This isn’t your first time founding a company. What’s different this time?
What we are doing at The Lieu impacts me every single day. As a woman, we are expected to uphold societal appearances. There are many steps we need to take to present how we are “supposed” to present.
I was getting so tired of carrying around a backpack with deodorant, lotion, my straightener — just to keep up my appearance. This actually led me to shaving my head when I first started the company. It sounds crazy , but it’s the truth.
I started talking to other women about their "go-bag" and I started seeing patterns of women carrying similar things. This is what drove my idea for The Lieu and unlike my last company, this issue affects me, my co-founder, and millions of women every single day.
My first company was called Ment. It was in the travel space and although I traveled a lot, it didn’t impact me on a daily basis. I spent about 2.5 years working on that company. It was essentially a Waze for airports, helping guide people through their airport experience in real time.
I eventually just fell out of love with it and was becoming resentful of the company; I was spending so much time on something that I didn’t want to spend time on any more, so I decided to put that on the back burner and prioritize The Lieu.
Has anything surprised you while founding The Lieu?
This is a B2B business, so we are selling directly to companies. My first company was a B2C business and it was an app, so it was very different.
One of the things that shocked me going from B2C to B2B is that the sales cycle is much longer than I anticipated, even for something that’s such a plug-and-play solution. It takes a lot of time for companies to jump on to a product. I’ve learned to do a lot of market research to better understand the seasonality of budgets for companies and when we want to be in meetings. The research helps us know when and who we should speak to about the product.
Your background is in mechanical engineering. Did you ever expect to found a beauty company?
I worked in the oil and gas industry for 3 years after I graduated from engineering school. I worked on on-and off-shore rigs in California, the Middle East, and Alaska. After some time on the rigs, I actually got really sick from exposure to toxic chemicals. This made me look at my career and realize that I didn't want to give my entire life to another company, especially one that might make me sick. It just didn’t seem right.
So, I took a step back and took three months off to travel the world. This helped me realize that I wanted to build something for myself. Becoming an entrepreneur didn’t happen overnight. It took a lot of thought, time, and money, which I saved to help me start my first business.
What is the biggest challenge you’ve faced while launching your company?
The biggest challenge today is that people don't understand the value of what we’re doing right away. They think it’s a "nice to have" perk versus a necessity. We have to quickly educate people that this has value in the workplace.
We’ve seen that talent recruitment and retention are top of mind issues for most employers and investors we’ve spoken to. We’ve learned to address that early in the conversation. In addition, showing the cost and value of our product: we are at such a low cost in comparison to other perks that are on the market. For example, catered meals cost employers around $20/head/day/person — around $420/employee/month. We cost $6.50/employee/month. We are not even in the same realm for costs, but we still add value.
In particular, male investors still have a huge learning curve when it comes to female-centric businesses, so we have to find the right investors who get it right away. This is one of the reasons we started raising on Republic: we want to give everyone a voice and a chance to invest and have their piece of The Lieu.
What is your superpower?
I'm a connector. I have an ever-flowing Rolodex in my head. I like to help people meet and connect.
I'm also a highly sensitive person, so connecting at a human level is something I can do really easily and comes naturally to me. That allows me to have influence when talking to my team, investors, and customers.
What’s your kryptonite?
As a highly sensitive person, I’m in tune with my emotions, but it also means I’m incredibly sensitive to peoples’ energies.. For example, I’ll go to an event, talk to a bunch of people, and I’ll be completely worn out 20 minutes later and have to leave. I can plug in and connect, but I also need "me time" to recharge.
One of the ways I’ve dealt with this is to set clear boundaries for myself. When I first started, I went to every event and talked to every person. Now, I try to get a sense of the person before I get in contact with them. This helps me define boundaries, so I don't walk into situations that I know will make me feel those feelings of weakness. If I'm around someone I know is not mentally or spiritually good for me, then I set that as a 20 minute meeting and make clear that I have a hard stop or need to leave. I’ve learned to set clear expectations for me and for others.
Do you have any unusual routines or habits?
I have a morning routine I like to stick to. The first thing I always do is make my bed. If I don't accomplish anything else that day, I've made my bed and that feels good to me.
I have a five-step skin care morning and night routine that helps me decompress. I have that time to myself. I don't do anything on my phone or emails; I just focus on that routine.
In addition to my other routines, I also intermittent fast everyday for at least 16 hours. I can go up to 24 or 36 hours if I want to. This clears my head, giving me space and allows me to think.
Do you have any other hobbies/things you like to do? What do you geek out about?
I have a fiance and love spending time with him. I’m also planning a wedding, which is like having another job on top of my startup.
I also like to do DIY projects, like making crafts, mostly around home decor. I have a YouTube channel where I like to create content. There’s no set schedule, but I like doing it.
I also experiment with my hair and change it around every 3 weeks. I tend to film this as well; people like seeing how I change my hair so frequently.
What’s been your experience as a female founder? What’s your advice for other women looking to start their own companies?
Overall good, but also challenging. Having worked in oil and gas helped me develop tough skin. I can go into meetings and not feel intimidated by them. It’s definitely not easy, and there are days I go home and I’m upset or frustrated, but everyday is a new day to start over again and reset. I don't take my worries from yesterday into the next day.
As a female founder, you need to cut out all of the noise. I only take advice from people who have been successful or are doing it now. There are loads of people who have their own opinion about what I do and who haven’t attempted to start a business or don’t quite understand this world. I don’t listen to them.