Clare Tattersall | Founder, ThunderLily

"I never thought of myself as an entrepreneur. When I started, I was just someone who desperately wanted to leave my job where I was unhappy and wanted to start doing what I wanted to do."

How do you start your day?

I get up at 5.30am and run, or go to Crossfit.

Who inspires you?

Sherry Orel, Cathleen Kelley, Loretta Brady, Kerri Klinger…to name a few. Never heard of them? I am really inspired by these bold, intelligent women that I know, who are running businesses, teaching, being brave, taking risks, being kind, making change happen within their world. They are so exciting to be around, and they are powerful and beautiful.

Knowing what you know now, what would you tell your teen-aged self?

If I really have to give any advice, it is to lean forward and paddle hard through the rough stuff. Apart from that, I would not tell my teenage self to do anything or make any choices—life is so full of surprises and challenges, I don’t think we move in a linear way from point A to point B in our lives—we constantly learn and change.

What is the best piece of advice you have ever received?

“When you travel alone, you cannot say ‘no’. You have to go where adventure invites you.”

What are you reading?

The New Yorker (so I know what is really going on in the world), Lord of the Rings (bedtime reading for my daughter), East, West by Salman Rushdie (probably my favorite author), Gone Girl (because I like to keep up with what is popular).

Briefly describe your business and your inspiration for it.

Briefly? Therein lies the challenge…I developed a software for fashion designers that takes them from sketch to market all in the virtual space, saving time, money and resources. It wasn’t exactly inspiration, that sounds so instant or immediate. It was more of a brooding, involved effort to design a software and develop relationships. It came into being as a necessity — designers need tools that are just not available to them. The fashion industry is a dinosaur; there has been no revolutionary change on the production end since the invention of the sewing machine in 1790.

How has your passion fueled your business?

I think we are all driven to do what we do in life, either for work or leisure. If you love what you do, then you don’t really have a choice. It’s just a necessary part of your existence.

What made you decide to become an entrepreneur?

Hmmmm…I never thought of myself as an entrepreneur. When I started, I was just someone who desperately wanted to leave my job, where I was unhappy, and start doing what I wanted to do.

What was the tipping point for realizing you had a good business?

I wish I could answer this. Running your own business is so full of potholes, self-questioning and doubt—you have days when everyone loves your product, your pitch and your ideas and other days when you think you should just quit. So the tipping point? It’s a bit of a moving target.

What lessons have you learned along the way that you wish you would have known at the beginning of your start-up career?

Oh, so many—but that is the beauty of it all. You are constantly learning, and sometimes you’re not always ready to hear the things people tell you. Sometimes we are given advice and we just don’t hear it; then years later you hear the same advice and suddenly it makes sense and you can use it.

What challenges did you face in the early days of being the Founder of your own business?

Not having anyone to bounce ideas around with. Working alone is very hard — having a good team is everything.

What is the biggest mistake you have made in your business to date and how have you moved past it?

I don’t really believe in mistakes—you go in one direction, see if it works. If it does work, you continue. If it doesn’t, you go back and choose a different direction. Failure is very important. It helps you choose the strongest route for your idea.

What is the biggest challenge you have had in your business to date and how did you pull through it?

On any given day I would probably tell you a different challenge. So I think the best answer would be self-doubt—because that can take many forms. It goes back to my belief in failure, but it is important to be very rational and methodical about documenting your success or failure in any direction, so you can learn from your mistakes and choose a better direction. Self-doubt happens on the days where you lack a rational approach.

When self-doubt hits, what do you do?

What a perfect segue into this question. I look at the numbers and make a decision from there. However on a different day I might have an ice-cream or share my troubles with friends or colleagues who can have some insights and set me back on track. Having people you trust and can rely on in your circle is really important.

What is your biggest fear as an entrepreneur?

No fears. Challenges yes, but I am not afraid of those.

What aspects of being a start-up entrepreneur do you love and/or hate?

Freedom! Doing what I love everyday. Spending a lot of time in the garment district. Working hard, playing hard. Meeting interesting and inspiring people. Coming up with creative solutions to problem.

Which books, articles, blogs have helped to shape your business and/or leadership style?

Honestly I have tried reading so many books about business, marketing, start-ups, but I find them a bit long-winded. I am a bit impatient and would be happy to pay the same amount to have a good idea summarized into a single, actionable paragraph.

I do, however, think sports have been very influential in shaping how I deal with problems. With a lot of adventure sports you learn how to stay flexible; be strategic, but roll with the changes.

What do you think the most important attribute a female entrepreneur/ business owner can possess?

Honesty and integrity. With yourself and others.

What do you do outside the office to help you stay creative/productive?

Running, snowboarding, sking, whitewater kayaking, mountain biking, rock climbing. I need to challenge and exhaust myself physically in order to think with a clear head.

What would you say to another woman who asked you if they should take the leap and start their own business?

I would say ‘follow your heart’ but I would not advise anyone on whether or not to make that choice. If they asked me for specific advice on an issue I would give it, if I had some experience (and probably even I had didn’t), but I don’t think anyone is in a position to advise someone to start a business or not.

Clare Tattersall

Clare Tattersall