Meghan Asha – Founder and CEO of FounderMade, a Platform that Connects Consumer Businesses, Distributors, Retailers, and Investors
Kara Goldin: Hi, everybody. It’s Kara from Unstoppable, and I’m so excited. I’m here with Meghan Asha. Yay. So, very, very excited. We actually did her event a couple of weeks ago. I don’t know. We’re in the whole midst of this whole COVID-19 stuff, so all days just blur together. I read somewhere that people said instead of calling it Wednesday or Monday, just call it this day, and everything is this day. It’s true.
Meghan Asha: One long day. It’s just one-
Kara Goldin: One long day.
Meghan Asha: … long, long day.
Kara Goldin: I know. It just keeps going. So, anyway, welcome, welcome, welcome, and very excited to have you. So, for those of you who don’t know Meghan, Meghan is the founder at FounderMade, and FounderMade, for those of you who don’t know, is a platform. I smile because I remember when you started this and how big this has gotten. I was at one of your first events. It’s amazing. So, it’s a conference series, and Meghan is so great.
Kara Goldin: I mean, even though I wouldn’t say that you necessarily call yourself a mentor in that sense, I feel like when people go to this, so many people that I meet along the way are like, “Oh, Meghan Asha. It’s amazing. I got to do her event, and it’s so cool, and she’s introduced me to so many people.” So, I consider you, and I think so many people consider you this fabulous mentor who’s really helping companies rise up and recognize their potential, and I just think that that’s super, super awesome. Before that, you’ve been an investor. You’ve been in finance. You’ve done-
Meghan Asha: I’ve been in finance, business school, used to be in tech, the whole thing.
Kara Goldin: Yeah, tons and tons of different stuff, which is so, so cool, to have somebody like you that is really running this. Anyway, welcome. Tell me a little bit about what started this. I feel like there was a dinner series initially.
Meghan Asha: Yep, yep. So, this actually wasn’t supposed to be a business. It actually started as a dinner series. I asked myself, “When you’re 90…” So, I was working in finance after business school, and I knew I wanted to be an entrepreneur, but I didn’t know what it was. So, I was sitting on the other side of the table at a VC firm, and it was really just… I sat there, and I said, “I’m not ready to be the judge on Shark Tank. I still have a company to operate. I still want to be operating a company,” but I was really, really frustrated. So, I said, “Listen. I’m just going to do a dinner series, and I’m going to call it FounderMade.”
So, it was just supposed to be basically founder therapy. I would have an entrepreneur like Daniel Lubetzky from KIND Bar come and do a dinner and speak at a dinner and tell a story, and then it just kept getting bigger and bigger, these dinners. From there, we went from a dinner series to what you did, which is one of our first events, which was [FutureWork 00:03:25] Wellness, where we did Shark Tank for wellness companies with Well+Good. We were expecting 100 people. 400 people showed up. It was a whole new experience of being in events, and from that we went from investor conferences to basically very curated trade shows.
So, we’ve been doing these discovery shows where we discover the best consumer brands in food, wellness and beauty, and then we do everything from retailers one-on-ones, investors one-on-ones, media one-on-ones, and we also have a whole showcase where attendees can touch, taste, see, experience every type of product, and also learn from the founders like you, Kara, who have been there, done that, and have crushed it. So, my whole goal is to help these brands that are starting out or are in the process of getting bigger, help them and connect them, and help them, show them the ropes.
Kara Goldin: I love it.
Meghan Asha: I guess it’s mentorship, but…
Kara Goldin: So, is it typically pre-money, or are most of these companies… Where are these in their stage?
Meghan Asha: Great question. So, a FounderMade company, it’s usually companies that are two million in revenue or above, segment-defining, so think Hint Water, how you created a whole different vertical of the water industry, or Sir Kensington’s Ketchup, where you would think a certain ketchup we thought was just ketchup, and then they created a certain different segment, and then also mission-driven. We really like to work with highly mission-driven brands that have that, because that’s the thing that I think all, especially now, consumers really get behind, is a brand and an entrepreneur on a mission to do good in the world.
Kara Goldin: That’s awesome. It’s not just food and beverage too. You’re also doing beauty-
Meghan Asha: No, it’s beauty, yep, and product companies, and we’ve had a bunch of different things. But basically, if you’re an investor of a product in these verticals, then showcase at our shows.
Kara Goldin: Well, you started doing it in New York, but then Los Angeles, the beauty conferences have been in LA. Right?
Meghan Asha: Yep. We do two big shows a year, one on the East Coast and one in Santa Monica.
