539 Jennifer Teixeira:
When we look back on our journeys in life and as entrepreneurs, we come to see it was the… challenges, failures and setbacks that powered our learning and confidence to succeed in business.
I’m Melinda Wittstock and today on Wings of Inspired Business we meet an inspiring entrepreneur who overcame breast cancer as she was growing her business, all with three young children in tow.
Jennifer Teixeira is founder and CEO
Sweet Sweet Honey Hawaii, a children’s fashion brand drawing on her native culture and a gap she perceived in the market for colorful, fun and practical clothing for her own children. Jennifer always had a passion for fashion, initially working for brands like Forever21, before moving back to Hawaii to design for local surf brands. From there she launched Sweet Sweet Honey Hawaii, a brand that is growing despite an uncertain Covid-19 economic landscape.
I can’t wait to introduce you to Jennifer and share her inspiring story! First…
When Jennifer Teixeira [techshaara] was growing up, she loved watching her grandma make us beautiful aloha print patchwork blankets. Her parents would take her and her siblings to the fabric store to pick out colorful prints for outfits they made for special events. It inspired Jennifer to become a graphic artist and to design clothes, attending FIDM in Los Angeles and moving into manufacturing company designing graphics and learning about the manufacturing industry. move back to Hawaii and design for the surf industry – and it wasn’t long before she realized something was missing.
And when she got pregnant with her 2nd child, Audriana, she struggled to styles and prints that represented her personality and culture. Living in a tropical environment she wanted fabrics that weren’t thick and hot, and styles that were cute, functional and easy to put on. That’s how Sweet Sweet Honey was born.
We’re going to hear Jennifer’s inspiring story about how she built her brand while struggling with breast cancer – and now the impact of Coronavirus – and much more.
Take out your phone right now and download the free Podopolo app in either app store so you can join the conversation with me and Jennifer. Please share some of your own challenges in life and business – and what you learned from them.
Now back to the inspiring Jennifer Teixeira [techshaara], founder of the children’s fashion brand Sweet, Sweet Honey Hawaii.
Jennifer also shares what she learned from overcoming breast cancer, and how the mental, physical and emotional challenge of her recovery helped her to realize she could cope with any business challenge thrown her way – and how her challenges have boosted her confidence. She says her customers stood behind her and her family 100% and have continued to support her business with purchases as well as love & support, inspiring her to keep going even when she felt like giving up so many times.
Listen too as she shares how she has used her business to help those in need whether donating Swaddle blankets to her local hospital, or her eco-friendly approach to limiting use of plastic in her packaging and donating to plant trees worldwide, with a mission to plant 10,000 trees by 2021.
Let’s put on our wings with the inspiring Jennifer Teixeira
Melinda Wittstock: Jennifer, welcome to Wings.
Jennifer Teixeira: Thanks for having me.
Melinda Wittstock: I’m excited to talk to you. What was the spark that made you leave everything behind and move to Hawaii and launch Sweet, Sweet Honey?
Jennifer Teixeira: Well, it just started with my love for fashion. Moving back to Hawaii, I just felt that there wasn’t any good fashion for children here. I was pregnant with my second child, Audriana, and I was looking for just something different for my baby. I wanted bright tropical prints. I wanted soft and comfortable fabric. And at the time in the market, I felt that there was nothing really out there for my kids or my future kids. I took it upon myself to go ahead and create something just for fun for my children and everyone loved it. And that’s kind of where the business began.
Melinda Wittstock: You know, it’s so funny that most entrepreneurial innovations come from creating the thing that we wish we had ourselves.
Jennifer Teixeira: Exactly.
Melinda Wittstock: I mean, when you were a kid, did you have any kind of burning entrepreneurial ambitions or it was just simply this. There’s not a product that I want, so I’m going to go create it.
Jennifer Teixeira: No, it started very early on, now that you mention it. I was a kid watching black and white fashion shows. You couldn’t really see the color and I would use my imagination thinking of what the color would be, and that kind of sparked my passion for fashion. I went ahead and went to the Fashion Institute in Las Angeles and that’s where it kind of just grew on me that I really love to create pieces and wanting to be a part of this industry that was so vibrant at the time.
Melinda Wittstock: You launched this and people like it. What were the challenges you faced in that early startup stage?
Jennifer Teixeira: Oh, there was so many challenges. I didn’t even know where to begin because for the longest time I would work for everyone else except for myself. I knew how to work for everyone else, but I didn’t know how to do it myself. And one of the biggest challenges of starting out was just where to begin. Where do I source? Was I going to sew everything? I started, actually sewing everything myself and then later ran into burnout. Pretty much just burning out, not being able to [crosstalk 00:02:32].
