When Bella Hadid offers up advice, we listen. Case in point: “My mom told me to always remember who you were before everyone told you who you were supposed to be,” she said to a crowd of young innovators in Toronto earlier this week. The always-on-the-go supermodel was part of the In-Hxouse Conversations panel at Hxouse, a not-for-profit incubator for creative entrepreneurs (co-founded by the Weeknd, creative director La Mar Taylor and sports-and-entertainment marketer Ahmed Ismail), to talk about what it means to be an entrepreneur and build a brand in 2019.
Hadid was joined by fellow entrepreneurs La La Anthony, an actress (most recently seen on crime drama Power), author and producer; Jen Rubio, co-founder of luggage brand Away; Blavity CEO Morgan DeBaun, who created a media company for black millennials; and panel moderator, entrepreneur and writer Olivia Perez. What followed was a night of real talk and key life lessons. Here’s what we learned about entrepreneurship from these brilliant, multi-hyphenate women.
Bella Hadid: Prioritize Yourself
“Mental health is something a lot of people overlook. For me, the past few years were really about not knowing where I was supposed to be and what I was supposed to do. Yes, modelling is great, but does it feed my heart? Am I doing what I’m supposed to be doing? Keep yourself your main priority. You’re your own self and that’s all you can give to anybody. Once that goes away, you have nothing. Just stay strong, stay inspired and keep doing the things you love to do. If you start to feel uninspired, that’s when you fail.”
Jen Rubio: Don’t Be Afraid to Ask for Help
“Now, we’ve raised over $81 million, but I was so scared during those first few meetings. I grew up being like, ‘I can’t ask people for money.’ My co-founder helped reframe that in my head. She was like, ‘You’re not asking people for money. You’re giving them the opportunity to invest in something that is going to make them a lot of money.’ Fundraising is a totally different game. It’s a business transaction. It helped so much, because then I wouldn’t go home and beat myself [if a meeting went badly], like they didn’t like me or think that I wasn’t good enough. Looking at it as a business opportunity took the emotion out of it for me and let me stick with my passion for my idea and creative side, and that’s how we got to where we are.”
Morgan DeBaun: Think About How You’re Building Your Community
“As a media company, we’re heavily dependant on Facebook. And we all saw what happened when Facebook and Instagram went down [last week]—everyone was shook. It’s obvious we need to think about our dependency on technology and not allow other platforms to control our relationship with the community we’re serving. You have to make sure people will follow you no matter what platform you’re on.”
La La Anthony: Believe in Yourself and Be Authentic
“It’s so cliché, but just don’t give up. It’s not supposed to be easy. If it was, then everyone would be doing it. We’re in this room for a reason—because we’re not like everyone else. You have to remember that and use that power to push forward. … It’s important in entrepreneurship to be yourself. People forget that people want to do business with people they like. People think being a boss means being mean or rude, and I totally disagree with that. Being cool and nice goes a really long way.”