Helen’s idea of becoming an entrepreneur didn’t come to her early on, having grown up without any influence that would make her think that running her own business would be a passion and a career path. She was raised by young parents who came from a communist country, so being a professional—as opposed to being a self-starter—was the direction she first found herself in.
Struggling during her teenage years and forced to be independent very early on, she dropped out of high school, but she made sure this setback didn’t define her. She pushed herself to become better and finished her studies with a high academic performance at a business university.
Being a working student, she eventually found her passion for e-commerce selling fashion accessories. Now, she’s making her mark in the industry for the last six years with her favorite style piece: sunglasses. Her brand Topfoxx has grown to have an all-women team, with a collection of 70+ eyewear designs and a large community of supportive females online.
Where did the idea for Topfoxx come from?
It was from my simple love of wearing sunglasses. While I was in college, I took on oddball jobs just like other students. Since I didn’t feel too excited about the work I had to do, this motivated me to find a way to earn money online by selling products I love. Eventually, I realized that I didn’t want this to be just another side hustle—I wanted to turn this into a business.
What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?
First order of business—meditation! This helps me set the mood for the day. After breakfast and catching up on news, I start working an hour earlier than everyone else—this gives me time to catch up on emails and set priorities for the day. I relish the quiet time where I can fully focus on the most important tasks, right before the phone-ringing and the main hustle starts.
During lunch, I make sure to keep it sacred and consider it my “me time”—this gives me a good moment to clear up my mind for the work to come in the afternoon.
My day ends with one (or more) of the many relaxing things we commonly enjoy: take a hot bath, read a book, cook a nice meal, drink some bubbly, listen to a podcast. The last thing I want is a burn-out from my very passion.
How do you bring ideas to life?
I bring my ideas to life by sharing them—even before they’re ready. When I was first starting, I preferred to always keep my work to myself and only reveal it once I deemed it to be perfect, but some ideas just don’t see the light of day because I’m such a perfectionist! I eventually learned that it’s better to be open, because more often than not, others are willing to help by giving suggestions and advice when needed, and I can create something more wonderful than what I had originally planned.
What’s one trend that excites you?
More people turning their passions into projects! Since the pandemic hit the world, a lot of people turned to new hobbies or old ones they now have time to revisit. A lot have been exploring cooking, gardening and crafting, and it’s amazing how others have turned their activities into small online businesses.
What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?
Definitely taking breaks. It’s very important for me to recharge and refresh, whether it’s before, in between or after work. I encourage my team to do the same, as nothing can be a better investment than taking care of ourselves.
What advice would you give your younger self?
I would tell my younger self that it’s okay to take some help when needed! I’ve always been proud of being a self-starter and used to doing things on my own, but sometimes we need other people’s perspective, mentorship and aid if we want to grow. I love being part of each process in my business, but exhaustion can catch up and I’m not able to focus on the more important things that need attention. By having a team that I can fully trust, I’m still able to get myself involved in every step while each one shares her own unique contributions.
Tell us something that’s true that almost nobody agrees with you on.
Sharing your thoughts with only like-minded individuals gets you nowhere.
While it’s true that you have to stick to the people who understand you and your goals, it’s also dangerous to stick only to what you’re comfortable with, both people and opinions. Piquing someone’s mind or having yours piqued by others who think differently can do some good. If you are willing to listen and learn, an open discussion can lead to new perspectives that you might not have seen, whether or not you agree with them. This is why I love conversations with persons from different backgrounds.
As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?
Keep learning. The last thing we want to be as entrepreneurs is to be stagnant. It doesn’t matter if your business is small or big—new knowledge and wisdom play significant roles in how the business moves forward. While there is always work for me to get caught up in, I make sure I allot time to read something new everyday, from my industry and otherwise. We can sometimes discover new things we can apply to our own endeavors by seeking beyond what we’re expected to look at.
What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business?
Topfoxx is much more than a brand selling eyewear—we’ve become synonymous with women empowerment, through motivation and mental wellness. We have an online community of over 260,000 with a mostly-female audience, because we make sure that our brand presence strongly communicates our message not only through us, but through the inspiring women we collaborate with. The gals who share the Topfoxx love with their community is what helps our brand grow even bigger. While we aim to inspire, we also take inspiration from our community by supporting, motivating and connecting with each other.
What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?
Not delegating tasks any sooner. As a startup, I wanted to have as little overhead expenses as possible, so I tried to do everything on my own. As sales started to pick up, it was imminent that I had to have an extra hand, but I was determined to DIY everything. This temporarily stumped the business growth being caught up in all the small, repetitive tasks.
After realizing that being a superwoman means working with others too, I was able to embrace the idea of teamwork and that’s when Topfoxx started to flourish.
What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?
A monthly mystery subscription box of curated items from startup businesses. This is a great endeavor to showcase and discover up-and-coming products from those who have turned their ideas into things they can share with the rest of the world.
What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why?
I haven’t been spending a lot, but put together, it would be these recent hauls:
• A 2021 business planner and journal – it allows me to create an overview of my personal and professional goals
• Laptop cushion with a built-in cup holder and lamp – I can’t help it, sometimes I like to laze on my couch and get crunching from there! It’s perfect for watching movies from the bed too
• A fine bottle of chardonnay – need I explain more? 🙂
What is one piece of software or a web service that helps you be productive?
It may sound simple, but it’s Google Calendars. It helps me set-up my weekly priorities and to stay focused and disciplined on achieving them. By visually laying out my plans, I can see the bigger picture and what’s important, even though the actual schedule pivots quite often due to our start-up life and constant market fluctuations this year.
What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?
I recommend The Obstacle is the Way by Ryan Holiday. It’s basically modern-day stoic wisdom. I myself had only a little understanding of stoicism, but this changed my life’s perspective. It’s a very easy book to consume and keeps the audience engaged, while teaching many valuable life lessons. I think everyone will gain a lot from it. The most significant learning I discovered is seeing life as a series of interesting challenges that develop our growth, and without them we wouldn’t really know what we are capable of.
What is your favorite quote?
I have two:
“Everyone thinks of changing the world, but no one thinks of changing themselves.” – Leo Tolstoy
“Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid” – Albert Einstein
• Business growth isn’t a one-man task—it’s a team working together to move ideas into action
• Self-care is just as important as the daily grind
• Passion for learning beyond comfort zones is what enables growth
Carlyn runs the day-to-day publishing operation here at ideamensch and interacts with our awesome customers and entrepreneurs. She is likely editing this with a cat on her lap.