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For decades, Wall Street has enticed top talent with its promise of wealth and success. However, the financial industry doesn’t hold the same allure–or numbers– it once did. According to a recent Wall Street report from the New York State Comptroller’s office there are 10,000 fewer jobs in the industry now than in 2007. So what sector is enticing top talent? Startups. Being a Founder has become a buzzword and aspiration for many. According to the Global Entrepreneurship Monitor, 27 million Americans are running or launching new businesses–a record high.
As Americans become more interested in health and wellness, that category has become a particularly popular startup sector with record breaking profits and valuations. Take Peloton, The Wall Street Journal reported that the fitness disruptor was valued at $4 billion when it closed a financing round in late 2018. National salad mecca, Sweetgreen was valued last fall at $1 billion, while Drybar is now a $100 million dollar business.
So who is venturing successfully into the wellness and beauty space and how are they doing it? Three intriguing brands are shaking things up including organic, plant-based meal delivery service Sakara Life (whose revenue grew 10x in the last three years), low-sugar/high-electrolyte workout drink HALO Sport, and hip facial mecca Heyday. Here, three of their founders and co-founders, recent Wall Street alums Whitney Tingle, Robin Shobin, and Adam Moss, share why they left the finance world, how they pivoted, and the new brands they are building.
Co-Founder and Co-CEO of Sakara Life,
Wall Street calling: My mother instilled this idea that women can do anything that men can do. When my parents got divorced, she took over the family business and put herself through night school to learn accounting. I saw what it looked like to be independent. We used to watch Suze Orman who I saw as this power woman, in control of her finances telling others how to build a financially secure life. I wanted that. So I moved out to New York and started my career at Merrill Lynch financial advisors.
Reason for leaving: The recession started and that was definitely a part of it. After that I worked at a Fin Tech startup and then at a family office where we looked really interesting startup companies and what people were creating and building. Looking at business plans, I thought, “Wait a second. This guy is getting funding? This is not a business. It’s just his dream. If this guy can have people believe in, fund, and grow a business, that’s something that I can do too.”
Big idea moment: My Co-Founder Danielle Dubois and I had been on this path of dealing with health issues. We were both living in these extremes. I was living that fast finance life, not taking care of myself. She went a little too far into the diet side and did a 7-day water fast. At the time, Danielle was interning with a cardiologist at St. Luke’s Hospital and saw how doctors were only treating illnesses; they weren’t talking about wellness. In my world, I saw colleagues who were extremely smart and successful, yet they were unhealthy. When we figured out the solution for ourselves, we knew that this was much bigger than just the two of us. We had to share this information that had transformed our lives and our bodies with as many people as possible. It put us on that mission.
Idea to implementation: We really got started by making the food ourselves. Once we saw that people are liking it, buying it, asking for it, we realized we had a viable business model. We decided to throw a dinner party and have friends buy tickets. At the end of the night we had $700, enough for us to register our business, buy a domain name, and build our own website. We printed some marketing cards and started to get clients. Our business was making money from day one.
Financial reality: Danielle and I didn’t take salaries for the first three years of the business. We were lucky enough to do acting, modeling, and bartending to pay our bills. It was gig jobs, whatever hustle we could do in the spare hours we had. We hired our first employee in 2013. We started paying other people before we paid ourselves. We kept putting the money back into the business for growth. In 2015 we wanted to build out a big kitchen in New York and another kitchen in LA and open up operations to expand nationwide. That’s when we did our fundraise. We had one of our clients approach us and ask to invest. We agreed and she brought in other investors as well.
Hurdles: When you run a business and you’re an entrepreneur, your work never stops. I thought living that fast, banker life was a lot of work, but I had no idea until I started my own company. It’s even more. It’s just done with purpose, drive, motivation, and mission.
New career/new life: I feel like I’m really making a difference with my work. We get in testimonials from clients every single day about how we’ve helped change their life. We’ve been able to help lift them up and get them healthy. Having that sense of purpose is really satisfying. It makes the whole job worthwhile.
Chief Product Officer at HALO Sport
Wall Street Life: I went to school for economics and business management so wall street was a natural target for me. I worked at J.P. Morgan for about 14 years. I started in investment banking and then quickly made my way to the credit trading side as a research analyst.
Job perks: I loved the paycheck and the autonomy that kind of earnings can bring. I also really enjoyed working in such a quick paced environment and the comradery of a trading floor. That said, it definitely grinds on you.
Reason for leaving: It all really came down to one thing, I felt like I had stopped learning. I finally built up enough financial security to feel somewhat safe diving into something else. It was a really gut wrenchingly hard decision to leave job security and financial security. I have always been insanely passionate about beauty, health and wellness and know that investing time and money in yourself is always the best payoff. I took the plunge and set up my beauty & wellness website, CharlottesBook.com.
