Deena Boykin | Founder, RETAIL THINK TANK

"Dream big, play hard and enjoy your journey."

Who inspires you?

Other entrepreneurs who have hung in there and made their businesses work. I’m inspired and motivated by their tenacity, hard work and motivation to keep going despite the challenges.


What would you tell yourself as a teenager?

Hurt, disappointment, sadness are all a part of life, but one day you won’t remember the name of the person who hurt you, nor the disappointments in school—so move forward and get going.


What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever received?

Dream big, play hard and enjoy your journey.


What do you need to get you through each day?

Yoga


What are you reading?

Customers Included by Mark Hurst and The Founder’s Dilemmas: Anticipating and Avoiding the Pitfalls That Can Sink A Startup by Noam Wasserman


Briefly describe your business and inspiration for it.

Retail Think Tank is a marketing agency dedicated to helping companies get their products into retail stores and online. My company was once described as “ the part of Shark Tank you don’t see: how they get to retail”. I spent over 15 years successfully launching products and executing promotions in retail for entertainment companies such as Disney, Paramount Pictures, Nickelodeon and Cartoon Network. When I left corporate, I had already developed many great relationships with buyers at all the major retailers and various manufacturers. It was a natural transition to take my skills and connections and offer my services to other companies that need help getting into retail.


How has your passion fueled your business?

I’m a shopper (possibly a shopaholic) and I know retail. I understand the nuances and feel connected to the consumers. My passion is fueled by the mere fact that I’m a consumer looking for certain things, so I’m passionate about offering consumer items they may want.


What made you decide to become an entrepreneur?

I was a corporate girl through and through. When I got laid off from Cartoon Network, however, a friend and fellow entrepreneur had a lead that American Greeting was looking for a retail consultant. I jumped at the chance to consult; from there I was introduced to Lion Forge Comics and the rest is history. I used to tell people that I fell into entrepreneurship, but now I don’t think that’s true. I think this path was always meant for me, it just took a little more time to get me here.


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

No doesn’t always mean “no”. Sometimes it means “just not right now”.


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

I do everything! I was used to having a team, and now I’m a bookkeeper, copywriter, timekeeper, salesperson, personal assistant, designer…. and the list goes on!


What’s the biggest mistake you’ve made in your business to date, and how have you moved past it?

I don’t think of them as mistakes. For me it’s all been a learning experience. Of course, there are things I could have done differently, but you have to keep going. It’s a learning experience that is well noted for the next time.


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

My biggest challenge is getting more clients on my roster. Like any sales job, it’s not a walk in the park to close the deal. Since this is my livelihood, I need to remain focused and persistent.  Sometimes I step away from a client so that I’m not considered a pest, and hopefully give them time to think about what I’m offering. I always go back, and even if I don’t end up with a contract, at the very least I know I gave it my all. Then it’s on to the next one.  You may hear a lot of “nos” but eventually there is a “yes.”


When self-doubt hits, what do you do?

I reaffirm why I started the business, I meditate, I pray and I do a strong power yoga class.


What is your biggest fear as an entrepreneur?

I wish I could say that I had no fear, but to be realistic, it would be closing my business for reasons that are not in my control.


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

I love that I stepped out of the comforts of corporate America and started my own company. It’s a self-confidence boost that I’ve never experienced before, and now that I have it, I never want to let that go. I don’t like that there’s never enough time in the day, and that I can be at the computer at 10pm. It’s hard to stop sometimes.


Are there any go-to resources that you’ve found useful in running your business (service, web site, etc.)?

I love freshbooks.com and hellosign.com


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

I can think of several—1. Patience: it’s a long process and it takes time; 2. Confidence: self- doubt, tears and negativity are not welcome, nor do you have time for them. 3. Resilience: a lot is going to come your way, just hang in there.


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

I meet other female entrepreneurs for coffee or lunch and bounce ideas off of them. I’m also a big yogi and advocate for mindfulness. Being aware makes me very productive.


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

I would say that we’re living in the best time to make the leap, but if you’re hesitant, then wait and do your homework. The Internet and social media have made it very easy to test the waters with a startup business. You can begin by building a website to get out information on your product or service, and use social media to drive awareness and specific messaging. You don’t have to jump right in and take the big leap, you can build your client base, create awareness, acquire good customer reviews, and when you’re ready, you’re positioned to knock it out of the park.

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