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Start Your Business Entrepreneurs

Small Business Snapshot: Maven Women

Small Business Snapshot: Maven Women Credit: Rebecca Ballard

Our Small Business Snapshot series features photos that represent, in just one image, what the small businesses we feature are all about. Rebecca Ballard, founder of Maven Women, explains how this image represents her business.

Maven Women creates the first day-to-evening eco-conscious and fair trade clothing appropriate for work, as well as cocktails, brunches, weddings and more! Our elegant wardrobe staples are easy to dress up our down for your signature look. We are thoughtful about people and the planet every step of the way, and have six core values that guide everything we do.  

The idea for Maven Women came to me about a decade ago. At that time I was a frustrated consumer seeking elegant clothing created in a socially conscious way. This vision has evolved into a company which brings together my desire to use my consumptive choices in line with my values, love of elegance and glamour and frustration with options that incorporated these, and passion for advocacy and social impact.

I also spent the past decade in dialogue social impact leaders as well as amazing professional women who shared with me the types of styles they were seeking. This helped us develop our co-creation process. Maven Women is no longer just my idea. It represents the vision of so many women who want better options in terms of both sustainability and style.

The above photograph was taken in my home office, a space that is in line with our values and will also enable me to have a good work-life balance when my son arrives this year. In the future we plan on creating maternity wear and speaking to that part of a woman's experience. We'll use my experience being pregnant and that of my many amazing momma friends to create clothing that supports this season in our lives.

In this photograph you can also see some other elements of Maven Women and the sustainable lifestyle that I am to lead, as I believe in practicing what you preach:

  • The Prayer of St. Francis on the ledge above me, which centers me in treating people well and always acting in love. I also have a thank you note from a dear friend and a photo of London taken by another friend on that ledge, so I am surrounded by the love of some amazing women in my life.
  • A sketch I drew of one of our new designs and some fabric swatches are next to me. We're very hands on and a bit obsessive about style and quality, ensuring that it truly flatters a woman's form.
  • The chair I sit in is one that I purchased used, cutting down on the world's waste. My handbag is from Bead & Reel, one of my favorite ethical boutiques. Their founder, Sica Schmitz has become a friend and mentor and we're collaborating on our first event together next month. 

Our biggest challenges are not unique to Maven Women, and something any other founder of a social enterprise has surely struggled with. The top three include:

Finding work-life balance: The biggest liability is Maven Women is me. If I get burnt out by working too much or sacrifice my friends, family and emotional stability, it's all over. It's tempting to just keep working nonstop in a task-oriented way, but that hurts your emotional well-being and ability to have good judgment. And sometimes other well-intentioned entrepreneurs, especially those with other personalities and lifestyles, can put pressure on you to make lifestyle decisions that aren't right for you. Family and friends are critical for a healthy, happy life, and they have been instrumental in gently holding me accountable here and helping me take a step back when needed.

Dealing with financial uncertainty: Your contingency plans need contingency plans, as there will be roadblocks. You need to be able to turn each pivot into an opportunity, and handle expenses being greater than revenue for at least the first two, if likely not the first three (or more!) years. You need to keep the faith during the hardest times financially, do a lot with very little financially, and not let being in the red get to you.

The always-too-slow slow process of moving forward sales in a sustainable way: Sales are always slower than you think they should be. Even if you get a strong initial burst you need to find ways to maintain that momentum, which can be tough.

Over the next few years we want to expand our capsule collection to include a wider range of beautiful, flattering styles. We can only do this if people who are excited about what we're up to follow along and support. We rely on the feedback of each and every person committed to savvy, sustainable styles to help move us forward.

Edited for brevity and clarity by Nicole Taylor.