Stephanie Lee // Ep 94 // Instituting Rituals of Mental Health and Becoming SELFMADE
Welcome to Episode 94 of the Asian Hustle Network Podcast! We are very excited to have Stephanie Lee on this week's episode.
We interview Asian entrepreneurs around the world to amplify their voices and empower Asians to pursue their dreams and goals. We believe that each person has a message and a unique story from their entrepreneurial journey that they can share with all of us.
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Stephanie Lee is the Founder and CEO of SELFMADE. With a lifelong passion for learning and being challenged, Stephanie has more than a decade’s worth of experience across very different industries: from politics and government to beauty and consumer goods.
SELFMADE is the culmination of Stephanie’s lived experiences and spurred from healing from her own mental health crisis. She began her journey as a field organizer on the Obama presidential campaign and then joined the 2009 Presidential Inaugural Committee. From working within the Administration serving under the Secretary of Housing and Urban Development, she was quickly tapped to work at the White House on the staff of the First Lady Michelle Obama. There, Stephanie project-managed her first ever New York Times bestselling book, American Grown, and managed conceptualizing, planning and executing Mrs. Obama’s international and domestic messaging events resonated with the American people. In 2014, Stephanie moved to NYC and transitioned into the prestige beauty industry as a product developer at the global brand, MAC Cosmetics. Simultaneously reckoning with depression and anxiety, Stephanie left the corporate world to travel the globe solo and hear from women about their experiences about their own self-worth and emotional wellbeing. That’s when SELFMADE was born.
SELFMADE is excited to announce the launch of a Beta community for the CommonRoom, their emotional wellbeing app. By joining the Beta at beselfmade.co/commonroom, you’ll get completely free access to programming, activities, and content created with their mental health experts AND 20% off your next order as an extra thank you.
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Intro: (00:00:00) Hey guys, welcome to Asian Hustle Network Podcast, My name is Bryan.
And my name is Maggie
And we interview Asian entrepreneurs around the world to amplify their voices and empower Asians to pursue their dreams and goals.
We believe that each person has a message and a unique story from their entrepreneurial journey that they can share with all of us.
Maggie: (00:00:23) Hi everyone. Welcome to the Asian hustle network podcast. Today. We have a very special guest. Her name is Stephanie Lee. Stephanie is the founder and CEO of self-made with a lifelong passion for learning and being challenged. Stephanie has more than a decades worth of experience across very different industries from politics and government to beauty and consumer. Self-made is the first gen Z emotional wellbeing brand instituting rituals of mental health through digital and personal care products. Intersecting a CPG and consumer tech self-made develops product ecosystems with credible mental health experts and changes behavior to address how our emotional wellness affects our skin and body function. Stephanie is a former staffer to Michelle Obama. Mac cosmetics as a woman of color founder self-made was born from her solo travels around the world, speaking with others about their mental health. And self-worth Stephanie, welcome to the show.
Stephanie: (00:01:20) I am so excited to be here and chatting with you folks
Bryan: (00:01:24) on core for so excited to have you on the show today. Then once you create a self-made, it’s such an amazing product and want to hear more about your origin story? Because I know we chatted earlier before the podcast that both our parents are immigrants from Vietnam. I want to hear more about your childhood childhood and will what the upbringing was like.
Stephanie: (00:01:42) Yeah, no, I it’s awesome to like connect with somebody that has a shared life experience in that way, because I actually grew up in the south in North Carolina where it was like black folks, white folks, then me and maybe one other Asian person. And so for me it felt a little isolating in the sense that like, I wasn’t very connected to my Asian culture. And you guys have probably heard that a lot. Um, in terms of like being kids of immigrants, it’s all about assimilation, right? Like go to school. Learn as much as you can. We didn’t even speak, like, my mom speaks Vietnamese to me, but I answer back in English, which is like so weird. Cause I’m like, I don’t know how my brain works, but I don’t even know how to like respond to you in the same language, but I understand every single word, including when you’re yelling at me and when I’m in trouble. Um, but yeah, so for me, You know, it was, it was tough. Cause I think again, survivalist mentality for my parents when they came over they’re 18 and 15 years old and they were boat people. They were saved, you know, by oil tankers, they went to refugee camps. And I think, you know, when we think about the American dream has always been. This house with 2.5 kids and white picket fence for me, or at least for my family, I am their American dream. Everything they’ve ever done was for their children, um, myself and two brothers. And so, you know, when I went off to the white house, it was definitely kind of like a culminating moment, a dream that we never knew that we had. But yeah, so a lot of it was feeling alone, but also not knowing that it was alone. You know, I tried really hard to belong and especially where at school, you know, is like, You think about like mean girls in that high school mentality is like, whatever I could do to belong, whether it’s like have blonde hair, I have, you know, context, the best clothes, whatever it is. And I think, you know, I wasn’t really taught and our, our culture doesn’t really teach, you know, how to speak about your emotions or what you’re going through. It’s a very silent thing. And I wasn’t able to ask for help quite a bit, but on the flip side, You know, seeing my parents work ethic and, um, seeing, you know, how they were able to create a life from nothing has been something that’s so formative for me and that I carry forth. And so, you know, there are so many great things and so many things that I’ve had to look back on and reflect and make sense of.
