There is no such thing as an overnight success.
For many new entrepreneurs that were highly successful in their previous 9-5 life, this statement may be a little hard to sink in because you’ve lived that #girlboss life. You’ve been on top. You’ve led high-performing teams, and have helped your company increase their revenue and improve operations.
However, making the pivot to entrepreneurship is no easy feat.
From making strides in corporate America for over a decade for one of the leading manufacturer and marketer of home appliances to scaling her own successful company, Psyche Terry can attest that the journey to success was no easy walk in the park.
With the help of education, personal connections, the backing of her previous career knowledge and experience, and honestly, just being creative, scrappy, and hard-working, Psyche has built her family-owned company to a multi-million dollar enterprise.
Psyche’s company, UI Global Brands, is a global manufacturer and nationwide marketer of consumer products. UI Global Brands is mostly known for its skincare brand, Urban Hydration, that’s sold in approximately 9,000 U.S. retail locations, including Macy’s, CVS, HEB, Sally Beauty, and Target. Prior to launching the Urban Hydration brand, Psyche was known for being a game-changer in the intimate apparel market. As being the creator and designer of the first-ever designer G cup bra for sale at Walmart locations across the U.S., Psyche led Walmart in not just larger sizes but also its first insertion of different shades of brown bras for women of color.
When she is not running UI Global Brands, Psyche leads a global partnership with WATERisLIFE and has helped areas stricken with water scarcity around the world.
In a recent chat, Pysche gives us intimate details on her journey to entrepreneurship, her experience with making the largest pivot in her business, the lessons she’s learned about building a company culture, and so much more.
Her Agenda: What inspired you to become an entrepreneur?
Psyche Terry: The ability to control my own destiny is what inspired me [to become an entrepreneur].
I have a 12-year career history in marketing and sales in corporate America and I’ve worked for the same company really since I was in high school. I was in an internship program, initially, that led over into a corporate role. I was in a role similar to what you would see in one of those fast-paced movies – you know in the skirt, in the corporate office, just making it happen. However, I later realized that I needed X degree to get to X place, and I wanted X seat. During this time, a lot of questions begin to surface for me, like how do I make a difference? How will I make a difference? And just overall, am I doing what I love? Can I be in charge? Those questions really made me want to make my own thing happen.
The ability to control my own destiny is what inspired me to become an entrepreneur.
Her Agenda: What happened after you decided entrepreneurship was the right path for you?
Psyche Terry: I built out a trajectory. I remember in my first home, up the stairs, I had really large, life-size, post-it notes on the wall. The notes talked about what I wanted in my life, and specifically what my goals were. I remember one was to either be a CEO of a nonprofit organization, to be a CEO period, or to be a vice president. If you notice, pretty much most of those goals leaned into being a CEO. I used those post-it notes to help show me my path to those things. It showed me that I needed to get a master’s degree, that I needed to understand business, specifically retail in my case. I needed to understand the buyer and seller, marketing, communications, and product creation. I used those things to really catapult myself into creating my own destiny.
I ended up telling my boss at that time that I wanted to eventually become the vice president in the company that I had been working at for 12 years and had built over $20 million of business for them. My boss told me, “Well Psyche, things like that don’t happen to people like you, or even to people like me.” At first, I took that as it’s a woman or a race thing. But then after he said “or people like me” I realized that it was a small-minded thing and I knew it was time for me to get out there and create my own path.
Her Agenda: After you decided you wanted to become an entrepreneur, what really helped you get your foot in the door?
Psyche Terry: What really got my foot in the door with entrepreneurship was probably my master’s degree and the Macy’s entrepreneurship program that I participated in. Both helped me understand entrepreneurship, get more connected, create my brand, and taught me how to execute on my ideas.
Her Agenda: How did your experience working for your previous company for 12 years influence you to be the leader you are today?
Psyche Terry: I like to look at things like trees. My last job was definitely the root, because it taught me the foundations of business. It gave me my business acumen. It taught me what’s acceptable and not acceptable in the business world, and it allowed me to create a business that operates like a corporation, but under a small business route.
Her Agenda: During this journey of growing your company into a multi-million dollar empire, what would you say has been the most challenging aspect and what did you learn from it?
Psyche Terry: I think one of the biggest learning curves that I experienced was going from corporate America to starting a small business, you get accustomed to certain ways. When you start your business, you realize that you are everything in the company, and sometimes you may not be good at everything. It was a real bright, wide awakening that some of my business acumen wasn’t as strong as some of the departments that supported me when I was in corporate America.
Her Agenda: How did you finance your business in the very early days?
Psyche Terry: In the beginning, I did not even pay myself, and I learned the hard way and the most costly way, which is in debt. I learned the credit card way; using my credit cards to finance my company, as well as emptying my savings account, and my 401k. All the funding that I had personally saved up in retirement, I cashed it out to make the business happen. And even still, I was unable to pay myself. A lot of bartering took place, and relationship handshakes took place as in if I do this for you, you do this for me. That’s really the way that funded and financed my business in the beginning.
Her Agenda: When you first started your company, what strategic steps did you take to launch?
Psyche Terry: I focused on getting in the right room, being at the right tables, and asking the right questions. I always like to say, “right people, right place, right time, equals the right thing.” Truly, that’s what happened to us. In some cases, we weren’t all the way what we wanted to be, or what retail or customers wanted us to be. But we were in the right places to learn the right way, and we chose to just fight for learning and executing better.
