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Life and Work with Kelly Richardson

Today we’d like to introduce you to Kelly Richardson.

Thanks for sharing your story with us Kelly. So, let’s start at the beginning and we can move on from there.
I am the founder of Fashion Entrepreneurs of Houston. I didn’t start out in the fashion industry. I studied Chemical Engineering at Michigan Technological University. After graduation, I eventually moved to Houston and worked in the Oil and Gas Industry at AMEC Pargaon, Star Engineering Services, and DCP Midstream. When the industry took a downturn, I decided to run my own business. While working, I had previously taken the steps to form a marketing business but I never took the time to actually do anything.

I took to studying marketing for a couple of years. My idea was to coach small business owners on how to do marketing for their business. Through my networking efforts, I was able to secure a few clients but knew I had to make a change in my business model, in order to be most effective with my time. I quickly learned that small business owners were hesitant to spend money, let alone spend money with someone they really didn’t know and trust.

Although I had worked with entrepreneurs in many industries, I knew I’d be most effective in helping entrepreneurs if I could focus on a niche market. I thought about what I loved most and what I had the most experience in. I love shopping and I also had experience working in retail. I decided my niche market would be fashion and beauty. I then searched for networking groups in an effort to connect with my target audience. I was unable to find networking events that were dedicated to fashion and beauty entrepreneurs. As a volunteer and previous Chair for a local non-profit, South Texas Section- American Institute of Chemical Engineers, I had learned how to run monthly educational and networking meetings. I decided to start one of my own. I knew I had to get in front of my audience. The way to do that was through organizing meetings that local entrepreneurs in the fashion and beauty industry could attend.

Overall, has it been relatively smooth? If not, what were some of the struggles along the way?
I started Fashion Entrepreneurs of Houston in February of 2019. My biggest worry was that I would hold networking meetings and that no one would show up. To my surprise, several entrepreneurs came to the first meeting. The next meeting, attendance declined, we only had five attendees. I was worried, thinking my fears were being realized, but instead of giving up I continued on. Meeting attendance has since then grown to approximately 30 to 45 attendees.

I was determined to keep having meetings once a month on a regular basis regardless as to how many individuals would show up. I would definitely advise other women entrepreneurs to be consistent and don’t give up too soon. People don’t want to be the first to try things out.

Also, know that it’s natural to be afraid but you still need to take action. Be willing to adapt to better serve your audience. I would advise to always give your best effort and try to set and exceed expectations. When people see you doing something amazing, they feel compelled to tell others. (Thank you Kisha Walwyn-Duquesnay for nominating me for this opportunity with Voyage Houston!)

Please tell us about Fashion Entrepreneurs of Houston.
Fashion Entrepreneurs of Houston (FEH) aims to provide an environment for entrepreneurs to learn, collaborate, and gain exposure. Once a month, we host a meeting where attendees enjoy dinner, networking, and attend a short workshop on a technical topic. Monthly dinner meetings are always free to attend. Past topics have included Planning, Finances, Business Law, Social Media, Manufacturing, and Mental Health Awareness. Each meeting a different member is featured and has the opportunity to speak about their business. Many of the speakers are members and they have the opportunity to talk about their expertise and what they love doing.

Last month, Fashion Entrepreneurs of Houston started offering personal one-on-one classes on how to start a fashion or beauty business and how to market a business. Six members have enrolled in the classes which take place weekly during a 30-minute telephone call over the course of eight weeks.

Approximately 40 members have had the opportunity to submit company information to be included in a magazine to be published next month to feature members. Members have submitted articles to include in the magazine. In addition, four members will have interviews included in the magazine.

As a brand, Fashion Entrepreneurs of Houston is most proud to be able to bring entrepreneurs together and help them gain knowledge that will help them succeed in their business. FEH is all about giving and helping others succeed. When attendees state that they have enjoyed a meeting, learned something new, or made a new business connection then FEH is proud. When people say this is what they have been looking for, and this is great, FEH is proud. The positive feedback provided from attendees is both appreciated and validates our efforts.

What sets FEH apart is that the entrepreneurs that actively attend our meetings support one another. Meeting attendees and members serve as resources for other members who are just starting out or have questions. Members educate others with their presentations. The entrepreneurs also support one another by way of recommendation and/or product and service reviews. Many of our entrepreneurs have met outside of the meetings to collaborate. FEH truly cares about the success of our members and appreciates everyone that has made FEH what it is. We appreciate the individuals that have spoken at a meeting, told someone else about our meetings, taken meeting photos, helped with registration, submitted details for our magazine, or just attended a meeting,

Do you think there are structural or other barriers impeding the emergence of more female leaders?
I believe the biggest barriers are education and believing in oneself. A lot of ladies are afraid and doubt their capabilities. In fact, I think this happens to all of us in our lives. Some don’t know what to do or where to begin when it comes to starting a business. After they’ve started a business they’re struggling to get clients.

Many believe they need to hustle and do everything in order to succeed. They then get lost in their business and the many possibilities of things they can do to be successful. If they could focus, have a good solid plan, and execute the plan they’d accomplish more.

Practice, simply doing what they are afraid to do can help them be more successful. It’s important not just to work hard, but to do the things that really matter. Many times the things that really matter are scary to do and so female leaders will avoid it. By learning, they will feel more confident and able to take on new challenges and risks, which is a part of business. If it takes a leader too long to learn something, it can result in frustration, loss of funding capital, and potentially the end of their entrepreneurship.

One other really big challenge I’ve learned to manage as an entrepreneur is to stay consistent with my vision, lots of people have their opinions and want to offer advice. I’ve learned that at the end of the day, I am the one that is affected by the consequences of my actions and I need to follow my heart. Many leaders need to realize this. We can generate new ideas, of our own mind or from the advice of others, every day to incorporate in our business. Not all of those ideas are good ideas or ideas that are so impactful that we need to implement them. We only have so much time and we need to learn to spend our time doing the things that will matter the most in terms of being successful in our businesses.

Contact Info:

Image Credit:
Images were taken by me or my husband David Mathers

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