Bryan: (00:03:58) Oh, wow.
Maggie: (00:03:59) Wow. Yeah, that’s very inspiring. And you know, I think a lot of people who grew up in the Midwest can really relate to that, you know, just growing up in, um, demographics that are mostly, you know, non Asian, um, and they grow up finding a lot about racial identity. Yeah. Yeah, exactly. And so it’s just very inspiring for you to tap into your Asian identity and wanting to learn more about.
Stephanie: (00:04:25) well, it actually didn’t come until I started going to therapy that I was tapping into it. I think there’s so much. And even some of my Asian peers, you know, growing up with growing up around me, there’s so much about like self denial, you know, don’t, don’t know where you’re, don’t acknowledge where you’re coming from, because that makes you look more different than you already look. And so for me, it wasn’t until like 30 that I actually started coming into my school.
Maggie: (00:04:52) Yeah, absolutely. So you did talk a little bit about you going into politics and, you know, I resonate with that as well because I was actually working in local government and it was one of those things where my parents have wanted me to find a stable job. Um, I’m not sure if you’re. I felt the same way, you know, because you were pretty much the American dream. Right. And I’m pretty sure that they felt a lot of stability knowing that you were working in government and politics. I want to know like what your experience was like working, um, under the Michelle Obama office and you know, how you made that transition to beauty and consumer goods, because those two industries are very, very, very different.
Stephanie: (00:05:29) Yeah. Yeah. So I went to, I went to university and yeah, self and then I moved to DC. Um, but I joined the campaign first, so it’s in Virginia, but I will say actually my parents were like, what? Like when I was like, oh, I think I want to go do this thing. Um, because it actually works. That’s stable. And I think even when I was born, my mom was like, you’re going to be a lawyer or a doctor. And I was like, I guess I’ll be a doctor then, which is, I feel like, so like normal in our culture. Right? Like those are kind of like the status symbols. And so when I went off, it was after I graduated from college, I was very, uh, taken by the 2008 elections. Um, I’m a millennial. It was all about hope and change. There was so much that I felt needed to change and definitely wanted to look towards a beacon of hope and change in terms of like positivity versus like what, you know, I was going through in 2008 was a huge recession. I came out of college, you know, having big dreams, but then the reality is like, well, you might, you probably not gonna find it. Right. I think that was totally, um, indirect conflict, kind of leaving people to be like, what the hell am I going to actually do with my degree? And so I ended up joining the campaign after volunteering and I went to Virginia and this is where I recruited like hundreds of volunteers knocked on doors. And this is really about how many touches can you have with a person in order to aid, they’ll do a relationship, but B have that space in time. To talk about that candidate. And it was totally unstable. Um, I lived in someone’s basement. I lived out of my car. Um, and, but it was a time in my life where I was so called to a mission that every single person on the campaign shared that mission. And it was like going through a battle together. Right. So energizing, the only you like live, eat, wake, sleep, the campaign, you know, and at 22 years old, um, it was the perfect time because. You know, when you’re young people are, you know, you need experience, you need to do this, you need to do that. And probably your experience baggy through working in politics and stuff like that. At a young age, you have a lot of responsibility on a campaign. You’re doing things. I was running a office with eight full-time volunteers, way older than me. And so I learned so much about being a self-starter resources. How do you actually move the mark? Um, you know, and that that experience has been. So much, you know, within the white house, within a startup, because those are foundational soft skills that you don’t learn from just reading a book. Um, and so then went on to work for the integration for the cheapest staff. And it was a rat race after the campaign, because I didn’t realize that if you work on the campaign, there’s a possibility you could go into the white house, you know, for me, representation. Right. I only saw the white house in movies. There’s no one around me that looked like me doing things beyond, you know, my small town in North Carolina. So I didn’t even know that’s a possibility. Um, and so worked on the Nokia. I got to ride the train tour from Pennsylvania all the way