Karen Waksman knows how to manifest success – from visualization and intention to bank account building reality. She has sold millions of consumer products to the world’s largest retailers and now dedicates her time to helping entrepreneurs market and sell their products to major retail chains, online and brick and mortar alike. We talk sales, mindset and how to manifest the success of your dreams.
Melinda Wittstock: Karen, welcome to Wings.
Karen Waksman: Hi Melinda, excited to be here.
Melinda Wittstock: I am so intrigued with women's startup stories and how they come to do the things they do. Tell me, how did you get into this whole Retail MBA business?
Karen Waksman: It's funny, I never thought … My company, I teach people how to get their products into retail chains like Wal-Mart, Best Buy, Home Depot, Macy's and so forth. I started back in early 2000s, I was actually a rep myself, so I used to sell products to retail chains, and I did that for many years, I was really good at getting products into stores, but I never had ever considered that I'd get into training or education or helping people do it themselves and so forth. I was just a really good rep, you know liked what I did, loved seeing my product on store shelves and so forth. About, I would say, eight years ago, I had one of those lightning bolt moments, have you ever had one of those, where you're on a trajectory and you're kind of like trying to figure stuff out, and then all of the sudden, boom, it's like this moment of clarity?
I got this real moment of clarity that what I had been doing for years, getting products in stores, and all sorts of random products, not just one type, I just saw in that moment this vision that I had a formula that helped me get products into stores no matter what product it was, and no buyer relationships required, it required no selling whatsoever, and it consistently worked every time to get products into stores. I just saw like the vision of the formula and how simple and ridiculous it was, and what I kept doing worked, and so that's how I realized that that's where the formula came from, and that's where I wrote a book on that formula and started sharing with people how to get products into stores.
It came from no interest in education and training to, boom, it made perfect sense. Then I started sharing my little system that worked, and entrepreneurs started getting their products into stores, and it turned into a whole business. I never would have thought that that would have turned into my passion, helping people actualize their dreams of getting their products into stores. That's kind of the essence of it, it came out of the universe, I kind of feel like it was universally inspired, didn't register in my mind, if that makes sense.
Melinda Wittstock: Yeah, that's so awesome though, when you have those lightning bolt moments, because I think people have them, but not everyone acts on them. What did it feel like in that moment to say, “Wow, I've got to do this,” did you just kind of start in that instant, or did you procrastinate at all, or did you just jump in?
Karen Waksman: That's a good question; no one's ever asked me that. I had the ‘aha’ moment, got super excited about the possibility of how many people I could help, because I kept meeting people who made these products and they didn't know how to make money with it. Just the thought of helping them, you know-
Melinda Wittstock: Was motivation enough?
Karen Waksman: Was motivation enough, so the inspiration was there, it made me happy, it made me feel like I could do something in the world, and then shortly after, it turned into like, “Who the hell am I to teach that?”
Melinda Wittstock: You started having the doubts.
Karen Waksman: At first it was magical, amazing, I got inspired, I was super excited and I was like, “Yeah, I'm going to change the world,” and all these things. Then I started realizing like, “No wait, what are you doing? You're not the one to do this, there are people way more whatever than you are,” whatever it was, it started making me panic.
Melinda Wittstock: That's interesting, that is so universal, I think. We get this inspiration in life, we run, we go for it, and then suddenly there's this icky sort of, I don't know, impostor syndrome, or all those old limiting beliefs come out that we didn't even know we had, or even our friends or colleagues who are trying to be helpful, they'll say things like, “Hey, so are you sure? Are you okay?”
Karen Waksman: That is so accurate, because that's exactly what happened to me. Excitement, woo hoo, start panicking, then I always know to essentially ignore the panic, because you've got to do it anyways, right?
Melinda Wittstock: Yeah.
Karen Waksman: I started building out, it started out as an e-book many years ago, and I remember the first time I spoke to a group and shared my information, and that was just tremendously overwhelming. The people who received the information loved it, but there were so many people who came to me who said, “Karen, why are you sharing your secrets, or why would you do that? Nobody wants to learn about it, they just want you to do it for them. What are you doing, why are you wasting your time with this?” It was like two extremes, people appreciated it, but then there was a whole other group who were just pestering me as to kind of like the ridiculousness of the concept of education in that space, make sense?
Yeah, so that was a whole other experience to get over, the fact that not everybody saw my vision, and it was really scary.
Melinda Wittstock: Yeah, that's one of the things about entrepreneurship, is it can be very lonely, because you get this inspiration, by definition you're innovating and doing something new, of course nobody else gets the vision, but we're so social, we see ourselves and our value through other people, so often in that little lonely place where … You've got to be different to be able to go and disrupt something or create something new, but it can be lonely. Like do you ever feel lonely in this?
Karen Waksman: All the time. I shouldn't say all the time now, but there was a period of time, so after I started the business, it took off, like people started asking me to speak at major shows like the Consumer Electronics Show and all these big shows in my world, these are kind of a big deal. For someone who just came out and didn't know what the hell she was doing, was just doing this as a side project for awhile, like just the fact that there were so many opportunities so quickly was really exciting, but then it was constantly like you're out in the world, you're sharing your thing, and one of the things that kept happening to me was I kept exaggerating.
I noticed that about myself, I didn't even know what that was about. I would go out, I would talk about my information and stuff, and then I would find that at the end of the conversation, I would throw in a couple little extra nuggets about how cool I was or this or that, and it was like I didn't even know where that came from because, I don't know, I just never had that issue. Somewhere when I started selling myself and I felt like I needed to interject all these extra things, and you know when you're selling yourself, like information, content, being out there, speaking, selling me, that turned the whole game upside down for me because I was suddenly forced to basically sell myself, not a product, not somebody else's stuff.
