Being a founder, entrepreneur, or a business owner can have many exciting and thrilling moments. But it is also punctuated with periods of doubt, slump, and anxiety. So how does one successfully and healthily ride the highs and lows of Entrepreneurship? In this series, called “How To Successfully Ride The Emotional Highs & Lows Of Being An Entrepreneur“ we are talking to successful entrepreneurs who can share stories from their experience. I had the pleasure of interviewing Tu-Hien Le.
In 2016 inspired by her personal struggle with breastfeeding and pumping after giving birth, Tu-Hien Le created a unique breast pump cushion that helps tens of thousands of women through their breastfeeding journey. Over the years, Tu-Hien built a team of part-time and working from home parents who are both ambitious with their careers and the primary caretaker of their family. Since then, the idea which started as a conversation with her husband at the dining room table has now grown to become her company BeauGen, a 7-figure e-commerce business.
Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dive in, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your ‘backstory’ and how you got started?
Tu-Hien Le: Thank you so much! I started my entrepreneurial journey in 2015 after my daughter was born. I had never owned or ran a business before, in fact my background is in corporate finance. Living in a small 500 sq ft studio in NYC, I was a new mom struggling with breastfeeding. I noticed thousands of women also experienced the same challenges in the beginning stages of motherhood with breastfeeding too. After joining several mom support communities and searching online, I found there was no specific solution for painful pumping. I told my husband if almost every single new mom has to experience this, why has nobody come up with a solution. At that moment, we looked at each other and decided that we would be the ones to find the solution for pumping in pain. From there, we decided living in NYC with a newborn while trying to build a startup was not financially feasible, so we moved back to Florida where we are both originally from and officially started our entrepreneurial journey to finding a solution for women who experience pain while pumping.
What was the “Aha Moment” that led to the idea for your current company? Can you share that story with us?
Tu-Hien Le: When I was deep in the mom community, I spoke with hundreds of women about their breastfeeding experience. I asked what they struggled with most and what they wish they had. I noticed a common theme repeated in all my conversations which was discomfort and pain during pumping. This was when I decided that the pain women experience using the pump was the problem I would seek to find a solution for.
I worked with a local prototyping shop and described the current process women use to pump breast milk, the reason for their discomfort, and the problem I wanted to solve. I was then presented options on materials and its application process. From there my husband and I experimented with different shapes, sizes, and material combinations to find what brought comfort to women who used the breast pump. After developing and testing over 40 prototypes, we landed on a solution that would eventually become the first iteration of our BeauGen breast pump cushions that we launched to the market
In your opinion, were you a natural born entrepreneur or did you develop that aptitude later on? Can you explain what you mean?
Tu-Hien Le: I was not a natural born entrepreneur. In fact, I didn’t even know what an entrepreneur was until I started on my own journey. In school, I majored in finance and economics and ended up working in finance for 8 years prior to starting BeauGen. I thought I was destined to work in corporate America until retirement like I was told to do throughout my entire life and didn’t even know starting your own business was an option.
Everything I learned to do when it came to building, developing, and growing my company BeauGen was from researching, reading, and seeking the guidance from mentors and coaches. I knew in order for me to be successful, I had to model those who already achieved success and follow their path. I shared my business and entrepreneurial journey with anyone who would listen to see if the advice they provided could serve me in moving my business forward. Even today after achieving a good level of success, I still seek the advice of mentors and coaches to guide me to the next level of success.
Was there somebody in your life who inspired or helped you to start your journey with your business? Can you share a story with us?
Tu-Hien Le: My husband Chris was the big driving force behind me starting my entrepreneurial journey. We decided to embark on this path together and quickly realized that I would need to develop as a leader in order to give my company BeauGen the support it needed to reach the thousands of women who were looking for our solution. From the beginning, he knew I had what it took to have a winning mindset, build a strong team, and share our story and solution with the market. The biggest challenge I faced was getting in my own way and self-doubt. It took about 3 years of making minimal impact and coasting through before I realized that if I wanted the results in my business to change I needed to change. Throughout the entire process, my husband was always supportive and always believed in me and I am forever grateful for him.
