Today, I’m doing something a little different. I wanted to share the story of an entrepreneur that touched my heart. I first spoke with Summer Germann of BraveGowns.com about 3 years ago, and reached out to her again for an interview so that all you incredible and extraordinary Doers out there could hear her story and be as inspired as I am.
The Brave Gowns story begins with the untimely discovery that Summer’s then 10-year-old brother, Mac, had cancer. She tells of long days and nights at his side in the hospital, and of the rare bright moment when she put make-up and a costume on him one Halloween––and he perked up and felt like a normal kid for a fleeting moment. This inspired her to found her company, Brave Gowns. Her story is an inspiration to all of us and I wanted to share it. I asked Summer a few questions and below are her answers. My goal in this blog is for it to inspire you in your everyday life to ask what can you do to make a difference. Are you brave enough to make a commitment to purpose and follow through with it? Here is Summer’s story…
Anthony: What year did you start Brave Gowns?
Summer: I started Brave Gowns in 2015.
Summer: As my brother was taking his last few breathes, I promised myself and him that I would live a life of purpose. I believe we all have a purpose and “when you know better, do better” has always ran in the back of my head. So when my brother died at the age of 10, I promised to come back one day and make a difference for these amazing children that are literally fighting for their lives. I’ve always known that time was the greatest gift we have and I wanted to make sure that I was in control of my days and would never miss important moments of my children’ lives, so I started creating products.
[tweetthis]The universe loves the believers and the doers. Look for the helpers. They’re there.[/tweetthis]
Anthony: What kind of learnings would you want to pass on to other “Doers?”
Summer: Most of it is so cliche’ but it’s because someone’s been there before and shared what they’ve learned. I got a call this year from someone asking how it feels to know that I sold over 300,000 Brave Gowns this year that filled Children’s Hospitals. My response was, “I haven’t even noticed. I feel like I’m just getting started.” I was also still getting income from cleaning a house we had. It had short term rentals and I would get $125 a pop. I was making well over six figures and was afraid to let “steady” income go, so I’d literally be scrubbing a toilet while on the phone taking orders from hospitals for Brave Gowns.
This continued for over a year. One day I was listening to Jen Sincero’s audiobook called “You Are A Bad Ass At Making Money” and it said that if you are focusing your energy on $10 an hour jobs, how are you going to ever going to get that $500 an hour job? I had to look around in the bathroom that I was scrubbing to see if she had a camera on me. What was I afraid of? I was wasting 4 hours of my time just to feel secure in knowing that I had made $100, when if I pursued my passion, I could get in touch with the right person in a hospital that would place an order for 1,000 gowns. That would not only put way more money in my pocket, but would put all these Brave Gowns on children which was my purpose. I stopped right then and there and said enough.
The universe loves the believers and the doers. It’s so forgiving and catches you in it’s arms. Look for the helpers. They’re there. Find mentors. They’re priceless. Don’t be afraid to fail. I truly believe I have never failed! I have screwed up, made bad calls and made more mistakes than I can ever even begin to tell you, but the lessons I have learned are priceless and always come in full circle down the road.
The more I panicked and tried to force things or desperately get the sale or secure an investor that I knew wasn’t right, the more haywire and south things went. Often the less I did, but the more I stayed still and listened to the universe, the more abundance and opportunity came my way.
I also talked so much. I am a nervous talker by nature. I would go into a meeting and if there was silence, I’d BLAB. By the time I left some meetings, I sounded like Chunk from the movie Goonie’s. “When I was in the third grade…”
Last year was my year of listening. I had to start taking notes, so I wouldn’t forget what I wanted to say or what I wanted to address, but it changed my life. You learn so much from others when you just listen!
Anthony: What would you tell fellow women entrepreneurs?
Summer: I minimized myself very early on because it’s in my nature to be a pleaser and to be kind. I believe it’s probably more so in women’s nature then in men’s. I wanted everyone that I partnered with to be happy and pleased. One day I also realized that I was the only one in the room that got hugged after meetings.
[tweetthis] I’ve learned that if you can’t help yourself, you can’t help others.[/tweetthis]
Men were giving each other handshakes and I was getting hugs. I had felt like I was punched in the gut, mind you I never noticed this for quite some time. While I never felt uncomfortable, I realized that it took away from what I brought to the table as a business partner.
