Resilience: As every situation with our products, customers, and work team requires different aspects from us to thrive, we need to practice the art of resilience. Resilience is more than just being able to stretch our understanding and performance for adaptability, it also requires us to change perspectives and to take different paths and responses.
As a part of our series about “Why We Need More Women Founders”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Rosi Ross, Founder of Ni Hao Babe. Formerly, Rosi was International Sales Manager at Global Cosmetics HK and Digital Development & Sales at Global E-grow China. Rosi has also founded NHB, a genderless and borderless skincare brand that focuses on going beyond the skin. NHB supports several environmental and clean beauty standards based on positivity not only physically but also from the mental health point of view. Currently, she acts as a consultant for beauty and fashion brands that aim to manufacture their products in China. Her roles in the digital, technology, and beauty niches include being a TEDx speaker at Lingnan University Hong Kong, Youth Contributor at UCIC Shanghai, and Youth Contributor at USMA Panama.
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 have a major in Cinema/TV Production and I worked on TV for 3 years in Panama City, Panama, which gave me a better understanding of the power of media. Then I got scouted by a Chinese company via LinkedIn, and we matched my digital skills (which at the time were digital sales, media, social media, and B2B/B2C sales) with their sales’ needs in China doing cross-border sales and cross-border social media. I remember this was just when I was finishing my MBA with a focus on International Business and at the same time I was doing a specialization in Marketing for Brands in Fashion at the ADEN Institute. This company offered to expatriate me for 1 year and it was a no-brainer for me, I said yes right away. 6 months later I was in China, I was 24 years old at the time, and being from South America, that really marked a difference in my professional life and my life in general. I worked for almost a year in Dongguan, which used to be the manufacturing heaven of China years ago. It was a tough beginning mostly because of the cultural shock and the language barrier as I didn’t know how to speak Chinese. I am glad my first boss was and still is one of my closest advisers at this point in my career. From fashion to home products, I had many companies hiring me as a consultant and full-time employee to help boost their e-commerce sites. I also worked as a stylist, Instagram marketing manager, and scouting for KOLs (influencer). My first website launched 4 years ago was www.rosiross.com where I started writing about fashion and beauty. With time, I realized that the language barrier and lack of understanding about China itself and how things work in China were limitations so I decided to learn more about fashion and beauty manufacturing as that was the strength of the city I lived in at the time (Shenzhen). Afterward, I moved to Shanghai where fashion and beauty were pretty much driving the markets in China. I was still running my blog at the time, and we got in contact with Rakuten Marketing affiliates to optimize my website for affiliates so I could connect better with brands like NYX, ELF, Nasty Gal, and more. I was invited to Shanghai Fashion Week, a great experience for me as I connected with local designers and brands. I was the only Hispanic at the 3-day show. It was crazy. It was just 2 years ago when I started living in Hong Kong and decided to move forward with my original brand. I focus on “what is it that we are missing in the belief culture as westerns” that drive me the most to this point. I also got involved with gaming, blockchain, and crypto. It was after understanding my own purpose integrating all these elements that I understood clearly my own value as a founder.
Can you share the most interesting thing that happened to you since you began leading your company?
The most interesting thing that has happened to me since I started leading my company was being featured in publications that I used to work for as well as being reached out to by brands that I used to work with on TV, written media, or even in manufacturing. My team and I have been contacted by people through email and at the time, we did not know that they have collaborated with me before, so this is really empowering and it is motivating for not only brands in our beauty niche recognize our work and our products but other brands in beauty, fashion and technology also recognize our work.
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 started in China with my first beauty boxes, I made both gift boxes and outsourced products. I went to my first Christmas event in Shanghai and I had to find someone locally within a day to help me out because I really thought I could pull it through during the 2 days of Christmas Fair on my own. Now thankfully when I look back, I think it is so funny because China, Shanghai particularly, or any major city around the world will give you a lot of work when it comes to fairs. My biggest lesson about this specific moment back then is that you need a team, you need people to support your goals and plans as a brand and a product. Also, I learned that quantity is the first KPI for any product, it doesn’t mean you have to measure it from the beginning. If you are a small brand or your business is still starting, maybe you won’t need to measure this specific metric, but it is ideal and 100% recommended to have in mind how many influxes of outsiders and insiders can your brand have when it has a presence in certain markets, cities or stores.
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?
