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Interview with Casey Klugman, Founder of Les Monts

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Interview with Casey Klugman, Founder of Les Monts

Casey Klugman, Founder of Les Monts, a new luxury handcrafted sunglasses company.

What Is Les Monts? Tell Us All About Your Brand, Mission, And Product Selection.

I’ve always had an affinity for handmade goods. To me, there’s warmth that emanates from handmade goods. They have subtle imperfections which make them unique – something you don’t necessarily get from mass-produced products. In light of this affinity, I wanted Les Monts to be a handmade, limited-edition collection. Utilizing an array of handpicked, highly considered materials, Les Monts frames are brought to life by the hands of experienced Italian craftsmen who take great pride in their work.

Les Monts is geared towards creative individuals – specifically those who push the creative boundaries in their respective fields. However, the brand recognizes any individual in pursuit of a lofty personal goal. In French, Les Monts means “the mountains”. As the brand’s namesake, mountains serve as a reminder that good things, like a journey towards a personal goal or the production of our handmade goods themselves, take time to develop. And, while the journey to reach that goal may prove fickle, there is often great value to be found at the finish line. Each of our limited-edition spectacles is a testament to those who have been fearless in their personal endeavors; and, to those who are at the beginning of their journey, a pair can ignite the courage to take that next step.

I think today more than ever, it’s important for a brand to have genuine purpose and good intentions. Throughout my life, there have been a number of important people who have at some point, in some capacity, struggled with their mental health. There are times when I haven’t been in the best headspace, too. So, my decision to partner with Mental Health America was one which came quite naturally. I wanted to honor anybody who has ever been affected by a mental health condition – directly or indirectly. This partnership is important to the brand as anything else. My hope is that Les Monts can transcend traditional brand ideologies, and become a beacon of optimism that inspires.

What Is Your Background? What Led You To Starting Your Own Company, And How Did You End Up In This Space.

I was born in New Jersey in the early 90s. My late grandfather, who was a dentist and an amateur artist himself, got me involved in art at a very young age. From elementary school through high school, art was the one subject I really excelled in. At some point in junior high school, I developed an interest in fashion. It started with sneakers – I was collecting “Nike Dunks” at the time. Like eyewear, footwear can tell a story about the person wearing it – I still love that about footwear. As my affinity for sneaker culture grew, I began illustrating sneaker designs and concepts of my own. I had sketchbooks full of illustrations. But, before I left to study Art & Design at the University of Michigan, my father – who I am very close with – gifted me a pair of his vintage sunglasses. For me it was the ultimate heirloom. I cherished these sunglasses – I admired everything about them. From that day forward, I was no longer illustrating sneakers, I was illustrating eyewear. I graduated from University of Michigan – School of Art & Design in the spring of 2014. Shortly thereafter, I accepted a job to design eyewear for Ted Baker. It was an amazing opportunity, and the job I held for five years. But, in the back of my head, I knew my ultimate goal was to one day have my own collection. In October of 2020, I decided the time was “now” and resigned from my day-job. Since then, I’ve been working on bringing my own brand to market, and that vision recently became reality. My brand, Les Monts, went live on April 20th of this year.

What Was The Inspiration Behind The Company Name?

One of the coolest parts about starting your own brand is you get to decide what story you want to tell through your products. If there’s a group of people you want to empower, or a cause you’d like to raise awareness for, all of those choices are yours. My late grandmother was born and raised in rural France. Unfortunately, she passed away when I was about 13 years old – long before she and I had the chance to connect on an adult level. There’s a lot happening in my life right now. I’ve just started a business, my girlfriend and I recently moved in together; there are so many conversations I wish I could have with her today. So, I decided to give my brand a French name, to pay homage to my late grandmother. As I mentioned earlier the mountains serve as a reminder that good things, like a journey towards a personal goal or the production of our wearables themselves, take time to develop. And, while the journey to reach that goal may prove fickle, there is often great value to be found at the finish line.

What Have Been Both Your Favorite And Least-liked Parts Of Your Entrepreneurial Journey? What Have Been Your Most Challenging And Most Exciting Moments For You And The Company?

I think what I’ve enjoyed most about this journey is the creative freedom it’s afforded me. I was designing for another brand for 5 years. During that time, I didn’t have full creative freedom. I had to adhere to the vision of another brand. Having the creative freedom to execute my own design vision, and tell a story through my brand has been completely invigorating.