Melinda Wittstock: I bet, yeah because you have all this demand and there’s a point where you start being your own bottleneck. This is always, this happens almost to every entrepreneur at a certain point, right? And it’s a painful stage because all of a sudden you have to figure out all the processes, you’ve got to hire people you got to do all those things. What were some of the steps that you took at that point when you realized, man, I’m burned out. How am I going to do this? How am I going to sustain and grow it?
Jennifer Teixeira: It was pretty much one day at a time. That’s what I keep telling myself, even now that we’re growing bigger and we still run into challenges it was one day at a time where I started to source it out. I started to start contracting manufacturers and just kind of learning the industry by myself. That’s very important to me as I wanted to know everything before I hired somebody to help me just so I knew what was going on in the beginning stages so we wouldn’t make a lot of costly mistakes going forward.
I pretty much learned the industry in and out with manufacturing and that’s where it kind of began. It wasn’t a perfect set up. There was still problems along the way. And we learned it along the way as we went through all of those phases.
Melinda Wittstock: And so as you were growing you got diagnosed with breast cancer. And I can’t imagine how scary that was or what that was like for you. And at the same time, with three kids, you somehow kept your business running. Tell me about that. What was that like?
Jennifer Teixeira: We had, I took the first jump to do this event, this popup event. It was major. I was terrified of doing it in the beginning because you do your first event and you don’t know how it’s going to turn out, if anyone’s going to show up. It was a really, really big successful event for us. And we were probably at the peak of our business, super excited to keep growing. I had all these major plans for growing and I did a self checkup and I found that I had a lump in my breast, which later turned out to be breast cancer and it was devastating.
I didn’t know what to do. I want to be honest, I took a couple of weeks and just cried about it. And with anybody who has breast cancer, they’re like, well, why is this happening to me? Why now? Especially during the highlight of my career. And you know, I decided that I wasn’t going to let this bother me. Like I was going to fight on. And especially for my business, my business and my family is what really kept me going, because I continued to work the whole time. I wasn’t just going to lay there and cry about it. And it really helped me get through all the treatments and fight breast cancer.
Melinda Wittstock: What did you learn about yourself during that experience?
Jennifer Teixeira: That I was stronger than I thought I was. Growing a business you kind of just go through it and you keep going and going and going. And I really feel like it just stopped me my tracks to really analyze how important life was and how important this business was to me and what it really, really meant to me and how it made me feel. At the time, it was my purpose almost to keep going.
And I didn’t know that at the time of running a business. I thought I was creating some amazing thing and I was going to be successful, and we were going to get into all these big stores and sell worldwide. But it’s a much more deeper meaning now that as looking back, I’m thinking, wow, I’ve been through all of that and it’s prepared me for all the challenges that I’ve been through after breast cancer. Learning how to handle all the challenges that come my way with the business and my family.
Melinda Wittstock: It’s so true, though don’t you think? That those challenges in our lives, whether they’re health challenges like a marriage breakup or some sort of adverse financial thing, or just something that knocks us down. Those moments are when we grow.
Jennifer Teixeira: Absolutely. I agree on that.
Melinda Wittstock: I mean, I don’t know, I’m on my fifth business now as a serial entrepreneur. If I look back and I’m honest, I can’t really account for anything I learned from success. I learned almost everything from some sort of failure, challenge or setback, and it’s how you adapt to those things.
Jennifer Teixeira: Absolutely. It is. That’s what really makes the story. When you become an entrepreneur and you start a business, you’re like success. Yes! You know, you’re looking at success when you first start out, but it’s not about that. It’s about the journey and the challenges along the way that it’s so much more rewarding. Even though at the time, my first challenge I was like, Oh, no, like what am I doing? But now, I like open arms with challenges. I’m like, yes, let’s do this. Next.
Melinda Wittstock: Yeah, if you can have a spirit of fun about it. But I think something that you said just rings so true, it is about the journey and being present on the journey and enjoying it. I mean, the thing that’s occurred to me over the years, and I wish I’d known this much earlier. It’s not really the destination. It’s really the process, the journey along the way, the people that you’re helping, enjoying it with your team and your family and yeah. All those challenges. The things that actually bring true confidence and true success.
But how inspiring. How did you handle all of that with your team and your customers and all of that? Were you pretty open about what was going on with you? Did you ask for their support or how did all that work?
Jennifer Teixeira: I decided to open up about it because I felt like I needed to inspire everyone to go get checked around me. I didn’t think it would happen to me. It didn’t run in my family. I didn’t know anybody with breast cancer. And I was more on a mission to educate everyone around me about breast cancer and getting those early checks. Because we found out really early and I was really lucky about that because it didn’t spread throughout my body. I was on a mission to tell my customers because we had a pretty good huge following on social media.
