Raven V Faber: “Surround yourself with people who can relate to what you’re doing.”

Surround yourself with people who can relate to what you’re doing. Founding and growing a company is a completely different experience from working a 9 to 5 job. Not everyone will be able to understand or relate to the experiences you’ll have while on that journey. It’s important to meet and get to know people […]

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Surround yourself with people who can relate to what you’re doing. Founding and growing a company is a completely different experience from working a 9 to 5 job. Not everyone will be able to understand or relate to the experiences you’ll have while on that journey. It’s important to meet and get to know people who are on a similar journey for moral support and validation. For me, Facebook groups for women who are Founders and/or in the C-suite have been extremely valuable. I’ve had the opportunity to connect and talk with people that I’d previously only read about in the media. It’s been very inspiring and motivating for me to add other women who “get it” to my professional circle. Having a space to ask for advice and to vent when things go wrong is very reassuring.

I had the distinct pleasure of interviewing Raven Faber.

Raven founded EngErotics in 2016 in response to a clear lack of design standards and safety regulations in the sexual wellness industry. She has over a decade of engineering and sales experience and she is very passionate about using the fundamentals of engineering, math, and science as the basis for the design and development of high-quality sex toys as well as CBD infused intimate body care products. She is extremely passionate about normalizing the conversation surrounding sex and sex education and believes very deeply in the need for engineers and scientists to have a direct influence on how the world looks at intimate product design, formulation, quality, and safety.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

You are so welcome! I’m really glad to be interviewing with you! In short, breaking off my engagement to my ex-fiancé so that I could pursue my own interests is how I ended up where I am now. This was 12 years ago and long before I was the Founder and CEO of EngErotics. It was a very pivotal moment in my life and the one that would set me on the path that would allow me to follow my own dreams and goals.

I was a 22-year-old graduate student in engineering with a growing fascination with sexual wellness and a strong desire to explore that fascination via pitching pleasure products to rooms full of women in my spare time. At that time, I was engaged to a less than supportive partner who took severe issue with my keen interest in doing this and who was anything but subtle in letting me know how he felt. In his opinion, my future venture was “lewd and shameful”. Now, there were plenty of similar red flags that came along beforehand, and they all had something to do with shaming my personal interests and suppressing who I was. However, it was his irrational anger with my decision that really drove home the message that this was not a loving relationship at all, and I finally recognized his emotional abuse towards me. His attempt to make me second-guess my decisions while shaking my confidence made it clear that I had a very important choice to make. I could either marry this man and live my life making decisions based on his approval or I could throw the entire man out and move in the direction that felt right to me. I chose the latter. I chose me. Of course, it wasn’t simply about selling pleasure products. It was about having the freedom to be me and to pursue my personal interests unapologetically, whatever they may happen to be. Even then, I recognized my worth and I wasn’t willing to settle down with a man who didn’t recognize it as well.

What I couldn’t have known at the time was that this choice was the very beginning of what would become a long, fulfilling journey. After my engagement ended, I pushed forward with grad school, an internship, and my new side gig selling pleasure products to rooms full of women. What I thought would be a fun gig during my two years of grad school turned into a decade long lesson in sales, networking, tradeshows, customer relations, product materials, and identifying the gaps in the market. I didn’t realize it at the time, but I was spending the better part of my twenties preparing to launch my future career by gaining the skills and gathering the necessary knowledge to become an effective Founder and CEO of what would later become EngErotics. To this day, I continue to be who I am while pursuing my interests unapologetically. Following my intuition and moving in the direction that feels right has served me extremely well even though my initial lesson on this was a very painful experience. I still know my worth and I choose not to do business with those who do not.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?

It’s hard to choose! The one that sticks out the most though was when EngErotics won its very first product award earlier this year. My team and I exhibited at USA CBD Expo back in February where EngErotics was nominated for awards in three categories. We ended up taking home the award for Best CBD Topical and it completely blew my mind because we were one of the smallest and newest companies in attendance. Many people hadn’t heard of EngErotics before and, yet, our massage oil had gotten enough votes to win an award. There was an awards ceremony and everything. I was up there thinking, “Here we are, a small, bootstrapped company competing against established, well-known companies and we still won!” It was an extremely gratifying and humbling experience and I still smile whenever I think about it.

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?

