Michelle Blue (BBA ’13) was just 22 when she and her friend Sasha Matthews founded a line of luxury scarves with a portion of the proceeds helping to educate girls in Ghana. Since its inceptions, Bené Scarves has seen tremendous success, both commercially and in terms of its impact on women’s lives.
But the success didn’t come easily, Blue told an audience at the inaugural Terry Women’s Initiative Student Conference in February. Armed with only a dream and an education, she struggled to launch and support a business without much experience or capital.
What helped her along the way were eight principles that, she said, allowed her to persevere and succeed against long odds.
1. To thine own self be true.
“Believe it or not, it’s one of the hardest things we have to do. There are so many pressures from our families, from our societies about what they think we should be. But
to be true to yourself, you have to be honest and be aware of who you are. It requires you to speak up, to be uncomfortable, and it can be inconvenient.”
2. Continue to be a lifelong learner
“UGA’s mission is to teach, to serve and to inquire into the nature of things. If you’re not learning, there’s no growth. In college, all of us take for granted the resources, the lectures and all of the discussions that we have on campus, but after college your learning doesn’t stop.… You definitely have to be more proactive about it, but there’s so much content out there that there’s no excuse for any of us to be ignorant to new ideas, perspectives and what’s going on around the world.”
3. Don’t compare
“We’ve all been consumed with what everyone else has, and we begin to doubt ourselves. I have such a love-hate relationship with social media. It’s so easy to compare our lives to someone else’s highlight reel.… If you go to my Instagram, it’s pictures of me traveling, the photo shoots, the commercials, and even though that’s real, it’s 2 percent of my life. Unfortunately, what I can’t show you, is that entrepreneurial struggle I’m living”
4. Relationships, relationships, relationships
“Everyone asks me how we’ve gotten such great opportunities, and it’s mainly the relationships we’ve managed to build over the years. Whatever career, whatever job or path you decide to take, you can’t do it alone. When you’re at networking events, don’t just be on a mission to collect business cards, but make sure you’re having conversations with people and finding a way to connect with them that is not just about what they can do for you. It’s always the little things that will set you apart and take you very far in this life.”
5. “Closed mouths don’t get fed”
“I probably shouldn’t quote Lil’ Wayne, but everyone has such anxiety about getting told ‘no’ that we never really ask for what we really want, missing out on the possible ‘yes.’”
6. Hustle and heart will set you apart
“People automatically assume that because I was able to start the business that I’m smarter or have some magical, majestic something that they don’t. The truth is that’s not true. When I was in school, I took my grades seriously. But when I graduated I didn’t know my GPA. I only knew that I kept HOPE. What set me apart was the tenacity and having the heart to fight through even when I didn’t know what was next.”
7. It’s always greater than you
“There’s always someone else’s life that is depending on you to fulfill your purpose. For me, the money and success don’t mean anything unless someone else’s life is being impacted and changed. We all have our part to play, and it looks differently for everyone.”
8. Enjoy the journey
“Just because you graduate doesn’t mean you figure everything out. I’m nowhere close to having my life together and the reality is that you never will. What we all have to do is fall in love with the journey. We all get so focused on the dream, that we miss the lessons along the way.”