down to DC with, um, first family and then kick off the inauguration, which was incredible. A way to experience Washington DC for the first time at 22, 23 years old. Um, and then worked within the administration and yeah. You know, I love the fact Maggie that you did local politics and local government. Cause like that’s where the real change happens within federal government. You’re so far away that I really missed the community aspect of it. Uh, but then worked at the white house for the first lady. And, um, first worked for her chief of staff. So that’s more on the operational side. And then, um, ended up being a deputy director within her office. Essentially managing all the, um, events, travel logistics, um, from conceptualization all the way to execution. So whether she’s, you know, going to Germany or doing jumping jacks on the south lawn or obstacle course with Jimmy Fallon, you know, I worked with secret service, the air force. Teams across the world in order to make that happen. And I think at the ripe old age of 24 years old doing things, I think you should never give it to announce today, but you know, really young, um, doing things at the time, highest level of government and politics, working for someone I deeply deeply respected, um, in a very mission oriented way of how do you make impact on people who have never been spoken to before? And I’m very creative.
Bryan: (00:09:58) Yeah, I liked that a lot. I mean, I could totally relate to the early part of your life where you just need a living and work spaces because I was one of them. I was living in people’s closets. I was living in a parking garage for a moment. I just had a bad mattress in there and next to his car. Yeah, this is, this is about the dream, about the experience. You know, when you look back on it, it makes a great story. So I can appreciate that. And also you have a lot of similarities to like our parents are, you know, they escaped Putnam and, you know, the mentality of, of, they want us to be a doctor or a lawyer or, or, or whatnot. I can totally feel that. And I’m kind of curious too, because. You know, I feel like you have such a welfare experience like being on Michelle Obama’s campaign and everything. How has that prepare you for life as honorable, you know, every ties back in together and as entrepreneur can leverage every single life experience, you have to kind of propel you forward. And I want to hear, like, how, how are you able to tie these two things?
Stephanie: (00:10:59) Yeah, that’s a really great question. I think, you know, for being the first lady in the white house, she had a very, very, very small team and a very ambitious idea of how she wanted to make impact. So I think just on a day-to-day basis, it felt like I was on a step, you know, startup in a startup, like how do you build something from absolutely nothing I think is pretty critical. And I think also, you know, for her, it’s like, I mean, I’m using like UX terms, but like user experience, you know, if someone’s going to come meet her or join a, uh, an event, instead of just thinking about her experience and her comfort, she actually thinks, or we actually thought more of how’s this person going to come into this world and experience the world and what we want them to walk away with. And that’s the same, one of the same exact things that I bring to this brand is what we want people to feel. How do we want them to take action afterwards? Because this is not just about. You know, learn about something or just buy this product because it’s so centered around mental health. It’s, you know, do this action that leads to B, but how are you going to do, how are we going to empower someone to do B right? Which is to advocate for themselves and mental health. So I think that’s, those are two foundational things about the pace and the depth of work, but then also really looking at what’s the experience we’re creating. Action and have someone really, uh, advocate for themselves. Um, I mean, there’s a wealth of lessons, um, from the first lady’s office. Uh, But I think those two are the ones that I probably employ on a day-to-day basis. Other than I was really able to exercise my management skills. I think, you know, leadership and managing are two different things. You can be a leader without managing, right. But managing is super freaking hard, right? People show up as themselves. They bring their stuff to work. Um, you need people to not only. Functionally know what they’re doing, but how do they work together in order to accomplish the goal? And I think that in itself, it changes every single day because people bring different stuff to work every single day. Then moment you take someone out or put someone into a dynamic, it changes everything and said that that’s especially what keeps me on my toes on a day-to-day basis.