What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
Tu-Hien Le: The differentiation factor that makes my company BeauGen stand out is how closely we listen to our customers to understand their deepest desires. A lot of times people say what they want or think they want on the surface level, but you have to keep asking them why to see what it is that they really need.
I spoke with one of our customers to do some customer research and she explained that she uses our product frequently because it provides more comfort especially with how frequently she pumps. She went on to say that she felt a lot of pressure from her family and society to nurse and when that did not work out for her, she was determined to pump breast milk for her baby. In the end, she wanted to feel like she was a good mom and good enough for her baby. That really struck me that as moms, we still are concerned about being a good enough mom if we nurse vs. pump for our babies. The fact that women are concerned about this makes me think of course they are good moms! They are better than good! They are great moms! Speaking to that sentiment of being a good mom really resonated with our customers and helped us connect to them on a deeper level.
You are a successful business leader. Which three character traits do you think were most instrumental to your success? Can you please share a story or example for each?
Tu-Hien Le: In my opinion, the three most important characteristics of a successful
leader are resilience, resourcefulness, and self-belief.
When I started BeauGen, I met some other entrepreneurs who were also in the beginning phases of their business journey as well. None of us had significant traction or money to invest. The only difference between why 6 years later my company made significant progress and achieved growth and their company never took off was that I never quit. I kept creating momentum, found resources to help move the needle, and had a strong sense of purpose and belief that the solution I was bringing to the market for breastfeeding women was needed, valuable, and impactful.
Often leaders are asked to share the best advice they received. But let’s reverse the question. Can you share a story about advice you’ve received that you now wish you never followed?
Tu-Hien Le: In the very beginning when my company BeauGen had barely launched into the market, I crossed paths with a few advisors that suggested that I raise capital to accelerate my growth. At the time, I didn’t even know what that truly meant or how much time finding investors would take. I got so entrenched in getting my pitch deck perfect, researching angel investors, and speaking to anyone with money that I took my eye off of what was really important, my customers. Without winning the customers over, pitching a company as just an idea and no traction or support from the people you serve won’t mean anything. Looking back, I would have spent less time trying to find investors and more time understanding what my customers really wanted and needed from me and providing that to them.
Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them create a work culture in which employees thrive and do not “burn out” or get overwhelmed?
Tu-Hien Le: Setting the tone of your company culture starts from the leader. I would be really clear on the values you and your company stand for and relate all of your activities whether it’s marketing, advertising, or internal operations to those values.
I would also spend time getting to know your employees. When you have real one-on-one conversations with them, you will be able to understand what their dreams and desires are. In fact, you may be able to help align their work to get them closer to their dreams. I always believe in putting people in positions to win. As the leader of the company, it is my job to know what the strengths of my team are and leverage those strengths to make our team even better. When your team truly aligns and believes in what they are doing and how their efforts are moving the needle in the overall vision of the company, you will begin to see a real team culture develop where everyone is bought-in and feels accountable for their contributions.
What would you advise other business leaders to do in order to build trust, credibility, and Authority in their industry?
Tu-Hien Le: I would advise businesses to connect and have genuine conversation with their customers. If your customers do not believe in you, it doesn’t matter what anyone else thinks. Being vulnerable, sharing your story, and most importantly sharing your intentions on why you want to help your customers will help businesses become more relatable and connect to their customers. Doing this will allow your business to serve your customers on a deeper level so you can give them what they want and need.
Can you help articulate why doing that is essential today?
Tu-Hien Le: With the internet making it easier for consumers to be more informed, you see that now people are more socially and environmentally conscious about their purchases. People want to support companies and products that stand for something good. I would say now more than ever, consumers want to do the right thing, support small local businesses, and help organizations that are on a bigger mission to make the world a better place. So now, it is imperative that your company share what values you believe in to build the know, like and trust factor. Having the support of the customers can help you make the world a better place too.
