Last week, Faithlife began a new speaker series, women in business. In this series, local business leaders will provide new perspectives and insights into the business world and offer advice based on the lessons they’ve learned.
Anne-Marie Faiola, CEO and founder of Bramble Berry in Bellingham, Washington, kicked off the series with an enthusiastic look at her roller-coaster journey as an entrepreneur. Her story is one of persistence: after beginning her career as a corrections officer, she quit her job to turn her hobby—soapmaking—into a means of supporting herself. She did just that, and 17 years later, she has several successful companies to her name. She has also been recognized as Washington State’s Businesswoman of the Year in 2009 and Washington State’s Businessperson of the Year in 2010.
Her business, Bramble Berry, has become a thriving, multi-million-dollar enterprise, supporting nearly 100 employees and growing. Her passion is infectious, and it’s clear that she loves what she does.
Success didn’t happen overnight, and Anne-Marie’s hardships and achievements taught her valuable lessons along the way.
Here are Anne-Marie’s top five keys to success:
1. Success is not a straight line.
Anne-Marie’s story has its fair share of ups and downs, from going into major debt to grossing millions of dollars each year, but one of the most important things she learned was to be adaptable and flexible as her business progressed. When something wasn’t working, sometimes all it took to solve the problem was admitting failure and moving past it or pivoting her direction.
2. It’s OK to dream big.
When Bramble Berry was in its early stages—and even today as it grows—Anne-Marie said it was crucial to be “delusionally optimistic.” Remaining happy and positive is key to overcoming challenges that arise, and being optimistic is an intentional choice. She noted that this is especially helpful when building a team—it’s important to lay a solid foundation and encourage new members in order for everyone to work toward the same goal.
3. Surround yourself well.
As Anne-Marie said, you’re the sum total of the five people you spend the most time with. Anne-Marie recommended choosing people who uplift you and help you out during rough patches rather than those who are unsupportive or negative. She also suggested building a network and finding a single mentor you can call on when you need them most.
4. Learn to say no.
When sharing a story about creating a large volume of product for a local grocery-store chain, Anne-Marie said with a hint of sarcasm, “I told them yes, because you always say yes to opportunity!” However, she went on to explain that saying yes to an opportunity means saying no to something else, and vice versa. It’s critical to set boundaries for yourself so you can focus on the tasks that keep you on track toward your ultimate goals.
5. Have a plan.
Anne-Marie has always found that creating and sticking to a plan is foundational for success, even cautioning, “Not planning is planning to fail.” Her decisions are backed by data, which helps her see when the plan needs to be altered. Setting realistic, attainable goals helps her see where she’s going and how she’s going to get there, and living out those goals in her daily actions helps her progress one step at a time.
In the coming weeks, we look forward to sharing more lessons from local leaders—stay tuned!
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