Raj Girn: Guys, if you’re just joining us, I’m speaking to the fabulous Shalini Vadhera. She is a serial beauty entrepreneur. She is a female empowerment advocate, and she’s also an award-winning entrepreneur and best-selling author. We are talking about how to use leadership and advocacy culture to build a multimillion-dollar enterprise. Now, this can happen whether you are a small, medium or large company. So don’t get hung up on the multimillion-dollar title tag.
Here is Part Two of our conversation:
Shalini, I want to step into the arena now that I know that a lot of people, especially women, are going to garner a lot of advice and insights. So I want to just go straight into that. So as a serial beauty entrepreneur you founded and led a number of start-ups all the way up to multi seven-figure valuations in some cases. And you’ve worked with world-class companies, celebrities, school leaders, you name it, along the way.
I want to ask you this: What have you seen from a leadership perspective that has worked and that hasn’t worked? I mean, both are just as valuable. In fact, not working is probably more valuable for people who are really looking to tap into entrepreneurship. I want to know from your perspective, either having worked with these people and what you’ve seen from them or perhaps because you yourself are a long-term leadership personality. Where have you garnered this kind of insight on leadership that has worked and leadership that hasn’t?
I think for me personally, and I’m only going to speak for me, what really shifted things is when I started being in service versus asking for things all the time. So instead of just being like, “I need this, can you help me with this?” It was like, “What can I do to support you?” And just that shift opened up an entirely new network to me.
As you know, it’s important to have a good network because they can really open doors for you. And just becoming more confident with myself, I truly believe confidence can change the world. That’s part of the reason that we have Ready Set Jet out there with its own Mindset Academy and all that. But I also believe that when you’re really confident with yourself, you then have the ability to go out there and lead in a completely different way. It’s not all about what you can get. It’s also what you can give. So be really cognizant of that mutual support, making it mutually beneficial. Some people won’t want anything from you. They are happy to open doors and help you. Other people will want something from you. So you’ve got to ask them, what do you need and how can I help you?
“It’s not all about what you can get. It’s also what you can give. So be really cognizant of that mutual support, making it mutually beneficial.” ~Shalini Vadhera
Some people will just want from you, and then that’s where you have to learn to set boundaries in your life and be like, “Okay, I can give you this much time for whatever you need.” But it’s really just being cognizant that it’s a shared world, a shared economy, a shared resource center for people and learning to make it go both ways, not just one way.
So what about the flip side of that? What about positions that you have experienced where leadership hasn’t really worked? Can we get some insights from you there?
Yeah, this is not me personally, but I’ve definitely experienced it in my career of leading through fear and really having negative energy involved, and not allowing people to have the opportunity to step into their power because it’s so tightly controlled or it’s coming from a lack-based mindset. So for me, that is a leadership style that absolutely does not work for me because I’m coming the completely opposite way.
But it is something I’ve experienced in my career, and it’s actually something that was so uncomfortable that it pushed me to create my own room and do things on my terms.
It’s interesting that you’re sharing this insight Shalini, because what I’ve noticed through my journey is it’s always been here where we are. We are advocates for female empowerment. We want to help women. We want to help them because we have layers that we’ve had to unpack in order to become the women that we have. And if we had just had someone that was further along the road and was a woman that came from a similar trajectory, ethnic and all these other things that we have to unpack along or get over in order to be able to move forward and truly shine in our purpose, not get fogged by all of the conditioning of our culture and our circumstances.
I found it’s always been the women that are the ones that have been most detrimental in my journey of success. I don’t know how you feel about that in your experience, and I’ve not known why that’s been. And they’ve been women that I’ve seen from similar backgrounds, cultural and entrepreneurship. Everything that I’ve ever done, everything that I’ve ever built in my media company with ANOKHI and all the other things that I’ve put out there — every content piece, whether it’s been a magazine or a blog or an event — it’s always been about creating elevation for people that don’t get the opportunity to have the platforms to voice who they are and why they matter. So for me, the mindset of someone being opposite to that has been very difficult for me to be able to process and understand how I’m going to deal with that.
Have you experienced that kind of negativity among women and women of ethnic background?
