Meet 9 Young Entrepreneurs Who Risked Everything — & Won

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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 Free Spirit: Bridget C. Firtle

PHOTOGRAPHED BY GEORDY PEARSON.
What would possess someone to quit a six-figure-salary job, go into debt, and move back in with her parents? For Bridget C. Firtle, CEO of The Noble Experiment NYC, she did it all for her intense love of rum and the desire to distill her own. And, she knew that the only way to make the kind of spirit she wanted was doing it exactly her way. So, in 2011, Firtle left the hedge-fund life, ditched her cushy apartment, and poured everything she had into building her own craft distillery in Brooklyn.
It was then when she concocted a one-of-a-kind rum called Owney’s. The spirit, which doesn’t rely on any barrel aging or artificial flavorings, actually uses only three key ingredients: filtered NYC tap water, all-natural molasses, and yeast. Those elements go through a long, cold, and intense fermentation process that really brings out the flavors. In other words, the Owney’s potion is nothing like the Captain Morgan you know all too well. And, with new markets opening up every quarter, The Noble Experiment NYC is poised to expand rapidly. We’ll certainly cheers to that.
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Start with what you love
“I’ve had a love affair with rum for a really long time, and I’m enamored with the history of rum distilling in this country. Rum was the first spirit [Americans] distilled, and it was so important to the formation of the United States. ‘The Noble Experiment’ was the nickname for prohibition. I had this dream and vision to bring rum distilling back to New York — eventually that dream got too loud to ignore. I believe in exposing the power and deliciousness of the spirit.”
Only answer to yourself
“I’m inherently entrepreneurial. I’ve always wanted to have my own business and work for myself. I found out really early in my career that I didn’t want to work for anybody else and I didn’t like to take orders from anyone. It’s very liberating to be running your own show. It’s also difficult and challenging, but I had a real vision that I couldn’t stop thinking about, so I needed to make it a reality.”
Don’t overthink, just do
“I didn’t think too much about my decision. It was equal parts blind ambition, foolishness, and excitement. Once I was inspired, I had blinders on. I told my family six months before I left my job that I was leaving a six-figure salary, a beautiful apartment, and a huge career trajectory to pour my life’s savings and go into debt to build a distillery in Brooklyn. This was by far the biggest risk I’ve ever taken in my entire life. By the time I left my job, I went knocking on my parents’ door to move in with them. They were very welcoming and supportive, and they have been ever since. It was a long time getting out, but I don’t live with them anymore.”
On crossing gender lines
“I think that being a female distiller gets me attention, but there are actually a lot of women in this industry that people don’t know about. I like to use the attention to share with the world that there are a lot of other females involved with the industry. Historically, of course, it’s been an all-boys club. I have two employees, and both of them are women. I didn’t set out thinking, I’m going to have an all-female distillery. They were the best available talent. We drive forklifts and do ‘stereotypically masculine activities.’ [But,] there should never be any lines. [And, if there are,] you should always be crossing them.”
Don’t let anxiety paralyze you
“There is no ‘day-to-day.’ I was at the distillery in the morning, I’m at a photo shoot now, I’m running back to the distillery after, I have a meeting with a journalist later, and tonight I have four meetings in bars and restaurants to sell. Tomorrow, we’ll be bottling about 1,200 bottles and at night going out for account visits. There’s no standard day for me. Anxiety can easily paralyze you, so you have to keep moving forward. Take it day by day. It’s easy to get overwhelmed, but once you take a deep breath and prioritize, you’ll get through everything you need to do.”
What makes me feel my best
“My own personality is what makes me feel confident. Be secure with who you are and your role in this particular life. As long as you’re comfortable in your own skin and with your own achievements, it should make you feel bold.”
American Apparel top, American Apparel pants, Rupert Sanderson heels, Aritzia leather jacket, model's own jewelry.
Photographed by Geordy Pearson; Makeup by Sophie Haig; Hair by Michiko; Styled by Laura Pritchard.