you rather skip the work and heartache and take the gobs of money and invest it other people’s businesses with roughly the same risk/reward potential?
2005: I don’t know, but skipping the work and heartache sounds cool.
In 2009 I took all of the biz profit earned in the first 4 years, invested it, and over the last two years that investment has returned more on average per year than the business ever did.
On the other hand, as my son pointed out, if I’d invested the same money just before 2009 it wouldn’t be worth very much right now!
There are no easy answers when it comes to weighing the risk/reward of starting a biz.
All excellent points — maybe I’ll have to interview you! Of course, an important part of my book is about when to give up!
Susan Tiner says
Give up or invest in others — it turns out the chunk I put into my son’s biz paid off mega big time! These judgment calls are extremely difficult to make. Very difficult.
Susan T. says
Oops. I mislabeled my 2011 self as 2006!
LOVE THIS! So so so so so true… there’s no reason to chase after the “big bloggers” and try and be exactly like them. They’re getting kind of boring, anyway.
I always appreciate your business topics. I would buy the book. The free thing is what pisses me off. I work for a small ice cream store in cambridge, MA, that the Ny times called the best in the world. Marc Jacobs store called last week, wanting us to do an event for them for about a buck a scoop. My boss said hell no he was tired of subsidizing millionaires. Coming from theatre background, I am very tired of working for free, and I will not do it any more. I want to be solvent, not famous.
all that stuff about me? what I really meant to say Wendy is that you are my model as a lady business person. You really rule. So rare to find people who are realistic, and honest. Also that have a sense of humor.You won the kind of business I strive for.
I just lack the social skills to be nice to people in public.
AsianCajuns (Cath) says
A WendyB book?!?! I’m in. Can’t wait!
Great advice. So many people that lucky start ups make a huge profit and it couldn’t be further from the truth.
I am loving this lady. And you can bet I’ll be buying a copy!
Reena Rai says
Fantastic advice, Wendy. Looking forward to the entire book. I think looking at the bigger bloggers can disillusion those who are new to blogging. I think the most important thing is to be unique and have your own distinctive voice in the increasingly crowded fashion blogger arena
Very true. Many famous fashion designer still struggle to scrape up the money for their next collection. Sad that some people get rich and famous for the stupidest things while others work so hard.
Am so buying your book. Can’t wait.I could use some sage advice about life, success and the whole dam thing.
Lee Oliveira says
Congrats on the book idea Wendy. Great tips too
totally agree w this post 🙂
Absolutely genius advice. I agree that being intimidated by other people’s fame should not stop you from embarking on a new endeavor. You never know what success you can have unless you try. I also found your information regarding Zac Posen and Gilt Group intriguing, but you’re wise in stating that four-year business is still a start-up. Congrats on the book – I’ll definitely be buying it!
Yes please write the book. Brilliant post Wendy. Xxxx
For Those About To Shop says
I’m so glad to read this, it’s exactly what I needed to hear. Especially in fashion which is largely based on fantasy there are so many “fabulous” people that are flat broke. Part of that is the fake it till you make it philosophy which is necessary in business but can be confusing for an observer. I’m glad you said a small fashion business may lose money in the beginning because I started an ebay boutique as a beginning to what I hope will be a cool brick and mortar boutique in the future. I had my taxes done and my accountant questioned whether I should continue with the online shop because it didn’t make money in it first six months! I’m glad I read this before I listened to him!
That's Not My Age says
Top tips – and I’m pretending you just gave me a piece of asparagus tortilla!
Fajr | Stylish Thought says
Yes! So needed to read this right now…Where do I sign up for all this bitchtastic-ness?
I so miss reading your blog! You’re just way too witty!! 😀
Topaz Horizon says
Will totally buy that book when it comes out. I want my copy autographed!
In the magazine world, Sports Illustrated was 10 years old and not making any money at all when they decided to do a swimsuit issue. Y’all know what that issue did for them! Of course, now that the industry is dying, I wonder if the swimsuit issue’s still their savior.
I do also encourage people to start blogs. It’s been a lovely experience for me, these past 6 years.I get to express myself, meet friends (and celebrities like you, WendyB!), and very recently, earn from it. But more than the money, it’s really the friendships. I’ve received more kindness and affection and love from my blog readers than my own family. So thank God I blog or else i’d be a very sad girl!
This was an excellent read. It took me a long time to realize fame and fortune were two seperate entities. Similar to money and happiness. I first began to notice when I worked for a record label and realized that a lot of the musicians were as middle class as I was. It’s good to get this reminder about fame and fortune. It seems like a lot of people get into blogging these days for fame and the perks. While my blog has never gotten the fame of others, I’ve had a lot of fun with it and gained some new friendships which would have never come my way otherwise. That’s why I love blogging.
I’m quickly learning that I will be happy in life with or without a pile of money and if I can just do the things which make me happy and inspire me, everything else will be fine, fine, fine.
Pearl Westwood says
I will always appreciate a shrip wrapped in bacon and any other general life advise!
I will be buying this book. Once the book comes out you should host a series of informal seminars, making sure to include the LA/OC area so that I can attend.
Brilliant post! I’m bookmarking this and I will be first in line for the book! Always love your business advice.
Even without this awesome excerpt I was looking forward to the book … Because it’s from you. Also, two thumbs up for the word “bitchtastic”. 😀
Looking forward to the book!
Cant help thinking of the tagline, “Mmm.. Mmmm… good” about Mmmary Alice!
wow, what an idea for a book! looking forward to it 🙂