We had a pleasure of interviewing Susan Correa – a woman entrepreneur who not only built a multi-million dollar empire but built Art & Eden, the initiative to provide nutrition to children in need – an example that we should all be inspired by.
Art & Eden is not your ordinary e-commerce website. It’s the store that’s built on love and passion for helping children in need!
Some of us dream of being our own boss but many can’t pull a trigger and just do it. What was the motivation behind starting a business?
The art is truly in the start. The journey of a thousand miles does start with just one step in the right direction. Sure, you don’t have all the answers – Nobody ever has! Yes, you’re inadequately prepared – no one ever was. For sure the odds of success are lower than the high probability of failure – the odds are never perfect. Simply begin – with the knowledge that while you don’t have all the answers, you can have the undiluted excitement, that it is indeed possible to find those answers.
My journey with Art & Eden began on August 18th, 2014. It was the day that I found my why and consequently my way forward. In an effort to make the business of fashion better, I had arrived at the Hope Foundation School in Bangalore, India to launch a program called Empower. Nestled in a densely populated slum district the school provided a hot nutritious meal to it’s students. The kids came to school for the meal, ended up getting an education and that changed their lives. For most kids, this was their only meal of the day. I entered the school that morning completely fired up to make a difference in the lives of these kids. I left the school that evening totally transformed; it was the kids who ended up changing my life. I realized that I had searched my whole life for somebody to do something about the great divides and unfair contrasts of the world. It just dawned on me that I was the someone that I had searched for, well able and fully capable of doing something that mattered. Caring felt awesome. From then on I began to dream of a better way forward, where the power of business could be harnessed for the greater good of all, where carelessness made way for caring, where competition was replaced by collaboration & connection. I dared to dream of a new future for the business of fashion. I had painted this masterpiece on the landscape of my imagination and I had to dare to make that dream a reality.
The journey of a thousand miles does start with just one step in the right direction.
How do you do it all? How do you manage and prioritize tasks? Any tips?
I don’t do it all. The dream only works because there is an incredible team that works. My team is a group of change makers. We are artists, entrepreneurs, and go-getters and we work together to make the vision of Art & Eden a reality. I feel incredibly fortunate to have great mentors and investors that share in our unified vision of a better world for all. On a personal front, I have an amazing and incredibly supportive family. Its the power of working together, that brings it all together.
What are the three qualities you think every entrepreneur should possess?
An entrepreneur must be a visionary that overflows with optimism because that allows them to see opportunity where others just see adversity. An entrepreneur must be relentlessly passionate. The road is long and hard and it takes passionate zeal to keep the fire burning.
An entrepreneur has to be adept and be nimble-footed. Sometimes you will succeed and other times you will learn but you will always grow. You have to be able to bounce right back, pivot and fail forward.
How do you use social media for your business?
LinkedIn has enabled me to network professionally in ways that were unimaginable before. I have built incredibly valuable connections from reaching out to people and seeking out help.
My personal Facebook page is a great outlet for me to personally log visual stories through the build-out of Art & Eden.
I am working on a stellar licensing deal by virtue of someone just reading a Facebook post! It works. It’s powerful!
It’s been almost a year since the launch of Art & Eden, what were some of the most exciting things that happened? What was most challenging?
On January 25th, we celebrated one year with Art & Eden. It has been the best year of my professional life.
Some of the Highlights of our first year in business has been as follows :
Art & Eden is currently being sold in 356 stores in America.
We have opened distribution in Canada, Mexico & Latin America for Fall 2018.
We have been voted the “Best New Brand “ in the U.S for 2017 by Earnshaws Magazine.
Our Clothes for Cure Program has been planted in El Salvador, Honduras, Guatemala & Nicaragua in Central America and Tijuana in Mexico and we delivered 1 million multivitamins and 7,000 doses of Albendazole (a medication that cures parasite infections) improving nearly 5,000 children’s lives.
We run a local mentorship program in Newark, New Jersey. Through the kind donation of a student vested in sustainable engineering, we made it possible for all the students in our local mentorship program to receive a laptop.
Students from Columbia University did a case study on Art & Eden and we were invited on panels at Fashion Institute of Technology, Columbia University, and Fordham University to share the Art & Eden business model as a force for good.
How do you decompress and spend your free time?
I realized that in the busyness of business one never finds the time – I learned that I had to make the time for a more holistic lifestyle & to embrace well being as a way of life.
I exercise at least 5 days a week, dance daily, meditate, take nature walks, hike, read and listen to music. I just love it that I have managed to bring balance to life and work.
There is a lot of talk about meditation and visualization. Do you practice that?
Almost unknowingly, I have practiced visualization since a child and in retrospect have lived out every one of those veritable dreams. I grew up in a 250 sq foot home in India and since I was a child I dreamed of building a business in America and with nothing more than this dream – here I am building out this amazing business with Art & Eden. Visualization works – I am witness to its power over and over. I started meditating about a year ago and it brings in its wake an amazing sense of tranquility and calm. The days are powered up by not even one dull second. Its the mediation each morning that brings serenity to the world of business.