In my journey, a key person for me has been my first boss Jeff Zhang, owner of Suscong Healthcare who found me on LinkedIn and expatriated me to China to work in his factory. I might say our relationship at first was really rough due to differences in language and cultural background along with the age difference as I was 24 when I went to China to work as an International Sales Manager. When I look back, I think this has been the hardest relationship to flourish and maintain over time. Cantonese culture is really different from the northern cultures in China. In the northern cities like Shanghai, the society is matriarchal, so women have more empowerment and a visible position when it comes to the competencies related to men. In the south where I used to live at first, the society is patriarchal, which clearly shows a cultural juxtaposition between women and men. That doesn’t mean the value of women is less, this just means that men are more prominently portrayed in society. This is a cultural thing that I did not discover until 4 years later when I moved to the North. While going through the memories of my journey in China, I can say this is the person that helped me the most in my journey in terms of building character and attaining objectives in China. I am really glad we are now partners and friends. .
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?
As society and technology move forward, we can see feminine empowerment, ideas, and concepts influencing every part of the decisions taken in different industries and parts of the society. One of the things -in my opinion- that is holding back women from founding companies is the lack of education about business for the feminine side of society. Usually in some families and societies we see a lot of males being taught, educated, and empowered to be leaders and follow the business of the family or work in a certain job starting when they are still boys at a young age, women however, are not taught these things. There is still a stigma that females need to be educated the way it was done in the 70s and 80s where most of our focus as females should be on house chores. This stigma is still out there in many parts of the world, and it involves both genders, as men are also affected. If we still think that men are the only financially supportive side in a household then fewer females are going to feel motivated to be part of this harmonious relationship between males and females. The second thing is the recognition of equality. We are all still digging to define what equality is in the XXI century. Many people think it is about equal pay only, other people think it is about female recognition in leadership positions. I think if we are going to discern and take the equality approach in our society, then we will need to recognize both sides, female and male as equals, which means both have the same right to have a CEO position, to be presidents, or to own franchises. We do need more education about what equality is for both genders, as we do not have a clear understanding about it and this affects the performance of females in society. With us women being leaders, this means that men will have other positions in society and it is ok for them to have those positions, otherwise there will be a huge imbalance on how we perform socially, within the family and with other relations. It is imperative to understand that more women founding companies means that more females are empowered and this needs social adjustments for the opposite sex too. It’s about the quality and equality of opportunities not just in the places of work but also in society.
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?
Education and spaces for open discussions are some of the several topics that are part of this theme. There should be a raised awareness and an understanding of social psychology; how our relationships are managed by female and male interaction and topics like males who prefer women in power and guys who prefer to be stay-at-home-dads so their partner can go to work. We are in a moment in history where the concept of gender is changing and the value and impact of females is also evolving in society, that’s why we need to start discussing these topics in order to evolve as a society. Also, we need more acknowledgment of the female roles in high management positions and a movement to promote female exposure to leadership in careers that are usually dominated by men. From my perspective, we are not only talking about females because females do not exist alone in society, there needs to be more camaraderie and more support from the other side — males — in order to sail this boat further. We can’t live in a society, a city, or a continent where everyone is on a different side of the road, we need to align resources of all kinds to make sure we are all given the same opportunities and we are pushing for changes that will positively impact our societies without taking part in the gender game, political parties or individual beliefs of what things should be like. Leaders will be good leaders, good managers and good presidents regardless of gender. As a society, we need to be aware that what we need is better individuals to represent us and to drive our progress. If that individual is a female, then let’s push that further.
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?
I think you should become a founder if you really want to uplift the lives of others. If you think that having a business or a corporation or a small baking place can improve the place you are in and the life of others around you, then you should become a founder. Considering the value of females in society, there are many reasons socially and psychologically why women can be a better fit in higher positions. Females tend to lead with more compassion, also females are better multitaskers which can be added as a positive aspect when it comes to the management of people and places. Females in general are also more likely to keep groups together as we are naturally created with a built-in sense of family, so there is more nurturing when it comes to group interactions. I know there is much skepticism about females being too emotional in the workplace or too intense when making decisions, but we have already seen females performing greatly with exceptional leadership capabilities in areas like science, technology, physics, and politics. There needs to be more equality in leadership positions and this is the main challenge for females being founders -from my personal point of view. It is refreshing and females can really bring some positive change to the environment through their decisions which will change the society’s perspectives towards female leaders. Also, we are currently seeing males becoming more open-minded about their positions in society and this makes a great chance for us women to have more space and take the initiative to found our own businesses. It is not only about us and our business, it is also about the other side of the coin and how females can be something different and something better at any level or niche that they decide to jump into.
