Don’t Lose Your Authenticity as an Entrepreneur

February 10, 2015

2:30 pm

When Jennifer Paige was in college, she was in a car accident that took the lives of both her parents. The last thing her mother said to her was: Where do you want to go?

Paige has taken up that question as a guiding star in her entrepreneurial career, reminding her to follow her own vision and not get pulled away by what others want for her.

“There’s so much noise telling us to be this, to not be this,” says Paige. “Just be you, be genuinely, authentically you, chase your dreams. We all have what we’re meant to do coded into our DNA.”

For a while, Paige honored her father’s dream of seeing her go to law school by taking the LSAT and submitting applications. But it just wasn’t in her DNA: with rejections in hand, she ended up at a local community college taking classes on color theory and the history of fashion.

Soon, she was studying at Parsons The New School for Design, interning at Oscar de la Renta and Women’s Wear Daily, seeing her own headbands and barrettes on a mannequin on 5th Avenue. She felt at home not poring over legal briefs, but spending hours deciding on zippers and thread color for a new line of bags. 

Now based in Phoenix, Paige’s company Soul Carrier sells bags, totes, and clutches. But even now, settled in the world of fashion, it’s easy to get off track and forget her vision. At one point, they hired a bunch of interns and spent money on a web series about life at Soul Carrier, taking the focus away from the bags themselves. Paige almost got sidetracked when AQUAhydrate, the water bottle company by Mark Wahlberg and P. Diddy, wanted to do some kind of collaboration with her.

“A celebrity is not going to be what makes my brand great, and I can’t cut corners of the journey it takes to get there,” says Paige, who works with a small family-run shop in Mexico for production. “I realized I wasn’t ready to do a big collaboration like that.”

It might seem foolish to deny the opportunity to work with P. Diddy, but the Soul Carrier team find themselves more successful than ever. They’re in talks with companies like Nordstrom, Harrods, The Venetian, and Zappos, and their new Conscious Intentions collection is launching in late February.

For entrepreneurs who aren’t sure of their vision, Paige recommends taking some time to think quietly, meditate, journal, or do yoga. After living with a particularly critical roommate – who was constantly doubting her business – Paige actually sat down and wrote a manifesto. She asked herself things like: what do I want to do? What do I stand for? How am I going to contribute in this world? 

“Authenticity is being willing to swim through the raw, gut-wrenching heartache of disappointment in exchange for the chance at a sincerely rich and vibrant experience,” Paige writes. “I will risk everything in honor of going after what I genuinely-authentically want.”

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Kira M. Newman is a Tech Cocktail writer interested in the harsh reality of entrepreneurship, work-life balance, and psychology. She is the founder of The Year of Happy and has been traveling around the world interviewing entrepreneurs in Asia, Europe, and North America since 2011. Follow her @kiramnewman or contact kira@tech.co.

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