That turned into a whole experience of beyond impostor, into like weird behaviors. I mean, there was a lot of magic to it, I mean my life was, there's a lot of beauty, but personally on the inside, you know this wasn't something that I was sharing with anybody, and I certainly wouldn't have shared it on a podcast back then, but I'll share it now after eight years of doing this, and what it overtook in my life. It was startling at first and now I don't have that issue so much, but it really was impactful early on, I felt very weird about my course. I feel like business is the best form of therapy, I learned more about myself during that weird quirky time than anything. I'm like, “What the hell, why did you just say, like where did that come from?”
It was so interesting, yeah, so I learned about myself through that experience, so I know it was important, but it was not magical at the time.
Melinda Wittstock: It is really funny though, this connection between personal growth and business growth. I mean, I've come to the conclusion now just in my own entrepreneurial career having the same moments, and all the women that I talk to on this podcast that personal growth and business growth are one and the same, like you can't really have one without the other, because to grow your business, you need to get out of your own way and confront all of these issues, and surely the business unearths them for you, just the different challenges you have along the way. Then to grow the business, you have to grow personally.
Karen Waksman: Totally.
Melinda Wittstock: It becomes this really interesting journey, and I look back and I think, “Oh my goodness, my life has been my lab.”
Karen Waksman: It's true, it's true.
Melinda Wittstock: When you're selling yourself, this is a really interesting point, because I think this is something that women have a lot of trouble with inherently because we're acculturated to be very much about making everybody else happy and all of that, so sometimes we can get kind of a little bit out of alignment when we feel like okay, so now we've got to sell ourselves, but we feel we have no right to. It's like I had a guest on who said that women often confuse personal branding with personal bragging.
Karen Waksman: Well, that was accurate early on. I mean, again, I was in sales for 20 years, so for me, I never noticed that when I was selling anyone else's stuff. I don't know, for other people, I never felt like I needed to do that, and then all of the sudden it's what kept coming up.
Melinda Wittstock: Well, because it becomes personal, like if it's your own product, it's sort of like your baby, it's part of you. I mean, it's so interesting, I get goose bumps hearing you because I have had so many of those same issues, because the moment where suddenly it's really about you, it brings up all these feelings like, “Are they going to like me?”, oh my God, fear of rejection, fear of failure, fear of success, it's all those little niggles that we get. How did you get out of your own way on that, what were some of the things that you did as soon as you recognized like, “You know, I'm starting to behave a little weird here when I'm selling myself or my business,” how did that first manifest and how did you actually turn that around? Because as you sound now, you look back on it and it's like, “Oh, that's the old me.”
Karen Waksman: That's a really good question. I mean, to be honest with you, so like it kept popping up, and then I was like, I'm the type of person I'll look at it, I won't like it but I'll take a look at what the hell is going on. In my case, I had a really interesting reaction. I kept seeing all these weird quirks in my life, and I was into business, I was into self-help topics, that's about it, you know what I mean? I wasn't like woo-woo spiritual, any of that stuff at all at the time, I mean like up until that age, I was really interested in making money, growing a business, having fun, play, everything else, you know I wasn't into spiritual topics and so forth.
But when all this stuff started happening, I started reading books to try and understand it, I explored just all sorts of different things, and just more and more quirks were showing up, really. That's why I started getting spiritual actually, I started sharing with dear friends who were super spiritual, and they started giving me these books on how to deal with things on an energetic level, because on one hand, I saw what I was doing, on the other hand, I knew it wasn't logical. Then no matter what I did in the physical form, it wasn't really shifting, and so like it was a feeling that I had inside, it wasn't really like some consistent lie or anything, it was just like a feeling inside of uncomfortable things popping up.
I felt like it was something more internal, something more energetic, but I couldn't put the words to it. Actually, this business got me into spirituality and into energy and eventually into a whole other world of stuff that I enjoy now, a whole other spectrum to my personality. Those weird things kept showing up, and so that's when I started learning about energy, and how if you clear your blocks from your past and old patternings and all these things, then you know I started challenging myself to learn about that stuff and started clearing my own blocks and going to spiritualists and learning about things, and it opened up a whole other world, if that makes sense.
Melinda Wittstock: It really does, and you'd be surprised how many successful entrepreneurs are actually on that journey. When you have that aha moment that, “Oh my God, this is a block, or some old belief I have about money that, I don't know, I inherited when I heard my parents argue about it when I was five.” I mean literally, like it comes down to that. What's fascinating to me though, because it's one thing that we talk a lot about on this show is about limiting beliefs and how to clear them and get out of our own way, what's intriguing to me is the energetics. Explain that a little bit more for people listening who are like, “Huh, energetics?”
Karen Waksman: Sure, so I'll explain what happened to me. There was the exaggerations, that went away, and then it was like, okay, every time I have to go, I want to make money, I start getting weird with certain people or I'm attracting certain personalities that I don't understand, or you know it just kept going on, so like the more you grow, the more things that show up in your life, and then the more you're kind of looking at them and so forth. At the time, I was really interested in like how come I can make all this money for people when I sell for them, but then when it's my business, I'm getting stuck in doing the big sales and growing my business in a certain way that I would typically do so easily everywhere else.