Kara Goldin: That’s awesome. Then your first virtual, so you guys decided-
Meghan Asha: Yes, we are going virtual.
Kara Goldin: … let’s just go.
Meghan Asha: So, with all that’s happened, and in tandem we also launched a wholesale marketplace where brands and independent retailers basically can transact, so we have a lot of our brands from our shows that are on our marketplace, and we get orders from around the country, which is so cool to see.
Kara Goldin: I love it.
Meghan Asha: Then with everything that just happened, with this pandemic, we decided to bring the show to our community. So, we’re doing almost like trade show in a box, where you can discover the top 10 to 20 products from our show, and then you see a day’s worth of content, workshops, education, showcases from the brands, howtos. So, that’s something that we’re launching in June.
Kara Goldin: That’s awesome. I feel like you guys did not even miss a beat on that. You were on that so fast. I mean, now I hear more and more, entrepreneurs are sort of surfacing, saying, “Gosh, how do I pivot my event company? How do I do this?” So, I think you guys were just ahead of it, but I think it’s really aspiring to sort of just watch what you’ve done, because it really speaks to being an entrepreneur, which is exactly what you are. I mean, you’re an awesome entrepreneur. Like I said, you’re dealing with a lot of entrepreneurs, but you’re really about getting up in the morning and saying, “Okay, now what?” which I think is awesome.
Meghan Asha: Well, I think also, when the world’s changed so dramatically, and there’s so much ambiguity, I think for entrepreneurs, it’s already ambiguous when you’re an entrepreneur, to how do you actually… Every day, you have to create certain structures and goals to get to what you want to create in the world. But with this, we were an events business primarily, and we don’t know when really the next time we’re going to be able to do a show is. I mean, it could be six months. It could be 18 months. It could be 24 months.
So, really, in the past month I’ve basically said, “Listen. If the world doesn’t change in the next 18 to 24 months, what does the business look like? Let’s actually just go to the drawing board and look at what the need is that we’re solving, which is distribution, brand awareness, getting those consumers to understand and learn about the product, getting in front of media for these brands, and how do we build that spec so that if we are all still sitting at home, we still are doing the same thing and offering a different mode of a delivery?”
Kara Goldin: Yeah. No, absolutely. I think ultimately, this world will open up a lot more context for you. I mean, there’s lots of people that have heard about you, but there’s probably a lot of people that haven’t heard about you that couldn’t even imagine traveling. They’re an entrepreneur, but they couldn’t travel to New York for one of your events or Los Angeles or whatever, and maybe they’re even sitting in another country where who knows whether or not they’ll be able to travel any time soon. So, I think this is a huge opportunity and one that you just have already jumped on, but I think you’re really proving it out too, that I think it’s a possibility, which is super, super awesome. What do you hear is kind of the biggest challenge for entrepreneurs? I mean, obviously there’s this whole event that we’re going through right now. What do you think is the biggest challenge that entrepreneurs have? Do you feel like it’s consistent across categories or…
Meghan Asha: I think that especially when you’re leaving a company, the feeling of sometimes feeling like you need to know the answers, and loneliness, or just thinking that you’re alone in building or your hardships is something that I think is something that every single entrepreneur or business leader goes through, where you’re put in at the CEO position, and you’re supposed to know all the answers immediately, and you’re supposed to build something from dust, and I’m sure, Kara, you can probably attest to this. People all look at you, and they’re like, “Wait, no. But you should know this, this and this,” or if you’re launching a new product, it’s like, “Well, wait. You should know how the world’s going to embrace the product that you just came up with in your brain.”
So, I think that to me is one of the biggest challenges, is it’s lonely trying to, or not lonely, but it’s challenging to build a company, and if you don’t have the right support system in place and the right… Whether it’s fellow entrepreneurs that you can share, or share your own story with, and this is what I love about what we’re building, is having entrepreneurs like you share your story, and actually tell the real truth and how hard it was, and the different learnings that you had to go through, and yet still making it after 15 years of being in business. I think that’s just something that I think across the board, no matter what business you’re in, every leader is struggling with.
