Janessa Leoné: Founder & CEO of Janessa Leoné

Episode 385

We are joined today by Janessa Leoné, Founder of the luxury lifestyle brand best known for her eponymous line of wool hats. Known as the “cool girl” hat, Janessa launched the brand 10 years ago despite a lack of prior fashion experience. It’s since earned many fans including Megan Markel and Taylor Swift. She's also cracked the code on regenerative agriculture using the process to create a collection with a carbon negative net positive impact. This episode is filled with so much inspiration you won’t want to miss it! On this episode of #TheKaraGoldinShow.

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Kara Goldin 0:00
I am unwilling to give up that I will start over from scratch as many times as it takes to get where I want to be I want to be, you just want to make sure you will get knocked down. But just make sure you don’t get knocked down knocked out. So your only choice should be go focus on what you can control control control. Hi, everyone and welcome to the Kara Goldin show. Join me each week for inspiring conversations with some of the world’s greatest leaders. We’ll talk with founders, entrepreneurs, CEOs, and really some of the most interesting people of our time. Can’t wait to get started. Let’s go. Let’s go. Hi, everyone, it’s Kara Goldin from the Kara Goldin show. And I am so excited to have my next guest. Here we have Janessa Leone, who is the founder and CEO of Janessa Leone, a luxury lifestyle brand best known for their stunning, stunning hats. So I used to say wool hats, but there’s also straw hats. There’s amazing, amazing other things as well. So we’ll get Janessa to talk a lot more about how that brand has been built out. Because their products, like I said, are just absolutely beautiful, not only to look at, but also to feel and everything about the company is just amazing. Amazing. So following early endorsements from top retailers and celebrities, lots of people who you would definitely recognize for sure, her flagship Boutique is in Los Angeles, where Janessa lives, I guess part time, she’ll talk to us a little bit more about that. But she stayed true to her mission, never wavering in her commitment to sustainable practices as well, which I think is so so cool. And real attention to high quality details while still being at the forefront of regenerative fashion. So we’ll talk more about that too. But this incredible brand started a few years back, but has come a long way. And I cannot wait to hear all of Janessa stories and wisdom. So welcome.

Janessa Leoné 2:15
Thanks, Kara. That was such a nice intro. I appreciate Wow. That’s

Kara Goldin 2:19
really, really fun. So before we get into hearing more about the brand Janessa Leoné and GU I’d love to hear about what you were doing before you decided to start your company. I guess you were not in the hat industry.

Janessa Leoné 2:35
I was not in that industry. I was well, I was 25 when I started the business. So I was in a moment of life that uh, you know, just graduated college, I graduated with an English Literature degree. I wanted to go to law school. But then after I started to go down that path realized very quickly did not want to go to law school. And so fashion is actually this is my very first job in fashion. It was something that I was always really interested in. I was definitely the kid that when I was when I when I was a little kid that I was reading Vogue magazines and I was getting lost in like the editorial creative world of the fashion universe. But it was not something that I was exposed to my my mom worked in my school actually, she wasn’t a teacher, but she worked in the school as an admin. And my dad owned an accounting firm. So it was really, the idea of jumping off into a creative industry was something that was very foreign for my family. But it was, I was so interested in it that I decided not to go to law school, I went to Paris, I found this vintage hat in a in a like a vintage store not far from the apartment that I’ve been living in and decided like I wanted to start a fashion brand and with no real experience except really strong. Interest and like just someone that like really wanted to get into it. I decided start with hats. Chanel started with hats long. Vaughn started with hats. Halston started with hats. I didn’t have any money or resource and didn’t have any connections or just like this is a really great way to jump off. Like get into a very niche product, make a name for myself and expand from there.

Kara Goldin 4:20
But it’s one thing to like read about these people. And it’s another thing to just go say, I’m gonna go start at hat company that is just killing it. I mean, was there anybody out there that you had read about that? Obviously, those people that you mentioned, I mean, that were those were years ago, right. Was there anybody recently that sort of inspired you? And I thought you can do that? I mean, how hard could it be?

