Shawn Parr: How To Go From Being An Up-And-Comer To Having ‘Made It’

Shawn Parr: How To Go From Being An Up-And-Comer To Having ‘Made It’

Potter Jonathan Adler and designer Rebecca Minkoff share tips on how they followed their rising stars to full-fledged success.

Shawn Parr, Bulldog Drummond
  • 13 august 2012

When I heard about DailyCandy’s 3rd annual “Start Small, Go Big” competition, I thought I’d investigate to see what I could learn, as it focuses on discovering and helping up-and-coming small businesses grow by pairing them with mentors from some of the biggest names in fashion, home, beauty and food. DailyCandy has been a springboard for some of the newest and best designers, boutiques. and restaurants, and “Start Small, Go Big” helps to bring founders and CEOs together with tomorrow’s innovators. Six winners will meet with successful mentors at the DailyCandy Academy and get one-on-one guidance and insights vital to every small business owner. Past winners like Nella Pasta, Cold Spring Apothecary, Quinn Popcorn and Dolly Pearl (all led by women in their late 20s and early 30s) have gone on to sell their clothes in high-end boutiques, launch e-commerce businesses, and scale their operations to national distributions.

This year’s mentors include Jonathan Adler, a potter since his teenage years who got his start after showing his work to Barneys and now has 18 store locations nationwide, and Rebecca Minkoff, who started selling “I heart NYC” T-shirts off of her bicycle and has catapulted to success following the introduction of her “Morning After Bag,” and now sells full fashion lines. I connected with Rebecca and Jonathon to talk about their experience with mentors and mentoring over the years, and how those lessons will carry over to DailyCandy’s chosen winners. Here’s what they shared:

1. You can find mentors in the most unexpected places.

“My greatest mentor was actually my greatest… detractor! When I was in college I went to my pottery professor and asked her if I had what it takes to become a potter (one does wonder what it takes), and she said that I had no talent and I should move to New York to become a lawyer or something. I believed her, and slinked off with my tail between my legs and gave up pottery for a few years. Luckily, I proved to be a terrible employee and got fired from a series of jobs in New York and finally decided to give pottery another try, but this time on my own terms. I wouldn’t seek the approval of my professor, I’d just make what I wanted to make and follow my heart. And that’s what I did. So I suppose that horrid professor was my greatest mentor.”–Jonathan Adler

2. Even mentors can use a little mentoring.

“I don’t feel totally finished being mentored. I think it’s still important to ask, advise, and challenge myself; there is always room to grow and learn. With that said, I do really enjoy being able to mentor not only young designers, but also women. I really believe in empowering young girls to do what they love.” –-Rebecca Minkoff

“Ah, the mentee becomes the mentor! Let’s just say that I use a kinder and gentler approach than my mentor. I think anybody can do anything with enough work and commitment, and I constantly remind the young ‘uns of that.”-–Jonathan Adler

3. Above all else, stay true to you.

“Be willing to get ‘down and dirty,’ be determined, don’t ever doubt yourself and stay true to who you are and what you believe in.”-–Rebecca Minkoff

“Authenticity, authenticity, and authenticity! I attribute my success to the fact that I never meant to have a business, I never did a business plan and I was completely clueless. I was simply passionate about making pottery and that passion, which has expanded into all arenas of design, continues to fuel my business. I think that authentic passion is the most effective marketing tool.”-–Jonathan Adler

“Piggybacking on an existing product or service usually won’t get your business noticed in competitive markets. Yours should fill a need and stand out from the competition. I created a line for what I wanted to wear, and what I saw was a void in the market of design and function at an affordable price.”-–Rebecca Minkoff

4. Everything you need to know, you’ve probably already heard.

“There isn’t a turnkey way to start a big brand. I never meant to have a big brand; I just had to follow my heart. Probably not what I should be saying, but I find overly ambitious startups to be a bit of a bummer. For me, starting a business was something I had to do or I would go insane. Growing my business from a cottage industry to its current state has taken a long, long time and more work than I ever imagined. So I suppose that patience and hard work are the keys–I bet nobody has ever heard that before. When I first started, I rented studio space in a pottery co-op and my fellow potters, though lovely, proved to be a bit of a cautionary tale about how not to grow a business. They made great stuff, but they kept making the same stuff over and over and over again, and I saw that their businesses were completely stagnant. So I resolved to be nimble, analytical, and strive for constant re-invention.”-–Jonathan Adler