I have and it’s out there. But I think it’s sad, right? It’s a loss of innocence because you want everyone to be a team player and be together, and sometimes just bad communication and not having the ability to properly communicate can throw things into chaos. However, what I have learned, and it was a very difficult lesson for me, was you cannot project your value system on others and expect them to show up the same way. And it’s not fair for you because you’re disappointed. Well, I would never do that and that doesn’t mean they’ll never do it. That’s your value system. It might not be theirs. Learning to just catch yourself where you’re like, “Oh, wait, just because I operate this way, it doesn’t mean that they may operate this way.”
“What I have learned, and it was a very difficult lesson for me, was you cannot project your value system on others and expect them to show up the same way. And it’s not fair for you because you’re disappointed.” ~Shalini Vadhera
And also understanding what the relationship is. When you live in L.A., you see all kinds of relationships. And, in the beginning I was like, oh, everyone’s my friend. But you start to realize that not everyone is really your friend. It might be more of a transactional relationship where it’s like, “What can you do for me? Great. This is what I can do for you.” And that’s fine, too, as long as you understand what the rules of the game are then you’re okay. And so, again, going back to whatever inner work you need to do to become more confident in your own skin, then these kinds of situations don’t bother you as much because you realize that not everyone is going to have the same morals, the same values, the same way of operating as you do. And that’s okay.
I have actually had to learn that from my husband, who’s very fair. I’m always like, “Are you ever going to be a dad that gets mad at your kids and disappears? You know, I came up from a very different upbringing that I realized that maybe because he’s a journalist and an investigative reporter by trade that he always looks at everything from both sides, and that’s really taught me to understand that you have an opinion but so do they. And it might not be wrong. It just might be their opinion.
Absolutely. So I guess you just need to you know. I think that a part of what you’re saying here and what I’m hearing you say is that you have to be clear about who you are and what your value system is, so that when you are faced with one that doesn’t align with yours, that you’re quickly able to identify that and make a decision as to where you’re going to sit with that, if at all. This is actually what I’m hearing you say.
100 per cent, yeah, I understand what your values are and understand that not everyone is going to operate on the same value system. And if you do that, it’s going to save you a lot of pain and loss and all of that.
Absolutely. And it comes back to the beginning of our conversation in part one Shalini, where we basically identified that in leadership, in order for you to be able to move forward, bringing in diverse voices and opinions and not being emotionally attached to what they say, are the things that really make a difference. I think that the same criteria can be injected into a situation like this as well.
The great thing about being an entrepreneur or even just your own journey through your career is that there’s a lot of things that run parallel to your personal life as well, that you can actually take those lessons and integrate them, whether personally or professionally. So also being open to learning is very important.
Absolutely. So let me ask you this then: A central theme in all of your enterprises has been female empowerment. We’ve been talking about it throughout our conversation. So I want to tap in a little bit there. We know statistically that women only get approximately 2 per cent of the total funding, at least from a VC perspective that’s available. We also know that women-founded companies do better than male-founded companies, statistically speaking. And we also know that women lead in a very different way than men.
Can you share based on all of this, some insights from your experience as a series female founder? What have you found to be the top two things that women founders need to be able to move the dial on, in order to be able to maybe create a more equitable alignment of support financially with our male counterpart when we’re going to market to get the money?
100 per cent. Well, you know, I am a very firm believer about this. One of the reasons that I’ve always been about female empowerment is I understand the power of self-esteem when being bullied as a child and a teenager to being bullied in career.
“Know and understand that you need to be empowered in order to push that empowerment forth.” ~ Shalini Vadhera
Now, you understand, I so strongly believe in this, that I have programs and campaigns that are all about leveling the playing field. For instance, for me, it’s very important to not only level the playing field. We had over 152,000 jobs lost in the U.S. last year, all of them women and 8,000 jobs gained, all of them men. That doesn’t make any sense. So sometimes just walking in the room and being female, you’re already up against the 8-ball. And you don’t think of that when you’re a very strong business person entrepreneur. You don’t think that just your gender alone is the first strike against you, right?
I remember sitting on a call with seven men on Zoom, and I had one of my advisors on and the other six men introduced him as the CEO and founder of Ready Set Jet, and he had to correct all of them, say, “No, no, no, it’s her.” They thought I was the assistant. This mentality obviously needs to shift. And I think the more women come together, the more we have these conversations, the more we can create change. And that’s important. And also, we can get into this later, but just making opportunities accessible for women.
