Cynthia Jamin grew up in Chicago. Because of her abusive childhood, she relocated to California to live with her father. She was a professional actress but decided to become an entrepreneur. With a $20,000 inheritance and strong perseverance, a business was born! TwirlyGirl is now a million dollar brand.
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Worst Entrepreneur Moment
- Imitation is the highest form of flattery, but a complete rip-off? OUCH. Listen in to hear what to do when you get ripped off…
Entrepreneur AH-HA Moment
- Cynthia was struggling internally – until she brought her story into the world.
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- Delivering Happiness by Tony Hsieh
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Cynthia: I am ready to light it up –
Cynthia: – John.
John: Cynthia grew up in Chi-Town, otherwise known as Chicago. Because of her abusive childhood, she relocated to California to live with her father. She was a professional actress but decided to become an entrepreneur. With $20,000.00 in inheritance and a strong perseverance, a business was born. TwirlyGirl is now a million dollar brand. Cynthia take a minute and fill in some gaps in that intro, and give us a little glimpse in your personal life.
Cynthia: I’ve always been one that doesn’t like following the rules, so after the acting wasn’t fulfilling me anymore and I was raising my two daughters, I decided to take a class and create something new. So I took a sewing class, created these dresses for my girls personally and was just happy making stuff for them when I came upon a certain design that seemed to take off with other mothers because that’s who I was hanging around with.
And slowing but surely I found myself making these one-by-one, these original, reversible twirly dresses, and they just filled a need that wasn’t really being fulfilled. So when I got that inheritance, I looked at my husband – and luckily we were in a position where we didn’t need the money for anything urgent – and he said yeah, let’s just see where this goes. And that’s kind of how it started. I don’t have a background in business or fashion design.
It’s a very unlikely career for me. But it was born from this need to kind of prolong their childhood for exploring that wonder in childhood, and I think I gravitated towards that because I didn’t really have a childhood. So through my daughters, I was kind of reliving something and getting to experience it for the first time in a way. So it really was a very healing and joyous experience for me, and I just kept doing it. So that’s it in a nutshell.
John: Well, Fire Nation I love this story for so many reasons, and I want to kind of step back from the specificity of what Cynthia’s done to just make sure that you, Fire Nation, realize that every day that you’re walking around keep your eyes open. Like, see what inspires you. See what fires you up. Cynthia was saying man, I want my daughters to have a longer childhood, to just be girls for a longer period of time because I didn’t have that. So what are the voids in your life, in your past, Fire Nation? What are the voids that you’re just seeing walking around day to day? I mean, for me there’s a very simple void that I wanted to fill, a seven-day a week podcast, and I just did it. And Cynthia’s filled her void. What’s that void that you can fill? And don’t just do it to do it. You hear the passion in Cynthia’s voice. She is fired up by this, and that’s key because this is a marathon.
This is a struggle, and we’re gonna talk about some of these struggles in a minute here. But this has to be a void, a niche, a need to be filled that does excite you. And if you see this gray one and it doesn’t excite you, believe me there’s another one around the corner. So take a step back, and keep your eyes and ears open. Now Cynthia, we talk about revenue here on EOFire. Nothing –
John: – really specific. But what I would love to know is for you where you’re at in your space, can you just, kinda, break down the different revenue streams that you’ve created with TwirlyGirl and just with you as an entrepreneur.
Cynthia: Well, I started out in retail, and I know my customer. And I love dealing direct to my customer, so I started out with just a website. And I was also going to school events to test market the product in person and see how it fit the girls and what the reaction was. So I was doing a ton of, like, those school holiday fundraisers, and that happened for a couple years. And in the meantime, building the website and just selling online and through those events.
And then slowly, as the business started to grow, everybody started to say okay, do you wholesale? Start selling to stores because you need volume. And that never felt comfortable to me because there’s one person in between your end customer, and so now, I’m selling to a buyer who I have to convince will like my line along with all the other lines that they’re being courted for. And it really isn’t my strength. I’m a salesperson but more to the person that I know is gonna buy it. Does that make sense?
Cynthia: So we did, kind of, go both routes, and we still have wholesale. But it was interesting because now, we’re focusing more on retail, and our business is up by 24 percent retail than it was last year. And it keeps growing every year. Just in the last two years, we focused more on retail, and it’s been growing and helping our business so much more than the wholesale, all our efforts trying to boost that up because I think it really needs to be said. Where your passion is is where you’re gonna find the most success. And I think you were gonna ask, like, what were my biggest failures.