Maggie: (00:13:21) Wow. Oh yeah. I love that. I love the fact that you mentioned that you’re really creating something out of nothing. And I don’t think that a lot of people have that experience working at, you know, on a normal nine to five, just doing the role that they do, but you working in, you know, on Michelle Obama’s campaign, you really had to really build something out of nothing and translating that into, you know, creating self-made. But I do want to talk about self-made, um, you know, we know that you traveled across the globe and. A lot of the inspiration of self-made came from you, traveling, you know, and from your mental health experiences and journeys, um, I want to know why, you know, you felt it was so important to tie mental health to self-made and talk a little bit about your mental health as well.
Stephanie: (00:14:05) Yeah. So I think. There was a huge, in 2016, I went through a mental health crisis and we were talking about, uh, know, I think maybe before this, about like culturally, we don’t talk about mental health or our emotions and all that stuff. And I went 30 years without talking about. Sadness or, you know, what I want versus the expectations of what my parents or society or what our community and culture wants. And so when I hit this depression, I really didn’t understand who I was fundamentally. And I think it’s a hard question for people to answer without, you know, You know, people answer it by their resume, you know, like you just your job. So who are you aside from your job? Who are you aside from, you know, the convenience you associate yourself with? I didn’t have an answer. Um, and so while I’ve had incredibly successful careers, I still, at the end of the day, didn’t know who I was in the inside. And so, you know, because of that and because I’ve been taught to keep silent and suffer silently because, you know, People of color color, like our resilience I’m putting in quotes is just by keeping it quiet and just like keep going. Right. But that’s not truly resilience. So when I got to that point, I just dove off into the deep end. And this is when I was already working on beauty. And so, you know, after a couple of years of therapy, I want it to reckon with my own mental health in the world, right. There was so much in therapy that I learned. Vulnerability managing and work and being okay with uncertainty. Um, you know, how do I actually take care of myself? Not like nail Polish or like whatever, like, you know, drinking cappuccinos as self-care, but how do I actually take care of myself as a human being? The way that I wanted to experiment was just to go off into the world by myself. And you never know who you’re going to meet, what you’re going to do. And I also learned that unlike New York city, where everything’s open all the time, everything closes early. So in order to take care of myself, I really had to like, think about where I was going to eat when I was going to eat before everything shut down, because. I needed enough energy to look out for my safety, you know, how am I going to actually like take care of myself as a young woman traveling by myself. And so when I was able to. You know, use vulnerability. I got into these incredible conversations with people across the world and because I’m a mental health, you know, addict, essentially, I’m wanting to understand, well, I was missing, you know, mental health and emotional wellbeing for 30 years. Are you, you know, like how have you dealt with this stuff? If, if I haven’t been taught this in books in school and my parents didn’t pass this down, how did you learn about that? And so all these really incredible conversations over the course. A year, which is 11 countries, 16 states around the us, uh, really were incredible because at the end of the day, what I learned was that, you know, no matter who we are, how we grew up, where we are, what we’re doing, you know, we all feel joy, excitement, loneliness, sadness, all of the above. And it’s actually those things, those very things. Uh, connect us. And so if we are connected, that’s what makes us feel true belonging. And so that was basically where. Self-made was born, is those are the pieces that we need to focus on. That’s the piece of humanity. How do we actually connect with each other? And how do we have the world words to emotionally skill build around these really human pieces? And so, you know, I took basically. My whole life, which is working for the first lady impact storytelling. How do you talk to people they haven’t been spoken to before at Mac cosmetics, as a product developer, how do you create a product out of nothing into a little tiny beaker, into kettles onto the retail floor? And so taking all these experiences. And understanding that beauty and products are inherently emotional. The moment you have a really crappy day, you go take a shower, you wash the day off and you come out refreshed, right? It’s about those moments of like taking care of yourself and intentional, um, pieces that I wanted to interject with, um, mental health in order to make space for these conversations. So every single product that we launch is associated with a psychological concept and we build programming, um, through a digital experience. You know, mindfulness, meditations, yoga practices, breathing exercises, journal prompts that are specific to mental health concepts rather than general mindfulness or general anxiety. Because I, you know, for me, what I wish I had was what is the exact pathway of working on my mental health rather than these very disconnected. Blogs men, you know, therapy, Instagram posts. How do we create a world around this? Where we can actually talk and learn.