What are the “myths” that you would like to dispel about being a founder? Can you explain what you mean?
One of the most common myths about being a founder is that “this is hard”. Well, not being a founder is also hard, so you must pick your hard. It’s that simple. Managing your own business is not going to be easy, but if you have a good plan you can dive deeper into your journey, get the right people aboard your boat, and reach your destination safely. Many people think that being a founder is just about putting a product on the market, this is wrong. Being a founder is about creating a solid foundation, the word itself says it. What it means when we say that being a founder is “hard” is not having a proper foundation for the business that we are creating. The saying “being a founder is hard” is a myth because if you know the values, goals, and direction of your business, being a founder will be just a journey, it will be challenging but it will never be hard.
Another myth is that “there is no place for female founders”. Truth is, there are plenty of places for female founders in all niches, from gaming to tech to beauty; the thing is, we are not claiming those places so it looks like there are not enough places or we are not having the place we should or want to have. Being a founder is a matter of action, performance, and achieving goals in your business. Only when you do that can you claim a place in this sphere. There are plenty of places and there is space for all of us if we really put in the work and we achieve what our businesses need. We need to do the work to earn the place.
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?
As I said before, being a leader and a founder requires you to have a certain foundation, we need to create that foundation. In this sense, if you are not willing to create one, then there is no point in being a founder. Note that if you want to put a product in the market, you are doing sales. But, if you are creating value and meaning and you have a purpose with your products and your business, then you are definitely a founder. And both goals are good, both goals are ok. I think social media and TV shows push the female character a lot into leadership even when many females don’t want to be leaders, and that is also ok. Your performance and contribution to society, family and to yourself can be better in a full-time job, while it could be better for someone else to be a CEO, CFO, or a CMO. Just make sure that whatever route you are taking is making you happy and fulfilled. It is ok not to want to be a founder and it is ok not to want to have a full-time job. What is not ok is pushing yourself to do something you don’t feel connected with, something that just brings you money and leaves you at the end of the day feeling unhappy and unsatisfied. From the social psychology perspective, there are several studies about how our personal traits like honesty, communication skills, problem-solving skills, compassion, and empathy can be great indicators to determine if we have what it takes to be leaders, this can also be determined by our genes, and there are several types of research that reveal how our individual capabilities can make us more likely to have higher positions and become leaders.
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.)
- Resilience: As every situation with our products, customers, and work team requires different aspects from us to thrive, we need to practice the art of resilience. Resilience is more than just being able to stretch our understanding and performance for adaptability, it also requires us to change perspectives and to take different paths and responses. When I went to Hong Kong I was notified that I couldn’t go back to China as I left the country later than my visa stipulated. At the time I had 2 options; either I would go back to Panama or I would start over in Hong Kong from scratch again, so I did the latter. I decided to stay in Hong Kong and re-learn everything that I had experienced in China. It was unexpected, but practicing resilience helps in making better decisions considering the outcomes as we will have a broader willingness to experience new things and to take new paths in the blink of an eye. Resilience also helps us conquer any fears and promotes our willingness to face the unknown and to stay out of our comfort zones, things that are key to re-learn, un-learn, and re-build our careers, our lives, and our businesses.
- Patience: Easier said than done. Patience is a skill that takes years to learn, but it is primary to see the results of our work. There is a good saying that states that we won’t see the fruit the same day we plant the tree. This is key to moving forward because many times we do not know when the result is going to show up. When working on a business and a company we need to have a complete structure, that is whole with people and customers in order to see results. Practicing patience and how to keep calm in times of uncertainty is a big need to stay focused while working on a craft. When I went to China in 2015 I thought it would take me 3 years to reach my goals. If I didn’t maintain patience until I saw the results, I wouldn’t have been able to launch my brand, for it took 6 years overall. The tree needs time to grow and the fruit needs time to ripen. Everything happens at the right time, just keep your eyes on the prize and be patient.
- Education: One key thing about having a good foundation is how much you know about your business. One of the biggest disappointments for customers and partners is realizing our knowledge is not enough to sustain our values, goals, and expectations. We need to keep learning and be willing to learn, unlearn and re-learn. This process is key not only for human and social evolution but also for our businesses. The power of education is not only about a specific craft, but also about the world in general, being keen to explore, learn things and finally educate others and teach others about topics that are related to our business, our foundations, and our ideals which would give assurance that we know what we are doing. No one wants to make business with someone who lacks knowledge about their craft. While working on manufacturing in the field of beauty care I had the experience of witnessing many people who called themselves founders but had no idea about the nature of the ingredients, the manufacturing process or the products. This determines the level of business you will have as the level of knowledge we possess determines how high on the scale we can go.
