It's no secret that being a woman is challenging. Navigating the infamous old boys club culture leads to bigger challenges of balancing societal norms and expectations women face. Because of this, minority women founders must take care of themselves and receive the support and inspiration to continue blossoming on their entrepreneurial journeys.
Trudy Armand had this in mind when she created HER-MINE. Their women-owned subscription wellness boxes remind women to practice self-love and self-care. For example, the beautifully packaged HER-MINE Deluxe Box has everything from beauty products to candles, jewelry, journals, tea bags, snacks, and more—curated by women with powerful stories working to improve the world one small step at a time. HER-MINE pays homage to Trudy's aunt, a pillar in their family (and community). They honor her legacy, love, and commitment to always do the right thing and live on her own terms.
What fears did you have along the journey?
Trudy's worried that the boxes weren't sustainable, that they wouldn't be able to fill them and keep things fresh. Regardless of her fears, she went forward with it, and now 100 vendors later, they are going strong and moving into the B2B space.
What's the biggest risk you've taken?
"I've taken a lot of risks—you know I take risks all the time on our vendors. And that's something that I don't know it's necessarily as visible a risk because our reputation, some of it hinges on their ability to have a quality product, in addition to delivering things on time," said Trudy.
There have been moments when vendors had ghosted HER-MINE, which cost them revenue, the product, and the time.
So tell us about any major setbacks and how you recovered.
Trudy said, "In business, things always happen." At the beginning of HER-MINE's journey, creating something new monthly for the subscription boxes stressed her out. One of her advisors suggested that she keep the same themes each month, but the items might differ. It didn't dawn on her to do that. This is why mentors and advisors are crucial on the journey.
Another challenge that HER-MINE faced was the question of how to scale with limited resources. Despite the excitement and the optimism, there are concerns about whether they have enough resources to scale. Currently, they need warehouse space. They are also adding B2B to their business model, which means larger orders—she's concerned about fulfilling them.
She said, "And I think it was the CEO of Black Enterprise who said that that is one of the biggest fail points for businesses, the ability to take advantage of the opportunities to scale.
Sometimes the opportunity will present itself, and you cannot take it. You cannot perform because you don't have the resources. And I'm trying to make sure that we are prepared because we see it coming. But how can we make sure that we're ready to take on those opportunities?" Trudy doesn't just look at how HER-MINE performs but also how their vendors can perform.
What are you most proud of when it comes to HER-MINE?
Trudy is proud to have kept her aunt's legacy and memory alive. Her aunt went against the state of Florida zone ordinances that prevented her and her husband from gardening in front of her yard. After six years of fighting, Hermine finally could plant vegetables in front of her home (where most of the sun was). HER-MINE is proud that they kept her aunt's memory alive.
She said, "We have been featured in different publications, PR, and things like that. And I've been a speaker in different things. So I get an opportunity to tell her story. And then the other piece is connecting with women. Each time I speak to a female vendor, we talk about their story, why they started, making those connections, and seeing them grow. All of those things make me really, really proud."
Describe what it was like preparing for the pitch competition.
Trudy didn't have any issues with public speaking or doing interviews, yet she was nervous. She said, "For some reason, the idea of pitching our business just threw me for a loop. It really did. And it was the most stressful few weeks leading up to it. It was almost like giving birth, right? So you knew it was coming, you had to do it, but you knew there was going to be this piece in between to get it there.
The BGV group is really, really great about trying to help you not get stressed out and helping you to practice and all those amazing things. So I'm glad for that because it could have been a different situation, like, here's the date, show up that time, be ready to go. And that wasn't the case. They really are very supportive.
There's so much emotion tied to this brand or this part of our business that I have to balance the two. And I always worry about going too far away from our story. We could just be a product, explain the product and the vendors, and so forth. But also to stay true to my aunt and her memory."
Trudy appreciated the opportunity to share her story, tell people about the products, and of course, winning. When it came to crowdfunding, this was a challenge for her. She's private on social media, but she knew she needed her community to support them. Thankfully, her husband has a large family, so she relied on her friends and family to spread the word. She was surprised by the outpouring of support.
HER-MINE plans to use the pitch funds for a new website B2B ready and some towards a flexible physical space. Although she would need more funds for a warehouse, she plans on allocating the funds strategically.
What's the most critical lesson that you've learned about business?
Trudy said, "Grit, growing and learning through experiences. So it's one thing to expect that everything will go well, or you get dissuaded when things don't go well. But what I've learned in almost ten years that we've been doing the e-commerce side is that there's always a lesson. I think one of the things that we don't do as well with is, looking at how far we've come."
