garland-logoQ. Kindly give our readers an introduction to your business. Please include what your business is all about, in which city you are located and if you have offices in multiple locations/ cities.
Ans: Garland Activewear is a leading manufacturer of gymnastics apparel, based in Jacksonville Florida. We specialize in custom design of competition, spirit, meet and workout leotards for teams, gyms and events of all sizes. We proudly manufacture all of our products in the USA. Our products are sold in gyms and store fronts across the United States, and our online shop is open 24/7.

Q. Kindly give us a brief description about yourself (it should include your brief educational or entrepreneurial background and list some of your major achievements).
Ans: My name is Abbie Garland Paul and I joined Garland Activewear in 2015. Prior to joining the company, I graduated from the University of Florida with a degree in business administration and a specialization in entrepreneurship. Upon graduation, I worked as a fashion buyer for Chico’s FAS in Fort Myers, FL for over 7 years. While at Chico’s, I learned to cultivate and execute a winning retail strategy, and also helped launch our international business in Mexico and Canada. While my career as a fashion buyer was glamorous, fun and a great learning experience, my heart has always been with learning the ropes and working for the family business, Garland Activewear. My mom, Connie Garland is the founder and genius behind the company, which started in our basement when I was just in elementary school. What started as a hobby to keep my sister well-suited during her gymnastics days, quickly turned into a thriving business, selling to hundreds of gyms and stores across the US.

Q. What inspired you to (start a new business venture) or (to make significant changes in an existing business)? How did the idea for your business come about?
Ans: See above. My dream in joining the Garland Activewear team is to grow, grow, grow the business! I plan to apply my learnings in the corporate world to take the Garland brand to the next level. By relaunching our website in July of 2016, and introducing new pattern-making technologies, and improved processes for custom orders, we hope to grow to be THE go to gymnastics apparel brand in the US and abroad.

Q. What three pieces of advice would you give to budding entrepreneurs?
1. Plan on working really hard – but know that it is worth it!
2. Other people will discourage you from going after your dreams, ignore them!
3. Stay connected to the outside world. It’s easy to get tied up with the day to day grind of owning your own business, but it is imperative for entrepreneurs and self-employees to be knowledgeable about the latest technologies and trends within your business and the customers you serve.

Q. What would you say are the top three skills needed to be a successful entrepreneur?
1. Thick skin
2. Never Ending Drive for Results
3. Hard Work

Q. How many hours do you work a day on average?
Ans: As an entrepreneur, I am always working! When it’s your business and your livelihood, there are no true vacations. Sure, you can take a nice vacation and relax on the beach, but you will always be thinking about more ways to grow your business.

Q. To what do you most attribute your success?
Ans: I attribute my success so far in the hard work ethnics instilled in me by my hard working and successful parents, from supervisors and managers who cared enough to teach and cultivate me. I also could not do it without the never ending support, encouragement and help from my parents, family and husband. Last but not least, I believe I am successful due to a combination of bravery and a can-do-it attitude!

Q. How do you go about marketing your business? What has been your most successful form of marketing?
Ans: We market our business in many ways. We attend about 1-2 tradeshows, competition or business events each month, locally and across the US. At the trade shows, we share our information with our customers through promotional fliers, informational cards, and gifts. We are seeing success from sending out fliers and coupons in each box we ship out. Our website is a vital part of our marketing…We send e-newsletters, and last but certainly not least, SOCIAL MEDIA!

Q. Where did your organizations funding/capital come from and how did you go about getting it? How did you obtain investors for your venture?
Ans: Since the business was started as a small business, we have never truly had investors. All funding came from sales of products and we are proud to be 100% debt free!

Q. What is the best way to achieve long-term success?
Ans: Customer first, always. It’s not about you… it’s about them! Also, keep your eyes on costs… keep them low!

Q. Where you see yourself and your business in 5 – 10 years?
Ans: In 5-10 years I see my business growing – in a new building with more advanced technologies. I see us selling nationally and internationally with collegiate licensing!

