The College of New Jersey, B.A., English
Adriana Botti’s decision to start Little Words Project, a pay-it-forward movement in the shape of a friendship bracelet, was an impulsive one. Borrowing from an activity she had started with her college sorority, Adriana saw an opportunity to produce a “kindness bracelet” that could be used by girls of all ages to bring one another up, rather than put one another down, and decided to take the leap of starting her own business.
The Little Words bracelets — each with a unique, inspirational word — are meant to be worn for as long as the word resonates with the wearer, and then one day passed on to someone who may need the inspiration more. Each bracelet has a number inscribed into its tag, which can be used to register the bracelet and track its travels from wrist to wrist.
Adriana says the company’s mission fits her desire to help others and make a difference perfectly, and allows her the pleasure of taking on the challenges, successes, and yes, the failures, of running a company.
Sometimes, you just have to go for it first. Allow all the unknown pieces to fall into place later.
We’d love to hear more about your career path. How did you go from college graduate to CEO?
My transition from college graduate to CEO was certainly no straight line. I’d initially thought I’d be going to law school and even chose my undergrad major (English) based on that ultimate goal. After taking some time off to travel, think, and of course “find myself,” I found that there was something else I was truly passionate about — and that was making a difference in the lives of those around me. So, my decision to start Little Words Project was a snap one, and it involved minimal planning and agonizing over details. I simply woke up one morning, and decided that I’d finally needed to act upon the idea I’d been sitting on since my sophomore year in college. Since that moment, I’ve been on a fast-moving train that I couldn’t get off, even if I tried.
Tell us more about Little Words Project. What inspired you to start your company?
I started Little Words Project because I desperately wanted to do something that would both fulfill my desire to help others and make a difference in the world we live in. I had grown up experiencing my fair share of girl-on-girl bullying, and have seen that the bullying culture has only grown since the advent of social media. So, borrowing from the fun activity I’d started with my college sorority, I decided to mass produce a “kindness bracelet” that could be used by girls of all ages to bring one another up, rather than put one another down. Little Words are meant to be worn for as long as the wearer needs its encouragement, and then one day passed on to someone who needs it more.
What started off as a “Sisterhood Bracelet” for just my sorority has since turned into a Sisterhood Bracelet for women everywhere. After seeing the bracelets bring so much happiness and such a bond to my sisters, I knew I had something here.
What does a day in your life entail? How do you organize your day?
I start off every morning reading a chapter in whatever book I’m currently obsessed with. I truly believe it centers me and sets me on a good course for the rest of the day — it enables me to clear my mind of all the constant “CEO noise” and lets me just get lost in something I love. I then walk the five steps to my home office in my Jersey City apartment and dive into emails and making lists for the day’s tasks. I absolutely love the satisfaction I get when I can cross something off a list, knowing I’m one step closer to having an efficient workday. As the day progresses (in the blink of an eye, might I add), I get through as many of the items on my list as possible before racing to the post office to drop off the day’s shipments. Upon returning, I spend the next 3 to 4 hours focusing on business development. I love thinking up new ways to keep my customers on their toes!
What is the biggest thing you’ve learned about business from starting and operating your own?
I’ve learned that EVERY experience, no matter how positive or negative, is an opportunity to learn something. When I first started out, the learning curve was so severe; there were times when I wondered if I could actually do this successfully. But then, as weird as this sounds, I got the hang of “failing.” I’ve become accustomed to keeping a running list of all of the lessons I’ve learned based on the failures I’ve experienced.
For example, if I went with the wrong manufacturer for one of my materials, I figured out what exactly went wrong and wrote down what not to do the following time. The same goes for learning the in’s and out’s of customer servicing, the USPS, interacting with other companies, finding strategic partnerships and also learning when it’s okay to turn away business. This job has taught me that it’s okay to fail, as not only does it allow you to reflect on where you went wrong, but it pretty much guarantees that you’re most likely going to get it right next time — and there’s always a next time.
Are there any landmark moments in your career so far that you’re most proud of?
My proudest moment so far was the day I received an email from an Always representative with interest in working with Little Words Project on their newest #LikeAGirl campaign. Little Words Project created a large quantity of customized pieces for their International Women’s Confidence Summit on July 7 of this year. I’d been so impressed with the original #LikeAGirl campaign that aired during last year’s Super Bowl that I’d even tweeted about it to our following! So, to have them reach out to me, without any prompting on my end, and tell me that our brand was exactly what they we’re looking for, was a truly proud moment of mine.
What challenges keep you awake at night?
I try not to let any challenges keep me awake at night. While we do see our fair share of challenges at Little Words Project (the need for growth, the desire to keep it fresh and ever-changing, the pressure to seek and establish strategic partnerships), I do my best to remember that no matter how far we have yet to go, we’ve truly come a long way since the beginning. Whether it takes me a year or five years, I know I will accomplish all I set out to accomplish. This makes falling asleep at night not only easy, but exciting, because it means I get to wake up the next day and keep working on my dream.
Is work/life balance ever a problem with you? If so, what is one no-fail tactic you use to create balance?
Yes, it certainly has been. There are some days where the sun will set and before I know it, I’m working at my computer in pitch darkness for hours before I realize that I have to stand up and turn on the light. I genuinely can’t figure out where the time goes! There are times where I’m working so late into the night that I find myself neglecting the people in my life who support and love me most. So, to combat that, I do my best to keep my work and my life separate. I’ll try to give myself set hours and close the door on work at 8 p.m. (or whenever my boyfriend comes home and it’s time to start a very late dinner). I also do my best to not work on weekends. Of course I’ll be answering emails and maintaining our social media, but I really value the time I give myself to just enjoy life.
What is one of the biggest lessons you’ve learned in your career?
No matter how bad a day seems to be going, there’s always something or someone out there experiencing something a tad bit worse. The stories we receive daily from customers detailing their troubles and how their Little Word has helped them keeps us grounded and reminds me exactly why I launched this company in the first place. I’ve learned never to sweat the small stuff, and sometimes note even the big stuff. A bad day is just a bad day and tomorrow will be a better one.
Do you have any advice for someone who is looking to start their own company?
As I said earlier, I made a snap decision to start my company and put hardly any time into worrying about what starting it would mean. I certainly acted first and thought later, but I’ve never regretted it. I would tell someone who’s interested in starting their own company to do just that.
As silly as this sounds, I had actually watched the movie We Bought a Zoo right around when I was starting Little Words Project. In it, Brad Pitt’s character says the following sentence: “Sometimes, all you need is 20 seconds of insane courage. Just literally 20 seconds of just embarrassing bravery. And I promise you, something great will come of it.” This quote struck a chord with me then and remains true today. Sometimes, you just have to go for it first. Allow all the unknown pieces to fall into place later.
What are some of the rules you live by?
Be kind, compassionate, genuine and hard-working. Don’t let what others think of you have any bearing on what you think of yourself. Always go after your dreams, no matter how far-reaching they may seam. You never know; you may land somewhere between here and your ultimate dream that leaves you happy and fulfilled.
What makes Little Words Project unique?
The best part of Little Words bracelets is their trackable component. Each bracelet has a number inscribed onto its gold-filled tag which can be used to register the bracelet on our website. Here, customers can input their stories of both giving and receiving and ultimately see where their bracelet goes as they pass it on, and where it’s been as they receive new ones from others. Kindness is contagious. Seeing the impact your singular bracelet has had on others is truly fulfilling.