Janessa Leoné 4:45
I mean, there was there was definitely I feel like my personality is just like when people say it’s too hard. I’m like Yeah, yeah, let me let me show you like I really have like that spirit. That’s just like, anyone tells me no that It’s going to be the fire that I need. And so when I said that I wanted to have a fashion brand after this deciding I wasn’t going to law school. And people scoffed at me like, Well, cool. Do you think you are to start a fashion when you have no experience? That’s when I was just like, No, I’m going to do this. And what’s a really like, great way to start something when you don’t have a name for yourself or don’t have resource financial resource, you start with something that it’s gonna like, there’s a hole in the market. And I love tats. I come from an American, Italian American family. And so hats were like a part of, you know, what my grandfather wore every day. And I, I personally loved them, they were very hard to find this was 10 years ago. So I started the brand 10 years ago, you would go into, like, I grew up in San Diego, so you’d go into like, Tillys, or whenever, like, there was like, these really funny little surf shops that they would be made in China, but you couldn’t find this really well made quality hat like there was like, very prevalent in the 40s. And, you know, I have this like very romantic nostalgia part of my personality. So it’s like, I’m gonna do it and then like, you know, to, to the wind with everyone else that tells me that I can’t because I’m just gonna make that happen.

Kara Goldin 6:08
I love it. No, that’s, that’s great. Well, as I was watching Shark Tank last night, and Lori Greiner would not and would not actually invest in somebody unless they finally ultimately said that they don’t take no for an answer. And she said, Okay, I’m investing. And I was like, You know what, that’s like a consistent thread amongst each winners, they don’t even know they’re saying it, but they just try and find a way to get to yes, so Right. Yeah. Love that. So. So I told a friend that I was interviewing you today. And she was super blown away. She was just like, actually, really blown away too. Because even though it has such a beautiful name for for the company, she didn’t realize it was your name. I mean, yeah. And she was like, I don’t know, I just never thought about it. I thought it was such a beautiful name, as well, how have you generated so much awareness? Like unless somebody lives in Los Angeles? Or? I don’t know, like, I guess you’ve also done amazing marketing on Instagram and some of the others. But how do you think? And why do you think people recognize what you’ve done?

Janessa Leoné 7:18
Yeah, it’s a great question. And it’s funny because I actually, it that’s a common takeaway as people are like, your Janessa. Like, I didn’t know that was a real person. And my personality is definitely to be a little bit behind the scenes. And really, the impetus for this all is, I just believe that people genuinely want a very quality product. And I’ve always wanted the product to be in the forefront, and I want the product to speak for itself, I want there to be a world that it exists for its own right. That’s why I spend so much care and attention to the detail, the manufacturing, the raw materials, that just the actual integrity of the finished product. I think that speaks to people because they don’t, they’re not like distracted by the like, you know, like the me or whatever, like the kind of sometimes like noise can be around brands. Not that there’s anything wrong with that. But I just always wanted the product to be first and foremost. And I started this, I’ve never taken any funding. And so this has always been a very organic slug, we have had high growth, but meaning like slow growth, like we are not pouring like VC money on to this to really try to gear up for an exit, so that it has to intentionally be so focused on the quality product. And people are genuinely interested in that and genuinely take to it. And it’s been word of mouth. So much of our business has been word of mouth, we didn’t start digital marketing until three years ago. So we didn’t have a marketing budget, I’ve always been really focused on the brand and the creative and the soul of the company, because that’s me, I’m the only designer in this business, I had all of the creative marketing. And so that’s it’s really just an extension of my energy and effort and creativity going into this product that I really want to be able to make a place for it to live outside of myself, I want there to be a reason for our stuff to exist. And not just because we’re just making more things with a luxury price tag. And I think people really resonate with that, and they want quality things.

