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Interview with Leah Smolensky, Founder of Drenchbar



Interview with Leah Smolensky, Founder of Drenchbar

Leah is a veteran advertising executive who knows how to build brands. During her 19 years in advertising Leah has worked on iconic brands like Nike, Miller Coors, Mars, Champion, 2K Sports, E!, HBO, SC Johnson, Bugaboo, Microsoft, and more. Her work has won awards and accreditations from the Effies, the FWA, and Contagious Magazine. She currently leads Integration Strategy at an international ad agency and runs her own business. Leah founded drenchbar, a new brand shaking up the lotion aisle, in 2022 and is acting CEO.

Leah started her career in product development at Paris Presents where she worked on brands such as Joe Boxer and Raz, and designed concepts for new product lines, which resulted in the national launch of 36 new product items at mass merchandisers such as Target, Kmart and Boots London

Leah lives in Albuquerque, New Mexico. In her spare time she enjoys time outdoors, coloring with her kids, tending for her plants and running.

Where did the idea for Drenchbar come from?

A google search. I hated putting on lotion, and so did my children. But, living in the desert, I also hated how dry and uncomfortable my skin felt when I neglected to moisturize. So, I searched online for “a lotion for people who hate lotion,” to try to find a better product. What I found was a community of people across Reddit, TikTok, and Instagram who were dissatisfied with the category. They found bottled lotion to be cold, sticky, and uncomfortable, and lotion bars to be hard to apply and not hydrating. And overall, there was a lack of products that served sensitive skin. I wanted to create a better option that had the eco benefits of a bar form, the skincare and hydrating benefits of bottled lotion, the in-shower experience of wet-skin moisturizers and designed for sensitive skin first. That is what inspired drenchbar.

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

My days are packed. I am a mother, entrepreneur, and by day I lead a large team at an international ad agency. I aim to always start my days with a glass of water and movement. While I work out, I listen to podcasts. Then I use my shower to organize and plan my day and to do list. I have a 15-minute open call with the drenchbar team to reviews goals for the day and answer any questions. I catch up on emails, knock easy tasks off my list, and then see my girls off to school. After that I head to my day job, which is typically filled with meetings, presentations, deep work, and connecting with my team. After I wrap up with the agency, I pack in some work for drenchbar– planning content and marketing initiatives, forecasting, testing our new innovations, or connecting with our formulator. I always break to recharge with my children and prepare dinner with my husband. After I put the kids to sleep, I often do more work and then close my day out. It’s hard for me not to have productive days, my focus is to build in time to recharge and be mindful.

How do you bring ideas to life?

In a word, mindset. Adopting the right mindset at every stage of the process is key to getting new ideas off the ground. First, I make space for ideas to happen. My best ideas do not come from sitting in front of a screen or in a board room. They come when I’m running, showering, painting with my children, traveling, chatting with my husband or friends. I do not look at those parts of my day, my life, as frivolous or optional. I know that they are necessary to my work. Then, when it comes time to bring the idea to life, it’s about a mindset of mental toughness. There will always be challenges along the way. I do not expect things to be easy, so I tell myself every day, “I can do hard things.” And that self-belief is what helps me cross the finish line.

What’s one trend that excites you?

The evolving definition of wellness.

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

Taking advantage of even the small moments. If I have just 10 minutes, I see that as an opportunity to start, or even finish, something. To move my body, respond to emails, start prepping dinner, start a deck. I make use of any time in my day. I do not limit myself based on minutes on the clock. And I try to never just sit and stare at a screen. I f I don’t know where to begin, I start typing or walking or anything else.

What advice would you give your younger self?

Mistakes are part of the process. They get you to where you want to be. Don’t dwell in remorse, and don’t aim to never make mistakes. Learn, grow, and pick yourself up again. If I had a redo, I would do it all the same. Because that is what got me here.

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

Being a mother makes you better at your career. The pervasive narrative is that you must sacrifice when you become a mother. That careers take a back seat, they suffer. I am not here to tell you that being a mother and a career woman is easy in our society. It’s not. However, what nobody discusses is how much better at your job motherhood makes you.\

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

Ask for input. It’s so easy to fall in love with your own ideas when you invest that much time and energy into them. But when we become too attached, we become vulnerable to blind spots. I ask for input at every turn. Every day, on even seemingly mundane decisions. I like to get a diverse perspective from customers, strangers, peers, friends, you name it. Input is my strength, and I put it to work for me relentlessly.

