#Goals: Hannah Davis, Founder of BANGS Shoes
Your 20s can be an exciting, yet challenging time– especially in today’s world, where, if you’re not freelancing from a beach in Thailand, you’re doing it wrong. But, seriously.
But it makes you wonder– these influencers, business owners, and amazingly successful people…how do they do it? Are they superhuman? Did they just magically figure out all of the ins-and-outs of adulthood, on their own? What helped them find their way?
Well, luckily, we’ve had the privilege of talking with some of these superhumans, and it turns out, many of them started from a very similar place as me and you. A place where there is no clear path or destination, and the only direction to go is forward.
So, for this series, we’re interviewing some people we really admire, so they can share their stories and the practical insights that helped them turn their dreams into reality.
And if anyone knows about making dreams come true, it’s Hannah Davis. Hannah is the founder of BANGS shoes, an adventure-inspired footwear company that helps to support entrepreneurs across the globe. At the age of 22, Hannah dove headfirst into launching BANGS, which has since then turned into a huge success with more than 2,500 brand ambassadors, over 100k Instagram followers, and a brand presence in more than 40 countries.
Join us on Hannah’s journey….
NB: You started BANGS very shortly after college, but (according to yourTED Talk), even you experienced the whole, “I don’t know what I want to be when I grow up” phase. Can you talk about this some more and tell us, what did you struggle with the most, post college?
HD: I read a quote from one of our ambassadors that said, “The 2 years after college are some of the hardest in your life.” At first, I thought hmm, I’m not sure about that, but then I thought about it some more and realized, that’s probably accurate.
After college, you’re expected to just fall into adulthood. And you know, everybody figures it out– it’s not like you have a choice, but, it was a shock. Your life goes from being structured for you by all these outside forces — the two biggest being school and your parents — until all of a sudden, it’s not anymore. Next thing you know, you’re out in the real world, your parents cut you off, or whatever it is, but it’s shocking.
But, I think the toughest realization for me was realizing that everybody is really on their own. I remember going through a mourning period, post college, maybe even a depression– and I don’t say that lightly. But I was very sad. I was living in China teaching English, and I remember I wouldn’t even look at people. I just felt very unsure, and confused about things. In a way, I felt like I was mourning the loss of my parents being superhuman. It’s not that they weren’t helping me, but I realized my parents have their own struggles, too. If I want to make a change, I have to do it. Nobody else can help me. I have to care about myself, I have to help myself.
But, it was this sadness that helped me to realize, What am I going to do, stop exploring? I woke up one day, and it was like a light switch went off, and I realized– I have to protect myself because this isn’t who I want to be.
NB: What else helped you through this phase? Were there certain people, products, or resources that helped you figure things out?
HD: A friend of mine challenged me to start living differently. It started with working out, and choosing to create my own happiness. I realized my happiness is my choice, so I decided that I am going to choose to be happy, every day. And also my parents. Sure, I was still getting over the fact that they were not superheroes, but they were always super supportive, even when BANGS was doing terrible in the beginning. And of course, I have a gracious and kind mentor that supports me. He’s taught me a lot about financial independence. How to talk about money, and how not to be afraid of it!
NB: What advice do you have for those who are in their “I don’t know what I’m doing,” or “I don’t know what I want to do,” stage in their life, right now?
HD: My biggest piece of advice — and somebody once told me this, too — is that it’s just as important to figure out what you don’t want to do. A lot of times, what we think is all just theoretical knowledge. You know, you may watch a movie and think, “Wow, I really want to do that”… until you try it for yourself, and you realize that in reality, it’s not what you pictured at all!
I actually had someone talk me out of law school. At the time, I was so mad because in my mind, I was so set on it. But in the end, she was coming from a really good place. She helped me see that what my vision for what a lawyer was, wasn’t actually what a lawyer is.
So, try things, gather experiences! It’s ok if the first idea doesn’t work out, your goal should be to figure out what you don’t like (just as much as what you do like), which will help to narrow in on what you really want to do.
NB: Finances play a big role in all of our lives… but especially starting out your company, that had to be a huge factor. Could you share any lessons you learned about managing your money, during that phase of life?
HD: One of the hardest lessons I’ve had to learn, if you are thinking about starting a business, is that, creativity has to take a back seat to sales. That’s hard for an artist to hear. I mean, for a long time, talking about money was scary. I literally had to practice saying “ten thousand.” I physically, could not say that number! So, it took a while, getting comfortable with the concept of money, but I realized sales are not a negative thing. I can’t spend 90% of my time writing blogs, if I don’t have any sales, so.
NB: What’s something you wish you knew about your finances, when you were first starting out?
