GIRL BOSS: A confident, capable woman who pursues her own ambitions instead of working for others or otherwise settling in life. A woman in control, taking charge of her own circumstances in work or life. Someone who knows her worth and won't accept anything less. She is empowering and inspiring to those around her.
As today is #InternationalWomensDay it seems only fitting to launch the brand new blog series "Island Entrepreneurs" which will focus on boss babes and female business owners from the islands. My aim is to shine a spotlight on the ladies who inspire me and hopefully they will inspire you too.
The first edition of the "Island Entrepreneurs" series will kick off with my own story as I answer 20 questions about Dushi Designs plus my own personal journey of starting out as a little beach brand selling round beach towels from the back of my car on the island of Aruba to now successfully shipping island-inspired apparel to customers all around the world.
1. Your Name: Stacy
2. Founder of: Dushi Designs
3. Type of business: Island-inspired apparel and beach accessories
4. Describe your brand in 5 words or less: Tropical, sustainable, cheeky, laid-back.
5. What made you decide to create your own brand? My decision to create my own brand was born out of my love for all things "island". Island life, island vibes, island style... I wanted to create a fun, fresh way of showcasing the paradise island of Aruba, which I am fortunate to call my home. Although I had zero experience in starting a business, I was determined to turn my ideas in to a reality and create something that will be my legacy for future generations.
6. How long did it take to get from the brainstorming/idea stage to the official launch day of your brand? It took me almost two years... yes, TWO YEARS! From the initial scribbling down ideas in a notepad stage to actually launching my own online store. I tested designs, products, order samples of materials, wore them, washed them, scrapped them, then repeated the process until I was happy with a product I could charge people money for. Building my website from scratch with no coding experience, registering the business, designing my logo, brand kit and social media... All of this takes time. And it takes even longer when you have to watch a thousand video tutorials on YouTube and teach yourself how to "start a business" #thestruggleisreal
7. How did you decide on the name of your business? Believe is or not Dushi Designs was not my first choice for a business name. I just wanted to be called Dushi or Dushi Company, but at the time those names were already in use. So, being a fan of alliteration, the use of the double D's made me come up with Dushi Designs.
Dushi means sweet, tasty or sweetheart in Aruba's local language, Papiamento. It is said as a term of endearment or greeting, "Hey, dushi!" and always used in a positive manner. You can hear this word daily on the island so it seemed only fitting to use it to describe my brand.
8. What was you doing before you became a business owner? Well, what wasn't I doing?! Ha! Since leaving school I have had a LOT of jobs! You see, I never really knew what I wanted to do when I grew up... In fact I still don't really know now. Some people just know from an early age what career they want but all I knew was that I wanted to travel and see the world. I was prepared to take any job to afford me the luxury of travelling. I worked in a call centre which was soul destroying (office life is NOT for me). I worked in a supermarket as a checkout chick. I worked on a ranch shovelling horse poo every day. I worked as a hostess meeting and greeting guests checking in to vacation rental properties (but I also had to clean the toilets too). I worked for a tour operator in Greece for two years, working with the public, planning excursions, doing bar crawls etc... AMAZING experience that I wouldn't change for the world! I also worked as a flight attendant/air hostess/cabin crew/trolley dolly for a global airline. Working in first class meeting celebrities and dignitaries. Visiting new exciting destinations. Being part of a team and become more like family with my co-workers. Learning the importance of brand awareness and customer service and how the employees represent a brand etc. That job taught me a LOT of valuable lessons and life skills which has helped me so much in running Dushi Designs today.
9. What is the best thing about being a solo entrepreneur? That is a tough question because there are so many things that I consider to be awesome, but my most favourite thing I would have to say is the reaction I get from putting out a new design or product and knowing that it's all my hard work, no one else. Knowing that I, alone, put in the graft to create something that others LOVE is the best feeling.
10. What is the worst thing about being a solo entrepreneur? Honestly, I would have to say it is the loneliness. Being a solo entrepreneur means I do everything by myself. I don't have anyone to vent to when things are going wrong and I don't have anyone to celebrate with when I achieve my little wins.
11. Describe how you felt when you launched your first ever product: WOW! This was a HUGE milestone... Nervousness and excitement all rolled in to one. Before the launch of my first ever product, the round beach towel, I was so confident that everyone would adore it as much as I did but then on launch day that self-doubt crept in and I felt all kinds of mixed emotions:
What if people don't 'get' it?