Just educating everyone. All of my customers stood behind me 100%. There’s people I didn’t even know who would come out and help us as a family. And I didn’t see it as kind of like a doomsday scenario for me. I felt more encouraged to keep going to show everybody that, Hey, this is what’s happening right now. And I’m going to overcome it and you can overcome it, as well. Whatever challenges that happen in your life, you can overcome it, as well.
Melinda Wittstock: One of the things so many women struggle with in business, or just in life generally, is asking for help. Did this did this force you to learn how to ask for help?
Jennifer Teixeira: It did. I was very stubborn about it at first. The first two weeks, like I said, I didn’t want to tell my children. I kept my husband away from me. I’m like, I got this, don’t worry about it. I can overcome this myself. By the end of those two weeks, I was like, no, I cannot do this by myself.
Melinda Wittstock: Yeah. I mean, what is it about women? Why do we [inaudible 00:10:36] to ask for help?
Jennifer Teixeira: Yeah, I honestly don’t know. I guess we like to be strong and independent.
Melinda Wittstock: Yeah. In business, really it’s in the end of the day, it’s all about the team. It’s all about the relationships. It’s all about that. And when we can be vulnerable, we’re much more likely to have deeper connections that are lasting and truly meaningful, you know? An entrepreneur building a great team or culture for instance, or just deep relationship with customers. If they really know you and see you, I mean, all of you, you’re more likely to have those kind of really trusting and lasting relationships, which makes a great business in the end of the day.
Jennifer Teixeira: It does. It really does. And a lot of our customers are so kind and amazing, even though they’re on social media, we get to meet them. I mean, COVID has really put us back with meeting our customers. But when we did have events, we get to actually meet the customers. And it’s almost, it creates like a family affect with our team. We all know each other and with the customers, as well. It’s a really good relationship. It’s not just a business in our standpoint, it’s more recreated this family of women and parents that just come together when we see each other and just really love what we’re doing as a community.
Melinda Wittstock: Well, of course you have another challenge now. COVID and how that’s impacting retail and retail was already on a downer before COVID hit. How has that impacted your business?
Jennifer Teixeira: We had to close our shop down cause we have a little shop in our little office space and we had to close that down. We were really sad about it that we don’t get to see our customers as much as we usually do. And that kind of kills the vibe a little bit.
Melinda Wittstock: Are you almost entirely online, now? Are you eCommerce mostly?
Jennifer Teixeira: Yes. Yes, so we’ve always been entirely online, but we had a little shop our local customers could shop out of. But our business has grown online. I want to say about 97% since COVID has happened. We haven’t really been affected business-wise except for, I want to say getting supplies. It’s gotten better in the last month or so with shipping delays and manufacturing delays and all of that sense of the business.
Melinda Wittstock: Absolutely. You think of the knock on effect of all those supply chains. Are you distributed in other retailers? I know that Nordstrom approached you sometime back.
Jennifer Teixeira: Yes, so we are in Nordstrom. We have not been in contact since COVID because they are also shut down, as well. That kind of put a little stop in Nordstrom, but we were in Nordstrom. Yes. We’re in some small local stores.
Melinda Wittstock: It’s interesting. I mean that you were prescient in really building this business online as your main source of revenue. A really good friend of mine, Kara Golden, who runs Hint Water, is now a $2 billion business. But she focused for the longest time on just getting Hint Water into different stores and whatnot. And then she realized, you know what? I can’t control that. I can’t control where my product is going to be placed. I got to compete with Coca Cola and these big distributors. How on earth? Right? And it forced her to go online. And when she did, that’s the thing that really propelled the growth of the business.
Jennifer Teixeira: Yes. I totally agree. I started off looking for baby closing Nordstrom, so to be a part of Nordstrom was pretty much a dream come true. But I do agree with her on that standpoint of not being able to control your product on the floor. We’d go in there, I’d send my team in there and it’s just not what we expected it would be on a business standpoint. But being online for us has been so successful that it’s worth the time and effort to keep going that route.
Melinda Wittstock: Tell me more specifically about some of the challenges that you’ve been facing. It can’t be easy, and I want to give our listeners really a window on the world of retail and eCommerce, especially during COVID. Cause I know so many people who listen to this have eCommerce businesses of some kind selling all sorts of things. But let’s really dig deep into that. What have been the primary challenges and how have you gotten around them?
