In celebration of Women's History Month, our founder and CEO, Denise Lee, was interviewed by DISCO to share insight on what it's like to lead a female-founded direct-to-consumer brand in the DISCO Network. In an attempt to explore her journey to entrepreneurship, she was asked an array of questions regarding inspiration, motivation, challenges and risks. Denise also provides advice for budding female entrepreneurs.
What motivated you to pursue your brand full-time?
“I spent a year conceptualizing Alala before leaving my full-time job. During that time, I did a lot of research into understanding the white space I was going after and making sure that there was a big enough opportunity. I wanted to pour myself into the brand full-time once I hired a designer to design the first collection. I do think it’s important to understand your financial situation before you decide to jump into your brand full-time because a lot of the time it’s difficult to start making money right away.”
What's a major challenge you've had to overcome as a female founder?
“One major challenge I’ve had to overcome as a founder, in general, is the mental challenge of imposter syndrome, and feeling like I am just as capable of building a successful company. It’s a journey that I don’t think we ever complete, but it is an important one in every founder's evolution.”
What's the one piece of advice you would give a female entrepreneur?
“One piece of advice I would give a new entrepreneur is to develop your intuition. There is so much information out there, and so many opinions that if you choose to listen to external sources, a lot of times, you might find it difficult to find the right answer. I found in my experience that my gut intuition is right a lot of the time and what’s thrown me off track was ignoring that and listening to the advice of others.”
What's the most fulfilling part of your work?
“The most fulfilling part of my work is when I see people I don’t know wearing Alala on the streets and also when I get people telling me that they love wearing their Alala. I get especially excited when I see girls wearing ALALA pieces from many seasons ago because it just speaks to the timeless style and great quality that we strive to put into all our products.”
What has been the biggest risk you took to grow your business?
“The biggest risk I took to grow my business was to take out a bank loan with a personal guarantee. Product businesses take a lot of capital to grow and because I did not want to take outside investment, a bank loan was the best option for me. I think founders need to understand the financial consequences of taking money from any external source And how they can be personally responsible for repaying those loans.”
Which female-founded brands have inspired you recently?
“There are so many female-founded brands that I love. Recently, I have been using my friend Lisa's flower teas from The Qi as part of a new morning ritual and those have really brought me joy in my day.”
What are some of your favorite Disco brands and products?
“I love Olive & June and Vegamour.”
What are some of your go-to DTC/eCom resources that have been super valuable to you as a female founder?
“There are so many great sources for information as a DTC founder. I subscribe to Nik Sharma's newsletter and I also really love Chris Harder's podcast.”
How do you leverage Disco Network's collective reach, community, and insights to shape your growth and marketing?
“Brand exposure and meeting new customers is always incredibly important to any brand. With paid advertising in the state that it is, Disco has been a great way for us to access and share customer information without the same acquisition costs. It’s also great to understand our customers better by knowing which brands she also loves to shop at.”