For my YPO Spotlight series, I had the amazing opportunity to sit down and interview: Elyse Stoltz Dickerson, CEO, Eosera, Inc.
Elyse Stoltz Dickerson is CEO and cofounder of Eosera, Inc., a biotech company focused on meeting underserved needs in the healthcare market. Eosera puts people before profit and practices a philosophy called conscious capitalism. Eosera is based in Fort Worth, Texas and prides itself on manufacturing all 8 ear care products in-house.
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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 didn’t have a traditional career path toward biotech. In college, I graduated with a graphic design degree and started off in fashion. It was later that I went to business school and happened my way into the commercial side of the pharmaceutical business. As far as starting my own company, I left my previous job and saw an opportunity in the market to create premium, effective ear care products. Since ear care was an unmet healthcare need, there was a large market to tap into.
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?
My first job out of undergrad was as an unpaid intern in a fashion office at Saks 5thAvenue. I imagined the glamour of being surrounded by beautiful clothes and high fashion. I imagined bustle of producing fashion shows and mingling with models. I quickly realized that my job was actually putting on and taking off price tags for all the clothes—far less glamourous than I thought it would be. I learned that nothing is ever what you expect, and when you start out, you just have to work hard and do what they ask you to do.
What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
Eosera stands out as a female-led business that practices conscious capitalism and puts people before profit, always. Additionally, by the nature of the symptoms we treat, we stand out. Earwax is not many people’s forte, but it’s ours, and we’re proud to help clear America’s ears. As a small business, we’re spurring economic growth by providing jobs in our manufacturing and office areas. Moreover, we make product that is the first of its kind on the retail market—offering to our consumers the latest innovations and newest product development to care for their ears.
We also like to stand out for our community involvement. As a small company, we’ve found little ways to help those around us. For instance, Eosera donated 10K dollars-worth of product to a 13-year-old kid named Braden Baker. Braden raises money for those in need of hearing aids. So far, Braden raised more than $140K for those who need hearing aids across the globe. He takes our product, EARWAX MD on his mission trips, and with the help of an audiologist, helps clean and clear the ears of patients receiving the hearing aids. Eosera is also a proponent of women in STEM and will host field trips for a local girls’ school to come to our manufacturing plant and learn how a biotech company works. We’re honored to share our space with future women in STEM and honored to have our product travel the globe with a non-profit close to our hearts.
Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?
Now that we’ve established ourselves in the ear care category, we’re looking into the nasal category with some innovative product ideas. We hope to situate ourselves within the ear, nose and throat segment and provide premium products for the ENT market. We also continue to expand manufacturing capabilities with new equipment. We think this innovation and expansion will be helpful to people seeking inventive, quality products that are manufactured in the US with precision and care.
What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started” and why? (Please share a story or example for each.)
- As a woman, you will have to spend time breaking down barriers, glass ceilings, and the biases of coworkers and managers. For example, once I made it past middle management, I looked around and realized there were no female role models ahead of me that I could look up to, and few female coworkers to lean on. Most women don’t make it past middle management in corporate America. It’s scary to feel so alone.
- Take a seat at the table. In conference rooms and in meetings, claim your seat and your voice. When I was in school and early in my career, I thought I was being nice by letting others always sit at the conference room table while I found a seat along the wall. I was only doing a disservice to myself by not letting myself be heard. When I started sitting at the table with the people making decisions, I realized I had a voice; I had something valuable to say, and people took me more seriously.
- Asking for help does not show weakness, it shows strength. Coming out of business school, I thought if there was an assignment, I should know how to do it, as if it was an expectation. Quickly I learned that asking my peers for help made the final product better. People respected me for having the confidence to ask for help. Collaborations such as asking for help and working together for a better outcome followed me into starting my own business and has proven time and time again to work and aid in problem solving.
- Being a leader doesn’t mean you have to know everything, but it does mean you have to surround yourself with smart people and empower them to do their jobs well. I’m a living example of that right now; I’m not a scientist, but my business partner is, and I trust him implicitly. I’m not a writer, but I can hire someone to communicate. I didn’t know anything about manufacturing when we first started, but we hired a very smart woman who knew the business as I learned.
- You are capable of figuring things out—be a life-long learner. You don’t stop learning when you get out of school. Coming out of school, I thought I was done with learning. I quickly realized that wasn’t the case. In the instance of entrepreneurship, you’re always trying to figure out something new. You have to have a learning mindset, otherwise you can’t move forward. There’s no way to know everything, and situations are never going to play out the way you think they will, so it takes constant revision and adjustment on a daily basis.
What is the value of a professional network?
Professional networking makes you a better human and a better leader. Surrounding yourself with smart people and being able to learn from them on a daily basis enriches your life and teaches you things you otherwise might not have learned. Give to people generously and expect nothing in return. After all, it’s not all about going to happy hours and shaking people’s hands, it’s about donating time and knowledge with no strings attached. That’s what makes connections.
What advice do you have for working smarter, finding purpose and beating burnout?
Taking care of yourself first is the one thing most people fail to do. When you’re mentally, physically, and spiritually in a good place, it’s easier to work smarter and find purpose. Additionally, when I finally figured out why I was unhappy in my previous career, I found it was because it was suddenly all about making money. It was never more than that. It wasn’t fulfilling. Finding an environment and a building a company that we could be passionate about changed the game. The products we produce, the people we surround ourselves with, and the culture we’ve cultivated creates that purpose.
As far as burnout goes, self-care, seeking the joy in everything you do, and removing negative people form your life are all things that aid in avoiding burnout. Additionally, maintaining a positive work-life balance is essential in avoiding burnout and finding purpose. As leaders, if we don’t embody a healthy work-life balance, our employees won’t feel like they can either. When it comes to preventing burnout, I make sure that the hours of 5:30-7:30 are family time. I’m not checking my phone, my email, or concerning myself with work. I focus on the most important thing in my life—my family, and I don’t feel guilty about it.