The world really opens up when you loosen your grip. I’ve learned to just go with the ebbs and flows. Ultimately whatever you decide to do, have fun doing it and enjoy the process.
I had the pleasure of interviewing Leila Kashani Manshoory. Leila is the founder and CEO of Alleyoop. The brand is her love letter to smart self-care, and every one of her category-changing products are designed to help women get time back for whatever matters to them. Leila’s philosophy is all about efficiency and empowerment: rebelling against products that don’t do enough, and trends that make women feel like they aren’t enough. And she carries this through every aspect of her life. Whether she’s thriving at work/non-profit work/side hustles or spending time with family and friends, you’ll find her rocking a jumpsuit — because it’s the most efficient way to pick an outfit without sacrificing style. And she is famous for her encouraging sticky notes, which she leaves to remind others (and herself!) that they are loved and supported. Leila has brought together her marketing and product development background (companies like MGA Entertainment, Nike, Sorel, and Columbia) and first-hand experience of being a do-it-all, on-the-go woman to demand more from the beauty industry. Her solution: Alleyoop.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
I can actually attest the founding of Alleyoop to one single stubbly armpit. It’s not glamorous, but it’s true. I found myself in the midst of pitching brand strategy to a full conference room and started to notice that the attention wasn’t on my work, but rather my arm. Confused, and suddenly a little self conscious, I glanced down to realize I had only shaved one of my arm pits as I was rushing out the door that morning. Classic. I rambled some joke about not having enough hours in the day while mentally making a note to solve this problem once and for all.
Countless hours, prototypes and vats of caffeine later I finally brought my first baby into the world — a compact, on-the-go razor. I doled it out to people I trusted would give it to me straight, looking for them to poke holes and help make it better. Little did I know, one of those people would pass it along to a buyer at Ulta. “We want to carry these in our stores. Like now.” Those words launched a six-week long whirlwind for me that consisted of establishing a brand from scratch, sourcing materials, rebranding said brand, and manufacturing a product for the masses that weeks before was just an idea. Two years, and 32 products later, we haven’t stopped inventing ways for women to take back their time with products that help you truly do it all with less.
Can you tell our readers what it is about the work you’re doing that’s disruptive?
I’m just going to throw it out there. Women are being marketed WAY more than they really need when it comes to beauty and body care. And beyond that, they’re being made to feel lesser if they aren’t keeping up with a 20-step skincare regimen everyday. On top of a daily workout routine, a career, a family, a social life, and their own sanity. It’s insane. So we set out to change that. Every single Alleyoop product is something real women have told us they really need — Most times our products are actually a combination of several things they need. If the active ingredient for targeting blemishes is the same active ingredient used to target razor burn, why in the world should you have to buy two separate products? You shouldn’t. That’s the disruptive driving force behind Alleyoop. Empowering women with efficiency in the areas of life they crave it most.
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?
Two women have made huge impacts in both my life and career. The first being Soraya Dorabi. As the General Partner at Trail Mix Ventures she was one of the first to invest in me. Having a mentor like her who’s been through the challenges of being a female founder has been incredibly helpful. Her advice, guidance and support along the way have played a huge part in how far Alleyoop has come. I’ve called her crying — both sad and happy tears — something I wouldn’t have felt comfortable doing with a male investor. She’s a thought leader and a forward thinker and has really inspired me to keep an eye around the corner.
The second being my spiritual coach, Meredith Locher. She’s left a lasting impression on me. Plain and simple. I’ve learned that the space I hold my energy in is where the world will take me, so it’s important to feel in alignment with where I want to go. It has 100% worked for me!
Can you share 3 of the best words of advice you’ve gotten along your journey? Please give a story or example for each.
“A key to maintaining sanity and well-being as a founder is to remain curious. It’s not enough to set a Google alert and to read inbound news about your industry. Place pressure on yourself to question everything and to look for opportunities to innovate where no one else is looking.” -Soraya
This really resonates with me because I love to be inspired by other industries, and thinking outside of the box is what keeps me excited. I like to keep my finger on the pulse and be three steps ahead by doing my own research. So if I ever feel like I’m stuck, just going through the motions or getting lost in the weeds, I remind myself of her words, and I’m back to the fun stuff.
“A no is just a delayed yes.” — Husband
Being a three-time founder himself, my husband knows a thing or two about building and growing a successful company. He’s really taught me the importance of not letting a “no” or any kind of rejection break my confidence or creativity.
“Don’t make assumptions.” — Mom
In 6th grade I came home completely offended that a friend ignored my wave at school that day. So obviously we must not be friends anymore. That night at the table with my remaining friends, my mom threw a polaroid picture of me down and asked them to describe how I looked. Angry, upset and annoyed were the general consensus. Shocked, I pointed out that the photo had literally just been taken and that my face had nothing to do with my mood, and everything to do with my math homework. “See. You all just made an assumption. And you were wrong.” Cue the light bulb moment. She pointed out the variety of reasons my friend may not have waved back earlier, and in that moment I made a promise to always give people the benefit of the doubt. It’ll serve both parties in the long run. In life and business I believe that avoiding assumptions has helped me take more risks, and ultimately land where I am today. If someone’s ignoring an email, that doesn’t also mean they’re ignoring you. Maybe they’re busy. Maybe it got buried. When in doubt, ping them again.
How are you going to shake things up next?
I can’t give away exactly what we have in the works, but I can say it’ll involve more thoughtfully curated products that give you time back in the day. And not just in terms of beauty and body care. We have our sights set on anything and everything that can bring back efficiency into your daily routine.
Do you have a book/podcast/talk that’s had a deep impact on your thinking? Can you share a story with us?
The Four Agreements was the first book my mom gave me. Changed my life. Speaking of changing my life, Wyne Dyers’ Change Your Thoughts, Change Your Life has also stuck with me for years. It has taught me so many valuable lessons in flexibility, perspective and allowing. To name a few other career-shaping favorites:
- 5 Dysfunctions of a Team has helped me keep our company culture fun and light.
- Contagious and Made to Stick, both great marketing books.
- Any book or podcast by Seth Godin and Simon Sinek has a tendency to get my creative juices flowing. Highly recommend.
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 truly believe if we all rewire ourselves to stop making assumptions and look at what we do have instead of what we don’t we would manifest a world with a lot more peace.
It would create….
Less violence, more compassion and love.
Less greed, more generosity.
Less anxiety, more inner peace.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
The most impactful lesson in my life, both professionally and personally, has been the fact that your mindset can control you, or you can control it. It can reward you, or it can own you. And the best part is that you get to decide. With that in mind I’ve learned to plan ahead but also be flexible to change. Because it’s inevitable. The world really opens up when you loosen your grip. I’ve learned to just go with the ebbs and flows. Ultimately whatever you decide to do, have fun doing it and enjoy the process.
How can our readers follow you on social media?
You can follow along with the Alleyoop team at @meetalleyoop on Instagram. And don’t hesitate to tag us in any of your content! We love seeing how women everywhere are changing the game in their own routines with our products.
This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!
Absolutely, any time!