SDH 009: Building Business, Changing Lives With Michelle Blue
Michelle Blue – Cofounder of Bené Scarves
Bené is an online collection of scarves, inspired by the culture where it all began and committed to providing an education to girls in Ghana by sponsoring tuition, books, supplies, and the uniforms for the girls to continue their education and fulfill their dreams. Michelle and her co-founder, Sasha, began building the business while in college and have moved ahead, full-force, after graduating to make their dream a reality. Bené partners with Sista Works to provide and support 5 girls through secondary school.
“We believe we are our sister’s keeper. We believe in empowering women by making investments into their lives, natural abilities, and gifts to enable them to be self-sufficient. Our pieces are inspired by the cultures we build into.” – benescarves.com
Most excited about: Bené just launched their Spring/Summer collection of scarves. It’s a brand new collection that is beautiful as a beach cover-up or just everyday life. New prints + New Styles + Learning about the girls Bené helps support.
“How can I make a sustainable difference in these girls’ lives?”
In the interview, Michelle shares her story of how she was inspired to create a business that would help support and empower girls in Ghana. We dive deep into the actual back-end of the business and what it took for her and her partner to get started.
“In the beginning, we were so caught up in all of the ideas and trying to plan for the unexpected”
Immediate Implementation: It’s not necessarily a bad thing to flesh out ideas, but there is a time where you have to focus and just start executing. Sitting down and focusing.
Everything is not going to be perfect. You’re not going to have the resources to do everything that you want to in the beginning. But start small if you have to and then you can build upon that and continue to grow your business. Start with what you have and use the resources around you.
Psssst!: Bené makes their own fabric inspired by African fabric and prints – So you know you’re getting something truly unique!
We chat about the nitty-gritty business stuff. Finding and working with manufacturers, hustling at trade shows, long days and the misconstrued “un-glamorous” bits.
:: Each scarf pattern is named after each of the 5 girls supported by Bené!::
Partnership: “We couldn’t do it without each other.”
Michelle shares her insight on being business partners with your best friend!
“We have very different minds – I’m very much the dreamer and creating what we want it to be – very optimistic. Sasha is very logical. She likes to see how it’s going to get done”
Tips: Divvy up the work. Share the expenses for the business. Share ideas. It’s great to have a sounding board. It’s great to have that support because things are not always great. Keep grounded and focused on the vision. Keep things free-flowing – “We have our business, we have our friendship, and sometimes it intermixes.”
“I’m thankful that I’m not in this by myself. … We have fun along the way too.”
Michelle talks about bringing on interns and creating a team and culture. She shares the top questions to ask yourself when hiring and establishing the brand.
“We try to make sure everyone feels connected to the brand”
What would be a good fit?
What’s the applicant’s lifestyle?
What does she do?
Will she feel comfortable sharing ideas?
What is our culture?
What do we want to be known by?
Obstacles: Money, Competitive Brands, Breaking through the Market and making an impact
We have to make sure we are making sales, not just for ourselves, but we are supporting these girls. That keeps us pushing and keeps us motivated to work hard towards that goal.
“I didn’t have all of the answers. I didn’t know what I know now. I didn’t know how a way was going to be made but it has.”
Advice: Go for it! You’re never going to know everything. That utopian moment of everything being in place will never happen, but if you go for it things will start falling in place, doors start opening that you would never know if you didn’t get started.
Make sure you get mentors, get internships and have some experience, read, research as much as you can, be wise and go for it!
“In the midst of all of the hardships and the down moments, I’m just appalled at how away has always been made and that inspires me to keep going.”