Kate Sisk is the founder of Hidden Intimates, an "inclusive lingerie collection curated to help remind women to love themselves - piece by piece." Hidden Intimates is committed to uplifting women, and ensuring no girl or woman feels ashamed when buying pajamas, underwear, or lingerie.
I really admire the brand Kate's created, and I'm grateful to have learned more about her experience as a founder.
One of the things I found particularly interesting is that Kate just celebrated her first year in business. I thought this was perfect timing to reflect on her lessons learned, initial challenges, and more.
Congratulations on a successful first year in business! What are you most proud of?
"I think I'm most proud of when I look back on the first day of launch, and then I look at where I am now - how much I have been able to learn and adjust. Not only with the product and the marketing and the team, but also the vision has adjusted. I'm really proud of being able to move forward and continue to learn and adjust over the past year."
Even with pivots, I've been impressed with how gracefully Kate has navigated the ups and downs!
Were you always interested in starting your own venture? What inspired you?
Kate was interested in fashion long before she thought about starting her own business, but it all came together after spending the last 10 years working in various fashion roles.
"I started at Anthropologie in buying and merchandising, and I also had jobs at the Gap, I had an internship at French Connection - so I always loved fashion - but after 10 years of working, and a marketing job, I wanted to start my own thing…"
She felt compelled to create her own brand after feeling discouraged by limited options.
"Growing up, I only had one option of where to buy my underwear or pajamas - and it was Victoria's Secret. For 4 decades, the intimate shopping experience has only shown unrealistic, highly edited images of models - and hypersexualized, even when it shouldn't be. So I wanted to start a brand in the lingerie industry (I felt like that was where you could make the most impact), to positively impact body image norms and to create a female-centric comfortable, uplifting place".
Kate has taken her experiences from being a young woman and used them to shape the entire mission of Hidden Intimates.
What was the beginning like? Did you have a hard time getting started, or did the pieces fall into place?
Kate initially started Hidden Intimates with a good friend, whom she had met through working at Anthropologie. They both realized that they were interested in starting a lingerie brand, and Kate encouraged them to take the next step.
"I said that I wanted to start something, and she had always wanted to start her own boutique too. So we were like, let's just do it. So we did it."
As life would have it, 5 months in, her business partner and friend decided it wasn't the right time to work on a startup.
"This was definitely the most challenging thing I have gone through in business, and also in my life - a business relationship can really put your friendship on the rocks…."
Although the experience was challenging, Kate still managed to walk away with some takeaways.
"I think the biggest lesson I learned is that if you ever go into business with someone again, you should definitely have an operating agreement. Even if it's your friend, you need to protect yourself."
Remember that operating agreement!! It certainly helps.
Kate's Favorite Teddy
What's the biggest failure you've experienced in your business, and what have you learned from it?
Kate shared that her biggest failure and challenge has been burnout.
"I didn't know it was a thing, but once I started launching it and working on it and putting everything into it every single day - and then becoming a solopreneur and losing a partner - I crashed. And you just can't do that…"
Unfortunately, her burnout came with repercussions.
"I spent a month or two, just not moving forward and not really doing much work. If you're going to run your own business, you have to set your own schedule, have a balanced life; You can't just try to dedicate 24/7 to your business. I know that's what it seems like in our culture...at the same time, you do have to avoid burnout."
What's the best advice you've ever been given, in life or in business?
Although Kate acknowledged the simplicity of the best advice she'd received, she maintained that 'just get started' is precious advice.
"Because you're going to make mistakes and you're going to do wrong things, and you're going to fail in so many different ways - but you can't let that hold you back. You have to realize that you are going to fail, but it is worse if you never get started and always think about oh, I could have done this, or oh, I could have done that - but you're too afraid to get started."
What advice would you give to aspiring female entrepreneurs?
Kate advises women to stick together!
"There is a big community out there with things like Girlboss, and FB groups, even other women around you… I have gotten so much inspiration and motivation and had good conversations and collaborations with other women that are trying to do this too."
Kate noted that there's a unique bond between women who are starting something new.
"They understand what you're going through. It's kind of like a new movement where young women are feeling like they can start their own businesses, and there is a lot of learning for us, and a lot of challenges that are unique to young women entrepreneurs."
Her final input on the matter?
"Lean on each other, learn from each other, and collaborate from each other."
What's your favorite part about being a business owner, as well as the hardest part?
Kate had a clear answer to this question.
"I would say the freedom to be creative is my favorite part."
Working in the fashion industry previously, Kate felt like you were kind of expected to do one job at a time. This is very different from her experience at Hidden.
"Here I can choose the product, do the photoshoots, write the content - I have the freedom to take this into any direction I want to create, and there's nothing else like it."
The hardest part of starting her own venture was adjusting to her new schedule as a soloprenuer.
"The hardest part is it can feel somewhat lonely because most people don't have this lifestyle. Especially if you don't have any employees yet. There's a loneliness adjustment period - of working from home or coffee shops alone when you're first starting out."
I know Hidden is a small team; Tell me about who you work with?
"I have an intern named Cameron, a photographer contracted, and a makeup artist who always comes to the shoots. Everyone is contracted. I also hired a designer - a friend of mine - to design a couple pieces that will launch next year."
Small but mighty, no doubt!
What are the most important skills or traits you've found helpful in entrepreneurship?
Although Kate mentioned a few essential skills, like being able to ask for help, there were two that stuck out the most:
"Humbleness, and the thirst for knowledge. There's so many aspects of running a business that you have to just accept you don't know them, and look for answers, and spend a lot of time learning and teaching yourself."
Do you have a favorite game-changing tool that you can share?
Kate knew the answer to this question immediately: Shopify. In fact, she had nothing but rave reviews for Shopify.
"I wouldn't be able to have this business if it weren't for Shopify. I think the platform is excellent. They think of everything; they are the best! ...the platform is so easy to use, you can customize and design your website, and it looks so professional… and they really care about the people that use their platform. They have 24/7 help, and they are really there to support you.
Where can we find you, if we'd like to learn more?
You can find Kate and her lovely lingerie store at: www.HiddenIntimates.com or @HiddenIntimates