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.


Machine Printer Uses Coffee Drips To Create Intricate Portraits

Arts & Culture
Technology Yesterday

Why Nest Doesn't Get The Holidays

PSFK founder reacts to the damaging effects of poor email marketing

Children Yesterday

Robots Could Be Joining Dubai’s Police Force In 2017

The real-life RoboCops can salute, shake hands and collect traffic fines


Get PSFK's Related Report: Future of Retail 2017

See All
Travel Yesterday

Parka Hides And Charges Portable Devices

Bolt is a jacket that lets people carry and charge their various electronics without the need for an outlet

Related Expert

Mike Moloney

Creative Filmmaking

Food Yesterday

Yelp's New 'Yelfie' Feature Lets Diners Take Selfies

The update is designed to encourage people to attach a selfie when they share their experiences

Design & Architecture Yesterday

Build Your Own Savory Cheese Advent Calendar

A British food blogger has created a guide to building a different kind of holiday surprise

Fitness & Sport Yesterday

Floating Gym Concept In Paris Is Powered By Your Workout

The proposed design from Carlo Ratti Associati lets passengers ride a stationary bike as they travel through Paris along the Seine River


Future Of Retail 2017
Transformation Strategies For Customer-First Business

PSFK Op-Ed Yesterday

Customer Service Expert: Why Offline Retail Has Better Data Than Online Retail

Healey Cypher, Founder and CEO of Oak Labs, shares why we should be thinking about the physical store as an e-commerce site

PSFK Labs december 1, 2016

Retail Spotlight: Home Depot Reimagines How Employees Conduct Tasks

The home improvement retailer puts the customer first by initiating local fulfillment centers and simplifying freight-to-shelf inventory management

Syndicated Yesterday

What Does The Future Of Android Look Like In A World With The Pixel?

Google’s decision to make its own phone might have looked like a blow to the likes of Samsung but the reality is much more interesting

Fashion Yesterday

Alexander McQueen Designs A 3D-Printed Umbrella

3D-printed fashion arrives in time for the winter season

Work Yesterday

Why Training Associates To Be Advocates Is Key To Retail Success

In our Future of Retail 2017 report, PSFK Labs discusses strategies to prioritize customer service, which begins with associate advocates

Media & Publishing Yesterday

Netflix Creates Binge Candle To Celebrate A New Season Of Gilmore Girls

The streaming service developed a special layered candle that creates candle with episode-specific smells


Future Of Work
Cultivating The Next Generation Of Leaders

Automotive Yesterday

Audi And LEGO Exhibit Autonomous Vehicle Installation

The installation at Design Miami explores the 25th hour, which represents bonus productive work or play time

Gaming & Play Yesterday

This Game Lets You Be A Pilot In The Drone Racing League

DRL Racing Simulator recreates actual courses in a virtual environment

Travel december 1, 2016

Hotel Chain Is Giving Away Its Not-So-Super Hotel Art At Art Basel

A lesson in how to advertise a kitschy-to-cool redesign in the middle of Miami Art Week

No search results found.