Time zone mix-ups for sure! There was a good stretch of time where it didn’t occur to me to ask what time zone someone was in when setting up a meeting or a call. There were a few meetings that I’d arrive to either too early or too late simply because my mind was stuck in Mountain Time and I’d naively assumed that that was the time zone that had been discussed. To be fair, whenever this has happened, the other person didn’t think to bring it up either and we’d have a good laugh about it. Now, I know better and I always ask, “What time zone are you in?” and plan accordingly. This is doubly true for meetings with people who live halfway across the world.

Can you share three reasons with our readers about why it’s really important for a business to have a diverse executive team?

I believe that a company with a diverse executive team is a company that cares about representation at the highest level. When it comes to diversity, it’s imperative that the expectations be set by the executive team. If representation and diversity are prioritized in the C-suite, they will be prioritized throughout the organization. Furthermore, this company is showing that they are willing to do the work necessary to help level the playing field. Too often we see companies that have a team of Good Ol’ Boys that drag their feet on facilitating change because “this is the way we’ve always done it. Why change it?” and so they don’t. It’s extremely difficult for a team that perpetuates the status quo to acknowledge that they are part of the problem. A diverse executive team has the capability to break this cycle. Finally, prioritizing diversity serves as a wake-up call to other companies to have a good hard look at where the diversity issue falls within their own organization. A diverse C-suite is impactful and helps to set the tone while facilitating change within an industry. It’s leading by example; showing others that performative allyship is meaningless. Action within any organization is what truly counts and a company that cares to build a diverse executive team is showing that they know how to take action.

More broadly can you describe how this can have an effect on our culture?

Substantial diversity at the executive level opens the door for more diversity, more inclusion, and an even distribution of equity and opportunity for minorities across all industries. It creates a platform on which all the topics that need to be discussed regarding the abolishment of systemic racism may be discussed. It creates an atmosphere in which those who come from underrepresented communities may share their truth, their concerns, and their instructions for how society at large can do better. Finally, it exemplifies that representation at the highest levels are of great importance and it encourages aspiring minorities to actively seek out big opportunities and to shoot for the stars.

Can you recommend three things the community/society/the industry can do help address the root of the diversity issues in executive leadership?

First and foremost, LISTEN! Don’t argue, don’t interject, don’t trivialize, don’t justify. Shut your mouth, open your ears, and make a serious effort to process and have empathy for what minorities are saying and have been saying for decades. Secondly, don’t deflect or get defensive while you’re listening to what minorities have to say on this topic. No, this isn’t an easy conversation to have and it will likely make you uncomfortable, however, that’s the point. Discomfort is necessary in order to grow and getting out of your comfort zone is important. Set your ego and your pride aside and open your mind to the very real injustices that are happening all around you every single day. Finally, this isn’t about you, so don’t make it about you. This is most definitely not the time to shift the conversation towards how upset and offended you are as a White person, how you don’t see color, etc. Keep the focus where it needs to be in order to make progress: on the people who have been and continue to be marginalized. The “you” I’m referring to refers to the collective, of course, and this is by no means an exhaustive list.

How do you define “Leadership”? Can you explain what you mean or give an example?

I would define “Leadership” as the act of getting down in trenches with your team and working alongside them while simultaneously giving them your support and guidance, recognizing their hard work and accomplishments, and giving them the tools to succeed. It’s not possible to be an effective leader while looking down on your team from high up on your pedestal. You’ve got to get your hands dirty, so to speak. You’ve got to get in the mix and get up close and personal with the tasks that you expect your team to perform. Working alongside your team rather than above your team helps you to become more empathetic to the demands and challenges of the job; it reminds you to stay humble even while in an executive position. I keep this in mind everyday while growing my startup. One day I might be pitching the company to a large retail store, but I might have to help my team out with any number of routine tasks the very next. When my team needs help, I don’t hesitate to jump in there or, at the very least, go above and beyond to make sure they have the tools necessary to get the job done.

What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why. Please share a story or example for each.

