District2.co (pronounced district2-pt-co) is a virtual garment district. It is essentially the 2.0 upgrade for the apparel manufacturing space. District2 is an online B2B Marketplace that connects designers with contractors and factories. Designers can post a production project on the platform and factories can bid on the project. Designers can hire factories directly from the platform based off ratings, reviews and price points.
Where did you first get your inspiration for your business?
When I first came into the fashion industry I was disappointed at the lack of cool technology. I thought the industry would have cool software for designing, but no such luck. Photoshop, Illustrator, Microsoft Excel and emailing are the main technologies used in most apparel manufacturing companies. I wanted to start a software development company to advance the apparel manufacturing industry into the digital era.
What motivated you to push your ideas and turn them into action?
I had this good friend who started an electronics company. Years later, I ran into him and we hung out for the day. His little electronics company had grown and was generating billions of dollars! Yes. Billions with a “B”! He shared with me some of the cool technologies he was working with and we talked about software and the electronics space. I shared my startup idea with him and he urged me to go for it. In that moment, I looked at all he’d built in the 10 years I’d known him and thought, if this man of color from inner city streetlife could do it… so could I! The next day I went full force and haven’t stopped since. Sometimes it helps to see those who remind us of ourselves or where we’ve come from, in order to garner the courage to do great things.
Would you say that there’s a difference in the way that men and women communicate in the business world? Or do you remember experiences where you’ve noticed a difference?
Men and women communicate differently, just as Americans communicate differently from Ukrainians, (I have first hand experience of this), as west coasters communicate differently than east coasters. I can’t say I can recall any major communication differences between men and women. I can say, that there is a HUGE communication difference between how I personally communicate with different individuals. For example, a phone call to a black American woman developer would be very different than a phone call to a White Russian male developer.
What was your approach to distinguishing yourself from competition in your field?
The first way I chose to distinguish myself was to choose a space with very little competition. There are literally only a handful of companies around the world that connect designers with factories. I further separate myself from the competition by my domain knowledge and experience. I have more domain knowledge in this space than any other competing CEOs.
With the responsibilities and stress of running your own business, how do you stay organized and keep yourself from becoming overwhelmed?
10 minute sprints are a great way to stay focused and actually accomplish many little tasks throughout the day towards big goals. Different tools such as Trello and Google Calendar keep me organized from day to day. I exercise to keep my mind and body healthy and often run or bike ride to the beach either solo or with my boys in order to enjoy life and not make every moment about making money.
Maintain relationships and personal interests?
Relationships? Like in a boyfriend? Ha! That’s funny. Girls like me, don’t get to have boyfriends. However, if/ when I find someone who loves the chaos as much as I do, I schedule in time for relationships, friends and family and make it just as much a priority, if not more, than any other business meeting.
What are the most rewarding aspects of your job?
Helping people. Seeing people come to the platform we’ve built and actually using it. Acknowledgement & respect from my peers are extremely rewarding aspects of my job. Oh and the fact that every meeting comes with an adult beverage. I love the tech industry!
Even though you are becoming well established, do you ever feel discouraged?
If so, what sorts of things keep you going?
Of course I feel discouraged. I often wonder if I’m good enough, but I recently spoke at a tech conference where I was a panelist. I was feeling a bit under-accomplished, as everyone in the room had raised millions of dollars. I told them about a major recent epiphany where I realized that I need not compare myself to others. At one time in my life I slept on cardboard boxes and bus stop benches, and now, even though we have yet to raise millions of dollars, our company is generating revenue and even profitable. If I compare current self to previous self, I’m winning! I’m happy. I have no investors breathing down my neck right now and am just continuing to work on making the platform better for our users.
As you progress in your career, what life lessons have you learned from being an entrepreneur? Any learned lessons that you feel were specific to you being a woman in business?
I learned that we have to look at entrepreneurialism like we look at a college education. We spend thousands of dollars at the University in exchange for knowledge. Entrepreneurialism is better because in addition to knowledge, we have the ability to make money, lots and lots of money.