February 5, 2020 was my first day as the full-time CEO of Alpine Parrot. Looking back, it’s hard to believe that I’ve been living my best life for a year now, and WOW - the last 365 days have been a RIDE!
Through all of the ups and downs of the past year (starting a company 👖, living through a global pandemic 😷, building a community 💖, and more), I have learned so much. I wanted to take a moment to appreciate it all, and to share some of what I’ve learned through it all. So, without further ado, here are:
10 Things I’ve Learned Over the Last 12 Months
That perfect is the enemy of the good enough.
I am a perfectionist by nature, but fortunately I’ve been in product development long enough now to know that iterative design wins over perfection. Starting with the absolute minimum and then building on that over time will yield far more success than trying to release the perfect product at once. It saves time, money, and sleep, I promise!
What this means for Alpine Parrot: For the moment, the Ponderosa Pants are the only item in our product line, and it only comes in 6 sizes, 14-24. I felt that two fit styles (Mountain and River) were an absolute necessity, since no one else seems to be thinking about body shapes right now. Up next: more sizes, then more products (while continuing to make the Ponderosa Pants the best hiking pant out there)!
You can do it all, but not all at once.
Time = Money, but they come from different buckets, so choose wisely. There’s only so much time in each day, so I’ve had to choose between hiring help and choosing to spend more time making my dreams a reality.
What this means for Alpine Parrot: I’ve hired for areas where I’m not an expert (like marketing and production), and I’m taking my time in areas where I can’t be replaced yet (like product development and CEO-y things like accounting and strategy). Please be patient and support us when things come up for sale (which will be very soon!) - your money is your vote of confidence, allowing me to hire more people and scale this operation!
At the beginning, YOU are your product; people believe in you first.
I truly want to believe that my work will speak for itself, but that is unfortunately not the case, especially when starting a new company with no brand of its own.
What this means for Alpine Parrot: You may have noticed that for this entire first year, Alpine Parrot’s social media has predominantly been about introducing y’all to the Alpine Parrot brand. The brand is in many ways a reflection of me, my values, and how I want people to feel when they think about Alpine Parrot. Soon, you’ll see less of me and more of the community - this is intentional. (I’m not going anywhere though!).
Your product is only an idea until YOU make it real.
There are so many ideas out there, it’s hard for anyone to take you seriously until they see you’re serious with an actual product. A year ago, all I had were business cards and an incomplete idea of what I wanted to do. Understandably, a lot of the people I talked to gave me words of praise but no real action. Now that I have physical pants that people can actually try on, I’ve got a lot more credibility!
What this means for Alpine Parrot: In the After Times (aka the Time After Rona), y’all better believe I’ll be doing in-person events! Social distanced fit testing is great, but we’ve got so many more opportunities to do more together!
It’s impossible to predict the future, but you must try anyway.
From sales and financial forecasting to guessing how many pants of each size to make, it’s a pure guessing game right now. With more time and data, it’ll be easier, but still impossible.
What this means for Alpine Parrot: There’s very little data out there about the plus size market, so we’re building it ourselves. Every piece of feedback you give us, every survey you fill out, will help us get a better understanding of who we serve and help us make decisions to make magic for you!
Nice and kind are not the same thing - it’s better to be kind than nice.
To clarify: “nice” is when you want to spare someone’s feelings in the moment, often resulting in avoiding conflict (e.g. not telling someone they have spinach in their teeth, because you don’t want to embarrass them). “Kind” is embracing conflict and acknowledging that their feelings in the moment might need to be hurt in order to spare them more pain in the long run (e.g. telling someone they have spinach in their teeth, because you don’t want them to be embarrassed at the end of the day, when they realize they’ve had spinach in their teeth ALL DAY and no one told them.)
What this means for Alpine Parrot: We’re not going to make everyone happy all the time. There are going to be folks who are super disappointed that we don’t have their size yet (or won’t ever). In those instances, we choose kindness to be clear about what our timelines and product plans are, instead of empty promises that will push their disappointment down the road.
Everything takes more time and costs more money than you ever expected.
I know this is a common point for every entrepreneur, but still!
What this means for Alpine Parrot: We’re putting processes in place to have better scheduling, but we’re still going to mess up. I thought I’d have the Ponderosa Pants by December 2020, but that absolutely didn’t happen. Sourcing (finding materials) took a lot longer than I expected, and shipping was the shocking cost I hadn’t truly understood. As we continue to produce our products, we’ll get better at predicting our time and costs and become more efficient as a result.
People WANT to help you succeed.
Sure, there will always be jerks who will put obstacles in your way, but if you find your people, the barriers quickly fall apart. I thought I would be spending a lot more time figuring everything out on my own, but I’ve been so incredibly fortunate to have found helpers around every corner!
What this means for Alpine Parrot: Our community is everything. From our customers to our partners, we lean on y’all to make magic happen!
Every person you meet is a potential mentor - and you don’t have to have just one!
I’ve been so humbled by the folks in this industry. One year ago, I went to Outdoor Retailer, hoping to make some connections with people who can help steer me in the right direction. Now I have a few people on my speed dial who listen to me freak out about my Instagram account being deactivated, factories ditching me at the last minute, and more (yep, these have all happened). I don’t think I would have gotten this far without them.
What this means for Alpine Parrot: I stand on the shoulders of giants, and I will continue to do so. I’m still learning as I go, but I’ve got folks who will catch me when I fall and celebrate with me when I succeed. HUGE shoutout to my mentors - y’all know who you are 🥰
Be comfortable with discomfort.
Surprises come from everywhere and how you handle them is critical to the success of your business. You can try to prepare yourself for everything, but I promise: something will always catch you off-guard.
What this means for Alpine Parrot: We’re gonna keep rolling, even when stuff goes sideways! Whether it’s figuring out how to pay someone in Hong Kong (even if it takes 3 weeks!) or learning how to submit sales tax returns, know that each day is a learning experience and I’m excited to roll with all the punches!
The last year has been a rollercoaster, but it also makes me more excited and eager for whatever the next 365 days may bring... Especially our Kickstarter and official product launch. Thank you for being a part of that journey—whether it’s as a fit tester, a curious mind, a future pants-wearer, a fellow entrepreneur, or even a critic—Alpine Parrot wouldn't be what it is now without you, and this company is stronger because of you.
Now let’s make some PANTS and have some fun! 🎉