  1. You don’t need to have everything figured out. There’s only so much due diligence you can do. You can research and plan for months and still miss something after you get going. This has happened to me several times since I founded my company. I’d set out to execute a plan or idea and then run into a setback that I hadn’t previously anticipated. This would force me to deal with it and learn on the fly. In hindsight, it always feels like, “How could I have missed this huge detail?” but then you begin to accept that it happens. You’re still human. None of us is perfect and it’s important to give ourselves some grace.
  2. Surround yourself with people who can relate to what you’re doing. Founding and growing a company is a completely different experience from working a 9 to 5 job. Not everyone will be able to understand or relate to the experiences you’ll have while on that journey. It’s important to meet and get to know people who are on a similar journey for moral support and validation. For me, Facebook groups for women who are Founders and/or in the C-suite have been extremely valuable. I’ve had the opportunity to connect and talk with people that I’d previously only read about in the media. It’s been very inspiring and motivating for me to add other women who “get it” to my professional circle. Having a space to ask for advice and to vent when things go wrong is very reassuring.
  3. Bootstrapping really does help build character. If you want to gather investors by going the VC route, you do you, but don’t get too discouraged if you don’t have deep pockets. The VC path didn’t seem like it was entirely for me, so I decided to do what I know best: I used the resources I had at my disposal, and I hustled. I made a plan, calculated costs, looked at my budget, and then revised my plan accordingly until I could move forward, if even just a bit. I got creative with my ideas and my approach in executing them. I talked to everyone who would give me the time of day so I could get their feedback, get recommendations for resources I hadn’t previously known about, and to maybe meet someone they knew who might be of influence. It isn’t easy and it’s a non-stop grind. Going about it this way has taught me a lot about grit and perseverance though and I don’t regret having taken this path.
  4. The entrepreneurial path is an emotional one. One day everything is going great and the next you might feel like all your hard work has been for nothing. The day after that, you somehow have managed to pick yourself up off the floor and get back to it. There have been days where it seemed as though I’d experienced every single emotion possible between the time I woke up and the time I went to sleep. It’s an intense experience and I definitely wasn’t prepared for the emotional rollercoaster I was about to get on. It’s been a journey of thrilling successes and emotional lows. I’ve really had to dig down deep and tap into wells of grit and tenacity that I didn’t know I had in order to get past some of the emotional obstacles.
  5. Be prepared for your vision to evolve and embrace it. What you start out doing or building will likely change down the road. This is because there’s no way of knowing all the things that you’ll come across as your journey progresses. Discovering a new opportunity, a chance meeting, an epiphany…these are all things that hold the potential to shift your perspective and your thought process, thus, changing your trajectory. For EngErotics, this shift came in the form of CBD. When we first started, I had no clue that we’d also be developing and manufacturing CBD infused intimate body care products down the road but when it became apparent that this would be a beneficial opportunity for the company, we dove in headfirst.

You are a person of enormous 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. 🙂

To be honest, I think I’d like to inspire a movement where people prioritize patience and empathy in their everyday life, in business, and with interactions with other people. I’m certainly not perfect and I’ve definitely struggled with being patient and empathetic and I still do at times. However, I’m finding that the more I make a conscious effort to become better in these areas, the better everything in my life becomes. To become better at being patient and empathetic is to become a better leader, friend, spouse, parent, and person in general. Whenever an individual makes a commitment to being better and doing better, it directly benefits those that individual interacts with regularly. If large populations of people committed to doing this, the positive effects would be astounding.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

Alice Walker once said, “No person is your friend who demands your silence or denies your right to grow.” I’ve really taken her words to heart as I’ve certainly run into my fair share of people who seemed intent on convincing me to dull my sparkle while saying something like, “I’m just trying to help.” This is never okay. Whenever someone goes out their way to try to silence you or try to talk you out of pursuing your goals, it really doesn’t have anything to do with you. It’s truly a reflection of how they feel about themselves. They see you shining and growing while reaching new heights and smashing new goals and they say to themselves, “I want that for myself” but maybe they don’t know how to go about it or maybe they’re too scared to take the leap that you did. So, they resort to putting you down in order to make themselves feel better. It’s happened to me more times than I can count. It took some time to realize that I don’t owe anyone an explanation and it’s not my job to change anyone’s mind. I choose to protect my energy by removing people like that from my life and moving forward.

Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them. 🙂

Tag Taraji P. Henson and tell her to call me! I just love her. She seems like a really nice and genuine person. Her advocacy for mental health is admirable and extremely important for the Black community. She’s outspoken and unapologetic about so many important issues and it’s so inspiring! Yes, yes, yes…lunch with Taraji would make my entire decade.

How can our readers follow you on social media?

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/engerotics/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/EngErotics

FB: https://www.facebook.com/EngErotics/

This was very meaningful, thank you so much!

Thank you for letting me share my thoughts and my story! This has been a wonderful experience.

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