We need more resources for women to access education. Even in developed countries, there is still a gap in access to education between men and women. Allowing and encouraging women to get the best education possible, whether we are talking about formal education like making college and grad school a reality or we are talking about creating workshops that feature women teaching women or allowing them to access areas of work that have been historically more associated with men.
As a part of our series about “Why We Need More Women Founders”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Jennifer Revello.
Jennifer lived most of her adult life focusing on her career and succeeding in the corporate world until she met the father of her child, who would inspire her and give her the courage to open her own business. Averal was born out of the desire to bring triple milled French soaps to the US, but also the desire to provide people with the opportunity to take a moment and slow down every day while pampering themselves. Thus the Averal French soaps became more than a cleaning tool, they became a ritual of self-care.
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?
I was born in New Jersey to Uruguayan parents and lived most of my childhood in Montevideo, before moving back to the US at 18. I really had no idea her return to the US would eventually lead me to open a French soap business. I focused on hard work in the corporate world as I believed the definition of career success was working for a well-known company and climbing the corporate ladder. In 2007, I met a French man, who not only became the father of my child, but also gave me the idea that I had what it takes to open my own business.
When visiting France, I got to meet his family, who is in the soap business, fell in love with the scents and the products and decided I was going to bring to the US, not just the amazing soaps, but also the entire South of France lifestyle. I realized there was something special about the Triple Milled Soaps from France, which are still made in the same traditional way since the 1800s. With that, soaps became an instrument of self-care, of self-love, of slowing down and enjoying a moment of pampering and bliss. The name of the company came from the South of France as well, specifically from a dialect spoken in Occitania, a region that spread over the South of France and part of Spain. The soaps were to be called Averal, meaning authentic, genuine, natural, original, real, true — all values I wanted to instill in the brand.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?
It’s a story that blends my career with my personal life and always reminds me of how serendipitous life is. Every year I would participate in the trade markets in New York and bring my soaps there. At this point I had been trying to get pregnant for over two years and I found out I was pregnant at the same market in Central Park where I had met the father of my son years before. Some might call it coincidence, but I call it providence.
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?
Back in 2009, I was trying to build my website and I decided to look on Craigslist for resources. I found someone who was willing to do it for less money than other quotes I was getting and since I didn’t have a lot of money as I was just starting my business, I decided it would be a good idea to work with him. I was so trusting; I didn’t even think twice when he requested a 300 dollars cash deposit. Unfortunately, he ended up taking the money and disappearing and I learned not only a valuable business lesson, but I also decided to learn how to build it myself. It may not have been the most pleasant experience, but since then, no matter what obstacle comes my way, I know I will find a solution for it. I also learned to surround myself with people I can trust.
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?
The father of my son is the person who has inspired me to get to where I am right now. Coming from a family where being successful means having a corporate job with good benefits and retiring from that same job or company after a lifetime of work. I would have never become an entrepreneur without the support of my son’s father. He not only saw the potential I had, but also gave me the courage to venture out on my own, start a business, and have faith that I could do it, even when things weren’t easy.
Is there a particular book that made a significant impact on you? Can you share a story or explain why it resonated with you so much?
There is a book called “Changing Reality” by Serge Kahili King that has helped me in both my personal and professional life. While my life has been filled with ups and downs, one thing I learned from this book is that it is within my power to reframe my reality and turn every single negative into a positive learning experience. Knowing that I have that ability to reframe every “bad” thing from my life, change my reality, and even start over when needed, has been a complete game changer.
Do you have a favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Do you have a story about how that was relevant in your life or your work?
The quote is actually from my favorite book “Changing Reality by Serge Kahili King: “We can either do something to modify reality in some way in order to change our experience of it, or we can modify our experience in some way in order to change the reality itself.” My entire life, both personally and professionally has been guided by this quote. No matter how many times I fall (or even fail), I can use my vulnerability and my experience to grow and change my own reality into one of my dreams.
How have you used your success to make the world a better place?
I am currently working on a project to create awareness about domestic violence. I am also sharing my story as hard as it is to help other women who are currently living in a similar situation, there is a stigma around domestic violence that somehow this only happens to weak women and is definitely not the case. I want to help other women to understand that as hard or as broken as they may feel there is a way out and they are worthy of love and understanding.
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?
Historically the role of women has been to take care of the house and the kids. Even if someone was successful before having kids, she was expected to put her career in the second place once kids came into the picture. And if she continued to have a career, the assumption was that it would be an “easy” support type role rather than a leadership position. Founding a company and taking that leap of faith to believe that you can create something successful or even having the ambition to dream of something like that without feeling guilty of not dedicating yourself completely to the home and family life was mostly associated with male leadership positions. We are definitely on the right path to supporting more women to either launch their own businesses or take leadership positions, but we still have a long way to go before we can claim the same rights with men. I do believe that as women, we have the right to be just as ambitious as men can be and I’ve noticed in myself that being a woman founder sets an example for my son about the strength, the tenacity, and the sheer courage that women have to exhibit in day to day life.
Can you share with our readers what you are doing to help empower women to become founders?
