Last month, Women’s CoLab, in partnership with Verizon and Luminary, hosted their Fall summit aimed at helping women founders grow and scale their business. Building on the company’s mission to provide access to resources, leadership advice and community for women at all career levels, the event included a day of conversations focused on career growth, leadership and new definitions of success.
One of the panels featured Amanda Baldwin, CEO of Supergoop, and Beatrice Dixon, co-founder and CEO of The Honey Pot, talking about the different ways founders and leaders can work with their teams to achieve their goals.
Baldwin and Dixon took very different paths to get to the leadership roles they currently hold. They both spoke candidly about what it takes to be a successful leader, how critical it is to build the right teams, and why running a company is anything but glamorous. Here are five of the lessons they shared from their journeys growing and scaling personal care brands.
1 – It’s personal.
Both Supergoop and The Honey Pot came into existence because of the founders’ personal stories. Supergoop’s founder Holly Thaggard’s friend was diagnosed with skin cancer at the age of 29, which is what motivated Thaggard to create a sunscreen product that people would actually be willing to wear. A few years later, in 2016, she recruited Baldwin to join the company as President. Baldwin was promoted to CEO in 2021 and it was under her leadership that the company was able to sell a majority stake to Blackstone later that year.
Before creating The Honey Pot, Dixon struggled with bacterial vaginosis for months. One day, she went to Whole Foods (where she worked at the time) to purchase ingredients which she mixed together at home, and within 4-5 days her issues went away. “My journey to entrepreneurship was and is still very personal to me,” she said. “I don’t have a business degree. I didn’t even finish school but I do know how to run the shit out of a company and build something that’s beautiful and meaningful.”
2 – Narrow in on your company’s purpose.
“Be focused and be strategic about how you build your business,” Dixon said. “Don’t be all over the place. Don’t throw money at things. Money does not solve problems. Real thought and execution and being strategic is what solves problems.”
“All great companies start with a purpose and a mission,” Baldwin said. “How do you scale something and never lose the thing that makes you special? Running a business is amazing but not for the faint of heart. I think that’s probably the thing that I learned the most from Holly (Thaggard, Supergoop’s founder.) To never lose sight of your mission. We call it the, ‘just because.’”
Dixon agreed. “We’re not in business just to play business,” she said. “It doesn’t come naturally to women. It doesn’t come naturally to humans of color because it wasn’t necessarily built for us in the first place. But we have to remember what we’re doing this for. We are doing this so that we and our families can have access to a life that literally has no limits.”
3 – Acknowledge when you don’t have all the answers.
“A lot of leadership is falling down and getting back up and helping your team to navigate that,” Baldwin said. “Change is the only constant. I find that very motivating and energizing.”
“Knowing anything is the understanding that you know nothing,” Dixon said. “You’re going to make all the plans. And maybe 20% of that will actually go the way you envisioned. Being able to pivot and being able to see new opportunities is crucial.”
“I think there’s this misconception that as a leader, somehow I know something that nobody else knows,” Baldwin said. “Sure, I know how to adjust to changes, but that doesn’t mean that I have the answers.”
Baldwin cited that training as a gymnast during her formative years had a significant impact on her perspective as a leader. “From the very beginning, falling and messing up was part of the process,” she said. “You are quite literally trained to fall. In running a business, sometimes you don’t get it right, you make a mistake, you miscalculate something, you think a product will do one thing and it does another.”
4 – Build a great team.
“You don’t do this alone,” Baldwin said. “Build an amazing team, and then get out of the way. I don’t think I understood that as a CEO more than 50% of my time is spent managing a team. But one of the greatest joys I’ve had is watching people grow at this company. That’s one great thing about getting in on the ground level.”
“Build your team, but when you’re just starting out, don’t be so quick to give out ‘chief’ titles,” Dixon advised. “You don’t need a COO if your company hasn’t reached $10 million yet. You may need a director of operations or a senior manager somewhere, though. Also be careful not to give away chunks of equity. We made that cardinal mistake.”
Dixon continued, “But we are nothing without our team. You really have to be willing to trust them. Just take your hands off the wheel and let them soar.”
5 – Have unshakeable faith in what you’re doing.
“As the founder, as the leader, you quite literally sit in the foundation that supports the house,” Dixon said. “This is hard.”
“You cannot be afraid. Even when you are, just deal with that quickly so you can get back to it. Naturally, things may go up and down. Don’t lead with fear,” Dixon advised. “It might be uncomfortable. But that’s okay. Having acceptance for the ebbs and flows and being active about pivoting when you need to is important.”
“It’s not glamorous,” Dixon continued. “It’s not beautiful. It has a beauty to it. But in order to get to the beauty, you have to crawl through a lot. You have to know that everything will be okay even if it’s not okay right now. You have to have an unshakeable faith. That’s what allows you to keep moving forward.”