Terra Saunders: The female entrepreneurs who inspire us
This week is Global Entrepreneurship Week, which makes it the perfect time to celebrate some incredible women who are striking out and doing their own thing in the business world.
As a woman running a business that is all about empowering others to live, learn and thrive it was hugely important to me to inspire you all by showing you that there is no set path when it comes to making a success of your passion. So, I approached women who have interesting and varied stories to tell about their experience of running their own business and asked them all exactly the same questions.
Their answers are as unique as they are and give a fascinating insight into what makes them tick as women, and as businesswomen. Some run huge companies with hundreds of staff, others are just starting out on their journey, but I know all of them will inspire you with their determination, tenacity and passion for what they do.
We will be bringing you a different woman every day this week, all of them united in being the very thing we love – they are all on fire!
Former Dallas Cowboy cheerleader, Founder and Creative Director Dallaswear Uniforms, creating and providing cheerleading uniforms for the NFL and NBA.
Terra has been a budding entrepreneur since the age of 8 when she would sell thrift store books and broken up bars of chocolate for a profit. A born side hustler, Terra saw a gap in the uniform market when she worked as an iconic Dallas Cowboy Cheerleader, and began making outfits on the floor of her apartment. She is now the founder and Creative Director of Dallaswear Uniforms, supplying cheerleading outfits for the NFL and NBA.
1. What job did your parents do?
My father, from Germany of Dutch descent, came to America to be a rock star but found his place designing mainframe computers. He now works in solar energy. My mother has a million talents from drawing to makeup artistry, but worked mostly in Real Estate careers. My mother now owns vast a farm in Missouri and has tons of fans who watch her online makeup tutorials for cancer survivors whose skin has been changed by cancer treatments.
2. Did you choose your vocation or did it choose you?
I got my first sewing machine at 9 years old, so you can say that sewing and designing is my calling. My mother, aunts and grandmother were all seamstresses, so I learned early on to look at a piece of clothing and imagine it as a flat piece of fabric, ready to be constructed. I was always a dancer and cheerleader, so making cheerleading uniforms was a natural fit. I could try on the outfits and really knew my product. I stick to a niche and it has served me well to know the precise needs and feelings of my clients. As a former Dallas Cowboys Cheerleader, designing for the NFL and NBA has been a dream come true.
3. Who was your role model growing up?
This is easy… Bob Mackie. There is no one more amazing… period. He is the Alpha and the Omega.
4. Who is your role model now?
Barbara Corcoran from the Shark Tank (I think they call it the Dragons Den in the UK?) She keeps it simple by using her gut and using simple ideas of inspiration, loyalty and confidence to rise to the top. Her books helped me gain courage and a lot of Girl Power. I had the honor of having dinner with her and she’s absolutely hilarious in person… you’d never know she is a total and complete beast!
5. What’s the best advice anyone has ever given you and how did you use it?
“It’s not about the money; it’s about the money always”. When I realized that business is 100% about money it helped me to separate business and personal. The quote does not mean that money and business are above people, because it’s quite the opposite. I love people more than anything in the world. Because I have been able to focus on the money-making aspect of business it has allowed me to be as generous with money as I always hoped I could be.
6. When did you consider yourself an entrepreneur (and can you spell it?)
I have been working for myself since I can remember; I loved being the boss and having money in my pocket. I used to get books from the thrift store that I thought were in good shape and sell them door to door for a tiny profit in my apartment complex when I was as young as 8. My mother raised me by herself, so I had plenty of time to be on my own and get into trouble… but instead of getting into trouble, I found ways to work and make money. I would break a chocolate bar into tiny pieces and sell it for 5cents a square at recess which would make me an extra 50 cents or so… I was a hustler! I officially started my business at 20 years old, when I was a Dallas Cowboys Cheerleader, from the floor in my 200 sq ft apartment over 20 years ago. It was the scariest and BEST decision I have ever made.
7. What was your biggest challenge when you started out and how did you overcome it?
My biggest challenge in the beginning was being a “Do It All”. Early on in my business I had to do everything… I was the secretary, the CEO and the janitor. As I have grown and gotten many employees, it was difficult to resist the urge to step in when something was going wrong and say “I’ll do it”. It put me in a position where I was not giving my employees the dignity or opportunities to make mistakes and learn from them. It also shut me off from new ideas and other’s talents. Who says the way I do it is the absolute right way? Getting my business to the level of being one of INC Magazine’s Fastest Growing Businesses was one of my proudest moments, but I was only able to do it because I hired people to contribute to the success of the company. Side note* – My husband is our company CFO and working with a spouse comes with its own challenges. Still, I am grateful for the opportunity every single day to become a better and more understanding wife, boss and human.
8. If you could go back to when you started and give yourself one piece of advice, what would it be?
Terra! Keep your overhead as low as you can for as long as you can! I would also tell young Terra that fame means nothing… Cash flow is EVERYTHING and Sales Cure All.
9. What’s your favourite business quote?
Lately… “Nobody Cares – Work Harder” and “Never, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever give up”.
10. What do you want your legacy to be – what do you want people to say about you after you’re gone?
I want them to say I was kind and helped other women. Although I already know what is going to be on my headstone when I die, because I already planned it out (yes, my husband knows and has happily agreed)… TERRA SAUNDERS, “Her heart was as big as her Hair”.
Look out for more inspirational entrepreneurs this week, we’ll be featuring one every day.