I was starting to see all these financial limitations and these blocks and so forth, so that was where I was starting, you know that maybe piqued my interest to learn about stuff like energy. This girl actually brought me this book, it's called The Emotion Code, and so that was the first time I learned about what energy really means. It means that, like the basic premise of the book is you have certain personality traits, or certain things happen in your life as a kid, and basically when something happens to you and it startles you in some way, that energy kind of blocks in your body.
Some weird thing happens to you as a kid, you see your parents fighting, whatever, there's some energetic block that happens in your body, and then it becomes a pattern that anytime that situation shows up, you start behaving the same way, or something like that. I'm not explaining it well, but the basic essence of it is that this book was sharing with me that if there's an issue from your childhood and there's a block in your body, once you release it, then you don't have that problem anymore. It was like a self help tool to clear energetic blocks, so if you're like, “Do I have any blocks related to money?”, and then you start working through it and clearing blocks, and that tells you kind of when that happens, what age and where the cause was, then you release that block. It's actually a book, it's like a step-by-step explaining how to clear that, how to deal with that, if that makes sense.
Melinda Wittstock: Yeah, it does, The Emotion Code.
Karen Waksman: I'll tell you though, about The Emotion Code, it was amazing in that in some sense, so for me, I just wanted a tool, like I wanted just to get to the next level. Of course I'm always at 100 miles an hour, I read the book, I'm like, “Boom, let's do this, okay let's test this out, how do I clear this block?”, you know I went in full force. Now, I'm not normal, I went way too extreme with the book. I cleared so many blocks, because it felt good. I'm also an empath, so I liked the way, once I cleared one block, released of something, I felt lighter. Then so I did it again, and I did it again, and I did it, and I'll tell you that I actually cleared so much that I kind of had this awakening.
I share this with you just because I'm sharing the information about this book, but I'm also letting you know that when you go too far with the book, just be very careful, it can open up a whole new can of worms. Because I cleared a lot of stuff, it evolved into me getting more psychically inclined, all of these things, I think I took it to an extreme. If you're going to read the book and you're going to learn how to clear your own blocks, be very gentle with it. I had to go on this whole tangent into psychic land to learn what happened after I cleared all that stuff. I think I just cleared too much, make sense?
Melinda Wittstock: Yeah. I remember meeting you for the first time a couple years ago, because we were both in the same group, Maverick, this awesome group of entrepreneurs that gets mentioned on the show now and again, and we were just together in Puerto Rico, but two years ago we met in Buenos Aires. You sat down next to me, and I remember asking you just a little bit about yourself, and you said you were a manifester. I was like, “Wow, that's awesome, like a manifester, so like how does that …” I was so intrigued by this ability to have the vision of something that you want or whatever, and be able to attract it, which is such a feminine energy in many was as well, to be able to manifest something. When and how did that first start happening for you? Because it's so cool, people talk about being able to do it, some people can do it with ease, some people like, and this is funny, struggle to manifest, which obviously it's hard to manifest when you're in a struggle.
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Karen Waksman: Yeah, that makes sense, that's true. Actually, I manifest very quickly on the other side, if I'm in a cranky space.
Melinda Wittstock: Oh really?
Karen Waksman: You can manifest both ways; you know really amazing things and then not so amazing things.
Melinda Wittstock: Right, but talk to me about that process, when you first became able to manifest, and give an example of what that looked like.
Karen Waksman: Yeah, I get that. I mean, early on, I think some of us are just more inherently inclined to manifest, like if you've ever learned about human design, if you haven't you can look it up online, human design, and you know so I'm what you call a manifest generator. I feel like just in general in my essence and the way that I've been built I guess, I tend to manifest fairly quickly, so I feel like I don't know if that's just something that I have, or just whatever, but in general in terms of manifestations, I think it actually accelerated when I started clearing a lot. I used to always manifest, I was pretty lucky, I'm a fairly lucky person I feel like, I always eventually got what I wanted, I was pretty successful and stuff like that.
When I got into that whole spiritual stuff and kind of understood alignment a little bit better, I was able to bring stuff in way faster. Like in my life in terms of manifestations, I mean anything from I want to meet Richard Branson, all of the sudden I meet him, not once but twice, you know he shows up at an event, I get to go to another one for free, I mean you know strange things occur for me. I want to start a business and I want it to only be online and I never want to be anywhere, and I just want it to just show up for me, blah blah blah blah blah, and I want it to be exactly this way, and then all of the sudden it'll show up for me, it essentially always ends up happening. Maybe a few curveballs along the way, but it always gets there.
I feel like a lot of aspects, you know I just moved to San Diego recently, I used to live in San Francisco, I had a vision, I wanted a house, it was going to be right on the water, all these things, and so I'm living in that house. How I do that, there's a lot of ways, like endless tools I use. One simple thing I do in terms of manifestation is I actually write down exactly what I want. It started out like I wrote down, I read a book once and they said, “Write 100 things you want to do before you die,” and so I wrote down like 100 things I want to do before I die, and just put the list away somewhere, and then looked back on it years later.
I manifested, like within two years, most of that stuff. I write lists like for that type of long term success, but then over the years I've learned, “Okay, well what do I want to have happen this year?” Then I would start writing out a whole list of things that I want to happen within the year, and I'd write it all out. I'd try to get pretty outlandish, you know like extreme things, because I figured what do I care? If it doesn't happen, it doesn't happen, so I feel like there's a little bit of a free flow with that, like I believe that hopefully most of it will happen, and then I throw in outlandish stuff because you just never know, because why not?