The most challenging part of the journey, and the component I struggled with most, occurred during the first few months on my own. At my former employer, I rarely had downtime in the office. There were many days I’d go into work, put my head down, and not lift it until 6:30pm. I kind of liked that – it always made the day go faster, plus I’d feel a sense of accomplishment at the end of the day. My first few months of self-employment proved to be a major adjustment period. I had to accept to the fact that things were going to move a lot slower – at least initially. Naturally, a project like this takes time to develop. So, going from a very fast-paced environment, to the slow-burning, very early stages of a start-up, was a challenge for me.

The most exciting part of my work has always been receiving samples or the final product. I have a tremendous respect and appreciation for excellent craftsmanship. The craftsmen I work with in Italy are extraordinarily talented. Their handcrafted products are beautifully made. When I receive their products for the first time, there’s a moment of admiration – almost like seeing a piece of art. It’s a moment that never gets old.

Can You Share Some Insight As To Your Design And/or Manufacturing Process? What Makes Les Monts Frames Stand Out Above The Rest?

I think there are two philosophies when it comes to designing and manufacturing. The first is probably the most common – especially in the realm of corporate fashion. This process consists of designing a product, and then modifying it to meet, or increase margin. The other philosophy is the approach I’ve taken with Les Monts. When I started out, I had a vision for what I wanted to produce. Based on my previous work experience, I knew the product I wanted to create would be expensive and require a great deal of expertise to produce. Rather than water down my vision, I said to the factory, “This is the product I want to make. These are the details; these are the materials I want to use. Please let me know how much it will cost to produce a pair, and I’ll figure out what I need to sell it for.” I think if you believe in your product, this is the approach that makes sense. At the end of the day, you want to bring your idea to life. You don’t want to bring 50% of an idea to life. Les Monts spectacles incorporate over 200 steps, and can take nearly a half year to produce. We only produce 100 pieces or less of a given style – which is an extremely limited amount. Many factories will not agree to produce quantities that small. Once a style is sold out, it is no longer produced. We place a very heavy emphasis on the handcrafted nature of our frames; it’s what makes our glasses a cut above the rest. However, the true beauty of a Les Monts frame comes from the fact that it is an imperfect object. When you produce things by hand, there are inherent differences from piece to piece. These differences or imperfections are virtually undetectable to the naked eye, but it’s part of what makes a Les Monts frame an object to be desired. Our frames are not mass-produced objects, cold off of an assembly line. They have a warmth and a story to tell.

Tell Us About Your Go-to Market Strategy. Do You See Les Monts Being Exclusively Sold Online, Or Also Launching Retail Stores Similar To Warby Parker?

For the moment, I am direct to consumer through www.lesmonts.com. However, I will be working hard on getting Les Monts into select stores in the coming months. I’ve designed for other brands in the past. In my honest opinion, Les Monts eyewear looks and feels distinctly different from other eyewear. Because of this, it’s very important that customers have the ability to pick up my products and experience them in person. There’s so much value in that experience. All of our frames are produced in very small quantities, so our eyewear will likely be placed in boutiques and maybe one select retailer. Stay tuned!

Tell Us About Your Typical Workday Schedule. What Are Your Morning And Evening Routines? What Are Some Tricks You Use To Stay Productive?

During the week I go to sleep late – around 12:30-1:00am. Because of that, I typically wake-up around 8:20am. I love sleeping in, but that’s about as late as I can sleep during the week. Because I’m communicating with my partners in Italy on a daily basis, and there’s a +6 hour time difference, I can’t afford to sleep past 8:30am. Once, I wake up – it’s an immediate cup of coffee. I then sit at my desk and take care of all urgent emails – prioritizing the emails that are affected by a time difference. Once urgencies are out of the way, I’ll make the bed, shower, and listen to sports talk radio, namely, The Dan Patrick Show. Then it’s back to work until around 12:45, at which point I take my dog for a walk. Then it’s back to work for the rest of the day. I like to get a Peloton session in at the end of the day to clear my head, though admittedly, I’ve been bad about it lately. I do find that it clears my head, even if I get on the bike for 15-20 minutes at the end of the day. For me, the best way I know to stay productive is by setting goals. I like to set goals by the day, week, and month. By constantly setting goals, and hopefully meeting those goals, I feel accomplished and hungry when I wake up each day.

What Are The Top Qualities or Skills You Believe Entrepreneurs Need In Order To Be Successful? Also, What Advice Do You Have For Entrepreneurs Who Are Just Starting Out?

Flexibility – Flexibility is key. Today, the world is changing more rapidly than ever before. As an entrepreneur, it’s never been more important to stay flexible and adaptive. For creative endeavors, the importance of flexibility cannot be underestimated. Rigidity can quickly kill a brand and a product. So, listen to feedback and don’t be afraid to pivot. Let your concepts evolve!

