Elizabeth Wilmot & Lauren Wilmot of Basquettes: “Be Authentic ”

Be Authentic — Your products, your company, your thoughts are going to make more of an impact if they truly represent who you are and how you live your life. You can’t be scared that you’re not good or smart enough or that people will disagree with you. If you believe so strongly in something that you […]

Thrive invites voices from many spheres to share their perspectives on our Community platform. Community stories are not commissioned by our editorial team, and opinions expressed by Community contributors do not reflect the opinions of Thrive or its employees. More information on our Community guidelines is available here.

Be Authentic — Your products, your company, your thoughts are going to make more of an impact if they truly represent who you are and how you live your life. You can’t be scared that you’re not good or smart enough or that people will disagree with you. If you believe so strongly in something that you want to put it out in the world, then you are smart and good enough. People will always disagree with you but if you are authentically you, they will listen and that’s really all you can ask for.

As part of our series about how to become known as a thought leader in your industry, I had the pleasure of interviewing Elizabeth Wilmot and Lauren Wilmot, a mother-daughter team who have several businesses together.

About Lauren Wilmot — With a passion for creating new ideas that solve everyday problems, Lauren Wilmot is a young entrepreneur, who at the age of 28, helms two successful businesses that are focused on creating fun and engaging experiences, whether it be at home, in the office or everywhere in between.

The yin to her mother-daughter duo’s yang, Lauren’s strong work ethic and entrepreneurial spirit was sparked at just 11-years-old, when she started her decade-long stretch of holding numerous positions at her mom’s electronic recycling and data destruction business. Getting a taste of the corporate world from a young age, Lauren went on to work for some of the world’s leading tech companies including Oracle and AdRoll, where she honed her skills on all things digital marketing.

At 24, Lauren came up with the idea for MoodClue, an Amazon-based business that sells bold, bright liquid chalk markers for use in offices, homes and events. Tapping her mom out of her retirement gap year to go along for the ride, the business has been wildly successful with tens of thousands of units sold across the United States.

Continuing the momentum, Lauren and her mother most recently launched Basquettes, a revolutionary all-in-one cooking and grilling tool that is quickly becoming a kitchen must-have. With adjustable tops, rust-proof stainless steel and patent-pending removable legs, these elevated baskets are the first real innovation in cooking tools this century. After 2 ½ years of prototyping, this extraordinarily clever tool will replace many single-use, counter-hogging gadgets.

Lauren graduated from the University of Virginia, where she was the captain of the varsity cheerleading team. In her free time, she enjoys traveling, being outside in the mountains or on the water, and cheering on the Hoos. She also enjoys spending time with her supermutt pandemic puppy, her recent groom, family and friends.

About Elizabeth Wilmot — With a love for innovation and creating solutions for complex problems, Elizabeth Wilmot’s road to becoming a successful and passionate entrepreneur, inventor and mom is anything but ordinary.

Entering the workforce at just 12-years-old, Elizabeth’s drive and determination laid the groundwork for a career filled with a myriad of lucrative ventures and endeavors, whether she started them herself or worked within as a senior-level executive. With a finger on the pulse of the latest workforce and industry trends, Elizabeth delved into real estate, started her own marketing and consulting agency, and launched an Internet business back when having a website was a rare thing. She also served as the Senior Vice President of Marketing at CitiGroup where she oversaw a portion of the international division of CitiFinancial.

However, it was in 2005, when she founded Turtle Wings/Data Killers, an electronics recycling and data destruction company, that her entrepreneurial streak really found its stride. What started as an idea she came up with at her kitchen table, soon grew into the premier on-site data destruction company servicing all of the United States. With clients ranging from all US government and spook agencies to large government contractors, Elizabeth took the classified data destruction industry to the next level.

Elizabeth graduated magna cum laude from Duke University. In her free time, she enjoys running, swimming, biking, reading, volunteering and inventing, with her most favorite thing being laughing with friends and family. As a Duke alumni, she also enjoys rooting against the Hoos (where her daughter went) whenever they play the Blue Devils.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you share your “backstory” with us?

