Sarah and Rachel Waxman didn’t set out to start a business. They did it because they believed the world was missing something, and they wanted to provide it. That something is Matriarch, a company that makes gender-neutral footwear and accessories, like pins, totes, and socks.
“Matriarch,” the sisters explain, “is the result of living in a world as women who love clothes that are traditionally considered menswear. There are 7.6 billion people on the planet, but our means of expression is reduced to whatever we can find in the women’s or men’s section. Something about that didn’t really make sense to us.” So, they combined their professional backgrounds to create and launch a new brand.
When the Waxman sisters identified the gap they wanted to fill, they didn’t automatically think, “How can this become a business?” Instead, they treated it as an experiment.
“We knew we wanted this product, and a lot of people in our networks have been talking about it for, basically, our entire lives,” says Sarah. “So, for us, it was more a matter of, ‘If we build it, will they indeed come?’”
And, yes—they did.
But, here’s the catch: They didn’t quit their day jobs to make it happen. Rather, prior to Matriarch, Sarah designed footwear for a big global sportswear company, other large corporate brands, and some startups, and now she’s also a freelance designer. Rachel, on the other hand, has worked in digital media and advertising technology (often referred to as ad tech) for years, in roles ranging from client services to analytics. And, they live in different places—Rachel in NYC, Sarah in Berlin.
Read on to find out why they’re willing to put in the extra hours to make this work, what the challenges are, and what advice they have for aspiring entrepreneurs.
What’s the One Thing You Love Most About Your Job Right Now?
This business has connected us with some amazing individuals. We love talking to people about Matriarch and getting their impressions and feedback. Often, they’ll offer help without us even asking, simply because they’re so excited and want to help us make this happen. It’s super validating—All these other people are proving that we’re not the only ones who want this.
What’s the Hardest Thing About Owning a Business?
Sarah: For me, it’s adopting that “business brain.” My passion is designing products that promote and enable gender equality in some way. Managing things like spreadsheets and financials aren’t exactly my dream tasks, but knowing that they contribute to the greater goal makes them infinitely more palatable.
What Advice Do You Have for Aspiring (or Current) Entrepreneurs?
Someone once asked us, “How’d you know the time was right and that you’d be successful?” Starting Matriarch came out of this deep-rooted desire to see something different, something we’ve been craving our whole lives that remained non-existent. So, our advice is:
1. Don’t Wait for “The Right Time”
You can plan things forever and try to preempt anything from going wrong, but this is impossible—things will always go wrong. Just get started, even if it’s the smallest step.
2. Talk to Everyone You Know About What You Want to Do
This creates accountability. Plus, you never know what magical connections can come from random conversations.
3. Be Prepared for Any Scenario
Sometimes things will work out, sometimes they won’t. Keep an open mind.
4. Have Clear Goals and Objectives
These will act as guideposts for everything you do.