Kara Goldin 9:22
Yeah, definitely. And I think quality and feel and touch is is definitely something that is is just so key. And yeah, I think also just fast fashion and things that have been kind of of the past. There’s a lot there around, you know, ESG as well and full circle economy and all of these terms that are out there that I think, you know, it’s obvious that you’re very aware of of those things as well. And we’ll talk about that in a minute. But as I said, you know, it’s one thing to enjoy hats and then it’s another thing to just go on head and start it and think, Okay, how hard could this really be to do it what has been kind of the most difficult aspect of starting your company,

Janessa Leoné 10:08
the the, like, operational side of this business, especially our supply chain is, is very complex and complicated, and it’s not my first language. And so there has been, especially with limited resources, because we are pulling, you know, we’re just recycling all its profits right into the next year to grow and scale it, trying to operationalize the business in a way that matches the level that we are at from revenue to the quality of the brand. And the awareness, that demand has been a really difficult feat. I never took a business class myself ever, I’m studied literature. And so to be able to grow, to be able to set up a business to be at the level that we are at, and then grow it at the rate that we are growing, I am demanded to be the CEO of a company to be the designer of the company to be just an N full human, and to deal with all of the pressures and the anxieties. And like, you know, grievances of life I’ve been through like I lost my dad a couple years ago is really traumatic, I’ve gone through medical issues, just so much to deal with, trying to progress like to push a brand forward at a level that it needs to and with all the business pressures of that. So it’s really the operational side of things that’s just been like, very difficult to get right. And I’m very hard on myself there. But I have gotten to a point where I’m like, now have an extraordinarily talented team and like subject matter experts in their field. And I can like, you know, just kind of trust that these people are they are there for a reason. And now I’m just like overseeing it. And I think that, you know, it’s always learning it’s learning every day to get that right.

Kara Goldin 11:54
Well, as you and I were talking about before we hit record, I mean, we’re, we’re both entrepreneurs and founders, something that I think I learned at a very young age was figuring out that if things were not going the way I wanted, that I had to just get back up and keep moving and figuring out a way to, you know, make it better. And, and that’s what I think most great entrepreneurs, do they figure out, you know, what can we do if we can’t really do exactly what we want to be doing? Is there something that is, you know, helpful to us right now, that might get us to that next steps? Where can you name like an example where that’s happened, where, you know, maybe you’re trying to figure out your I noticed, by the way that you have free international shipping, which is just wild on many, many frauds? But no, maybe you had a big a number of, you know, people internationally, especially over the last couple years who were traveling one of their hats and couldn’t get it. You know, How’d you figure that out? Kind of thing? Yeah,

Janessa Leoné 13:02
I mean that. That is, it’s a really great example of kind of what I’m talking about, I have a vision for this brand, that I’m like, I want this to be the the top in class, the creative direction to be something that can stand alongside any of these, like heritage, French fashion houses, I want it to be timeless, I want the product to be exceptional. I want our customer service to have XYZ offering I want this, I want a profitable business. I’m like, well, all of these things. And so I’m the dreamer, I’m the one that says like this has to be like the there is no margin for error and the excellence that I demand from the product and the experience of the brand. But obviously, there’s logistics that are involved to make that happen. So when I go to my team, and I’m like, I want not only our American customers to be able to experience this brand, but I want our international customers. And like we mentioned, like I’ve been living in in France, I know how frustrating and tedious it can be to get imported things in and you’re paying $270 for a product, which is what our average order value is. And then you’re paying an additional 15% for duties and then an additional $100 for shipping. Like it’s a terrible experience. I want the experience to be something that really is life giving. And people get something like this is a work of art, I’m going to have this forever, and it’s like integrated into their life. And so it’s a great example of this like operationalizing thing that’s really difficult. That’s a hard piece to figure out. So now we’re talking about consolidators, we’re talking about logistical, like the logistics of getting the product from our factory into a different, you know, consolidation distribution center in Frankfurt, so that they can piecemeal it out to different pieces like that is no that that takes a long time. And so I think that’s always been the hardest part because in my mind, I’m just like, it’s just do it. Let’s just Let’s just make this happen. Of course, like, American, I am an entrepreneur, everything can happen. It’s all like possibilities endless. And some there’s a lot of times it’s just like no, it’s actually not that easy. Like Well, no, it’d be To make it that easy, and