Lauren Wilmot: While running a business with a family member may be difficult for some, being raised by a single mother who sprinkled her entrepreneurial fairy dust on me at an early age is why I’m here today. Having this unique relationship has allowed us to not only play, learn, work and grow together personally, but professionally as well.

The dynamic mother-daughter duo we are today started when I was just 11-years-old as I helped out and held a number of positions at my mom’s electronics recycling company over the years, until it was sold. It wasn’t until I was 24 and working at an ad-tech company where my own entrepreneurial spirit took on a life of its own and I had an idea for a kid’s and office product that stemmed from my years as a cheerleader. So, I wooed the best businesswoman I knew out of her gap year (aka my mom), and we started MoodClue, which is now a successful Amazon-based business.

Our love of innovation didn’t stop there. Fast forward to today, we recently launched our latest endeavor together called Basquettes, an all-in-one cookware and grillware product designed for the home chef to make easier, faster and heathier food.

It all started when we first saw a bulky air-fryer with a tiny cooking basket and immediately looked at each other and said, “We could design something better than that.” Plus, we’ve always loved cooking together and playing around in the kitchen, so this seemed like a fun new idea to explore.

We then set out to make a heat-efficient, heat-conducting basket that would work in a conventional or convection oven, so you wouldn’t need a huge air-fryer taking up precious counter and cupboard space. Using friends and family as a focus group to better understand what exactly people needed to elevate their cooking and grilling games, we took in every ounce of feedback we received to redesign our prototype time and time again in order to expand its capabilities and cooking efficiencies.

Although manufacturers told us that it couldn’t be done and that our design ideas wouldn’t work, we persisted. Low and behold, Basquettes launched this month and is quickly becoming a must-have cookware, grillware and kitchen tool for 2021/2022.

Can you briefly share with our readers why you are an authority about the topic of thought leadership?

Elizabeth Wilmot: Although I don’t personally see myself as an authority on anything, I know a lot about many random things. However, I do admire and follow several people who I consider to be “thought leaders” in that they lead me to think about things differently. When I’m interested in a subject or problem, I do as much research as I can by diving down every rabbit hole that is even slightly related to what I want to learn. This is how Basquettes was born.

Coming into the cookware industry from left field, we had to educate ourselves on every aspect of our competitors and top creators in the space to understand what was already out there, what worked, what didn’t and how we could carve out our own corner of a world dominated by big movers and shakers (yes, Le Creuset, we’re talking about you). We even went down the wire and metal fabrication rabbit hole where we learned everything from different types of wire mesh to bending machines and robotics so we could talk intelligently with potential manufacturers.

There are always going to be people who know more about a subject than I do but being an expert in a field is very different from being a thought leader in a field.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started your career?

Lauren Wilmot: One of the most interesting stories since we started working on Basquettes is how we came up with our now patent-pending, intertwining leg system on the baskets that allow them to be stacked and flipped in any direction and in one easy motion.

The inspiration actually came knocking on our door. You see, one of the things that I really liked when I was growing up was palindromes — words where the characters read the same backwards as forward, like the words “radar” or “civic.” My favorite word was “wow” because not only was it a palindrome, but it could also be flipped upside down to spell “mom.” (I actually wrote a college essay about this that got me into the University of Virginia). This got us thinking that maybe the legs could be a series of “W’s” and “M’s” that intertwined.

We spent hours researching existing designs, products and patents to find a way to stack baskets in any manner. There are lots of stacking baskets for desk papers, but of course, those don’t allow one basket to flip over. The legs were truly the trickiest part of Basquettes that we are now most proud of. One of our first iterations of the W/M legs were made so that when they flipped, the baskets didn’t stack perfectly. We had to mirror the orientation of the legs on both sides of the basket to get this stacking perfected. It seems crazy obvious now, but it was counterintuitive at the time. The curvature of the legs had to be exactly right too to get them to intertwine without rubbing or jamming.

