As a part of our series called ‘Five Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Became A CEO’ we had the pleasure of interviewing Natlyn Jones.
Natlyn Jones, founder of SheWarrior, is the newest — and toughest — entrepreneur to enter the athleticwear space. Wife of boxing legend Roy Jones Jr., and a boxer and trainer herself, Natlyn is a champion of female empowerment.
As an African American mother of three and Florida native, Natlyn is the embodiment of strength with a welcoming, yet fierce, entrepreneurial spirit, which led her to launching SheWarrior in 2019, a boxing inspired athleticwear brand geared towards women who are ready to raise a fist. Through the brand, Natlyn is working to redefine what boxing means to women, and inviting them into the ring to nurture and grow their fighting spirit. Natlyn’s mission, and passion, is leading women towards championing their health, wellness and inner warrior.
Natlyn graduated from Florida State University with a Degree in Criminology and a minor in Child Psychology, and worked with the States Attorney’s office prior to her career in the boxing world.
Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dig in, our readers would like to get to know you a bit more. Can you tell us a bit about your “backstory”? What led you to this particular career path?
I’ve had several career paths over the years, but the one that always seemed to stick was anything that had to do with my love of fitness. I opened a fitness studio and worked as a personal trainer for several years before stepping in to help manage my husband’s, Roy Jones Jr., boxing career and run our boxing promotions company on a more full-time basis. Once he retired from boxing, my love of fitness led me to the boxing gym. From there, I put on a pair of gloves and began learning the techniques of a professional fighter from inside the ring, and I haven’t looked back — to this day, it’s my favorite way to break a sweat. From that, my passion for fashion and women’s empowerment came into play — I thought, “wouldn’t it be great to actually wear an activewear brand that had a name that spoke to women and our inner warrior”? Hence, SheWarrior was born and I embarked on the journey to make that idea a reality.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company?
Initially, I would spend hours overthinking every little detail and second-guessing things. I would make a vision board, then convince myself that I needed more — more time, more products, more ideas, more work, more everything, and I would tell myself all the reasons why it wouldn’t work, but in reality, I didn’t need more, and it was just fear trying to convince me otherwise. Stepping out of your comfort zone and really pursuing something with your everything, it’s a risk, and imposter syndrome is so often something you have to overcome. Once I took the leap and just started trusting my gut, and not my fears, I was able relax a bit more and even sleep an extra hour or two!
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
The funniest mistake when I first started SheWarrior isn’t so much a “funny ha-ha” moment, it was more of a reality check. I always was under the impression that simply posting on social media leveled the playing field for smaller brands vs larger brands. This is definitely not the case. There is a lot of money and strategy that goes behind successful social media campaigns so while I thought that social media was just a ‘field of dreams’ where you build it and they will come, that definitely isn’t actually the case! LOL
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
There have been several people that have inspired and supported me along the way but the two women who taught me the most about being fearless, unfortunately, are no longer among us: my mother, and my dear friend Chastity. They were both great women — deeply genuine and strong, and my best friends. They were always encouraging and supporting me through whatever. They both passed some years ago but I carry the lessons they taught with me every day. Through my SheWarrior journey, I’ve found an endless number of women along the way that have been extremely supportive. One of those women is Julie — she’s an artist, professor, wife and mother, and she inspires me daily. Lastly, my husband and family have always been, and continue to be an unwavering support system and my biggest fans.
As you know, the United States is currently facing a very important self-reckoning about race, diversity, equality and inclusion. This may be obvious to you, but it will be helpful to spell this out. Can you articulate to our readers a few reasons why it is so important for a business or organization to have a diverse executive team?
It’s important for a business or organization to have a diverse executive team because our nation and world is not a “cookie-cutter” community. In order to be truly successful business needs a well-rounded team to be able to gain insights from a group of truly diverse people, which is priceless. We all grow in a positive direction when diversity is actually represented and respected in a company.
As a business leader, can you please share a few steps we must take to truly create an inclusive, representative, and equitable society? Kindly share a story or example for each.
This is a big question and one not quickly or easily remedied. As a society, we must learn to respect each other — not just tolerate each other. I think it has to start with what we teach our children at home and in the school system by teaching inclusivity and leading by example in those two major early-learning environments will make a huge long-term impact if implemented. We then have to create opportunity and equalize the division of wealth. If we do that, we will start to really advance toward a truly inclusive society.
Ok, thank you for that. Let’s now jump to the primary focus of our interview. Most of our readers — in fact, most people — think they have a pretty good idea of what a CEO or executive does. But in just a few words can you explain what an executive does that is different from the responsibilities of the other leaders?