Kara Goldin: Yeah. No, I think that’s true. I feel like when I meet people at your event or just out, I think that the majority of them kind of know the answer. Right? But they also need confirmation, whether that’s… I mean, I feel like yes, I might tell them something that I don’t know, but so much of it I feel like it’s more like a gut check, like okay, all right, that wasn’t… I can do this, or I don’t need to go hire lots of people or…
I mean, I feel like when I talk to so many people too, it’s like they’re out raising money, and they can’t raise money, and they ask me, or I’m like, “How much do you want to raise?” and they tell me, and I’m like, “Oh. I mean, that seems like a lot of money. What are you going to use it for?” and they’re like, “Well, 30% of it’s for marketing,” or whatever. I’m like, “You guys don’t even have a product yet. Just take it easy,” and they’re like, “That’s what I was thinking too, but everybody tells me, ‘Go and do this kind of stuff.'” So, I feel like your shows, your events, virtual or not, I feel like are really helping people to sort things out. Does that make sense? I think that that’s such a big thing.
Meghan Asha: Everyone’s looking for, or at least at a certain point, people are looking for the business whisperer. I used to do that when I was trying to figure out what I wanted to do with my career. I would go up, I’d go to all these business seminars, and I would literally sit in the front row, and that after, I’d accost the guy that was leading the business seminar, and I’d be like, “Well, listen. I’m working on this idea, this idea, and this idea. Which idea should I do?” I was green, and I didn’t realize that the actual thing that you’re supposed to do in the world will find you, and it may not look at first like what… You won’t even know what it is until you actually are doing it. But me continuing to look for outside approval or look for people to tell me, it’s one thing to listen to people’s stories and get advice, but you really do have to come to your own center and your own spirit, and to be really… You have to love what you do every single day.
Kara Goldin: Yeah, totally.
Meghan Asha: I mean, forget about the money. Forget about all the things. You really do have to come to the table. All that will come if you love what you do every day, and you’re willing to go and go through the hard times and pivot and test things out and make mistakes. So, yeah.
Kara Goldin: Yeah. No, absolutely. I totally agree. So, what do you think is kind of… I mean, you as a founder, but also dealing with so many entrepreneurs that are out there, what do you think are the key… I mean, how do you manage through this time? What do you think are the key things to believe and sort of get your… Where do you have to get your head into this zone, I think is what I like to think of it as.
But what do you think are the key things, especially for somebody who’s never been through something like this [crosstalk 00:14:34] company? Yeah.
Meghan Asha: I think the number one thing is be kind to yourself right now, because we don’t know how we’re processing all this information. We’re going to look back in five years or three years, and we’re going to be like, whoa, everybody had a… We were all hit psychologically, emotionally, economically, with something that we can’t even comprehend. So, if you’re even just as a human, if you’re having emotional reactions, or if you’re up or down, you’re seeing things that are happening or you’re reading the news too much or whatever it is that you’re going through, just be kind and gentle to yourself because this is unprecedented. This is something that I think the human brain can barely really comprehend, and I think that is… The worst thing to do right now as a leader is to beat yourself up while you’re also going through an emotional experience, navigation [crosstalk 00:15:35]
Kara Goldin: Totally agree.
Meghan Asha: It’s like, what, you’re going to sit and try to push yourself and push yourself into things when sometimes, actually, the clarity comes when you lean back and you actually take a step back and you actually are looking at things in a way where this will pass, but know that the world is probably going to be different, but this is going to pass, but you can’t just keep pushing. I know when we came in the beginning of March when everything hit, I was trying to push.
I think our whole team was trying to push and trying to push the events and trying to just make things right and make things what it was in February, and it just didn’t stick. It was, I think, really challenging for all of us to just try to fit a square peg in a round hole. So, I think you have to, number one, be kind to yourself, number two, take a step back and look at what the world is and what needs your feeling, and then from there you can start to build again. But I think you can’t do anything if you’re not good and not solid with yourself first.
Kara Goldin: Yeah. No. I think that that’s really, really important. I found myself writing a lot more, and just sort of talking about five-minute feelings of sort of… and also talking, and I found myself initially starting to do that and then really lean towards what I’ve accomplished. Right? I think that it’ll be an interesting sort of diary in the end when we’re able to look back on this time and say, “Wow, that was really challenging, but we were able to get a lot done,” and I feel like this is two months of time, essentially, that I think everyone needs to understand that it’s not just you going through this.
It’s lots of other people going through this as well, and I think it’s such an important piece that people are just trying to figure out just so much of this. Yeah, it’s super, super huge. I also feel like you do this as well. I mean, you surround yourself with people that are not necessarily in your company, but are also going through it, and maybe they’re different industries, but I think that’s such a key thing, is being able to have a buddy system and say, “Hey, how are you doing? Is everything okay?” Yeah. I mean, I think that that’s so, so key.
