Elizabeth Brunner, Founder of StereoType Kids, shares how she has learned to trust her instincts, step outside of her comfort zone, buckle up tight and enjoy the wild ride during the 2 years of running her business.
It’s been two years since I launched StereoType on November 11, 2020 (11/11) and I can tell you that it has been an incredibly challenging, and equally rewarding journey. It has taught me to trust my instincts, step outside of my comfort zone, buckle up tight and enjoy the wild ride. Starting a business is never an easy feat and keeping myself motivated has been the hardest part when the challenges seem to overshadow all of the efforts. I’m constantly adjusting my expectations and “plans” to meet the pressing needs of the moment which can quickly become overwhelming and defeating. During the last two years I’ve learned some valuable lessons and even though I’m still finding my footing as a CEO, I’ve learned that my greatest strength is listening to myself.
Here are the 5 unforgettable and noteworthy lessons I’ve learned so far in my journey:
Lean Into Leading
If you’re willing to start a business then you must have courage to lead it. That said, finding that courage takes a lot of effort and willingness to head into the unknown. When I had the idea for StereoType it wasn’t easy for me to come around to the idea of actually starting and launching a new business. It was a slow process of believing that I actually could. I had major doubts about my ability to conquer the vision that was calling me so loudly. I had to unravel what I thought I knew about myself and what I “thought” I could do and start to push beyond my comfort zone. It’s not easy but I’m learning to lead with courage while accepting that there is so much that I don’t yet know or can plan for. It is a delicate dance of leaning in and letting go.
Challenge the Norms
When you question the status quo you get a deeper understanding of what no longer works for you and that awareness is very transformative. StereoType is all about breaking through boundaries that no longer hold the same value they once did, while also celebrating individuality. When I started to align with what felt true to me, a doorway to creativity and imagination opened up, allowing me to meet myself in a whole new way. Through the process of unlearning old norms, stereotypes and self-imposed limitations I started to uncover and relearn. When I began removing labels that no longer reflected me or my beliefs, I uncovered who I actually am.
Design Your Life
I remember vividly the day I realized I couldn’t keep up with the typical entrepreneurial lifestyle and devote every bit of my extra time to building my business. I was sitting in my studio working on a bunch of deadlines that felt overwhelming and impossible to accomplish. My heart was racing and I felt like I was slipping into the deep end unable to swim out. Then I realized I was holding the lifejacket and I just needed to put it on. I understood at that moment that I was in control of how I wanted my business to fit into my life. It was freeing to know that I can trust myself to build a business the way that suited me and the way that I wanted to live my life – and disregard the rest.
Trust Yourself Completely
This was a really big lesson for me. In the land of start-up, everything is a question mark and it can be easy to look outside of yourself for validation and confirmation that you are moving in the right direction. But what I learned throughout my journey (both personally and professionally) is that trusting myself should always come first. I’m not suggesting that new entrepreneurs shouldn’t ask for help, advice or mentorship (actually you absolutely have to as an entrepreneur) but when it comes down to really making a choice about the next right step, always listen to yourself first. When I started to trust my intuition and answer my own questions, I began to understand that everything would work out how it’s supposed to. After that things began to flow easier. Part of that trust in myself was also practicing being OK with making mistakes because after all not every decision will get me where I thought it would. Accepting and knowing that gives me some breathing room.
I often find myself laughing at just how deep I'm into building my brand and still feel like I don’t know what I’m doing most of the time. While starting a business is one thing, keeping it going is quite another. I’ve really learned to laugh at the adventure I’m on and appreciate the moments that are challenging. Given that it’s my story to tell the world, why not have fun along the way and truly enjoy all of the twists and turns to this unfolding story. After all, as the wise ones say, it’s all about enjoying the journey and not the destination.
There have been many highs and lows during my first two years in business, but I can honestly tell you that the highs outweigh the lows and it all has to do with perspective. I am proud of what I am building and the mission I am on to support individuality, not just for kids but for everyone. My goal is to share my mission with the world by showing up everyday to make it a reality. Showing up can be the hardest part, but I know that I’m committed to keeping that promise to myself. My kids have been my best teachers and they are helping me build and grow this business in a way I could not have imagined two years ago. I’ve even officially made them the co-founders of the brand earlier this year. They are literally the DNA of StereoType and after seeing how they’ve enjoyed being such a big part of the journey over the past few years, it only made sense to give them the opportunity to be a bigger part of the brand.
Another project that I am really excited about bringing to life is a children’s book that shares the mission and fun of StereoType, that will be published in 2023. We also have our sights set on starting a non-profit organization in 2023 that focuses on the needs of kids in underserved, overlooked and vulnerable communities. Our team is small but mighty and we are spreading the mission of StereoType far and wide – and we are just getting started!
We hope you stick with us as we build and grow our brand, impact kids and parents with our mission and share our vision with the world. Here’s to two years and many more!
Elizabeth Brunner is the Founder and CEO of StereoType, a gender-free kids' fashion brand that challenges the norms and stereotypes of traditional clothing.