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

Act like a David, dream like a Goliath. As a self-funded startup, adopting a challenger brand mindset has been key to our growth. We do things differently because we have to. We spend a lot of time building our community and having 1-1 conversations with our fans. We send a lot of samples to dermatologists, editors, skincare influencers, and fans with zero expectation of coverage. We’re looking for input. It’s very important to us that only those who love the product post about it. As a result, we’ve built great relationships, learned invaluable insights, and gotten a ton of word of mouth from influential sources.

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

Our initial test production run with our co-packer was a failure. We failed to see some of the logistical challenges a larger run would create, even just at a test run, and it impacted the aesthetics of some of the bars. We overcame it with collaboration and imagination. My formulator, co-packer and I were able to pinpoint exactly where the breakdown was, and course correct for future runs. And I help on the imperfect bars and sold them at a discount during out of stock moments to drive more desire on social media.

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

A mommy and me wellness space. A multi-functional space that helps mom shut off their ongoing to-do and have mindful time with their children. Could include things like self-care services for kids and their guardians, yoga, cooking, and a play space for when the kids are done.

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

An art cart for my children. It’s a three-tiered rolling cart that stores all their art supplies. Having it out in the open has been a game changer. We now like to draw or paint together on Saturday mornings. This time together is sacred, and it’s how I practice my mindfulness.

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

I am super old school. Hand-written notes and to-do lists are the only tool I need to stay productive.

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

“How Brands Grow,” by Byron Sharp. This seminal reading in the world of marketing is backed by decades of effectiveness research. It’s a must-read if you’re trying to build and grow a brand.

What is your favorite quote?

A man who views the world the same at fifty as he did at 20 has wasted thirty years of his life – Mohammad Ali

Key Learnings:

  • Adopt a mindset of relentless self-belief. Know challenges will happen but believe in yourself and your ability to grow from them and overcome them.
  • Embrace the small in-between moments to turbocharge productivity. Never underestimate how much you can get done in 10 minutes.
  • Reframe the way you look at recharge time. Prioritize time to run, shower, play, walk, etc. as that is where the best ideas happen.
  • Asking for help is a superpower, not a weakness. Learn to know when and how to ask for input and support.
Originally published on IdeaMensch.


Interview with Jack Carlson, Founder of Rowing Blazers: History, Tradition, and Innovation



Interview with Jack Carlson, Founder of Rowing Blazers

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Jack Carlson is the founder and creative director of Rowing Blazers, a fashion brand that combines classic American style with a contemporary edge. Jack Carlson, a former national team rower, and scholar of history draw inspiration from vintage sportswear and traditional Ivy League fashion. His passion for design and fashion, combined with his unique background. Jack Carlson has resulted in the creation of a brand that stands out in the industry.

Can you tell us about your background and how you became interested in fashion?

I’ve always had a passion for fashion and design, even while pursuing my other interests. I grew up in Connecticut and started rowing at a young age, eventually competing at the national level. While studying history at Harvard, I became interested in the traditional clothing worn by rowers and began to collect vintage rowing blazers. This sparked my interest in fashion and led me to start designing my own clothing. After completing a Ph.D. in archaeology, I decided to pursue fashion full-time and founded Rowing Blazers in 2017.

What inspired you to start Rowing Blazers?

I wanted to create a brand that celebrated the rich history and tradition of American fashion, particularly the preppy style of the Ivy League. At the same time, I wanted to bring a contemporary edge to classic designs and challenge the boundaries of traditional fashion. I was inspired by the vintage rowing blazers that I collected and wanted to create my own versions that were both authentic and modern.

Can you walk us through the design process of creating a new collection?

The design process always starts with research and inspiration. I spend a lot of time looking at vintage clothing, archival photographs, and historical documents to get a sense of the styles and aesthetics of a particular time period or culture. From there, I sketch out ideas and work with my team to refine the designs and select fabrics. We always strive to balance classic elements with modern twists and unexpected details. It’s a collaborative process that involves a lot of trial and error, but we always end up with something that we’re proud of.

How do you stay true to your brand’s identity while also keeping up with current fashion trends?

For us, it’s not about following trends, but rather creating timeless pieces that will never go out of style. Although we draw inspiration from the past, we don’t limit ourselves to it. We’re always looking for ways to innovate and push boundaries while staying true to our brand’s core identity. We’re not interested in fast fashion or disposable clothing – our pieces are meant to last and be treasured for years to come.

