Being a founder, entrepreneur, or a business owner can have many exciting and thrilling moments. But it is also punctuated with periods of doubt, slump, and anxiety. So how does one successfully and healthily ride the highs and lows of Entrepreneurship? In this series, called “How To Successfully Ride The Emotional Highs & Lows Of Being An Entrepreneur“ we are talking to successful entrepreneurs who can share stories from their experience. I had the pleasure of interviewing Marisa Sheff.
Marisa Sheff, Founder of Sock Footage, is an experienced entrepreneur, who has focused her efforts on using her creative mind and 10+ years of sales management experience, to help those less fortunate. After learning that socks were one of the most needed but least donated items to homeless shelters, she knew she wanted to find a way to combine her passion for socks with an opportunity to give back to people living on the streets. For every pair of funky socks purchased from http://www.sockfootage.com/ or from their charitable sock vending machine, they provide customers with a free pair to give back to someone in need.
Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dive in, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your ‘backstory’ and how you got started?
Marisa Sheff: Thank you so much for the opportunity! At a young age, my parents had always modeled the importance of getting involved in the community, and being charitable. As a result, growing up, I had been fortunate enough to get involved in a variety of volunteer opportunities, in some cases where I was able to work closely with members of the homeless population. Having grown up in Montreal, Canada, I was one of the only ones out of my group of friends who decided to move away for university. I moved to Toronto to study Fashion Communications at Ryerson University and upon graduating, dove headfirst into a sales role for a Montreal-based clothing distributor. Over the course of my career in sales, I worked my way up through the ranks and was eventually headhunted for a position as Corporate Account Manager for a large sock manufacturer in Toronto. It was during my time working at that same role in the sock industry, that I learned that socks were one of the most needed but least donated items at homeless shelters.
What was the “Aha Moment” that led to the idea for your current company? Can you share that story with us?
Marisa Sheff: When I decided it was time to leave this latest sales role, I made a lateral move and started working for an apparel company, where I was fortunate, or unfortunately, laid off four months after being hired. This was what I like to call my “aha moment”. I found myself at a crossroads, where I was fortunate enough to have received a very good severance package as a result of the lay-off, and where I still had an office that was paid for that I could go into for the next few months. I had always been interested in the entrepreneurial side of things, having started a vintage handbag company while still in school, but when these stars aligned, I felt that it was the right time to go big or go home, and so, Sock Footage was born. I decided that I was going to use my skills and relationships from the sock industry to help give back to people in need.
In your opinion, were you a natural born entrepreneur or did you develop that aptitude later on? Can you explain what you mean?
Marisa Sheff: To be honest, I am not really sure how to respond to that. I definitely grew up with a bit of an entrepreneurial spirit, with a curiosity and creativity that was inherently ingrained in me, but I would not describe myself as a natural risk-taker, which I think is a quality that I would traditionally use to describe most entrepreneurs.
Was there somebody in your life who inspired or helped you to start your journey with your business? Can you share a story with us?
Marisa Sheff: My biggest inspiration in business has always been my 94-year-old grandfather. A true entrepreneur to the core and a holocaust survivor, he has only ever worked for himself and continues to go into the office from 9–5 ’til this day! When he emigrated to Canada, he started his first business by going around from clothing manufacturer to clothing manufacturer collecting and bagging their scrap pieces of fabric, which he would then sell to other businesses. He made enough money from this venture to buy his first taxi cab and eventually got into the taxi business. Many successful and failed businesses later, he definitely came out on top and he currently works in commercial real estate. Throughout his journey, what is most impressive to me is that he has always managed to be his own boss.
What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
You are a successful business leader. Which three character traits do you think were most instrumental to your success? Can you please share a story or example for each?
1- I would say that I am a natural-born salesperson. I am not afraid of a cold call, which has helped me immensely in seeking out new opportunities for expansion. As an example, I launched the first charitable sock vending machine into my former university and it now resides in a mall here in Canada. The machine has a plexiglass donation box affixed to its side to facilitate any on-site contributions and supporting a local charity with its donations.