Bryan: (00:18:56) Yeah, I think that sort of alludes to a really strong point to the no, you’re creating a safe space for everyone. And on top of that, you’re creating sense of community and w I mean, we have some experience running communities. We understand how much work and how hard it is to maintain the culture. What are some of the challenges that you face within your own community in terms of listening to them and sort of incorporating their ideas into the product? I want to, why don’t you just put in your, your product manager had real quick, you know, okay. I’m listening to my community. I’m trying to integrate new features into my product. Like how do, what is this thought process like for you.
Stephanie: (00:19:31) That’s a really great question because for me building products for gen Z, I am not a gen Z person. Also I’ve realized through my own mental health journey that anytime someone told me what I should and shouldn’t do is probably the thing I shouldn’t shouldn’t do. Right. It’s only the connections I’ve made. Through going through it, myself that actually have mattered. And so for us, we have a team of mental health experts and product experts that have many, many years that we bring to the table. But also we have a junior advisory board, which is 24 women, um, in our target market, um, with a diverse set of backgrounds. There are people who love beauty and love ref you know, refugee policy astrophysics, and. Marathon running, you know, and I think, you know, that’s how we describe gen Z super unbelievable. You know, it’s kind of like the, um, the slash like you’re a HR person maybe slash DJ, you know, on the side and really, you know, embracing all parts of oneself. So in order to make decisions, I think, you know, it kind of goes back to, I guess, a foundational belief that in order to do this, it is. An art and a science, right. In terms of, I look at the data, I look at, you know, what are the emotional needs of our consumer set and what we’ve done with our junior advisory board, rather than serving 500 people. We’ve actually created an intimate relationship that spans over a year. So we had eight junior advisory boards even before we, uh, members, before we even launched. Um, and I was running by. Tone of voice packaging, product smells, UX, UI, and the digital piece, all of that stuff. Um, and those same eight people have actually, um, moved on to another year with us, which is really exciting. So in terms of what we take and what we don’t take into account, I do, you know, it’s we weigh every piece of feedback, um, with. You know, what’s the overarching strategy and hypothesis of this brand. Does it help to continue to validate and confirm or does it disprove? And I think that’s the key is like, you know, We’re not saying we have all the answers whatsoever, but we have a hypothesis of what this business is and how we can solve a problem. And that’s how I look through data and including qualitative quantitative data in order to see whether or not we put that into practice. And so it always is a thing. It’s a conversation where, you know, maybe it doesn’t happen now, but it can happen two quarters from now. So I think that’s the thing. It’s never really a formula, right? It’s a ongoing conversation about what’s best for the business. Given the data points that I have right now today.
Maggie: (00:22:17) Hmm. Yeah, that’s a really good way to look at it. Yeah. I love that. Um, I know you, you quickly mentioned that self-made is specifically or mostly targeted to the gen Z population, and I was also reading your website and it’s targeted to BiPAP gen Z population. Um, So Brian and I, you know, in running Asian hustle network, we also target like aspiring entrepreneurs, you know, next generation leaders. Um, and we have our reasons for that. We definitely do believe that aspiring entrepreneurs, the next generation leaders are going to be our future and they are our future. And that’s exactly why we, you know, target to gen Z, mostly gen Z. Um, but I want to know your reason for that. And I want to know specifically why BiPAP DNC.
Stephanie: (00:22:59) Yeah. Well, you know, Are already authentically trying to talk about their feelings. Um, in fact, gen Z continues to inspire me on a day-to-day basis with their very low tolerance for bullshit. Uh, the fact that they will call out a brand or a person and 4.5 seconds on Twitter, um, loudly and ruthlessly. They’re also the generation that is very willing to get up off the couch, um, complain and get off the couch and do something. For instance, I’m a gen Z or for the black lives matter March across, um, in San Francisco across the golden gate bridge, 20,000 people, they were able to organize. And so gen Z has gone through a lot of trials. You know, like climate change is something that they feel very passionate about. They’re also the ones that have to do school drills and shooter, you know, situations. Um, you know, they feel the after effects of the recession as they do feel this pandemic. And so I think when you think about it, they are. Well think about it. And data-wise the most, um, depressed, sad and anxious generation to date. They’re also highly prioritizing their mental health and wellbeing as their, um, highest priority of like taking care of themselves. And so that’s the reason why from a data point, from a personal standpoint, You know, myself and everyone on my team, we’re making this for our younger selves, uh, what we needed that didn’t exist before in order to help this next generation of leaders, as you also agree with. So I think that’s, um, you know, the personal note on the flip side, why BiPAP, when you speak to communities of color, you speak to everyone. And so I think that’s incredibly important because as I realized, you know, for the 30 years that I was struggling with my mental health, without knowing that I was struggling with my mental health, that wellness is already marketed to white wealthy women or people in general, when you look at a depression ad for the longest time, I’d be like, yeah, I’m not that sad white lady on the TV. I never saw myself in those situations and I never knew that it was allowed for me to talk about these things. And so when we talk about representation for this brand, and especially with beauty, so tied to worth and anything that, uh, affects how you love yourself and how you show up in your, in the world affects your mental health. And so beauty is a number one, you know, beauty industry is the number one culprit. When we talk about representation, it is not about different skin tones, sizes, shapes, faces, all that stuff. We’re a true representation is hearing the voices, opinions and stories of people that look like you and me and our peers. And that’s what we’re trying to do with this brand. By handing over the megaphone to folks who are never represented in the traditional beauty standard, um, very narrow BD standard and give them the opportunity to share. How they feel what they think of, because this is the future. This is what you know is the most important thing that we need to rally behind is folks that are actually trying to change.