Jennifer Teixeira: It’d be keeping up with demand. That’s been our number one challenge here during COVID. We did not expect to grow during COVID. You like to grow, but you don’t like to grow at one time. I mean, steady growth. But we just blew up at one time. We were unable to keep up with demands. Then when it comes to demand, it comes with do I have enough employees to keep up with demand?
At the time because of COVID and social distancing and not being able to hire more people has been one of the biggest challenges that we face because we’re just all really tired and we want to continue to serve our customers on a daily basis, but it’s kind of put us back a little bit on that standpoint.
Melinda Wittstock: And so how big is your team?
Jennifer Teixeira: We have about five of us now.
Melinda Wittstock: Right, and so what are some of the positions that you need to fill to be able to meet the growing demand?
Jennifer Teixeira: Customer service and just warehouse and packing. That’s like our number one challenge. [crosstalk 00:16:45]
Melinda Wittstock: A lot of people are looking for jobs right now.
Jennifer Teixeira: They are, but then it’s COVID and so it’s really hard to, especially in such a small, we have this small little warehouse. We don’t have a big warehouse. We’re looking to upgrade, but it’s been so unexpected that I run into financial issues of being able to grow on that standpoint when I’m spending more money on product. Getting those collections in and growing those collections to meet demand.
Melinda Wittstock: Gosh. And so where do you see yourself? I mean, it’s a chicken and egg problem, right? This is the thing that businesses have this all the time and everybody prays for growth. Growth is wonderful, but that’s actually, in a weird way, that’s actually the scariest time in your business.
Jennifer Teixeira: It is. It is and you want to grow, but then you kind of don’t know what that entails. In your dreams you’re like, yes, I’m going to go super big and I’m going to make X amount of money. But then when you get to that point you’re like, Oh, no! How are we going to get that point? It’s very costly. You need a lot of manpower. You need a bigger warehouse.
Melinda Wittstock: Right, cause this is the thing about entrepreneurship. And we were talking about the journey before. There’s always something.
Jennifer Teixeira: Yes, there is. There’s always a challenge.
Melinda Wittstock: There’s always a challenge. This is true.
Jennifer Teixeira: There’s never a dull moment.
Melinda Wittstock: But it sounds like you have the attitude and you’re equipped to kind of figure it out. It’s kind of like find a way or make one.
Jennifer Teixeira: Yes, exactly. You have to always find a way or make one or you’ll be stuck or you won’t grow. If you want to grow, you have to be able to fight these challenges on and conquer them every single day.
Melinda Wittstock: It’s so true. What are some of the things that you do in your own personal life, your own kind of self care routine or a mindset or things like that, that keep you sane through all of that?
Jennifer Teixeira: Yoga and meditation. That’s my go to.
Melinda Wittstock: Yes. Those are mine, as well. And on the rare day that I miss my morning meditation or whatever, my day just doesn’t go as well. It just literally isn’t in the same flow.
Jennifer Teixeira: I agree. Same with me. I have to do it every morning at 4:30 every morning before I get the kids ready for school and all their online schooling. Before I start my day with employees, I have to meditate. Even if I start a little late, I have to do it.
Melinda Wittstock: It’s so true. It kind of sets you up for the day, and Yoga, as well. I mean, of course in your business you want to be in flow, so what better than Yoga?
Jennifer Teixeira: Exactly. And then we have Yoga Mondays here in the office, so we all do Yoga. I make sure the girls are always happy and motivated. Because it’s a team effort. We all have to be happy and have that positive vibe going on, especially to deal with sometimes difficult customers. We always have to have that positive attitude here.
Melinda Wittstock: Oh, absolutely.. Jennifer, you have three children. How old are they?
Jennifer Teixeira: They are five, six and 12.
Melinda Wittstock: Okay, so that’s a handful and they’re all doing online school?
Jennifer Teixeira: Yes, so they go to a really, really small private school. They’re in school about three days a week. And then the other two days they’re online.
Melinda Wittstock: Okay, so you’ve got a little bit of time when they’re, but that’s still like a handful.
Jennifer Teixeira: Yes, it’s a handful.
Melinda Wittstock: And so how does it work? Do you mind me asking, how does it work with you and your husband and the kids? How do you managed to make all that work? All that work life balance, or I like to call it work life integration.
Jennifer Teixeira: Yes, so my husband works full-time, so it’s basically me pretty much. And I just have a schedule. Every morning, like I said, I do my Yoga and meditate, and then I get the kids ready for school. Then I have a very short period of window of what I can get done in the day before I have to get them from school. I kind of just schedule everything out as the day goes by just to get it done.
Melinda Wittstock: It’s a lot.
Jennifer Teixeira: It’s a lot.