2- I have both a creative and business side, which I see as a huge asset. These qualities have given me the confidence to get my hands and feet wet in different areas of the business, which is a necessary component to entrepreneurship, as in any role as a founder, you are forced to wear many hats. Since I am still testing out a number of new opportunities, this has allowed me to be an outside-the-box thinker. As an example, we recently launched our charitable sock bouquets for special occasions like Valentine’s Day, Mother’s Day, and Father’s Day, to name a few. This format allows us to deliver the socks in a non-traditional way that is both unique and inventive. Not only does it set us apart from other sock companies but it truly is the gift that keeps on giving, as for every pair purchased to fill the bouquet, a pair of donation socks is provided to give back to someone living on the streets.
3- I am a true empath and an extremely patient person, sometimes even to a fault. I love learning about others and will go the extra mile to get to know someone on a deeper level. I try not to rush things, as I believe that relationships are a slow build and that it’s important to trust the process. This has been particularly important in a business whose foundation was built on connection. I recently learned that homeless people only hear their names four times a year. I believe that every interaction is an opportunity for someone to tell their story. In approaching those “living rough” in our community, I always introduce myself by name and offer up the same courtesy, and from there I wait to see where the conversation will lead.
Often leaders are asked to share the best advice they received. But let’s reverse the question. Can you share a story about advice you’ve received that you now wish you never followed?
Marisa Sheff: In preparation for my graduation from high school, I met on several occasions with my guidance counselor to discuss my future plans and was advised that I should continue my studies in the field of either commerce or science. As a naive 17-year-old, I never took it upon myself to do my own research on what else was available in terms of a career path. I later learned that the world had so much more to offer but that I had been pigeonholed by the faculty as a result of my academic achievements. While I do not regret where I landed, I wish that I had taken the time to better explore my options rather than relying on the direction of those who knew me the least.
Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them create a work culture in which employees thrive and do not “burn out” or get overwhelmed?
Marisa Sheff: I myself have struggled with burnout. I think routine is paramount. Giving yourself and your employee flex-time or permission to take a break when necessary is something that I highly recommend to help alleviate daily stresses. I am a firm believer that carving out time to get up from your desk for 5–10 minutes at various points of the day helps immensely. I have recently implemented practices like starting off the morning with yoga to help clear my mind so that I can be the best version of myself going into each day. As a former employee, I always thrived in work environments that offered their staff a variety of team-building exercises. Since your work family is traditionally your first family, being the people that you spend the most time with throughout your day, helps to get to know them on a deeper level, so that collaboration rather than competition is encouraged.
What would you advise other business leaders to do in order to build trust, credibility, and Authority in their industry?
Marisa Sheff: I think transparency is key and remember to treat everyone equally. I am an open book and make a concerted effort, to be honest about my intentions and what I am looking for in my partnerships. There is value in building long-term relationships vs. building transactional relationships. Connecting with colleagues and consumers is key to building a better business.
Can you help articulate why doing that is essential today?
Marisa Sheff: With technology today, we are all being bombarded by online messaging which makes it really hard to cut through the noise. By being genuine in my actions and words, and being upfront about what I am trying to accomplish, I feel that it paves a direct path to those who are working towards a common goal and to individuals who ultimately align with my mission.
What are the most common mistakes you have seen CEOs & founders make when they start a business? What can be done to avoid those errors?
Ok fantastic. Thank you for those excellent insights, Let’s now shift to the main focus of our interview about How to Successfully Ride The Emotional Highs & Lows Of Being An Entrepreneur. The journey of an entrepreneur is never easy, and is filled with challenges, failures, setbacks, as well as joys, thrills and celebrations. This might be intuitive, but I think it will be very useful to specifically articulate it. Can you describe to our readers why no matter how successful you are as an entrepreneur, you will always have fairly dramatic highs and lows? Particularly, can you help explain why this is different from someone with a “regular job”?
Do you feel comfortable sharing a story from your own experience about how you felt unusually high and excited as a result of your business? We would love to hear it.
Marisa Sheff: One of my proudest moments was launching the pilot of the first charitable sock vending machine in Canada into my alma mater. My former university was amazing at reaching out to several news agencies, radio stations, and various press outlets to cover the launch and was very helpful in spreading awareness of my brand and its mission. That was definitely a high.
Do you feel comfortable sharing a story from your own experience about how you felt unusually low, and vulnerable as a result of your business? We would love to hear it.
Marisa Sheff: I learned about the struggles of highs and lows very early on, when almost a week after the launch of my first sock vending machine, I returned one afternoon to replenish its inventory only to learn that the machine had been vandalized, which would result in an unforeseen and costly repair.
Based on your experience can you tell us what you did to bounce back?
