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“How we should communicate with each other.” With Candice Georgiadis & Scarlett Leung

I think disruptive businesses can only disrupt if they are providing a good or service that consumers want; Otherwise, they won’t have any impact. Often, the negative impact is the unforeseen human behavioral reaction and adaptability of legislation to place guardrails on this disruption. For example, the iPhone is one of the greatest innovations, but […]

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I think disruptive businesses can only disrupt if they are providing a good or service that consumers want; Otherwise, they won’t have any impact. Often, the negative impact is the unforeseen human behavioral reaction and adaptability of legislation to place guardrails on this disruption. For example, the iPhone is one of the greatest innovations, but it’s greatly changed personal privacy, play for young children, and has negatively impacted how we communicate with each other.

As a part of our series about women who are shaking things up in their industry, I had the pleasure of interviewing Scarlett Leung.

Scarlett Leung is the Co-Founder and CEO of Sugarbreak. Leung is a seasoned retail/e-commerce executive with expertise in strategy, operations, and finance. Her passion is building mission-focused businesses through innovation and exceptional customer experience, which she utilizes in her role at Sugarbreak as the face of the brand and leader in overall business decisions. Leung was on the founding team of Trellis Health, a women’s fertility studio in New York, that was created to empower women in planning for their future family through education and a dedicated space for egg freezing. Trellis educated over 3,000 women about their fertility and became one of the most talked-about disruptive businesses in women’s health, with coverage from Vogue to the Wall Street Journal. Leung began her career in audit and assurance at Deloitte & Touche, and was successful in management roles at AllSaints and L’Oréal Luxe. She also holds an MBA from the MIT Sloan School of Management.

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?

My passion is building mission-focused businesses through innovation and exceptional customer experience. I was on the founding team of Trellis Health, a women’s fertility studio in New York, created to empower women in planning for their future family through education and a dedicated space for egg freezing. Since opening its doors in November 2018, Trellis educated over 3,000 women about their fertility and became one of the most talked-about disruptive businesses in women’s health, with coverage in Vogue, The Wall Street Journal, and more.

Having grown up with the influences of both Eastern and Western medicine, I have always been interested in the intersection of the two, and how they can be emphasized by lifestyle practices. With Sugarbreak, we hope to educate consumers about the benefits of preventative medicine that mix both influences and provide products that are ultimately more accessible and affordable.

Sugarbreak was also born out of personal experience in my own life. One of my dearest friends was diagnosed with diabetes before he turned 40, and I instantly saw how it interrupted his life and added anxiety and shame around even the smallest food-related decisions (like eating a chocolate croissant). Sugarbreak’s three products are meant to improve quality of life and build blood sugar confidence.

Can you tell our readers what it is about the work you’re doing that’s disruptive?

Sugarbreak is the first affordable, all-natural and complete solution for blood sugar management that does not require a prescription from a doctor. Unlike other preventative options available to consumers, Sugarbreak destigmatizes the prediabetes and diabetes diagnoses because it was designed to seamlessly fit into daily life. The three products, Resist, Reduce, and Stabilize, consider every situation where someone might need to think about sugar-intake, from a late-night dessert craving to Thanksgiving dinner. The cheerful branding and bright colors remove the sense of shame so often associated with treating chronic illness.

Diabetes also imposes a substantial burden on individuals through higher medical costs, premature mortality, lost productivity and many more intangible costs which reduce quality of life. According to the American Diabetes Association, people with diagnosed diabetes incur average medical expenditures of $16,752 per year, of which about $9,601 is attributed to diabetes. By offering natural, herbal products that help with blood sugar management at both an affordable price and without a prescription, Sugarbreak is alleviating the medical costs associated with treating prediabetes and diabetes.

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?

During my senior year of high school, I was convinced that I wanted to become a lawyer, and thus landed an internship at a law firm. The Managing Partner decided to take on a pro bono case to show me his skills in court. Unfortunately, as he delivered his one-line zinger that proved the defendant guilty (just like in the movies), something flew into my eye and I had to run to the bathroom. Not only did I miss it, but I also got caught in a lie because he said he turned around and saw that I was gone. My lesson here is to always show up prepared and don’t lie!

We all need a little help along the journey. Who have been some of your mentors? Can you share a story about how they made an impact?