Basquettes is the only product on the market that allow you to achieve so many cooking/grilling goals with just one tool. This is primarily due to the patent-pending leg design and other innovations to the tops that we made.

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?

Elizabeth Wilmot: I’m not sure if we would call it a mistake, but one of the biggest “face palms” that Lauren and I had throughout the process of creating Basquettes was not hiring an engineering design company from the start.

First, we showed our initial prototype, which was one basket with legs that could be flipped upside down, to a friend who said, “I love it but make it a set of two so I can stack them in my oven and cook multiple levels of different foods at the same time.” This was a new engineering challenge for two people who don’t boast engineering degrees.

We spent a lot of time diving down Internet rabbit holes looking for stackable, flippable baskets that we could modify for our idea, but there was nothing out there. So, we called just about every wire-bending company in America to make us prototypes and even sent them hand sketches. Neither of us have an art degree either, so you can imagine what those looked like!

This process involves a lot of waiting, and patience is one virtue we were both not graced with. Usually, it’s four weeks before the prototype ends up in your hands and during those four weeks, we tended to have a bunch of new ideas. The thing is, manufacturers do NOT like it when you call with change orders to a one-off prototype, and we found that out the hard way. Needless to say, we heard the word “no” a lot of times.

There were many things that needed to be tweaked in the first two dozen prototypes (yes, you read that right — 24 different prototypes). The tops had to be reworked to be adjusted down. The legs had to be resized to fit within a standard baking pan and not slide around. The safety catches and the legs themselves needed to be fine-tuned to allow the legs to intertwine, but not stick. Every “solution” seemed to then add a new set of challenges. We tried versions in perforated stainless steel which badly warped in our oven. We had versions that didn’t stack or flip properly. Version after version of “close but no cigar”.

When our cousins, who are great cooks, visited we made them try out various prototypes and they gave more suggestions for improvements. One said, “It would be great if you could flip just one basket without flipping the other.” That meant we had to change the positioning of the legs on either side of the basket.

Then the pandemic struck and all the stateside and foreign factories with whom we were dealing with closed. Any plans that we had to launch in 2020 disappeared. Factories eventually reopened, but again we were on the bottom of everyone’s list of priorities with our one-off prototype which we were now sourcing from overseas, which also translated into shipping delays.

Finally, we designed a prototype that was really good and my husband/Lauren’s stepdad, said “I would really like it better if I could take the legs off.” Dead silence fell over the room!

We can’t even begin to tell you what that entailed — how to make the legs stay on when we wanted but be removable at other times. The solutions to all these issues seem obvious now but at the time, we tried ridiculous things that were bound to fail in retrospect. Although we were just trying to make one little oven basket, we’ve actually created something much, much more — a revolutionary cooking tool.

Ok, thank you for that. Let’s now jump to the main focus of our interview. In a nutshell, how would you define what a ‘Thought Leader’ is. How is a thought leader different than a typical leader? How is a thought leader different than an influencer?

Lauren Wilmot: My definition of a thought leader is someone who has worked on and studied a subject hard enough to have a legitimate viewpoint that they are willing to generously share with others, not to prove how smart they are or that their viewpoint is the one and only, but to teach lessons that inspire someone else’s spark.

Perspective and experience have a huge part in determining who is a thought leader. The world is a constantly evolving place so someone who is a thought leader on a subject one day may find themselves irrelevant the next. A true thought leader is someone who is willing to learn, grow and change.

A thought leader lays out the route and changes the course as needed. A leader steers the ship. An influencer gets the crew to do the work.

Can you talk to our readers a bit about the benefits of becoming a thought leader. Why do you think it is worthwhile to invest resources and energy into this?

