Be Your Own Boss: 9 Start-Up Tips From Iman, Coco Rocha, And More

Whether in a flash of genius over brunch with friends or in an MBA classroom, just about everyone has mulled over the idea of starting a business. Last night, Glamour celebrated women who are making it happen with “Secrets of Start-Up Queens” at the 92Y, and a panel of heavyweight experts: Iman, who founded her cosmetics and skincare line in 1994, Dylan Lauren, founder and CEO of Dylan’s Candy Bar, social media maestro Coco Rocha, Refinery29’s Piera Gelardi, and SoulCycle co-founder Elizabeth Cutler. Aspiring entrepreneurs, take heed: these women really know what they’re talking about.

Women are starting businesses at twice the rate that men are — in fact, last year women launched 550 new businesses a day. But that doesn’t mean it’s easy. Luckily, the panel had no shortage of wisdom to share, whether you’re hoping to inspire a wave of devout fitness followers or turn your sweet tooth into a mini-empire. And we’d be remiss not to give a special shout out to Iman, who is basically a satin-voiced oracle with seemingly endless stores of excellent advice. We are not worthy!

  1. Can’t find what you’re looking for? Build it yourself.
  2. The quintessential startup starting point. Cutler said she saw a hole in the market when she was trying to lose the weight she had put on after her first pregnancy. Despite being told that “spinning is dead,” she and her partners opened up shop, gave it their all, and lo and behold, six years later the company is on track to open 60 more studios worldwide by 2015.

  3. Take yourself seriously.
  4. While we can’t imagine anyone taking down to Iman nowadays, she said it took about five or six years after she quit modeling to be truly taken seriously as an executive. And when she says she “quit”, she means it. “I divorced myself from my industry,” she declared. “I stopped reading Vogue, and started reading the Census.” She also stopped going to fashion events, started networking with executives, and committed herself fully to her business.

  5. Be first.
  6. Ever wonder why Coco Rocha seems to be on every social media platform in existence (even some that haven’t quite caught on yet)? This is why. She was on Twitter before everyone had a handle, Tumblr when there were no other models to follow, and Instagram when there were “a handful of fashion people.” So when the rest of the world does join, who are they going to follow? Coco, of course. Iman also stressed the importance of this point when it came to her cosmetics line. If you strike while the iron’s hot (and the market isn’t already saturated), you’re far more likely to get the customers you want.

  7. Create the kind of environment you want to work in.
  8. Piera Gelardi pointed to Refinery29’s creative, friendly office environment as one of her favorite parts of the job. And it’s something you can only do when you’re the one in charge — try doing that when you’re a temp.

  9. Show your gratitude to your first customers.
  10. Cutler gushed about the original SoulCyclers to visit her first location, a cramped studio at the back of a 72nd Street lobby that they found on Craigslist. They were so thankful to have them there, she posited, that they ended up building the kind of relationships that keep people coming back.

  11. Know the product, stupid.
  12. This is a direct quote from Iman, so you best take it to heart. If you don’t know — and believe in — what you’re doing, you’re going to have a far harder time convincing other people to get on board with it. Iman referred to her time mixing makeup for herself and other dark-skinned models as training for starting her own line.

  13. Think big picture.
  14. When Dylan Lauren wanted to open the candy mecca that today is Dylan’s Candy Bar, people didn’t exactly get it. Why does New York need another place to buy sweets? But she had a vision, which included M&M mosaics, life-size lollipops, and walls of rainbow-colored bon bons. This made it easier to pitch to investors, and having lofty goals came in handy when it came time to expand. Current dream? “A candy theme park.” Yum.

  15. Read your contracts — carefully!
  16. Coco Rocha is notorious for having one of the strictest contracts in the biz. She doesn’t do nudity, semi-nudity, religious or government artifacts, cigarettes, half-naked men…the list goes on. But, as she says, “People in any industry will respect you when you stand up for what you believe in.” And you don’t want to look back on a job and feel like you were taken advantage of.

  17. Don’t be afraid to ask for help.
  18. Whether it’s finding a mentor, or simply reaching out to friends and family for a helping hand, getting a leg up from others will make your job a lot easier. Iman name-checked Rose Marie Bravo, of Macy’s, Saks, and, now, Burberry, as one person who helped her find her footing as an executive, while Rocha spoke about supers like Cindy Crawford and, yes, Iman, who inspired her to find her voice outside of modeling.

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