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PHOTOGRAPHED BY GEORDY PEARSON

Meet 9 Young Entrepreneurs Who Risked Everything — & Won

We get it. You want to do your own thing. Start a business. Be your own boss. But, while it’s easy to complain about your current secure-but-not-so-satisfying position and ramble fantastically about an ingenious invention or innovative business idea you have, one daunting question always remains: Where would you actually start?

In our latest installment of Beauty Nation's The New Provocateurs, we teamed up with Revlon to track down nine brilliant young entrepreneurs who once arrived at that same crossroads and asked them how they found the courage to make the leap. Below, they talk openly and honestly about going into debt, getting fired, and becoming power players in brand-new fields. Their stories are equal parts empowering and unnerving — but that seems to be the guiding principle when it comes to successful entrepreneurship.

And, these sharp, fearless women have made it work. They share how they keep it all together, from defining a work-life balance to perfecting their executive-level beauty moves. So, grab a memo pad and put on your thinking cap. It’s time to draft that business plan.

The Serial Entrepreneur: Miki Agrawal

Miki_Agrawal_153_R2_1_rPHOTOGRAPHED BY GEORDY PEARSON.
Miki Agrawal is the kind of woman who has accomplished so much in her short career that it’s impossible to put her into one professional box — and she rightfully refuses to be characterized that way. From opening a gluten-free, farm-to-table pizza chain before everybody knew what “gluten” was, to raising $5 million dollars for a children’s media company called Super Sprowtz, to then ideating and launching the first-ever line of period panties (read: super-absorbent, stain-resistant, grown-up skivvies) called Thinx, Agrawal was built to build.

So, when she authored a tell-all titled Do Cool Sh*t, in which she shares her secrets to consistent entrepreneurship success, it was no surprise the title became an Amazon bestseller. Fortunately for us, we don’t have to wait to bookmark Do Cool Sh*t — read on for a sweet sampling of Agrawal’s inspiring perspective on how to get things done.

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Miki_Agrawal_177_R2_1_RPHOTOGRAPHED BY GEORDY PEARSON.
How I define success
“When I graduated from Cornell, I worked in investment banking for two years. During my first year, 9/11 happened, and my office was across the street from the World Trade Center. On that day, two people in my office died, and it was the first time in my life that I slept through my alarm clock. It was a wake-up call that something in the universe is looking out for me. I saw that the mystery of life is that you never know when it’s going to end, so you have to make it count. I want to solve problems and help people and not have to answer to anybody. Financial freedom and living to my full potential is my definition of success. It is our duty to use the knowledge and resources we have to change the world as much as we can.”

Solve a problem that’s not yours
“On a trip to South Africa in 2010, I met a young girl on a weekday who said she wasn’t in school because it was her ‘week of shame.’ She explained that when she has her period, she uses old dirty rags or leaves. They would fall and boys would make fun of her, so eventually she stopped going to school. I was enraged. I discovered that over 100 million girls in the developing world are missing a week of school when they have their periods, and many are dropping out of school entirely. These are girls who are likely to get HIV/AIDS or get pregnant at a young age. So, in January 2014, we officially launched Thinx. For every pair of underwear sold, we fund seven reusable cloth pads to a girl in the developing world through our partnership with a Ugandan company called Afro Pads.”

Be bold and inspire change
“One of the big things I talk about is dissatisfaction with the status quo. If people are dissatisfied and sit idle, then that is a problem. To be able to see a problem and solve it is empowering. It inspires others to do the same.”
Superwoman


Making big mistakes and fixing them
“For my restaurants, I got press too soon and wasn’t fully prepared before the launch. We had a line on the first day, but in an hour the line dwindled down to four people because they didn’t want to wait. In New York, when people leave, they don’t come back. It took me two years to build back the clientele. I personally passed around flyers to 5,000 apartments and wrote personal apology notes to my neighbors. I mean, who does that? And, in launching Thinx, we struggled with inventory management. We had this huge spike because of Reddit and sold out of our collection for two months. We learned to be thoughtful about when we are pushing and to keep careful track of our inventory.”

Anyone can be an entrepreneur “People keep giving themselves excuses to not start something because they don’t know things. But, I learned the hard way and made all of these mistakes already, so I thought I could put all of that in a book to help people start from the ground up. There are no more guarantees to kids coming out of college. Entrepreneurship is one of the only fields guaranteeing success. The barrier to entry is lower than ever before, and anybody can do it.”

How I get people onto my team
“I look and act young, and new people I meet wonder who this little, short girl is, but I think when they hear the passion behind my words, that changes them. I am authentically myself and really passionate about what I do. When I meet with people, within a few minutes, they realize I don’t fuck around. You have to go around with that attitude, and people will realize they want to be on your team, not against you. My great, great, great, great grandfathers were samurais, so maybe that was imparted onto me.”

Miki_Agrawal_219_R2_1_RPHOTOGRAPHED BY GEORDY PEARSON.
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Vintage top, vintage bottom, Sophia Webster shoes, model's own hat.

Photographed by Geordy Pearson; Makeup by Sophie Haig; Hair by Michiko; Styled by Laura Pritchard.
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