As a part of the Morning Lazziness series about empowering women who are encouraging and doing incredible things with their ideas in society, I had the pleasure of interviewing Helen Getts.
Being a working student, she eventually found her passion for e-commerce selling fashion accessories. Now, she’s making her mark in the industry for the last six years with her favorite style piece: sunglasses. Her brand Topfoxx has grown to have an all-women team, with a collection of 70+ eyewear designs and a large community of supportive females online.
Struggling during her teenage years and forced to be independent very early on, she dropped out of high school, but she made sure this setback didn’t define her. She pushed herself to become better and finished her studies with high academic performance at a business university.
Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dive in, our readers would love to learn a bit more about you. Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
Got my GED, was in college, trying to figure out my life, switching between many majors through the 5 years. While going to college was working different jobs to support myself and have some extra money. Ended up selling on eBay and other platforms to make extra cash. This was the start of my diving into online marketing & eCommerce. Eventually branched out and started my own eyewear brand.
Can you tell us the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?
An interesting story I can think of off the top of my head was how when we first started the brand, we had an influencer buy sunnies from our brand, which she fell in love with. Later she contacted us telling us how she loved it and was hoping she could get free products in exchange for a promotion. We did so and she was just the sweetest and easiest person to work with, that same influencer who was one of the first to promote the brand ended up being our face of the company after we did a collaboration together, where she designed the sunnies. These sunnies were one of our best sellers, “Megan 2” aviators. Therefore it makes me think you never know how well things can align and that the world is working in mysterious ways in the background.
What do you specialize in and why should someone choose you over your competitors in your field?
We specialize in eyewear and are known for our sunglasses. They are statement pieces that make you feel good wearing them. Specifically, there are 3 reasons to feel foxxy (aka good in them).
1) We take many strides to be sustainable, making sunglasses from plant-based materials like castor beans or recycled plastic, as well as sustainable packaging and shipping practices.
2) Don’t have to compromise on quality or limited style selection just because it’s sustainable. Our goal is to always make eyewear that is beautiful & bold and universally looks good on any face, not just a model.
3) And lastly every pair of sunglasses sold we donate a pair of corrective glasses to someone in need through our partner restoring vision. So you can say we do things very differently than our competitors.
What are the three things that mostly helped your online business succeed?
- Stepping outside your comfort zone. You always have to break the shell. Let’s say that’s getting more people in the company, turning a small group of 4 into a larger group of 15 and learning to build a company culture, leading meetings, having uncomfortable conversations, putting yourself out there on SM, etc. Instead of just working really really hard, analyze what will actually bring your results and you will realize it’s probably the really uncomfortable things that you must do and have never done before. You have to keep growing, and growing pains are always uncomfortable.
- Our team, hiring amazing people who want to be here, are passionate and bring energy/innovation. They strive to do the best for the customers and want to grow themselves. I’m very thankful for the team, we really do have great people that you can even just talk to. I have become friends with a lot of them and yeah they are the reason we succeed.
- Failing Forward. One of our core values, essentially you will fail at more things than you succeed, I would say 95% of things you try will “fail”. It’s natural and normal, you are learning and growing. Therefore, do not take things too personally or seriously. Rather than see it as a failure or something of the sort but rather it’s a challenge giving you feedback and pushing you in the right direction closer to success, cause that was just information on what not to do and next time you will do a bit better or you will find a way that will work!
How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?
I really like this question, it’s important as you grow in success, etc. that you are able to share that with others. To make a positive impact, in any way to cause a beautiful positive butterfly effect in this world that needs it so very much. I believe that’s one of the most fulfilling things you can do.
We have done different things and of course, plan to do much more from a business and personal standpoint. We have had a partnership with restoring vision for over 1.5 years and have been providing 1 pair of reading/corrective glasses to a person in need for every pair that’s sold. We have partnered with a few other charities since starting overall.
One I’m particularly proud of and hits home was the Foodbank for New york city. This was when covid just started. As a person who comes from an immigrant family, who as a child experienced severe poverty, it was very hard to see all the families suffering. We were able to donate over 40,000 meals.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person you are grateful for who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
Exactly. There are so many, I” ll name a few Carolina, Kendall, Chud, Nidha, and Luis. But the first person that made one of the biggest impacts was Priscilla. She was my first employee and wore many hats. She would help research all the different departments we had to grow in the company. We had so many brainstorming sessions and were able to achieve so much with just the 2 of us here when I first started. Now, 5 years later she has started her own marketing agency but continues to still be very hands-on with topfoxx as a consultant and strategist.
What were your most important challenges? & How did you overcome those challenges?
Organization and building out a foundation in the company. It’s something that is still a challenge because our world is so fast-paced, technology, and culture is changing day by day and in general, all industries change so fast.
We had no systems in place, no guidebooks, really badly organized documents, no onboarding, etc. It was like the wild west meets a black hole where things disappear. Now we have google drive with folders, we make playbooks, we have a project management system, etc. It’s definitely embarrassing to admit but I’m not the most organized person and I have never run a company before so it was one of my biggest challenges.
I didn’t realize how important it was, you will run yourself into the ground always being busy and putting out fires this way. It’s still an ongoing challenge because we are working on it as we go to make a better foundation so the team can save time and work on projects that really matter by creating systems that support them.
What’s your piece of advice for readers who want to achieve wealth and success in life?