For instance, men can go to dinner with their friends. They can sit at a dinner table and be like, “Guys, I got this great idea” and all their friends around the table will be like, “Oh, that’s amazing. I’ll throw some cash in.” By the end of the dinner, they raised half a million dollars. Women don’t have that kind of financial confidence. They don’t have an extra $25,000 to $50,000. Most women don’t have an extra $25,000 to $50,000 sitting around that they can take a big financial risk and throw it into a friend’s company. All that needs to change. And I think we’re starting to see that change with more women stepping into the funding arena, with more women focused funds. But there’s still a lot of work to do. We just partnered with India’s largest and most diverse startup accelerator for women, and only 14 per cent of the entire ecosystem in India is led by women.
So let’s talk a little bit about that from your perspective, because you are leading the cause, at least from North America into that market. From a female empowerment perspective, your new current enterprise Ready Set Jet, you’ve kind of touched upon it. But I want to deep dive in that little bit. And the reason why I want to do that, guys, is to get behind the mind of a leader who has built enterprises into the seven-figure arena. This is the opportunity to be able to see that because Shalini is doing it again with this company.
So let’s talk a little bit about this. I want people to really go on the inside, especially those people who, as you mentioned, your experience has been that women have a very different relationship to money than men tend to have. Like we have a more fear-based relationship, more fear around the concept of whether we are allowed to be rich.
That’s a whole other show, right? But this one, I want to leave that in people’s heads as we lead into this conversation. So I want to ask you this: Can you, Shalini, for those who have never been an entrepreneur but are looking to enter the arena, especially women, I’m kind of prefacing that again, based on what you just shared so far in our show and in part one, what the rule of thumb is in order of things that people should be looking at when they’re starting a new company, so that they can set themselves up for potential success because that seems to be a big part of failure as well with startups and new enterprises, we don’t get it right? The order of things.
It’s important that you get your legal work done immediately. Making sure your structure is set up properly. Making sure you’ve got your IP protected and whatever capacity that is, whether it’s a trademark or a patent. Making sure that you’ve got your house in order, so to speak, from a legal standpoint. One, immediate protection, being able to operate legally, all of those things.
Two, surrounding yourself with people that want to see you succeed. The last thing you need when you’re working 18 to 20 hours a day is a bunch of people telling you you’re not going to make it. I’ve dealt with both and I prefer the ones where they’re like, “Go, you can do it.” versus the ones that are like “This is . . .” I’ll give you a great example. During the pandemic, we were going to launch much earlier, but not because our supply chain was affected, but because of the lockdown, we couldn’t ship products in because the warehouses were closed. I had a few really hardened veteran beauty entrepreneurs tell me, “Do not launch. You’re dead in the water. No Indy brand’s going to survive. You might as well just give up right now. Just don’t”. So you know what I did? I launched.
What was it in your head that told you that regardless of the advice that you were getting . . . And you pay to heed to advise. You’re like me, you listen, but then you make your mind up. What was the logic behind you saying I’m going to market now?
Because, one, you need to follow your gut. That’s been my biggest lesson. As you know, I was going against my gut. My biggest business and life lesson. But for me, I just knew we had a captive audience. Everybody was home.
“You need to follow your gut. That’s been my biggest lesson.” ~Shalini Vadhera
Let’s test this, this brand was created for travel, right? Nobody was traveling in 2020. So we just made it all about re-condoing your makeup drawer or simplifying your beauty routine. Three products. That’s it. Let’s see what happens. Let’s go out with not the 35 that we created. Let’s go out with a very distinct collection. Let’s be first to market with a really revolutionary technology that you can customize your batons and what happened was we attracted a demographic we didn’t anticipate. This brand was developed and designed for the millennials, gen Zs, wanderlusters of the #wanderlustingtheworld.
Now we’ve got women age 35 up that love the fact they can do their makeup in 10 minutes with these, that they keep these on their Zoom stations because all they need to do is literally just tap tap. I mean you saw me doing this earlier. I just got ready in like two seconds. You look good, you feel good. And, you know, it made us realize that, okay, this is all about saving women time, space and money. So it actually pivoted us and then in addition to that because we had so many people at home I was doing a lot of Instagram and we realized that the impact wasn’t just the girls in the slums and villages that we thought really needed impact. One, we saw impact happened at the very top with a lot of our investors being women, making their first investment ever away from their husbands, doing the very first thing on their own, which was super incredible.
