Some Of y’all are waiting for something amazing to happen to you, but that’s just not me.

Some Of y’all are holding back on your dreams, but that’s just not me.

Some Of y’all are afraid to take the leap, but that’s just not me.

Some of y’all are too worried to believe, that YOU possess everything you need!

Dione Laufenberg on Living Laufty!

Define yourself, direct your path

I’ve been minding my business, quite literally. Pushing forward with my brand and grounding myself to my workspace. One subject I have not delved deep into on the blog thus far is my experiences as a black female entrepreneur.  The reason being is Laufty Life is a passion project. This has become a sacred space of positivity. I have reveled in sharing the elements of my life that bring me pure joy.  It’s a form of creative expression without a predetermined outcome. I believe that opening myself up to new possibilities was the key. This writing journey has naturally led me to a solution based innovation in Swurly.

I’ve been minding my business, quite literally. Pushing forward with my agenda and grounding myself to my workspace. One subject I have not delved deep into on the blog thus far is my experiences as a black female entrepreneur.  The reason being is Laufty Life is a passion project. This has become a sacred space of positivity. It’s a form of creative expression without a predetermined outcome. I believe that opening myself up to new possibilities was the key. This writing journey has naturally led me to a solution based innovation in Swurly.

We recently co-hosted an event called Cupcakes with Curly Cuties.  This was an event designed to help mommies learn the ends and outs of natural hair care.  It was the first time I have worked with a team since launching Swurly.  It was a successful event and the moms and kids left feeling more confident about the maintenance of those locs of curls.

Reflecting Back

Being an entrepreneur can be extremely lonely, even if you have a team being the boss you have to be willing to stand alone with the responsibilities.

“Your chances of failure are FAR greater than succeeding [because] 80% of businesses fail by year five. Don’t let Instagram fool you into thinking the grass is greener on the other side, they just used a filter,” she continued. “Entrepreneurship can be extremely lonely. You will have to sacrifice fun for funds if you want to grow your business.”

Mahisha Dellinger the founder of the Curls

Selling Out or Selling Up?

I built a successful day spa business and I sold it for a profit, but it was not without adversity.  It was not easy or quick and I didn’t always love it.  I faced challenges repeatedly. I had to dig deep but mostly I had to maintain belief in me! 

When I decided to move on with my journey, it wasn’t well-received.  My staff was accustomed to working for me.  It was like a divorce and even though I felt validity, with a check-in my hand and endless new possibilities, but it also meant the end of that particular dream.  

The Backlash

After selling the Spa in the fall of 2016, there was a backlash amongst some of the staff members.  The legal structure of a business sell entails confidentiality.  I was unable to inform my staff of the acquisition until a few weeks prior to closing.  That left several members of my team feeling some type of way, as though they had been betrayed. 

 Ultimately, it was me who signed the lease.  It was me who created and paid for the marketing and it was me who held the weight of the responsibility and thus it had to also be me who needed to determine my legacy. I walked into the bank alone when I sought funding and I had to walk away from my company when it was right for me.

She Did That!

Recently, I watched the documentary on Netflix called “She did that” and it spoke directly to me. The founder of Carol’s Daughter touched on selling her company to Loreal and the backlash she received from the black community. Instead of congratulating her accomplishments comments started circulated framing it negatively. Calling her a sellout and stating that people will do anything for money.

Foolishly, people enter into business without ever thinking about an exit strategy. If someone wants to purchase your company, that is a success it means you built something worth acquiring. Caucasian founders and CEO’s do this consistently. That is why they have generations of wealth that they hand down to their families. Her online audience, just like some of the people in my company decided to view a financial decision and take it personally.

It was by no means easy for me to walk away from an establishment, a staff that felt like family and a company I had built from its infancy.  With time all things reveal, what they are meant to be. I had to figure out who I was as a person, aside from my leadership role in this one setting.

People will drain, you strain and then turn around and blame you!

Have you ever been burned in business?  People always present their best of themselves in an initial interview.  It takes time to find out their true intentions, their reliability, and their authentic nature.

Having employed over 50 staff members during the course of my ownership, I have certainly been burned. Fooled into thinking I was hiring someone great, who turned out to be a big headache.  That’s not to discredit the breadth of wonderful women that I did have on my staff.  There were the staple members of our establishment.  It seemed to me that the part time staff with much less to invest in the company were the ones that required the most monitoring and correction.

Their personal lives distracted from their talent.  Their toxic relationships affected their attendance.  Their reliability upheaved the appointment schedule.   There were so many aspects of leadership in which I flourished and a couple of aspects in which I failed.  While owning a spa may sound luxurious, being the leader of the pack is grueling.  Often times I was stressed to the max because that is the price we pay for being the lead. I’ve taken time to reflect and I’m ready to share my lessons.