Decisiveness – More is lost by indecision than the wrong decision. When you’re starting out, you’re probably going to make the wrong decision more than once. That’s ok – especially if you’re able to learn from your mistakes. In my experience, indecision always has a more negative impact than a wrong decision. You can take time to make a big decision, but be mindful of how much time you have and then make your decision – don’t prolong it.

Patience – Good things take time to come to fruition. That’s a big part of the branding behind Les Monts. Building a business requires persistence, endurance and patience. It takes a lot of time and effort. So, it’s natural to want results right away – but that’s rarely the case. While you want to remain on top of things, being is key to keeping you emotionally grounded in your project.

Tell Us A Story Of Something That Happened To You, Something You Heard, Or Something You Saw, That Either Made You Laugh Or Taught You An Important Lesson.

There’s an important lesson I’ve learned, actually from loved ones who have passed away. The lesson teaches us that our time here is limited, so we need to spend it doing what we love. I’ll use my late grandmother for example, who, by the way, is part of the inspiration for the name Les Monts. My grandmother, Jo, absolutely adored her grandchildren. Nothing brought her more joy than spending time with us. Sadly, my grandmother fell ill, and passed away before she was able to see her grandchildren reach adulthood. Impermanence is a reminder our time is limited, and we never know when “our time” is going to come. When faced with one of life’s many difficult decisions, I like to think of Jo telling me to go for it. In my experience, knowing that my time is limited sometimes makes those difficult decisions a lot easier.

If You Can Have A One-Hour Meeting With Someone Famous Who Is Alive, Who Would It Be?

My top choice would have to be Sir Paul McCartney. I’ve always been inspired by his colorful personality and creative energy. Amazingly, I think Paul still fits the profile of my customer. He’s highly creative and he’s produced music capable of moving emotion. Great music is so powerful. Great music can inspire change, motivate you to start your own business, it can move you to tears and then build you back up. For as long as I can remember, the Beatles’ music has done for me. That’s what I want Les Monts to do for my customer. If my products become a wearable symbol of creativity, or if my brand makes people more comfortable discussing mental health conditions, it will mean that Les Monts has impacted people in an emotional context. That’s my ultimate goal. Since his music has positively and emotionally affected so many people for such an extended period of time, there’s nobody I’d rather meet with than Sir Paul.

Who Is Your Role Model?

I take a lot of inspiration from Philippe Petit, the man who walked a tightrope between the original World Trade towers. He was so focused on his craft and passionate about the process just as much about the outcome. He woke up everyday and ‘got on his wire’, whether it was 2 feet off the ground, or 2,000 feet off the ground. His attention to detail allowed him to perform an act for which the consequence of a single mistake was death. We very rarely engage in activities when a single mistake is certain death. If Philippe has made a misstep above the World Trade Towers, there’s no surviving that fall. While I don’t want to be punished with death for each mistake I make doing the thing I love, I find the clarity to be beautiful in my own relationship to my craft. I highly recommend Man on Wire, watched through the lens of a metaphor and as performance art.

What Do You Do In Your Free Time?

I’m an artist by trade, so in my free time I love to paint. Painting is a process that has always been extremely cathartic for me. There’s nothing better than putting on music and getting lost in my work for hours. Left to my own devices, I think I would paint straight through the night. For me, it’s the type of hobby I can’t put down after I start. My painting style is very graphic and rather unconventional. If you’re familiar with Banksy, that’s kind of what my paintings look like – though they’re hand-painted rather than spray painted.

What Is Your Favorite Quote And Why Does It Resonate With You?

The late Steve Jobs made an outstanding commencement speech at the University of Stanford in 2005. In his address to the graduating class, Jobs says:

You can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backward. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. You have to trust in something — your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever. Because believing that the dots will connect down the road, will give you the confidence to follow your heart even when it leads you off the well-worn path — and that will make all the difference”.

There is so much power in this quote, because it’s delivered by Jobs shortly after he was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. Conscious of his mortality, Jobs’ words are a uniquely intimate retrospective. His quote suggests that it’s impossible to know whether a decision we make today will yield the results we want tomorrow. Therefore, the best way to persist in the face of doubt is by putting your trust in whatever you personally believe in. Doing so will give you confidence to follow your heart in difficult decisions, even when doubt or uncertainty are pulling you in the opposite direction.

What Does Success Mean To You?

