Vanessa and Angela Simmons recently spoke to Black Enterprise about their apparel line Pastry which they started back in 2007. The ladies discuss their inspiration behind, and future goals for, Pastry. They also give their top 5 business lessons.
LESSON 1: Just because you’re given a golden chance, doesn’t mean you can just kick your feet up.
Angela: Nothing’s given to you, because once you get the opportunity, you still have to put in the work. We’re hands on [with the business]: We have meetings, take calls, choose what we like, what we don’t like. We pick colors and fabrics.
Vanessa: At the end of the day, men lie, women lie, but numbers don’t. Results have motivated me to keep going despite challenges or naysayers.
LESSON 2: Working with a relative can have its challenges, but who better to work with than someone who knows your quirks and strengths?
Angela: It’s an advantage because it’s easier to be 100% real when it’s your sister. More than likely, she won’t get offended if I don’t like something. Disputes can happen, but you learn to let personal things go and move on.
Vanessa: Angela went to school for fashion and I studied business. We build each other up, and we try to come to reasonable compromises.
LESSON 3: It’s more than a good idea to tap into the network and resources that are right under your nose.
Vanessa: Best business/money advice from dad: Take what you’re doing seriously, but always have fun. Also, put away at least 10% to 20% of your paycheck for savings. And find other people to partner with and creative ways to grow your money.
Angela: Be organized. Make sure you know what you’re spending, where you’re spending it, your taxes — just know your overall financial picture.
LESSON 4: Breaking into the fashion industry is no cakewalk. You still have to do the work to see success.
Vanessa: Embody the three P’s: Persistence, passion, practice: Have passion for what you do, and just love it and go for it. Go to the Web and research. Go to Barnes & Noble for a day and read the books that are part of the industry. Get the knowledge any way you can.
Angela: It’s definitely not easy. Be persistent, believe in yourself, and do the work.
Lesson 5: Start small and continue elevating with your dream/business/brand based on your consumer base.
Vanessa: I’m particularly proud that we developed a sneaker line just to see how it would go, and it went above and beyond what we would have expected… We’re making really cool clothing you can work out in and also clothing that you can wear to go out. We’re now developing a basketball sneaker for girls and planning to work with the WNBA players. We want to be able to have different types of sneakers that will fit women’s physical fitness regimen.