A CEO is usually the highest-ranking executive in a company — as a leader, they oversee and make most major decisions pertaining to the company. It’s different from the other key leaders in that a CEO is the face of the company, and has the responsibility of ensuring the long- and short-term success of the brand from all levels.
What are the “myths” that you would like to dispel about being a CEO or executive. Can you explain what you mean?
I’m sure there are a thousand that I’m not even aware of, but one myth is that being a founder and a CEO is a “glamorous” job. I can assure you that it’s far from it. Being a CEO is a tremendous amount of work and responsibility and when things go right, all is well, but when things go wrong, it’s the CEO whom is ultimately held accountable in most cases. It’s definitely a challenging position, but just like everything in life, you have to take the good with the bad. The rewards, personally, are well worthwhile. I get to build my dream brand from the ground up, and despite the challenges, it’s fulfilling in a way I can’t even begin to describe.
What is the most striking difference between your actual job and how you thought the job would be?
My position in my company as CEO has surprisingly been pretty much what I assumed it would be. It’s a lot of hard work, especially learning when to personally manage things, and when to delegate. I have a great team that I know I can trust, but getting to that point with your ‘baby’ is definitely a learned skill. I sometimes wish I could spend more time on the creative aspects of running a brand but as the founder and CEO I have to run and understand all aspects of the business in order to grow the brand.
Presumably not everyone is cut out to be an executive. In your opinion, which specific traits increase the likelihood that a person will be a successful executive and what type of person should avoid aspiring to be an executive? Can you explain what you mean?
An executive has to be able to manage and juggle multiple tasks and remain organized in the process. A CEO also needs to be comfortable with delegating and decision-making and there’s a certain inner-calmness they need to possess.
How have you used your success to make the world a better place?
My goal for SheWarrior is to have as much positive impact as possible, and that began with creating a brand that is as truly sustainable as possible. We use recycled materials to spin the fibers that make up our products, and a waterless dyeing process to eliminate water waste. We also operate on a made-to-order model to reduce overstock and ensure our products aren’t contributing to landfills. Moving forward as a brand, I will continue to strive for sustainability and environmental awareness, while still offering our customers a diverse selection of apparel. It’s honestly refreshing to see the shift in the industry as a whole towards a more sustainable model, and as we take steps to reduce our footprint, we can ensure that our impact is at an absolute minimum. I truly believe that if we take care of the environment, it will take care of us and our families for generations to come.
Fantastic. Here is the primary question of our interview. What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started” and why? (Please share a story or example for each.)
- I wish that someone told me to be more flexible and realistic in the amount of time projects take. Take the amount of time you imagine your goals will take and triple it because in business, things don’t always go as planned.
- I wish that someone would have told me to take my initial budget and double it because it always takes more than you planned on whether that be because of rates on a shoot increasing or new samples needing to be produced. You never know what types of hiccups or new challenges you will face until they hit you!
- I wish someone told me to not overthink trends. I designed SheWarrior based off of my own personal style rather than what I thought I should be designing however, nobody ever told me that it was okay. You always see brands designing for the latest fad but that’s just it, it’s a fad and will go away as soon as it started.
- I wish someone told me to expect that I’d make mistakes, several of them! You can’t have everything figured out before you start because if you did, you’d never start, haha. Do your research and due diligence before jumping into anything but starting a new company is all about learning on the job, no matter what past experience you may have had.
- I wish that someone had told me to not be discouraged when people don’t invite you to have a seat at their table. Rejection is always tough but eventually the right table will come… if not, make your own!
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good for the greatest number of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger.
If I could inspire a movement, it would be based on the simple concept of treating people how you would want to be treated. I firmly believe if we, as humans, could find it in ourselves to do this every day, with every person we meet, the world would have no choice but to be a better place for us all, on every level.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
“My mission in life is not merely to survive, but to thrive; and to do so with some passion, some compassion, some humor, and some style.” It’s by Maya Angelou, and it really sums up how I aspire to live my life and reminds me to make the best out of every moment.
We are very blessed that some very prominent names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them
This is such a hard question because there are several people! If I had to choose, I’d go with a person that not only has accomplishments and wisdom but would also be genuinely fun to talk to; Viola Davis is one of the top people on my list. She’s a brilliant actress with a triple crown, and her own production company. She’s a beautiful, accomplished, badass woman that shows us her courage and determination alongside her vulnerability, and I find strength in that. She’s a true inspiration!