Sarah is a serial entrepreneur and is the leading expert on successfully launching products AND getting them into the hands of A-list celebrities and into the media.
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Time Stamped Show Notes
(click the time stamp to jump directly to that point in the episode.)
- [00:49] – Sarah loves getting products into the hands of celebrities — this is the way she launched her first brands
- [01:40] – Her area of expertise is in helping people get more brand awareness
- [02:06] – Share something we don’t know about your area of expertise that as Entrepreneurs, we probably should: Designers get tied up in creating products because of all the moving parts that go along with the process
- [02:58] – Sarah helps people launch and manufacture their products
- [04:22] – Worst Entrepreneurial Moment: With her first handbag line Sarah got investors. She looked forward to making up 40% of their sales in the 4th quarter of 2001, but then 9/11 came. In January 2002, the Los Angeles Times did a cover article on her and her new investors. She was in Dallas at the time selling bags when her phone rang — it was her investors saying they were done investing in her business
- [07:40] – Sarah’s business had been generating over $1M annually, but at that point, she really didn’t have enough to continue her business without investors
- [09:20] – She closed the business at the end of 2002
- [10:52] – “You can do anything you put your mind to”
- [11:23] – What is the one thing you are most FIRED up about today? “I’m super fired up about some new programs I’ve got coming up”
- [15:00] – The Lightning Round
- What was holding you back from becoming an entrepreneur? – “I never thought I would be one”
- What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever received? – “It doesn’t matter what your name is, you can always be who you are”
- What’s a personal habit that contributes to your success? – “Calendaring everything”
- Share an internet resource, like Evernote, with Fire Nation – Contact Any Celebrity
- If you could recommend one book to our listeners, what would it be and why? – You Are a Badass In Making Money – “following the advice in this book is really helping me get to where I want to be”
- [17:20] – Always follow your intuition
- 17:24 – Connect with Sarah on her website
SS: Yes I am.
JLD: Yes! Sarah is a serial entrepreneur and is the leading expert on successfully launching products and getting them into the hands of A-list celebrities and in the media. Sarah, give us a minute. Fill in some gaps from that intro and give us a little glimpse of your personal life.
SS: So, I love getting products to celebrities. It's how I launched my own first brands. I had a handbag line for may years called Sarah Shaw Handbags, duh. And subsequent accessory lines, also. And used getting products to celebrities as a way to get my sales up, get into more stores, get into magazines. Got my products into lots of movies.
Made bags for Julia Roberts for America’s Sweetheart and Ocean’s 11. Had bags in Legally Blonde with Reese Witherspoon. And it got me tons of media, press. Helped me sell millions of dollars worth of merchandise. And now I teach other people how to do the same thing.
JLD: Well, with all that being said Sarah, what would you say today is your area of expertise? What's the one thing that you are just great at?
SS: What I'm really great at is helping people get more brand awareness. A lot of designers are really kind of caught up in the design process of getting their products made. So, I mostly work with – mostly work with women. I’ve been starting to work with a lot of men, recently, who’ve got t-shirt lines and other products as well. But mostly I work in fashion, accessories, life-style products. Some widgets and gadgets.
And the designers get really, I think, tied up in how they're going to create the product in the creation process and all of the things that go along with that because it's very complicated. It's kind of – to me, it kind of equates with somebody said to me – I hear some parts to build a car and I had to look at all these things with a manual and try to put an engine together, I’d want to shoot myself. So, I kind of think that a lot of product designers feel that way when they're trying to build a product from scratch because there’s so many moving parts.
And if you look at something you own, there’s so many little details to what go in to actually making something. Even just a pair of jeans. You know, looking at the rivets and the zippers and the snaps and the denim and the stitching and all of the labeling and the way it comes packaged, right? So, there’s like ten things already before you’ve actually even made it.
So, what I like to do with people is kind of – is try to help them get through the other parts of their business. I do help people launch, like, actually manufacture as well, but that's a smaller part of my job these days. What I do is help people get their products into more stores. I teach them techniques to talk to store buyers. Show them how to present their products with merchandising. How to add new products to make their line more substantial. What's missing. How to talk to and pitch magazine editors.
And then one of the things that I do – because there are a few people who do what I do out there. Not many of us, a handful – but I help people get their products to celebrities. Because when you – people see a celebrity wearing or using somebody’s product, everyone’s like, Wow, I want to be like that person. And so, the sales tend to riveting in.
And, you know, when I've had my own product lines and got something to Jennifer Aniston, would get it in People magazine, you know, in six weeks, we do about 120,000, 150,000 with sales online. So, it can really jump-start a business to get a big hit like that.
