(highlights from Episode #4 of the Gutsiest Brands podcast)
In our latest Gutsiest Brands podcast, GutCheck’s Chief Revenue Officer, Jess Gaedeke, talks with The Flex Company Founder and CEO, Lauren Wang, to discuss how work should be about helping others, her path to entrepreneurship, expanding from direct-to-consumer to mainstream retail, and how she convinced people who don’t menstruate to get financially behind her and her product.
Lauren is the founder and CEO of The Flex Company, a sustainable period care brand. For Lauren, this business is more than personal. After having spent fifteen years experiencing infections from period products, Lauren knew there needed to be a change. And other women asked her to find the solution. Here’s what she learned.
Takeaway #1 – You’re Never Really Ready
A gutsy brand is one that takes risks, and Lauren was certainly risking a lot when she made the leap to entrepreneurship. “The biggest thing that I tell other people who are thinking about starting their own business is that no matter what background you come from, you’re never truly ready. You’re never going to feel like there’s some moment that the light bulb goes on and [you say] Okay, let’s go. I’m ready to do this now.” Instead, Lauren talks about how her realization was a gradual one. She didn’t realize right away, but after talking to her audience, Lauren discovered they couldn’t wait for a solution any longer and it was up to her to make it happen.
Takeaway #2 – Make it Personal
When Lauren went searching for investors, she quickly found that her audience didn’t match her product demographic. “Most of the people that I talked to had never had a period. Many didn’t even have children who menstruated. So, they were just broadly unfamiliar with this idea,” Lauren explains. How do you gain support for a product from someone who will never use it? You find their benefit. “I would say, ‘this is the product for mess-free period sex.’” Obviously this was only one of a laundry list of benefits, but “it was the wedge I would use to get them interested in hearing more and to hear me out. And from there I could say ‘and there’s these other benefits, there’s a really massive market, and nobody’s paying attention to this problem’”. By finding an empathetic connection with her investors, Lauren was able to secure funding, launch, and grow her company.
Takeaway #3 – Start with Consumer-Led Product Design
Smaller brands may not have the R+D budgets of the big players, but that shouldn’t stop you, according to Lauren. “If you don’t have that luxury [of a big budget], the best thing that I know to do is to get really close to the customer.” By adding their perspective to the design process, Lauren is able to keep the team guided toward the most important questions: “Why does this product need to exist? Why is it different? What is its place in the world?” With feedback and iteration, companies can solve genuine problems, leading to success.
Takeaway #4 – Know When to Break the Rules
The first step in business is to understand the landscape in which we’re working. Lauren says, “Once you understand that reality, [you should] understand the rules of that reality better than anyone and decide which of those rules you want to follow and which of those rules you want to break.” The Flex Company needed to hold strictly to safety and regulatory requirements, but Lauren didn’t follow the typical path when it came to investors and launching. Lauren says it all goes back to her company’s why. “If you’re unclear about the why, or if you’re unclear about the reality, or if you’re unclear about which rules you’re willing to break and which rules you’re not, you’re going to find yourself swept away in moments and maybe make some decisions that you wish you hadn’t.”
Lauren‘s Best Advice?
Lauren encourages us to stop playing the comparison game. “As time goes on, it’s really easy to look around at competitors and see what they’re doing. And I refuse to do it. I have to encourage my team regularly [to] be aware of what other folks are doing, but just ignore them because nobody is us. Nobody has our values. Nobody has our customer set. And we are focused on our vision and executing on our vision. And I find that to be very freeing.”
Catch up with Lauren’s full interview and learn from more gutsy leaders by listening to our Gutsiest Brands podcast. If you are interested in how your brand can uncover the deep customer insights that can enable you to lead with empathy, pioneer new paths, stand behind bold ideas, and lean into ‘the power of AND’, we’d love to help. Drop us a note!