It is that time again to introduce you to another amazing entrepreneur, Adriana Gustavson. I recently met Adriana at a women's conference I spoke at a couple of weeks ago. I am very excited to share her story as I absolutely love pretty things, especially lingerie.
StiletttoGal: Tell us about yourself and your company?
Adriana Gustavson: Well, I went to Harvard and got my Master’s in Business, after running away to join the circus, then used my fortune, after marrying Prince Henry, to startup… haha, just kidding! Isn’t that how we always think that it happens? Some kind of fantastical miracle?
My story is just as colorful, but not as pretty. I was born here in the valley of Los Angeles, to a teenage mom and a very poor family. Compared to the unique hardships my mother and grandmother have endured, I had it easy growing up. They worked very hard to provide a wonderful life for me, full of loving family. They instilled values that have helped me tremendously through starting this company, such as: spending money wisely, always giving back, having strong work ethics, taking the road less traveled, and always keeping others in mind.
I dropped out of college when I started my own tutoring company, because I realized I would much happier doing what I love and working for myself, than working a 9-5 job, building someone else’s dream. After teaching and tutoring math for 6 years, I realized that I preferred PEOPLE over numbers! Who would have guessed? Over the years I tried out different fields to figure out what I was passionate about: the restaurant business, the entertainment industry, real estate, property management, and massage therapy. The common thread in all of them was people, building relationships and building businesses. So, I became a Certified Life Coach, specialized in Relationships and Sexuality and did a tremendous amount of programs and trainings over the last couple years. Along the way, I discovered how important sexuality was to me, so I became an Educator at the Center for Positive Sexuality, where I teach on panels at local universities about minoritized topics around sexuality. I suppose you could call me a Jane of all trades at this point!
I started The Panty Drawer as an expression of myself. Yes, that’s right, panties are a way to express yourself, too. It’s a sex-positive, risqué company built to bring out both, the adorable, and the sexy. It’s a subscription-based panty sales company for women. You sign up for a monthly box to be delivered to your door, and you receive a beautiful box, with three pairs of new panties and a surprise along with it! The surprise will be something that makes you feel pampered, like hand-made bath salts, delightfully smelling body butter, or high quality jewelry. The box is meant to serve as a reminder to pamper yourself every once in a while, because you deserve it!! It’s like getting a gift every month!
I will also be using this company as a way to give back to the teen mom and pregnant teen community. Growing up with a teen mom was hard, but being a teen mom must have been a real challenge. If I can make a difference for someone like my mother, THAT is what will make this company fulfilling for me. As Sabrina Kay said, at SoGal’s event last month, “It’s PURPOSE that turns your career into your calling.”
SG: What was the inspiration behind launching your company?
AG: I’ve learned a lot about masculinity and femininity over the last few years, becoming a certified Relationship Coach. I’ve come to realize that the women in today’s society battle major challenges in the workforce. These challenges go beyond the glass ceiling and fighting for equality. They extend to our mental, emotional and physical health. Forbes recently released an article about women in the workforce burning out by age 30, because they’re not taking care of themselves. Let me repeat that, AGE 30! Women are burning out before they even become real women! The term the “burnout syndrome” has become popular to describe it. Studies show that men are more likely to take breaks, get sufficient sleep, and take care of themselves, than women doing the same work. Women tend to set aside their own needs for long periods of time, in order to accomplish something. It’s like in romantic relationships, where women will go months, years even, going without what they really need, in order to keep a family together, or to keep her marriage working. It happens all across the board.
I wanted to start a company that helps women pamper themselves. That REMINDS them to pamper themselves, at the very least. That’s why it’s a monthly subscription, and that’s why each box comes with a surprise that women can pamper themselves. Panties are a symbol of the little things we can do to make us feel confident, sexy, and powerful. It’s the simple things that make the biggest difference. I can thank Steve Jobs for teaching me that one.
SG: What has been your biggest challenges thus far in starting a business?
Previously, with other business attempts, my biggest challenge was reaching out for help. Now that I successfully conquer that challenge on a daily basis, my biggest challenge has been letting go of doing things the “right” way.
I keep getting attached to doing everything “right,” before moving forward. I had to be the “right” age, have the “right” product, file the “right” paperwork, advertise the “right” way, etc, etc. Whatever that even means. Sometimes it’s helpful, mainly in giving me peace of mind and confidence, but that’s about it. Let me give you an example. I was waiting to launch this company next month, after I had the perfect video done, and the perfect advertising crew, to launch the perfect Kickstarter to take all of my presales. An incredible advisor of mine, Dominique Moralez, pushed me to JUST DO IT. He challenged me to start selling right away and make my first 10 sales that weekend. I had every reason not to even try. I didn’t have a functional website to take sign ups, I didn’t have the right plan of action, and it was a holiday weekend. Long story short, I took on his challenge, and in TWO DAYS, I had a fully functional ecommerce website up and not ten, but TWENTY sign ups!
If it weren’t for Dom, and his push, I never would’ve talked to Adam Maciel, who was also an integral part in my successful launch. Adam advised me to use a marketing strategy that made it all possible.
Failure, and doing things wrong, can be a scary thing. I have to conquer that fear on an hourly basis sometimes, but when I do, miracles happen.
SG: What are three tips you could give to young entrepreneurs about launching a business?
Share about what you’re doing. Share about your goals. Share your ideas. Share with your family. Share with your friends. Share with strangers. Share your successes. Share your profits. Share your company.
You don’t have to do this alone. Reach out to people. Ask for support. Be authentic. People are more willing to help you than you think. People WANT to be a part of your success, and WANT to be there to help you up when you fall. Let in the love, and share it with them. Get interested in what you can do for others. It’s easy to make it “all about me,” in life AND in starting a business. I know I was really attached to the first few businesses I started. I couldn’t let them go and grow on their own. I was too selfish to let other people take it over, and had too little self worth to ask for help. Give back to the community. I look at every business as an opportunity to be a community project. How can your ideas benefit the community? How will your service or product impact human kind? How can you give back to the communities you’re most passionate about? You’ll be surprised how many helping hands you have on board the moment you get outside of yourself, into other people’s world, and act as a part of a community.
SG: What kind of shoe are you and why? (this is supposed to be the type of personality you are and what that shoe represents)
AG: Bright pink, fuzzy stilettos with sparkles.
They’re sexy and adorable all at the same time! They look soft enough to pet and cuddle up with, but sexy enough to go out in a cute dress with. They demand attention, they’re out of the ordinary, they’re feminine, and they’re playful!