A lot of them, things would occur for me in my life, like I wanted to be in a private jet, so all of the sudden something shows up and I get to be in a private jet, like things like that that you wouldn't typically add to your list, I just wanted to experience it once just to see what it would be like, so I do stuff like that. Now I do lists monthly, so I write down what I want for the month, you know and just write out all sorts of weird things, and hopefully stuff hits. Then I actually do it like sometimes for the week actually. For the week, at the beginning of the week, I write out all these fun things that I want to include on that list, and so the more I do that, the more things are directed toward the fun stuff, because I'm playing with it, it's kind of fun to think about, and then I let it go to the universe.
I think that by directing your beliefs or your interests or whatever in written form, it's really, really powerful, and the fact that I'm playing in that I think helps convert it into actual things. I don't get everything I want, there are certain things that take years and years and years, which I find annoying, but you know that's where you realize that you have blocks or issues or other things that you've got to look at, or past life, I don't know what the hell it is, but you know most of the time, I would say about 70 to 80% of the time, it'll come into physical form.
Melinda Wittstock: This is really interesting, because I think a lot of women in particular, men do this too, but write task lists of all the work they're going to do, because we're all conditioned to do that. They start the week with, “These are all the things that I'm going to do,” but it's not really around the results, and it's not around visualizing the result as if the result has already happened, and often those lists end up being really limiting, like we self-limit.
Karen Waksman: Agreed.
Melinda Wittstock: Because our imagination can't, like we don't even dare to think, maybe it's because, I don't know, on some weird level we think we don't deserve it or something like that. I started experimenting in a similar way, and I remember my first one, and it was such a typical thing to do I think as a woman, is to start small. I started small with, “I'm going to test this visualization manifestation things,” and it was several years back, and I thought, “I'm just going to get the best parking spot,” and I called it, “I'm going to have parking karma.”
Karen Waksman: So cute.
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Melinda Wittstock: I just decided that that was it, like and I had to start really small, like I had a parking karma, and I started with other ones like, “I really want to have fresh flowers around me,” and stuff like that. Anyway, but the parking karma one was funny, because really within a couple of days, and ever since, I get amazing parking spaces, like people want to drive with me, because I always just kind of roll up [crosstalk 00:24:56-
Karen Waksman: That's so cute. That's awesome, so basically all you're doing is focusing on what you want until you build the momentum. There's a book called E Cubed and E Squared, two different books, this woman, that was the whole premise of her book. It was like, “Test out these small things,” and she gives you like a little checklist of things to try, and that builds the momentum. What you did, she actually wrote, that's how it ended up being a bestseller and all sorts of things, but that's exactly what you did, the momentum of that created your reality of the parking spots, that's amazing.
Melinda Wittstock: It is really amazing how that works, and also I got a surprise delivery of flowers, I mean you know just things that you don't necessarily expect. Like you, I had the same thing with Richard Branson, you know I was like, “Yeah, I really would like to meet him,” and I had met him before many, many years back as a journalist, because I used to write about his company. Then it was pretty funny to, on Necker Island, where you were there at the same time, is try and win this kind of crazy race around Necker Island, and ending up trying to win the race, and the last big thing we had to do was jump into the hot tub. I remember rushing, you know like really competitive, entrepreneurial, and rushing like a crazy person in this costume-y cape thing.
Karen Waksman: Yeah, we were all wearing costumes, and we all jumped in a hot tub, I remember that.
Melinda Wittstock: I landed right next to him; it was pretty funny.
Karen Waksman: Yeah, I mean I remember that exactly. Right, I mean because I think that when you allow it to flow and you play with it a little bit, I think it's all about play when you're manifesting. Like I have some friends who say that they've been struggling with manifestation, but the truth is just they're trying so hard, and they're just like waiting for it, waiting for it, like trying waiting, trying not to wait, trying not to hope. Whenever I kind of get into that clogged energy, it doesn't happen for me. That's why going for the big outlandish things, I throw that in the mix all the time, because then it's like I don't even know what's going on, I can't control that, right?
Melinda Wittstock: That's lovely though, that sense of play, because what happens is we can get so stuck on like a task treadmill, or kind of we can get caught in a cycle of manifesting want rather than what we want.
Karen Waksman: Absolutely, and by the way, in my list, I always include, “Something next level epic happens to me,” or things like that, so beyond just specific things. I throw in fun stuff like, you know, “Somebody just showed up and 10X-ed my business,” like just anything that I can think of that it's kind of playful, just amazing little things like that, to what can you throw in that just overall is going to bring you joy into that mix. It's very useful, it works. I think the more play, the better.
Melinda Wittstock: How does this help you get out of really challenging situations? I know that you went through something really, really rough with Retail MBA, where basically your whole identity and your whole business was pretty much copied and pirated. I can't even imagine how you felt when you were going through that. Tell us a little bit about the experience, because I know it happened recently, and how you're coming out of that.
Karen Waksman: The truth is that it was a strange experience. I sell information online, I sell things online, I have a virtual company although I help people all over the globe, and I take pride in my business, it's kind of a love affair. I never really cared about retail, it wasn't really about retail, it's about the fact that somebody would manifest their idea into physical form, and I could just help them kind of flip that switch to make money. For me, it was like this strange thing, you know there were so many things I could have done to make so much more money with the business, but I chose to just keep it in the cleanest way possible that I could think of.