Since starting this project, I’ve noticed a direct correlation between success and happiness. Though, the relationship I see is probably different from what most people would expect. There’s the obvious “Success = Financial Prosperity = Happiness”. I cannot confirm if that’s true. But, I have discovered a different dynamic between success and happiness, which is true for me. At this point in my life, I’m happier with my work than I’ve ever been before. I love what I’m doing – it brings me great joy. I’ve realized that in order for me to continue doing what I love, my business needs to be successful. While the meaning of success can change over time, right now, success to me means an opportunity to continue doing what I love.

Casey Klugman’s Favorites Stack:

Books:

1. Emotionally Durable Design, by Jonathan Chapman

2. Shoe Dog: A Memoir by the Creator of Nike, by Phil Knight

3. Open: An Autobiography, by Andre Agassi

Health & Fitness:

1. Peloton

2. Pick-up football with friends

3. Pick-up basketball with friends

Brands:

1. Reiss

2. Theory

3. Nike

Products:

1. Nespresso

2. iMac

3. Dyson Air Purifier

Upcoming Vacation Spots:

1. Southern Italy

2. Paris

3. Japan

Interviews

Interview with Danielle Levy, Founder of The Boardroom League

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Interview with Danielle Levy, Founder of The Boardroom League

Danielle Levy is the CEO and Founder of The Boardroom League and a sought-after executive who has helped six and seven-figure businesses expand with clarity and efficiency. Danielle established The Boardroom League to give other entrepreneurs a little black book of trusted industry professionals to help them implement and scale their businesses. The Boardroom League consists of experts in a variety of fields; including metrics, design, copywriting, strategic pricing, funnels, social media, and more.

Where did the idea for The Boardroom League come from?

I had a very very successful corporate career in advertising and marketing working for well-known brands and at some of the hottest digital agencies. It was wonderful for many years but I ended up completely burnt out. When I accidentally got into the online space, all of my previous success meant nothing. Suddenly I was responsible for things that I didn’t know anything about or how to solve certain problems that were very specific to my clients. Having a trusted group in my network to partner with taught me so much about the industry and allowed me to show up as a trusted partner to my clients. The results were far better than anything that I could have done on my own. I wanted to bring that same experience to other entrepreneurs just starting out who had proven revenue models but didn’t know how to scale profitably or how to handle specific niche areas of their business.

What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?

I’m a mom to 2 teenagers so my day is very much structured around a school schedule and their after-school activities (cliche but true). They aren’t little babies anymore but I certainly don’t have total control over my schedule either. I’ve also learned to really listen to my body about when to work. By nature, I have a really hard time turning my brain off and I really love to work. Some people have hobbies like reading, solving puzzles, or a sport, I just love to work! However, I quickly found that for me working late leads to really unproductive mornings, poor eating habits, and a vicious cycle that drains my energy. So I try to be mindful of real deadlines instead of self-imposed deadlines and how much time I’m actually spending on things. To do this I keep a small notepad for things that have to get done on a given day. This is reserved for true must-do items. I’m a people pleaser by nature so keeping a critical shortlist helps me with boundaries. I’ve also realized that I am best at certain kinds of work based on my schedule. For example, I handle, generally, emails and administrative items between conference calls and items that I really need to think through late in the day or over weekends. I really need my head to be quiet and focused to do my best work and also this helps me get my “rocks” done because I could spend endless hours trying to catch up but not actually getting my work done. It is a balance for sure.

How do you bring ideas to life?

I always start with a project plan. It is a template that I developed years ago and isn’t anything fancy. Even though it’s just for my own purposes, it helps me to define what I want to accomplish, put together a reasonable schedule, and helps me to create boundaries for myself, and dissolve unnecessary pressure. It also allows me to think about who else’s support I need so they have time to plan as well. It really helps me to get the idea out of my head and know that it will come to life in a thoughtful and healthy way. It also helps to keep me on track prioritizing my own work and keeping to my client’s work as well.

What’s one trend that excites you?

I think The Great Resignation has really forced companies to examine their values and policies and truly operationalize them. As someone that has worked hard (really too hard if I’m being honest) her entire career, companies being forced into alignment and integrity with what they say they are is super exciting to me. In the end, I think it serves both the company, the team, and the end customer most optimally. As a hiring manager, I’m definitely feeling the pain of the Great Resignation but as an individual, it’s really exciting to me.

What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?

Acknowledging my own zones of genius and when to outsource. I often work with entrepreneurs that are afraid to outsource and I can never understand the concern of losing control or that someone can’t do something as well as they can. When I hire the right people they always produce end results that are way better than whatever I could do and I am freed up to work on the things that only I can do or really enjoy doing. It also re-energizes me to see what other people can do with the inputs that I give them. For me, outsourcing is definitely the way to go!

