Julie Fajgenbaum | Founder, TWEED WOLF

"Even though people tell you it’s a marathon, not a sprint, it can seem like progress is slow sometimes. Remembering to savor the small wins and being patient are key."

How do you start your day?  

Feed my three kids breakfast, make snacks for school, pack up backpacks, walk kids to school bus, shower, pick up an iced tea at my favorite coffee shop and walk to work.

Who inspires you?  Anyone who creates something and puts it out there for the world to see.

What would you tell yourself as a teenager?  

Take bigger risks sooner.

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

Take a risk. Then a bigger one. Then a bigger one.

What do you need to get you through each day?  

Strong black tea (hot or iced).

What are you reading?  

I read tons of fiction; it’s how I fall asleep at night.  I tend to find an author I like and then binge read everything she’s written.  Right now, I’m reading Jennifer Egan’s Manhattan Beach.

Briefly describe your business and inspiration for it.

Tweed Wolf is a photo concierge service.  We use a mix of proprietary machine learning software and talented designers to turn clients’ digital photo libraries into beautiful hardcover albums.

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

There have actually been a few.  Before launch, I made albums for free for a few friends just to understand the process.  I delivered the books in person whenever possible to see the reactions.  Invariably everyone in the house would be drawn toward the book like a magnet.  If the reader was on the couch, everyone would crowd around to get a glimpse.  At that point I new we had made a very special product.

The second realization came when we hit our volume targets and our customer satisfaction scores were still through the roof.  It is one thing to make a few people happy, but to make people happy at scale is what makes an idea a business.

What has been the key to your success?

I think there is no substitute for diving deeply into the details.  I like to learn how each step of a process works.  I become an expert on things as varied as running profitable Facebook Ads, smyth sewn book binding techniques, image recognition APIs, etc.  Then I draw myself back out of the details and hand pieces off to others inside and outside of Tweed Wolf.  That initial knowledge continues to provide leverage for me.

When self-doubt hits, what do you do?

My entrepreneur friends give great pep talks.  It’s always useful to commiserate with someone who has been there.

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

I love the variety. Today I drafted a contract for a new partnership, ordered sample fabrics for book covers, and ran a product shoot to capture photos and video of our albums for advertising.  I also love being the decision maker on all things. It’s liberating to have the final say on so many choices that need to be made.

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

I followed The Lean Start Up methodology when I started Tweed Wolf.  I led and managed teams for many years before I started my own business and my leadership style has been honed by those experiences.

What has been your best strategy for selling your product or service and what have you learned along the way?

Word of mouth has been critical for us.  We have a great product and people talk about it.  I have found that narrowly targeted Facebook ads work as well.

How did your experiences in the corporate world prepare you for entrepreneurship, or not?

I learned a lot of leadership, marketing, and project management in the corporate world.  This skill set has saved me countless hours and dollars in building Tweed Wolf.

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

I have three kids and most of my time outside the office is spent with them.  Like many children, they are endlessly creative and productive – making forts and drawing pictures, playing tag and climbing on everything.  It’s a constant reminder of how to be present and DO things rather than think about things.

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

I always ask people to consider their financial situation.  I’m a huge proponent of starting a business and like to encourage people to take the leap.  But it’s a simple fact that most jobs provide a more stable form of income and health insurance.  I think it’s important to be realistic when giving advice.