What are the most common mistakes you have seen CEOs & founders make when they start a business? What can be done to avoid those errors?
Tu-Hien Le: The most common mistakes CEOs & founders make at the beginning of their business is thinking they have all the answers and they are right. In fact, as the leader it’s your responsibility to discover what the right answer is and be humble enough to listen to your customers and accept when your assumptions are wrong. As soon as CEOs and teams can take responsibility for their own mistakes, the faster they will be able to adjust and improve upon their mistakes to take corrective action. Staying open minded to new ideas and new ways of approaching a problem will allow your company to grow and progress faster.
Ok fantastic. Thank you for those excellent insights, Let’s now shift to the main focus of our interview about How to Successfully Ride The Emotional Highs & Lows Of Being An Entrepreneur. The journey of an entrepreneur is never easy, and is filled with challenges, failures, setbacks, as well as joys, thrills and celebrations. This might be intuitive, but I think it will be very useful to specifically articulate it. Can you describe to our readers why no matter how successful you are as an entrepreneur, you will always have fairly dramatic highs and lows? Particularly, can you help explain why this is different from someone with a “regular job”?
Tu-Hien Le: Having highs and lows during your entrepreneurial journey is actually part of the experience. The lows are what weeds out those who are not able to handle the challenge from those who are resourceful, innovative, and resilient enough to stick around and find the solution. In fact, the biggest success usually lies on the other side of the biggest defeats. That’s why it’s critical for entrepreneurs to exude resilience. Being able to stay even-keeled through both highs and lows means you will always be able to make decisions with a clear mind and stay focused on your goals.
Do you feel comfortable sharing a story from your own experience about how you felt unusually high and excited as a result of your business? We would love to hear it.
Tu-Hien Le: My team prepared, strategized, and practiced for the biggest promotional launch our company has ever had, Black Friday Cyber Monday. This holiday is often seen as the holy grail in retail and e-commerce because of its significant impact to the business.. We had the entire team solely focused on firing on all cylinders at the same time moving towards the same goal. We wanted to ensure our customer and company had the best experience during the holiday shopping season. In fact, we did it. We had record breaking sales and delighted thousands of our customers. We reached more customers during the promotional launch than we ever had in a month! Our team was on the biggest high celebrating all of our hard work.
Do you feel comfortable sharing a story from your own experience about how you felt unusually low, and vulnerable as a result of your business? We would love to hear it.
Tu-Hien Le: Unfortunately, reality hit after we celebrated our biggest sales triumph in company history. We completely missed the fact that we had December holidays to prepare for as well. Nobody had thought about what to do then and we were not prepared. We pulled together some last minute ideas and scrambled to execute. Our greatest sales in company history was followed by a lower than average sales month. The only person I hold responsible for this oversight is myself. Although I was quite disappointed in myself for missing the opportunity and dropping the ball on the holiday sale, I learned from my mistake and implemented a strategy moving forward to not overlook the post-promotion strategy.
Based on your experience can you tell us what you did to bounce back?
Tu-Hien Le: Like any other mistakes I make, I try not to dwell in the past and beat myself up. I also see what the learning opportunities are and how to avoid the same mistake in the future. There is no point in moping and feeling sorry for yourself when you did something wrong. The longer you stay in self-pity, the longer it will take for you to recover and get better. So I let myself feel bad for a day, and then began game planning time for the next big thing. I always try to keep moving forward and improving. It’s in the standing still and stagnation that will let opportunities and your competition pass you by.
Ok super. Here is the main question of our interview. What are your “Five Things You Need To Successfully Ride The Emotional Highs & Lows Of Being An Entrepreneur”? Please share a story or an example for each.
Purpose- If you have a strong and clear purpose as to why you are doing something, the emotions of when things are good or challenging will pass as you focus on the real reason you are doing what you are doing. If your why and your purpose are strong enough, it will pull you through any challenging time and keep you on your path to greatness.
