Be crystal clear about the set of values your brand represents and project them across all platforms
Love your consumer and make them feel it/know it
Surround yourself with people who will support your endeavors but make sure you occasionally leave your echo chamber.
As a part of our series called “5 Things You Need To Know To Create A Very Successful Lifestyle Brand”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Helena Zaludova.
Helena is the founder of Hyascent — an award winning home fragrance company, a top-ranking realtor in San Francisco who has closed nearly a billion in transactions in her career, an accomplished concert violist and a former child movie star in her native land, the Czech Republic. Helena lives in San Francisco with her husband, stepdaughter and a cat.
Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dive in, our readers would love to learn a bit more about you. Can you tell us a bit about your “childhood backstory”?
I was born and raised in Prague and spent my childhood behind the “Iron Curtain” dreaming about living abroad one day. My parents coached competitive gymnastics at a the Olympic level and I pursued a degree in music performance playing the viola so the idea of practicing and working through the most minute details to achieve something great was instilled pretty deeply.
Can you tell us the story of what led you to this particular career path?
I landed in the US at 19 with 300 dollars in my pocket (I felt RICH!), a scholarship to a small college, and a good friend by my side, who was also a musician. Once I got through grad school I landed in San Francisco where innovation was pulsing through the city — it didn’t take long for me to get the bug. Hyascent was born out of a need to solve a problem I was encountering in my primary career as a luxury realtor. I felt strongly that there was a need for a way to deliver fragrance in a new, beautiful way. I set out on a path to do something about it, one small step at a time. Now I have a thriving business and all the ups and downs that come with it.
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?
One of the most classic ‘aha’ moments early on was watching my in-laws (in their 80s) unpack their first Hyascent — fresh off the production line — and realizing that some of the things that were so obvious to me as someone who created the product weren’t obvious to a consumer. They couldn’t read the instructions because the font was too small! It was funny yet horrifying at the same time and the lesson was to get feedback on all aspects of the consumer experience from outside of the “bubble”.
Is there a particular book, podcast, or film that made a significant impact on you? Can you share a story or explain why it resonated with you so much?
I am a big fan on NPRs How I Built This — The story of Chesapeake Bay Candle Co. was recommended to me by a friend with whom I shared that I was losing courage to take the next step with Hyascent (finding a wood manufacturer was proving to be a very difficult challenge) and it was the perfect antidote to my entrepreneurial blues. Listening to authentic stories of people who overcame similar obstacles gave me just enough lift under my wings. One of my dreams is to earn the chance to tell the story of Hyascent on HIBT myself.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
“Necessity is the mother of invention” is at the core of what we set out to do. It’s not philosophical or sexy but it’s been a driving force behind solving problems small and large and it guides my investments as well. Whenever I discover a product or a service that solves a real pain-point I rejoice and if possible, invest.
Ok, thank you for that. Let’s now jump to the primary focus of our interview. For the benefit of our readers, let’s define our terms. How do you define a Lifestyle Brand? How is a Lifestyle Brand different from a normal, typical brand?
A lifestyle brand gives the consumer an opportunity to project something of themselves in the world and how they interact with it. A lifestyle brand has a defined voice, set of values, aspirations and they resonate with the consumer across multiple platforms. A typical brand is a name on a product attached to a varying set of features.
What are the benefits of creating a lifestyle brand?
A lifestyle brand gives a voice to both sides of the product — the creators and their audience.
In your opinion, what is an example of a company that has done a fantastic job building a believable and beloved Lifestyle Brand? What specifically impresses you? What can one do to replicate that?
Two perhaps not ‘classically lifestyle’ brands but inspiring ones nonetheless are Apple and Chanel. They both have elements of aspiration, exclusivity, uncompromising commitment to design, execution, and innovation. They have been started by individuals who were driven by the need to create something real, unique and beautiful. The singularity in the drive for excellence is what I think it takes.
Can you share your ideas about how to create a lifestyle brand that people really love and are ‘crazy about’?
I have a one-word answer for this: AUTHENTICITY
What are the common mistakes you have seen people make when they start a lifestyle brand? What can be done to avoid those errors?
I tend to focus on the innovative, good things others do that I can learn from and draw inspiration. Everyone will stumble along the way; other’s mistakes don’t really hold much interest, so I haven’t noticed them.
Let’s imagine that someone reading this interview has an idea for a lifestyle brand that they would like to develop. What are the first few steps that you would recommend that they take?
Figure out what you stand for, what you are really selling and make sure your inner and outer voice resonate. Then commit to working harder than you have.
Ok. Thank you for all that. Here is the main question of our discussion. What are your “5 Things You Need To Know To Create A Very Successful Lifestyle Brand” and why? (Please share a story or example for each.)
- Be crystal clear about the set of values your brand represents and project them across all platforms
- Deliver, deliver, deliver
- Love your consumer and make them feel it/know it
- In order to be inspiring you need to be inspired — explore and experience and let your consumer in on it
- Surround yourself with people who will support your endeavors but make sure you occasionally leave your echo chamber.
Super. We are nearly done. Here are our final questions. You are an inspiration to a great many people. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger.
I would love to see a realignment towards quality and longevity — building and furnishing homes with things and materials that stand the test of time a few generations down the road. It would be wonderful for our planet.
We are very blessed that some of the biggest 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, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them.
Dolly Parton. I don’t like country music, but I am fascinated by her authenticity, generosity, ability to stay relevant for decades and of course her talent. I think she would be great fun to have a meal with.
Thank you for these fantastic insights. We greatly appreciate the time you spent on this.