Fashion label Rue 107’s founder Marie Jean-Baptiste is what a small business analyst would call a serial entrepreneur. She’s launched businesses after businesses, and firms after firms. Her latest venture is Rue 107, a New York-based fashion brand that has just celebrated it’s fifth year of existence.
Kreyolicious: In high school, were you attracted by the fashion industry…were you that person who wore heels to class, or were you the wallflower type?
I was definitely more of the wallflower type than a heels girl! I loved very high platform shoes and wide seventies style bell-bottoms. Of course, that made me a bit of an oddball because everyone was obsessed with Jordans and Timberland boots but it all worked out. I bought my first sewing machine after I graduated from high school and fell in love with fashion.
Kreyolicious: Do you think that attending college helped you grow your business?
Attending college certainly helped in the growth of my business in terms of helping others. I knew I wanted to create, but I also wanted to help people and be part of something that is bigger than myself. Now, I am in a position where I’m able to do both and it’s a great feeling.
Kreyolicious: Prior to founding Rue 107, you founded three other businesses. What did you learn from those ventures that helped you this time around?
Each business that “failed” really set me up for the next one to be better. Being an entrepreneur is an ongoing marathon; it’s a long-term exercise of faith, courage, and perseverance. All experiences teach priceless lessons, and the application of these lessons is key.
The Rue107 showroom in New York.
Kreyolicious: Now those experiences taught you something, but surely there were some new experiences that you didn’t have any precedents as you took the helm of Rue 107. What challenges did you come across with Rue 107 that called for you to stretch your experiences?
So many! I would say the biggest lesson for me was understanding the money. Understanding cash flow, your balance sheets, payroll, taxes, profit versus loss etc. Passion is great but without understanding the money, you will never feel in control of your business.
Kreyolicious: Sometimes, we look at the “us” of five years ago, and marvel at our growth, at how much we’ve changed. Is there anything that you were incompetent at, at one point that you’ve gotten better at?
Being an entrepreneur is not for the comfortable, one must always be ready to learn and be challenged. I remember feeling like I could never possibly build a team, let alone lead one. But for each hire (and fire) you learn to do better the next time around. I also work with a business coach periodically to help me build certain skills that I might be having a hard time building on my own.
Kreyolicious: What would you say to recent graduate about the journey ahead?
I would say to let go of the concept of a plan B. If you have a plan B, you will never excel at point A. Point A is giving it your all. No shortcut, no mediocrity, no looking back. If your goal is to become a top executive at your firm, give the goal a set time, and give it everything you got. Same goes for starting a business, or any other career plan.
Kreyolicious: No matter how much you love what you do, you may experience down moments as a creative. How do you deal with those times?
One thing I make sure to do each morning is pray. I also meditate a few times a week. I learned to also make time for myself away from the business. I think it’s crucial to know yourself outside of your business. It is very easy to start evaluating yourself through the lenses of your business, especially when things are not going well. Don’t do that. Whether your business is on the verge of shutting down, or just got evaluated for a billion dollars, never align who you are with those results. They are a by-product of a time period of your life, not your identity.
Kreyolicious: Wow. Best advice ever…Where do you see yourself the Rue107 brand five to seven years from now?
I hope to expand into a full lifestyle brand. I want to offer women multiple ways to express themselves. Whether it’s wearing colorful and bold attire to having a beautifully decorated apartment, I think everyone should have the opportunity to standout and feel confident doing so.