By making the decision to be courageous, you have to be willing to stake your claim and stick to your guns. Having courage can put you in a very isolated place, and doesn’t always make you popular.
By making the decision to be courageous, you have to be willing to stake your claim and stick to your guns. Having courage can put you in a very isolated place, and doesn’t always make you popular. I see Courage as a verb: perpetual, not stagnant. It’s an ongoing decision. It’s a philosophy of digging into it and pushing forward.
I really admire the quality of resolve, people seeing something come to fruition. Nothing great is built fast, and I admire the people around me who have the resolve to engineer their ideas. I feel like LA is very much a city which trades on confidence. It’s not like other cities or other industries who trade on pedigrees or accolades. You have people who don’t necessarily have any of level of expertise, but are super passionate about what they do, or the causes they believe in, or the things they don’t agree with. In LA, people can become contagious and become leaders.
Through Apolis, we manage a portfolio of social enterprises along with our local manufacturers for our brand. Our biggest project is in Bangladesh, where we started with six women making farmer’s market bags for us. Now, there’s over 100 who work for this one project about 5 years later. When we were growing out this part of the business, we were forced to make some tough decisions which required courage.
As an example a few years back, someone hacked into the cop-op director’s email in Bangladesh and contacted us with updated wiring instructions for one of our larger deliveries for the season. This led us to wire $80K to an offshore account in China. We realized the person who emailed us was not the co-op director we had hosted in Los Angeles, but quickly decided we had to do whatever it took to wire $80K to the actual co-op--recognizing the possibility we would never recover the original wire. Although it was a difficult decision, we knew we had to do whatever it took to find the money to make it right -- we refused to put hardship on the women artisans. Six weeks later, we were able to recover the original wire.
As an entrepreneur, you’re always taking risks, and it never really gets easier. One of our most ambitious projects was when we started the Alchemy Works concept shop (next door to Apolis in downtown LA) . For us, we felt limited with what we could engage with just our Apolis shop, and we wanted to expand the community we could pull from. It’s how we came to the idea of a clubhouse/retail/event space/ gallery--anything goes. We are passionate about providing a space to accelerate community.
To start Alchemy Works, we basically took what was in our living room and put it into this space and committed to it. While so many things fell into place which made it work, it was still difficult to make it sustainable. Even in moments of success, a business is very challenging to sustain. It took courage for us to make the commitment to the business, but it has opened up so many doors. It’s a complement to what we do at Apolis, to carry other brands and support other things we love.
If you’re doing something with purpose, it takes courage. Building a business which does good is like preparing for a marathon. It’s more than a business, it’s a life decision. You must have the stamina to see it through.