Even worse, what if they hate it?
Will anyone even buy it?
Luckily it was a success and my first batch of roundies sold out super fast and put Dushi Designs on the map! Phew!
12. What lessons have you learned about yourself since starting your own business? I am a lot stronger and more resilient than I once thought. If I put my mind to something then I will most definitely make it happen. I am super self-critical and always strive for my idea of perfection. I work better under pressure and if I don't have a deadline I will procrastinate (e.g go to the beach).
13. What inspires your products and collections? Tropical beaches, cotton candy sunsets, laid-back living, swaying palm trees, walking barefoot on white powdery sand, fresh coconuts. Basically everything related to island life.
14. What’s the best piece of advice you have ever been given? Less talking, more doing. It's great to have an idea, anyone can think about doing something, but the challenge is actually doing it and making it happen.
15. What advice would you give to future girl bosses?
Do your research.
Don't assume that starting your own brand will make you an overnight success.
Trust your gut.
Don't be a bitch. Your reputation reflects your brand so #bekind
Find your tribe, treat them well and they will become loyal supporters of your brand for life.
Follow your passion, not the latest trend.
Ignore the haters/doubters.
Work damn hard.
Offer your services/product for free at the start to get your foot in the door, build your portfolio, make a good name for yourself or to get noticed by the right audience.
Collaborate with like-minded brands/people.
Don't compete. The only person you should be competing with is yourself. If you have time to worry about what the next person is doing, you have too much time on your hands.
16. What’s the biggest misconception you’ve heard about your brand? There has been many misconceptions over the years...
Firstly, people used to think I was a man. No one realised that it was a female behind Dushi Designs.
Secondly, people assume because I am based in Aruba that I have a bricks and mortar store when the reality is that Dushi Designs is an online store.
My products get shipped from my warehouses in the USA and Europe across the globe and only a small fraction of my products are available to buy on the island, in store at the Sunset Shack...... But that is going to change very soon... New merchandise, more design options and some BIG announcements coming up soon for Dushi Designs X Sunset Shack so watch this space!!!
17. How do you feel about using social media for business? Ok, so this is a tricky one because I know I am supposed answer by saying how much a totally love social media, but truth is, I hate it at times. It does not come natural to me to share my life with the world and because Dushi Designs feels like my bambino, I feel like every time I post a picture, even though it is not me in front of the camera, I am posting a piece of me. And that just makes me feel uncomfortable.
Sadly, we now live in an age where everything has to be "insta-perfect" and to reach your ideal audience you have to constantly evolve and keep up with the algorithm etc. As I don't employ a Social Media Manager, that department falls on me, and some days I struggle to find the right words to say. Figuring out what caption to compose, what time of day your audience is most active, choosing the right hashtags, being consistent etc etc etc... It's a drag for me and feels more like a chore.
Having said that, I know how important it is to have a social media presence, that is my main source for driving traffic to my website after all. I now choose to look at social media as a way of socialising, chatting to customers, finding out what people think of Aruba, discovering what islands my followers will be travelling to next etc.
Forging genuine relationships via social media has definitely made that aspect of girl boss life a lot more fun for me instead of constantly worrying about the number of likes a post gets.
How do you feel about social media? What platforms do you hang out on the most? Instagram? Snapchat? Facebook? TikTok?
18. Tell us about one goal you have achieved in your business that you are most proud of and why? My goal has always been to bring island vibes to the rest of the world. All I have ever wanted is for every person who wears/uses a Dushi Designs product to feel happiness and confidence and be able to show off their own love for the island way of life. That goal of mine gets achieved every time I receive a positive customer review. Your words beautifully describe Dushi Designs and this is no joke, I cry tears of pure joy when I read each and every one! For me that is the greatest achievement to know that my brand has impacted you in such a way that you have taken the time to tell me. Priceless!
19. What’s coming up next for your brand? Big plans are in the pipeline for 2020... I have a new product launching this summer that I hope makes it on to your beach essentials must-have list! Plus, for those of you who are on the island of Aruba.... Stay tuned... All will be revealed soon...
20. Where do you see your brand in 5 years time? I want Dushi Designs to continue to grow globally and become the go-to brand amongst island lovers ensuring longevity as a trailblazer in the island apparel industry.
Dushi Family, get spreading the #dushilove and let's make this happen!