Meghan Asha: I think the writing is so key, and I love that you’re writing about your accomplishments too through this time. I actually was also… At one point, I was like, I’m just going to write almost in future tense how the business was going to change after… how I’m basically navigating the business, and how I’m going to lead through this time, almost like usually people will write what their future life that they want is, and so I basically was like, I’m going to write myself through this time and how we’re going to pivot the business and how we’re going to make it through, and kind of write that story, so then I can basically have that almost as a vision or internally as I’m navigating the next [crosstalk 00:18:56]
Kara Goldin: Yeah. I think it’s good. You’re such a huge runner as well, so how many marathons have you done now?
Meghan Asha: Oh, my god. Well, my goal was to do a marathon in every continent, and I’m missing Africa, and that was what I was going to do in June.
Kara Goldin: Oh, my god.
Meghan Asha: But no Africa this year, apparently. But yeah, I’ve done marathons on most of the continents and-
Kara Goldin: Do you typically go by yourself?
Meghan Asha: Yes. Typically, I will, and I used to do it so type A. I would go for four days, and I would literally get in… I did Mount Fuji, and that’s in Japan. I went and I flew in a Thursday, ran it on Sunday, and left on Monday night. It was very type A. Sometimes I think to myself, why so type A? Can’t you just go walk-
Kara Goldin: Have you always been a runner?
Meghan Asha: … and take a walk, not take a run. What?
Kara Goldin: Have you always been a runner, or was this-
Meghan Asha: No. I don’t like running at all. I love traveling and I love seeing a city, and I think that running, especially if you do the Paris Marathon, if there’s one marathon that you should do before you die, or even just walk it, the Paris Marathon’s amazing, and I love… I think that you can see a city in a short amount of time by… Because they always make the routes so-
Kara Goldin: That’s true, yeah.
Meghan Asha: They hit all the right places. In Paris, you run down the Champs-Élysées, you do a Louvre. It’s amazing. I would do that one again.
Kara Goldin: That’s awesome. You’re still training, though, toward this-
Meghan Asha: Yeah, and I call it a run-cation. So, it’s like the way of getting away from work, but you start thinking about all the things you want to build while you’re running, and then you’re like, wait, I’m running Patagonia, and how is my life like this? This is amazing. I’m in this amazing thing with all these humans, and some people are disabled-
Kara Goldin: I love it.
Meghan Asha: … and they’re still running. It’s just the human spirit that’s really inspiring.
Kara Goldin: I love it. That is so awesome. So, I love that you have this passion that is totally outside of work, and keep up with that because that’s so key. It’s like a release, and that’s awesome. That’s super, super great that you’re doing that too. That’s very fun. You got to come out to San Francisco, though, and do the San Francisco Marathon, the next one that comes up. That’d be super awesome. I mean, what’s the next couple weeks for you like? Do you guys have another event coming up? You’re doing them weekly, right?
Meghan Asha: We’re doing the weekly virtual, so we’re doing Power Hours every week. Our next one is with the founder of TRX. Then we have the founder of Credo and a bunch of other… Founder of Hourglass Cosmetics and Milk Cosmetics, so really interesting founder talks.
Kara Goldin: I love it.
Meghan Asha: Then we’re going to be doing our discovery show at home, where it’s the future of wellness, and we’ll be doing it at the end of June.
Kara Goldin: That’s so great. Yeah. So, I ask people two more questions. One is, what is your favorite Hint flavor, because I know… I wish I could offer you one over there.
Meghan Asha: Oh, I have a bunch of Hint downstairs.
Kara Goldin: I know.
Meghan Asha: Watermelon is mine. I love that.
Kara Goldin: I love the watermelon as well. It’s super, super yummy. So, yeah, I love it. Then what makes you unstoppable?
Meghan Asha: I was voted most spirited in high school, and I think that my spirit towards being excited about what other people do and helping them build is the thing that makes me unstoppable.
Kara Goldin: I love it. I love it. I can’t even not imagine you being the most spirited person, so you’re like… Yeah, that’s awesome. That’s so, so great. Well, listen. Thank you so much, Meghan. Where can people find you?
Meghan Asha: You can find us at foundermade.com, and then @foundermade on Instagram and @MeghanAsha.
Kara Goldin: And Meghan with an H.
Meghan Asha: M-E-G-H-A-N A-S-H-A.
Kara Goldin: Yes. Yeah. Awesome. Well, thanks so much, Meghan. Stay well.
Meghan Asha: Thanks, Kara. Bye.
Kara Goldin: See you soon.
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