Her Agenda: When you first started pitching to different stores, what did that look like? Did you have any mentors that helped guide you along the way?
Psyche Terry: The mentors that I used were folks that I read about – people that had done it, and small businesses that had started and had been successful. That gave me the gumption of understanding it can be done. Also, I had 12 years of corporate experience in retail, manufacturing, and marketing, so this was really what I was trained to do. Because of that, you can almost unfairly say that I had a little bit going for myself in this area of learning how to talk to retailers. However, I didn’t know how to pitch a business. I didn’t know how to pitch my particular product to a particular audience. I learned how to do that with some of the mothers of my church. At my church events, I had opportunities to sit behind a table, and ask people to buy my products. That was the most real-life world experience that I learned on how to talk to the customer about my product, and how to then take that same information that got their interest to a retailer.
Her Agenda: Looking back, is there anything you would do differently in regards to funding your business?
Psyche Terry: We got to a point where we so strapped on cash that we asked a friend if we could borrow money, and pay her back within 30 -60 days. The friend told us “yeah,” and we walked in the bank that same day.
I wouldn’t change anything that I’ve done to finance the company, because of those types of relationships that I built. Those types of relationships helped me to be successful. Those hard days that I went through taught me how to be creative, and how to make money out of nothing. I learned how to get really get creative to fund myself. I remember giving house parties with products, and giving away half of my products to my church, and then being able to sell the other half. I remember going door to door to local nail salons asking them to try my sugar scrubs, because I knew they were doing pedicures with some type of sugar scrub. To me, it’s really about that hustle and that creative measure of how bad you really want.
Those hard days that I went through taught me how to be creative, and how to make money out of nothing. I learned how to get really get creative to fund myself.
Her Agenda: You started your business selling lingerie and skincare products but eventually pivoted towards just selling skincare. What can you share about the journey of pivoting that other entrepreneurs might not be aware of?
Psyche Terry: I remember customers clear cut cursing me out on social media because I was making them walk away from the best bra that they had in their life. However, the best-focused approach for us was to choose one lane.
I think for folks that are not understanding the idea of pivoting, I would tell them that you have to get to the point where you get towards that fork in the road, and realize that there is no road. You have to realize that if you’re going to keep walking down that path, you’re going to fall off.
Unfortunately, the biggest issue with Black-women owned businesses is that they’re the fastest to start, but they are also the fastest to fail. I think a lot of that is because we’re not willing to pivot. When we see problems blaring in our face, we keep thinking that we’re going to make the thing happen no matter what. But sometimes the fork in the road is trying to tell you to make it happen somewhere else, because there are other things that are working for you. And that’s what happened with us and where we were. We had to be really conscious about what was working, and what was going to take much longer to work. We decided to respond to our loudest opportunity.
Unfortunately, the biggest issue with Black-women owned businesses is that they’re the fastest to start, but they are also the fastest to fail. I think a lot of that is because we’re not willing to pivot. When we see problems blaring in our face, we keep thinking that we’re going to make the thing happen no matter what.
Her Agenda: What are some things that you wish that you would have known before becoming an entrepreneur?
Psyche Terry: I wish I would have known how to be a better manager. I think one of the things that we don’t consider as minority, women-owned companies is we’re not just businesses or brands, but we have to lead people once we get to a point of scale.
One of the things that we don’t consider as minority, women-owned companies is we’re not just businesses or brands, but we have to lead people once we get to a point of scale.
I remember I used to tell my team, I couldn’t carry my business, my baby, by myself any longer. My baby went from a nursing baby, to she’s crawling, to she’s literally walking, but I’m still carrying her. What I had to learn is, how to bring in nannies, how to bring in other schools, how to work with the educators in the community, and the different people that come along with helping nurture that baby. If I would have known how to be a better manager upfront, I think we would be in a different place now. I think I’ve been through about four teams of people. I say that initially as an embarrassed business owner, but then I remember that corporate doesn’t really teach you how to start a business, or manage people. You learn people from people, and I had to learn those best practices on people. Unfortunately, it’s so tough; it’s so hard because people are people.
Her Agenda: What are your thoughts on developing company culture in the beginning?
Psyche Terry: It’s very important to focus on company culture. For me, it was important to understand the importance of company culture, and in hiring people that match my culture. But in order to even recognize what my company culture would be, I had to recognize my own culture. I had to understand what I like and don’t like, what I stand for, what I value and don’t value, and what I honor. The minute I was able to understand and take in all of that information, I was able to sculpt what culture personally looked like, and hire at least one more person that matched that. Once I got a really good feel of that one person, I knew I wasn’t crazy and that someone had the same beliefs. I had to create that culture, and see it in another person. Now I could hire more people after that, and I have a culture within my company,
Her Agenda: What is a quote that you live by?
Psyche Terry: The quote that I live by that has helped my company to be successful, and my family life as well is “you’ve got to earn it to own it.” My kids will tell you that I always tell them that, and it’s really been the trajectory of what I put together. It’s been what I’ve done, and why I’ve worked so hard. Where I’m from, it doesn’t just get handed to you. Where I’m from, you’ve got to earn it. Because I want to own it, I understand that I’ve got to put in the work to get there.
[Editor’s note: This interview has been edited for length and clarity.]