John: Yeah, we’re not gonna get into that right now –
John: – because one thing that I do want to say is I’m looking at your website. And I just love what’s coming across here. Now, are these your two daughters that are featured on the homepage?
Cynthia: No, actually not. They’re all over the website, but I switch out the photos.
John: Okay, very cool. Well, you can just tell that these two girls are just having so much fun. They’re doing just that. They’re being girls. They’re twirling around. They love the dresses. They’re happy. It’s bright, and you can just see that Cynthia is every part of this, Fire Nation. Her passion, her energy, her excitement. What she saw is being realized in these photos, in her brands and everything that she does.
So this is really exciting and a great example, again, of going back to something not only that you see as a void out there but that you get excited about so you can pour your passion and your soul into that very thing. I mean, Cynthia did it when she jumped on. She said, “Hey John. I’ve heard a couple EOFire episodes. I love your energy.” And I hear that all the time because I love doing these interviews, so my energy is natural.
It’s genuine, and I can maintain that seven days a week because I love having conversations with people like Cynthia. So what, Fire Nation, is your thing? And now, Cynthia, we are gonna shift to a story, and I really want to be specific here. This is what you consider your worst entrepreneurial moment to date. And Cynthia, we thrive on stories, so take us to that moment in time. And tell us that story.
Cynthia: I would have to say when I found out that a previous customer had knocked us off, that was probably my worst day because before that I was in my own little bubble going about my thing. I had created something special. I knew I wasn’t out there. I knew I was the only one doing my type of clothing. And to see it reflected back in a whole other way but looking so similar and basically mimicking my website, mimicking the original story of hey, I have two girls. I created this dress. I mean, I almost, like, fell over in my chair. It was really eye opening, and there were two ways that I could have taken that information. One was like I’m done. This is over. Kid fashion is very hard to make proprietary, and now it’s out there.
And she’s knocking me off, and what’s the point? Or I really because I think I’m a survivor just because of my past, I looked at it. And I went, you know what? You are not gonna do this to me. I may not be able to stop you completely, but I’m gonna make it really hard for you. And by doing what I do even better, even best and going forward with even more styles and just running out ahead of you so far that you will never be able to catch me.
And that’s kind of what I’ve been doing ever since, and this was probably about four years ago. And there’s still another person who’s knocking us off, and it happens. And I guess you could say it’s a way of flattery, copying somebody. But I have to say it really hits me at my core because nobody can kind of infuse it with what I infuse the line with because it’s coming from me organically. And they can superficially copy that, but they can’t get the essence of it.
And they can’t produce it the way I do in limited runs, and we number them like works of art. It’s really hard to do that, and I’m just gonna keep doing what I do even better than everybody else. But that really was a very eye opening moment for me, and it took me out of my bubble. And it almost made me more fierce as an entrepreneur and more protective of my brand and trademarking every phrase I can think of to protect it as much as I can. So that was one of my stories.
John: Yeah. No, that story’s powerful. And definitely, imitation is the most sincere and highest form of flattery across the board and just a reality of life too, Fire Nation.
John: It is absolutely going to happen in your journey if and when you find success period. And there is a number of different ways you can go about this, and Cynthia kinda ran through a couple. But I even want to go one step further than what she did. Now, she said she could have just given up, and she could have just said okay, someone else is doing it. This is easily replicable. Like, I’m just gonna give up, or No. 2, which is the step that she did take. She said I’m gonna have this and make them be stronger, more fierce. And I’m just going to charge ahead, and I’m going to trademark everything. And I’m gonna win. I’m gonna be the winner. And guess what? It’s worked.
And Cynthia has continued to extend her lead and do some incredibly great and powerful things. Now, there is another option that actually is one that I’ve chosen in the past, which I want to be very clear. This is different situations. There’s a difference between a physical product like Cynthia has created and something like what I’ve done with EOFire. I mean, there’s countless podcasts that have been launched Cynthia since I have –
John: – that are called Athlete on Fire, Fitness on Fire, Firemen on Fire. I mean, there’s been actually a blogpost that people have listed all of, like, the EOFire copycats, and I’ve never written one. But I definitely checked them out. And my mentality is this. It’s just like hey, I could have the mindset of scarcity that, like, this person’s copying me.