Q. Excluding yours, what company or business do you admire the most?
Ans: Amazon! They have it going on, I don’t think anyone can disagree with that.
Zara / Inditex brands are the most amazing brands internationally. US retailers can hardly keep up with their speed and trendsetting, not only in their fashions, but also their technologies.

Q. How important have good employees been to your success?
Ans: Good employees are vital to our success. As a small business owner, you will quickly understand that while you may want to do it all, you can not do it all! You need good quality, passionate employees at your side to make your business a success.

Q. How long do you stick with an idea before giving up?
Ans: In todays world, if an idea is not working, it is important to give it up ASAP. The longer we spend on an idea that is not working the more money is wasted.

Q. What motivates you?
Ans: Seeing and hearing from our happy customers. Making my parents proud.

Q. What are your ideals?
Ans: Customer service… The customer is ALWAYS right!

Q. How do you generate new ideas?
Ans: We are inspired by our travels in the US & Internationally inspire our designs. Customer feedback also inspire many of our designs.

Q. How do you define success?
Ans: Success is when our customers go out of their way to send us pictures of their teams in our leotards, telling us how happy they are with our products! Success is when a first time customer reorders for a second time! Success is when a new customer contacts us because they saw our products in a store or at an event and can’t wait to work with us also!

Q. How do you build a successful customer base?
Ans: We build our customer base by attending trade shows, referrals, consistent follow up and providing such amazing customer service our customers never want to leave.

Q. What is your favorite aspect of being an entrepreneur?
Ans: When someone in a small business has a great new idea… it gets implemented FAST…. In the sluggish corporate world, good ideas take a long time to implement, and sometimes by the time they are implemented they are no longer relevant. I love the fast pace, always changing environment of entrepreneurship!

Q. What do you feel is the major difference between entrepreneurs and those who work for someone else?
Ans: As an entrepreneur… the decisions you make and how hard you work give YOU results you can see, taste, feel and hear personally on a daily basis…. When you work for a corporation, you can work hard and make decisions, but the results are often diluted by the corporate environment.

Q. What kind of culture exists in your organization? How did you establish this tone and why did you institute this particular type of culture?
Ans: We have a fun, fast-paced and friendly culture.

Q. In one word, characterize your life as an entrepreneur.

Q. If you had the chance to start your career over again, what would you do differently?
Ans: I would become a homicide detective! I love crime shows… Just kidding. I would do everything the same. Go get some corporate experience under my belt… then go for the gold and be my own boss.

Q. How has being an entrepreneur affected your family life?
Ans: I am really lucky to have a really supportive husband who is 100% committed to the success of Garland Activewear. If I do need to go into work on a Saturday, he joins me, with our 70 lb pitt-mix rescue named Skrimpy. Even if they are just reading a book in the desk nearby, it’s really nice to know I have a great support system.

Q. What is your greatest fear, and how do you manage fear?
Ans: Failure is my biggest fear. I work hard every day and do my best to mitigate failures.

Q. How did you decide on the location for your business?
Ans: The location was selected by default… Jacksonville is the home town of my parents who started the business.

Q. What book has inspired you the most? (OR what is your favorite book?)
Ans: Winning at Retail… a must read for anyone in business! Make sure you know and are good at your “EST” (read it and you will understand).

Q. How can you prevent mistakes or do damage control?
Ans: We have a few different fool proof reconciling systems but when those fail and something goes wrong… we do everything in our power to make things right. If the issue involves a customer, we often ask them what we can do to make the situation better.

Q. What are your hobbies? What do you do in your non-work time?
Ans: My hobbies are working out, and hanging out with my husband and my dog binge-watching TV shows. We also like to cook and make fancy craft cocktails for fun!

Q. What sacrifices have you had to make to be a successful entrepreneur?
Ans: Sometimes I have to say no to social events because I am away at tradeshows growing my business.