Being able to ask for help: As a founder, you often feel like you should be able to do it all on your own, but you can’t. I learned very quickly that as a woman founder, you have to get really comfortable being vulnerable and admitting that you don’t know how to do something, and then leveraging your network for advice and support.
As a part of our series about “Why We Need More Women Founders”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Rachel Liverman. She CEO, and co-founder of Glowbar, has taken a decade of experience and used it to shake up the spa industry with the first-to-market, results-driven 30-minute facial concept in NY and CT. Prior to launching Glowbar, Rachel worked up the ranks in the beauty industry for ten years. She was one of the first employees to launch the beauty subscription box disrupter, Birchbox, and played a crucial role in growing the internal team from 15 employees to 300, expanding the brand’s international presence, in addition to building a 40 million dollars e-commerce business over three years. Following her tenure at Birchbox, Liverman was a consultant with Stila and Eyeko prior to running Business Development at Beautyblender for three years.
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?
Of course, thank you so much for having me. Beauty is in my blood! My Grandmother, Catherine Hinds, founded the first accredited esthetics school in the U.S. called the Catherine Hinds Institute of Esthetics in the ’70s. She was a skincare pioneer and the original “girl boss.” As a result, I spent most of my childhood being on the floor of spas. Even as a baby, I would be left in my carrier at the reception area, and these experiences had a direct impact on me, giving me the knowledge and confidence to follow in the footsteps of the legacy my grandmother, and subsequently my mother, created.
A few years ago, I realized that I wasn’t taking proper care of my skin and seeing an esthetician as often as I knew I should, despite this background and being a trained esthetician myself. I came to understand that it boiled down to two main things: time (facials are lengthy!) and money (they’re also expensive!), and I knew I could create a more efficient and effective option for the consumer to help them take better care of their skin, consistently. So, cue Glowbar: the culmination of three generations of estheticians founded on efficiency and effectiveness. My grandmother pioneered skincare in the United States, and I am here to reinvent it, a legacy I am proud to carry on.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company?
The most interesting story that has happened to me since opening Glowbar, is more of an ongoing experience, which I actually prefer. The most interesting, and incredible thing, is watching people start to “catch-on” to something, and falling in love with the brand you built, a brand that once was a mere idea in my brain. It has been so amazing to create something and then have super-users who just love the brand, and what we represent. Clients who are such fans that they supported us through a pandemic, and helped us come out the other side stronger than ever.
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?
I’m sure this is something many businesses experience when opening a brick-and-mortar store, but when opening our first location, the funniest mistakes that were made involved measurements. Whether it was ordering a window decal that was comically large, or not checking to make sure our beds would fit in through the treatment room doors, we learned a very important lesson: measurements matter!
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?
My mom and my grandmother are the people who helped me get where I am, as they paved the way for me. As I previously mentioned, my grandmother pioneered and reinvented skincare, but most importantly she led by example. I grew up watching female entrepreneurs, and I always say when you see something, you believe it can happen, and this is the effect my grandmother and mom had on me.
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?
This is such a good question, and my answer builds off the answer to my previous question. As I said, my grandmother and my mom are the two people to whom I attribute a large amount of my career as a female entrepreneur in the beauty industry because I watched them do the same. So, in my opinion and experience, I believe that one of the biggest things that is currently holding back women from founding companies is that they are not seeing it being done, as seeing something be done is what makes you believe that it can be done.
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?
The biggest and most important thing that can be done right now to help overcome this obstacle is featuring more female founders in every way possible! Whether it’s featuring women in a female founder series, as you guys are doing, or putting women in leadership positions, this exposure will help the next generation of female entrepreneurs believe that it’s possible.
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?
The most important reason that more women should become founders is that it paves the way for the future generation of women to believe that it is possible to found a company or be put in these sorts of leadership positions. I want to do the same thing that my grandmother and mom did for me, showing young women everywhere that it can be done because it has been done!
What are the “myths” that you would like to dispel about being a founder? Can you explain what you mean?
The biggest myth about being a founder is that it is the most glamorous thing. I think being a founder is often glorified, when in reality it takes a lot of hard work and perseverance — it isn’t easy. Another myth about being a founder is that it is the ultimate goal. I believe there is so much pride in working for someone or a company that you believe in without being the founder. In short, you can still be a “girl boss” and a real leader even if you’re not the founder or CEO of a company.
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?
Is everyone cut out to be a founder? Yes, of course, everyone can be one! My best advice to someone who is founding a company is that it is a mental game. To really thrive in the role, you have to be resilient and passionate about what you are doing.
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.)
- Strong network: I spent the first decade of my career building a network around me, and there is not a day where I don’t use that network — it is so important.
- Self-awareness: As a founder, your actions have an impact on so many people, so you have to be able to take a real, honest inventory of yourself every day because I believe culture is caught, not taught. So, in order to have the culture that you want your team to catch, you have to be self-aware and make sure that all of your actions are matching the environment you are trying to create.
- Resilience: The covid-19 pandemic caused us, a company that was not even a year old, to have to close our doors for 8 months. In order to sustain this closure, we had to be resilient, finding new ways to earn revenue, exploring new channels to engage with our clients, and even spearheading a successful campaign to reopen facial studios in NY. The moral of the story is that as a founder you have to be ready to pivot and bounce back.
- Positive mindset: As a woman founder, you have to be able to trust that you can figure anything and everything out and that you will be able to jump over or lunge at any obstacle that comes your way.
- Being able to ask for help: As a founder, you often feel like you should be able to do it all on your own, but you can’t. I learned very quickly that as a woman founder, you have to get really comfortable being vulnerable and admitting that you don’t know how to do something, and then leveraging your network for advice and support.
How have you used your success to make the world a better place?
Our mission at Glowbar is to make people feel confident in their own skin. As I believe that when people feel good they do good, our mission is helping the broader community around each Glowbar studio by allowing our clients to put their best foot forward out in the world.
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.
One of the best parts about being a founder is that I am inspiring the movement that I believed would bring so much good to so many people! Making professional skincare accessible to all has been a mission of mine for so many years, and through Glowbar, we are inspiring this movement, and our goal is to expand as much as we can to include as many people within this movement as possible.
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.
Sara Blakey, the founder of Spanx! I have been so inspired by her story since day one, and love how real she is.