I think one of the most powerful things I can do is to share my story. I want women to know that no matter what happens to you, it is in your power to change the narrative of your life. The most important is to start, to take that first step, whether it’s a shy and insecure one or a complete leap into the abyss, actually starting, being consistent, and believing in yourself are some of the most important things a woman can do. There will be a thousand, maybe even a million reasons not to start something and there will never be a perfect moment, unless you decide to make the current moment perfect, and change the million reasons “not to” into reasons to just do it. Trusting your instinct, surrounding yourself with people you can trust, and just having faith that you can indeed achieve your dreams.
This might be intuitive to you but I think it will be helpful to spell this out. Can you share a few reasons why more women should become founders?
I think financial independence is very important in a woman’s life. It gives her freedom, confidence, and allows her to not only provide for herself and her family, but also make sure that she is never stuck in an impossible situation because of a financial reason. In regard to women becoming founders, I think part of the transition that we are living in. There are many ambitious women, who have realized that there’s a way to balance work and family life without having to completely renounce one of the other. As founders we get to be part of the conversation, part of the decisions, we get to, be involved in politics, in leadership, in running things rather than just following in someone else’s footsteps. I think women should be everywhere where decisions are being made. We have the ability to bring a different perspective, to lead with vulnerability, to make it our strength, to empower and protect at the same time, to bring a sensibility that is sometimes inaccessible when we are dealing with just male leaders.
Ok super. Here is the main question of our interview. Can you please share 5 things that can be done or should be done to help empower more women to become founders? If you can, please share an example or story for each.
1. Share more stories of successful women founders, be transparent in the process and their struggles.
We all know the stories of male leaders such as Jeff Bezos or Steve Jobs. We know how they started an empire from their garage. But we rarely hear about people like Sara Blakely or Whitney Wolfe who have also built impressive empires from the ground up. We need to put women in the spotlight to inspire others.
2. Support your female friends that are just starting and take them seriously.
in a world that has become run so much by social media and where most of the companies spend the majority of their marketing budget in social media, it is important to support women, especially when they are just starting. Share, like, comment, forward, retweet — use your voice to push their mission forward. Starting a business is no easy task but when you see the people around you supporting you and taking you seriously it helps you to believe even more in what you are doing and it gives you confidence even when things are not ideal.
3. Invest in women owned business.
While all the social media interactions can do a lot to support a new business, sometimes an investor is what’s actually needed in the moment. Next time one of your female friends is starting a business, take a moment to see if that’s something you would be interested in investing in.
4. We need more resources for women to access education.
Even in developed countries, there is still a gap in access to education between men and women. Allowing and encouraging women to get the best education possible, whether we are talking about formal education like making college and grad school a reality or we are talking about creating workshops that feature women teaching women or allowing them to access areas of work that have been historically more associated with men.
5. Support women in politics.
We need more women public leaders who are part of the process when laws are made and also can change the agenda and the direction of our community. While we are definitely making progress, the fact that men are still making decisions and laws that affect exclusively women. We need more women leaders in politics such as Hillary Clinton, Sonia Sotomayor, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, or Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez.
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 want to help women who are living in a domestic violence situation and have no way out to have financial independence. The statistics on domestic violence are shuddering: 1 in 4 women and 1 in 9 men experience severe intimate partner physical violence, intimate partner contact sexual violence, and/or intimate partner stalking with impacts such as injury, fearfulness, post-traumatic stress disorder, use of victim services, contraction of sexually transmitted diseases. Not to mention that between 21–60% of victims of intimate partner violence lose their jobs due to reasons stemming from the abuse, which in turn makes it even more difficult for them to leave the abusive situation.
Having had to deal with domestic violence myself, I understand the need for not only financial freedom, but also a support system that allows people living in a violent situation to leave. Unfortunately a lot of people continue to stay in a terrible situation because they have no other alternative: they are financially dependent on their partner and a lot of times they don’t have the job, education, or support in place to be able to leave, while still providing for their family and knowing they will be taken care of. Building a successful company like Averal was one of those pillars in my support system that allowed me to not only have the courage to get away from a difficult situation, but also have the means to do it.
My dream is to create a network where we can provide jobs, education, and eventually see these women running their own businesses and live in freedom. That way no woman would need to continue living in a domestic violence situation because of financial reasons.
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.
Hillary Clinton or Oprah Winfrey. These are two women that I admire and I find incredibly inspiring. Their actions opened the door to the movement that we are living right now, they opened the door for women to own their power and never apologize for it or feel guilty in any way. Oprah is a great example that no matter the struggles of life is up to you to decide what you do with it, and if you really want it with hard work and determination you can accomplished anything. Hillary has been living a very public life in politics, she is without a doubt one of the reasons why we have more women in positions of power, in politics, and in other fields where women didn’t really have a place until the recent years.
How can our readers further follow your work online?
You can follow me on Instagram (https://www.instagram.com/averalprovence/) and check out my website (https://lasavonnerieonline.com/collections/all-range)
Thank you for these fantastic insights. We greatly appreciate the time you spent on this.