Just three weeks after her college graduation, Ashton Sweitzer opened Glitz, a women’s boutique in Lititz, PA. Then a 22-year-old without a single business course under her belt, Sweitzer knew that getting her store off the ground would be no easy feat. Despite her entrepreneurial spirit, doubters called her too young, too inexperienced and too ambitious. But within a year of opening Glitz's doors, she moved into a space twice the size, grew her inventory and hired staff. Three years later and she has emerged as a respected shopkeeper in her community.
In April, she was selected as a Grow Your Value finalist as part of the Know Your Value event series led by Morning Joe co-host Mika Brzezinski to empower women in the workplace. Now Sweitzer shares her entrepreneurial wisdom with millennial women and the next generation of aspiring business owners.
1. Make yourself known: Networking is crucial for any business owner. Whether it be joining a service organization, or simply just attending a chamber of commerce meeting, this is how you can drive traffic to your business. Word of mouth is by far the most effective form of advertising, and you want your customers to know your name as well as the name of your business. Get to know as many people as you can and realize that you are a reflection of your business.
2. Find mentors: Seek out people who have your best interest at heart. These are people who will encourage you to keep going and remind you why you're doing it. These should be people who have been in your shoes and can give you sound advice on how to move forward. It's important to have people cheering you on when you feel a sea of doubt creeping in. Having a mentor will also help to train you for when it's time to pass on what you've learned. Cherish these relationships.
3. Be okay with failing: Being an entrepreneur involves so much trial and error. Be okay with failing, but remember to use it to better your business. Making mistakes does not define who you are as an entrepreneur. Failing is when you learn what works and what doesn’t work. Failing is when you learn to define your business. You need to learn to fail in order to be successful at what you do.
4. Don’t be afraid to dream crazy dreams: Every successful business started as a dream or an idea. Do not take those dreams lightly. A successful business often does something that hasn’t already been done. That dream that you thought was crazy might just be your breakthrough moment. Fear has no place in the life of an entrepreneur. If you are living in fear, you could be missing out on potential opportunities to grow your business. When you start to feel fearful, remember why you are doing this, put on your game face and move forward.
5. You are not too young: People are going to tell you that you’re too young. They will tell you that you’re underqualified. They might tell everyone but you that you don’t know what you’re doing or that you’re making a huge mistake. Prove them wrong. Be firm in who you are and know your value. That is why this movement is so important to me. It is so easy to forget who you are when you can only hear others’ opinions of you. Ignore them and remember that you were created with passions in your heart for a reason. Take those passions, create something beautiful and ignore the people who are too jealous to be happy for you. As my girl Taylor Swift says, “Shake it off” and continue to be who you were created to be.
You can watch Sweitzer and her fellow Grow Your value finalists compete for a $10,000 bonus during Philadelphia's Know Your Value event here.