What advice would you give your younger self?

It’s ok to set boundaries with my clients and team. Setting boundaries will serve you better in terms of completing more, disappointing less (even if the expectations were completely out of whack), and not burning yourself completely out. I had this idea that if I worked hard enough for long enough it would really matter to some of my clients and the reality is that it only became detrimental to me and set the tone for many unhealthy relationships.

Tell us something that’s true that almost nobody agrees with you on.

The customer isn’t always right. Great client service is important however not at the expense of the team behind it, other customers, and the long-term profitability of business practices. Further, not all customers are right for the business and are worth keeping. It’s ok to professionally disagree with a customer and to stand up for the company.

As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?

Every day I do one thing that is uncomfortable for me. As an introvert, this can be really hard. Whether it’s physical or emotional, I always try to push the boundaries and my own safe zone. It’s very specific to me and things that other people might not find hard but for whatever reason, I have a blocker. I’ve learned that many things aren’t nearly as hard as I build them up to be in my own head and when I fail it’s never as bad as I thought it would be.

What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business?

Not saying yes to every client. Over the last several years I’ve really focused on only working with clients that align with my professional and personal values and goals. Every time I’ve strayed from that profile I’ve ended up frustrated and burnt out and my personal life and work quality always suffers. Having the experience to know the circumstances under which I can show up as my best has really given me the confidence to grow my business, show up as a trusted partner, and go after things that I really want.

What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?

Early on in my journey as a service provider, and sometimes a generalist, I’ve tried to be the answer to too many things and often thought of myself more with an employee mindset than as a partner. I’ve since niched in my services, become more forward in my conversations about how to move things forward or prioritize, and have really started calling out inconsistencies and making recommendations on how businesses are run so that they can be addressed. Slowing down and taking control of the conversation, even though it can be intimidating, has served me far better than I could have ever imagined because I know a lot more than I give myself credit for.

What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?

Commit to teaching something new about something you are passionate about every month. People are looking for information on what you consider to be mundane. For example, I had a conversation with someone about how they train their cat and another conversation about video editing. Both people said what they did was “easy”. It may be true for them but it was priceless information for me. We all have gifts and sharing information about what we are passionate about is contagious. I don’t think teaching has to be fancy either (in terms of course setups or others). We have so many tools at our disposal. Just go with whatever feels comfortable.

What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why?

I pay 14.99 for Chrome’s Pro Boomerang extension for my inbox. I love it!! I am able to get through items in my inbox and have them come back when I need them to be there. It takes all of the remembering and list-making away. I love that it comes back and is totally in my face until I deal with whatever the email is and also allows me not to worry about things until I need to.

What is one piece of software or a web service that helps you be productive?

Ha! See above. I really can’t say enough about Boomerang. I also really love Asana as a project management and organizational tool.

What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?

“Never lose a customer again” by Joey Coleman. The book applies to every size of business and provides sound, rationale, and examples of how to provide an exceptional customer experience. The book digs into the real emotions and impact of the relationship between customers and business owners and digs into the first 100 days of the customer experience. We’ve all been customers and this book really demonstrates to business owners how to create an amazing experience.

What is your favorite quote?

“Great oaks from little acorns grow”. This reminds me to keep taking small steps because everything great generally comes from humble beginnings. It also reminds me that it also takes several seasons before things end up in the right place. Being small in stature myself, it’s a great visual reminder for me of why I keep going and the impact that I want to make.

Key Learnings:

  • One’s professional journey is a continuous process of learning and growing, hopefully getting every individual closer to something most impactful and meaningful. It really does take time, experience and reflection to step beyond what we think we are supposed to and to start doing what inspires us the most.
  • Everyone’s professional success is a very unique blend of how they choose to spend their time, the tools they use, and a process of trial and error to show up to do their best work.
  • Understanding and acting in alignment with an employee mindset vs. vendor mindset as a service provider is incredibly difficult but important. Ultimately, greater transparency and boundaries, if done correctly, can lead to a more productive and meaningful work relationship.
Originally published on IdeaMensch.
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Interviews

Interview with Jill Koziol, Co-Founder of Motherly

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Interview with Jill Koziol, Co-Founder of Motherly

Jill Koziol is the co-founder and CEO of Motherly, a wellbeing destination empowering mothers to thrive with expert content, innovative product solutions, and supportive community. Motherly engages an audience of 40 million+ readers and viewers a month, with on-demand parent education classes, Webby-award winning videos, The Motherly Podcast, essays, and articles, and a highly-engaged social media community.