Can you tell us about a particular challenge you faced while growing Rowing Blazers and how you overcame it?

One of the biggest challenges we’ve faced is scaling the business while maintaining the quality and craftsmanship that we’re known for. We’ve had to find the right partners and suppliers who share our values and are able to produce our garments to our high standards. We’ve also had to be very strategic about our growth, taking things one step at a time and not rushing into anything too quickly. It’s been a learning process, but we’ve been able to grow the business in a sustainable way that we’re proud of.

What advice would you give to someone who wants to start their own fashion brand?

My advice would be to stay true to your vision and never compromise on quality. It’s also important to be strategic about your growth and not try to do everything at once. Start small and focus on doing one thing really well before expanding. And always be willing to learn and adapt – the fashion industry is constantly changing, so it’s important to be flexible and open to new ideas.

What’s next for Rowing Blazers?

We’re always working on new designs and collaborations, but we’re also focused on expanding our brand beyond just clothing. We want to create a lifestyle brand that encompasses all aspects of American style, from furniture to home decor to travel accessories. We’re excited to continue growing and evolving while staying true to our brand’s identity and values.

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Jack Carlson’s passion for fashion and history has resulted in the creation of a unique and innovative brand that stands out in the industry. His dedication to quality and craftsmanship, as well as his commitment to sustainability, sets Rowing Blazers apart from other fashion brands. To stay up to date with Jack Carlson and Rowing Blazers, you can follow him on LinkedIn.

Liked this interview? Check out this interview with Gracie Cedres

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Interview with Gracie Cedres: Insights on Entrepreneurship and Work-Life Balance



Interview with Gracie Cedres, Founder of G.R.A.C.E.

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Gracie Cedres is the founder and CEO of G.R.A.C.E., a company that provides virtual assistance and project management services to entrepreneurs and small business owners. With a degree in communications, Gracie has always been interested in helping others succeed in their businesses. Her passion for helping entrepreneurs led her to create G.R.A.C.E., which has been helping entrepreneurs and small business owners increase their productivity and profitability. In this interview, Gracie will share more about her journey as an entrepreneur and the success of G.R.A.C.E.

Can you tell us about yourself and your journey as an entrepreneur?

Sure, my name is Gracie Cedres, and I am the founder and CEO of G.R.A.C.E. I have always been interested in helping others, especially entrepreneurs and small business owners, succeed in their businesses. After completing my degree in communications, I worked as a virtual assistant for various entrepreneurs and realized that there was a need for high-quality virtual assistance and project management services. That’s how the idea for G.R.A.C.E. was born, and since then, I have been working hard to help entrepreneurs and small business owners achieve their goals.

How did you come up with the idea for G.R.A.C.E.?

After working as a virtual assistant for several entrepreneurs, the idea for G.R.A.C.E. came to me. I realized that many entrepreneurs were struggling to manage their time effectively and needed high-quality virtual assistance and project management services to help them become more productive and profitable. I saw an opportunity to help entrepreneurs and small business owners by providing them with top-notch virtual assistance and project management services, and that’s how G.R.A.C.E. was born.

What are some of the challenges you faced in starting and growing your business?

One of the biggest challenges I faced in starting and growing my business was finding the right team members. It’s important to have a team that shares your vision and is passionate about what they do. I also faced challenges in marketing my services and reaching out to potential clients. However, I overcame these challenges by networking, building relationships, and creating high-quality content that showcased the value of my services.

What is your vision for G.R.A.C.E. in the next five years?

My vision for G.R.A.C.E. in the next five years is to become the go-to virtual assistance and project management service provider for entrepreneurs and small business owners worldwide. I want to expand my team and services to be able to help more entrepreneurs and small business owners increase their productivity and profitability. I also want to continue building strong relationships with my clients and providing them with top-notch services.

Can you share with us some of your favorite success stories from working with your clients?

One of my favorite success stories is working with a small business owner who was struggling to manage their time effectively. By providing them with virtual assistance and project management services, we were able to help them increase their productivity, improve their marketing strategies, and ultimately grow their business. It’s always fulfilling to see my clients succeed and achieve their goals.

What advice would you give to aspiring entrepreneurs?