Kara Goldin 15:02
if it’s worth doing now, I mean, I remember early on and hence, lifecycle, we got a phone call from a few different people in Dubai, and they wanted to put our product and into stores. And there’s a lot of hoops that you have to go through in order to do that. And ultimately, there was some creative person who reached out to us who was basically putting all American products in and they were basically going to handle all the shipping, they were going to do all of it. And it was like a test to see whether or not this was either gonna be viable or not. So we’ve figured out, like, we had a reason for doing something with one versus actually going big. Right, you know, and so, anyway, I just think there’s, there’s decisions along the way that you make to just sort of test it and do it for other reasons. Yeah, hassle factor sometimes is like you have to be able to walk away from different things. I think there’s a nother decision that we made. In our company, I’m so curious if you guys have had this opportunity to where private label is always like this, you know, huge opportunity, somebody calls and they say, Hey, we want you know, 1000s of hats, right? And at the lower your costs, and and you know, make you that much bigger like, right? When do you say no to that stuff? Because the brand is going to be different? On the one hand, you’re going to improve the category, all these things. Have you ever had that those kinds of opportunities to?

Janessa Leoné 16:35
Yeah, we’ve had a lot of those. And like I said, like I’m so bullish on the brand. And I think that’s one thing that is is maybe the like differentiator that has actually allowed us to be very successful from early on with like, limited resource. And I remember so distinctly it was my first year. And you know, your first year in business when you’re starting to get like press and all of a sudden you’re like, you’re the belle of the ball, and everyone wants you and you’re trying to make decisions and you’re trying to look long term and but you’re still like in the immediate of like, holy cow what is happening. I’m like on fire. And I was also working a full time job while doing this at the same time. And Urban Outfitters came to us. And it was a massive at the moment would have been a life changing Pio. And I’m sitting there and my sales reps are like pushing this like, Are you kidding? Like, this isn’t the look at the number that is almost purchase order, like you’re gonna walk away from this. And I knew just instinctually at that moment. If I opened up at that point, our very first wholesale was in Barney’s was our very first wholesaler. Rip Barney’s love you Barney’s wish you would come back. And then I’m like Urban Outfitters, you can, you are only as good as the like the cheapest product that you have. Or like the, if you make a concession on something, that concession is now going to dictate the rest of the brand, you can’t really have, you know, I can’t make a $20 hat, and then also be able to have a $270 hat, I just can’t we cannot have that assortment. And so I walked away from this without really, I mean, I knew instinctually it wasn’t the right thing for me. But I didn’t necessarily probably know until now how much that would have completely changed the direction of the brand. That would have put us on a completely different course, which is not a bad course, it just wasn’t the course that I wanted. And like those decisions of crucial, it would have helped that year, like oh my gosh, we would have had an extraordinary year, we might have actually had a bigger business at this point, really, like if we went down the mass distribution scale of of those different partners, but not the business I wanted. And it’s crazy. You have to make those decisions. So early on. But there was a reason entrepreneurs are like entrepreneurs, you got a gut instinct, and sometimes you just gotta trust it without knowing the full implications or realizing that you know where it’s gonna go. Sometimes it might be the bad decision to and you might just have to walk away and be like, You know what, I trusted my instinct, you can never be wrong if you went with your gut. Yeah, and if something’s gonna happen,

Kara Goldin 19:11
I think what you’re saying is it’s a journey, right? You’re gonna make good decisions, bad decisions, have failures, challenges along the way, super successes, all of these things, but it’s it really is a journey. And and it’s not a quick race for sure. So a large percentage of your business is direct. Can you share more about this decision?

