I recently closed a business.
Walking away, I feel a little lighter, a bit nostalgic, more confident and a lot smarter.
My business was an online clothing store called TallChicksRule.com. Great name, right?
If you know a female taller than 5’9”, you likely know the plight of tall fashionistas. I’m here to assure you: The struggle is real.
There’s this crazy misperception by clothing designers and retailers that if you’re a tall woman, you’re one of three things:
- 80-years old
- A librarian
“The difference between Kate today and Kate 2008 is I now have the confidence and business know-how to help them figure it out.” – Kate O’Neill Rauber
Seeing how I’m none of these — though I do like to read — I knew there had to be other tall chicks that wanted fashionable clothing options. After all, our petite friends have lots of choices. Why should tall ladies be shorted?
I launched TallChicksRule in April 2008. For the next few years, I ran all aspects of the business. I negotiated with buyers and purchased inventory. Never done that before. I oversaw the company financials. Dude, I’m a public relations person — we just round. I handled all IT needs. Seems like a good time to share that I did not go to DeVry.
95 percent of the time, I had no idea how to do something or it was my first time trying. I just had to figure it out. And that’s where the confidence comes from my now closed business: I learned that I could figure it out.
TallChicksRule was not a commercial success. At one point, I owed $50,000 on a credit card. I’ll let that sink in.
(Pretty sure that day I started questioning my decision not to drink. And decided that a flask would be my next fashion accessory.)
But it was a professional success that will continue having a lasting benefit on my career.
The first 15 years of my professional life were spent in corporate PR. I can’t think of many communications positions that would have provided first-hand experiences like:
- Figuring out how to stay self-funded and digging myself out of that $50,000 hole.
- Attending the top clothing “markets” and pitching hundreds of manufacturers on the benefits of making special sizes for my clients.
- Opening a brick-and-mortar location – despite having no retail experience – while continuing to run the ecommerce site and my PR consultancy – also known as my day job.
- Learning how to navigate city, state and federal tax regulations. (Have I mentioned I’m not a mathlete?)
I now own just one business: a PR consultancy. My focus is on helping companies of all sizes tackle their communication needs. TallChicksRule didn’t lead to the early retirement I hoped, but it did make me a better consultant.
I know what my small business clients face every day because I lived it. I get that their days are full of tasks they’ve never tried. And I know how it feels to stare at a to-do list and think “How will I ever…?”
The difference between Kate today and Kate 2008 is I now have the confidence and business know-how to help them figure it out.
After all, I’ve walked in their shoes. Mine are probably just a bigger size.
Kate O’Neill Rauber is a Kansas City-based communications consultant and founder of KOR PR with expertise in strategy, media relations, executive communications, messaging, social media and more. Connect with her on Twitter at @korauber.