Chatting with Lisa Mullan, CEO and Founder of Uwila Warrior and Board Member, Invest In Girls, Inc.
The following interview originally appeared on ellevatenetwork.com
Tell us who you are and what you are currently focused on.
After a 15 year career as a portfolio manager in investment management, I joined HubSpot in 2014 to help transition the company from a private to public company. In early 2016, I moved to a part time position at HubSpot to focus on what was then my side gig and now my full time gig — my own business, Uwila Warrior. The biggest takeaway here is that I no longer report to someone else and now report to myself.
In collaboration with a development team originally from Marc Jacobs, Uwila Warrior introduced underwear for the modern woman that were not only beautiful, but functional and comfortable as well.
Each style is created with a unique design that seams each pair at the side rather than down the middle, where our natural cracks appear, inspiring confidence and empowering the wearer. Along with their thoughtful construction, Uwila Warrior uses only the highest quality materials, designing with beautiful silk and lace. We’ve integrated rich color and witty sayings into the designs, allowing our wearers to still express their style with their underwear choice. Women have a pair of underwear for work, for date night, for girls night out, for the gym, for watching TV on the couch, and I wondered, why can’t they all be the same pair? Rather than asking women to twist their bodies and lifestyles into underwear that works only part of the time, we make beautiful, everyday intimate apparel for every woman.
Now that our business is more than an idea, but an operational business, I am laser focused on growing Uwila Warrior.
What are some career challenges on your radar?
Now that we've nailed our product design and fit and established our product supply and distribution the biggest challenge for Uwila Warrior is identifying Uwila's brand's voice and making sure our voice is heard.
The old adage "Build it and they will come" no longer holds true. Even if you have an amazing product, your message and product is likely to get drowned out by the firehose of information coming at us in today's digital world.
Today, it's not just about making a great product, it's also about your product having a voice that is heard.
We'd love to hear more about your career path. What led you to where you are today?
After studying Hotel Management and Gerontology at Cornell University and obtaining an MBA in Finance from Columbia Business School, I began my career in the predominantly male-driven hedge fund world. I took the leap from finance to tech in 2014 when I took a position with HubSpot as Director of Investor Relations, helping with the transition from a private to publicly traded company and establishing HubSpot’s investor relations. HubSpot allowed me to utilize my skill set in finance, while also soaking up knowledge about marketing and online sales, and it was here that I realized I could start my own business and implement these same skills. In 2015, I began devising her plan for Uwila Warrior with the help of a fellow Cornellian friend, who added knowledge of the fashion world as an early employee of Marc Jacobs. We envisioned a brand that would empower women and make their lives easier, leading us to create unapologetically colorful, beautiful, and comfortable underwear that fits every moment of a woman’s life.
Today, I still work part-time at HubSpot while running Uwila Warrior and raising my three children with my husband in Boston. That's even exhausting to write nevertheless do!
What is the most rewarding part of your job?
The most rewarding part of my job at Uwila Warrior is that our products make women feel comfortable, so they can think about success and power instead of discomfort.
I also like that we are making an intimate product that is designed for the woman wearing the underwear (inspiring and encouraging her, not getting in her way) instead of something she puts on for the pleasure of someone else.
Lastly, it is extremely rewarding that the success or failure of my business is on my shoulders, and not dependent on conscious and unconscious biases a larger organization where I would report to a boss, who had a boss, and so on.
What is it about your job that makes you feel it's the right fit for you?
Through Uwila Warrior, I have reignited the creative crevices of my brain. Combining creativity with the finance, strategy, and marketing, areas which I actively exercised in past jobs, is quite exciting.
Also, I enjoy the entire process of starting and running a business; from design inception, to digital creative, to business, to being hands on and thinking about our end customer, real women, every day.
Is work-life balance a problem for you? What is one no-fail tactic you use to create balance?
Yes, yes, yes... work-life balance is a problem at this stage of my career. Has anyone mastered the perfect balance?
Juggling three children, a part time obligation to HubSpot, the full-time responsibilities of Uwila Warrior, and a few non-profits which I care deeply for is a lot. I'm not alone. It's not a surprise, work-life balance is something most real women deal with.
What is working for me today is that I have more control over my schedule than I had when I worked as a portfolio manager in investment management or even when I worked full-time at HubSpot (which is a very flexible company that does not value face time). In those previous roles, I had the responsibility to attend meetings that were set by the company or the constituents working together at the company-- a necessary evil when you have a larger team you're managing or working with.
Once I went to part-time project work for HubSpot and starting my own business, I had more control of when meetings were scheduled as I was now reporting to myself and not a larger organization. Having this flexibility has been game changing. I certainly do not have it all, but I have the flexibility to maximize what I can have.
What advice would you offer future leading ladies wishing to break into your industry?
Don't just dream about starting a business, but take the first steps to actually follow through on your idea. The hardest part of starting something where you are likely to fail, is just starting. Take the first step. This will lead you to the second step, and so on. A year or so when you look back at your many steps, you will be that much further along your path.
A separate but related piece of advice is accepting that you might fail. And that's totally O.K.
What is the best career advice you ever received?
"Success is often achieved by those who don't know that failure is inevitable" - Coco Chanel
What is one piece of advice you'd offer working moms?
It's just not enough to work your tail off producing results and expect you'll get noticed, and rewarded, for those results.
When I worked in investment management, I produced quantifiable results... I either made money or lost money for our company each year. Thankfully, most years were money making years. However, no matter how many money making years I put up, I was overlooked for promotions and new responsibilities unlike my male counterparts who produced similar or even sometimes lesser results. Sound familiar? I'm not sure there is a silver bullet to address this hot chili pepper, but I do know that being aware of this dynamic is a very important first step to tackle this systemic slight.
My advice on all of this would be, if you see this dynamic playing out, either find a new boss or find a new job that will recognize and promote you. If you can't find that advocate or company, start your own company and promote yourself.