“Why would you want to deprive the world of the space you take up?”
Change your personality, change your culture or get out. That’s the message corporate America sent to Lauren Bell, founder and president of La Cire in Washington, D.C., a company that helps others grow their ideas into lucrative and sustainable businesses. Bell realized there was no need to continue enduring mistreatment in the workplace, believing that if she could bring in millions of dollars for someone else’s company, she could do the same for herself. She started La Cire after she was forced to seek legal help to enforce her contract after the company, where she was literally and figuratively a minority partner, refused to pay out her full bonus. “The day after I got my bonus, I quit.”
Bell used the bonus money to start her business, She decided she could no longer bear the trauma that came with the corporate environment while helping make leadership rich. “My contributions helped my boss build a second movie theater in his house, and here I was fighting for money I rightfully earned.”
Now she helps others realize their dreams through entrepreneurship. It has been over four years, and she is finally feeling more settled. “I am happy for once. I still work like crazy, but I am not screaming into a pillow every night,” she says.
She and her team partner with startups, government agencies, celebrities, athletes and small businesses. Through the years, she’s found the five essentials to building a business from scratch.
- Be clear about your idea and what you want to accomplish
Many first-time business owners start with too broad ideas and are unsure of the value and service their new venture will provide. “When people come in and aren’t clear, it usually doesn’t go anywhere.” Bell says it’s best to take your time to develop the concept and gain a clear understanding of the reason customers and clients need what you have to offer.
2. Tackle the nuts and bolts
Once you have the idea and are ready to begin, you have to handle the important tasks, such as creating a tax structure and obtaining licenses, so your business is set up to make money. She recommends creating a thorough checklist that contains everything needed to be a legal business.
3. Find a cheerleader
Starting a new endeavor can become overwhelming, and it’s easy to get discouraged when, in the beginning, you find clients aren’t falling into your lap. “Having a support system and a cheerleader is invaluable because it’s often difficult for people to give themselves the grace needed to see their vision through.”
4. Say, “yes”
Go to the 7 a.m. networking meeting even if the thought makes you anxious. “I made myself go to early meet and greets all the way in Rockville, MD. No one wants to do that, but you never know where your next client is going to come from.” Bell says that you don’t have to be a social butterfly and talk to everyone, but you should try to connect with a few people who look interesting. “I have social anxiety, so networking doesn’t come easy for me. I stand by the food, stuff my face, and then say, ‘Lauren put down the little quiches and introduce yourself to somebody.’”
5. Don’t be afraid to advocate for yourself
Do not, under any circumstances, dim your own light. Bell tells her clients that they need to be out and about talking about their products, services and achievements. “I’ve fallen into that humble trap, but there’s no need. That seems to be a woman thing where we don’t like to take up space.” She asks her clients, “Why would you want to deprive the world of the space you take up?”