Maggie: (00:26:14) Yeah, I love it. Yeah. I mean, Brian and I always say, you know, the gen Z population, they’re extremely woke. They’re not saying anything, you know, they’ll speak what’s on their mind. And yeah, we love, they totally make fun of millennials. I like them a lot. Now that we have like so much more research on mental health, you know, I have to say that there, there blasts that, that, you know, Generation is blessed to have, you know, so much more research and, you know, data on mental health, as opposed to like say our parents, you know, they didn’t know anything about mental health and a lot of our parents don’t even think it exists, you know? And so we’ve, we’ve come such a long way. And I love that. What self-made is doing is time mental health. Um, and wellbeing into the brand, because a lot of these like beauty industries and wellness industries, they just focus on like, you know, like what you said, your physical appearances. And a lot of times it’s like, it’s unrealistic, you know, the ads, how we see, you know, we, you know, try and aspire to be that person on the magazine. But a lot of times it’s like Photoshop, you know, So unrealistic, it’s something that we can’t be. Um, and to be honest, like I never learned about mental health in school, you know, no one ever taught me about mental health as I was growing up, you know, my parents didn’t. Um, and I think like Brian’s parents didn’t either.
Bryan: (00:27:30) So to be honest, my mom always says don’t study too hard. Yeah. Yeah.
Stephanie: (00:27:37) I have never heard that ever, ever. That’s hilarious. That’s hilarious and awesome that your mother wanted to like give you space for other things. And I think, you know, giving space to like creativity and what brings us joy is the next luxury, right? It’s not about like how much money you’re going to make, but how much time do you have to devote to the things that truly love? You know, my parents didn’t believe in therapy or understand any of it until I was going through and probably still don’t really understand it, but like going through my mental health crisis sometimes as I was going to therapy. Three to four times a week, which is a lot, but it’s because I literally had nothing. I had no clue how to take care of myself. And I will say most healing that I got was when my parents came to therapy with me, which at first was terrifying because it’s like, holy crap, what are they going to say? What are they going to think? But it was really critical because. I didn’t have an understood, you know, being boat, people, surviving war, being ripped away from your home. There’s so much trauma that they went through that they didn’t want to open up and share or don’t nor did they feel like they had the space. And so to actually hear them talk about, you know, their experiences, how they wanted to raise me, gave me much more empathy. It helped me let go of resentment, but it also helped me see my parents as not just mom and dad, but humans. Right. And so I think that was super helpful. Do not get me wrong, still working on it. I still think they’re absolutely not. Even though I love them and all that good stuff, but, but it is again, an ongoing relationship, um, with mental health that doesn’t exist for them, that I’m currently, you know, always talking about always thinking, bringing to them and it makes them feel uncomfortable, but they show up every single time. And that’s what,
Maggie: (00:29:24) yeah. Yeah. I love that. Yeah. Yeah. It’s such a big step and I’m so glad you took that step. Yeah.
Bryan: (00:29:28) So I want to sort of switch the conversation back to like your business side. Right? I understand that you didn’t raise. Some money for self-made. So congratulations on that. Yeah. And you got St. John paper bag and Volks the congratulations on that as well. Yeah. So I think with most found most founders as I, okay. I raised the money. I had this idea, what do I do with the money next? You know, everyone’s question is like, how do I delegate the money? Towards growth. And I want to hear that from you. It’s like when you first raised her money, money, how did you organize your team and how did she make your first hire? And second hire third hire because. You know, I think growing team is easy, but hiring the right people, the right people as extremely difficult.