- Character: When you become a founder, you will face many situations along the way. Situations related to money, individual interests, and how your character can put people in their place. When you are a woman, there will be people who would want to take advantage of your work or you as a person. I have had personal situations where these things happened to me, and I have to say that if you have a strong character you can determine your path easier, and you can say NO to things that don’t align with your principles without the need to feel like you are compromising any part of yourself to go anywhere or to get to a certain point. I personally do not judge female entrepreneurs who pride themselves on sacrifices they have made to get to a certain point, but what I am saying is that there are a thousand ways to reach your destination. Forging your character will allow you to say YES or NO without regretting it later.
- Mindfulness: Being a founder can often be synonymous with being stressed and worried, which can affect our health tremendously. Mindfulness helps a lot with getting more clarity on our goals, how we feel, helping us stay in the present, and helping us to be grounded. It does not only help with our job or leadership positions but also with our whole life. In my practices, I meditate daily, this is my way to find clarity, get rid of anxiety, and stay present. This is a practice that can take years to maintain but once we start immersing ourselves in better ways of living, every other aspect of our lives improves; our companies, our relationships and our partnerships. Mindfulness for a founder is important to help us acknowledge that we lead according to the way we feel, and this is a great practice that allows us to lead greatly. When you stay present, calm, and clear you will do better, lead better and act better.
How have you used your success to make the world a better place?
Since I started my career in Panama years ago, I felt like I wanted a space where I could talk and discuss other things that matter to me far beyond fashion and beauty. I found that by joining other people in a conversation, I can create a space where people can find other people that think and feel in a similar way about the same topics. And thanks to technology, I use social media, my blog, and now my brand to talk and discuss topics related to education, mental health, individuality, and taboo topics that really need to be discussed. As society advances, connecting with other countries and continents have become easier, and more people now are interested in reaching out to discuss topics that seemed to be silly to talk about before. Masculinity (not the toxic one), female leadership and empowerment, genderless societies, gaming for females, sex and sex-ed, all these topics need to be discussed as Gen Zers and future generations will be shaped differently. I feel like it is the responsibility of our foundation to create room for such topics, to help people live better, to help people love themselves, and to help them be aware of the way they love others. The more technology we have the less human contact we have and also -unfortunately- the less human awareness there is. This is a reality I learned before while living in China, so this is the perfect moment to start harnessing a better understanding and a better relationship with the digital world to create better lives for us as humans.
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.
We are already working towards a movement for a space where people can talk about different issues regardless of their background. This movement looks to awaken topics related to ourselves as humans to improve both individually and as a group within the society, and to promote taking action. We tend to talk a lot on social media but when it comes to taking action it stops right there. So, what we want is not just to have people inspired but to have more people motivated to change, because when you feel inspired you might feel the intensity of the cause but you won’t feel motivated to make a change, however, when you feel motivated, things really happen. For this reason, the “skin and beyond” motto means that there is a spark of motivation to go beyond the skin and the topics related to beauty, as there is also the beauty within; your mind, how you think, the things that you consider important, the way you see life and how you take action on your own. The NHB movement particularly looks to spark motivation to put beauty into action, not only physical beauty but also spiritual, philosophical, political, and social beauty. Beauty will always make you feel good, so our movement goes towards those things in your daily life that make you feel that having this conversation is worth it.
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.
I would like to have breakfast with Barack Obama. I was living in the USA when Obama was elected the first time and it was astonishing to me — and still is — that he was a black president when being black wasn’t that cool. There must be some immense work done individually and as a team to reach the level of becoming a president in a country where at the time, being black wasn’t as accepted as it is today. Also, when it comes to his relation with the media and social media, there are a lot of lessons that he must have learned and challenges that he overcame which helped him with his public image besides being funny and charismatic. I believe that approaching life with fun and charisma is the best way, but even if we are at this level of awareness, there are still things that we would have to experience to help us learn from. The majority of the great lessons in life are never in plain sight, so from his first presidential election until today, I think he has a lot of important lessons and leadership advice to share.
Thank you for these fantastic insights. We greatly appreciate the time you spent on this.