Perspective- Understand that the ups and downs are part of your journey and in the long-run is just a speed bump to your greatness. By not letting the noise pull your attention away from the big picture, you can stay calm during emotional situations.
Values- Be super clear on your personal values and align them with your purpose. If what you do fulfills you personally on a daily basis, you will be able to keep pushing through and moving forward regardless of the roller coaster experience of entrepreneurship.
Goals- By setting specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and timely goals, you can stay focused on your needle-moving activities.. The goals will keep you motivated and hyper focused.
Clarity- Recognizing why you might be feeling the highs and lows can help you to unpack the deeper meaning behind why you are feeling all the emotions. When you dive deep and understand yourself, what triggers you and what fills your cup, you can avoid the things that invoke negative feelings and focus on what can bring positive emotions
We are living during challenging times and resilience is critical during times like these. How would you define resilience? What do you believe are the characteristics or traits of resilient people?
Tu-Hien Le: To me, resilience is somebody who does not complain about the cards they are dealt in life. They evaluate the situation they are in, determine what the best options are to get to where they want to be, and go for it. In my opinion, a lot of people tend to blame the environment or situations that keep them from success. Sometimes, life is life. You have to adapt and keep moving forward. Resilient people demonstrate accountability, resourcefulness, and grit.
Did you have any experiences growing up that have contributed to building your resiliency? Would you mind sharing a story?
Tu-Hien Le: Ever since I was young, I knew I wasn’t the smartest kid in the class. I learned to read late and was recommended to stay back a year when I was in first grade. Just from pure hard work I got by with good grades. Later in high school, I never felt like I was good at one particular subject but I could name what everyone in my class was good at. I was self-motivated and tried extra hard to learn and keep up with my class. If it was a math assignment, I always sought the advice from the smart math kids or the clever english classmates if I needed to write an essay. I was always able to position myself in a winning situation by surrounding myself with people who were smarter than me. Little did I know this skill would help me build a smart, motivated, and ambitious team at BeauGen. To this day, I can identify what each person on my team’s zone of genius is and put them in position to win.
The mistake a lot of CEOs make is that they feel they need to know and be good at everything. But there is no way for one person to know everything and that is why it is pertinent to surround yourself with smart people who can compliment your strengths. In the end, my ability to identify people’s strengths to build a cohesive collaborative team has led me to being able to assemble a high performing team at BeauGen.
In your opinion, do you tend to keep a positive attitude during difficult situations? What helps you to do so?
Tu-Hien Le: Yes, I do. I always go back to my purpose and think about why I am here doing what I am doing. I am here building my business BeauGen to help moms through their breastfeeding journey. I am here to impact the lives of thousands of babies by helping moms pump breastmilk. Through difficult times, I recenter myself and put my purpose into perspective. Any difficult situation can be figured out as long as I can keep my mind focused on my purpose.
Can you help articulate why a leader’s positive attitude can have a positive impact both on their clients and their team? Please share a story or example if you can.
Tu-Hien Le: As the leader of your company, your employees and clients look to you for emotional guidance whether they know it or not. It is important to remain calm and optimistic even during uncertain times. In fact, these are the times where it is needed most and where you can shine as the leader you have always wanted to be. When the world is chaotic, scared or panicked, you do not want to exude the same sentiment. This will scare your customers away and eventually have a negative impact on the business. Remember as a brand, you are the guide to helping your customers achieve their goals and have a better life than they had before they purchased your product or service. Therefore, staying positive during challenging times is critical to give your customers a sense of calm when they need it the most.
Ok. Super. We are nearly done. What is your favorite inspirational quote that motivates you to pursue greatness? Can you share a story about how it was relevant to you in your own life?
Tu-Hien Le: My favorite inspirational quote is “Luck comes to those who are prepared.” I believe that preparation, resilience, and hard work are the keys to being successful at achieving your goals. Your success is rarely ever outpaced by your personal development. So when a big opportunity comes your way, you better be prepared to take it!
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This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for the time you spent with
this. We wish you continued success and good health!