Janessa Leoné 19:34
Well, it’s one of those things too, it was that that particular shift was not actually a decision. That was it. That was a necessary pivot during COVID. We started wholesale only and then we launched our retail store in 2016. And we had still not fully ramped up our E commerce during COVID. We had multiple big you know, like our Our biggest accounts that are our shipments were in way the beginning of March, we get it, you know, when the world shut down, everyone gets a notification, our warehouses are closed, we cannot accept your shipment. Meanwhile, I’ve already paid for all these goods from our manufacturer, they come back to our warehouse. And now I have all of these wholesale units that aren’t going to be able to get into the DC and then like, you know, therefore, I’m like, I can’t build them, they haven’t been received. So we absorbed all those units. And we’re like, we’re doubling down on our E commerce, because we have the inventory. And up until that point, that was always our restraint, we’ve always had been inventory restrained, our demand had far exceeded our ability to keep up with the purchasing of the inventory. And so it was a really great opportunity. Quickly, we’re able to be like, we have a great, this is a great moment of time to be able to speak to people in a genuine way, who are you know, sitting at home and looking for like, really like a lot of meaning and that in these moments of, like, fear and insecurity. And like what a great opportunity to be able to speak to them directly and get people our products that might actually when they open the door might be something that makes them feel better because it is so well made. It’s hard to like, not smile, when you get something in the mail, you’re like, Look at the detail. Look at that. Look at this, like this is extraordinary. Someone made this, like there’s a feeling of like, just like overwhelm for me anyways, when I get something that’s really well made.

Kara Goldin 21:31
So speaking of, of products, so you started with the wool hat. And then you moved into talk to me about the extensions after the wool hat. Like how did you think about that?

Janessa Leoné 21:44
Yeah, we so it was it was wool only because that was all again, like resource could provide that I could actually meet minimums and buy into. We went into straw a couple seasons later, obviously, we just wanted from a business strategy wanted to even out our year and not be so overly dependent on q3 and q4. And then we had I developed this packable fiber, which was a game changer for our business. And really, for me, I was traveling all the time. And I loved our Panama hats and I love the the dimension and the like the feel of the Panama hats. They’re quite fragile when you’re when you’re not. I mean, they’re traveling with them you have, it’s almost like you’re carrying like a like a trial with you like you protect these, you make sure you don’t forget them. Like it’s just like it’s a little bit more like precious travel. And so I wanted to make something that had the dimensionality of that and had the feel and the function of it. That was something that wouldn’t break if you folded it. And so we’ve developed this packable hat in that went bonkers, and it totally the demand for that was unlike anything you’d ever seen that category grew for maybe 500%. And to get the numbers exactly right. But it was it was extraordinary year over year. So yeah, so that was really the foray into straw. And now straw is actually our largest season.

Kara Goldin 23:11
So some straw hats are the in the packable.

Janessa Leoné 23:14
Not all but we have a large category of them in packable. But it really put the straw like the association with our brand and straw hats on the map. And I would say that’s probably what the majority of people know us for now.

Kara Goldin 23:27
That’s amazing. So and then beyond that you’ve gone into which other categories,

Janessa Leoné 23:34
we have handbags, we have knits, we have belts, and all of our all of our knitwear and our handbags are all made from regenerative raw materials. So this is our like focus going forward. And we’re shifting our supply chains for our hats to be regenerative. We have about 30% of our hats right now with Regeneron of raw materials. But this is in my this is our like Janessa Leoné iteration to point out for what we’re doing and for luxury fashion.

Kara Goldin 24:04
That’s amazing. And most times you hear about very large companies talking about this. And And sadly, I think you don’t necessarily trust that they’re doing it for all the right reasons. You know that that company is like you and again, you feel the product and the quality of it. It makes a ton of sense. So can you talk to us a little bit more about this initiative and why first, why was important to you, and how hard was it to actually accomplish this?