Stephanie: (00:30:14) Yes, absolutely nailed it on the head. So the interesting thing is that, um, at first we were kind of bootstrapping, um, myself and I have two co-founders and we, I actually recruited the team before I actually had any money, um, which was, uh, difficult in a sense. People motivated when they’re not paid, but also amazing in the sense that because the mission of this brand is so compelling that they were willing to put time, effort, and energy into something that didn’t exist. So we actually had a pretty core, tight core team by the time, um, that we got things going. We launched the brand with 300,000, um, which is small within consumer brand. Um, but key for us. Since this is such a conceptual thing. Like no one’s ever done mental health and beauty in a authentic, validated way. We actually need to show people what it looked like for them to understand, because there’s multiple conversations that people are like, I don’t get it. I don’t get it. But also recognizing that investors aren’t our target audience investors are typically. Older folks, uh, that are putting their money into something. They probably haven’t, you know, built their own business. Um, but if they are a founder, they totally understand where I am. And so by launching, um, with, you know, MVP essentially was critical for us to show people what this could look like. And by doing that, we were able to raise additional. Actually two weeks ago, I was able to hit a million dollars in total funding, which was thank you and a huge milestone as a woman of color, um, fundraising during the pandemic. I do not suggest anyone do that. Um, and so. Our money has already been an action and allocated. We’ve been able to do, um, a financial model and work on our P and L for the next three years, or at least to 2023. And so in terms of the allocation, uh, really working deeply with our advisors to understand, you know, as a business model, what should this look like in terms of number. Right. Where should we be putting the money and pushing and pulling levers in order to do that growth? I don’t have the answers now because we are in the middle of, um, looking at all the data. Um, you know, part what I, where I was was fundraising obsessed. Now I can put that to the side and now I’m data obsessed. I want to know who’s buying our stuff. What they’re doing. We have, as I mentioned before, put out hypothesis of this brand, but we’ve also put a hypothesis out of who is our consumer. We’ve created three consumer personas and targeted one in particular. And so is, you know, now I’m looking at the data, is that reflected? Of what we set out to do, does it validate, does it disprove, do we need to shift? And so what’s been really cool is that even with small numbers, 44% of our revenue comes from gen Z. We’re talking to the right people, we’re resonating with the right people. Um, and so really taking a look at those pieces and again, pivoting, we also realized the website that you see today. It is wordy. People are confused. We need to simplify it with all that data and understanding, and we’ve actually piloted, um, you know, uh, focus groups with our Genesee folks and able to pinpoint exactly what we need to do next, because it’s great to have a model for three. I’m not going to get to the third year. If I don’t do something now about the pieces that I need to move and pull levers on to get to six months from now. So that’s kind of how we operate, um, with like big vision midterm and then the near term strategy.
Maggie: (00:34:04) Well, I love that. Yeah. I love that you’re taking in feedback. Um, just like the little things, like your website being wordy, like that’s something that not a lot of business owners will think about, but it’s, it’s super important, especially when you’re dealing with your website that w like where all your products aren’t being. Totally. You know,
Bryan: (00:34:22) I like the fact that you’re doubling down too and making sure that. Your new mission, your new vision is aligned with what you have so far out there. That’s so important to continue reevaluating what you have and improve, you know, improvement mindset, continuous improvement mindset. And it goes a long way.
Stephanie: (00:34:40) Yeah. Yeah. I like that. I don’t know if that’s a, that’s a word that is used often, but continuous continuous improvement mindset. I like that. That’s my mindset. I like it. Awesome. Yeah. I mean, it is hard. I’m a perfectionist or during perfectionist. And I think, you know, so much of my perfectionism comes from, like, if I show up perfectly, then no one can judge me. I had to throw that away in order to do this, you know, and the word failure I had to throw that away and just recognize that it’s just continually pivoting. You know, there is no failure feeling it’s falling. If anything get back up pivot. And so that’s the name of the game in terms of being an entrepreneur or you’re an entrepreneur, but it’s not glamorous as TV makes it. I will tell you that.
