Interview with Laura Beck – Chief Shortie of Too Short Industries, Founder of stripedshirt + Giveaway

Interview with Laura BeckTell us a little bit about yourself and your entrepreneurial journey.

I’m about to turn 42 and have now spent half my life, 21 years, doing public relations. I literally started at my first agency on my 21st birthday and love PR. I mostly focused on technology companies with a special love for start ups, and entrepreneurs. I was fortunate to start an Austin office for a big global firm in 2000 and grew it from zero to 16 employees, $3 million in billings. Awesome!

But nearly 3 years ago, with my oldest daughter about to go into kindergarten, I tossed that PR career aside and left, to spend more time with my 2 daughters and have a daily schedule that let me do school drop off, pick up and all the extra things you can do with your children and their school. Knowing being a full time stay at home Mom wasn’t in my DNA, I took that life-change opportunity to start stripedshirt, a business dream I’d had for over a decade.

I am so excited about all I’ve built for stripedshirt so far, but I’m just getting started, and with about 1 shirt sale a day, I have a long way to go! It has been such an amazing journey and learning experience, becoming an entrepreneur myself and growing my own start up. Along the way, these past 3 years, I’ve continued to do some PR consulting and that has kept me fresh and has kept my bank account a little less scary, “paying for my T shirt habit” as my husband says!

What did you do before launching your own business?

See above – 18 years in public relations, at 3 large agencies – Weber Shandwick and then Lois Paul & Partners (a division of Fleishman Hillard) and finally, 13 years at Porter Novelli.

How did you fund your business?

Totally bootstrapped and self funded on purpose. I’m chipping into my savings – and college money for my daughters (hoping I will make that back before they near college years!) to fund stripedshirt entirely on my own so I’m not beholden to outside investors, their timeline, pressures, and priorities. This is my 3rd baby and I want its growth to be on my terms, and at my pace, which is deliberately slow right now – to enjoy the ride and learn a lot, and to be realistic of the craziness of every day for a working mama. I must add, the only reason and way I had savings to get this started was because my husband and I were DINKs (double income, no kids) for so many years, busting our tails, working long hours. And also, it helps that we live in Austin, Texas, not Boston where we are from. Money stretches farther here!

How many hours do you work a week and how much is spent is your home office?

I do about 25 hours a week PR consulting, about 7 hours a week on general Austin technology and business networking, mentorship, meetings, community building and involvement, and then likely about 5 hours is left for stripedshirt, when you sub out all the family/parenting/school time, and a little sleep. I am not working any less than my old job, pre-kids, of 60 hour work weeks.  But it’s a wayyyyy different week, and I’m way happier!  My home office, hmmm, I’m probably “sitting at my desk at stripedshirt world HQ” – aka the couch in my family room – about 2-3 hours a day.  The rest of the time is running around, meetings, at clients, etc.

How would you rate your success?

  • B+ in terms of my satisfaction and personal happiness, which was the whole point of this change nearly 3 years ago.
  • B- in terms of PR consulting because I continue to struggle with finding the ability to SAY NO, push back, not take so much on, and to do less PR so I can do more stripedshirt.
  • And so, C for stripedshirt.  I know I could be doing so much more for the business, and growing it so much more. I’m a marketer and publicist who is not doing either for my own business!  But gain, my personal happiness every day is a B+ because I’m not letting it consume me or stress me out.  Just going slower than it could, or perhaps should, because I’m trying to be in tune with the reality of my daily juggle.

What has been your biggest business struggle as an entrepreneur?

HOLY COW, the juggle and finding time for everything, doing everything justice. I feel I give my all and best – albeit frantic (and unshowered) sometimes – to my daughters, to my PR clients, to this Austin community. But I’m not giving my all or best to stripedshirt. And I’m certainly not giving my all or best to my self, or to my relationship with my spouse. These are the things that fall to the bottom of the priority list.  Alas….

What advice would you give to a new entrepreneur?

Well, some things that have happened – deliberately or by chance – have been so good for me, like:

  • If it’s your dream: keep hold of your baby, and make it yours and take your time with it, your process, your approach. The second you bring in outside funding, you are beholden to them, not you.
  • Enjoy the journey and learnings and don’t be too impatient for it to all happen overnight. It will remove a lot of stress and anxiety if you cut yourself some slack and realize, building a good viable business is a 5 year marathon, not a 5 month sprint. AND that all the challenges, and brand new experiences that come your way are exciting, and fun, and energizing. I’ve loved being a tech PR girl who’s learned the apparel business!  What a change
  • Maybe don’t do a total 180. By chance, I kept some PR consulting and grew it, and having my toes still in that old, familiar pool, an industry I’m skilled and capable in, has helped when I feel like such an idiot and rookie in this new unknown (fashion and apparel) world. Also, doing some PR has helped keep income rolling in when the shirt sales are so slow.
  • Learn to take advice and suggestions very graciously, but also just table em! Everyone has an opinion or suggestion for me, a request, for a color, or type of shirt, or a way I should be doing this.  I don’t let that consume me. I listen, and I record so I have the idea, but I keep plugging along the way I believe, and with only as much as I can handle right now versus trying to do everything to please everyone.
  • And then finally, make the time to focus on what’s really important – and fleeting – time with your children. They are only 4 years old once.  That press release can be written anytime, you can go to March Madness next year. LIVE in the moments that matter and be present.  TURN AWAY from your cell phone and email! 🙂

How do you manage all of your personal and business activities?

Not well, but as best I can. It’s a messy juggle. I do a lot of note writing, and scraps of paper are always flying around to capture the idea I have in the car, as I’m going to sleep, etc. I keep a master to do list – business and personal  in a note pad, and once I can cross enough stuff off, I do a new version where I can add in all the newer/latest to do’s. Checking things off is so satisfying. I also find I “record” things in email recaps a lot. To make sense of my notes, and to organize and remind myself as much as the person I’ve met with and am recapping to. Having those “recorded histories” really helps. Search in gmail, by name or topic, saves me time and again!

Giveaway Alert…

Laura would love two of our readers to try out stripedshirt themselves. Two winners will get a stripedshirt in the color and size of their choice.  Value: $24.50 per shirt for women’s sizes, $19.50 for kids and babies.

How to Enter…

Leave a comment on this post letting us know which color you would choose.

Earn an Extra Entry…

Tweet about the giveaway, remember to leave a new comment for each action/entry.

About the Giveaway…

  • Two winners will receive a stripedshirt (value $24.50 – $19.50)
  • Giveaway ends Sunday, March 3rd at midnight CST.
  • No purchase is necessary.
  • Odds of winning are based on number of entries.
  • The winner will be chosen using and announced on The Work at Home Woman.
  • Open to US residents 18 years old and above.

Come Connect with Laura Beck and stripedshirt…

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