Julie Arsenault is an entrepreneur who currently runs a startup called Panty Drop. In Julie’s words “Panty Drop is a subscription underwear box for women. We take the work out of underwear shopping and surprise you with 3 pairs of underwear, customized to your preferences, delivered automatically to your door.” Julie launched her business a few years ago during Startup Weekend in 2014, and ever since she has focused on growing her company and serving her customers better.
Reid: What was the reason you decided to start this company?
Julie: I was super busy working for a startup in San Francisco and didn’t have time to shop for underwear. I hadn’t been underwear shopping in something like two years (eek!) so my underwear was definitely in a sorry state. Subscription services exist for so many things, but a quick internet search revealed that no one was really doing for women’s underwear (though there were services for men), so it seemed like a great idea to launch at Startup Weekend Tahoe.
Reid: What advice would you give to college students who are interested in becoming entrepreneurs?
Julie: It’s tempting to focus your time on how to build whatever your idea is, but acquiring customers can be a lot harder than you think it will be. Get out of the metaphorical building, talk to customers and try to make sales before you think you’re ready. It’s OK to share your MVP with early adopters.
Reid: What’s your process for idea generation?
Julie: Talking with people and doing research. Whenever I’m facing a problem, I try to find people who have solved the problem before and see what I can pull from their approach. Sometimes that takes the form of internet research, or setting up a conversation with someone in my network. Sometimes it takes the form of talking with customers & doing customer research. But out of each of these approaches, I usually find new ideas or things to try. Then you put it into practice and see what works.
Reid: What skills would you say are most important to being successful in entrepreneurship?
Julie: Persistence and a “just get it done” attitude, for sure. You’ve got to be scrappy in the beginning and looking everywhere for creative solutions to problems. Secondly, prioritization and focus. There will always be more to do than you can realistically accomplish, so you’ve got to spend time prioritizing, pick what’s most important and stick to that without getting distracted. Try not to worry too much about what everyone else is doing & stay your course. Also – don’t be afraid to ask for help! No one builds a company by themselves – there’s always a team of people or at least a team of mentors and advisors behind every successful one.
Reid: What have been some of your failures and how have you dealt with them?
Julie: I got “fired” from a job once – in quotes because I was technically a consultant and the contract ended with a mutual decision not to renew. But it was a good experience because it helped me reflect on a lot of things. First, it helped me identify a few areas where I needed to build my skills and experience. Second, it helped me identify some areas in the way that I worked where I could have done things a little differently to achieve a different outcome. And third (perhaps most importantly…) it helped me identify the type of culture that I wanted to work in, and the type of leaders I wanted to work for. Any time things don’t work out the way you expect is a good learning experience!
Reid: Where do you see yourself or your startup in 10 years?
Julie: 10 years seems so far away! I’d be very happy if the business grew to a point where I could hire a few employees and pay myself a decent salary. I don’t need to build the next Facebook or Google, I’d just like to build a successful, profitable business that’s a great place to work, delivers a product customers love, and makes a difference in the community.
Reid: What do you think is the major difference between entrepreneurs and someone that works for someone else?
Julie: Being your own boss definitely has some advantages but you’ve got to get really comfortable trusting yourself to make good decisions and managing your own time. You’ve got to get comfortable with there never being a clear answer about what’s right or best…and be willing to try, fail, and revise. You’ve got to be creative to build your own support network because you can’t look to your boss to find out the right way to do something.
Reid: Are there any books you can recommend for aspiring entrepreneurs?
Julie: Running Lean by Ash Maurya was super helpful for me.
Want to learn more about Julie’s company? Check out Panty Drop’s subscription underwear boxes!