Bryan: (00:35:32) I feel like as an entrepreneur and like my I’m speaking from my own personal experience is that it’s not glamorous. You’re actually more behind in anyone else. Thanks. It’s for the mission is for there to make the world better, a better place to push out your vision, you know? So
Maggie: (00:35:49) no one sees the hard work that goes into it every single day. So no are the gray hairs? Oh yeah. 10, 10 gray hairs picking out each other’s gray hairs and stuff. No one else can see them. So it’s funny,
Bryan: (00:36:05) probably curious. For self-made. And where do you see yourself for the rest of the year? In 20 and 2022?
Maggie: (00:36:11) I want to know a little bit more about common room too, because I know that’s something that you guys recently.
Stephanie: (00:36:16) So, you know, again, I’m an ambitious person. So for me, it’s about focusing in, um, for us, it’s really, uh, we are launching our third product around emotional intimacy, which I’m very excited for and that’ll be in September. And so prepping for that and the holidays at the end of the year, we’ll be in five retailers, which is really exciting for us. And then for, uh, also for us, which really important is building that community aspect, as you mentioned, like you’re nothing without your community. Right? Um, and so we’ve launched a beta community around our digital tool. It’s always been a part of this brand that we are building it with our gen Z folks, not for them. And so by building a community of people who are invested in their own well-being, but the well-being of other, other people, we get to, um, have really amazing conversations on how to. This tool and create this tool for users, um, in a direct way, we’ve already piloted, uh, for like circles around the common room, which is, you know, this like programming around, how do you actually skill build within relationships? How do you skill build within resilience? And so hearing and seeing folks who show up so vulnerably and interact with strangers off the bat has been so validating and so incredible to see. And so now taking that. That information about how do people have conversations and, and rally around these things in real life. How do we take that and put it into digital form? And so we’re continually working with our community and building, you know, more folks merrier, obviously about every single, um, upgrade that we’ve made, every optimization that we’ve made. And so it’s been really exciting again, to see people’s experience with that, with this and feedback about actually feeling better or the fact that they loved that. Pick a mood via gift rather than, you know, just a regular button of like sad, you know? And so really optimizing this for gen Z who lives and expresses in such a different way than any generation has before.
Maggie: (00:38:20) I love that. I’m glad you’re taking the community approach and you’re absolutely right. It’s not about, you know, like physical appearance or like skin color. It really is about the stories that we all share. And that’s really how you’re able to push for change when you’re able to connect the community members together through storytelling. I agree. Yeah. So Stephanie, we have one last question for you, and that is if you could give one advice to an aspiring entrepreneur. What would that one advice be? Or it could be something that you wish you told yourself, um, when you were younger.
Stephanie: (00:38:51) Yeah, I think for the entrepreneur and even, even my younger self, because this can be applied across, uh, across silos. You can’t do it, do it alone and you won’t want to do it alone. I think that’s really key as an entrepreneur in the beginning, I was like, holy crap. I have to learn how to do like social media graphics, this, that blah, blah, blah. And realizing there are far smarter and better people out there on the world to actually do a great job is really critical to tap into that. But also it’s just that much more fun, um, to have my own little community around me. Like my colleagues who, you know, we were born from the pandemic. Um, uh, some of these people, we had not met each other until April of this year after working together for over a year. And so having that during the pandemic was a lifesaver. So again, like don’t do it alone and you won’t want to do it alone.
Maggie: (00:39:46) Yeah, that’s really cool.
Bryan: (00:39:47) So saying, if you want to move fast, go by yourself. Or if you want to go far, you have to move with a team.
Stephanie: (00:39:53) Somebody could say, write that one down.
Maggie: (00:39:57) Brian has like thousands of quotes and it said, yeah, just pulls it out when he needs inspiration. Awesome. Well, Stephanie, thank you so much for being on the show. Um, how can our listeners find out more about you and, uh, self-made and common group?
Stephanie: (00:40:15) Yeah. Visit us at B self-made dot co not com. You can find us on Instagram at the same exact handle. Reach out. I love chatting with people and having one-on-one conversations anyways, so definitely available for that. But otherwise we have quite a bit coming up within our beta community. So sign up right now. If you sign up, you can get 20% off I think. And, um, yeah, that way we can keep in touch and you can build this brand right.
Maggie: (00:40:40) Awesome. Awesome. We’ll leave all that in the show notes. It was amazing having you on our show today, Stephanie, thank you so much for being on.
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