She Figured Out How to Launch an Active-Wear Line That Will Sail You Away.

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Carolann DEKKER

Carolann Dekker 250Founder, Top Dekk

Describe your business in 3 sentences. What is it?
Top Dekk is a unique social hub and apparel line for women who are interested in sailing and the sailing style. Whether or not you sail, own a boat or have even been on a boat the style of sailing and all things nautical will draw you into the Top Dekk Community.

What advice would you give someone just starting out?
Being an entrepreneur is a gift, being a little naïve is not a bad thing, it gives you the ability to see the dream without the barriers that a more experienced entrepreneur might let sway them. Persistence, patience and being resourceful are key attributes to being successful; I learned this from the women at the Ladies Who Launch Incubator events I attended in San Diego.

Are there any words of advice, books or role models that really inspired and changed you?
Every women entrepreneur I have ever met has inspired me, I learn a little from each one and that has contributed to what Top Dekk turned out to be.

How do you juggle it all?
I’ve learned that being impactful or effective is much more important than being efficient. This lesson has helped me learn to chose my priorities carefully and spend my time only on things that are the most important. I also chose not to spend time with people who don’t energize me and support my dreams. I’ve learned over the past few years that it’s the people in my life that can help make me successful or can also drain the energy and focus I need for my business if I let them. I no longer let those people take up time in my day. We all have or have had people like this in our life. This one choice has opened up a tremendous amount of time that allows me to focus on Top Dekk.

What did it cost to start your business? How did you find the funds? How long did it take to get started?
I was fortunate to have had a very successful career in marketing. I started in sports marketing with the America’s Cup, which included licensing apparel, then moved on to an online college community, packaged goods and ended my 20+ year employment history with 5 years working for the famous personal development expert, Tony Robbins. I decided to start my own business consistent with what Tony Robbins teaches to his very entrepreneurial audience. Once I left full time employment, I still needed to pay the bills. I leveraged my contacts and my marketing skills and started a marketing agency. I knew that the marketing agency was a means to an end. I wanted to create a business that was scalable, could run virtually with few employees and had something to do with women. I was able to fund Top Dekk with the money generated through my Marketing Agency. I worked on both businesses at the same time. Without having to spend time traveling back and forth to an office, time in long business meetings along with the other requirements associated with being an employee, I became extremely productive and worked 7 days a week to build Top Dekk. I was completely self-funded to build and launch Top Dekk including building the site, marketing costs and most importantly the manufacturing costs. Moving forward, I’ve just been approved for a line of credit and may look for Angel Investors or other types of funding as the business evolves and grows.

What is the single biggest thing you would say an entrepreneur has to be armed with in order to succeed?
Entrepreneurs must be able to sell; it’s the most important thing we all have to do to be successful. We must be able to sell ourselves, our ideas, our business plan and ultimately our products or services. If you’re passionate and love what you do it’s much easier, but it’s a “must” nonetheless. If you’re uncomfortable with sales, being an entrepreneur will be very difficult!

What adjectives would you use to describe how you feel most days when you wake up?
Most days I wake up feeling energized and happy to face my day knowing that I’m building something that will create security for my family, meet my strong desire to build a business and hopefully create a positive impact on women. I’d be lying if I didn’t admit that there have been a few days of anxiety and total exhaustion. I have been working six or seven days a week for 13-14 hours a day for over two years with very little vacation time. It’s a different kind of anxiety and exhaustion. I hope this doesn’t sound cliché, but working for yourself is truly a privilege and a little anxiety and being tired is just part of the journey.

What do you do to take care of yourself?
Exercise is the one consistent gift I give myself. I exercise most days first thing in the morning. It’s one of my biggest priorities. I also invite girlfriends to join me and try to make it as social as possible so that it’s fun and also gives me another way to see friends. I vary my routine and try all kinds of classes and work with a personal trainer two times a week. It helps me take care of my body and my mind at the same time. Exercise helps me concentrate and provide greater focus for my work.

What is your ultimate future dream for yourself and / or your business?
Top Dekk is designed to bring sailing style to all parts of the world through a unique product line, content, contributors and a growing online community. The apparel line dedicated to the unique nautical style will eventually extend to sailing gifts and inspirations for the home. The Top Dekk brand will be available in Yacht Club boutiques and other high-end resort boutiques around the world where sailors and those looking for the sailing lifestyle spend their leisure time. Eventually I plan to run Top Dekk from exotic sailing locations around the world.

Who has supported you most / least in your journey?
My husband has always been supportive of my career choices, but starting my own business has required him to take on new roles in my life. In additional to his continuous and unwavering emotional support, he has taken on the operations role for Top Dekk. His official title is COO, but he likes to tell our friends that he is my Chief “Go-fer.” I’m also extremely lucky to have a very supportive sister and friends, but my strongest supporter is also my mentor, Ruby Randall. She and I have worked together in several companies and she has been both an advisor and friend. Thanks to her strategic thinking, her ongoing support and advice helped me make the move from the comforts of traditional employment to go out on my own and create Top Dekk.

Is your business your passion?
Top Dekk is definitely one of my passions, after caring for my family and friends; Top Dekk is everything to me. I can’t imagine putting this kind of effort and time into something that I wasn’t passionate about. The sailing style has been an inspiration to me for years. I began sailing for fun in the early 90s, but really couldn’t find anything to wear. I loved the lifestyle and met many new friends, eventually meeting my husband who is a lifelong sailor. The women’s clothing for sailing has been typically based on men’s styles, much like golfing used to me. The clothing manufactures based the women’s clothing options on the men’s design and just offered it in smaller sizes for women without any effort to understand our needs.

After years of “making do” with what was on the market, I decided to launch the Top Dekk line with a pair of sailing pants for the active women sailor. I asked many friends, acquaintances and women sailors from around the world what they wanted in a pair of sailing pants. The answer was consistent: style, great fit, special features to protect her body and a design like a great pair of jeans. That was all I needed, I hired a professional sportswear designer to turn my ideas into reality. It took over a year, but the Top Dekk “Gigi” sailing pants were created and named after my girlfriend who first took me sailing.

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