She is also the co-author of “The Motherly Guide to Becoming Mama: Redefining the Pregnancy, Birth, and Postpartum Journey” and “This Is Motherhood: A Motherly Collection of Reflections and Practices.”

Jill is passionate about serving and empowering women and mothers because when mamas are successful, everyone wins. She is an advocate for families, female founders, and how to thrive with multiple sclerosis. Jill lives in Park City, Utah with her husband and two daughters.

Where did the idea for Motherly come from?

The short answer is that I cofounded Motherly simply because it didn’t exist and women were being significantly underserved by the parenting resources that were available to them back in 2015. The idea was born from a call with my now cofounder, Liz Tenety, an award-winning journalist and editor. She called to discuss the seedling of an idea she had for a platform that would speak to today’s modern mothers. On that first call we discovered we had a shared mission to support women as they become mothers and decided to build a next-generation brand that would redefine motherhood for the modern woman, that differentiated as woman-centered, expert-driven, and empowering.

What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?

I live and die by my calendar, scheduling every detail from work meetings to workouts to ensure I optimize every moment. The below is a typical day though increasingly I am having in person lunch or coffee meetings a couple times a week.

6:45am I start each day giving myself about 15 minutes in bed to check the news, emails, and my calendar for the day.

7:20am I’m dressed and ready for the day and in mom mode getting my daughters ready for the day and taking them to school

8am Call with my Chief of Staff to discuss any pressing matters and align on priorities

8:30am Workout

9:15 Email Check before returning to my home office

9:30 – 3pm Back to back internal and external video calls and meetings with hopefully a little time between to keep on top of email

3pm Pick up my daughters from school and bring them home for my husband and/or au pair to manage afternoon activities

3:30pm Email catchup, strategy work, occasional west coast calls

6pm – 8:30pm Family time!

8:30pm Final email check

9:30pm Shower & relax with my husband

10:30pm Bed, typically reading a bit before sleeping

How do you bring ideas to life?

I believe in sprints to timebox an idea, providing an opportunity to test and iterate, failing or succeeding quickly before scaling the idea.

What’s one trend that excites you?

Remote-first work policies. Motherly has been remote-first since our launch in 2015.

What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?

Timeboxing – I block time out for nearly everything on my calendar giving tasks defined periods to accomplish them – this allows me to stay focused and avoid multitasking too much.

What advice would you give your younger self?

I’d tell myself to lead authentically, not to try to be a man or anyone other than who I am, leading with a full heart as my most authentic self. It took me a while in my 20s to learn that people sense authenticity and they follow it.

Tell us something that’s true that almost nobody agrees with you on.

Nearly 50% of today’s mothers are the primary breadwinner in their families – it’s a fact that many are surprised to learn and have difficulty believing. Because of this it’s a business and competitive imperative that we find ways to support working mothers in the workplace – our economic future depends on it.

As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?

Cancel meetings – at the start of each week I cancel as meetings as possible. If it can be accomplished with an email, the goal isn’t clear, an agenda not established, or someone else can handle it as well or better than me, it’s canceled.

What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business?

Hiring great people and getting out of their way, seeing my role as helping to unblock them so they can be successful.

What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?

I believe that success is created when passion and persistence combine and that sometimes the key is to simply stay alive long enough to be successful. So while I fail in little, and sometimes big, ways each day, I see this as part of the journey vs failure. For example, we launched our first digital video class for parents in 2016 and it wasn’t successful because the market wasn’t ready, our audience wasn’t large enough, etc. So we killed it. But now in 2022 much has changed and we are now building the largest expert-driven digital parenting education platform.

What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?

I’ve had this idea for a few years and haven’t found a solution yet – with so many streaming services featuring original series I find it hard to know when a new season of a favorite show is launched. I’d love for someone to launch an app that I can flag series I love across all streaming platforms that will notify me when a new season is released. It would be great if it also made recommendations for similar series. If this happens to already exist, please send it my way!

What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why?

I buy fresh flowers weekly for my home office and while it may seem indulgent, I find that it brings me joy and encourages mindfulness during the day, both important for me to find each day to motivate me.

What is one piece of software or a web service that helps you be productive?

Trello – I keep track of to-dos and 1:1 topics for my direct reports, as well as notes from meetings.

What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?

Reshma Saujani’s new book, “Pay Up”, is an important read on the future of women in the workplace. The ideas she outlines are things Motherly has implemented over the last 7 years, proving they work and can be scaled.

What is your favorite quote?

