Ebony Swank knows a thing or two about running successful businesses. She’s the owner of Swank A Posh Boutique located in Detroit where she currently runs three retail locations and one online store. She also recently launched a business consulting firm, Business Best Friend, where she consults with aspiring entrepreneurs on how to run a successful business. But life hasn’t always been so great for Swank.
Swank dropped out of high school and became a mother at a young age. She turned to retail out of necessity to take care of her child. She started several businesses before landing on her niche, Swank A Posh Boutique. Her business has survived a bankrupt city as well as several failures early on in her career. She had to close her first Swank boutique only six months after opening because she didn’t have a business plan and was focused too much on the look and feel of the business. However, Swank bounced back and is doing better than ever. She’s now dedicated to teaching as many people as she can her success secrets and how to #BrandLikeSwank.
Rolling out caught up with Swank to glean some of those secrets from her. Check out her interview below. Chime in on the comments. We want to hear from you.
How did you determine your career path?
I actually didn’t determine it. I was just being led. I initially didn’t have a passion for retail, I just had a child that I needed to take care of and I needed to make money. I started plenty of businesses but when I started Swank I found my niche. I actually didn’t realize it was my career path until two years ago. Once I realized it, I smiled.
What inspires you to show up at work every day?
I want to show people that you have to put in the work to get the things you want in life. I work extremely hard on my businesses and I just want to make sure I’m there to inspire the staff, my clients, and my children.
Who or what motivates you and why?
My children motivate me because I need to make sure my children get everything I didn’t have like a great education. I work to put them in the best schools and have them around a different environment; I expose them to different things. I have to make sure they are better than me.
How do you successfully grow from business failure?
When I initially opened Swank-A-Posh in 2009, I failed. When I opened Swank the second time, I researched my market, location, and I was a little more driven because I had less money to launch. I knew I needed to make money and this was my only chance. So, you grow because you learn from your mistakes. You’re your best educator.
What are the do’s and don’ts for young women in business?
Do make sure you plan and plan effectively. Plan to make money and plan to run your business well. It’s hard to give a “don’t” because any mistakes that are made are to be learned from, so just make sure you learn from them. I do encourage people to find mentors, invest in workshops or seminars from people with actual “success” so that they can learn and not make their mistakes.
Define innovative methods you apply to your business and life.
Everything I do is nontraditional, like the way I market, I talk to my audience in the language they understand — with profanity and slang words because my customer is the woman who does whatever she wants to do and in my business, I do whatever I want to do. They love it and I love it.
I also pay attention to the market and everything that’s going on around it. So when social media became huge and online shopping became a thing, I paid attention and I applied it to Swank early on.
How do you set goals and evaluate your success?
I look at what I did last week, last year and I compete against that, that’s how I set my goals, and I set it to go 10-20 percent [over that] last week or last year. That is my method. I also do it with my employees. I look at numbers. Numbers are the most important thing in business.
Why is lifelong learning important to you?
You can apply everything you learn in life to business and you can turn that into money. For example, a couple years ago I hit a slump and I was down to nothing. When things got better I knew that I had to create different strings of income because I never want to be in a situation where I didn’t have anything. A lot of things were taken away from me at that time. So, I learned other ways to make sure that wouldn’t happen again.
Describe the skill sets that will be essential to future business leaders and innovators.
They need to have confidence, leadership skills, and it’s very important that they must have listening skills. Listen to your customer; pay attention to the customer and you will go far.
What are the three most important factors of being a successful woman?
You have to be confident because people will come at you with some bs. For example, I had a landlord try to get me to sign a crappy lease, which leads me to the next thing, you have to know how to negotiate and lastly not let anyone walk over you.
What social media or digital tool has made the biggest difference in your life and why?
Facebook, because when I reopened in Southfield, it was a free tool to promote. I didn’t have money so before the masses was doing it I would tag everybody that I knew had a lot of friends so it would show up on their page and it was effective because my store became very popular very fast. This was in 2010.
Name three successful female role models and explain why you admire them.
I actually only have one. I also admired Kimora Lee Simmons because her work ethic was amazing. I always watched her before I even considered opening a store.
Photo gallery credit: Porsha Monique for Steed Media