When I’m asked about my “aha” moment, I usually shrug – because it was more of an “uh-uh” than “aha.” The year prior to starting One Kings Lane, I had no intention of disrupting the home furnishings business; in fact, I had no intention of starting any business. I already had a job, but I was looking to furnish my new house and liked the freedom of doing it mostly on my own in my post-working hours (i.e. “online”). My frustration at the lack of accessibility to great furniture online led me to repeatedly ask the question, “Why do I need a designer to make these purchases for me?” I asked it so many times, that I finally had to answer the question all by myself and THAT was my process …I had a need and no one else was filling it.
When people tell me they want to be entrepreneurs, I wonder what that even means. I don’t know how one starts with a need to “entrprenureate” because my desire was driven from a place of need, or what we now call “a white space.” In my view, a specific interest or need is a more natural starting place than the idea of creating a business just because you want a business.
I have enjoyed and continue to enjoy a productive working life—it is just the way I am made. I am currently creating my third career at In The Groove because no one was speaking to my ageless group of friends about what they want to learn, see, do, and buy. And so, once again, I am rolling up own sleeves.
I probably learned this ethos from my father, Arthur Krakower, who certainly would have been a “pillar” builder in good standing. My father reinvented himself three times. Each career was impressive and successful in different ways. The one common thread was that he defied the odds. Failure wasn’t ever an option.
My dad grew up in the Bronx in a home with a single mother and modest means. He was a voracious reader, always hungry for knowledge. He was also a kick-ass retailer and commercial real estate developer. Along the way, he fell in love with art, design, and the classics. He began his third career as a painter, and honed his craft at 80 years young when he received an MFA from California College of Arts. Even as a fine artist, he approached his work with an eye for building a business. He would ask his dealer, “What kind of paintings are selling?” And then he would paint those kinds of paintings, and sell them all.
What did I learn about business as Arthur’s daughter? Most likely more than I’ll ever know (and few things that I’ll keep to myself), but the Top Three Lessons follow. These are my gift to you as a celebration of his life:
- Never ever stop learning. Like they say, if you don’t use it you lose it. Do whatever you need to do to stay relevant and informed.
- Lead by example. Be the first to work and the last to leave until you can trust that your colleagues all have the same goal: to be successful. He would have loved the 24/7 ethos of today’s work world and railed against the idea of “Generation Me.” There was no “me” in my father’s eyes, only “we.”
- Embrace change. Change was the pep in my father’s step. New challenges are the secret sauce to a successful career. If you don’t like what you’re doing, change the way you’re doing it. If you can’t afford the change, change the way you think about.
And to those three foundational beliefs, I’ll add a fourth one of my own: If you are looking to expand your Creativity + Innovation Pillar, start by being happy. Today’s work isn’t the cold potato fields of my father’s Russian forbearers. Creating something new and giving it to the world is one of the most fulfilling things a person can do. And I just won’t ever stop trying.
Susan Feldman is the co-founder of the ground-breaking lifestyle brand, One King’s Lane, and the founder of In The Groove, a lifestyle destination for age-defying women.