HD: This is still something I wish I knew how to do… I mean, I know how to do it, but I don’t do it. [Laughs.] I wish I saved more! If you start saving in your 20s, it can really add up.
I see it, know that I should do it, but am I going to? Not usually. But my advice would be to start saving now! It doesn’t have to be an unreasonable amount. It can be $20/month, and you’d be surprised how that adds up… all of a sudden that’s $10K, like whoa. Also, there’s something really nice about not owing anyone anything, and standing on your own two feet. There is a certain sense of pride that comes with being financially independent, and I think that’s really cool. So, if you can start that process now, the better off you will be, later.
NB: You are the true definition of a Ladyboss! A female Founder & CEO with thousands of female fans, followers, and customers across the globe. I think it’s safe to say that the role that females play at BANGS is a dominant force! Tell me more about what this means to you.
HD: Our customers are male and women, BANGS shoes are unisex shoes, but I am on the girly side– and since I run all things marketing, I just post what I like! I think that has naturally led to selling to predominantly women (I was our target audience for a long time! I’m just now aging out of our target demographic). 70–80% of our audience is women, and it’s the most amazing community. There is no trash-talking, no trolls… it’s a love fest! My business partner is a man, and he is super respectful and proud of the community we’ve built. We’ve tried to cultivate an energy of kindness, and it just so happens to be mostly women. The female energy is undeniable with our brand, and I’m just so proud.
NB: What challenges do you think up-&-coming female leaders will have to face, and what can they do to prepare themselves to overcome them?
HD: This is hard for me to answer because this is really the only job I’ve ever had. I honestly haven’t had any issues being a female bosslady. I have had 1 guy in 7 years be super condescending, but other than that, my experience has been great. If anything, being a woman has helped me. I think it all depends on how you present yourself, and if you’re human and you go out of your way to want to help people, that’s what matters, but I think that goes for any gender.
I think one of the biggest problems I face is against myself. Imposter syndrome… yeah, that’s real! And, the fear of failure… As a woman, who holds family as a number one priority, I find myself wondering: can I continue to successfully run and prioritize my business, and have a family, too?! We need to fight for that!
NB: Best piece of advice you’ve ever received?
HD: Two things..
1. I was watching the Olsen twins being interviewed once, and they were asked this same question. I’m not sure if it was Mary-Kate or Ashley, but one of them looked the interviewer dead in the face and said, “No is a complete sentence.” I thought that was perfect.
2. When I was in my 20s, before BANGS, wondering what is life, how to balance everything, how to adult, you know, wandering down that black hole, my boyfriend at the time told me, “Hannah, you need to identify the person you want to be at 70. Envision that person in a detailed way– who are you, where you are, etc. Think of all the details and write them all down. Then, start making decisions every day to become that person.”
And it was through this practice that I realized I want to be helping people. I want a certain level of financial security to be able to send kids to college, and I want all these things, that eventually led me to social business. Going through this practice changed everything for me.
Actually, recently, I was riding my bike to yoga, thinking about this, and I got super emotional. I realized, I am on my way to becoming that person. I may not be there yet, but I am on that path.
NB: What is the one thing you did/do as an entrepreneur that you would do over and over again and recommend everybody else do?
HD: Survey my customers! (Credit to my business partner for this.) It seems obvious, but how you do it is important. If you are trying to sell something to someone, you have to ask! Ask them what they like, then narrow it down. Do they like this picture or this picture? We are constantly engaging with our customers, asking them what they want. I’m not exempt from this, but for a lot of business owners, ego definitely gets in the way. I’ve struggled with, “Well, what if my pick isn’t well received? Can’t I just override the decision, if my choice doesn’t win? It is my company…”
And it’s hard to hear! But my business partner told me, “Hannah, I don’t really care what you think and neither should you. Your number one priority is what your customers think.”
NB: 3 people we should follow on Instagram and why?
Morgan Tyler (@findingmorgantyler) — She’s a normal person, lives in Kentucky, earned ½ million followers on Instagram in just a few years…continually impressed with her grace. Super inspiring from a yoga perspective. Definitely a BossLady! She has her own yoga e-book, too…
NASA (@nasa) is inspiring!
Keep It Wild Co. (@letskeepitwild) — They fund cleanups around the country. Two bro-in-laws that live in Arizona. Super inspiring.
NB: Who else would you recommend that we interview for this series? Perhaps 1 person you know, and another you don’t know, but admire…
Morgan Tyler, again… She doesn’t identify as a business person. So dedicated to her craft that her business has just unfolded around her.
Sara Blakely, the founder of Spanx. Definitely check out her interview on How I Built This. She’s a total badass.