Following your gut is no way to make business decisions...or is it? What is needed when making an educated business decision? Sound data, detailed analysis, a solid framework and working foundation...right? Big wig business people don't make multi-million dollar decisions on a gut-feel, I'm sure. Well, after 6 years of running this business, I beg to differ. I may not be a "big wig business person" and may not be Ivy-league educated, but over the years, I have found myself making some pretty major, life-altering (and business changing) decisions.
I remember years back when I would turn to Oprah for my daily dose of inspiration (I DVRed her, as there was no chance of watching a daily afternoon tv show). Anyhow, there are many episodes that come to mind when the guest would reference this 'voice in their head', 'just a feeling' or intuition. So many of them saying they wished they would have listened, but shook it off as it wasn't logical. Which brings me to something my husband would say it SUPER important, logic (defined by Wikipedia as the use of valid reasoning in some activity). Of course you would use valid reasoning when making a huge, life-changing decision. But what if there is good reasoning for either decision? What if the logic says one thing, but your gut says the other?
I speak for me personally, as I know this statement is likely to garner criticism, but in business, I have learned that my gut wins. In retrospect, when my gut has told me not do to something and I decided otherwise, I paid the price...and vice versa. Take for instance the decision to follow my dream and start a business. I was employed in real estate (in 2006...the heyday!). My work day started at 10am, who gets to do that?? The money was ridiculous and my opportunities were limitless. I should be loving life. The logic says stay. My gut said run, run, as far as you can...and just go for it. All through college when my friends wanted to be doctors & lawyers, my little voice kept telling me to do something different, I just couldn't quite understand what. My path was not clear, which made logical decision making a bit difficult. It was when I finally listened to my gut, and did A LOT of prayer, that my answer was crystal clear.
Sometimes in life, your answer does not seem logical. Do you have the opportunity to move hundreds of miles away? Leave your friends, family, and everything you have worked so hard to build? Your parents think it is the wrong decision, but your gut keeps telling you it is right? How to you clear the noise and make the 'right' decision? I remember when I was on the Anderson Show with Sara Blakely. She was telling the story of when she started Spanx. She said she waited for a year before telling anyone her idea. She knew this is what she was supposed to do and did not want to hear their opinions. While I did not go that route, it makes so much sense. Clearly there are major life decisions when you need the opinion of your loved ones, but I truly think sometimes your gut is so clear that you just have to listen. When I told my dad that I wanted to start RuffleButts, his 1st response was "Why on Earth would you want to start an apparel company? What's to stop anyone from copying what you do?" He was completely right and I knew it, but I still knew, deep down, that this is what I was supposed to do. Sometimes our best decisions are not the most logical; sometimes the very best decisions are the ones that come from within.
Don't get me wrong here, I'm certainly not saying to throw logic out the window and make brash decisions doing whatever you want. I'm also not saying to disregard the opinion of your loved ones. I think logic is super important, as is family. What I am saying is that sometimes the gut tells us exactly what to do. Just be sure you are listening.
I mean this statement in more ways than one, but the one that I want to share today is the most important. I realized after our show aired on TV that we all tune in every week to see both the business side and the personal side - the people. This is obvious, right? It is a show about people AND their businesses after all. But is it really? After watching I quickly realized that in reality, it is just another reality TV show. There is A LOT that you don't see. The key, and where the reality comes in, is actually much more important than I ever realized. The part that is realer than real is the support and enthusiasm from people EVERYWHERE. We were truly blown away by the tweets, emails, facebook posts and good old fashion phone calls! We were flooded with kind words from current customers, new customers, strangers, stores, moms, grandmas, dads, fellow entrepreneurs, family members, friends, even old college roommates. It was truly a once in a lifetime kind of moment.
>It's 9:10ish on the east coast. The episode is airing, I'm really not even watching (oddly enough I still have not gone back to watch it), as I'm trying to manage the flood of tweets and customers on the website. Analytics just keeps going up, and up, and up...then down. Yep, the worse-case scenario, the website crashed. My worst fear...and I'm pretty sure my phone call to our web team was their worst fear. In moments like this, you have a decision to make. I was determined to do everything in my control to manage the situation, do everything in my power to fix it, and understand that when you can't fix something, you do the very best to make the most of it. I was stressed to the max, to say the least, but amid the stress, my phone continued to pop up message after message of support and congratulations.
I knew there would be some out there with something negative to say...this is "reality" TV after all, but I was amazed by the love that completely overshadowed the few out there ready to criticize. I will be forever grateful that Mark and I were given the opportunity to share our business (and our babies) on national TV in front of 6.5 Million people Friday night! I am literally (and a bit embarrassingly) in tears typing this last paragraph. There are truly not words to describe our gratitude. I am just an average girl who grew up in KY. I had a dream and worked really hard to make it come true, like so many others. I'm still in shock that I had the opportunity to share that dream with so many of you.
