Not everyone is cut out to be a founder, nor should they be. Being a founder entails a level of risk tolerance, whether it is personal, financial and or a combination of both. The amount of risk and the management of those risks are factors to take into account when deciding to embark on the entrepreneurial path. Founders don’t stand on higher moral grounds or are smarter or better professionals. As I mentioned before, whichever the path chosen, entrepreneurship or working for 3rd parties, the real accomplishment is when they are executed in the best version of oneself.
Asa part of our series about “Why We Need More Women Founders”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Saloa Aguirre.
Saloa Aguirre is the founder of Boiess colognes for children, babies and moms that are natural, plant-based, and infused with vitamins and prebiotics. The scemts are clean, fresh and gentle and provide a sense of nurturing while creating memories to last a lifetime.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would like to get to know you a bit more. Can you tell us a bit about your “backstory”? What led you to this particular career path?
Thanks for giving me the opportunity to introduce our brand, Boiess Colognes and myself. https://www.boiess.com/ In order to understand our vision, I should probably talk a little bit about my upbringing. I grew up in a coastal village of Europe (Spain), where the concept of farm to table was the norm before it became a thing. Where I had to search what exactly GMO meant since the natural form was more accessible than the modified one and where traditions in certain cosmetic formulations (and cooking recipes) were passed through family members for generations. When it came to fragrances, aromas where an intrinsic part of our upbringing, it just transported us to different places, whether it was the fruit trees at my grandparents’ house, orange blossoms, lemons, gardenias or bougainvillea during the school holiday trips or simply the freshness of the sea. All those scents are still with me and bring back emotions. Our nose is like a time machine, through scents we can go back in time or travel to visited places. When I became a mom in 2017, I wanted to ensure I could gift those same memories, that journey to my son. Our goal at Boiess Colognes is to craft clean and natural fragrances you can trust, that can provide a journey of loving, nurturing and belonging in every family.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company?
Being an entrepreneur is a roller coaster of emotions and interesting stories, never dull, that’s why I always say, I’m glad I didn’t know what I didn’t know. Probably this is more of a learning curve than interesting, but when I started maturing the idea of bringing Boiess Colognes to life, I had developed in my mind an array of scents that I wanted to have in my collections. I was working with leading labs in the industry, surely we could develop a formula that was qualitatively strong and achieve a scent profile that I had in mind, right? Wrong…First lesson learned, it’s never easy and things will not go as planned. As we worked on the notes of the fragrances and explored natural, plant based, clean & sustainable elements, I quickly realized how many things and scents I love that are simply impossible to achieve with natural elements. It certainly opened up a debate about our identity, what kind of fragrances we wanted to craft and what kind of products we were going to be able to achieve. As we grow and bring different scents and collections to the market it will continue to be a challenge, but our commitment to using plant based and craft natural products will be our compass.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
Before I founded Boiess Colognes while working in the financial sector, one of my largest clients sent me an invite for a networking evening with the performance of the “Rolling Stones”. I remember thinking at the time that it seemed a bit odd to choose such a big name for a network event but given the size of the entity, I thought maybe they had the budget for it. Of course when you go watch the Stones perform live you park your corporate attire and rocking some leather is almost mandatory. Needless to say my jaw dropped when I arrived, excited with the thought of the evening I was heading into, when I was very quick to realize my grave mistake, not only was I under dressed (overexcited), but everyone around me had coiffed up dos, gala gowns and bow ties. I didn’t need to ask further what was happening, we were clearly not watching a rock band but the client’s in house classic orchestra, which happened to take a catchy name, who in their right mind would confuse a classic orchestra with a worldly rock band?… It took some champagne and a lot of humor to get through the evening. It did teach me however an important lesson, never assume, do your research. You will still find yourself in unforeseen situations but with good preparation and ground work, they will be minimized and mostly avoided.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
There are so many people, jobs, colleagues friends and family along the way that have imprinted their mark that it would be quite unfair to single one out. I will however give a big Thank You to the clients that worked with me over the years, their loyalty, their assistance, their belief in my abilities, even beyond my own beliefs, for allowing to dream higher, be better and be bold. They kept me going, made me resilient and made me truly believe the sky is the limit. It would also be unfair if I wasn’t grateful to my supportive husband, who after so many years still shows pride in me and who when in doubt, gave me reason and pushed me to continue. The professional journey is a marathon, not a sprint and many people run by your side making it much more special.
Ok, thank you for that. Let’s now jump to the primary focus of our interview. According to this EY report, only about 20 percent of funded companies have women founders. This reflects great historical progress, but it also shows that more work still has to be done to empower women to create companies. In your opinion and experience what is currently holding back women from founding companies?
I wish those numbers were accurate. The 20% mentioned represent companies where at least one woman is a co-founder, most of them being a combination of male and female founders. I believe the figure of only women-founded companies stands at something like 3% and this is where we see a staggering low figure and a lot of work still to be done.