I turned down a lot of opportunities over the years just to make sure that it was going to be great for everybody, a win-win-win. There was a time where these people liked my brand, liked what I did, and just would copy my face, my name, my everything, and just sell as if it's me, and they were just kind of better internet marketers, at least at the time, until I kind of learned how to deal with it. It was really heart-wrenching, and the only thing that came to me during that time, and by the way, you know there was a period where it was really hitting my business hard, you know I had to really take a look at it. People would always say, “Oh Karen, that means you made it, they like you so much they're copying you.” I'm like, “I don't really see it that way, this is my little love affair,” you know I love what I do.
Melinda Wittstock: But it's theft as well, right?
Karen Waksman: It's theft, but it's also bigger than that, because it's like there's just so many levels to it, because I worked so hard on it, I loved it so much, and you know you really have an attachment to it. When that started happening, actually what I thought was, “How did I manifest this?”, that was actually the first thing that came to mind, it wasn't like, “Poor me,” it was like, “Uh oh, I manifested some crap,” you know? Yeah, like, “Where did that come from?”, and where it came from was early on, there was a lot more stress and anxiety than I'm typically used to with business and stuff, because you're building up the business, you don't know what the hell you're doing, you have to learn everything, you've got to learn about internet and this and that and all these things and angles. I came from sales world to all of the sudden all these other, you know starting over basically with new-
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Melinda Wittstock: Suddenly you're learning about funnels, and you're learning about ..
Karen Waksman: Yeah, all this stuff that you never did before, it's like I'm a newbie again after all my years of being good at something. Part of that I feel like was manifestation of that, and the other part of it is like what I eventually figured out, was that it was actually kind of a gift. When it happened, I felt like, “Woe is me, what did I manifest?”, all of these things, I cried awhile, and then kind of had to get over it, because number one, it forced me to look at my business and say, “Do I really love this business?”, because it didn't just happen once, they really tried me a few times. What I'll say is that once I got over the initial weirdness of the whole thing, it forced me to manifest a brand new business much bigger than what I initially would have thought.
Melinda Wittstock: It pushed you.
Karen Waksman: …it pushed me, but also on a manifestation level, all of that energy that I was freaking out about actually spurred into a whole new creative process, because something must occur based off all that intense energy, it was going to occur in another way. Does that make sense? Yes, it spurred me into all, I started doing live events just out of necessity, which ended up being, you know I started doing all these different programs for people, stuff that I never would have done before. I do believe that in the end, there's something else going on beyond manifestation, I think the universe has other plans for you as well, but it did manifest into much more miraculously magical things and more money and more opportunity, and forced me to get on the world, so that I can be the best version of me. Even through all that, I think it did manifest into something way more epic.
Melinda Wittstock: That's so interesting, it reminds me of something, talking to JJ Virgin on this podcast, where she says, “Whenever things are going really, really smoothly,” it reminds her that she's playing too small, because the growth that we have spiritually, personally, and in business, happens when we're outside of our comfort zones, when something in the universe comes and just challenges us to take it up to the next level. Because honestly, have you ever really had a great day where everything's gone really well, and thought about that day, “Oh yeah, I learned so much today”? It's always like the challenging things actually, where-
Karen Waksman: That's my fight with the universe, I like being a lazy, playful, successful, wealthy, chill at the beach girl, and the universe does not seem to want, or maybe some aspect of me, I keep blaming the universe, but maybe we're all in this together. I don't know exactly what it is, but I can't seem to get a break to just enjoy that, so I appreciate the day-to-day, but I don't want that. Whenever I get pulled, it ends up being way better than before, just the intermediate part between my lazy happiness and that chaos, you know it's probably the ultimate vision, but yeah, there's a process there for me.
Melinda Wittstock: Yeah, the universe has a funny way, yeah, like of making you see what you didn't see before, or see from a different view. I think Ping Fu was so interesting talking about this, so she invents 3D printing, and she's had this life that's been up and down, but like just amazing things have happened. She said, and I think this is awesome, the way she put it, is like, “The problem with climbing to the top of the mountain,” like say if you have a destination, “Once you get there, you have one view. To have another view, you have to come back down again.” You've got to climb back up again, so which is why-
Karen Waksman: That's pretty consistent in my life, yes.
Melinda Wittstock: Right, I think most entrepreneurs, I think in most people's lives, but especially in entrepreneurial lives, because by definition we're always inventing and creating and finding some new way to create value, we're always out solving problems, and we're always testing hypotheses. This is an interesting thing, we talk a lot about failure on this show, and to sort of de-stigmatize it, because it's not really failure, it's learning. It's like feedback from your customers, it's like not something necessarily to take personally I guess, only insofar as like what is it showing me about where I have a limited belief, or as you say, like an energy block, things like that. In that case, it's personal, but you know this rollercoaster ride, this up and down, the failure to success, it's just constant.
I think maybe the longer that you do it, the more you're like, “Oh yeah, okay, I can see what's happening here now,” but for someone starting out to begin with, I mean here's an interesting question for an entrepreneur starting out, say, listening to us talk about all of this. Do they have to go through this, or can they learn like, “Oh, you know what, I'm just going to accept this rollercoaster,” or is it just something that you have to, it's uncomfortable for everybody to begin with?
Karen Waksman: I don't know how to answer, because I see some people who had a very different lifestyle, life choice than me, and it was a little bit more smooth sailing. I don't know if some of us are, “I came here to do a lot of extreme things,” and then some of us are kind of a little bit more dispositioned for chill, but I will tell you that with my physical product companies who come to me all day long, I think that the ones that are most successful, and I don't know if I'm going on a tangent here, but the ones that are most successful in the people who are just getting started, who just want to get into, say, Wal-Mart or whatever it is for them, it's not their product that does well. It's got nothing to do with them creating the greatest product in the world or the packaging or whatever.