And they’re taking somehow away some of my energy and some of my vibe, or I can have the mindset of abundance and say you know what? They’re trying to hack into this world. They’re trying to make it, and they’re trying to stand upon the shoulders of giants just like I have before me. Like, I wasn’t the first person to interview entrepreneurs, and Cynthia you weren’t the first person to create dresses for girls. But you did something –
John: – unique and different. I did something unique and different. And now, people are trying to exactly copy without being unique and different and just absolutely replicating. And so I just went ahead, and I said, you know what? I’m gonna have the mindset of abundance, and I’m not gonna let that energy get negative.
And I’m just gonna focus on what I do with EOFire and with interviewing great entrepreneurs who are on fire like Cynthia. So think about that Fire Nation if you start to have that success and those replicators start to come in because they will. Maybe even kind of treat yourself to a little dinner of success and say hey, I’ve made it. Like, someone is copying me. That means I’m actually having some success out there. And then just kinda decide how you want to deal with it. And there’s a couple different ways that work really well, and there’s been a couple discussed today. Now, Cynthia I do want to do a shift, and I want you to share another story in your journey.
You’ve had some major aha moments. I mean, obviously TwirlyGirl as an idea was a massive aha moment, lightbulb, epiphany that you had. And maybe that’s the story that you’re gonna tell, but this is your choice on your story of one of your incredible aha moments that you’ve had. Take us to that moment Cynthia. Tell us that story.
Cynthia: The biggest one for me – and it was probably maybe four or five years after I started TwirlyGirl – was that I started to realize that I wasn’t being completely authentic with my brand because by that time, a lot of companies have come out with moms having an idea. And they created something for their kids, and now they’re selling it. It’s almost, like, so common it’s ubiquitous that that’s how these mompreneur businesses start.
So that was kind of out there, and I started feeling like I was becoming part of a crowd. And I don’t like being part of a crowd. So in an effort to say that doesn’t quite feel like me. I’m not part of the crowd. I know I’m different than everybody else in a good way, and I want to exhibit that and be that for my customers and really give them my true story.
And that’s what led us to tell the story of my childhood because it is so integral to what I do and why I do what I do and how I do what I do. It has all that infused within the product, and I got to the point where I couldn’t not tell the story, if that makes sense. It really was this force driving me that I really can’t go on with the business unless I do this. And it was a really fine line between explaining the story in a way that was very real and not off-putting because my kind of abuse doesn’t go well with girls’ dresses.
It’s very unsavory and can easily turn people off. But the message we wanted to get across was that no matter what kind of past you go through you can overcome it. And every girl deserves to feel special even if nothing happens to them horrible in their past, which hopefully that’s the case. We want to highlight that part of childhood and make it so special that the girls create memories that they become keepsakes, that they’re a part of that world for them. And every time they look back on it, it reminds them of that joy that they can always connect to. So that was the overarching theme. But it really was about look. I’m not just taking my past and doing nothing with it. I’m taking my past and doing something positive and donating to childhelp.org. I’m putting my money where my mouth is.
I’m trying to contribute to a better place, and that was the big aha moment. And doing it was a huge risk. We really were not sure how it was gonna be received, but we were overwhelmed by the positive response and the inspiration and the amount of people that came out and said I’m so glad you spoke about this because I’ve been suffering in silence. And now, I know I can take this and go forward in my own life.
And that’s exactly what we wanted to have happen was it be a positive force in people’s life. And even if they never experienced anything like that, they can understand why we’re doing what we’re doing and appreciate the story and the gifts behind it that we’re bringing.
John: Fire Nation, one thing I really want to focus on here is the story. One reason that I do think EOFire is a special podcast is because I always focus on my guest’s story, in this case Cynthia. And Cynthia was struggling internally with her company for a long time until what? She brought her story out of herself and shared it with the world and made it part of the brand.
So it’s really important that we realize that we all have stories. Those stories are powerful, and the right people will resonate with our stories, the people that we want to be our customers, our clients, our fans, our listeners. Really critical stuff, and I love that share Cynthia. Now, what would you consider your biggest weakness as an entrepreneur?
Cynthia: I think reacting before thinking. I think that might be a common problem with people who are very sensitive and very sentient beings. Some people kind of are a little more heady, and they can process things first and then react. I think for me it’s been a process of knowing that I don’t have to respond right away. Knowing that I can take a moment and think and figure out what the next move is because things go so fast in this day and age with emails and texts and people ordering.
And then they have a problem or they don’t have a problem or they need help right away. And it’s to take that breath for me and figure out how I want to respond in a very thoughtful, informative way. And that’s been over time.
John: What’s your biggest strength?
