Success means… being radically generous
Three adjectives that deserve me are… Compassion, Genuine, Empowering
You can’t run a business without… shared vision and action
In the next 10 years I will be… running my business while being a public speaker
I realized after my husband died that LIFE IS SHORT. Why waste it working for someone or accompany that I didn’t have passion for? I want to do something good with my short time on this planet and not look back wishing I had done things different. After a friend was diagnosed with breast cancer I realized the lack of functional and feminine products for women battling breast cancer in the market. I decided to create something that would give women the dignity they deserve during such a difficult and uncertain time in their life. Brobe is an award winning garment and accessories manufacture that specializes in functional, comfortable, and fashionable products for breast cancer patients and expecting and nursing moms.
What motivated you to become an entrepreneur? Is having your own business something you always wanted to have?
Growing up, I was hopeful and wide-eyed, yet unsure of what I wanted to do with my life. I was a terrible student,I actually almost got kicked out of school because I just couldn’t get the material. But the street smarts, the people skills, those were my strengths. I never thought about being an entrepreneur until I was sitting in traffic one day, going home from one of the worst days at the office. I was an office manager for a financial advisor. When I started 2 years prior my boss had promised me all kinds of commission and bonuses if the office hit our sales goals. We were always just a little short each quarter until one quarter, we exceeded the goal. I was ecstatic. With a very sick husband at home, rising medical bills, and not enough money to make ends meet this was going to be a huge relief. This particular day I went in expecting a nice big fat bonus when very casually my boss says “ I changed my mind, I don’t believe in bonuses.” I was crushed, depleted, and exhausted. I remember thinking in the car on my way home that day that I would NEVER treat an employee the way I had just been treated.
How did you come up with your business idea? What inspired you?
About 15 years ago it was my own desire to have support and comfort in the morning when getting ready for my day. Basically, necessity was the mother of invention. I’m a robe girl, but hated having to wear my bra under my robe to get dressed in the mornings, so I fashioned my own solution to boob sweat! With a pair of scissors, I turned my sports bra into the first Brobe. Fast forward years later and a friend underwent a double mastectomy and three reconstructive surgeries. After she showed me what they gave her in the hospital I was shocked and sickened. I just kept thinking, if my mom, sister, friend had just had their breast removed, what she had in her hands would be the last thing I would give them to put on. I didn’t know anything about what was out there, what the market was or the potential. I just knew there was a fire inside me that wanted to at least find out.
Do you have a fixed work routine? Is it important to have one? Any tips for our readers?
Well, I have three kids and husband who works odd hours. My day always starts around 4:30am (thank God I’m a morning person) and ends around 10pm. I don’t have a fixed routine because having your own business you have to learn to wear lots of hats and go from task to task very quickly. My #1 job is mom and raising well rounded, grounded human beings. Sometimes Brobe takes a back seat to them or visa versa. The only fixed routine I have when it comes to my family and waking up early enough to return emails, get lunches packed and kids out the door. Then after 5pm when kids are home having dinner together as a family, homework, bath, and bed then back to work. Everything in between when they are at school varies and changes day to day.
How do you generate new ideas to stay relevant on the market?
I talk to my customers—-they are the biggest advocates for me, and I also source from our Brobe Ambassador program. We recently launched this, and it’s a great way for us to expand our relationship with our customers and meet their needs. When creating new products, I talk to my customers and listen to what they like and need. Some of our best sellers have been uncovered this way, like gift sets and our post-op belt.
What sacrifices have you had to make to be a successful entrepreneur?
For the first 4 years I didn’t take a salary. When I made up my mind to quit my job and build this business it was very difficult but I knew in my core, this is what I was suppose to do. I called my husband and said “ i hope you are ready to peanut butter and jelly it for as long as we need to because Im doing this. My husband is a paramedic and picked up overtime each week (sometimes working70-80 hrs) each week just to make up for my lack of salary. It was hard, real hard, but we both knew this would be worth it. I actually wrote a blog about my husband(s) that I would love for you to read. Gives a little bit deeper meaning about what gave me the strength to start my own business. https://thebrobe.com/blogs/blog/because-of-my-husbands
Did you have to fire someone before? What’s the best way to go about it?
Yes, and it was painful. That saying “hire slowly but fire fast” thats very true. Just rip the band-aid off and move on. It sucks but if the employee doesn’t share your values and vision, get rid of them.
Who is the one super successful person you look up to? Why them?
Richard Branson. I will meet him one day :) He seems very genuine and compassionate. There are few quotes that I like. “ As a leader of people, You have to be a great listener, a great motivator, be very good at praising and bringing out the best in people.” I also like “ Clients do not come first. Employees come first. If you take care of the employees, they will take care of the clients."
What is one thing you find to be true that most people would disagree with?
I believe resourcefulness and perseverance are the keys to building a thriving business. Grit. Being scrappy. I am all those things and more and have proved out a business model that is primed for growth. I believe a lot of CEO’s or entrepreneurs think that because they started the business, they know everything about it. I don't find that to be true at all. Know one can know everything about business. I think businesses fail 9/10 because of cocky, bad leadership. Good leaders are vulnerable, resilient, and humble. They surround themselves with people who are more experienced and smarter then they are in the fields they are not best at. Good leaders should be sponges that soak up knowledge from other leaders and even employees. As Steve Jobs once said “ It doesn't make sense to hire smart people and then tell them what to do: hire smart people so they can tell us what to do."
What are some pros and cons of having (OR not having) entrepreneurial parents?
I had two parents that were/are entrepreneurs and fantastic public speakers. I only have pro’s because they have had very successful careers. When I struggled in school, studying every night and still failing, my mother would ALWAYS tell me “ Allie, ‘There’s a reason for this. You just have to keep trying.” She taught me perseverance and my dad taught me to trust my gut. It will never steer you wrong. Two things I believe every successful entrepreneur needs to have.