How Anne Mahlum Runs [solid core]

entrepreneur, founder, inspiration

Project Entrepreneur’s founding partner, Rent the Runway, has a special place for women entrepreneurs. Not just in its heart but also in an actual community called “The Real Runway.” Here is an excerpt from the collection of voices to motivate and inspire your own runway, whatever that may be. Read on for Anne Mahlum’s story.

It all started with… running.

Anne has been a runner since she was a teen. Back then, the exercise relieved her of stress and a decade later, helped her navigate a quarter-life crisis. One day, she ran past a group of homeless men and invited them to run with her. This led to a partnership with their shelter to start a running club, which would become the non-profit, Back on My Feet. Under Anne’s leadership, the organization opened 11 chapters across the country. But she wasn’t out of breath just yet. Anne got the itch for a new business challenge and in 2013, left BOMF to develop her own fitness practice called [solidcore]. She expanded to nearly 10 studios across the U.S. and has attracted clients such as Michelle Obama. This is Anne’s story on how she went from semi-lost soul to full-fledged serial entrepreneur.

When you have a vision, how do you persuade people to buy into your dream?

When I was a kid in North Dakota, it was cold and there was nothing to do. One day, my dad told us to get our swimsuits. We hopped in the car, pulled up to a hotel and looked at my dad and asked, “Are we getting a room here?” My dad said, “No,” and just walked in like he owned the place and asked where the pool was. That stuck with me. If you walk into a room looking like you don’t know what you’re doing, people can smell that. No one wants to jump into a ship that they’re not sure is going to float. You have to be so sure of what you’re doing and communicate that.

Anne Mahlum

There’s a fine line between confidence and being a know-it-all, right?

Definitely. I was a young CEO at Back on My Feet. A lot of high-level people wanted to help me grow it. They’d ask a question and I’d say, “I already thought about that. This is what we are going to do.” I wasn’t doing that to make them feel bad; I was trying to show them that I was capable. But I realized I alienated a lot of them. I’ve learned that the people around you need to feel valued and heard. If you ask people to give their time, make it worth their while. They’re not there to sit around and listen to how smart you think you are.

Were you ever shocked by the reality of what working for yourself meant?

That’s a big part of being an entrepreneur — proper expectations. Whenever you start something, you have to understand that there are going to be surprises. If you don’t prepare yourself for that, it’s going to eat you alive and you’ll start to beat yourself up. Also, in times when I can’t get my headspace right, I choose not to be around my team. Don’t bring that energy into your work. People can feel that and don’t deserve it.

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