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
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?
Mary Clavieres: I founded Brief Transitions after I needed additional mesh underwear for my c-section recovery and could not find any for purchase. I was frustrated at the lack of supplies available and decided to do something about it. I started out by asking myself why these underwear weren’t available for purchase. This simple question eventually led me to creating a company and in April 2018 I left my corporate job to work on Brief Transitions full time.
While my path has led me to mothers who’ve gone from employee to entrepreneur, I’ve seen women across all ages reinventing themselves and becoming business owners. For that reason, I launched The Transitions Collective, a platform that provides access to experts and resources for community-driven entrepreneurs. I strongly believe that connecting and supporting women in this movement makes us a force in the future of work.
What was the “Aha Moment” that led to the idea for your current company? Can you share that story with us?
Mary Clavieres: I saw a unique need in the marketplace after the birth of my daughter. The hospital gave me mesh underwear to use after my c-section and I couldn’t find them to purchase for my home recovery. I bought oversized underwear and cut the elastic to avoid putting pressure on my midsection. Brief Transitions was born out of a desire to provide mesh underwear to women because they deserve to have the supplies they need for postpartum recovery.
As I built and scaled Brief Transitions, I saw another need in the market. I started searching for other women that I could relate to and connect with. As I worked nights and weekends running Brief Transitions, juggled my full-time corporate job and raised my two daughters, I wondered (often) if I was crazy for trying to do all of this. I wondered if there were other women out there trying to do the same thing – build a business and raise kids – perhaps even while still having a corporate job. Turns out are a lot of us! The Transitions Collective started as a local meetup for mom business owners in NJ and has turned into a global community that provides resources, accountability and connection for women building businesses from the ground up while raising families.
In your opinion, were you a natural born entrepreneur or did you develop that aptitude later on? Can you explain what you mean?
Mary Clavieres: I like to think I’m a natural born entrepreneur that discovered it along the way. The journey to being an entrepreneur really allows you to discover and explore so many parts of yourself. I’ve always been strong, determined, motivated and action oriented. While I spent almost 15 years in Corporate America and those skills served me well, those same skills have helped me tremendously in growing my companies.
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?
Mary Clavieres: I’ve had many mentors and sources of inspiration along the way. Very early on in my business, I met a woman randomly through a Facebook group. We became fast friends and she became my first business coach. She supported me with so many aspects of starting my business – from helping me design my website to teaching me about marketing. She helped me with so many foundational aspects that allowed me to grow and scale at the rate that I did. While we don’t work together now, we are still in touch and friends to this day.Other sources of inspiration have been the incredible friends I’ve made during this journey. Building a business can feel lonely and the women in my network have supported me in so many ways that I’m proud to call them friends and ‘colleagues’.
What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
Mary Clavieres: Both of my companies, Brief Transitions and The Transitions Collective, cover motherhood in unique ways. Brief Transitions allows us to have honest conversations about motherhood and postpartum recovery. I’m very open about my own childbirth recoveries (two c-sections) and many women have reached out to tell me that they not only love Brief Transitions, but they also love that I’m providing a real perspective on postpartum recovery instead of a carefully curated Instagram version of postpartum recovery.
Becoming a mom was such a turning point for me and it changed my life – both personally and professionally. I take pride in knowing that through the mesh underwear or through community, my companies create a space and provide resources to support moms.
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?
Mary Clavieres: I’m very action oriented and I think that is instrumental to success. It’s not enough to have a business idea or want to do something – you have to actually implement it. For instance, before I even planning to make a company out of it, I asked myself “Why can’t I find more mesh underwear to buy? Why don’t women have the products they need for postpartum recovery? What would it look like if I brought them to market to help other women?”. It’s not enough to ask yourself the question and that is where most people would stop. The next thing I did was go online and start to research mesh underwear, where they are manufactured, how they made, etc. to see if I could order some samples. You don’t need a big plan to start, but you do need to be willing to take action every step of the way.
I’m a connector. I love meeting new people and seeing what we can learn from each other. I have learned so much from other business owners and listening to their stories. I have that same passion to share my learnings with others and that’s a big part of why I started The Transitions Collective. That network and community has supported me in so many ways directly and indirectly and it’s been incredible to experience.
I’m a problem solver. My ability to evaluate and understand the different sides of a problem are what help me to tackle issues in my own business. When I was younger, my father always told me “I don’t care how you do as long as you’re always willing to try” and I remember that to this day. If you run into an issue, you need to be willing to try to solve it. It may not give you the outcome you were expecting, but it will lead you somewhere new.
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?