Cynthia: My gut I think. Staying really true to what I know. Like I said, I mean, I’m not schooled in business or fashion design, and those two things are what my whole brand is about. I mean, I need to be an entrepreneur and then an artist, right? When you start a business, you start out as an artist maybe in some form or fashion, and then quickly you change into a business person first. And I think my biggest strength is being able to adapt.
And I love to learn. I’m super curious. I want to go ahead and figure out a new way to do things, a better way to do things. So I think it’s that fuel of growing, wanting to grow, wanting to learn, and not assuming that I know how to do everything, and I don’t have to know how to do everything. I can learn it.
John: Cynthia you have a lot of things right now that you are excited about, but what’s the one thing that has you most fired up today?
Cynthia: Today would be launching our teen line in the spring and bringing my daughter who’s 14 now –
John: Oh cool.
Cynthia: – and grew up with TwirlyGirl, and she’s a visual artist and going to specialized high school for that. And it makes me so happy to be able to work with her on this and bring her take into the TwirlyGirl brand from her point of view of where she’s at now. And I’m just excited to see where it can go. I’m not afraid to branch out and try new things, and that’s the thing that keeps me going is knowing that I can do that. I can keep it growing and trying different avenues to grow.
John: Cynthia are you prepared for the lightening rounds?
John: What was holding you back from becoming an entrepreneur?
Cynthia: Confidence I think. I love this quote or not really a quote but the saying that most of the people out there are faking it, and when I realized, like, I don’t have to know everything. I don’t have to be so prepared before I start. I can just go out there and start. And what I don’t know I’ll figure it out. But sometimes you have to fake it to make it, and I think my confidence was the thing that was holding me back from a lot of success in other areas too.
John: What is the best advice you’ve ever received?
Cynthia: Not be afraid to take a risk and follow your gut because, like, launching my story was a huge risk. I would say that would be the biggest thing I was taught was that by being truly myself, I couldn’t lose. The only way I could lose is by not doing that.
John: What’s a personal habit that contributes to your success?
Cynthia: I think wanting to make sure my customers are happy is my ultimate goal, and that really is the forefront of my mind. And when I say customers, it means the girls. It means the girls that are wearing my product. It’s not so much the people who are buying it because I know it’s the moms and the grandmothers and the dads and the family members and the friends.
I’m more concerned with the girl wearing it, and that is what I contribute my success to. Everything I do is for their comfort, their enjoyment, for them to create memories, all of it. That’s my focus.
John: Can you share an internet resource like Evernote with Fire Nation?
Cynthia: I can. We found that doing Facebook advertising is very challenging, and it’s kind of like a rabbit hole once you get in there.
John: Oh yeah.
Cynthia: And there’s actually a really great resource called Jonloomer.com for advanced Facebook marketers. And my husband, Michael who runs the marketing, he highly recommends this resource for doing that kind of marketing.
John: If you could recommend one book for our listeners, what would it be and why?
Cynthia: I love Delivering Happiness by Tony Hsieh. His whole concept is exactly what I believe and that if you keep your customers happy, you’re gonna have a thriving business. And you also create a personal connection emailing them, not just with automated stuff but providing immediate customer service, responding to their needs as soon as they come in regardless if it’s a holiday or a Sunday. I’m always working for my customers, so that book was really enlightening.
John: Well, Fire Nation, I know that you love audio, so I teamed up with Audible. And if you haven’t already, you can get an amazing audiobook for free at EOFirebook.com. And Cynthia I want to end today on Fire with a parting piece of guidance, the best way that we can connect with you, and then we’ll say goodbye.
Cynthia: Sure. My LinkedIn account is great, and also just email me at Cynthiajamin@twirlygirlshop.com. I’m really easy to get a hold of if you go on the website.
John: And the parting piece of guidance?
Cynthia: I would say that whatever you’re endeavoring to succeed at, if you keep in mind the reason behind your motivation and your inspiration for doing it, that’s gonna bleed into influencing the people that you’re trying to reach in a really positive way and to keep that in mind, your focus, your belief in what you’re doing.
John: Fire Nation, you’re the average of the five people that you spend the most time with, and you have been hanging out with CJ and JLD today. So keep up the heat, and head over to EOFire.com. Just type Cynthia in the search bar. Her show notes page will pop up with everything that we talked about today.
Of course, check her out on LinkedIn, email her directly Cynthiajamin – and that’s J-A-M-I-N@twirlygirlshop.com. And of course, that’ll be on the show notes page as well. And Cynthia thank you for sharing your journey with Fire Nation. For that we salute you, and we’ll catch you on the flipside.
Cynthia: Thank you.
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