Lessons learned in Leadership

Often times I would find I felt the need to take on my staff’s issues as if they were my own.  As if I was tasked to solve them and carry the weight of their personal woes.  Empathy is an amazing quality to have but not to the point that it means sacrificing your own health.  Frankly, no matter how willing and generous you are as a boss, you need to place a high priority on your own health. 

Leading a team requires a delicate balance between mentoring and seeing the best in someone, their potential while holding them accountable for their performance.  When they don’t live up to those expectations who will they point the finger at?  

Finding My Peace

Speak your truth

Sharing our authentic story and entrepreneur stories can be rewarding.  Being honest is not intended to scare anyone away from ownership.   Realistically ownership should be pursued based on the logistics so don’t get caught up in an Instagram feed.

My experience is rich, raw and ultimately it is motivating. Not just the glimpse of being a boss babe in the highlights we often see.

Here are the top 5 lessons I’ve learned on how to lead

#1 Level up 

Surround yourself with like-minded people who are on your professional level so that you can have support.  You won’t feel like your struggles are unique to yourself.  You will find solutions to running your business that you’ll be able to implement.  Your employees aren’t going to agree with decisions that are not to their advantage.  You need a sounding board that is neutral and that will elevate your business.

For example, after running a waitlist on several weekends, I decided to open on Sundays to accommodate more clients. Can you guess what the reaction was? A couple of employees threw a fit, some of them even quit.

#2  Draw the line

I realized how much effort and energy I was giving to things I couldn’t control and that I had no business trying to influence.

Draw the line between your employees and your friends.  While I developed some true friendships along the decade of operations with individuals that worked for me and managed to successfully bring a longtime friend into my company.  At the end of the day, you need to be to separate yourself from the people you are employing.  That way there is no conflict of interest if you need to call out issues with their performance.

Living Laufty rediscovering My Dream!

#3  Trust your intuition

One way to motivate your staff is to ask for their engagement.   Working in a day spa atmosphere is a one on one service.  The therapist and technicians had direct contact with the clientele we served. Therefore they got firsthand information on what our customers were seeking.  

I encouraged them to use their voices and contribute to the client experience: suggest specials, modifications to the treatment menu and promotions.  At times I heeded to things they suggested that were not in our best interest.  It’s important to realize that at the end of the day it is your business, you have to pay the overhead. Don’t appease your staff at the cost of what makes financial sense.

#4 Set Boundaries 

4  Set Boundaries 

No one is vital to your vision except for you!  It takes a team to build greatness but along the way people will take what they need and be on their way.  It’s hard to set boundaries when you work in a small company. Know that the only person that cannot be replaced is the lead. Treat your people well, but be able to set boundaries.

You become intimately aware of your employee’s personal business.  Their break ups, their financial woes, their family dynamics.  There is nothing wrong with lending an ear, there is honor in mentoring but there needs to be a limit.  

Silk Lined Beanies from Swurly

#5 Know when to take the leap and know when to activate your exit strategy.

Every Monday I required the leads of each department, along with the receptionist to attend a staff meeting. The meeting was designed to discuss upcoming events, schedule questions, and monthly promotions like the key lime Pedi or the pumpkin peel facial. At this point, I had a love-hate relationship with my manager. She was reliable, however, her moods shifted with her hormonal cycle which she constantly broadcasted to the team.

In addition to the instability of her emotional state, I was dealing with a health crisis of someone on our team. One therapist had been hospitalized. We were discussing how to handle her client’s request without violating her privacy and without knowing if or when she would be returning to work.

Swurly Silk Lined Winter Hats

Your management team needs to be on board with the overall vision for the company!

This manager started crying and made the entire meeting all about her and her upcoming vacation. She started pondering if the business could handle her absence.  I was so disturbed. I was truly upset and concerned about this staff member’s wellbeing. I had given this manager authority over my team when I wasn’t on-site and I observed her leadership style in a new way after that display of dramatic behavior.  How was she steering the team if she had no faith in their abilities?

It was an aha moment for me, this form of mentoring no longer served me. My enthusiasm for molding was diminishing, I was seeing characteristics that didn’t align with my vision. I no longer had the desire to work in the service industry.  It was the realization that I didn’t want to expand the business to the next level of growth that determined for me that it was time to eliminate me.  I’d rather see the company continue to grow competitively.  Give yourself permission to envision an exit strategy.  It doesn’t discredit your love for your original dream.