As entrepreneurs, we wear so many hats as owner, innovator, marketer, brand builder, accountant, and the list keeps on going. Given how much we have to juggle, it’s easy to get lost in the weeds. And overthink. And overcomplicate. Opportunistas Liz Poteracki and Lauren Cheek have just the remedy to keep all business building endeavors on the simpler side. As Founders of The Minimalist Movement, a marketing and branding creative services agency, Liz and Lauren subscribe to the ethos that “less is more.” And that’s exactly how they run their business and work with their clients.
These Opportunistas share why and how they got their start as entrepreneurs and provide some valuable advice for those future founders that have a business idea, but need guidance on how to turn a concept into a company. Liz and Lauren also talk pivots, competitive differentiation, and three key brand strategies that an entrepreneur can implement to grow her brand.
By adeptly leveraging their work experience, Liz and Lauren have made the great leap into entrepreneurship, and their business savvy coupled with their creativity and patience have paid off.
Liz and Lauren are The Opportunistas.
Let’s meet Liz and Lauren and learn from these Opportunistas.
Name: Liz Poteracki and Lauren Cheek
Age: 25 and 23
Location: Los Angeles, California
Title & Company: Founders, The Minimalist Movement
Industry: Creative Services Industry (Marketing & Branding)
Liz: AA in Merchandise Marketing and BS in Business Management from FIDM
Lauren: AA in Merchandise Product Development from FIDM
What jobs and internships were you pursuing prior to launching The Minimalist Movement? How did this experience serve you in pursuing your current roles as business owners?
Liz: I was pursing a career in fashion. I started on the vendor side working in production, wholesale sales, and marketing. After graduating from FIDM with my BS in Business Management, I decided to switch to the retailer side of the fashion industry and pursued buying. By working on both sides, I gained a well-rounded perspective of the fashion business as a whole.
I worked directly under an entrepreneur when I was on the vendor side, so I learned the daily commitment it takes to build a successful start-up and was able to gain real-life business management experience. I had to quickly learn to wear many hats and juggle many responsibilities.
When I switched over to buying, I noticed a big difference in the breadth of my responsibilities. My role was much narrower in terms of the tasks I had to manage. I was responsible for the main objective of managing the firm’s buys in a proper and precise manner. I was not expected to do anything else or be creative in any way. I was there to analyze numbers and make strategic decisions. This experience taught me so much on a personal level. I was able to figure out what type of career path I preferred, which was the entrepreneur route. Real-life work experience is vital to anyone wanting to become an entrepreneur.
Lauren: Prior to launching The Minimal Movement, I attended FIDM, where I was able to intern for a start-up fashion e-com brand called Lily+Jasper. I was given the opportunity to work closely with the Owner and CEO, who taught me the fundamentals of entrepreneurship. My position did not limit me to one area within the business, but gave me breadth and depth of experience in the business/fashion world.
Upon graduation, I had the pleasure to work with another very hard-working and inspiring female entrepreneur, who took me under her wing and taught me a lot about business and juggling multiple rolls within a business. I was initially hired to work for her fashion blog as a graphic designer and writer, and to help her develop the brand. She gave me the tools and opportunity to grow professionally and creatively.
After proven success with the blog, she then hired me to assist her other two companies. I worked as the Project Manager for her branding firm, and styled and assisted for various shoots for her athletic shoe line. Through all of my various experiences and influences, I was able to gain enough knowledge to successfully branch out and pursue my own passions and launched The Minimalist Movement.
Research as much as you can about your idea. If you are pursuing a degree in your desired field, consider every project, assignment, and freelance client work. Gain real-life work experience in the industry in which you’re interested in starting a business. Finally, find a mentor who genuinely takes an interest in you and try to absorb as much knowledge from them as you can.
Why did you want to become an entrepreneur?
Liz: I was always overly ambitious as a child. I had to be on the honor role, run for class president, be the captain of whatever sports team I was on. I genuinely enjoyed responsibility and leadership. When I began working as a teenager, I willingly gave away some of my best ideas to my employers, assuming that showing my passion would help me get ahead. As I got older and gained more life experience, I would see many of my employers make mistakes that seemed very obvious to me. I grew in my self-confidence and realized that I had acumen for business.