My favorite quote is, “there’s nothing like 10 years of hard work to look like an overnight success.” This has been a critical mantra for me and Motherly because I so often compare myself and our business to others that have been around for a very long time.

Key Learnings:

  • Success is created when passion and persistence combine.
  • Time is your most valuable asset and should be protected fiercely.
  • The only person that you can truly be authentically is yourself. Spend time figuring out who you are, not who you should act like.
Originally published on IdeaMensch.
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Interview with Naz De Bono, Founder of Xali

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Interview with Naz De Bono, Founder of Xali

To Naz de Bono, 50, health and fitness has never been just a job, it’s an innate, fire-in-the-belly passion. A passion for the physical body within herself, and that of helping others reach their best place of physical health.

After an early life feeling disaffected by sport, Naz turned to personal training as a way to understand both the strengths and limitations of her own body and mind, and how to work with those challenges to get the best out of herself every single time. For over 20 years, Naz has worked and studied alongside specialist trainers, nutritionists, and mindfulness experts to do the work and learn the lessons.

Cut to a few years ago where Naz had her own very lonely and confusing experience of Perimenopause and Menopause. Naz realised that she wanted to combine her knowledge with her own personal journey to drive the creation of Xali, and build a safe, supportive community for women to access.

Naz’s way of training – the XALI way – is not to challenge you to push beyond your limits, to drag you through the grades to the point of injury or exhaustion. Rather, she will align with your goals and expectations, supporting you every step of the way.

Where did the idea for Xali come from?

When I started going through menopause my whole world seemed upside down. Things that had usually worked for me no longer did. Even my own 14 day challenge programs, which always got me results in the past and left me feeling great, weren’t having the same impact anymore. There were so many fitness apps out there that may be great, but didn’t seem to be helping women like me. On any given day I didn’t know which woman I was going to wake up as. On top of that I suffer from Elhers Danlos Syndrome, which means I have had many injuries, tendon and ligament tears which my doctor confirmed were being exacerbated by menopause.

The more I researched, the more I realised there was nothing out there to address my ever changing emotions (hormone emotions!) So I set out to build a platform with (New Beach) that would serve you up a daily workout based on HOW YOU WANT TO FEEL!

Xali is founded on the realisation that our bodies need many things. We need to have variability in our training but in the right dosage. We need Strength, Cardio, Power, Recovery Pilates and Yoga. I wanted to write an algorithm for each level of woman with different sets of goals to give them a 6 week training program that focuses on ALL their needs for vitality, health longevity and happy movement.

What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?

I’ve always been an early riser. Some of my best work is done in the morning before anyone else is awake. I used to jump out of bed, grab my coffee and a big glass of water and hit the gym. Since going through perimenopause, I have adapted my routine to suit me better and I take more time to set out my intentions. This has proved important with my new menopause body which is more prone to joint pain.

Before I even open my eyes, I take a few deep diaphragmatic breaths, whilst repeating this simple serenity ‘prayer’.

I then let the dog out, boil the kettle and turn the coffee machine for my double shot espresso. A very quick body brush to boost lymphatic if time allows, shower finishing with cold burst and then have 1 litre of warm water with a teaspoon of good quality sea salt. Check what my XALI tailored workout is as I drink my coffee. Workout – no matter where I am, I always make sure I have an area set up for me to do my morning session which makes it so much easier to do! Go for a walk and either listen to a podcast or music.

I then meet up with the team and take them through Wimhof breath work and visualisation every Monday to set us all up for the week. I built our team of women from love, and all of us are pretty spiritual, so I am free to expose all my ‘woo woo’ as we call it!

I spend time with each person in my team and we go through what needs to be done / addressed that day and then it’s all systems go updating the platform.

How do you bring ideas to life?

I love that you ask this as I know my best ideas happen when I am moving rather than static. Walking, cycling or doing an intuitive workout session. I always keep voice memos that I store for later as stopping and writing things down will interrupt my flow.

I use otter.ai to play back my recordings into Word documents. I work very closely with my husband, Leo, who has a genius and analytical mind. It has to be said, he winds me up because he questions everything and makes me look at every idea from all sides. This can make the process very lengthy but my attention to detail has improved so much. It can make things slightly annoying for 2 young girls, who feel we are constantly talking work at the dinner table.

When I begin to design workouts and programs for XALI, it can take months. My process begins with jotting down the workout basic outline on my iPhone or a scrap piece of paper. Once I have trialled it physically and passed the feel good factor, it gets written on to a massive A3 post it note and stuck on the wall of our home. Every single workout is colour coded. I think in colours. I learn in colour. It may make no sense to anyone else, but is how all my ideas come to life.