Janessa Leoné 24:36
Yeah, it’s a great question. I mean, the importance came for me because I mean, when you look at the impact of the fashion industry on global greenhouse emissions, we are to as a as a complete industry 10% of the of the issue the problem worldwide. And if you dig that deeper, so like entrepreneur was accused myself and were like, Okay, there’s a problem, let’s get to the root. So we can call we can course correct, we can fix what’s actually happening. So as I dug deeper, I’m like, okay, 80% of that total impact is happening at the raw material stage. And so also another issue is that the majority of fashion brands do not have visibility into their raw material manufacturing, they’re using full packaged production, they’re going to a factory, saying, This is the finished product, I want that factory is backing into all the components required to make that, and then they’re selling them the finished good. So they know that they’re caught, they know their finished good costs. They don’t know what the what, where are they, where that factory sourced X, Y, and Z in order to make it. So it’s like, that’s a fundamental issue. If I don’t have transparency, then I can actually fix 80%, I want to fix the bulk of what our impact is, I don’t really like yes, sustainable packaging, like all these things are wonderful. And they all should be done. But like, I want to make the biggest impact. And if that’s done at the raw materials, I gotta stop raw materials. And so I went down, I eat for it from like, an ethos of regenerative agriculture myself. And so I know the quality of nutrient like you there’s a lot of studies out there of nutrient density in the foods and in the higher values of like the ALA profiles, and all these different things. So it’s like it follows suit that if we’re going down regenerative agriculture, from a food perspective, and we also want to honor the animals and use the full like the full system, use the wool of the sheep, we’re using, you know, we’re using the hides of the cows and in our leather handbags. And if this can regenerate soil, so that we’re solving a one problem, we’re creating more nutrients, so I nutrient dense soil that can store more carbon, it’s better at retaining water, that increases biodiversity feeds, the animals feeds us great prop like solution number one, solution number two, it yields a far superior product, the micron of our sweater is something it’s so fine, it’s below the human itching threshold. It is it’s like cashmere hand, it’s extraordinary. Same with our leather, or leather quality is phenomenal. So as a luxury brand, who’s so focused on the raw material quality, this is just a no brainer for me everywhere I go. And so I’m like, here, we’re going to solve that 80% of the problem that we’re trying to solve, we’re going to solve it here. But we’re actually going to create a better product. And it’s also going to have a positive benefit from a soil level. So it’s, this is this trifecta of a no brainer. In in in terms of how hard it was extraordinarily hard. People do not like invent supply chains at the size of our business. And we went in, and we had to meet with ranchers, we had to understand the actual farming practices to make sure that this is regenerative, we’re on pace, we’re on the same page, there’s soil samples happening to verify that this is actually benefiting the soil opposite. And I’m dealing with researchers from institutions and universities, which is not something I’m used to reading data analysis, like scientific analysis. And then we’re actually having to find people that can clean it and comment and scour and turn it into yarn. And now I have to know the speck of yarn that I’m using for art. And it’s just so all encompassing, there’s so many things, it takes a long time. And for someone that really likes to just like, have a great idea and go and bring it to market, it is a massive exercise of patience. And trust that like we’re on the right path. And this is a slow and steady, right? This is not a race this is slow and steady. And we’re like we’re gonna get there.

Kara Goldin 28:42
So and are you doing it in the US or North America,

Janessa Leoné 28:46
or us all other thing, I mean, if we’re gonna make a impact, like, we got to think about the local net, like the local of this, like, it has to be close, it doesn’t make sense to do this in China or India, like if I’m selling it locally, and I’m transporting it in. So we’re looking at our full lifecycle from cradle to grave completely. And even thinking about, you know, all of like, our will right now is undyed. It you can bury that into the ground and it’ll biodegrade. It’s just carbon, our wool is just pure carbon stored, and you just, it’s biodegradable. And it’s just like we need to start thinking about this holistic system.

Kara Goldin 29:22
It’s, it’s great that you’ve said that, that’s another thing that we always believed at hand was everything was done in the US. And so, you know, most cans, for example, are manufactured outside of the US. And while many companies say that they’re more sustainable, doing cans, there’s different environmental measurements and places around the world that allowed them to be labeled sustainably. But, you know, there’s a reason why we don’t manufacture cans in the US. Yeah. The emissions that comes off of it. So Again, like I think what we decided was, you know, we could really look at it in in the right way. For us, if we did everything in the US because the actual measurements, we trust the measurements much more. And, and so it sounds like

Janessa Leoné 30:20
you have that traceability and that transparency attorney, you can’t you can’t keep a standard for if you don’t know who you’re holding, you’re holding to the standard than the standard is irrelevant. In my Yeah,

Kara Goldin 30:32
I love that about you guys, too. So, so your marketing is stunning. If if anyone hasn’t seen it, definitely have a look. It’s just very clean, very sophisticated, very approachable to So how have you thought about that? I think you mentioned that you’re the designer, but it has a lot of that come from you and sort of your vision.