JLD: So, Sarah, you haven’t always been rocking things for Jennifer and Julia and Renee and all these great people. I mean, you’ve had the ups and the downs. You’ve been on a journey as an entrepreneur. Take us to what you consider your worst entrepreneurial moment to date. What is that worst moment. Tell us that story.
F1 Okay, ready? So, I have been on every up and down. I've made every mistake under the sun because I had no idea what I was doing when I became an entrepreneur, contrary to every belief I ever thought about myself. That I'm a fourth-generation entrepreneur, I never thought I'd ever be one. So, when I did become one with my first handbag line, things were going along really well. I had just gotten all these amazing investors because handbags are very expensive to produce. I was making them in the U.S. at the time. And 9-11 rolls around, so I had the worst fourth quarter of my entire five years in business. And, you know, I depended on fourth quarter to probably make up a maybe good 40 percent of my sales for the year.
So, I was already down in the dumps as far as finances go. But then in January of 2012 – I mean, sorry 2001 – 2002, sorry, right? After 9-11. So, January of 2002, the Los Angeles Times did a cover article on me and all the investors that I had just brought into my company. And it was this amazing cover story in the Sunday newspaper and my phone was ringing off the hook with, you know, everybody wanting to lend me money. And I was like, Dude’s, didn't you read the article? I just got all the money I needed.
And so, I go to the trade show in Dallas and I'm there selling my bags and the phone rings and it's my investors telling me that they are done investing in me and that they've got too many problems because of 9-11, and they've got millions of dollars worth of stuff sitting out on the ocean, at port, and blah, blah, blah. So, I was like, well, when is this happening? And they're like, Right this second. It was like, Okay. Wow. And I think I just sat on the floor for maybe two hours and sobbed in a corner while I left my staff to sell stuff in the showroom in Dallas.
And I called my dad because he was my rock at the time, and I was just sobbing to him on the phone. And in that moment he said to me, he’s like, I don't care what happens. You know, you need to get your buns off the ground and get in that room and sell as much as you can because you're going to have huge financial problems when you get back in a couple of days.
And, you know, I couldn’t really survive without these guys. They were really deep – I was really deep in with them and in over my head with what they had actually helped me create with my company at the time and the amount of inventory we had. So, I was really in a panic.
So, I go home a couple days later. You know, we did the best we could in Dallas, and I don't even remember those couple of days to be honest. But I do remember I get home and I think, Oh, God. I got to listen to all these messages that all these investors and bankers and all these people left last week, right? Because someone’s got to help me.
And so I realized that this gentleman that I had met previously, maybe a year before who was a consultant was actually an investor as well, and he’d been one of the people who’d left a message. So, I immediately called him because I had already had lunch with him, and I said, Hey, I need an investor. Didn't know you did this. And I said, I need to meet with you right now, today. Because I'm closing my company on Friday if I don't get any more money. And that's, literally, where I was. And, you know, we've been doing about $1 million in sales at this point for the last couple of years and I still didn't have enough to really continue.
And so, I went – I don't think I showered in about three days. My hair was in a pony tail and I had no makeup on and I don't even know if my clothes were clean, to be honest. And I printed out my P&L and my balance sheet and I went to go meet this guy and his partner and I just looked at them and I said, You have two hours to decide if you want to invest in my company. Because it's now like Thursday or something. I have to close my company tomorrow and I need to go lay off my sister at lunchtime. Because she was my publicist.
And so, you know, I probably looked like I’d been crying for days. And so, they said, Well, let us just read everything and I went and sat in a corner and had a cup of coffee while they're at the other corner of the shop we met in. And they came over and said, We're pretty sure we're going to invest. Why don't you go back down to your office. You’re going to need to fire your sister, regardless. So, why don't you go take care of that and then we’ll call you in about an hour.
And I don't even know how I drove back to work or anything. And this was in Los Angeles, so, you know, there was lots of traffic and cars and people around and I had to go back and fire my sister. Which was probably second to losing my inventors, the second worst thing that had ever happened to me in business before. And then they actually did end up investing in my company, but unfortunately, they really couldn’t raise enough money and – enough money to keep us going, and the plan they had didn't really work. So, I ended up closing – getting rid of them probably in May of 2002 and then closing the business at the end of the year.
And I had a lot of debt and I didn't want to go bankrupt. So, I ended up raising enough money, making bags, selling my bags. I mean, I was doing sales online. I had so many inventors that I wasn't actually allowed to put anything on sale because they wanted to try to sell my company. So, they're like you forbid me. You can't put anything on sale. Everything has to look like it's hunky-dory. And I was like, Oh, God. I got to raise money.