Each workout is designed with music. By creating a playlist for each one I know that I can perform and film the workout with the right emotion and tempo for the particular XALI woman I am creating for, hence it is a true tailor-made emotional platform for women.

What’s one trend that excites you?

Whimhof! But not rigidly. When I first tried, I didn’t like it so much. It felt very male in its energy. Then I met an incredible human being on one of my retreats that I go on regularly to reset myself. He brought a softness, emotion and surrender so that it became much more about breath work, followed by a surrender to the ice. Rather than the fight I had always felt before. I have never liked the cold. I am Egyptian and love to bask in the sun and feel the heat of it on my skin, but when I felt the benefits in my body and joint pain I decided to bring it into my self-care regime. Although now it’s winter, I focus on the breath work and not so much the cold!

What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?

Remembering my WHY. There’s not much in the way of resources for women going through perimenopause and menopause and I want to create a solution for this. Like any entrepreneur, identify a problem and find / make a solution.

What advice would you give your younger self?

Trust your intuition. That voice inside is your wisdom. Don’t try to be like everyone else, fit the mould. Be you, because everyone else is taken. Stay curious about everything. Always listen before speaking, I know that your words have a big impact so choose them carefully. Love yourself, as hard as that may seem, you cannot love anyone else until you love YOU. Find and connect with people who make you laugh, who make you feel good about yourself, who inspire you, challenge you but do not wish to compete with you. When you find your people, your tribe, that’s when your visions and dreams come true. Be kind, always.

Tell us something that’s true that almost nobody agrees with you on.

Hardly anyone agrees with my own unique way of working on things. It has been said over and over that I work too hard and need to step away from it. While this may be true, I feel it is my tunnel vision when I am working on any project close to my heart (including XALI) I cannot think or work on anything else. I am in the zone so no, I don’t multitask when I am in flow because I am fully present. And I feel that is what people deserve when they ask something of me.

As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?

IRT which has changed my life. It is unlike any other spiritual work I have found, because it is instantaneous and effortless. IRT bridges science and spirituality.

The reason I love Maureen Edwardson’s work is because it is a formula of questions that activates a part of you that knows your authentic self. Think of IRT, as a defrag and anti-viral program, for your human supercomputer (yes that is what we all are!). Once we allow the part of us that knows who we are, there are no boundaries. Then you can achieve all that you want. Why wouldn’t I share this secret with you?

What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business?

Realising I needed to step into a place of leadership without expecting to be out front shouting CHARGE!

What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?

Launched an online fitness app during COVID, when every gym, personal trainer and Influencer went on line. I no longer think of this as a failure but as an expanded opportunity to launch a more complete service to women of the world.

If there is one thing that COVID has taught us, it is we need to be more in touch with our emotional side. This was the birth of XALI.

What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?

Two things I think someone needs to invent or develop. Firstly a range of shirts or tops that’s designed for women’s shapes to still be figure hugging in a flattering fashion, but that doesn’t get makeup stains all over it when you take it off. I think so much women’s fashion is designed to look great but you take off a jumper or t-shirt and it drags along your face, taking with it, half your makeup and then it’s ruined. Another thing I think should be invented is a fabric that doesn’t show the white deodorant marks on black tops. There are deodorants out there that supposedly don’t show up on black fabrics but I am yet to find one that actually works. So let’s flip that concept and create a fabric where the deodorant doesn’t stain the material. Working in the fitness industry, these are real world annoyances that someone needs to solve!

What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why?

A facial. Because it makes me feel good and I love the beautiful Parker at Aesthetica, Byron who does it!

What is one piece of software or a web service that helps you be productive?

Otter.ai. I listen to so many podcasts, I keep a journal on my iPhone voice recorder – all kinds of ideas, to play back my recordings into Word documents. I also record all conversations I have with my mentor.

What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?

Your Magical Evolutionary Code Unleashed – The Science of Inner Resonance by Maureen Edwardson. This book automatically activates your subconscious with the science of who you are. Dr. Bruce Lipton said “Maureen’s pioneering work is vital to our Evolution”.

What is your favorite quote?

Nothing is impossible, the word itself says “I’m Possible”
Audrey Hepburn

Key Learnings:

  • Trust your intuition!
  • Taking time for yourself and prioritising your needs is not selfish, it’s empowering!
  • Always remember your WHY and understand it’s ok to do things differently to everyone else – that’s what makes you YOU and what will likely create your success.
Originally published on IdeaMensch.
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