Janessa Leoné 30:55
Yeah. So I do all the creative marketing, I have an art director on my team whom I’ve had a very long standing collaborative collaboration with for the last four years, and she’s extraordinary. Um, but we’re in a very fluent language of of putting out like, producing photoshoots and putting out the brand identity. And it’s, it’s evolved, if you saw the creative direction that we had, when we first launched, like, it’s, it’s funny to see where it’s evolved. But this is this really is me. And so I feel like that’s something that is such the core and the soul of the brand. And the creative marketing is that I am involved in every step of the way, I’m doing the creative, like the ideation of it, the direction of it, I’m actually doing a lot of the post, like we actually go in and we do the color correction and like, so I’m so hands on, it’s I’m so meticulous about our creative, because I feel like that’s the opportunity for, for the story for the brand to come to life. That’s where you can insert yourself in the universe. And like I said, when I was young, and I used to get lost in vogue stories, like I had, I had, like a childhood that I kind of wanted to escape from. And so the stories that were told in the editorial of the pictures of Vogue, enough to read anything I didn’t, it wasn’t outside of me, I got to insert myself it was personal, it was mine. So that creative, like the editorials that we make in the creative direction is so important to me and something that I spend a lot of my time on.

Kara Goldin 32:31
It’s absolutely beautiful. So what have you enjoyed most about being a founder and entrepreneur? I, you know, it’s it’s funny, when I think about those words, I think about being a creator, like you’re creating something that gives people a lot of pleasure. And that yeah, you know, that is really, really exciting. So what advice, I guess, first of all, what have you enjoyed most about it? But also what advice? Would you give aspiring entrepreneurs knowing kind of what you know, today about, you know, the, the hard the good about being an entrepreneur?

Janessa Leoné 33:13
Yeah, I mean, I think my, the thing that I love the most is, is exactly what you’re saying, as you’re creating something from nothing. So there is like endless opportunity and potential. Because you get to say what you want and how you want to do it, there are no rules, there are no, there’s no roadmap, like, this is something that you were building, and to me to be a part of this, like, you know, this cultural moment, and to like, be a part of something that’s so outside of you like business and art in anything, you’re creating something that is existing outside of you. And I think there’s such a beautiful romantic story to that. And we’re looking at the timeline of human civilization. And we’re sitting here and like, actually being able to show up in solve a problem, there are problems every day, and you get to look at it and be like, I get to solve this, how I want to solve this, there is no, there is no solution. You cannot google how to like solve some of the problems that come up to us. And you get to sit there and use your brain and collaborate with your team. And say like, how would you do this? What do you think? And then you try it. Sometimes it doesn’t work. Sometimes it does work. But when it works, it’s like, oh my gosh, this is the human spirit at play, like we are generating, like life going forward. And it’s it’s it’s a pretty extraordinary feeling. And I think I actually have to remind myself that a lot because like you said, there are moments, there’s a lot of tough moments. This is not an easy path. I’m texting with like founder girlfriends all day every day just like what have we done? What Why did we decide that this there’s an easier way? Like why did why do we not live in the countryside in Italy somewhere because there’s an easier way to live this life, but it’s also so extraordinarily be rewarding to be able to be at the forefront of something that you believe in and actually like, create, change and do something beautiful. And I think that someone for any founder and I’m pro listened back to this, it’s a good reminder for me to to focus on that. Because you can get lost in the frustration, you can get lost in the complication, you get lost, that you’re not where you want to be looking at other brands saying like, I’d why don’t I have the funds for that? Or why don’t I have the budget for this? And why are we doing that better? And it’s just like, enjoy the process of where you are right now. Because it is there, this isn’t there, no end game, this is all a part of it, the whole journey as a part of it, like you mentioned. And like, at the end of the day, this is an extraordinary opportunity to be sitting at the helm of something and be able to, like, push civilization forward in a little way, whatever that means for you’re putting your your stamp on a cultural moment, forever. And I think that that’s, that’s really, really inspiring.

