Know your ideal client — you won’t know how to talk to and serve your ideal client until you get hyper-specific about who they are, down to the smallest of details. We have a living breathing document that outlines our ideal client and so everyone joining the company knows what our north star is and can stay focused.
As a part of our series about “Why We Need More Women Founders”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Pia Beck.
Pia Beck is CEO of Curate Well Co. She’s a business consultant to our clients and coffee enthusiast. She believes logistics are a love language, and considers building spreadsheets an art form.
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’m Pia — CEO of Curate Well Co. I’m a business consultant to our clients and coffee enthusiast. I believe logistics are a love language, and consider building spreadsheets an art form.
My story starts in the tech and startup world, in recruiting, people operations and HR. After a few jobs I thought I really wanted, I realized there was only so much impact I could make within a container built by someone else, so left to start Curate Well Co. and do what I’ve always been great at: being organized AF, grounding the big vision in the details, and creating intuitive systems that can be implemented in a replicable way.
Today, Curate Well Co. is a consulting and community platform for impact-driven innovators and entrepreneurs who want to catalyze community, build culture, set a new standard, and scale intentionally. I’m here to get in the weeds with our clients: to add structure and business strategy to their deep expertise so they can show up as the leader they are, set a new standard in their industry, and deliver their work to more people in a meaningful way. We serve clients around the world, and have grown to a small internal team (our PTO policy and retirement savings plan makes the former HR Manager in me very proud).
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company?
One of the things I’m most proud of as a female founder is the internal company culture we’ve built. Our team is intimate, but it’s important to me that I provide employment I would want. In my career, there were certain policies, norms, or conversations that really would have made a difference for me, and so I’ve tried to make those things possible for my team.
I was always the employee that managers left alone. I was self-motivated, organized, and driven — and so, at best, my supervisors didn’t have to worry about me. While I appreciated that I could make their life easier, I wanted mentors to attend to my development, to push me to be creative, to ask my opinion. At worst, my bosses were too busy to check in, drowning in emails, or uncommunicative about availability. I left my last job because I kept getting stood up for meetings.
When it came time to hire employees, I knew that I wanted to be the leader and manager I didn’t have in my own career. What I wasn’t expecting was to fully understand my past managers’ perspective! I have a lot more insight now into the challenges they were navigating that led to my experience. But, because I’ve now experienced both sides of this interaction, I see how important it is to prioritize the team as it is to prioritize things like customer support or sales.
From a PTO policy that rivals those of some of the biggest companies in the world, to allowing early exits on Friday afternoons, to providing leadership and personal development training to all new employees, we’ve done some incredible things and I’m always interested in how we can continue to make a difference in this 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?
When I think back to the early days of Curate Well Co., there were so many cringey things I did — and I’m sure I’ll feel that way about our current phase when I think back in a few years! I’m not sure this is funny, but one of the mistakes I’ve made a few times is growing too wide, too fast in certain areas of our business. I have a big vision, and so there’s been times when I’ve gotten carried away in that and over-created. I try not to think about the fact that we have an archive of old content that’s currently collecting dust in our Canva account. The result is that certain things became distracting, or even a drain on resources and ended up detracting value rather than adding it, even though that was the original intention. One thing I’ve learned (and, truthfully, am still learning) is that there’s so much time to do all the things I want to do. I have the ability to let things build over time, and not feel like I need to do it as big as possible as soon as possible.
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?
Our clients have taught me so much — I’m not sure they realize that always! Even though they come to us for support in their businesses, they support me as well. Every person we’ve had the privilege of getting to work with has given me perspective, offered me an opportunity to learn something new, or inspired us in some way.
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?
Women-owned businesses are often founded as a way to create more agency and opportunities than we can find in traditional workplaces. I believe that women can grow successful companies because of our ability to empathize with the people we serve, and connect more deeply in our communities — and I think the business world can learn a lot from taking a more humanized approach. But, I also believe we’re often not developed and trained in the same way as our male counterparts, leaving a gap in the skillsets and confidence of female founders, and the success of women-led businesses.
In my experience, many women who want to start businesses are held back by believing they’re unqualified, doubting their ability to add value in a saturated market, or not knowing how to articulate what makes them great at what they do. Whether it’s through leadership, negotiation, self-advocacy, or strategic positioning I think women are held back by not feeling that their voice is worthy of being heard, and also not having the tools to own their voice and use it.
Can you help articulate a few things that can be done as individuals, as a society, or by the government, to help overcome those obstacles?
One of the major shifts that I believe needs to happen is a rebalancing and/or reframing of emotional labor. I think a lot of us (women) grew up feeling pressure to do things perfectly, to maintain homeostasis in our environments, to uphold a certain standard, or not experiment out of fear of the potential ramifications of failure. Ultimately, this bleeds into work too, and holds us back from doing big, messy things like founding companies.
I’ve noticed that male leaders, specifically male entrepreneurs, take a lot more risks and also recover fairly quickly from failure. One of our team required reading materials is Little Black Stretchy Pants by Chip Wilson, the founder of Lululemon. Our team of women all noticed, in admiration, the easeful manner in which he started over several times in his career, releasing failures or ideas and moving onto the next seemingly without any lingering sense of judgement.
From our perspective, there wasn’t a stigma attached to his failure. There wasn’t an environment to maintain, or a fear of judgement for moving on when something wasn’t working. It’s a lesson my team and I have kept top of mind, and I think it’s a shift that’s needed to support more female founders.