Mary Clavieres: Nothing in particular comes to mind as direct advice I’ve received that I wish I didn’t follow. However, I see a lot of ‘successful’ entrepreneurs in the online space telling business owners that they need to do this ‘one thing’ to be successful – whether it’s build an email list, or grow on Instagram, or something else. That is dangerous advice to follow – especially since the landscape is so different from when these entrepreneurs started their businesses. Business owners need to be willing to try different things and understand that there isn’t a one size fits all approach to building a business.
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?
Mary Clavieres: Prioritize. Everything can’t be an emergency all the time. It’s important to prioritize projects and work from a place that is aligned with your bigger picture and overall goals.
What would you advise other business leaders to do in order to build trust, credibility, and Authority in their industry?
Mary Clavieres: Be collaborative. I believe that being collaborative and truly supportive of others is how you build relationships and trust with both others in your industry as well as employees. Collaboration also drives innovation across industries and sectors and can have a huge impact on the growth of your business. The future of work is collaborative, not hierarchical. The earlier we all adapt to that, the better off we will be in the long run.
Can you help articulate why doing that is essential today?
Mary Clavieres: We’re looking at a business landscape that is drastically changing. The lines of professional and personal lives are blurring and people want to bring their whole selves with them in all that they do. They want to feel that they are having an impact. When people feel like they truly belong, it builds trust in the organization. Trust drives collaboration and innovation which are both critical for any successful business. I truly believe the future of work will be rooted in collaboration and it would benefit all leaders to keep this in mind as they grow their businesses.
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?
Mary Clavieres: I see a lot of founders (especially women) try to make sure everything is perfect before they launch. They will spend money on logos and websites without testing the market. When you’re just starting out it’s easy to get excited and want to have everything look great from the outside, but if you don’t have a paying client or product to test with the market then you don’t have a functioning business.
Don’t get me wrong, I did similar things when I started out. Over time, I’ve learned to be more discerning with what I invest in and I try to really consider how it will move the needle in my business.
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”?
Mary Clavieres: Entrepreneurship will always be different from having a “regular job” because you’re in charge of your own paycheck. There is a different pressure associated with being on your own and providing for your own livelihood.
Entrepreneurship is really a journey of continuously learning and growing. It’s easy to find yourself feeling stuck in a “regular job” because there may not be opportunities to take on new projects or get a promotion. When you’re running your own company you are always growing, you are always learning and you are always trying something new. This is a wonderful feeling, however, it also opens you up to new opportunities that will challenge your mindset. I never faced as many of my own fears in my almost 15 years of corporate as I have in the last 4 years of running my own businesses. That’s because I’m always looking to grow and learn. I’ve had to develop sales skills, put myself out there in big ways and learn so many parts of running my own businesses including product management, content creation, program development, etc. These were all new things for me when I started my businesses.
All of this growth brings incredibly high moments of pride when I accomplish something. It also brings dramatic lows when something doesn’t work that I wanted to or when a problem occurs such as when I go out of stock on a product. I really welcome the challenge and love that no two days look the same when you’re running your own business.
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.
Mary Clavieres: In 2019, I was chosen to receive a fellowship from NPR for their How I Built This Summit with Guy Raz. In the product community, this is an incredibly sought after opportunity with only 5-6% of applicants being accepted. I spent time applying while I was away on vacation – that’s how important the potential opportunity was to me. I poured my heart and soul into that application and openly shared my story of why Brief Transitions is so important to me.
When I received the acceptance letter I was in shock. My daughter still reminds me that she remembers I screamed and jumped up and down when I opened the email. The whole experience of attending the Summit, hearing from so many founders that I look up to speak on stage (Sara Blakely of Spanx, Ali Webb of Dry Bar and Stacy Madison of Stacy’s Pita Chips – to name a few) and meeting so many other incredible founders was truly the experience of a lifetime. I had the opportunity to share a pitch for Brief Transitions on the stage and share my story of how Brief Transitions came to be.
I really had a strong moment of imposter syndrome wondering how I was able to be there, and when I looked around I was so proud to be there and learn from so many other founders. It’s an extraordinary memory and one of my best experiences of being a business owner.
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.
Mary Clavieres: There was a time a few years ago where I launched an event to my community. Within the week another organization launched the same type of event. A friend showed me the event because she thought it was somehow combined with my event. I had so many feelings when that happened. I was let down because I had mentored the woman that was now hosting this new event. It really made me question myself and also made me angry. I wondered if people wouldn’t come to my event because they would go to hers instead and I started doubting myself.
Based on your experience can you tell us what you did to bounce back?
Mary Clavieres: A great friend told me to give myself 24 hours to wallow and be upset. After the 24 hours, pick myself up and move on. And that’s what I did. These types of things happen. After I got over my anger and sadness, I refocused my efforts on who I was serving and what I wanted to provide at my event. It ended up exceeding my expectations and really set me up to take another big step in my business.