Lauren: I always knew I would grow up to own my own business. Between my desire to create and my love for fashion, I already had a step in the right direction. After touring FIDM as a sophomore in high school, I knew two things: I had to somehow work in the fashion industry, and I wanted to be my own boss. Having the opportunity to turn my passion project into a business was a catalyst in my success. After all of the countless hours and hard work that Liz and I put in, everything fell into place and The Minimalist Movement was born.
What advice do you have for an aspiring entrepreneur who has a business idea and is trying to develop that idea?
Do your homework, both literally and figuratively. Research as much as you can about your idea. If you are pursuing a degree in your desired field, consider every project, assignment, and freelance client work. Gain real-life work experience in the industry in which you’re interested in starting a business. Finally, find a mentor who genuinely takes an interest in you and try to absorb as much knowledge from them as you can. We were very fortunate in that we had a couple really great mentors – one of them being Liz’s father – who is The Minimalist Movement’s CFO. He’s the ultimate sounding board. We bounce every idea we can off him. He’s the type of person who we could listen to for hours about his business experience. It’s very useful to have someone on your team who is both your ultimate advocate and your ultimate realist. Sometimes hearing an honest opinion is the most useful advice you can receive.
The Minimalist Movement offers branding, promotion, content creation, and sales distribution services. How did you determine your offering? Did you always offer the same services? If not, what prompted you to transition or pivot your offering?
Currently, our business is comprised of two divisions: “The Agency” (branding, marketing, content creation, and social media strategy) and “MM Goods” (sales distribution). After our soft launch a little over a year ago, it took us a couple of months to determine true proof of concept, which is what enabled us to solidify our current services offering. When we first started The Minimalist Movement, we actually offered social media management, along with the other services mentioned above. Fortunately, we were able to quickly determine that this was not an avenue we wanted to actively pursue because of the sheer time commitment required.
Lauren and I started our business with the very real understanding that time equals money. While this may seem like a cliché expression, it is the utmost important mantra to have in running a services-based business. We were able to determine that the time commitment to return ratio was not worth it. We decided to strategically tighten up our services to our current offering and are excited to announce the launch of a new division for 2017, “MM Atmosphere.” This division will center on event design, photography, sponsorship, and creative consultation.
How do you assess your competitors and differentiate your business accordingly?
Lauren and I are very aware of what is going on within our industry. We are constantly researching up-and-coming influencers, emerging competitors, and collaborations with worthy brands. We understand the importance of differentiating ourselves, which we do through our ability to keep up with trends and technology. Every week we’re working to build new relationships, which is so important to the growth of our business.
From a branding perspective, what is the most important piece of advice you can offer to an aspiring entrepreneur who is about to launch or has recently launched her business?
We are constantly encouraging our clients to "get it right the first time." When it comes to branding a new concept, it’s vital that the creative and the copy you put out from the start is how you want the world to truly view your endeavor in the long run. It’s much more strategic to take your time in building your logo, website, and social media strategy, and make it something you’re proud to share. We advise clients to stay away from posting a bunch of random content that they then have to go back and re-brand.
What are three key brand strategies that an entrepreneur can implement to help grow her brand?
Research your industry – develop the tools you need to succeed.
When it comes to launching your brand, take your time and get it right the first time.
Maintain a minimalist mindset – Do fewer things really well, rather than many things poorly.
Liz and Lauren are The Opportunistas.
You would describe yourself as:
Liz: Driven and passionate.
Lauren: Ambitious and a visionary.
You would describe each other as:
Yin and yang – complementary counterparts.
Liz – What is the most valuable lesson Lauren has taught you as an entrepreneur? Lauren has taught me the true importance of relationship building. I learn so much from her each and every time we work together. She is so natural in her ability to articulate a point. As an entrepreneurial duo, she lifts me up and inspires me to be better, more committed, and push myself outside of my comfort zone more often.
Lauren – What is the most valuable lesson Liz has taught you as an entrepreneur? The best thing about owning a business with Liz is that we both are constantly teaching and learning from each other. Liz’s detail-oriented and hardworking mindset is always inspiring me, and has taught me to never overlook the small details when it comes to business.
Favorite quote: “The Minimalist Mindset. Less is more!”
Let me know in the comments: How has Liz and Lauren's story inspired you to build your own business?
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