As a consumer brand, focus on 2 channels at a time for 30–60 days to see the real pay off, vs. trying to be everywhere at once. Provide something of value — be it in just a caption on Instagram, or when navigating partnerships with other brands. Ask for help — this one speaks for itself and is probably the most important!
As a part of our series about women who are shaking things up in their industry, I had the pleasure of interviewing Katie Webb.
Ex-advertising executive turned fitness trainer and founder, Katie Webb, stumbled upon the idea of the product when she became frustrated with the lack of fitness products tailored to her. So she started with mixing a formula of her own in her kitchen in Chelsea, Manhattan. Don’t worry, it’s no longer made in her kitchen!
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?
Sure! The majority of my career was spent in the media world — I have 10 years of experience in paid media and advertising sales at publishers in the sports and lifestyle space. I’ve always been a fitness nut, and I started Aila out of my frustration of the seemingly huge gap between the wellness world and “performance” world of fitness. I was waking up early before my 9–6 job most days and going to different workouts or training sessions but was spending too much money on coffee for a quick boost. I was really turned off by the traditional fitness supplement space and the ingredients and side effects that came with a lot of those products, so I wanted to create energy and recovery blends for active lifestyles like mine that were healthy and convenient.
Can you tell our readers what it is about the work you’re doing that’s disruptive?
I think the biggest thing we’re trying to disrupt is this gap that I mentioned. If you take a look at a fitness hashtag for women on Instagram for example, a lot of the content shows an intense style of working out which is not for everyone. Unfortunately, the products that come along with that lifestyle are more artificially made, or contain lots of caffeine and added ingredients. On the other side of the spectrum, there’s the lifestyle/beauty space — with shots of pretty lattes with a backdrop of like, the coolest Brooklyn apartment you’ve ever seen. There’s nothing out bridging the gap between fitness and lifestyle, which is probably why the majority of us just drink some coffee before yoga. We want to be like Outdoor Voices in that way.
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?
How much time do you have? Ha. I think the funniest mistake I’ve made was not fully vetting the first name of our brand — we were Bia before we were Aila. In my research, I only found Bia Bars but didn’t realize that company also had a trademark across other food products/supplements. We had to change our name fairly quickly after our soft launch and get creative with our packaging. Lesson learned — get a lawyer to help research those things thoroughly!
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?
My boyfriend has a tremendous impact on my journey as an entrepreneur. I’ve never been the type to build myself up, promote myself, or see things super positively in general, and he’s a constant cheerleader for me and has helped me become more comfortable with that. I’ve also been lucky to make friends with other amazing female founders. We share the vulnerable moments and lean on each other when we need it.
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?
Personally, I see the word “disrupting” as a more, well, disruptive word for evolving. If we’re not continuing to do so, we’re not growing. If I had to choose a negative, I would say it can get iffy when brands disrupt by trying to force people out of previous ways immediately. A good example is when retail or restaurants go cashless. That to me can be a controversial business decision and have a tendency to box people out of being able to participate. I think in that situation in particular, it’s great to keep evolving methods and technology, but ideally not in a way that boxes people out.
Can you share 3 of the best words of advice you’ve gotten along your journey? Please give a story or example for each.
- As a consumer brand, focus on 2 channels at a time for 30–60 days to see the real pay off, vs. trying to be everywhere at once.
- Provide something of value — be it in just a caption on Instagram, or when navigating partnerships with other brands
- Ask for help — this one speaks for itself and is probably the most important!
We are sure you aren’t done. How are you going to shake things up next?
We’re on our way to launch our second and third SKU finally, with some exciting partnership/retail launch conversations in the works 🙂
In your opinion, what are the biggest challenges faced by ‘women disruptors’ that aren’t typically faced by their male counterparts?
The investment world is certainly a big one. There have been huge strides in the last year of funds and investors focusing more heavily on women and BIPOC founded companies, but I do still find that the conversations between a male founder and a women founder are generally much different — there is much more diligence and questioning when you are a solo female founder. This is interesting, considering there’s a lot of data coming out now about women-founded companies outperforming men founded companies!
Do you have a book/podcast/talk that’s had a deep impact on your thinking? Can you share a story with us?
Yes! I really loved the book Pitch Anything by Oren Klaff. It takes a different approach to pitching your brand for business from an emotional perspective, and how to effectively steer the conversation and dynamic in a room. It’s very psychology based vs. focusing on the content of your pitch itself.
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 always lean into empowering active lifestyles with Aila. I want to help change someone’s motivation and getting over the hump that’s standing in the way of them moving their body in some way. Fitness has brought me more confidence than anything else in my life, and I’d love to share with others more to help change theirs for the better.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
“Get comfortable with the uncomfortable,” I think is my favorite saying or quote. It couldn’t be more true when you leave behind a career or job that you’ve gotten really good at or comfortable with, to basically self teach yourself a completely new industry with new skill sets. Having the “what the hell am I doing” feeling, and then proceeding to figure it out, is one of the most rewarding things. I’ve learned more in the last year of Aila than probably most of my adult life!
How can our readers follow you online?
My personal Instagram is @k.webb, and Aila’s is @meetaila. Our shop is also at meetaila.com!
This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!