Actually, it does help, but I would say, I can smell out a person who's going to succeed over another simply by their alignment with joy in the process, they're stoked, they're happy, they're like pumped up, they see the vision within themselves, they're just like ready to go like, “I want this, I'm in,” and that carries them to success. Then I see people who have amazing products who are stressed and angst or whatever or afraid, and they're the ones who kind of block every step of the way for their business and their lives. Somebody will always come to me and bring me a product and say, “What do you think, do you think it'll get into stores?” I'm like, “Look, it's not really about that, it's about you and your personality, and what you're willing to do. I can help you get there,” but I can always feel out the ones that are going to struggle more than others, and it's really about their attitude and the way that they present themselves as they're going through this.
Even if they don't know what they're doing, they're willing to learn, they're in it, they're excited, they're fired up, you know typical things. That's what I see has been the most successful. I think you can bypass a lot of these things if it feels really aligned, ready to go, and so forth.
Melinda Wittstock: Yeah, I think if someone's really joyous, I mean it attracts other people, it makes other people feel good, you want to be around people who feel good. I think this is an interesting thing too, just about being a founder of a company and building a team and attracting the right people and attracting the right clients, I mean if you're in alignment and you have this really wonderful positivity about you, you attract other people who are going to be more like that as well, which is really important.
Melinda Wittstock: Yeah, so in Retail MBA, you work with a lot of women. Right now is a really interesting time, there's some stats that I find so compelling, that 40% of American workers are going to be gig workers by 2020, and by “gig workers”, I mean folks who have just a lot of side hustles, or they go from like gig to gig to gig, really kind of freelancers. Even if they're not full-blown entrepreneurs, they have to be entrepreneurial. Within this, we've seen all these different trends, like the maker culture, you know Amazon is like so huge, people selling products on Amazon, women creating, mostly women, but all that whole Etsy boom and all of that.
With the women that come to you as opposed to the men, do you notice any kind of differences, any areas where women are really crushing it or not, compared to men? What are some of the things that you notice about how women go about this?
Karen Waksman: Yeah, well I mean it's funny that you say that, because when I first started, I always thought my audience was mostly men. For years, I just saw predominately men because it's kind of a male energy and so forth, but then I started doing these live events initially, and 70% of the people who showed up were women, I couldn't believe it. It wasn't just once, it was twice, it was maybe not 70%, like 60% I would say, like the majority were women, which I thought was so interesting. It changed, because it was early on mostly male, and then it shifted to mostly a lot of women. I am constantly seeing women who are powerhouses who, they have regular jobs and they're doing this on the side, or they're sales reps, they want to grow their business or whatever.
I see a huge influx of women pushing through on the physical product side, maybe they created their own cosmetics or whatever, or maybe they're just, you know I'm not saying that women make just cosmetics or anything, I mean all sorts of physical products and stuff, but I just find it interesting that whatever side gig they're doing, they are now kind of expanding and growing and so forth. It's a huge influx of women, and I would say that the real difference is they're more willing to look at education and to dig deeper, I would say. Like the problem with me is that I never, I'm kind of an odd woman, I don't really look at men/women when I look at business, I just look at human and stuff. I don't see the differences, so I'm never looking at that.
I think that I feel blessed to be a woman in business; I think it's a gift, so I'm never really looking at kind of the pros and cons or the differences or anything like that, but I will say that they're just coming in droves. That's kind of fun to watch, and with retail, the cool thing is that it's actually a benefit to be a woman with a physical product for retail chains. That's the other thing, that it's kind of fun to help women navigate that, because most of them don't realize that if you are a woman-owned business and you get certified as a woman-owned business and you have a physical product and you try to get into stores, you can actually become a diverse supplier, and you can basically, you know if there's two products coming to, say, Macy's, one of them is a woman-owned business and one is a company that's just whatever, the woman-owned business will always supersede I would say, unless it's a terrible product.
Essentially, having a certification as a woman advances you to the front, because they're looking for diverse suppliers, they're looking for that supplier for their customer and their audience, if that makes sense. It's actually a benefit to be a woman selling to the retail chains.
Melinda Wittstock: That's really interesting, I think there's so much opportunity right now. Never before have there been so many women coming into entrepreneurship, and we still have these different struggles. I mean, I come at it from this kind of technology entrepreneur, where women really struggled and continue to get the capital that they need from venture capitalists, but that now is being, this year especially, is really being challenged, and there are so many more female VCs even, there are more women writing checks for each other's businesses, there's just much more of an ecosystem. This is all happening this year, as all the “me too” is happening as well. It sort of feels like women are just stepping into their own authentic-
Karen Waksman: I mean, I get it, I just don't experience it at all with the retail products, I mean they're just equally want to make money. [inaudible 00:44:19, there's not a lot of like, you know it's purely like, “Just show me how to do it,” and they appreciate the content, and they just want to get it done. I don't see a whole lot of difference there, make sense?
Melinda Wittstock: Yeah, sure. Let's go back a little bit in time, like what were you like as a kid, were you entrepreneurial as a kid?
Karen Waksman: I was actually, my mom told me that in second grade, there was some thing where we had to start a business in a class, and I took it to a whole other level where not only did I start a business, but I ran everybody else's business in the whole classroom. I enjoyed all aspects of it, and so also I just was fascinated with freedom and financial freedom and success and making money and play, and I just wanted to play a lot, and the only way to do that is, “How do I get more?” I always, at a very young age, was always fascinated with entrepreneurship and learning and exploring new ways of being and stuff like that, I just always liked it, so since an early age, always been my thing.
