WHM: Female Founders and CEOs That Leave Us In Awe (Part 4)
Featuring female-owned brands throughout Women’s History Month has shown us that women can do anything. Even when the stakes were high and the obstacles seemed endless, these female founders never slowed down or gave up. We have no doubt their stories will inspire a new generation of women to go after their dreams with determination, guts, and fearlessness.
In the last few days of Women’s History Month, we are shining our final spotlight on Leana Shayefar, founder and CEO of Arebesk. Leana founded Arebesk when she saw a real problem in the world of workout wear and knew she had the solution. Despite many setbacks, and even taking time off to raise a family, she determinedly moved forward until her goals were met. May her story inspire you to always reach for the stars.
Awe: Your story of founding Arebesk is so inspiring. You’ve also admitted that you gave up on your dreams at one point and settled into a calmer life. What helped reignite the passion and give you that forward momentum to finally make your dreams come true?
LS: The one thing that reignited my passion was walking into my first pilates studio for a class. I realized how out of shape I was and left the class that day feeling so good. I stuck with it every day and eventually noticed such a change not only with my body but my mind. I had a lot of energy and felt much happier. I was a mom of 2 and let myself go a little. One day as I was working out I noticed how generic the grip socks were in the studio they were selling. I also heard the chatter of the women buying the socks complaining that they didn’t like the basic styles and that the grip was not great. I knew I could make these socks look much better and more fashionable for customers. I also knew exactly what I needed to do to provide better grip so I went home that night and sketched out my first sock which was the Phish Net grip socks I started with. The mesh added an edgy element to the sock and I also created a whole new grip design making sure there was enough grip on the ball and heel of the foot where we needed it the most. And from there I worked from home on the first prototypes and my first order of socks with the limited budget I had to start with.
Awe: What advice would you give to other women who are tempted to give up on their dreams, to inspire them to keep going?
LS: It is really hard once you are in that hole where you just give up on everything but it only takes one step forward towards your goal to get inspired. The first step is the hardest. If you really love what you do and are so passionate about it, you just find the strength to push forward. Taking some kind of workout really helps as well in boosting your energy and mindset.
Awe: What challenges have you had to overcome to make your business thrive? If applicable, what unique challenges do you think you’ve faced because you are a woman?
LS: I definitely had challenges starting with a 10K start up and having to do a lot of cold calling and legwork. I had to break through a market space that was not familiar with my brand or product. I had to prove that my brand and socks were the best and I did. It was and is not easy. People hang up on you, say no thanks at first but once they try it they only use Arebesk. I never take no for an answer. I always try again and try to find another angle to get my YES.
Being a woman in this market space has had its challenges, with larger companies I am competing with, but my customers are all or mostly all women and they have become my family. They have been so supportive and I have what I have because of my customers. There will always be challenges for women that might not be there for men, but it is ok because we have to break through and support one another. If we have to work extra hard to prove ourselves, then so be it.
Awe: What is the biggest lesson you learned in launching Arebesk after dealing with setbacks?
LS: Biggest lesson learned is that I have always had an intuition and it’s always right. Listening to what I know is right is very important. Also, setbacks happen a lot. We deal with delayed merchandise, faulty merchandise as we grow a brand. It all comes with the territory, but we have to learn from those mistakes as we perfect our brand and push through. So easy to give up when things get hard, but there is a rainbow at the end of all of it if you just push through. Get up and keep moving.
Awe: If you could go back before the launch of Arebesk and do anything differently, would you? If yes, what would you change?
LS: I would not change a thing. I am happy I had a tight budget to start with, it made me work harder. I am happy people hung up on me because I grew a thick skin to try again. I like working hard and I love what I do. I don’t feel like its work because I am happy doing it every day.
Awe: For Women’s History Month, we are profiling you and other powerful women. Who are some women that inspire you?
LS: There are so many women that inspire me, but business-related I love Sara Blakely, Lori Greinger, Diane Von Furstenberg and any woman in business who has made it and has found a way to give back to other women ...very inspiring.