I have an entire support network of mentors, including close friends, my therapist, my career coach from my alma mater, and my girlfriends from Chief (the female version of YPO). I have had the good fortune of having this amazing network of mentors who believe in me (often more than I believe in myself) and have cheered me on throughout my career. I attribute so much of my success to them, especially because early on in my career, they were the ones who challenged me to do more and chase my dreams. I think the turning point in my career was going to business school, which was suggested to me by a dear friend and colleague of mine at the time, Lily. Lily told me to apply to the top three business schools and if I got in, I had to go. I booked my GMAT six weeks from that day, thinking that I was not going to get accepted, and ended up going to MIT Sloan.

In today’s parlance, being disruptive is usually a positive adjective. But is disrupting always good? When do we say the converse, that a system or structure has ‘withstood the test of time’? Can you articulate to our readers when disrupting an industry is positive, and when disrupting an industry is ‘not so positive’? Can you share some examples of what you mean?

I think disruptive businesses can only disrupt if they are providing a good or service that consumers want; Otherwise, they won’t have any impact. Often, the negative impact is the unforeseen human behavioral reaction and adaptability of legislation to place guardrails on this disruption. For example, the iPhone is one of the greatest innovations, but it’s greatly changed personal privacy, play for young children, and has negatively impacted how we communicate with each other.

Can you share 3 of the best words of advice you’ve gotten along your journey? Please give a story or example for each.

  • “If it doesn’t scare you, you’re probably not dreaming big enough.” — Tory Burch. I certainly felt scared about starting Sugarbreak, forgoing the financial stability and salary in a regular job, and the possibility of putting my personal life on hold for the near future and not being successful.
  • Remembering why I do what I do and staying true to myself. I remember my therapist asking me why I wanted to start Sugarbreak and what success might look like. I told her that diabetes is a chronic disease met with a lot of shame and guilt, and that if Sugarbreak could help improve just one person’s quality of life, that would be enough for me. So, whenever I hit an obstacle or question myself, she reminds me of what I said and that I’ve already succeeded.
  • When deciding on which full-time offer to take after my MBA, the job I wanted to take that would give me the best management experience paid significantly less than my other offers. I distinctly remember asking one of my best friends for advice and he said to me, “in the grand scheme of things, this salary difference will just be a rounding error.” I think about this conversation all the time because it reminds me that if someone I trust and respect can believe in me this much, I should, at the very least, believe in myself.

We are sure you aren’t done. How are you going to shake things up next?

With Sugarbreak’s recent launch on September 2, we are focusing on our current product line: Resist, Stabilize and Reduce. We, of course, are always innovating and are excited to expand our product offerings in 2021 and beyond.

In your opinion, what are the biggest challenges faced by ‘women disruptors’ that aren’t typically faced by their male counterparts?

The statistics on the inequity of venture capital investments going to female founders and CEOs compared to their male counterparts are well known. I was recently chatting with an expert in gender equality (Siri Chilazi at the Harvard Kennedy School) about how challenging it is for women to be acknowledged as disruptive innovators given the research showing the unconscious bias of creativity and innovation being associated with male characteristics. In my experience getting funding, I was often asked, “if it’s such a great business idea, then why hasn’t anyone done it yet?” It’s always an uphill battle as a female disruptor to be given the benefit of the doubt in these situations.

Do you have a book/podcast/talk that’s had a deep impact on your thinking? Can you share a story with us?

Danny Meyer’s “Setting the Table” is a book that I really love, not only because I love food, used to dream about being a chef, and greatly respect Danny Meyer, but also because his management philosophy really resonates with me. In all the businesses that I’ve managed, my focus has been on customer experience, and Danny is excellent at delivering that. My favorite piece of advice from his book is that in order to take care of the customer, you first need to take care of your employees. I think that is very true and sadly overlooked in a lot of companies.

I also recently listened to the founder of Tatcha, Vicky Tsai, speak on “How I Built This” at the recommendation of a close friend. Vicky recounts the story of how she was told by an investor to step down as CEO and hire a professional manager, despite having built Tatcha from nothing to a hugely successful business. The moral of her story was the importance of believing in yourself, which really resonated with me, because I, too, doubt myself.

You are a person of great 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. 🙂

I would say, “leave the world a better place than when you found it”. This is certainly what motivates me every day and I truly hope to achieve it in my lifetime. I hope this is the advancement in mankind that I see in my generation, whether it be related to climate change, gender equality, or human rights, to name a few. If we could each contribute a little, we could achieve so much.

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

“The bad news is that nothing lasts forever. The good news is nothing lasts forever.” This quote gets me through hard times by reminding me that what I am going through is temporary. It also reminds me to cherish the people I love and not take them for granted, because we don’t know how much time we have together on this Earth.

How can our readers follow you online?

@scarlett_leung on Instagram

@takeasugarbreak on Instagram

This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!

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