Elizabeth Wilmot: One of the most important things about being a thought leader is sharing your well-honed ideas with others while simultaneously listening to their feedback. Stimulating new ideas in others is one of the most rewarding parts of life. This process makes everyone smarter, and it makes products better. Just look at what we went through with Basquettes.

I read a weekly Sunday email called Farnham Street published by Shane Parrish. I find it immensely interesting because it touches on a variety of subjects with a concentration on learning and thinking. As babies, we are all immensely interested in the world around us and open to input and learning. Children have no problem asking “Why?” As people get older, they sometimes stop learning and growing and get set in their ways, so I think it’s unbelievably valuable to turn subjects on their head and view things differently. Asking “Why?” and “Why not?” are critical characteristics of a thought leader. As an inventor, I am also a fan of the question “How?”

Let’s talk about business opportunities specifically. Can you share a few examples of how thought leadership can help a business grow or create lucrative opportunities?

Elizabeth Wilmot: When I owned Turtle Wings/Data Killers, I belonged to a group called Vistage International which is a peer mentoring membership organization for CEOs, business owners and executives of small- to mid-size businesses. We had monthly meetings and speakers on a wide variety of subjects. One of my favorite speakers had us do some mental exercises about our business asking the question, “If your current business model became obsolete tomorrow, how would you completely pivot your business given your current resources?” This type of thought stimulation is the most valuable contribution that thought leaders make.

This strategy of soliciting input from a variety of sources and listening hard to their input (even when it isn’t something that you want to hear) has helped us make Basquettes into a top-notch product able to accomplish a variety of different cooking and grilling techniques. I always say, “Tell me what you don’t like,” and then I have to brace myself for the answer. It is both painful and difficult to listen to what people don’t like about your work, but it is truly the best way to make your work better. Basquettes was built by asking people what they didn’t like and then incorporating their ideas into the next set of prototypes.

Ok. Now that we have that behind us, we’d love to hear your thoughts about how to eventually become a thought leader. Can you share 5 strategies that a person should implement to become known as a thought leader in their industry. Please tell us a story or example (ideally from your own experience) for each.

Lauren Wilmot:

  1. Be Authentic — Your products, your company, your thoughts are going to make more of an impact if they truly represent who you are and how you live your life. You can’t be scared that you’re not good or smart enough or that people will disagree with you. If you believe so strongly in something that you want to put it out in the world, then you are smart and good enough. People will always disagree with you but if you are authentically you, they will listen and that’s really all you can ask for.
  2. Never Stop Learning — At the University of Virginia, students are called first-years, second-years, third-years, fourth-years. The reason behind this dates back to when Thomas Jefferson founded the school. He believed that learning was a lifelong process and not something that could be completed, and we couldn’t agree more. The world is ever-changing so learning and evolving is necessary.
  3. Show Up — We follow the idea that “80% of success is showing up” (thanks, Woody, for that advice). If you want to become influential or a “thought leader” or you want your company or product to do well, you must show up every day and work as hard as you possibly can. This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t take days off because you absolutely should; mental and physical well-being will help you show up, so take the vacation, go to the workout class but show up to work every day in some way.
  4. Use Every Platform — This idea is two-fold. Firstly, to get your ideas or company out there in the most impactful way, you must reach your target audience wherever they are (news sites, blogs, billboards, magazines, television, etc.). Secondly, tailor your message to specific audiences. People respond and interpret words and images differently so be prepared to explain and show the same thing in a variety of ways. For both of these things, you never know what is going to “hit”, so use it or lose it.
  5. Hope Is Not a Strategy — Have a written plan. Ideas can splish-splash around in your mind all you want, but having a concrete strategy and goal will help you maintain forward momentum, even if you get thrown off course once in a while.

In your opinion, who is an example of someone that has done a fantastic job as a thought leader? Which specific things have impressed you about that person? What lessons can we learn from this person’s approach.