So, I had this great idea. We had a huge mailing list at the time and this was a long time ago, we had about 7000 people on our mailing list. And I just divided the list into groups of 500 and I sent people emails. You’ve been selected at random to receive 60 percent off at Sarah Shaw. And we raised $80,000 online in six weeks. And I was able to pay down a lot of debt and still had tons more debt. And I just kept making bags for different companies. You know, sold out to T.J. Maxx and did everything I could and ended up giving about $0.70 on the dollar to all of my creditors. And so, I felt really good about that. Didn't go bankrupt. And then I turned around and launched another company about a year or so later.
JLD: Wow. So, Sarah, obviously you’ve had a lot of difficulty within that time. Just in one sentence, two max – because I can tell you're a talker – give us the one lesson that you want Fire Nation to walk away with. What's the one thing that you think we can learn from your worst moment?
SS: If you really believe in yourself and know that you're good at what you do, you can do anything you put your mind to.
JLD: I want to fast-forward to today because that was some tough times for a lot of people. I mean, it was the dot-com bubble, 9-11. You know, we have a lot of worst moments that’re centered around the 2007, 2008 housing crisis and crash and all that junk. But here we are today. What would you say you're most excited about right now? What are you most fired up about right now?
SS: I’m super fired up about some new programs I've got coming up. I love that, for me, having – You have to remember, me coming from, like, kind of pre-internet, right? With my first company. And then when I launched my second company, social media and stuff was just coming into play. So, for me these days, what's super exciting, and has been for probably the last five or six year, is really how easy it is to get in touch with people. So, in a way, I kind of feel like I'm dating myself, but it's true.
I mean every time I tell a client to reach out to people, or we send email to, you know, 300 media editors or bloggers or send letters to celebrities and there are people write back right away, Hey, yeah. Send that gift right over. It's, to me, it's amazing and it's a miracle that you can reach out to so many people at a time.
JLD: Now, besides email, what is your favorite way to contact people?
SS: We really do most of it by email. I make my clients call stores. Get on the phone and actually connect with people because I think that's really important. And most buyers are old-fashion in that way and they really like to connect with people and hear the story or hear why your product is going to knock their socks off.
JLD: So, Fire Nation, Sarah’s been dropping value bombs. She’s been telling stories. We have more to come in the lightening round when we get back from thanking our sponsors.
Sarah, are you ready to rock the lightening rounds?
SS: I am.
JLD: What was holding you back from becoming an entrepreneur?
SS: Well, honestly I never thought I would be one. When I got out of college, I went to go work in costumes for movies, and I sort of thought I'd live and die in the film business. And like I mentioned before, I'm a fourth-generation entrepreneur. All my siblings are entrepreneurs. It's like part of our blood, I guess. And I just never had an interest. I didn't really have anything that spoke to me and said, Hey, you need to start a business about this.
And then when I was about 12 years, 11 years into the film business, I saw this handbag – Or it wasn't actually a handbag, it was this little bag thing and it gave me the idea for the handbag that I launched that made my brand famous. And it was really that moment – it was kind of an Ah-ha moment where I just thought, God, that would be so awesome as a handbag. How the hell would you do that? And I kind of figured it out at night and on the weekends and made this bag and took it to show a couple people and a buyer happened to see it that night in a restaurant and she encouraged me to go forward with it. I don't know if I ever would’ve if she hadn’t done that.
JLD: What is the best advice you’ve ever received?
SS: It was from my dad. In that when I lost the trademark to my own name that it doesn’t matter what your name is, you can always be who you are and you actually are who you are. So, you can always produce what you want to produce.
JLD: Love that. What's a personal habit that contributes to your success?
SS: Calendaring everything. I schedule everything to the tee.
JLD: Recommend one internet resource.
SS: Well, I got three. Well, really my biggest one is contactanycelebrity.com because that's what we use to find celebrities that we reach out to.
JLD: Recommend one book and share why.
SS: You Are A Badass At Making Money is my new favorite book these days. It really – I made a goal for myself in following the advice in this book is really helping me to get to that goal.
JLD: Well Fire Nation, you know this because you listening to this podcast, you love audio. So, if you're not already an Audible member, get on over to eofirebook.com. Download this book and enjoy.
Now, Sarah, I want to end today on fire with a parting piece of guidance, then you giving us the best way that we can connect with you and then we’ll say good-bye.
SS: My best piece of guidance is always follow your intuition. It's always going to steer you in the right way. You can find me at sarahshawconsulting.com. It's got all my links on my Instagram, Twitter and Facebook, as well.
JLD: Fire Nation, you are the average of the five people you spend the most time with. And you’ve been hanging out with SS and JLD today. So, keep up the heat and head over to eofire.com. Just type Sarah in the search bar and her show notes page will pop up with everything that we've been talking about today. These are the best show notes in the biz. Timestamps, links galore.
And Sarah, I want to thank you for sharing your journey with Fire Nation today. For that, we salute you and we’ll catch you on the flip side.
SS: Thanks John.
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