Amina Belouizdad started Bartaile with her best friend, Felicia, with the intention of creating a product for people #goingplaces. We had some real talk with Amina about the ins and outs of starting a business. She managed to inject some realism on the conversation around entrepreneurship with just the right amount inspiration. Read through for some “a-ha” moments.
On being true to your brand:
Necessity is the mother of invention. We started Bartaile because at business school it was a 2 mile walk to class. We looked at ourselves and all the girls that were trying to make it work with totes stuffed with books. That’s when it hit us that there was a need for a functional but chic bag to take everywhere. We were basically our own target market. It came from a really organic place and I think that really resonates to our clients. It’s at the very core of what we do.
On not making assumptions:
One of the more interesting things of this has been figuring out who your customer is versus who you thought they were. We thought it was going to be someone who is on the corporate track that is always carrying her laptop. Turns out that our customer is very much on the intersection of creativity and tech. Someone who travels and is digitally savvy. She is discerning and loyal and it has been exciting figuring out who she is.
Product development was a big challenge for us. Neither Felicia or myself are from a design/supply chain background and the learning curve was steep. Looking back we tried to make it too perfect and were too hard on ourselves. It cost us time and money. It’s better to be lean, nimble, quick and learn from customer feedback.
On not quitting your day job:
The problem is that there is a very romanticized view of entrepreneurship. It’s a hustle. Its hard, its lonely, its confusing, but people don’t talk about that aspect enough. All you hear are the success stories. You don’t hear the gruesome path of the one making it. I think that it is leading young people to take risks they are not ready for because they have been misinformed. With that in mind, I’m an advocate for slow and steady wins the race - in whatever form that means for different people. Sometimes it’s a lot of savings, sometimes that means bringing in a partner, and sometimes that means keeping your day job. There are a million ways. I think it’s really important to have more dialogue around entrepreneurship. It’s as though it’s almost shameful to have a corporate job but maybe that’s the right thing for you. Maybe you’re just being smart!
On living a life of intent:
At school I took this class called “Total Leadership” and it was about living a life of intent. It was all about thinking of the four areas of your life: self, community, work and home. Actually, not just thinking but designing a life for those things to merge. It’s about creating overlaps and crossovers and how anything you are doing should benefit at least two of those areas. A lot of people live their life in silos but this actually helps you merge and really define what is important to you. For example, Bartaille really embodies everything I care about. It’s about creating solutions to problems, being creative, and it takes me places. I lived in Asia for a long time and our supply chain is there by design. China will always be a part of me and I want to have a foot there. 5% of our sales go to education and that was important to me. I get to work with one my best friends. Bartaille is a vehicle through I do everything I want to do. A little bit of intent and thinking really pushes us to make the right decisions.
On being unapologetic:
Be unapologetic about your life. People feel like they have obligations and don’t do what they really want to do. If your work doesn’t fit your values or doesn’t make you happy - you can change it. So many people go through the hamster wheel and don’t think about what they really want to do.The best way for me was to start it from scratch with Bartaile. For others it might be just shuffling some things around.
On waking up early:
You end up creating two extra hours for yourself out of thin air. Plus, they end up being the most productive and quietest two hours of my day.