Create & Cultivate 100: Small Biz: Hunter Bell

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There is nothing that motivates designer Hunter Bell the way fashion does. Even before she was announced the winner of NBC’s hit show “Fashion Star,” she always knew she was destined to design her own clothing line. It was only a matter of time.

Her entrepreneurial spirit motivated her to intern for fashion icons like Rebecca Taylor and Nanette Lepore while studying fashion design, which led her to work as an assistant designer. Inspired by what she had picked up on the way, she started saving up capital to start her own clothing line. Since then, she started her own clothing brand (which was picked up by Saks Fifth Ave), won “Fashion Star,” and relaunched and rebranded her line as Hunter Bell, which is carried by over 75 high-end specialty stores nationwide (NBD).

Bell was able to fulfill her lifelong dream with sheer dedication, work ethic, and confidence. The journey can get rough, but her tips are simple: know what you want, go after it by working hard, and don’t stop till you get there.

How did you make your first dollar and what did that job teach you that still applies today?

I grew up in an entrepreneurial household where my parents ingrained in me a strong work ethic. At a young age, I started applying for odd summer jobs which taught me early on that money doesn't grow on trees. Also, make yourself indispensable at any job.

Take us back to the beginning—what was the lightbulb moment for your business and what inspired you to pursue this path?

I grew up in the theater watching my mother perform on stage in musicals as a child and teenager. My sisters loved being on stage, and I was always intrigued by the costume department downstairs in the basement of the theater. Watching the seamstress create costumes excited me, and I found myself loving the fabrics and trims that occupied the costume room. I was always interested in fashion at a young age as I was always begging my mother to check me out of school to go shopping pretty regularly.

I knew going into college that I wanted to major in interior design or fashion design. I actually started out majoring in interior design, and quickly realized one semester later, I wanted to study fashion design. In college, I moved to NYC twice during my summers to intern for designers I really admired like Nanette Lepore and Rebecca Taylor. During my senior year interning for Rebecca Taylor, and I had a pinch myself one moment when the sun setting over the Hudson River while I watched Rebecca and Beth (her business partner) in a fitting. Immediately, I knew I wanted to own a clothing line one day. In 2003, I moved to New York City and worked as an assistant designer for almost three years before launching in 2006.

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Entrepreneurship is all about taking calculated risks. What’s the most pivotal risk you’ve taken, and how did it change your path?

Investing in a strong e-commerce platform one year before COVID. We couldn't have survived the pandemic had this side of the business not existed. 

What career mistake has given you the biggest lesson?

Selfish desires.

2020 presented everybody around the globe with new, unprecedented challenges. How did you #FindNewRoads + switch gears towards your new version of success?

We started communicating with our customers more on social media and engaging with them daily. Additionally, we invested more money into our online platform. 

When you separate yourself from your job title and the bells and whistles of your business or career, who are you and what do you like to do?

I am a devoted wife and mother. I work hard growing this business and sacrifice time away from my family. When I’m not working, there is nothing better than being a mom and having quality time with my children. My husband and I love to travel and see the world. 

How have you remained true and authentic to who you are and what advice can you share for women who are struggling with that? 

Trust your intuition; it never lies.

For those who haven’t started a business (or are about to), what advice do you have?

Do not wait to hire strong employees. Be prepared to work hard. 

What's the one productivity tip or work hack that truly changed your life? 

  1. Done is better than perfect. 

  2. Time is money. 

  3. Delegate, so you can focus on higher-level thinking. 

What is the #1 book you always recommend and why?

The Thank You Economy by Gary Vaynerchuk. I’m a fan of his books. He has a way of inspiring me and pushing me as a business owner.

If you could go back to the beginning of your career journey—with the knowledge you have now— what advice would you give yourself?

It’s going to be a hard journey, but in the end, you are equipped to move forward when difficulties arise. It’s not the end of the road for your business, these challenges and setbacks will only make you stronger and wiser in the end. 

Fill in the blanks:

To be successful, you need to be…

Persistent, humbled, passionate, benevolent. 

I turn bad days around by…

Focusing on the blessings rather than the negatives.

If I wasn’t in my job now…

I would be at home with my kids. I miss them when I leave them in the mornings.

Three qualities that got me to where I am today are…

Passion and my family telling me I can do anything I put my mind to. 

My perfect day begins with

A good night of rest and waking up (not rushed to get out the door) at home with my precious family.

 

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