If you’re a creative in LA you’ve probably heard about UNIQUE. From their summer-camp-meets-business-conference to inspirational talks at an awesome co-working space, UNIQUE Founder & Creative Director Sonja Rasula is one busy girl boss. As she gears up for another UNIQUE LA Holiday Market this weekend, we chatted with Sonja about what it’s like to wear so many hats, and not just the super cute beanies she often sports.
1. What does nobody tell you (good or bad) about being the boss?
On the good side no one told me that when you become The Boss you can make up your own rules and create the change in the world that you want (For instance my company works Mon-Thur, so we have a 3-day weekend). On the not as good side of things, nobody told me how lonely it would be. Not a lot of people are “bosses” so it’s hard to find people to talk with, compare notes with, etc. Sometimes I wish I had a co-founder to help with all the decisions and brainstorm with.
2. What are some challenges that you have overcome as a female entrepreneur?
Great question! I actually still face challenge everyday as a female entrepreneur, which is frustrating, and weird right?! I mean, it’s 2015… I see most challenges in my work not as he/she but simply as challenge, period. However there are daily/weekly reminders when I’m like, “Oh that was interesting…” For instance sometimes at meetings men will talk to the male staff members on my team as if they were the boss, assuming that they are the boss. Literally only looking at me or the female members on my team as a glance. That KILLS me.
One challenge I’ve overcome and encourage all women in power positions (whether you’re your own boss or a senior manager at a company) to do is look at what you pay those who work for you, women and men. To this day women make just 79 cents to the dollar compared to men for the exact same role. WE can change that and be part of the solution! Give equal pay for equal work, and educate and empower female staff to gather their annual results, prove how they’ve grown business or have gone above and beyond expectations and ask for raises. In my experience women in the workplace don’t talk about their accomplishments and see it as “showing off”, which needs to change. Be proud, show off, get that money! My mom taught me that, “If you don’t show off about what you do how will anyone know?”
3. You invested in yourself by risking your retirement funds. What did you learn from having that type of control instead of relying on investors?
Since I’ve never relied on investors I don’t know what that is like at all, so all I know is what it’s like to risk my money. So far it’s been awesome! I’ve never been scared once; I create a business idea in my head and I just do it, not thinking about the “risk” of it all. While some may say it’s naive, I think that kind of positive thinking/fearlessness is what separates entrepreneurs from everyone else. You have to have balls. Because I used my own money, so had no one but myself to report to, all decisions are 100% mine which is great. From marketing ideas to the imagery used in advertising to growth, it’s all what I want to do. Freedom is a great thing!
4. What are some of the hats you wear as the hands-on owner of a small business?
A boss wears all the hats! Well, until you can afford to delegate and hire help. My point is that even when you have employees a good boss knows what each role takes, to a certain extent, because it’s the ability to understand how all the pieces of the puzzle fit together that will create a successful business. My personal day-to-day involve everything from web writer to photographer, human resources manager to graphic designer, coffee maker to cheerleader.
5. Name one girl boss that you admire and how she inspires you?
I love Amanda De Cadenet who, like me, works on a huge variety of projects from photography to producing television. What I love is her focus on women and girls – empowering them, educating them, giving them a voice and documenting it all. She inspires me with her constant creative energy and new ideas, and the fact that she sees the ‘bigger picture’ to do good work, to have a positive impact on the world and community!
Follow along with all of Sonja’s adventures at @sonjarasula