Monday Motivation from Erin Houston, Co-Founder and CEO of wearwell

#PEIntensive17, female founders, inspiration, Monday Motivation, startup

Mondays can be rough, and sometimes we can use some motivation. Our #MondayMotivation blog series brings you tips and life hacks from industry leaders and some of the most creative entrepreneurs out there.

Today we’re chatting with Erin Houston, Founder and CEO of wearwell, a service that curates consciously-made clothes that fit one’s style and values. Erin talks to us about the frustrations that led her to start her business, overcoming the challenge of fundraising, and the Monday morning task that keeps her feeling accomplished and motivated throughout the week.

What inspired you to start your business?

[My co-founder and I] launched wearwell to strengthen the conscious consumer market segment and revolutionize the way the industry operates today. I was incredibly frustrated that as a young professional in Washington, D.C., leading a division of a media company focused on social impact in developing countries, I didn’t know how to shop consciously for my clothing. I also saw first-hand how much positive change we [as consumers] could make on a global scale if we were able to incentivize the fashion and apparel industry to [become] more ethical and sustainable. It [would] change the way 12 million garment workers around the world, 80 percent of whom are women, make a livelihood.

I began to encounter many women who felt the same pain point: they couldn’t easily find clothing that fit their style and their values, and many of those women had simply given up their search. But, if we as customers [didn’t begin to] behave differently with our purchasing power, why would the industry ever change? I knew there had to be a better way.

What’s been the biggest challenge you’ve faced so far?

Fundraising. It’s just as hard as everyone says, but especially tough when your investor neither is, nor can easily empathize with, your target customer. What I’ve learned from this challenge: trust your gut. It’s one of the amazing facets of feminine leadership style that will get you far.

What’s been the greatest reward?

Changing [people’s] mindsets is absolutely the most rewarding experience I might ever have. I encounter people all the time who don’t think about the impact of their lifestyle. When I [challenge] someone [to] think about the impact of her lifestyle and show her that it’s possible to generate positive impact, I see a little spark of energy. I’ve witnessed people who’ve discovered conscious fashion through our work take up the banner themselves in conversations with friends, and it’s incredibly rewarding to [do] something that has [that kind of] ripple effect.

What is the biggest thing you’d like to see changed in your industry, and how are you working toward making that change happen?

There’s a huge divide between mainstream apparel brands and those that are [purposefully] building ethical and sustainable businesses. Often this divide is widened through finger-pointing, name-shaming and boycotts. I want to close that divide by fostering an attitude of partnership and equipping [mainstream] brands with the knowledge to [make incremental changes] toward more conscious production practices. We’re working on generating the insights about conscious consumers that those brands need [in order] to make business decisions that [will] positively [impact both] their business practices and their bottom line.

Who or what motivates you to keep going, even when things get tough?

I have an email label titled “Read when you need a lift.” When things get tough, I read through thoughtful messages from former colleagues and bosses, notes from customers who have raved about what we’re doing, and loving encouragement from my family.  And when that fails, I unplug for a day to get some space and usually spend that time cuddling with my dog!

Can you provide a few updates on what’s new with your business or what you’ve accomplished since you attended the PE Intensive in April 2017?

We launched through a crowdfunding campaign the same month as the PE Intensive. Since then, we’ve laid the foundation for the business, launched our private beta, and developed a waitlist because of so much customer demand. We’re now working towards our full launch following a holiday gift card push that gets recipients off the waitlist and into the service immediately. Needless to say, we’ve been busy these past six months!

What’s one piece of advice you’d give to another entrepreneur just starting out?

Many early entrepreneurs get stuck on what they think is in their way. But really, these are just walls we build up in front of ourselves. There’s always a different path; you just have to be truly open and more creative than you ever knew you could be in order to find it. Whether that hurdle is funding, personal income, staffing, or other challenges, ask yourself what you’d do if that hurdle were not in front of you and then find a way to do it anyway.

What do you do every Monday morning to prepare and motivate yourself for the coming week?

I listen to a “pump up mix” that gets me really jazzed, go on a strategically long walk to my desk (about 40 minutes), and when I arrive, I knock out whatever task requires the most fresh “brain space” for the week before diving into emails. It’s a great way to start your week energized and already feeling like you’ve accomplished something big, setting off a cycle of productivity.

For more #MondayMotivation, check out our interview with Jess Garbarino, Founder and CEO of Brunswick Park, a line of performance apparel tailored to entrepreneurs. Jess talks to us about her challenges starting an apparel company as a fashion industry outsider, the support system that keeps her motivated, and her favorite workout for starting the week on the right foot.