As a part of our series about entrepreneurs who transformed something they did for fun into a full-time career, I had the pleasure of interviewing Lynette Williams.
From her middle school days, when she first took to sewing, to time spent creating impeccable interior designs, all the way through to today with Louise Lynette, an eye and a calling for design has always been front and center.
Following her foray into both motherhood and the world of competitive tennis, Lynette felt the pullback to her first love: fashion. While taking her beloved dog for one of their last walks together, Lynette had a vision. Combining her talent for design and her compassion for the connections between women in her life, all the pieces of the puzzle fell into place, with a passion for fabrics and fashions taking center stage.
Shortly thereafter, she attended her first textiles convention that January and started a boutique collection, Creations by Lynette. Through the years, Lynette’s vision and audience evolved and have since expanded into the accessible refinement of today: Louise Lynette.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a bit about your “childhood backstory”?
I was born in Dallas and raised in Houston, Texas. From a very young age, I had a love for fashion, and in the 7th grade, I took a home economics class which was my first introduction to sewing. Since then, working with patterns, fabrics, and embellishments has allowed me to be in my true element. As time went on, I continued with my sewing classes through high school but stepped away from my passion as I went into the workforce.
What was the catalyst from transforming your hobby or something you love into a business? Can you share the story of your “ah ha” moment with us?
When I was in my mid-60s, I was going through a period where I wanted to understand my calling and what I was truly here for. I put a lot of things on pause and took time off, and during this time, I was taking my beloved dog on one of our last walks together. Suddenly, as I began walking out of the door of my home, something hit me very strongly, mentally and emotionally, this vision told me that all of my designs needed to be applied to fabric. As I continued walking, I realized that all of the pieces of the puzzle of my life started falling into place in my mind and everything started to make sense. I went home and told my husband about my realization and, from that point on, we began a deep search on how to get started in the fashion industry.
There are no shortages of good ideas out there, but people seem to struggle in taking a good idea and translating it into an actual business. How did you overcome this challenge?
Being in the oil and gas industry for so many years was quite different, but I thoroughly enjoyed it and soaked up all the knowledge. I had no idea that it was possible for me to sell my designs on the market. I thought I’d have to live with this desire and passion for the rest of my life. I had a really good friend make recommendations and point me in the right direction for my first steps. Without the assistance of a friend, I would not have been able to launch my business.
What advice would you give someone who has a hobby or pastime that they absolutely love but is reluctant to do it for a living?
It helps to have a business background when turning your hobby into a business. Starting your own company can be costly, so you have to know what you are doing and what you want to get out of it. I recommend working for a company to save money and learn the behind-the-scenes of running a company. With that insight, you will have the upper hand in financial stability and management. If you can’t afford to get started, you can always take other avenues, like working under a superior to gain the needed experience.
It’s said that the quickest way to take the fun out of doing something is to do it for a living. How do you keep from changing something you love into something you dread? How do you keep it fresh and enjoyable?
When you are doing something that you truly love, you’ll never get tired of it because it feels like you are never really going to work.
However, there are some things that I thought I’d never have to deal with, and someone my age needs to think things through and pace themselves so that they don’t become overwhelmed. Even though it takes time, energy, thought, dedication, and money, it is all worth it if you do something you love. It is helpful to dabble in a variety of activities on a daily basis, such as inventory, emails, and design, to keep things fresh and interesting.
What is it that you enjoy most about running your own business? What are the downsides of running your own business? Can you share what you did to overcome these drawbacks?
I would love to design, but there are so many other things that go into running and overseeing a business. It gets difficult to keep up with paperwork and emails. There is always a learning curve when you are doing something new. I did not grow up with computers or social media platforms but learning how to utilize those tools has been fun.
One of the downsides has been making sure all of our accounts are set up and running properly and legally. For example, I wanted another name for the company in the beginning, but it was already taken by a company based in London and could cause legal trouble. It ended up better for me in the end because I was able to use my mother’s name, which was very special.
When I was getting started, there was a lot of troubleshooting, getting the foundations set up, and finding the correct network of people. You must make the best choices and consult people who have been in your situation before, especially when it comes to business accounts and legal considerations.
Can you share what was the most striking difference between your actual job and how you thought the job would be?
The biggest difference between my actual job and what I thought I would be doing is designing. I thought I would be spending more time with fabrics as opposed to the time I am spending learning platforms, building our foundation, and doing business operations. It takes time to get things set up legally and running properly.