5. Get down to business and use the tools at your disposal.

“Use social media to break down barriers that traditionally separate designers from consumers, host web-centric events, and partner with web communities like Polyvore and The Purse Forum. For example, to mark our five-year anniversary, we hosted a contest/giveaway called Jack A MAC. The online/offline event, orchestrated through Twitter and Foursquare, attracted 500 to 1,000 participants.”-–Rebecca Minkoff

After connecting with DailyCandy dditor-in-chief Ashley Parrish about how they select the winners of “Start Small, Go Big,” competition I appreciate the uncommon sense and directional simplicity of the questions entrants have to answer (which are below). Whether you plan to start small and go big, you’re a passionate startup, or a multimillion dollar household brand, the following five questions are applicable and a good reality check:

  1. The world needs my business because?
  2. My big idea moment was?
  3. My greatest challenge so far has been?
  4. The most creative business solution I’ve used so far is… and the outcome was?
  5. As a small business owner, I’ve had to think outside the box, and a specific example is?


Shawn Parr is the Guvner & CEO of Bulldog Drummond, an innovation and design consultancy headquartered in San Diego whose clients and partners have included Starbucks, Diageo, Jack in the Box, Adidas, MTV, Nestle, Pinkberry, American Eagle Outfitters, Ideo, Virgin, Disney, Nike, Mattel, Heineken, Annie’s Homegrown, The Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research, CleanWell, The Honest Kitchen, and World Vision. Follow the conversation at @BULLDOGDRUMMOND.


Fitness Advocate: Paving The Future of Workouts With Audio

Fitness & Sport
Brand Development Today

Swipe Left On A Dating World Built To Keep You Single And Disconnected

Hinge's VP of Marketing Karen Fein tells us about the service's daring ditch of the swiping culture that's designed to attract advertising revenue, not meaningful connections

Arts & Culture Today

Marvel Comic Tells The Story Of A Heroic Syrian Mother

Madaya Mom is the true tale of a family trapped inside a town for over a year


Get PSFK's Related Report: Future of Work

See All
Retail Today

Brooklyn Cafe Lets Customers Pay By The Hour, Not By The Cup

Glasshour is an establishment that provides free coffee and pastries and charges for the time guests spend there

Technology Today

Electric Spoon Changes The Way Food Tastes

The Taste Buddy is being developed to manipulate your taste buds and make everything more delicious

Travel Today

Bike Path In Poland Can Glow For 20 Years Using Solar Power

Cyclists can follow the shimmering blue lanes for better safety each time they ride

Technology Today

Open-Source Toolkit Lets Communities Build Their Own Street Furniture

The Wikiblock database contains 30 blueprints of different neighborhood fixtures including benches, bus stops, and kiosks

Food Today

Tiny Pub Only Has Space For Three People

Make Time For It is a small London pop-up bar that encourages conversation without the distraction of technology


Future Of Automotive
Scenarios Driving The Digital Transformation Of An Industry

PSFK Op-Ed october 20, 2016

Wearable Tech Expert: Designing Technology To Empower Connection To Ourselves

Billie Whitehouse, Founder of Wearable Experiments, shares her new vision for the quantified self

PSFK Labs october 21, 2016

PSFK Picks: Top 5 Performance-Enhancing Wearables

Our new report looks at innovations pioneering the future of performance through intelligent activewear and predictive analytics

Work Today

Community Builder: How to Hack Slack

Claire Wasserman, Founder of Ladies Get Paid, describes how she's using an internal team communication tool to build a network of thousands

Advertising Today

This Beer Was Brewed Just For Scotch Drinkers

Highland Park Scotch Whisky & Sixpoint Brewery have teamed up to create two limited-edition pairings for New York City boilermakers

Mobile Today

Let An AI Librarian Help Sort Your Digital Bookmarks

A new app uses machine learning to help organize your virtual life

Mobile Today

Pizza Hut Tattoo Lets You Place An Order From Your Body

The latest gimmick from the fast-food chain is a tattoo-like sticker that lets customers get delivery with a simple tap on their arm

Travel Today

Reinvented Bicycle Inspired By Supercar Design

The yellow bike based on a Lamborghini has sharp edges and an aluminum alloy frame

Health Today

Health Platform Gives Perspective On Your Weekly Habits

Gyroscope is a new wellness app that works by amalgamating data about your life into beautifully designed visuals

Beauty Today

Korean Beauty Brand Uses VR To Let Customers Pick Their Ingredients

Innisfree created a unique experience for its Shanghai Disneyland customers with a virtual reality trip to select what goes into their purchase

Arts & Culture Today

3D-Printed Creations Resemble Floating Paper Outlines

Japanese design firm Nendo's exhibition features works that look like sheets of material being folded, torn, and crumpled

No search results found.