Big idea moment: I love working out, whether it’s hiking outside, yoga, or weight training. I really didn’t see any good, clean, healthy hydration options out there that were high in electrolytes but low in sugar. So I decided to do something about it.
Pivot process: I drew on everything I learned from Charlotte’s Book and reached out to all the amazing experts in my network including dermatologist Dr. Whitney Bowe, integrative medicine doctor Amy Shah and dietician Keri Glassman. Together, we did really rigorous testing with the product from considerations on gut health to the addition of trace minerals. Every single ingredient is in there for a reason.
Financial reality: We raised money for HALO Sport. And to be honest, I am so thankful for the support and continued inquiry that we receive for investment. I also invested my own personal money. I have had to definitely reassess my lifestyle and downsize. But everything in life is a trade-off and if you are not all in your idea – how can you ask other people to invest in you?
Biggest hurdles: Building awareness of the brand and physically getting the product into people’s hands is not easy. So many people believe that all you need is a great product, the “if you build it, they will come” mentality. But getting your message out there and getting customer acquisition is really challenging. People are bombarded by so many messages and new products. Now more than ever, having the right marketing outreach is crucial.
Job perks: I love that I get to live and breathe the HALO Sport lifestyle. Now, instead of a suit I can wear my athleisure to work. And I get to do workouts with some of my favorite fitness and health experts like Don Saladino, who works with the HALO team as our Chief Wellness Advisor. I hear real time feedback and ideas all the time. I get to work with such an amazing team of women and a close friend as my co-founder.
New career/new life: What is harder for me now, but also great, is that each day brings a new challenge to problem solve. I also have to work really hard at maintaining work/life balance. When you are trying to bring something to life, it’s hard not to want to work 24 hours a day.
Co-Founder and Co-CEO of Heyday
Wall Street calling: I went straight into mergers & acquisitions after undergrad so that was the only life I knew. It was sort of serendipitous that after my rotational period I ended up going into the consumer products and retail sector. I had an eclectic trio of food & beverage, beauty, and confectionary that I covered.
Reason for leaving: It was a little bit of everything. I’ve been involved in some pretty big transactions, like the sale of Gillette to Proctor & Gamble. That’s fantastic, but after time, I was getting more and more interested in working on the smaller deals that some of the other bankers were less interested in. I wanted to sit on the other side of the table and be involved in building brands and businesses versus being in more of a consulting capacity.
Big idea moment: After founding a footwear brand called Soludos, I was at a brunch in LA with a number of friends were complaining about how difficult it was to get a facial. Within three days, I drew up an online survey that I sent to 150 people. The answers I got, validated the idea to free the facial from the spa, similar to the way Drybar freed the blowout from the salon or SoulCycle freed cycling from the gym. When I looked at the industry, you had this large demographic that I was interested in, 25-45 year olds that wanted access to professional skin care, and the industry wasn’t set up to serve that. It was focused on the 55+ wealthy demographic that has time to pamper themselves in the spa. That’s when I started formulating the team and bringing it to life.
Launch process: I had the idea in end of August 2012 and did a lot of work and comprehensive research in 2013. I met up with my co-founder, Michael Pollack and he had a background that complemented mine nicely as he went to Cornell School of Hospitality. We used 2014 to bring the in-store experience to life. We opened our doors June 1, 2015. Obviously a long lead time based on the fact we needed a physical space and we need to refine what that space looked and felt like. Plus hiring a team of skin therapists. We wanted it to be very different from anything else out there in the industry.
Financial reality: I used my own money to fund a lot of the initial research and high-level design work, which was helpful to bring to the concept to life and as a basis to get some friends and family capital. With a real estate lease and a store build out, there were a number of up front costs that we needed to incur before we opened. We’ve actually done three raises. The first was friends & family to get the first location up and introduce us to the market. Then we wanted to build out our New York presence and needed more funding, so we got backing from a venture capital group. We did another raise last year led by a real estate investment firm which helped us replicate in Los Angeles what we’ve already done in New York.
Hurdles: From an investor perspective, the challenge was convincing people that you can change behavior. That’s always a difficult bridge to cross. I say that because our thesis was that we would not only take existing users that were unsatisfied with facials, but we’d actually draw in a new demographic of people that had never had a facial before but wanted access to professional skincare. There were many people who were skeptical about our ability to do that versus being just another spa out there.
New career/new life: Being an entrepreneur, you do have more flexibility on when you work, and how you prioritize what you work on. In banking, the flow is much more reactive to client needs, so it is out of your hands, which makes it very difficult to plan against. I’ve never had an issue working hard, but it is so much more manageable when I feel like I’m more in control of my own schedule. I still work more than I should, which I wouldn’t say as a badge of honor, but I think that this naturally comes with growing quickly and building something special. Moreover, it’s also much more gratifying vs. banking, when you know you’re part of something that creating engagement and delight for customers . We see this first-hand with our team members, and clients, every day.
April 25, 2019 at 08:37AM
Forbes – Entrepreneurs