I met my latest interview guest in the green room at MSNBC, and I was drawn to her confidence and high energy. As it turns out, Dawn Dickson, the founder and CEO of Flat Out of Heels and Solutions Vending International, exhibits many of the characteristics I see in successful hustlers: namely, she is good at self-publicity and marketing, and she has mastered the art of hustle by not just working hard but working smart. Knowing she had valuable wisdom to share, I decided to get her small business advice in a Smart Hustle interview.
Following Your Vision
Dawn has been an entrepreneur since 2001, but at the present time, she focuses her attention on two businesses: Flat Out of Heels and Solutions Vending International.
In her Flat Out of Heels business, she sells rollable ballet flats that can fit in a women’s purse. Any woman who has ever worn heels knows that they are not exactly made for comfort. Dawn’s “Flat Outs” are meant to give relief to women whose feet are tired after a long day in stylish yet uncomfortable heels.
Solutions Vending International is an automated retailing technology company that was created to work with and for the Flat Out of Heels business. The company makes vending machines where Dawn can sell her Flat Outs at places where women would need them the most.
The unique pairing of these businesses – and the idea of wanting to sell the Flat Outs from vending machines – is and has always been Dawn’s vision for the company. One of her tips for small business owners is always to remain true to YOUR own vision, whatever that vision may be. “Definitely, always trust yourself because there’s going to be people who automatically don’t believe in it,” Dawn says. “They’re going to tell you it’s not good; they’re going to tell you it’s not going to work; they’re going to tell you to change your business model.”
Dawn points out that most of the time, people who are disruptive are going against what other people are saying you should do. At the end of the day, you have to trust yourself and trust your vision. Although many people have told Dawn that she should abandon her idea of selling Flat Outs in vending machines, she remains committed. In explaining that decision, Dawn says, “Nobody knows my vision and my purpose better than I do.”
Knowing When to Pivot
Dawn’s dedication to her vision is admirable, but it made me wonder, how do you know when to listen to other’s opinions and ideas, and when you should ignore the advice and stay focused on your own vision?
Dawn says that you should always listen, and she has indeed listened to the critiques and suggestions of others. While you should listen and process the information, the final decision – whether or not you follow the advice – is always up to you.
In fact, in the five years, Dawn has been building Flat Out of Heels, she has pivoted based on the ideas of others – and she credits the fact that she is still in business today to those crucial pivots.
For example, although her idea has always been to sell Flat Outs from vending machines, it took a little longer than expected to get the vending machine idea ironed out. Others suggested that she add retail and e-commerce to her strategy, and although that is not the vision, she followed the advice. “If I wasn’t able to pivot, I would be out of business, 100 percent out of business,” says Dawn. “I wouldn’t have made it to five years; I would be done.”
Despite the pivot, Dawn kept pursuing the original vending machine idea too. Flat Outs are now sold in vending machines in places such as airports and nightclubs, and they do pop up machines at events where women are wearing heels. The pivot was not abandoned either; Flat Outs are also sold in stores and online. The combination of staying true to her vision while also pivoting based on others’ advice has made Flat Out of Heels a success.
Other Business Advice
Dawn shares far too much business advice for me to fit in a single blog post, so I urge you to click play above and listen to our full interview. You’ll learn more about the ideas above but also:
- Tips for small business owners who are just starting out.
- The key to manufacturing, warehousing and shipping your products.
- The importance of partnerships.
- How to build an automated business, where most processes are automated or run by team members, so you can step away when needed and know the business will run smoothly.
- Why focusing on growth can be the key to winning investment money.
Dawn represents one of the many entrepreneurs and small business owners who are out there hustling day in and day out. She has found great success in her businesses but is always looking to improve. In fact, Dawn’s goal is to increase sales by 300 percent, so as you are reading this, she is hustling to try to get investments to make that happen.
What about you? What goals are you trying to reach in 2016 and what are you doing to achieve them? Listen to the interview above to get all of Dawn’s advice, then share your goals with us over in the Smart Hustle Community.