Richard Henne

CoFounder and Risk Manager, Ivory Ella LLC

Ivory Ella is a lifestyle brand that has experienced rapid growth. My journey has allowed me to fine tune my entrepreneurial skills, while bringing meaning to a brand that consumers can proudly support. In less than two years, Ivory Ella has donated over $1 million to Save the Elephants.

What inspired you to start your own company?

While I made sure to have a safety net in place with my studies at Temple, I always found it exhilarating to try something different myself. College was full of opportunity and while there I felt emboldened – accepting and learning from my failures to persist on for something greater.

Could you provide a personal statement about your entrepreneurial journey?

Entrepreneurship is about persistence. Throughout the course of my college career I took a lot of chances at creating a business for myself. No matter how risky the opportunity – if it had the potential to take me out of the corporate lifestyle – I was going to take it. The realization that you can take a real chance at something and fail – knowing you will only grow from the experience – is something truly invaluable. I tried selling energy drinks, promoting for social events, opening a women’s retail store, creating a social media application, and much more. Not everything will be a smash hit, but it’s up to the entrepreneur to know when to take what they’ve learned and move on to something better.

What has been your greatest challenge?

In our circumstance, rapid growth presented just as many problems as it did opportunity. During a short few months, we had moved locations five times – starting in a founder’s basement, to a small storage space, to a print shop, to sharing a building with an Aqua Massage manufacturer, to finally our 40,000-sq.ft. warehouse in Westerly, Rhode Island. Changing from a small business to a large employer – holding over 100 employees – has several challenges. It was crucial for us to not lose sight of creating an infrastructure and culture that would support our growth as the business continued to expand.

What has made the greatest positive impact on you throughout this journey?

Over the last summer, my team and I were fortunate to travel to Kenya to stay with our friends at Save The Elephants. We spent two weeks engaging in their culture, living in the jungle, and participating in elephant conservation efforts. This was one of the greatest adventures of my life, bolstering my belief that charity and goodwill can be a way to unite everyone and bring cause and meaning to a brand that consumers can proudly support.

What lessons have your learned?

The people you surround yourself with can make or break your company. While in early growth stages, it may be tempting to fill your team with anyone you can find to keep the company moving. It is essential to evaluate not only the qualifications of your hires but also their personal attitude to ensure they fit within your company culture. The goal is to create a team you can share in your success and failures with – so it is vital to make sure you have the right fit when growing your company.

Who is your mentor/idol and why?

JustFab’s Adam Goldberg is a business leader who I respect and admire. He has been able to take the concept of fast fashion and turn it into a thriving new business. His teachings to entrepreneurs through podcasts, interviews, and speaker series focus on flexibility, focus, mentorship, and drive to succeed in your ventures.

What advice would you give budding entrepreneurs?

Stay current! As entrepreneurs, your focus needs to be on identifying opportunities – and there are hundreds being created every day. Watch industry growth, political movement, and global trends to find and evaluate opportunities until you find something that inspires you to chase it.

What’s next for you and your business?

I plan to continue to protect and aid Ivory Ella as it grows to be a worldwide lifestyle brand. We will be introducing many new categories of product this year. In less than two years, we’ve been able to donate over $1 million to Save the Elephants. I will be establishing a new company leveraging our social media marketing talents to empower other entrepreneurs like us in the months to come.