Denver is not a particularly large city, and so it always amazes me to meet new, interesting, vibrant people. This is very egocentric of me, I know, but really – where are all of these cool people hiding and why aren’t they all friends with me? It’s distressing. Tran Wills is one of these awesome Denverites. Tran and her husband Josh have three thriving businesses and four thriving kids here in the Mile High City. They are cofounders of Base Coat Nail Salon and SVPER ORDINARY, a gallery and retail shop located at The Source. Josh also cofounded Consume & Create, a Design Studio. Their kids range in age from 4 to 16, the oldest having been born while Tran was still in high school. Josh worked nights and Tran worked part time while she finished school. A few years later, their first business was born: The Fabric Lab. Eighteen years and several businesses later, Base Coat is set to open a second location in Los Angeles next summer, while SVPER ORDINARY has a fabulous space in downtown Denver.
Tran’s philosophy in her business and personal lives can be summed up in one word: discipline. She sets all clocks 15-20 minutes ahead because she would rather be 20 minutes early rather than 5 minutes late. After the kids are dropped off at their various schools, she and Josh head to work. Tran visits each store a couple times a week and works from 8-2:30. From 2:30-9 they tackle dinner and homework. When the kids are in bed, it’s couple time – TV, email, and laundry. Weekends are strictly reserved for family.
Here’s what Tran had to say about being a SpitfireMom:
How has motherhood influenced your work? Your creativity? Your business? Has your clientele shifted at all?
My family is the reason why I am an entrepreneur. I get up every day for them even days when I just don’t want to and hide in bed. They depend on me and I depend on them. I want them to see that anything is possible if you work really hard and have a dream you whole heartedly believe in. Owning a business is one of the hardest things I have ever done but I do not ever regret one day of it and I never want my kids every living with regrets. Motherhood has made me a great multi-tasker, which helps me every day in my businesses to get all the shit I need done to help the success of our businesses and be better at time management. I am rarely late. I set my clocks 15-20 minutes early. My husband hates it. I am not of fan of tardiness at all, I rather be 20 minutes early than 5 minutes late. The most challenging, nothing kills me more when people are late to a meeting with me. It’s kinda crazy I know but to me it’s super disrespectful because I made the time to see you and I deserve that same respect back because my time is just as valuable. We have the best customers/clients in the world and people who have been supporters who have been with my since our first business, The Fabric Lab, when I was 22 watched me grow up and my businesses grow up. So in a sense all clients and customers all too grew up with me. Does that make sense? When I am buying merchandise for the stores especially kids retail I ask them questions and have them use the products first before we put products on the shelves. They have no biased opinions and are honest right off the bat to help me make decisions. It’s great! They keep me on my toes and that’s when you have to get creative and improve.
Do you talk about your kids with clients or potential clients? If so, what is your approach?
My kids are part of our businesses in every way. I am honest to clients and customers about my life and I think they appreciate the honesty. If people want to really work with you they will. My kids come to business meetings, and to the store when I do not have a sitter and events. This is the way it is for us and we have never had a problem with clients or customers and if they did, do you really want those people in your lives or work with them?
If you could go back into time at the start of your business, what knowledge would your current self share?
If I could go back I would listen to my gut more about the people I had enter my life. I unfortunately surrounded by people who were not good for myself and family and I knew that but chose to ignore it. I give people a benefit of the doubt. Right now in our lives we are very selective about the people we have enter in our lives and ever since we did that we are in such and amazing place with amazing people that we are so lucky to call friends and be partners with. Get rid of the poison in your lives. It is so good to breathe again!
What do your kids know and think about your business? Or, what do you want your kids to know about your business when they’re older?
Having 3 older kids it has been great to hear them tell Josh and I, their friends and our family that we are their role models. I think that is the best thing and the understand why we work so hard. For Them. They know we own our own businesses and it’s not a typical 9-5 and our days can get crazy. They have embraced it. We are so supportive of our kids and they are so supportive of us. Our 5 year old is funny and really doesn’t understand what we do other than we are the “Boss Applesauce”.
How do you and your significant other share the family workload? Does he/she help with your business?
Josh my husband is amazing. I think it is so important when you are an entrepreneur to have some in the corner always rooting for you. You need that support system. He is mine and I am his. He helps with everything cooking, cleaning, baths, etc. We tag team everything. He is a Designer so he is the guy behind Base Coat and one of the two designers behind SVPER ORDINARY with my business partner Bryan Cavanaugh. So I can tell him one of my knucklehead ideas for one of the businesses and he takes that and goes and designs something even better than I can imagine. He helps me pick out new merchandise etc. We both have such huge parts in all our businesses. We can’t do it with out each other and it’s the reason to our successes.
What’s one thing you haven’t figured out? And, how do you deal with it?
I think being better at taking care of myself. I realized if I am not feeling well and I am useless mentally and physically to my family and businesses. I’ve started taking an hour out for myself everyday so that I can take a deep breath and relieve some stress. Whether that’s a pedicure, or watching mindless TV which is my favorite thing to do, or surfing pinterest. You are no good to anyone if you don’t feel good.
There’s a lot of noise out there about how to be a “good” parent. What’s your philosophy about making the important everyday decisions and owning your choices?
There is no such thing as a “good parent’. Life is hard enough. I wish moms would stop beating themselves over this “Perfect” mentality. We’re fucking human. We all have to make hard decisions that will not always be the best, we make mistakes, not everything goes as planned, but I think that is the best part we are always constantly learning from failures which makes us be better parents, partners and humans. At the end of the day we are all trying our fucking best and that is all that really matters. Your kids and partners will love you no matter what and you will love them all no matter what. Life is not perfect but would you ever want it to be? How boring that would be?! Own it and learn from it.
How do you push back on negative advice or criticism?
Honestly ignore these people. Those are the people who LOVE to see others fail. Look, you are the one the made the leap and it’s fucking scary as hell but you did it. Be proud of that. All you can do is keep working hard and do your thing. I always say if owning a business was easy everyone would be doing it but it’s not and these entrepreneurs are the people building the communities around them.
And, if you’re a mom entrepreneur and just found out you’re expecting, Tran says:
Being pregnant and a mom should never stop you from working towards a dream. I never let that stop me. Your kids and family are part of that dream so they have every right to be right there by your side. I do not believe in work/life balance. I think that is total BS. There are going to be times where your family will need you more, then you deal with that. There will be times where your business will need you more and you will handle that when the time comes. It’s all about discipline and time management.
Lastly, when did you know you’d “made it?”
I don’t think we’ve made it yet. Everyday is changing and evolving and so are our goals and dreams. But being in Fortune Magazine was a great validation of all the hard for us for sure!
See? I told you she was fabulous! And she’s humble too (note to the SpitfireMoms…being featured in Fortune Magazine means you have made it). Thanks so much for sharing, Tran. You’re an inspiration for us to be total boss ladies too!
Jenn & Heidi
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Check out Tran here….