This might be intuitive to you as a woman founder but I think it will be helpful to spell this out. Can you share a few reasons why more women should become founders?
So much of business as it’s done today has obviously been carved and created by male founders. From company culture, to processes, to standard work practices, it’s historically been fostered by male founders and teams. Women and empathetic leaders are pioneering a mass exodus from the traditional workforce to provide new solutions forward to old business challenges.
There’s a call and need for a sense of belonging in a world where businesses bring people together; a call to define leadership through enrolling people in a bigger vision. We are working toward a more collaborative landscape in business, where women, empathetic leaders, and diverse folx get to creatively tackle modern challenges through community-led approaches to business growth.
I believe women can and should be leaders because of our ability to empathize and connect. And in order to set these new ways of working, women need to get their hands dirty. To be loud, and brave, and not afraid to go out on their own. Just because it hasn’t been done before doesn’t mean it doesn’t have value. In fact, I’d argue if it hasn’t been done before, that’s exactly what your consumers and future employees are looking for.
What are the “myths” that you would like to dispel about being a founder? Can you explain what you mean?
Specifically as it relates to female founders, Boss Babe Marketing is entirely a myth. Unfortunately this toxic construct is one of the biggest barriers women face once they’re already founders. Boss Babe Marketing tends to sell an unattainable lifestyle, focuses on emotional manipulation as a sales tactic, and uses a lot of language around effortlessness.
It oversimplifies entrepreneurship, and doesn’t actually equip women with the tools they need to be successful founders. Starting and growing a business is hard — and that never changes. Each season comes with it’s own challenges as your business continues to evolve. Female foundership can be glamourized. And not only does it paint a picture that’s not accurate, but it does women a disservice by bypassing lessons and learnings that could make us more effective business owners.
Is everyone cut out to be a founder? In your opinion, which specific traits increase the likelihood that a person will be a successful founder and what type of person should perhaps seek a “regular job” as an employee? Can you explain what you mean?
I’ve seen so many different types of women build thriving businesses. Some qualities that make the role as founder easier I would say are:
- The figure-it-out-factor: At Curate Well Co., we define this as a natural tendency (and desire) to proactively seek solutions.
- Integrity: We define this not as a moral or ethical construct, but simply as honoring your word.
- Community-driven: As leaders, we can feel isolated (and even lonely), so taking a community-based approach to brand building will help shift business culture towards empathy, position championship and contribution as strategic drivers, and call in a new way of serving customer-centric interactions.
Ok super. Here is the main question of our interview. Based on your opinion and experience, what are the “Five Things You Need To Thrive and Succeed as a Woman Founder?” (Please share a story or example for each.)
- Know your ideal client — you won’t know how to talk to and serve your ideal client until you get hyper-specific about who they are, down to the smallest of details. We have a living breathing document that outlines our ideal client and so everyone joining the company knows what our north star is and can stay focused.
- Community-based business — people crave to be seen and be part of something larger; building a business that is community-based will give you invaluable brand loyalty. Our community supports each other through the good times and the hard times — we show up real, authentic ways that can ultimately drive dollars to the bottom line of our community members.
- Data-driven decisions — recording and following your data will help you make informed choices for future growth and success. You should see our spreadsheets! We love digging into what is working and what’s not, sometimes it shocks us at what resonates, and those surprising moments are so helpful as we work to grow the business.
- Own your role as the owner — understanding that while your business might be of your creation, it’s not just about you. Building a culture even if you only have one employee will set you up for the future. For example, I have required reading for all new employees. It’s a mix of articles and books that allows them to quickly grasp the culture that we’re building and our “why.”
- Care personally, but don’t take it personally — business expansion comes with more exposure, and it’s not always good exposure. Learning how to say “no” to opportunities and stick true to what you’re good at is one of the hardest things as a founder.
How have you used your success to make the world a better place?
I’m most proud of the community we’ve built at Curate Well Co. I’ve been intentional about making sure everyone in our community feels seen and heard. We don’t shy away from vulnerability and aren’t afraid to say the things no one else is saying in business. Our community is a place where founders can make new connections, engage in meaningful conversations, collaborate often, and even grow your own community. Daily our members:
- Hire each other for support in their businesses
- Offer vetted recommendations and referrals
- Celebrate each others’ wins, generously and genuinely
- Ask for and receive advice
- Talk about the things most aren’t willing to talk about
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 inspire a movement that focuses on community-based brand-building. We want to shift the paradigm from consumer experiences to human experiences, and demand better brand building through emotional intelligence and “community” as an action word.
In short, we want to help brands make a progressive shift to intentional marketing & branding — respecting an audience’s time and attention, supporting their emotions over manipulating them, and authentically connecting with them over selling to them.
Despite the call for contemporary, collaborative, and inclusive approaches to business, the existing resources used for business growth were built on antiquated leadership models.
I do what I do because I believe that there are women with deep expertise who can not only change niches, but transform entire industries and even cultural norms. I hope for a world with more women leaders at the forefronts of life-changing communities.
It’s time for a different approach to business-building.
One that leads a movement, not just hard-hitting messaging. One that leads with empathy and emotional intelligence. One that leads a community to connect with consumers, cut through the noise, and even impact conversion rates too.
With leadership on the front lines of branding, comes community-led business, too.
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.
Whitney Wolf Herd because she was able to take a uniquely female experience and transform it into a massive success. She is a pioneer in seeing community as an action word, listening to her consumer base, and using a mix of data and empathy to drive business success.
Thank you for these fantastic insights. We greatly appreciate the time you spent on this.