Melinda Wittstock: That's awesome. As we start to wind down the interview, I'm always interested in like what your top advice is for women, either women who are looking to reinvent themselves in some way, they're a little bit older or they did the whole corporate glass ceiling thing, maybe they had kids, now they want to come back and do something entrepreneurial where they sort of never thought they could before, but now feel more empowered to go that way, also younger women, what would be the top three pieces of advice you would give them?
Karen Waksman: Wow. Okay, so first thing's first, I learned in business that don't listen to people. I love people, but don't listen to them. I adore them, but when it comes to business, you've got to follow your instincts and your heart, and I'll give you examples of that. There was somebody who came to me, and so early on I learned that people liked to buy things from me because they saw a video of mine, I had to learn how to like making videos because when I made a video, I would sell something, and so I had to deal with that, so that was just part of my business. Then there was the whole concept of how do you create a video and stuff, and so I did one with the black background or just my arms cut off and this and that.
I remember there was this one person who was super, super successful, and she had a couple of bestselling books, all these things, and she was just a perfect example of someone who was … Just I always remembered that. Basically she's super successful in the world that I want to be in, and so I believed in everything that she said because she was successful. Basically I showed her one of my videos and she freaked out, and she said, “This is horrible, this is like the worst thing ever. You need to have your arms in, your body,” and like all these things. She was telling me that basically I was ridiculous unless I fixed this. Early on, I would have these videos that were kind of whatever, and then from her, I started changing the videos.
I'll tell you, the original videos that I created from early on before her have still ranked more than anything else ever, and I learned that like a little while later. Then meanwhile, that woman is no longer doing what she's doing anymore as a business, does that make sense?
Melinda Wittstock: It does.
Karen Waksman: I learned, so that was one of the brilliant examples of people who would come to me who would tell me, you know if I would have listened to anybody who told me that my business was ridiculous because nobody wanted to buy education or nobody wanted to learn how to get in stores, they just wanted me to sell for them, I wouldn't have experienced all the magic I've experienced in life. There were so many things that people had opinions about over the years, and I love people, I adore them, but and some people, like you take unsolicited advice, like you can hear them and understand and fix and tweak and that's okay, but ultimately you have to stand your ground and really trust your own belief within yourself. That would be the first thing I would say.
Melinda Wittstock: It really makes so much sense, is to really just trust yourself and your own instincts, and even being able to clear enough, I guess, to be able to even hear your own instincts. Women sometimes get over-advised, and we want to please, there's a lot of people-pleasing going on, so you can so easily lose yourself and really your business. I think that's profound advice, and so really following your instincts. [crosstalk 00:48:45-
Karen Waksman: Also, I mean sorry, not to cut you off, but I also, it happens to my clients a lot. They'll bring me a product, and they said, “Oh, I just talked to this person, and he told me to change my whole packaging, my whole brand, and he didn't like the name, blah blah blah,” and this person had been selling this product for awhile, but then this other person told them to change everything. He was about to do it, and I said, “Listen man, who was the person that's giving you this advice?” Turns out, it was somebody who wanted to sell them something. What happened was, he'd already been making money, it was already successful, it was doing okay, and because someone told them this other thing, he was about to change his whole brand, his own company, his own everything.
Also take a look at who's talking to you and giving you that advice, because sometimes they have their own needs, wants, and desires that might influence you. With him, like I'm so grateful that I was able to capture him in time before he changed his business again, because someone else told him to change it because he seemed like more of an expert. Does that make sense?
Melinda Wittstock: It really does. What I love about your video story just now, is that your original videos were authentic, I mean they were just you, right? They were probably in great alignment, because they had probably much more of a purity about them I guess, I don't even know if that's-
Karen Waksman: Purity, and I mean they're not like my greatest videos or anything, but I think I'm standing in front of the camera, I'm feeling it, I'm doing my thing, whereas then, I'm trying to be something I'm not, and then it turns into a whole other way of being, and so that's where it kind of shifted.
Melinda Wittstock: You were being authentic, and I think being true to yourself is a big part of following your own instincts. What would be advice number two?
Karen Waksman: Advice number two, I would say learn from people who've already kind of done it, who already have experience, whatever it is that you're trying to learn. If you find a topic that you really want to learn about, find somebody who's already done it and has been successful and so forth, because it'll just expedite the process, figure out how to pay them. It's worth it, it's cut down your time, you learn really quickly, you get to the next level in your life. Like for me, there were times where I was stubborn and I didn't want to pay, and I wanted to figure it out myself. I'm like, “No, no, cool, I'll learn this strategy or this strategy, I'll do it myself.” Two years later, I got proficient at that strategy, but it took way longer than it needed to, caused a lot more headache, and if I would have just thrown some money into it, it would have worked out anyways, I would have manifested something even better and stronger and so forth.
I see that with people who come to me with their products, they're like, “No no no, I don't want to pay for education or whatever,” I see them and they come back to me a year or two later consistently because of stuff like that. Just find the people who are doing it, who understand how to do whatever it is that you're trying to do, and then just learn and emulate from them, it really will help you along the way faster.
Melinda Wittstock: Also, people who have done it and are really successful I find tend to be very generous, they're very flattered when you ask them. You go to the person who's the very, very best at the thing you want to do, and often that person is going to be really generous, especially if you can create a little bit of a give forward or some value for them as well.