Just to name some attributes, women are strong, resilient, hardworking, loyal, efficient and diligent, same as many men, so why aren’t the figures of women led/founded companies higher? I think history plays some part of it, throughout the years, but for some exceptions, we have seen and been taught leadership by men, inspiring other young men to aspire, have dreams and achieve them. They had reference points, role models and a path to get there. It’s only recent history that has started to show a higher number of prominent female figures that are breaking glass ceilings, walking uncharted territories in boards, leadership positions etc. Every year we see more of these figures, but still there needs to be more. We need to show next generations that is possible to have a family, a work life balance, a career, dream and aim high, without giving up dreams, being burnt out or giving ourselves up in the process. (Of course I am not even touching upon certain parts of the world that are still today lacking basic equality and human rights for women).Movements like women supporting women, dedicated female founded VCs are accelerating and increasing visibility of the path young women can follow, give them tools to advance their fears and give them hope and they will truly start believing it’s possible. Butterflies have wings, they only need to open them and fly, women have courage, they only need to be shown a path and they will follow it.
Can you help articulate a few things that can be done as individuals, as a society, or by the government, to help overcome those obstacles?
I think it all starts with education. Strong messages from early childhood that everyone can be the best version of themselves, whatever that may be. Strong values, strong role models hopefully will shape better characters. In order to achieve this we probably need more focus on our educational system, provide teachers with tools, support them and keep revisiting and improving our models.
I’d like to hopefully soon stop reading about a female reaching a leadership position and simply read the name of the most suitable candidate that has succeeded. That would mean that female and male parity in leadership roles is a fact and we are not focusing on gender.
This might be intuitive to you as a woman founder but I think it will be helpful to spell this out. Can you share a few reasons why more women should become founders?
I’d like to see more women pursuing their ideas, showing new perspectives, new initiatives, new thought processes that only diversity can provide. Being a founder requires a lot of work. It’s a learning curve, but no matter the hours, the obstacles, despite the stress, the rewards are far greater.
What are the “myths” that you would like to dispel about being a founder? Can you explain what you mean?
I heard a lot of advice around believing in your product, your idea, yourself. Defend it no matter what and if you fail once get up and continue pursuing your dream. In my opinion, better advice I would give to entrepreneurs is to be able to pivot, to listen to the market, adjust to changes. We are living in an ever changing environment. Understanding your audience, adjusting for changes and asking for help is not at odds with having conviction in yourself or the product. No matter how much research you do, you will always encounter surprises. Another myth is that being a founder is a lonely process. On the contrary, the founder/entrepreneur ecosystem is very robust, large and helpful, it’s a collective journey. People are genuinely out there to assist, they share your struggles and pains and there is a common empathy among the community, which is another of the highlights of joining the founders’ community.
Is everyone cut out to be a founder? In your opinion, which specific traits increase the likelihood that a person will be a successful founder and what type of person should perhaps seek a “regular job” as an employee? Can you explain what you mean?
Absolutely not, not everyone is cut out to be a founder, nor should they be. Being a founder entails a level of risk tolerance, whether it is personal, financial and or a combination of both. The amount of risk and the management of those risks are factors to take into account when deciding to embark on the entrepreneurial path. Founders don’t stand on higher moral grounds or are smarter or better professionals. As I mentioned before, whichever the path chosen, entrepreneurship or working for 3rd parties, the real accomplishment is when they are executed in the best version of oneself.
Ok super. Here is the main question of our interview. What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started” and why? (Please share a story or example for each.)
I received a lot of advice before launching Boiess Colognes. Like most founders, some I followed, others I wish I had but here are my 2 cents of what I consider to be some of the early hurdles as you take the entrepreneurial path.
1) Have a solid financial plan. It will always be more expensive that you expect.
2) Be prepared for the unknown. No matter how prepared or knowledgeable you are, surprises and unforeseen events will be part of your journey.
3) Having doubts is normal. It means that you are listening, evaluating, aware of the challenges and are working towards solving them.
4) This path is a marathon, not a sprint. There are no shortcuts.
5) Be afraid, but be brave. It’s all worth it.
How have you used your success to make the world a better place?
I wish I could say I’m making the world a better place. I would consider myself successful if my son grows up to be a good human being, empathetic, kind and noble. From a professional perspective, all I can say is that like Frank Sinatra I’m doing it my way…
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good for the greatest number of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger.
I think we are all united on calling for peace in these very tumultuous times, but if I had to start a movement it would probably be a “Smiling” one. Smiling not only creates positive reactions in one’s mood but also sets into motion a contagious chain reaction of smiles that would make the world a kinder place.
We are very blessed that some very prominent names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them.
I’d love to sit down and have lunch with Jessica Alba, exchange some notes and learn about her long journey from founding the Honest company to taking it public. I admire what she has built and her story.
Thank you for these fantastic insights. We greatly appreciate the time you spent on this.