Melinda Wittstock: But it sounds like you’re getting it done, so this is the thing. Women are really good at just getting it done.
Jennifer Teixeira: Yes.
Melinda Wittstock: We all have to get better at asking for help. Where do you see, what are your biggest dreams for your company? Where do you see it in five years?
Jennifer Teixeira: I see maximum growth. I want to hit that potential. I’m going to keep going until I get tired of doing this, until I’m ready for the next big thing. I honestly don’t have dreams for the next five years. I feel like I just keep going and going until I’m just tired of it, pretty much. I felt like I hit that maximum potential of the business. I do eventually want to sell this company to someone who might have better plans for it.
Melinda Wittstock: Yeah. That’s a really interesting point about really getting your head around the exit, which a lot of entrepreneurs fail to do because they’re like, Oh, someday somebody will buy it, which is not really, it’s interesting but not really a strategy. Trying to figure out who would buy it? What’s really the valuation growth? What’s my number? What do I really want from it? Getting really clear about that in the early days of your company.
It’s something that I’ve learned to my cost. But all too often, entrepreneurs want to sell the business when they’re no longer interested in it. So the business, when they lose interest in it, it’s no longer as vibrant of business. And then the valuation is not as much. It’s kind of tricky to figure out what’s that actual timing? Do you think about this? Do you strategize this out?
Jennifer Teixeira: I haven’t actually thought about it because I’m so in love with it right now. It’s been my baby and I’m just not ready to think about letting it go until I get to that point where I’m just like, Oh, I don’t know anymore. I feel like I am so in love with it right now I don’t want to think about letting it go.
Melinda Wittstock: Oh, no, I totally, totally get it. What advice, just as we start to wrap up, what would be three pieces of advice you would give to other women in business, whether they’re starting out as entrepreneurs or they’re at that same moment as you of really getting your head around scale?
Jennifer Teixeira: Never, ever give up. And we talked about this. Don’t look at the challenge as something bad. That’s the number one thing why people fail is because they just give up. I feel like every success story has those challenges in them. And a lot of us are successful because we’ve never given up on those flaws or those setbacks. My biggest advice is just keep going no matter what comes your way and you will have a success story when you get to it.
Melinda Wittstock: That’s really good advice. Actually, there was a question that I wanted to ask you earlier on, but just that you’re really all about social good, your company. I mean, you’re eco-friendly, you limit plastic in your packaging and you donate to plant trees worldwide. Is this a big part of your business model itself?
Jennifer Teixeira: It is. And it’s more of a passion of my own and what I believe in as a person. I really love giving back to the community because I’ve been so lucky and blessed to have the community support me. And I feel like that’s just a huge part of giving back and inspiring women to keep going and accomplishing their dreams no matter what is going on.
Especially mothers, because I know how it is and how tricky can be to start a business or to fulfill your dreams or even start a dream when you’re a mother. It’s so tricky to just start. I encourage women and especially women who are in college, cause there’s a lot of young moms here out in Hawaii and they just tend to give up and feel like their dreams will never come true. I really want to inspire others.
Melinda Wittstock: We can’t have that. I think women, I think we’re very suited to do social good business models. And by the way, we were talking about exits a moment ago and your valuation growth actually increases if you have a social impact mission and it’s because your customers are more bought into that mission, you’re probably going to get better talent who want to be bought into a mission. I mean, there’s so many reasons for that, but there was actually a Goldman Sachs study that said businesses that had social impact missions grew, or how had a valuation growth 10,000 times higher than regular businesses.
You’re on the right track, so I it’s really good that you’re doing that. Cause I think we can use entrepreneurship for social good to improve the world. And if anyone’s going to do it, it’s probably the women.
Jennifer Teixeira: Yes. I totally agree. Yes. Women are powerful. We can do amazing things. For many years, or when I was younger women were told that they couldn’t do anything. I believe that’s why I pretty much started what I started because saw my mom working the endless jobs day to day, living paycheck to paycheck. And I was like, I’m not going to do that. I’m not going to depend on a man. I’m going to go and do good in the world through a business. That’s been my model to just inspire women and it has nothing to do with profit or any of that. I just wanting to do good in the world.
Melinda Wittstock: I love it.
Jennifer, where can people find you? What’s your website name? How can people find you and connect with you on social media and the rest?
Jennifer Teixeira: Our website is www.sweetsweethoneyhawaii.com and we are on Instagram and Facebook @sweetsweethoneyHawaii.
Melinda Wittstock: Wonderful. Well, thank you so much for putting on your wings and flying with us today.
Jennifer Teixeira: Thank you for having me.