Marcia Kilgore’s secrets of a serial entrepreneur
25TH AUGUST 2023
Who better to turn to for tips on how to become an entrepreneur or start a business than someone who has set up and run five brilliant brands herself (including Beauty Pie, Fit Flop and Soap & Glory)? Read on, as Marcia Kilgore shares her expert advice…
What makes a successful entrepreneur? Read Marcia Kilgore’s expert view
Many small businesses (and those looking to start a business) seek mentorship, from friends, peers or those they aspire to. We can benefit greatly from their stories and experiences — and if you’ve listened to her Conversations of Inspiration podcast episode, you’ll know that female founder and serial entrepreneur Marcia Kilgore is someone who has plenty of wisdom to share.
Marcia is the founder of some of the UK’s most loved brands, with five hugely successful businesses to her name. From her first venture in New York, opening the star studded Bliss Spa, to cult brands Fit Flop, Soap & Glory and now Beauty Pie, her unique journey and approach to life have filled her with expert small businesses that all budding entrepreneurs need to hear. She says, “I think I am a little bit like the Forrest Gump of female entrepreneurs! I end up in all these kinds of crazy situations.” That’s why she’s well placed to share…
- Key advice on getting started. Insight and ideas as you navigate your own entrepreneurial path.
- Seasoned tips on launching a business. From recognising and embracing opportunities, to learning from your community.
- How to try out new business ideas. Discover Marcia’s ‘So what?’ test.
How Marcia Kilgore’s entrepreneurial journey began
Growing up in Canada and losing her father at the young age of 11, Marcia’s incredible journey encompasses the magical entrepreneurial mix of fate, luck and unwavering determination. At 18, she moved to New York to study at Columbia University, but was dealt her first blow when her finances didn’t line up and she needed to find another option fast. A few twists of fate led her to a gym filled with New York stars, and her journey as an entrepreneur began.
The reality of starting a business (and defining what success looks like)
Over the past two decades, Marcia has built five incredibly successful businesses, each one creating amazing products for women. You might think that would become exhausting, yet she remains as humble and enthusiastic as ever…
“Success comes in many different forms. There’s financial success, there’s family success, there’s friendship success. So I don’t like to think of success as just being financial, but if I do have financial success it’s not about showing it off. It’s actually just more fun to be good at something.”
When her father passed away, her mother was not left in great shape and she felt there was a gaping hole for someone to say, “Don’t worry, we’ll get through it.” So she became that person for others. Marcia says, “I’ve always become the one who was like, ok, let’s figure out what to do. What else can we try? I think that [losing dad] really trained me to learn how to lead, think, be resourceful and come up with solutions. And so while it was horrible, it was also some very, very early training in grit and determination, which is super important if you want to be successful in anything that you do.” So what has launching and running five businesses taught her that can help you on your journey?
Try the ‘so what’ test and see what works best in business
It can be hard to know when an idea is really good enough to go all in and start. Seeing as Marcia has launched five undeniably successful businesses, and confesses to having more ideas bubbling away, you would think she must have a way of knowing when something is worth the risk. She does. It’s called the ‘So what?’ test…
- “If you are hoping to start a new business and have a great idea, the first thing you should do is check your idea against what I call the ‘So what’ test. Explain the idea to someone else, and you have to be really objective about this.
- In two sentences, you explain why it’s important, why it’s different and why anyone should care about it.
- Then they ask you the question, “So what?” And if you can’t answer in one sentence you need to go back and hone your idea more.
- Then once this idea (or another one) is so clear and beneficial that you can answer the ‘so what’ question in one sentence, and it makes sense and it sticks in your head, then you just can’t let it go.”
Draw up your future: discover how to connect your dots
So what happens next? Marcia says, “You have to realise yourself that there are opportunities and it’s almost like a string unwinding to open up all of the opportunities to you. And I always talk to people about connecting your dots. It’s like a connect the dots puzzle. So as you add dots, you can draw new pictures and the more dots you have, the more intricate the pattern could be, or the more unique the picture could be. And that picture is your life. And it’s also your opportunity. So you add dots to your page and you have all different kinds of opportunities. I always encourage people to just add dots one at a time.”
After selling Bliss Spa in 1999, Marcia’s next venture was Soap & Glory, a tongue-in-cheek beauty brand with disruptive packaging. One of the key lessons she took with her from her first business was about making mistakes, that the worse it is, the faster you’ll learn. “You have to make your own mistakes, have that pain to learn from and do it differently the next time. Because you won’t always believe somebody else. You have to experience it yourself and get it into your vibration so that you don’t do it again.”
Learn from your community and keep your eyes and ears open
“It’s so much more efficient to hear it direct from the horse’s mouth. If you can tap right into your customer’s vibration and make that your vibration, everybody’s going to be happy because there’s no friction. It’s evolution, how you perceive yourself, how you deal with problems, how you put your business out there, how you learn and how you grow and how you improve.”
And there’s so much to learn from Marcia’s entrepreneurial adventures. Whilst she’s founded numerous big brands, it’s her small business approach that has allowed her to keep them fresh — and as she says, “Innovate don’t stagnate!” The way she treats her customers as a community, listening to and learning from them, has helped build loyal audiences with all five brands, and, underlying everything, her unwavering drive and ability to learn from her own mistakes are what keep her evolving and developing — as a person and in business.
Becoming an entrepreneur: key takeaways…
For anyone starting or building a business, keep Marcia’s tips in mind and you’ll soon be on your way to becoming a successful entrepreneur. Remember:
1. Be your own barometer for success:
And become the solution you want to see in the world.
2. Get a friend to see if your small business idea works:
Trying out the ‘So what?’ test is a good way to check that the idea can go the distance.
3. Add your dots and then join them up:
Opportunities come often. You need to keep seeing how to create new versions of ideas, as new elements present themselves.
4. Keep learning from customers and peers:
And always innovate, don’t stagnate.