My advice to aspiring entrepreneurs is to educate themselves and never stop learning. It’s important to constantly learn new skills, stay up to date with industry trends, and seek out new opportunities. It’s also essential to have a strong work ethic, be persistent, and not be afraid to take risks. Don’t let failure discourage you, instead use it as a learning opportunity and keep pushing forward.

How do you maintain a work-life balance as a busy entrepreneur?

Maintaining a work-life balance can be challenging as a busy entrepreneur, but it’s essential for your well-being and the success of your business. One of the things I do is prioritize my tasks and delegate when necessary. I also set aside time for self-care activities like exercise, reading, and spending time with family and friends. It’s also important to know when to disconnect from work and focus on other aspects of your life.

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Gracie Cedres is an inspiration to entrepreneurs and small business owners worldwide. Her dedication to helping others and passion for entrepreneurship has led to the success of G.R.A.C.E. With a vision for continued growth and success, Gracie is sure to make an impact in the virtual assistance and project management industry. To learn more about Gracie Cedres and G.R.A.C.E., visit her website and follow her on LinkedIn.

Liked this interview? Check out this interview with Evan Cagner

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Interview with Evan Cagner: Insights into the World of Tech and Entrepreneurship



Interview with Evan Cagner, CEO of TechBlue

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Evan Cagner is the founder and CEO of TechBlue, a company that provides managed IT services to businesses of all sizes. Evan has over 15 years of experience in the tech industry and has helped numerous businesses grow by leveraging technology. He is a thought leader and innovator in the IT industry, with a keen eye for emerging trends and technologies. In this interview, Evan Cagner shares his insights into the world of tech and entrepreneurship.

What inspired you to start TechBlue?

I’ve always been passionate about technology and how it can be used to solve business problems. I started my career working for a large IT consulting firm, and I quickly realized that there was a big gap in the market for managed IT services. Small and medium-sized businesses often struggle to keep up with the latest technology trends, and they don’t have the resources to hire full-time IT staff. That’s why I decided to start TechBlue – to help these businesses leverage technology to grow and succeed.

What sets TechBlue apart from other managed IT services companies?

There are a few things that set TechBlue apart from other managed IT services companies. First and foremost, we are incredibly focused on customer service. We believe that building strong relationships with our clients is the key to our success. Second, we have a team of highly skilled technicians who are constantly learning and staying up to date with the latest technologies. Finally, we are very flexible and can customize our services to meet the unique needs of each of our clients.

How do you stay on top of emerging trends in the tech industry?

I’m always reading and staying up to date with the latest news and trends in the tech industry. I attend conferences and meet with other thought leaders in the industry to discuss new technologies and how they can be used to solve business problems. I also encourage my team to stay up to date and share their knowledge with each other.

How has the COVID-19 pandemic affected the IT industry?

The pandemic has had a significant impact on the IT industry. With so many people working remotely, there has been a huge demand for cloud-based services and virtual private networks (VPNs). There has also been an increased focus on cybersecurity, as remote workers are more vulnerable to cyberattacks. Overall, the pandemic has accelerated the shift toward digital transformation and has highlighted the importance of having a reliable and secure IT infrastructure.

What advice do you have for entrepreneurs looking to start their own businesses?

My advice would be to focus on building a strong team and never stop learning. Surround yourself with people who are smarter than you and who have different skill sets. Be willing to take risks and make mistakes, but also be willing to learn from those mistakes. And finally, don’t be afraid to ask for help or advice from other entrepreneurs who have been through it before.

What is your vision for the future of TechBlue?

My vision for TechBlue is to continue to grow and expand our services to meet the changing needs of our clients. I want to stay at the forefront of emerging technologies and continue to be a thought leader in the industry. Ultimately, I want to help as many businesses as possible leverage technology to achieve their goals.

What do you like to do in your free time?

In my free time, I enjoy spending time with my family and staying active. I’m an avid runner and I also enjoy playing basketball and golf. I’m also a big fan of music and enjoy going to concerts and discovering new artists.

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Evan Cagner is a true leader and innovator in the IT industry. His passion for technology and customer service has helped TechBlue become one of the most respected managed IT services companies in the business. With his keen eye for emerging trends and technologies, Evan is sure to continue to make an impact in the industry for years to come. To learn more about Evan Cagner and TechBlue, you can visit their website or follow them on LinkedIn.

Liked this interview? Check out this interview with Makayla Gordon

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