I was bringing a product to the table that would make their company millions within the first year and I was practically getting Noogie’s like I was a kid sister. I really had to reflect to see how I got there and I realized that a lot of it was my fault. I set the tone when I first entered meetings. If I acted weak or timid, they pounced.
Someone once told me, “You walk in that darn meeting and you act like a poker player. Do you think men walk into meetings and use words like I feel or I think? No. You go in there and say what you know and don’t waiver.” The next meeting I had, everything changed from there. I could still be myself and be personable, yet firm––and leave with my dignity.
Anthony: What would you do over?
Summer: I don’t think I’d do anything over per se, but my gut has never let me down, and there are a few times that I knew I should have listened to it. I know now that my pride is worth more than a few dollars in my pocket. I’ve also learned that if you can’t help yourself, you can’t help others.
This was a hard realization for me. As an entrepreneur, a wife, and a mom of two teenagers, I was getting to (ok, well past the point) that I was lucky if I showered every other day. One day I woke up and said enough. I had to find myself again and ironically, my family and my business survived…
Anthony: What other comments would you like to expand upon?
Summer: I think the one thing that saved me through the seven years of fruition, honestly, it was SEVEN years of changing ideas, struggle and learning, was that I always BELIEVED it was possible. I stayed positive, I gave when I couldn’t, praying that the universe would circle it back to me if I believed and I truly kept childlike faith! Most days hope was all I had. When I look back, I don’t even know what made me keep going, but I was too afraid to quit because that quote from Thomas Edison constantly rang in the back of my head. “Many of life’s failures are people who did not realize how close they were to success when they gave up.” That carried me for a good six years, because I believed in the “what if” of it, so I kept plugging along! On the days that I really felt defeated, I’d send one email or make one call. Just one, so I at least felt like I was moving forward. The baby steps add up, they really do. I’ve always believed life was a story. When times got hard, instead of feeling defeated, I’d get excited and think “Ooooh…this is going to be a good chapter!” It kept me sane or in some cases insane, which helped a little too.
Anthony: How has it impacted your family?
Summer: This question hits close to home, because in 2009 we sold our home, pulled our savings and moved back to CA to go all in and teach our children a life of purpose. I was always a true believer in “If you do what you love, you’ll never work a day in your life” and my husband was in the top of his industry at the age of 32 and miserable. As much as I loved our life, I loved him more and couldn’t spend another 40 years watching him in misery, so we did what he called “passed the baton to me” for a bit. Now here we were, moving back to CA with two small children and the ball was in my court and here I was, a stay at home mom for almost twelve years, 31-years-old and without a college degree. I’ve went to four different colleges with a major in journalism, but never combined all the credits, so it really didn’t get me too far. I didn’t know exactly what I was going to do, but I knew I could do something. Within six months, I had created my first product and sold the product and the company that I created for $50,000 plus royalties. It wasn’t life changing, but it was enough to get me hooked and catch the entrepreneurial bug. I took what I learned from that experience and started again.
My kids used to like to joke that I don’t do anything but sit on my computer all day. Then a couple years in when they started to really see it flourish and all the pictures of the children and I think it finally hit them. Not only did I not miss anything important in their life and I was still able to be present and their mom, but here I was doing something I loved every day and created it from scratch. I hope it not only instilled in them that they can do anything they set their heart and their mind to if they believe, but also to live a life of purpose. That whole, “Do what you love and the money will follow concept” is real and that you can earn a living while giving. For me, being of service is one of the greatest rewards and if some day they get the opportunity to be the helper, I hope they jump in with both feet.
It is probably apparent to each of you reading this blog why Summer impressed me and why I wanted to share her amazing story. She is one of the great Doers out there making a difference every day. So now I want to ask all of you extraordinary Doers out there, are you living a life of purpose? Are you brave and committed to something that can truly make a difference in the world?
Embrace the idea that Summer spoke about, and realize that what you are doing is so important, and that you can make a living while leading a life filled with purpose. Commit to your passion and continue being the incredible Doer you already are.