How One #Girlboss Went from Being Laid Off to Her Own CEO
We’re all on the hunt for a girls’ night out or first date idea that will seriously wow our gal pals or potential significant others, because honestly, dinner out and viewing parties of The Bachelor can get a little old. Well, one #girlboss is providing us all with an ideal night out with her company, Wine & Design. After Harriet Mills was laid off from her corporate job, she turned to… wine. A few glasses later, she came up with a plan, and a business was born. We sat down with Harriet to figure out how it all came together, what keeps the train running and her best advice for #girlbosses around the world.
B+C: What were you up to before starting Wine & Design?
HM: I started Wine & Design during the recession — right after being laid off from my corporate job in sales for fine china. My life hit a major bump in the road as I also had a new four-month-old at home. I needed to get back to work FAST! So, I did the logical thing: headed to a local paint and sip studio, had a few glasses of wine and took a painting class. At the end of the class, I had two things: a pretty decent painting and the inspiration for a new business: Wine & Design.
I knew I had to find something that provided both the income and flexibility needed to support my growing family, so the idea of starting a paint-and-sip business seemed like the perfect opportunity. With nothing to lose except a very small family loan, I jumped right in.
B+C: So Wine & Design seems like a no-brainer. How did you make the dream a reality?
HM: It is a no brainer! It’s fun for everyone; it’s a great business to be a part of both as a franchisee and as a customer looking for a fun evening out. This definitely helped to make my dream a reality. After starting the first Wine & Design in Raleigh, our most talented artists fell in love with the concept as a business for themselves, and from there our first franchise came to be. After that, word of mouth, customer experience and savvy investors have looked to us for a fun and successful business model. When you offer a business that can make anyone’s dream a reality, it’s easy to keep growing.
B+C: What type of atmosphere can attendees of a Wine & Design event expect?
HM: We strive to offer a fun, laid back and creative environment. Most of our customers are coming to our studios after work and looking to unwind. We like to think of ourselves as an upscale happy hour destination. We want everyone to be a part of our nightly parties and leave with a piece of art they are proud of and memories they’ll think of each time they look at their masterpiece.
B+C: Do you think it’s important for women entrepreneurs to help each other out?
HM: Absolutely. I don’t think any successful business owner got where they are without leaning on others for advice and support. Unfortunately, I think we still have a long way to go in terms of women having an equal playing field in the workforce, and I’ve personally experienced pushback not only for being female but also for building a business that has a mostly female customer base. We rely so much on the consult of fellow females in business; they offer us an insight and understanding that quite frankly we just don’t get anywhere else. As women, we face a unique set of obstacles and having the support of fellow female entrepreneurs is so important, not only for us, but for our franchisees as well.
My main inspiration to begin this business was to build a career that provided the flexibility needed to maintain a healthy work-life balance and a fun, family-focused atmosphere that left plenty of room to be a successful entrepreneur and mom. We’re there for our franchisees in that regard and will always go out of our way to help women (even outside of the paint and sip industry) where we can.
B+C: Do you think being a mom has an effect on how you run your business?
HM: Absolutely. Being a mom has had an effect on every facet of my life. Aside from the typical work-life balance that all working moms struggle with, I think it’s helped me to identify with and motivate many of our franchisees who also have children. It’s also shaped how I do business so that my own daughter can see what possibilities are out there for her. The biggest impact being a mom has had on how I run my business is the constant pressure to be a role model, which I’m grateful for. I’m showing my children that it is okay to work, be a wife and a friend all at the same time… I’m showing them that you can be whatever you want to be without sacrificing the people and things you love.
B+C: What do you think has been your key to success?
HM: It’s impossible to point to one thing. I think it’s a culmination of having a vision, working hard and having support. I’ve always been extremely goal oriented. I work well under pressure and I thrive on growing my business — but I know I wouldn’t be where I am without the support I’ve gotten from my family and friends and the amazing team that we have here at our headquarters. I’ve been so lucky in finding franchisees and employees who are just as passionate as I am about my business and its success. I think that’s probably what has contributed the most to the continued success of Wine & Design.
B+C: What’s your best advice for someone who’s recently been laid off & maybe not feeling too hot about their situation right now?
HM: It sounds cliché, but the best advice I can give is: Do what makes you happy. Find your passion, do what makes you feel like the best version of yourself and find a way to integrate that into your work. We’re not always lucky enough to find a job right away that we’re totally passionate about, but always keep those goals in the back of your mind and make choices based on what will bring you closer to those goals.
B+C: If you could tell every aspiring #girlboss one thing right now, what would it be?
HM: Do what you love and don’t apologize for it! Whether you’re already on a girlboss journey or have yet to take the first step toward your goals and aspirations — own your passion and believe in yourself, and more importantly, believe in knowing that anything is possible. The road to success is full of failures; embrace them — they’ll be part of your success one day if you keep moving forward.
Tag us in your GNO pics @BritandCo!
(Photos via Wine & Design)