But two, we started getting a lot of women from all over the world reaching out to us saying “I lost my job. I don’t necessarily want to be an entrepreneur. I want to be self-sufficient and want to be able to take care of my family. I don’t know what to do.” So I challenged my team and I said, “Why does impact have to be just disenfranchised girls? Is it every woman that could be impacted personally and professionally, giving her the tools to thrive so she can go out there and live her most powerful and beautiful life?”
And because of that, we created this Online Academy where you can Ready Set Jet the world that allows you to travel without leaving your home and work with the best experts in the world. But then you can also get that professional development you need. And so had we not launched . . . And by the way, because of the pandemic and because funding had pretty much come to a halt for a lot of people, we went a very different way and created a number of strategic partnerships that would never have happened because we had planned on hiring all those people internally. So had we not launched, we wouldn’t have been able to pivot. We would not have been able to attract a new customer. It would not have challenged us to create an online academy. It would not have brought us amazing strategic partnerships and investors. So, sometimes you just have to listen to your gut. And if you know a certain thing in the industry, follow it. You know, everyone’s going to have an opinion. It doesn’t mean you have to listen to it.
Right. Such valuable insights Shalini. For anyone that’s just joining us, I’m speaking with Shalini Vadhera and we are talking about leadership in today’s age. We’re talking about creating advocacy among all layers of our ecosystem. And I want to go there now Shalini. I want to ask you, can you tell us a bit about Ready Set Jet as it relates to the communal advocacy mission that is a big part of what you’re doing?
Absolutely. Ready Set Jet was not going to even exist a few years ago. But after I received the Mahatma Gandhi Award at the House of Lords, I happened to take a trip to India after almost 10 years. And when I arrived, there were government officials waiting for me, everyone from the Supreme Court to Congress to all these ministers who sat me down. And it was beautiful, they pinned me with a gold map of India, a beautiful picture of flowers. And they said, “Look, we feel that you’ve reached your potential. Now it’s time for you to come back and show our girls how to do that.” So I didn’t really know what they meant. And I came back to L.A. with still doing my stuff.
And in mid-2018 they called again. They said we’ve got 300 people at the House of Commons coming from all over India. We need you to come and speak for one hour. And at that point, I knew they were serious. So we had a couple of options. We could have found an ingredient and made it sustainable. We could have gone into a village and made it fair trade. But for me, I’m like, okay, if we’re going to do this, then let’s shake it up and create some impact that’s going to hopefully have some generational change. And for me, when I started calling all these NGOs, I kept hearing the same story from Calcutta, from Mumbai, from Punjab, from all these different areas; that these girls have either never gone to school a day in their life or by the age of 15 they have no more access to education. So they’ve got their choices of becoming a servant, getting married or horrifically getting trafficked.
So I realized at that point that my father gave me the gift of entrepreneurship at 19, sending me to India, throwing me out there. And I hysterically cried on that flight, thinking they’re arranging my marriage, but my dad really wanted me to be an entrepreneur. So the best thing I could do was pay that forward and give these girls the skills, the vocation, the livelihood enablement, and job placement to help them break their cycle of poverty and become the next generation of entrepreneurs. So that’s where we created a brand that we could scale globally, takign part of the proceeds and to go in and skill these girls. And now we’ve expanded the impact globally so any woman can come on and just get empowered to live her best life.
But let’s talk about that a little bit, Shalini. There’s a new enterprise that you launched where women can, for a small amount of money, actually own a piece of your company in some capacity. Can we talk about this? Because it’s quite an innovative concept that you’ve brought to the table with your team.
Well, again, going back to an earlier conversation we had how about men can just go to dinner with their friends and get funding. Women don’t do that. So I’m like, how do we give women an opportunity to actually put the word investor on their LinkedIn profile to start this She-economy, to really come together and not just crowdfund here. “Okay, thanks for your $100. You get a baton, but you actually get a seat at my table. I want to be in a boardroom with you. I want you to have a seat at my table. And I want to hear your voice and what that means to the future of the beauty and wellness industry. And so for as little as $100 for the next 60 days, you can invest in Ready Set Jet to actually own equity in a global beauty brand. So you’ll be just alongside all my other investors. And you’ll be on the same level playing field, and I want women to be able to walk in and proudly say I’m an investor and I thought $100, I mean, it goes all the way up to $50,000 so you can invest what you want.