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.
A Strong Mindset. Knowing that the entrepreneurial journey has a lot of ups and downs, it’s really important to be able to manage your mindset. What helps you to stay positive? If you notice yourself thinking negative thoughts, what can you do to get out of that pattern.
Building a business challenges you in ways that you may never expect. Being self aware and understanding yourself at your deepest levels is an asset to you as a business owner. When you know and understand your triggers such as what makes you angry, stressed or scared, you can work to break those cycles and create new, healthier patterns. All of this will support you in stronger ways to navigate the highs and lows of business.
Boundaries. Having boundaries is critical to navigating the highs and lows of entrepreneurship. Boundaries give you the space you need to keep your mindset steady. There can be a lot of emotion tied into running your business and putting boundaries in place to protect your time, space and energy goes a long way to navigating the challenges.
For example, consider boundaries about the hours you work or that you’re available to respond to clients. With a large number of entrepreneurs working from home due to the pandemic, the lines are even more blurred between home life and work life making it even more critical to have healthy boundaries in place. Burnout can happen quickly if you’re not paying attention and are giving in to the hustle culture that is so often shown on social media.
Routines. As a mom of two, routines get me through most of my day. I have morning and evening routines that give me a space to practice gratitude and focus on my mindset. Knowing that I have this structured time allows me to show up in a better way for my family and my business during the day.
Systems. Without strong systems running the back end of your business, you’ll struggle. Having systems allows you to better navigate the ups and downs. For example, if you want to celebrate an accomplishment or want to take time off because you’re not feeling well, having the systems and support structure in place to allow you to step away from your business is critical.
Community. Having a support system is another critical part of life as an entrepreneur. You need to be connected with others that understand what you’re going through. I have friends with corporate jobs and I also have friends that are entrepreneurs. When I have challenges in my business or if I’m celebrating a win, I share them with my friends that own businesses. They can truly relate to what I’m going through because they are going through the similar things.
This is a key reason as to why I created The Transitions Collective. Being part of a community is a powerful way to learn and grow. I am passionate about providing a space to share the highs and lows of entrepreneurship as well as the realities and challenges in motherhood.
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?
Mary Clavieres: Resilience, to me, is about getting back up and moving forward even when challenging things happen. Resilient people understand that the challenges are temporary. They allow themselves to feel their feelings, evaluate the situation and move on. They don’t allow themselves to stay stuck because they know there is no growth in that.
Did you have any experiences growing up that have contributed to building your resiliency? Would you mind sharing a story?
Mary Clavieres: When I was in grade school, my friends started a unicorn club. It was for everyone that loved unicorns. I wasn’t particularly fond of unicorns so I didn’t join the club. Unfortunately, my friends didn’t like that and they shut me out most of the school year. It was hard, but I stood by the fact that I didn’t love unicorns. The group disbanded later that year. While it’s all a distant memory now, I’m proud that I had the courage to stay true to myself in that moment.
We’re seeing a shift in the way businesses work today and staying true to your values is critical. Business owners need to speak up on what they stand for and what they don’t stand for. I like to think that the example I shared about the unicorn club shows that staying true to yourself can happen at any age and any experience where you exercise your own voice is important for growth.
In your opinion, do you tend to keep a positive attitude during difficult situations? What helps you to do so?
Mary Clavieres: I like to think I stay positive during difficult situations. There are times that I spiral and find myself focusing on all of the negative things. When that happens, I try to change my situation. I check in with myself to see what I need. For example, I might need to exercise, to talk to a supportive friend or journal as a way to let my feelings out. These are all ways that I feel my feelings instead of burying them, which helps me to move on more quickly.
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.
Mary Clavieres: A leader’s positive attitude has a huge impact on both their clients and their team. A positive attitude inspires others and gives them hope. Negative attitudes and negative work environments erode trust and can have a negative impact on a team’s productivity.
A leader with a positive attitude provides teams with a better work environment which allows people to feel respected and appreciated for their work. Not every moment is positive. However, when leaders are able to manage their negativity and not take it out on their team or clients it allows everyone to be more successful.
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?
Mary Clavieres: “Embrace what you don’t know.” -Sara Blakely, Founder of Spanx
Sara Blakely is a founder that I really look up to. She’s built an incredible product business and has four children. This quote really reminds me to keep going and try new things because that is really how we learn and grow – and that’s what life is all about.
How can our readers further follow you online?
LinkedIn: Mary- Clavieres-19917a1
The Transitions Instagram: thetransitionscollective
Brief Transitions Instagram: Brieftransition
This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for the time you spent with
this. We wish you continued success and good health!