Trudy continues expressing more appreciation for the journey, from not knowing how or what to do to yet she learned so much about being a business owner. She reminds herself to remain grateful for where they are versus where they want to be.
Support isn't always given to Black and Brown women in business; when has this shown and hurt or disappointed you the most?
Trudy said, "I don't know if it's ever been overt, right? I'm sure there have been opportunities that we've not gotten or customers who may have discovered that we are a Black female-owned business and decided not to buy with us. Because we haven't gone for traditional funding, we haven't been denied a loan in terms of financing.
I think one of the things that we do is to continue to support—women, especially, you know, Black and Brown women, as business partners. I think the ability to execute and be professional and show up and be great business partners has been a source of some disappointment for me as far as within our own community.
There have been times when we have specifically selected a professional that is a Black and Brown woman because we want to reinvest our money in our community, and that has not always turned out the way we had hoped. Not to say that it would've turned out any differently with someone of a different race or gender, but I think it's a little more disappointing for us when we specifically seek each other out and we don't perform."
What is an important skill or asset you need to succeed in business?
Resiliency is a necessary skill for an entrepreneur. Trudy recognizes that it's not easy to keep going, especially when circumstances show you otherwise. But she encourages entrepreneurs to remember their why and to keep going.
What's the most exciting part of your business?
Trudy is in love with the creative process and making everything look beautiful. She becomes excited to hear that when people open their boxes, they love them. She enjoys creating the graphics and the labels so her customers can truly enjoy the experience. Her customers will often send screenshots of how much they love the boxes.
If you and I were meeting three years from now, looking back, what would it take for you to feel over the moon about your progress?
Trudy said, "To be over the moon would be to continue to see that we are helping women businesses to grow. There's nothing more fulfilling than to see some of the vendors we've worked with and where they are now versus where we started with them, and so to really see that part of it, our mission, our ability to give back has continued to grow, and for that to happen, we would've had to have grown."
HER-MINE plans to have a commercial space and an incubator to help small business owners grow their businesses.
How do you measure success?
Success for Trudy would mean reclaiming some of the time she's been spending on the business. She has begun to recognize the importance of creating a more work-life balance. Now, she's slowly implementing more boundaries so that she can pull away and take care of herself. It's a double-bind for her because she preaches self-care, yet she's finding it challenging to create more self-care practices.
What do you think the future holds for Black and Brown women entrepreneurs?
Trudy said, "Oh my God. It's been so exciting to see the investment in Black and Brown women, businesses, and resources. There are so many resources out there that we have become aware of in the last, I would say, probably a year or so ago that we don't even have—especially since I do a number of different things.
I don't have enough hours in the day to at least try and tap into some of these different programs and opportunities. And so it's really exciting to see that a number of different programs and funds are becoming available. The diversity initiatives and the companies are now more of a focus. It's something that we can continue to nurture and take advantage of. So I think the future is really, really encouraging.
For example, opportunities like BGV and the fact that companies are supporting BGV, again, it's really exciting to see, and my hope is that it's sustained, that it's not just kind of the 'thing' right now. If that indeed is not, if it's not just the 'thing' right now, then I think we have amazing opportunities to continue to grow and really break through that ceiling.
Running a business while balancing a personal life can be demanding and taxing. How do you take care of yourself?
Trudy already identified that she could improve her work-life balance. However, she meditates and steps away throughout the day, even to simply go outside for a few minutes. She loves connecting with her mother. Working together has allowed them to deepen their relationship.
What is your favorite quote or mantra?
"F*** it, and keep it moving."
What is a book and podcast that you would recommend?
Book: Called to Speak Lead & Impact by Wendi Blum & Patricia Wooster
Podcast: I Survivor
What's your favorite business hack or app that you can't live without?
Name one food item you have a hard time saying no to.
What's next for HER-MINE?
HER-MINE is adding the B2B business model and will collaborate with companies and other corporations. They will create evergreen boxes and curate a compilation of their most popular boxes.
Any last words…
Trudy shared, "It's grown beyond just the opportunity and pitching, but also some other things that have been coming up since then. Last week I had an opportunity to pitch to Apple.
So it is really exciting to see some of the things that I had no clue about. I'm grateful for all the opportunities, not just in BGV; I've met some amazing women over the journey, women that inspire me. It's always so great to hear the stories—the why they started their businesses, and it's so varied.
I'm just grateful that my aunt was a catalyst for this journey. Unfortunately, she's not here to see it. I'm just so grateful."