Amber Tolliver is the founder of Liberté, an inclusive lingerie collection born from a vision to make intimates for modern women. Liberté is committed to inspiring confidence by empowering everyday essentials to feel unique and fearless while not sacrificing comfort and support.
We recently caught up with Amber. We SO admire the brand Amber built, and we’re grateful to share more about her experience as a founder with all of you!
Were you always interested in starting your own company? What inspired you to create your own business?
Amber has always wanted to start her own business. Her entrepreneurial spirit started at a young age!
"Yes, I have always been interested in starting my own company. Ever since I was a little girl, whether it was selling girl scout cookies or knitting scarves to pay for textbooks in college, I've always had a bit of an entrepreneurial spirit."
Amber saw a wide-open space within the lingerie industry:
"There was such a disparity between what was available to the standard “sizes” and everyone over a D cup. I shouldn't have to get on an airplane and go shopping in the UK to find lingerie. That makes me feel good."
Amber, what was the beginning of starting Liberté like? Did you have a hard time getting started, or did the pieces fall into place?
It was a Rollercoaster for Amber; some days felt like she knew what she was doing and other days, she felt completely lost. Pretty standard in our industry, but it’s nice to hear that other founders don’t have it all figured out:
"There are so many different things that you have to take into consideration when you're starting your own business, and you had no clue until after you've already set on your path. I started with a Google search and a purchase of an Amazon book, that literally said, “how to start your own lingerie business.” And it morphed into much more once I got the books and just started throwing myself into marketing and trade shows and started making contacts within the industry."
For Amber, something about it always excited her and made her want to continue pursuing her dream.
Success wasn't ever a question. It was just a matter of when for me.
We love her determination and spirit!!
Was it scary when you first went out on your own? How did you get started?
Amber knew there was a massive gap in the market. With that knowledge, she did what most of us do to start anything... she googled!
"My career was based on being a lingerie model, not necessarily a lingerie designer. There was a lot to learn and a lot to understand before making a product that I was proud of. It’s like going back to college all over again and asking 1,005 questions and being humble enough to feel a little dumb at times. You have to navigate that space with humility and use that to your advantage. I was able to connect with some amazing contacts within the industry. Those connections helped guide me into taking my first steps for sample making and everything else that I needed to do to get Liberté off the ground."
What is the biggest failure you've experienced in your business? What did you learn from it?
I LOVE Amber’s response here and agree 100% with her sentiment. You only fail if you give up.
"I don't believe that anything is a failure unless it defeats you. And even then, it's not a failure, it's a lesson learned, and there are many to be had. I know I've had my fair share. So... I wouldn't say that I've had any failures. I would say that some of my biggest hurdles were just navigating the sampling process in getting to a product that I could stand by".
What's the best advice you've ever been given, life or business?
Amber had a lot of great advice for anyone that needs a push in the right direction. Building a strong team is very much about knowing that you don’t know it all.
"In life, I would say I was taught early that there are things, you know, you know, and there are things, you know, you don't know, but there is a ton you don't know, you don't know. So, always be open to hearing people's opinions and thoughts and findings, and seeing new ways of doing things, because you may know how to do it one way, but somebody else probably knows how to do it differently. It leaves room for growth and room for building a strong team around you. I think that is the only way you can grow and evolve, not only as a person but as a company. See things from a 360-degree perspective.
It's important to know that there's a wealth of information, I challenge you to be hungry to find that out. Also, be humble, ask stupid questions and be okay with knowing that you don't know, because being a student of life also allows you to see other perspectives. It all ties into constantly learning and being hungry for new knowledge."
What's the most recent lesson your business has taught you?
"I believe that we all have learned this lesson during the past year! In a time where you want to be doing a million things for your business, but you know the current circumstances won’t allow it. This pandemic has taught me how to be patient. It's a stillness; it’s less feverish. You’re not constantly thinking every second of every day, what's next, what's next. It's where we are at right now. How do we work on this? How do we make this better? Because we have this one a moment, how do we make the most of it? It’s a new depth of patience."
Although COVID-19 has been extremely challenging in many ways, it is inspiring to watch Amber use it as a time of growth.
What advice would you give to aspiring female entrepreneurs?
Amber advice is simple:
"The fear of failure is never going to go away, but do it anyway. I would rather try and learn valuable lessons than having never tried at all."
"Amber's advice reminds me of one of my favorite books called ‘Feel the Fear and Do it Anyway’ By Dr. Susan Jeffers. It’s a great read if you are edging closer to your fears and are about to take the leap!"
What's your favorite part about being a business owner? What's the most challenging part?
Like many of our Lemons into Lemonade interviewees, Amber's favorite part is the freedom of being her own boss.
"They're the same thing. Everything starts and ends with me. I find that to be the most liberating thing ever. I'm my own boss. I don't answer to anyone, but my own creative mind."
"The scariest part is that it all comes down to how much I put in and how much I continue to put in. It's, a scary thing. You don't want to disappoint even yourself. To continue to push forward, to continue to innovate and create, it's a beautiful and scary thing all at the same time. Cause you just hope that it's enough."
What is something you have accomplished that you’re most proud of?
To simply put it:
"Liberté! As a young model, my self-worth & understanding of what I was actually capable of, was limited. And a lot of it was tied to my physical appearance, which was always subject to outside opinion, which is not a great situation for anyone. I’m getting to a point in my life where I recognize that my self-worth far surpasses my physical appearance, and I was capable of so much more. I recognized that by executing one of my wildest dreams, which was, starting a lingerie company that has 24 bra sizes. When I stepped back and looked at the magnitude of it all:
"I was self-funded, and it was just this pie-in-the-sky dream. I had no idea. I knew how to sew a bra! I can sew a dress and everyday clothing, but a bra is a whole different beast. When I took that on, I had women emailing me and send me reviews about how much they loved my product."
"That’s my biggest accomplishment, to be able to translate what was in the recesses of my mind and manifest them in the physical spaces."
What are the most important skills or traits you've found helpful in entrepreneurship? Are there any traits you've discovered that make it harder to succeed if you don't keep them in check?
The hardest part?
"The ego will make it harder for you to succeed. Ego, bravado, thinking that you know, better or best, makes it very difficult to succeed."
The important skills?"
"What helps & is the cornerstone of being an entrepreneur is perseverance and determination. Set a goal and do everything in your power to make that goal a reality. And when you hear no, it's not a, no. Try a different door, try the window, try the fire escape, and reach for it. But it's never a no; Goals are always possible as long as you believe in them."
Another Important Skill?
"Ask questions, important people might think I'm an idiot, but its information. I know I need to get to the next goal. So I'm going to ask that question. I'm going to get the answer that I need so I can get to that next step."