Elizabeth Wilmot: I have never met Bill Gates, but I am completely fascinated, though completely intimidated, by the breadth of his knowledge and the depth of his curiosity. He researches issues very deeply then comes up with a straightforward, simple plan for solving some overly complex issues. People often over complicate issues or are unable to break down a complex issues into simpler, smaller parts. The innovators, creators and businesspeople who I most admire have this ability to find clean, simple solutions that are clever, intuitive and easy — sometimes realizing that something is a problem before the rest of us can even articulate the nature of the problem.

I have seen some discussion that the term “thought leader” is trite, overused, and should be avoided. What is your feeling about this?

Lauren Wilmot: “Thought leader” is a valid term that is oftentimes misunderstood. As we discussed earlier, my definition of a thought leader is someone who has worked on and studied a subject hard enough to have a legitimate viewpoint that they are willing to generously share with others, not to prove how smart they are or that their viewpoint is the one and only, but to teach lessons that inspire someone else’s spark, with emphasis on “inspire someone else’s spark”.

The term “thought leader” is often misinterpreted as someone who is regularly published or referred to as an “expert”, but I truly believe there are “thought leaders” all over the world that have never been heard of by the grand majority, but have inspired others — and that’s what a being a “thought leader” is all about.

What advice would you give to other leaders to thrive and avoid burnout?

Elizabeth Wilmot: The most important thing that you can do to avoid burnout is to take time for yourself on a daily basis. For me, that means physical exercise and reading. I am often stumped by a problem and instead of tackling it directly, I go for a run which clears my brain. I rarely set out for a run to solve a problem, but the very act of running seems to illuminate/clarify the solution. I don’t know why that works for me, but it always has.

Before bed, I like to spend at least an hour reading. I am particularly interested in historical fiction at this time in my life as I love the combination of facts and fantasy. I find this helps distract me from the stresses of running a business by immersing myself in another world.

You are a person of enormous influence. 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. 🙂

Elizabeth Wilmot: I am stealing this idea from a friend of mine, who when he retired, made it his mission to have a “meaningful conversation” with a stranger every day. I love this idea as a movement to bring compassion and understanding to the world, though I have not personally achieved it on a daily basis.

I find that giving a compliment, any type of compliment, to a stranger is a great way to start a conversation and potentially learn something new. I often say something like “I like your shoes” as an opening volley to a conversation. Most people are quick to respond with information on where they got the shoes or how long they had them for, and it’s easy to develop a deeper conversation built on the positivity of a compliment.

You can learn an amazing amount from complete strangers. People love to talk about themselves and their lives, and all it takes to learn is to listen.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

Lauren Wilmot: My mom and I love the following quote by Paul Graham.

“One of the biggest things holding people back from doing great work is the fear of making something lame. And this fear is not an irrational one. Many great projects go through a stage early on where they don’t seem very impressive, even to their creators. You have to push through this stage to reach the great work that lies beyond. But many people don’t. Most people don’t even reach the stage of making something they’re embarrassed by, let alone continue past it. They’re too frightened even to start.”

We’ve worked on so many ideas that flopped, and this quote inspires us to keep going. We’ve shared our projects with many people and have heard countless times that they too have an idea, but that they would never see the idea through. Perseverance and confidence are so important.

We are blessed that very prominent leaders in business and entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world with whom you would like to have a lunch or breakfast with? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them. 🙂

Lauren Wilmot: My mom and I would both love to have brunch with Richard Branson. Who wouldn’t?

How can our readers follow you online?


Thank you so much for your insights. This was very insightful and meaningful.

You might also like...

photo by Sales Navigator on Unsplash

New Study Finds One Personality Trait Enhances Success The Most

by Bryan Robinson, Ph.D.
JumpCloud Human Resources Hiring Strategies

How Companies Identify Talent with Aaron Wilmot & Kage Spatz

by Kage Spatz

Jack Latus On How We Need To Adjust To The Future Of Work

by Karen Mangia
We use cookies on our site to give you the best experience possible. By continuing to browse the site, you agree to this use. For more information on how we use cookies, see our Privacy Policy.