Make yourself or your product/service valuable to the marketplace by always growing and adapting to the changes that come. In general, you never want to be the same person you were 5 years ago, 1 year ago, or even a month ago. Most people finish their schooling and that’s it for their growth. But you want to be improving yourself year by year, it’s never linear day by day but as long as you are investing in growing personally and professionally then you have a better chance of increasing wealth and success.
Why? Cause you would be updating yourself and educating yourself in many areas. From the stock market, NFTS, and cryptocurrency (the finance stuff) to learning and updating yourself from your industry’s experts, reading and taking leadership/management courses, which if you can apply well in your role and lead others to success you will always be rewarded financially more.
What do you think is the key to a truly successful online business?
Before I would have said having an outstanding product/service, the best and most unique in the market but after the experience, I realized it’s about having an amazing team. This is because the right happy people will make the best and most outstanding product or service in any industry, even the most competitive.
What’s your business model? How does your online business make money?
It’s e-commerce so we do mostly B2C, selling direct to consumers so we are able to provide great prices for luxury sustainable eyewear. We make our money through paid media (FB, IG), organic SM, influencer marketing, B2B wholesale stores, and a few other channels.
Where do you see yourself and your business in five years?
Being an internationally established eyewear brand that brings accessible sustainable eyewear to anyone around the world. In 5 years, I would like to step out of the day-to-day operations and projects and focus on leading the brand growth in different countries and establishing partnerships.
What’s your piece of advice for people who want to quit their 9-5 job and start a business?
Make sure you have a plan financially and emotionally to give it your best shot. Which includes money saved or a way to get it that won’t put you in massive debt or give away lots of equity from the get-go. If possible and so important, to have the right people to go into business with. Possibly a partnership, mentor, or at least part-time people who are experienced in the field and willing to help you. Thinking about how you will support yourself not only financially but emotionally and mentally through it all. Really having a strong support system through family and friends. Letting go of toxic relationships first because a business will take every inside of you and you will need some type of emotional support system.
What is the biggest sacrifice you’ve made in starting or running your business?
Time is definitely my time. I spend so many years just working on the business and doing really nothing else, not much of social life. For at least the first 4 years I spent working 10-12 hours a day at least 6 days a week and really hurting my health. Since then I’ve learned to work “smarter”, as cliche as it sounds, but you need to learn how to maximize your time and get the most results. This takes a lot of analyzing, contemplating, failing, and getting uncomfortable.
The future of the digital world might be ruled by blockchain and cryptocurrency. Do you think it would be challenging for all age groups to gain knowledge about the same? How can we educate them?
Yes, you would have to educate each age group through the platforms and communication sources they understand and are comfortable with because they won’t come to you, you have to come to them. For Ex, older generation you would need to post on Facebook rather than Instagram or you would need to post on mainstream media instead of podcasts.
What do you think could be the future of NFT? How useful can they be for everyone?
To a certain extent, I do think it will be the norm but I don’t think we are there yet. I believe it will become very popular when the norm is everyone has in their house a virtual reality system, which may be 20-30 years from now. I do think it will be very useful, just as useful as how Instagram allowed influencers, artists, businesses, etc to all grow virtually, digitally.
Do you think NFTs, which are open to virtual reality, could adversely impact our health due to increased screen time?
Yes, we are already impacted negatively by screen time and it was seen even more during covid. One needs to take steps to protect themselves by going out in the sun for at least 20 mins (if they can), getting blue-blocking glasses (which we sell one of the strongest clear kind 😉 ), and just finding other hobbies that are in person.
What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started” and why?
- Invest in personal development. Books, courses, hobbies, etc to expand yourself as a human being. Your business only grows as much as you do.
- Be less reactive and more proactive. Whatever comes your way it’s not the end of the world, to be compassionate to yourself and conscious of your actions coming from fight or flight mode.
- You are always doing the best you can, with the mindset, consciousness, knowledge, and resources you have at your disposal.
- Marketing really matters. If you don’t have good foundational marketing copywriting, differentiation points, brand persona, etc, then you will have a very hard time selling.
- Cut all the distractions and noise. Focus on your biggest priority that will bring you the most results. Stop letting yourself find “productive procrastination” side projects that your mind tries to pull you in.
What would you tell yourself ten to twenty years ago that you wish you knew then?
It goes back to the first thing, from the top 5 things. It would be to read personal development books and take courses so I can expand myself as a human being. All the knowledge and wisdom in the world is found in books and the execution part of it through courses.
Lastly, what do you think this world needs the most?
This world needs more love & compassion, toward others and most of all oneself. If you have true love and compassion for yourself (not ego-based), you will be able to have love & compassion for everything and everyone else and help them from your heart, after you can get out of your head. This is an imperfect journey, of course, we are humans and everyone gets stuck in ego and ends all game. If we can learn to be more aware of how they affect everyone else in the world, and how hard it is to live and be a human being, living takes courage.
Being wiser and more compassionate, understanding everyone is going through a battle you can’t see. But also balancing that out with strength and finding the deep reasons inside you to do better as a human being, as much as you can.
Take baby steps if that’s all you can do to help yourself and humanity. If you become a better person and naturally more happy, then the world becomes a better place. Falling in love with the little things you call mundane.
Things are never what they seem. We have limited perspective, limited consciousness, and energy. We can’t be “perfect” and do the “right thing” all the time. But it’s important we are doing the best we can and developing ourselves continuing all through life. Not staying the same, same mindset, same belief system. Being vulnerable enough to keep changing and growing all years of your life.