We’ve had some women throw in $10,000, some women thrown in a $100,000, some $50,000. A lot of these women, in US in India, UK making their very first investment saying I’ve never invested before. I believe in the future of empowering women. I want to be a part of this and in making their very first investment with us. And that is just an incredible honor. And I know that we are just staying very true to our mission to just equality.
This is the next level advocacy mission, Shalini, something that I haven’t really heard of. I mean, we talk about people fundraising and you know what that’s all about, but you’re taking it to the next level because you’re marrying the community advocacy mission piece with that as well. So anyone out there that’s listening, that wants to get involved, that wants to have a piece of that and be a part of creating something that is so important and valuable and needed and relevant in today’s society, and that I know is going to end up being kind of the way that we do business in future, and that is to raise money together and not have to rely on the venture capitalists and all these hedge funds that raising capital together.
Really it sounds like a concept, but it’s very innovative because people have always been relying on the top-down mentality, which we talked about at the beginning of our conversation, when really it is the communal advocacy piece that I think is going to really push the equality forward, whether it’s social, whether it is cultural, whether it is economic. I think that’s going to be the way it’s going to go. And Shalini you are doing it with this company, where do people need to go if they want to get involved?
“If you go to Republic.co/Ready-set-jet, you can get involved and the campaign should run through April.” ~ Shalini Vadhera
Then most likely we go into more of the institutional capital. But what I love about this is the idea of social capital. And not only our customers get to be owners of the brand, but we’ve had so many customers actually invest and then sign up to be an affiliate so they can actually purchase the products and earn a commission. That’s our best sales force right there as a company, having our customers also have skin in the game and then going out there and promoting our products for us. It’s just an incredible ecosystem that we’ve created.
But also from that aspect, the social capital angle that comes in is the idea that there’s a lot of value add with some of these investors that are throwing some money in. One girl came to us and they’re like, “Let me do your social media. Let me know.” And so it is, one, community building. It is this communal effect of creating change and equality. But it’s also just a phenomenal exercise in building. They’re building your audience and getting people more actively involved in building the public a brand.
So, guys, you heard it right here, that the three key factors in the benefits of having advocacy in your organization is multifaceted. The value is not just about the money that is raised to be able to push the company forward. It’s all the other value add. It’s a skill set. It’s the networking.
It’s that communal spirit of motivating and elevating and empowering each other that really becomes this amplified energy that we put out there in the world for anyone that comes across our ecosystem. Shalini we’re getting close to the end of our conversation, which is a big boo hoo for me, which means obviously we’ve got to do this all over again and talk about something else fabulous.
What I want to ask you Shalini just to wrap things up with our conversation, anyone out there that wants to build a company for today. And they want to take it from start all the way up to seven or eight figures. What may be a few things just to wrap things up? Because we talked about a lot of things here, what would you say that they need to look at if number one, they are female? So I’m going to put this at you now, girlfriend. Number one, they are females. Number two, they come from an ethnic background. So, when you come from an ethnic background, that’s a whole other layer of being a female. And they’re not willing to go to the market to raise funds in the traditional venture capitalist or Angel investment way. What would you say are a few steps they could look at, now bearing in mind that these steps can be different depending on so many other variables? So just maybe a couple of rules of thumb that we can leave them with.
First off, with being raised ethnic, I think there is as much unlearning that needs to happen as learning. We have been brought up with limiting beliefs, stories that don’t serve us in business. One for me personally was don’t use your voice, don’t rock the boat. And when I did, I paid for it. And then I realized that no actually I have to use my voice and rock the boat if I want things to move forward. Two, looking for alternative ways to raise capital. I mean, there’s never been an easier way. There’s so many grants out there for women minorities. Now’s the time, ladies. There’s different ways of getting loans.