>What happens now? So, this is the question posed by many. My answer - the same thing that was happening the day before we were on national TV. We have been super fortunate to work with some AWESOME stores before Shark Tank and we will continue to add to the list after. We have been blessed with THE most awesome, supportive, enthusiastic customers (moms, grandmas, aunts, and dads too) from the day I launched this business in 2007. We are still the same people, running the same business, with the same principles, and same customer service. We just have more people to share it all with - what more could I ask for?!
Below is just a small sampling of the super sweet comments that we received. The very first tee that I ever designed for RuffleButts says 'So Blessed' on the front. It is still our best selling shirt today, and I must say that this experience just reconfirms it!
Aurora Maria Garza You guys did great !!!!!! Awesome product ; ))
Amy Price Smith I'm excited for you! My daughter has had her rear covered in RB's for her entire life!!!! Here's to proving quality ruffles only come from one place! RUFFLE BUTTS OR DIE!
CaSandra Packard I'm a retailer for the both lines and was a customer buying online before I started a store last year. It is one of my favorite brands and one of the first I got in the store, love the products, love the quality, the price, and you have the best customer service of any brand we carry by far! Congratulations and best wishes for continued success! Dolce Vita Children's Boutique
Kelly Simmons Sherman So excited for you guys. You did wonderful. I am so proud to be a long time Rufflebutts customer. Congrats
Cara Jean Eckerman Yay RuffleButts!!! Been buying and giving your products away since the very beginning .. Love your story and admire your entrepreneurial spirit!! Good for y'all
Heather Bowman Just saw you on shark tank! Congratulations. You were well spoken, smart, and beautiful. So happy for you guys!
I truly don't have the right words to open this blog post...holy moly, seriously?, OMG! I have watched Shark Tank from the very first season. I can pretty much remember every single entrepreneur that I witnessed pitching and ultimately defending their baby, their dream. Some more successful at it than others, but all laying it all on the line. Entrepreneurship is pretty much an all or nothing thing. Some people get that and some people don't, but to take something you've created and put it out there for the world to see has always seemed a nearly-impossible task to me. I cannot tell you the number of times that Mark and I have sat on the couch when the show goes to commercial and I am yelling aloud, "I could NEVER do that!". I know and love my business, but I am not that great at speaking publicly. I don't have an ivy-league education, prefer to be in my office over in front of a crowd and am certainly not clever, so I just knew I would get up there and not know what to say. Well....crazy enough, a single phone call from a Shark Tank producer changed my mind pretty quickly!
It all happened so fast! One minute we were on the phone, the next preparing our 'pitch' video and just a few short weeks later, on a plane to LA, both kids in tow. Holy _____! What were we doing, it was all just going so fast! What was our company worth?? Well, isn't that a great question, because a 'thing' only has value when you are trying to sell it, and I wasn't! At the same time, our company has been growing quickly for years now. RuffleButts, Inc landed on the Inc 500 list last year and added Neiman Marcus, buybuyBaby, and one other mass retailer to our customer list just this year. With growth like that, cash is king, and Shark Tank could be an awesome place to get it. More importantly, it would be an awesome place to score a high-profile and super experienced investor. Oh how awesome it would be to call up someone like Mark Cuban, Lori Greiner, Barbara Corcoran, Kevin O’Leary, Robert Herjavec, or Daymond John when I need advice on a distributor, new back office computer system, or even to knock on the door of a big box retailer for us! Seriously, does that really happen to people?
Long story short, our trip to LA lasted about a week. Our little 2 year old Jonas spent half a day in Disney Land first aid station and then ended up in urgent care the day before filming. Aubrey was a trooper and definitely helped to keep our mind too fixated on what was happening around us. Mark and I grilled each other with every question we could think of, practicing how we would defend this business that is like a 3rd child to us (born before both of our children). How to keep your emotions in check? What if they didn't like it? What if they thought RuffleButts & RuggedButtswere stupid names? What if they picked it apart and made people question our business on national TV? We decided that we believe 100% in what we are doing and it was worth the chance. What an incredible opportunity, and we MUST take it! So there we were, the doors opened and we found ourselves walking down the aquarium filled hallway we've seen a million times on TV and we came face to face with the Sharks. We were honest, genuine and shared our business and dreams that we love so much and have poured so much into. It was only after answering what felt like a barrage of questions that they finally said...
What, did you think I was going to give it all away?? You'll have to watch RuffleButts ABC this Friday, October 18th! I can't give it away, but I will tell you that it is one experience that my family will NEVER forget.