Cari Samalik is a Michigan based entrepreneur and Mom and the CEO & co-founder of Livnfresh – a state related T-shirt brand. Previously, she worked in the healthcare, and food and beverage industries before marrying into a screen printing business.
Living in beautiful Michigan and having a love for the outdoors inspired her to produce a brand that represented that beauty. Naaree.com interviewed her to find out what inspired her entrepreneurial journey and how she dealt with its challenges.
What inspired to become an entrepreneur? Did you always love it or was it something you got into?
I never thought I would be a CEO to a clothing brand, but falling in love with someone that owned a screen printing business help direct me in that way.
I finally realized one day that Livnfresh wasn’t just another t-shirt business it was a lot more than that. The effect it was having on people was turning us into a brand. People can relate to our design and want to show their pride for their state.
When do you know that it is no longer just an idea in your mind, and that you can really turn it into a lucrative business?
I started this business with my amazing husband Dave who shares the same love and passion I do. We had a few other ideas for a T-shirt line but none of them took off.
We never gave up and would start all over again. We finally knew we had a winner when we saw people’s reactions to our designs.
What inspired you to start out on your own or with your partners? What learning lessons can you share from your startup experience?
Being a Mom and trying to start a business was not easy. I was trying to be a stay-at-home mom of two and trying to get our business off the ground.
Whenever you start a business money is always a problem. We didn’t have the money to pay someone to do what I was trying to do, so I could just be a stay at home mom. Today I have an entire staff of other people doing what I wanted to do myself.
What are some of the challenges you faced initially when you started out? Do you have some examples to share and advice to women entrepreneurs on overcoming them?
If you want to be an entrepreneur, never give up. If one idea doesn’t work, move on to the next one.
Learning when to let go of an idea before it puts you in big debt is something you need to learn. Don’t get so attached that you can’t let go.
Do women entrepreneurs find it tougher to get funding for businesses? If yes, why do you think that is?
It very well could be. We started our business with our savings. If someone wants to start a business, my best advice would be not to take a loan, as loans can put a strain on your new venture.
Invest your extra cash, and if you don’t have any, get another job to fund your new start up.
Is it beneficial to have a mentor when you’re starting out on your own? What does a mentor bring to the table?
Having a mentor works for a lot of people. For me seeing others around us succeed and grow just give me the push to do it better.
How did you recruit your first team? How difficult was it to get people on board during the initial stages?
As we grow, we constantly are having our team change the way we do things. In the beginning, we had each person on our team doing 3 to 4 jobs.
As we grew and hired more employees, we have everyone doing one job, and that makes them much more productive and have more ownership of their responsibilities.
You always have growing pains. If you don’t, you’re not growing.
What are 3 key things that you have learned as an entrepreneur?
Three key things that I have learned being a women entrepreneur is how much I can handle.
I have learned how to delegate. I’m someone who likes to do everything myself so I know it gets done and done right.
The last thing would be to let go and not be stressed about things I have no control of.
What would you describe as your biggest moments of success in your business?
Our biggest moment came within the last couple of months. Within a few weeks, we had several different incredible opportunities open up.
First, we were asked to allow our products to be placed on the Female lead role for an independent movie being produced in Michigan. The movie will be released 2017.
Second, we were approached by a national retailer asking to carry our products in their chains. They have since asked us to expand into several different states and location.
Third, we found that there are several outdoor shows that had purchased our products and started wearing the product while they were doing their shows. They loved the product so much that they are making them a part of their daily wear.
Fourth, we completed an interview with Eagle 101 talking about the way our products connect others, creating common ground to find new friends. This last year has seen a double in our wholesale retailers and our online sales have increased between 500 to 700%. We are blessed to have seen such rapid growth.