But also for us, we did something very unconventional and nontraditional. When we raised for Ready Set Jet, I threw a party at a crystal store in Hollywood with 40,000 crystals. I’m like, nothing can go wrong in this entire store because there are so many crystals. And I just asked notable women that I knew had the right networks to invite their friends. We had a friend show up and cater it for free. I had another friend bring the vodka for cocktails and then the woman who owned the store took every woman through a guided meditation so they could charge their own crystal, which is very me.
Now that I talk about it and I listen to what I’m saying, I’m like, well, this makes no sense at all. We raised $170,000. And there are all kinds of resources now. You can raise notes that didn’t exist years ago with the Y Combinator. There’s just so much access to make it easy to raise capital. There are pitch competitions you can do. But for me, it’s being creative. And obviously now crowdfunding in the U.S., the SEC has lifted the limit. So this was a big change because of COVID. They changed the regulation crowdfunding from one million to five million. So you can go on and now raise funds from your community. How exciting is that? I mean, the question is your audience and your community, and then in addition to that, I think it’s just about getting a really good team together.
So it’s hard to do this alone. Really finding people that can step in either as your co-founder or as an advisor or as part of your team to help you build this, that’s really important. And you’re really as strong as the weakest link on your team. So I learned through my career to hire slow, fire fast. I’ve never had to implement that more than in this particular brand because it’s just so easy for anyone to start a brand now you really need to have a strong team around you.
“You’re really as strong as the weakest link on your team. I learned through my career to hire slow, fire fast.” ~Shalini Vadhera
Absolutely. Guys, you heard it right here. So many caveats of wisdom and insights and experiential nuggets of wisdom. I hope you guys were there listening intently. And if you weren’t, just play it back on our YouTube channel, go to our podcast platforms. You can grab it right there. I want you guys to garner the insights here because I’m a firm believer that what’s taken people like Shalini and me decades to learn through making a lot of mistakes on the way to get to where we have, you can get it just from the knowledge of being on podcasts like this and then reaching out and being mentored, which we talked about off the top of the show. My last question to you, my dear, is this: Looking back if there is one thing that would change or you could change from a personal leadership perspective, what would it be and why would you change it?
I think honestly, going back to hiring slow, firing fast, I like to give people so many chances to show up for me. And, I look back on some of my previous companies and there was just such a bad culture clash. We were a startup, required to hire big corporates. They didn’t know how to work as a startup. And just, really following your gut. Your gut does not lead you wrong. And if something doesn’t feel right, it’s usually for a reason.
Absolutely. Hear, hear to that. And finally, sweetheart, how can people get a hold of you?
Oh, my gosh.
“Well, you can find me on Instagram @Shalini Vadhera and of course, at Ready Set Jet official on Twitter @ShalinisWorld and ReadySetJetofficial.com. We’ll tell you everything you need to know about the brand and the products. And then, of course, we’d love for you to have a seat at our table and invest so you can find us on Republic.co.” ~Shalini Vadhera
Wonderful. Thank you so much, sweetheart. It’s always such a pleasure to spend time, space and energy and be educated by you and be inspired by you, as always. Thank you so much. And I look forward to the next time that we sit and chat.
Yeah, more learnings to share.
And never should it ever. Thank you so much, sweetheart.
Thank you so much for staying until the end, guys. I really hope you enjoyed this show and will action the many insights that were shared. If you found this show helpful, I’m so glad and would love your support by subscribing to this podcast on your Apple and Android platforms. Search ‘The Transform Your Confidence Show’ and on our YouTube channel at The Open Chest® Confidence Academy. And please join our Facebook group @TransformYourConfidence, because that’s where I share knowledge and resources about mindset, media, communications, branding, marketing, leadership, and advocacy for busy executives and entrepreneurs, as well as those seeking to elevate the quality of their life.
And I want to leave you with something this week, guys, something I’ve learned through many years of experience.
“Confidence is created, curated and cultivated through consistent growth. It’s not inherited, borrowed, purchased or stolen.” ~Raj Girn
And trust me when I say I know this, because I’ve tried all the quick fixes and they don’t last. The only lasting method is finding a guru. That is someone who is further along the journey than you are, doing the work. So you have an indelible relationship with the outcome and paying it forward because, heck, what’s the point of success if we can’t share it? I want you to sit with this, guys, and, as always, I’ll see you next week.