Karen Waksman: Absolutely, absolutely.
Melinda Wittstock: Yeah, and what would be number three?
Karen Waksman: Hang out with people who are way more successful than you, and I know that that's so common and obvious, but I'll give you an example of that. I always thought that I was doing okay, and then I joined this group, and then there's one girl who told me that her husband owned an entire town, and basically they just bought all the houses in the town. I was like, “You own a whole town, basically?”, and I was looking at her and it never would have computed in my brain to think about doing that, and I understand the strategy behind it after talking to her, you know it was at a time that people were losing their homes and stuff, and they were able to leverage and support that town and all these things.
Ultimately, it was so far beyond my computation to even think about that as a possible viable business, that I never would have even grasped that, but by spending time with somebody who doesn't even think it's a thing, it was so cool to me, like what else am I not seeing? It's really important to, like people always say, “Well, I don't know where to find these people, I don't hang out with them.” Search for that, dig for that, pay for that, spend your time around that. It changes your brain and your way of thinking and your way of being, and it really, every time I do that, it shifts everything in my life beyond what I ever dreamed possible.
Like when I went to Branson's island, I'll just use him as an example again, you know I'm hanging around with all these super successful people, we're there, and then he blew my mind at the way that he exists on the planet, and how he can live on an island, and the way that he shows up super happy and in love and in joy and all these things, and he creates a new business every 90 days, and all these things. Like and the way he does it seems pretty actually methodical and consistent and not that complex, you know it's complex, but not like somebody else couldn't do it, and just stuff that I never would have thought of, had I not seen it for myself.
I guess my point in sharing that with you is just to, you don't know what you don't know, and so just keep seeking that and keep looking for that, and keep trying to talk to people who are like that, and just be authentic with them and say, “I really want to get to know what you're up to,” and people are very nice. That's what I would say there.
Melinda Wittstock: This is amazing advice, Karen, and thank you so much. What's next for you? When you think of, say, the next five years, the next 10 years, and all that you do to manifest everything that you want, where are you going next, what's inspiring you?
Karen Waksman: You should see my list.
Melinda Wittstock: I would like to see your list.
Karen Waksman: It changes constantly. I mean, by the way, before I go on a trip, I create a list of what I want to have happen on that trip, and it mostly happens. I love these things; it's really fun for me. What's really for me is it's scaling, it's really getting the word out to more people, and to just let the world know of what I'm up to and stuff. I feel like for a long time, I was getting the word out, but I think on a limited scale. Part of it was I just wanted a certain lifestyle, part of it was just for various reasons and certain things that were going on in my life, and I feel like this next few years is all about sharing my message with the world in a much larger scale, and to really help more people, and I don't know, just help as many people as I possibly can in whatever that looks like, whether or not it's through forcing myself to do more videos, more training, getting out there, speaking, and being more alive and being more present, to doing stuff on TV and shows and events, and really stretch myself, because I think that people deserve to accelerate with their business, and it's time to just play a bigger game.
That's a lame answer, but that's just where I'm at and what I'm trying to do with my business, but that just really requires me being out in the world more so than I have, and stretching myself a little bit, because I tend to get lazy and play. I feel like moving forward, I think I have a mission, so got to get that mission out there.
Melinda Wittstock: You do have a mission, and definitely not lame.
Karen Waksman: Well, some people, you know, “Oh yeah, I want to grow like this, there's no way,” you know but it's not really about growth, it's about love. We were just at an event, and you were there, and somebody shared something that was so lovely. Basically what he was saying was, basically the whole premise of the conversation was that getting your message out more brings more love into the world and cherishes more people and supports more people, and how can you help? I feel like, I don't know, it profoundly got me to think about the fact that it's not just a business and me going out and speaking and getting people to know about me and making money or whatever, it's really more about how can I step up my game in love, and love and helping you wherever you are in your business and in your life?
I tend to do business and then go run away and go do my own thing, but can I push that outward in a way that's authentic and loving, and just create a clear message to a larger audience just in the name of love, if that makes sense?
Melinda Wittstock: I love what you said about coming from a place of love, and I think the entrepreneurs who are creating amazing things in the world really do have that motivation. That's why instead of saying things like “giving back”, it's more like “giving forward”, when you go and help people and create value, like amazing things happen. I love to hear stories from that perspective.
Karen Waksman: Yeah, I mean it just really resonates with me, because at the end of the day it's so easy to get caught up in the weeds of your business, but if you really look at it from a perspective of, “Let's do this, how can we support one another? We're all in this together,” so I really believe that if you have any sort of a message, you should share that, and just open your heart to how you can help others in ways beyond what feels comfortable for you, and it always comes back in dividends.
Melinda Wittstock: Well, it's always so magical talking to you, Karen.
Karen Waksman: It's magical talking to you as well; you're my sunshine.
Melinda Wittstock: You are mine. I just want to, anyone who, you know women with physical products who want to work with you, how can they do that, how can they contact you?
Karen Waksman: Sure, so again, my company is called Retail MBA, you can check out my website, retailmba.com. We have training programs, we do live events, we have all sorts of things related to getting your products into stores, there's free content on there if you want to figure out if going after chain stores is the right thing for you. Yeah, retailmba.com, and I'm happy to help you, and my phone number and email and everything is on that site as well.
Melinda Wittstock: Okay, that's fantastic, and we'll have all that in the show notes as well. Karen, thank you so much for a great interview, it was delightful to talk to you.
Karen Waksman: That was delightful to talk to you too. Bye everyone, thank you.