Has there ever been a moment when you thought to yourself “I can’t take it anymore, I’m going to get a “real” job? If so, how did you overcome it?
There have been many times when I wanted to give up when faced with intense issues. COVID-19 was one of the biggest problems for many business owners, including myself; I would start with stocking 20 tops, but I had to cut back to only having 10 in stock due to supply issues. In India, where we manufacture our products, COVID-19 was so bad that half of the factory was laid off, putting production three months behind.
It helps to find the right people you can gather information from for what you want to do. You also have to be able to pivot when you’re faced with situations you never thought you would be in, such as COVID-19.
During times like these, it takes me back to the intense feeling from the day I had my calling to pursue my fashion brand. I have to draw from that sometimes to ground myself.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
When I started getting shipments of my apparel pieces, I had to decide between receiving 47 boxes a week from India to my house or getting an office. I was going back and forth on if I should get an office space and finally decided to do so. As I was designing the space, I realized I would need two offices for all of our computers, decor and products. Looking back, I could have consulted with someone on this to help make the decision easier. Ultimately, it has been a challenge but fun to figure out everything that went into planning for that.
Who has inspired or continues to inspire you to be a great leader? Why?
I have never thought of myself as a leader. I am truly just trying to be the best version of myself. Syama Meagher, a friend of mine, has given me advice and support and has taught me a lot. She works with helping retailers scale their businesses, and without her, I do not think I would have known where to start with launching my business.
I believe I am appealing to younger generations because I am living my dream at a later stage of my life, proving that age is just a number.
How have you used your success to make the world a better place?
Getting things off the ground and running is tough when you are getting into such a highly competitive business. With my brand, my goal is to make women feel comfortable and good about themselves because they know they look good.
From a charitable aspect, I donate to the Children’s Advocacy Center, Smile Train, Compassion International, Mercyships, and a few others. My long-term goal is to be able to contribute to and coordinate the building of water wells in areas that need it most.
What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started” and why? (Please share a story or example for each.)
1. Surviving through a pandemic. COVID-19 was extremely difficult to navigate, especially as a new business. No one could have predicted this crisis for business owners, especially those just starting out. During COVID-19, my brand faced a number of challenges, including workforce layoffs with the manufacturer, production delays, and supply shortages.
2. Cost of starting a business. Many entrepreneurs talk about how they got started, but they don’t talk about how much it cost to get their business up and running. Before getting started, I recommend that future fashion business owners have a good idea of what they really want to do, whether it’s athletic wear or gowns, so they know what they’re up against financially. It is an expensive investment, but if you are passionate about your work, it will be well worth it.
3. Marketing tips and tricks. When I first started out as a designer, I didn’t give much thought to the extras that would be required to build my business, such as marketing. Even though my brand was going to be entirely online at first, we are now going to be in boutiques as well, and marketing is critical to getting into more stores. Positioning my company correctly is critical because it will influence how people perceive our values and mission.
4. Knowing when to pivot. Trends change all the time, so knowing when to switch platforms, learn new skills, and grow is critical when starting a business. There is no one-size-fits-all solution for every business. Certain platforms that industry experts recommended did not work for my brand. With all of the options available today, being willing to drop things that aren’t a good fit and look for something else is a must.
5. Securing good partnerships. Finding the right business partners can be challenging, especially in the competitive fashion industry. It is critical that you select the best people, agencies, or firms for your objectives and brand. These individuals can take you to the next level and teach you things you didn’t know you needed to know.
What person wouldn’t want to work doing something they absolutely love. You are an incredible inspiration to a great many people. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger.
I would love to start a movement to help those that need life’s basic necessities, such as water. For the longest time, I have dreamed of being able to build water wells where it is needed most, in areas where water is contaminated, and the residents have no options but to drink it.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
My life lesson quote is from Jeremiah 29:11 “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”
This quote speaks to me because the fact that I am sitting here, pursuing my passion, is a blessing. I felt compelled to do so, and I was guided along that path in His own timing.
We are very blessed that some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them.
If you had asked me this question in the past, I would have said Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis because she was such a fascinating woman. Today, I would have loved to have met Oscar de la Renta because he has been a huge inspiration for me from a fashion standpoint.
Thank you for these fantastic insights. We greatly appreciate the time you spent on this.
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