Marisa Sheff: While at the moment, it was extremely disheartening, I was later informed that a homeless man had kicked in the plexiglass donation box that was attached to the side of the machine (which was there to facilitate any on-site sock donations) in order to be able to grab himself a pair of socks, and it further reinforced why I had set out to start this company in the first place. There was obviously a great need for socks. It was a subtle reminder of how fortunate I am to have everything that I need in my life and gave me the perspective and fuel that I needed to push forward.
Ok super. Here is the main question of our interview. What are your “Five Things You Need To Successfully Ride The Emotional Highs & Lows Of Being An Entrepreneur”? Please share a story or an example for each.
1- Surround yourself with a strong network of people who will be there to lift you up and who believe in you. My partner, Andrew, has been instrumental in helping me overcome any roadblocks and giving me the confidence to push through the hard times.
2- Give yourself permission to step away from your work when things aren’t working. Take a break and come back to it when you are feeling re-inspired/productive. There will be good days and bad. It’s very easy to get discouraged when something doesn’t go your way. It’s those who get back on the horse after falling that go the extra mile. But knowing when to take a “time out” is just as important.
3- While being an entrepreneur is all about multi-tasking, it is important to recognize when to delegate. No one is an expert at everything. Learning to relinquish control is crucial for growth.
4- Work/Life Balance. While you will definitely have to put in those extra hours when you work for yourself, it is important to know when to shut off to avoid burnout.
5- Trust your intuition. Go with your gut. If something doesn’t feel right, there’s probably a reason for it. Early on in my journey, I had a weird feeling about an influencer that I decided to collaborate with and learned the hard way that they had established a fake following through bots. I have since been extremely careful in vetting anyone that I work with.
We are living during challenging times and resilience is critical during times like these. How would you define resilience? What do you believe are the characteristics or traits of resilient people?
Marisa Sheff: If I have learned anything from my homeless friends, it’s what resilience looks like in challenging times. To me, resilience is the power to push through the uncomfortable without having any certainty of what tomorrow brings. To be present and to deal with the situation at hand without getting ahead of oneself. One of the most prominent traits of resilient people is their ability to keep faith and their belief in a higher power.
Did you have any experiences growing up that have contributed to building your resiliency? Would you mind sharing a story?
Marisa Sheff: Over the years, as the granddaughter of two Holocaust survivors, I have always used the resiliency of my grandparents as an example and opportunity to build up my own strengths. Having emigrated to Canada with almost nothing, they were able to settle in, learn the language, build a family and build several businesses from scratch, all while trying to escape the horrors of their past. As I grew older, I developed a better understanding and a greater appreciation for their triumphs in the face of adversity.
In your opinion, do you tend to keep a positive attitude during difficult situations? What helps you to do so?
Marisa Sheff: I generally try to stay positive in difficult situations. Over the course of my career, I have made a point to volunteer my time with organizations that allow me to engage with people who have faced true adversity. I’ve worked with individuals who have spent years living on the streets, as a result of their struggles with addiction and mental health, as well as bereaved children who recently lost a parent or sibling. Whenever my mind wanders towards negative thoughts, I am brought back to those eye-opening encounters that remind me of how lucky I have been in my own life. It is this perspective that helps me stay positive and motivated to push through the uncomfortable.
Can you help articulate why a leader’s positive attitude can have a positive impact both on their clients and their team? Please share a story or example if you can.
Marisa Sheff: Attitude is everything. A positive attitude ultimately helps frame one’s mood. Anytime that I have worked under a positive leader, I myself have strived for excellence. It is in the toxic environments of negativity that we begin to wonder what we are working towards.
Ok. Super. We are nearly done. What is your favorite inspirational quote that motivates you to pursue greatness? Can you share a story about how it was relevant to you in your own life?
Marisa Sheff: “Stay in Your Lane. Comparison Kills Creativity and Joy.”- Brene Brown. When we start to compare where we have landed in life against the success of others, it diminishes from har far along we have come. While it is important in business to be aware of what your competition is doing, I find that this quote is an important reminder to just believe in your path, and with passion and conviction, you can go the extra mile without worrying about others.
How can our readers further follow you online?
Marisa Sheff: Please check us out at http://www.sockfootage.com/ or @sockfootageco on Instagram, FB, Clubhouse, and Twitter
This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for the time you spent with
this. We wish you continued success and good health!