Theresa Majeed is a lawyer turned entrepreneur with 20+ years of experience in contracts and licensing in the entertainment, fashion, and sports’ industries. She is currently the co-founder, along with her husband, at Rise Sport, a manufacturing company which launched with licensed eyewear collections with the NBA, NHL, and MLS. Theresa serves as the President of their company’s independent art sunglasses brand, RiseAD and is responsible for securing strategic brand and corporate partnerships. At the beginning of her entrepreneurial journey, Theresa ran her own boutique law firm while starting an independent music label which produced two #1 hit singles in Europe and licensed its music in more than 25 countries.
StarCentral magazine recently caught up with Theresa and here’s what went down:
When did your entrepreneurial flair first reveal itself?
I grew up watching my parents work so hard to provide me with all the things they couldn’t even dream about when they were growing up. They afforded me the luxury of dreaming of becoming an entrepreneur from the very young age of 8, when I started my first snow cone pop-up. However, if you’re asking when I first knew I was destined to be an entrepreneur, I would have to say after I graduated from law school and decided to hang up my solo practice shingle without knowing how to run a business, and feeling an indescribable anxiety, which sometimes manifested as a pain in the pit of my stomach when I was able to meet and exceed the expectations I set for myself. This was the anxiety, that I would later read in a book authored by a seasoned CEO, one feels when they’re doing something they really want to do. Apparently, not all anxiety is bad, and if you don’t feel some anxiety then it’s probably not that important to you.
How did your life look like before being an entrepreneur?
Since my entrepreneurial journey started in my twenties, I don’t really remember anything before, except being in school and thinking like most students that I would graduate and start a corporate job or go to law school and then work for a firm. But never in my wildest dreams did I envision starting my own law practice shortly after graduating.
As an entrepreneur, what is it that motivates and drives you?
What motivates me is proving to myself that I can build a business that’s sustainable, and the desire to show people who look like me that it’s possible.
In one word, describe your life as an entrepreneur and explain why.
Rewarding is the word. As an entrepreneur and small business owner, I’ve had the opportunity to meet and connect with so many different people, small business owners and independent brands that have shared interests in working together to build impactful ventures.
What were your top three motivations for starting your business?
Necessity…Necessity…And my desire to bring more color to the eyewear industry. I’ve always loved sunglasses and have been an avid wearer for as long as I can remember. Some of my college friends recently reminded me of the many times I was late because I had to return to my dorm to get my sunglasses – I couldn’t leave without them. Before launching our company, I owned more than my share of sunglasses. But I noticed, although they were from various brands, they were basically variations of the same styles in the same monochromatic colors – black or brown and sometimes tortoise. For me, this was an opportunity to help fill the color and design void.
What would you say are the key elements for starting and running a successful business?
Doing research about the industry you’re getting into, knowing your target market, knowing your strengths and weaknesses, and creating the right strategic partnerships, especially in spaces where you may be weaker.
What are the biggest challenges you have faced growing the business and how did you overcome them?
When I first started my entrepreneurial journey, the biggest challenge was getting clients to take me seriously as a lawyer. They would often mistake me for “Theresa’s secretary” because they said I looked too young to represent them. I had to overcome this by asserting my legal knowledge, while working twice as hard to win their confidence.
After starting our eyewear company, one of the biggest challenges was getting proof of concept for our eyewear brand without having a physical store. We were able to overcome this challenge by doing pop-ups in other retail locations in different cities. By doing this, it allowed us to introduce our brand, and get customers to understand the uniqueness of our art sunglasses and how they were distinctive from other brands.
What form of marketing has worked well for your business throughout the years?
Our collaborations have worked well for us. When we collaborate with artists or brands, it allows us to combine our markets and create and share marketing content while gaining additional exposure.
As you grew the business, what have been some of the most important leadership lessons you have learned?
One lesson that stands out is not all opportunities are worth pursuing, because you don’t want to spread your net too wide. And if they are worth it, don’t immediately jump headfirst, but take some time to process it and do a bit of planning before implementing. So many entrepreneurs I’ve met want to immediately rush to do the work. However, without taking time to yourself and talking it out with your team, no matter how small the team, you will waste a lot of your sweat equity and time doing things that don’t convert into sales.
What is the best advice you have ever been given?
To slow down, trust myself and work with what I have; because we often overlook the knowledge, resources, and relationships directly in front of us.
What advice would you give to a newbie Entrepreneur setting up their first business?
Don’t quit your day job until you’re sure you can replace your salary, or at least create a livable salary for yourself. And, if possible, learn as much as you can about your industry while someone else is paying you before you venture out on your own. Also, seek opportunities to be a mentee or become an apprentice to an expert in the industry.