Kara Goldin 35:58
Yeah, no, it it is. And I think it’s, it’s, you touched on something else, just communicating with your other founder friends, like, I feel like there’s these networks that ended up getting built, that you didn’t intend to build them but you meet. You know, it’s like misery is company. Right? Right. You celebrate more your, your questions together. And, and I find that, in throughout the country, I’ve met so many people in different industries that are founders, and there’s this, there’s this little club that exists out there to where people do want to help people and, you know, definitely help lift people, not just females, but I think there are not every male, but there are some male founders out there too. That are Yeah, definitely helpful. So what’s the best advice that you’ve ever received, that has really helped you during those kind of challenging days?

Janessa Leoné 37:03
I think I mean, it’s so hard to put this on a scale of what’s best. But the first thing that’s coming to my mind right now is when I really started to operationalize this, I hired a contract coo to help me really figure out what it is that I needed, and what was missing and how to scale the organization going forward. And I would get lost a bit, I would get a little bit stuck, whenever I’m like, I just don’t possibly know how I’m supposed to make this decision with the information that I have. And she would always tell me, that you, you will only in the best case scenario, you will only have 80% of the information. If you wait until you have 100% of the information you’re too late. So the best case scenarios, you’re only going to have 80, you have to trust your gut. And I think that that trust in it’s like it’s such a developed skill to be able to close it, like get rid of all the noise, do whatever you need to do to regulate yourself and like, find whatever that piece inside of you is that made you start this in the first place, and trust it and learn to listen to it. And it’ll get louder and louder and realize that no one no one has the answers, you’re never going to have the right answer. And you’re also never going to have all of the information. There’s no such thing as the perfect answer to a situation, you just got to trust your gut and go and I think that that’s really guided me and helped me in in the decisions since that I’ve been seemingly monumental decisions that feel like they’re life changing.

Kara Goldin 38:32
That’s so true. I have a chapter I wrote a book about a year and a half ago, that came out. And there’s a chapter called fly the plane as you’re building it, because it’s everything that you’re saying. It’s like, if you wait for things to be perfect, then they’ll never launch. Yeah, right. And we didn’t, yeah, it’ll be too late. Maybe you couldn’t get the right color, you know, for half that you really, really want it. And and I mean for us, you know, every we wanted a lemon for years, we could not figure out how to get the right lemon and, and so we waited many, many years and did something else that we felt like was really representative of what we wanted to do. But I think that that is a universal truth across every single category for every entrepreneur, so well. Janessa thank you so much. We’re gonna have all the info in the show notes. But it’s so nice to get to know you a little bit and really understand the founder and the CEO behind brown. So thank you have a great rest of the week.

Janessa Leoné 39:41
Thank you so much, Kara.

Kara Goldin 39:43
Thanks again for listening to the Kara Goldin show. If you would please give us a review and feel free to share this podcast with others who would benefit and of course, feel free to subscribe so you don’t miss a single episode of our podcast. Just a reminder that I can be found on all platforms at Kara Goldin. And if you want to hear more about my journey, I hope you will have a listen. Or pick up a copy of my book on daunted which I share my journey, including founding and building hint. We are here every Monday, Wednesday and Friday. And thanks everyone for listening. Have a great rest of the week, and 2023 and good bye for now. Before we sign off, I want to talk to you about fear. People like to talk about fearless leaders. But achieving big goals isn’t about fearlessness. Successful leaders recognize their fears and decide to deal with them head on in order to move forward. This is where my new book undaunted comes in. This book is designed for anyone who wants to succeed in the face of fear, overcome doubts and live a little undaunted. Order your copy today at undaunted, the book.com and learn how to look your doubts and doubters in the eye and achieve your dreams. For a limited time. You’ll also receive a free case of hint water. Do you have a question for me or want to nominate an innovator to spotlight send me a tweet at Kara Goldin and let me know. And if you liked what you heard, please leave me a review on Apple podcasts. You can also follow along with me on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and LinkedIn at Kara Goldin. Thanks for listening