Formula for Change
Episode 68
August 24, 2021

Formula for Change

with Laura Modi, Co-Founder and CEO of Bobbie

Laura Modi is the Co-Founder and CEO of Bobbie, the only female-founded and mom-led infant formula company in the US. With 83 percent of parents turning to formula within the first year of their infant's life, Bobbie is the first European-style organic formula that meets FDA standards. In this episode, Laura shares with us her journey from growing up in Ireland as the oldest of five with dreams of becoming a dietician, to moving to San Francisco and landing a job at Google, to working for Airbnb, where she also became a mother for the first time and found herself struggling to breastfeed and find a great formula. She talks with us about what it was like to raise a $15M Series A from investors and over 200 moms using the crowdfunding platform Republic, how she spent four years on product development to create the perfect baby formula, and the challenges she faced with obtaining FDA approval.

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this episode sponsored by

In This Episode You’ll Hear About:

  • What it was like to grow up as the eldest of five in Ireland in a family of entrepreneurs who are third generation manufacturers of construction clothing and why she went into tech
  • Why her dad encouraged her to go study business instead of dietetics and why she saw the wisdom in that later
  • What moved her over to California to work for Google and then Airbnb
  • What her experiences at Airbnb taught her about how to create a healthy family culture within a company and not just grow fast, but grow well with a strong team
  • What brought about the need in Laura’s life for a company like Bobbie and what compelled her to develop a product and work on it for four years before launching
  • Why she believes confidence and great referrals from past experiences are helpful in raising funds with investors, even if you don’t have metrics yet to share
  • How fundraising has gone for Bobbie through traditional VC funding and also the nontraditional raising through Republic, which has including over 200 moms
  • What the process of obtaining the FDA green light was like, what lessons came through it, and why it is the way it is
  • What great advice she has on how to successfully lead a startup and what is next for Bobbie

To Find Out More:

HiBobbie.com

Quotes:

“Becoming an entrepreneur myself now, have I realized that the currency to join a startup is really energy. It's passion. It’s your connection to what’s being built.”

“And it was during this I realized I love fast-growth companies. I love being in the middle of it. I loved being on call at random hours because that kind of adrenaline to be building something that wasn't just a massive revenue driver, but it was a culture changer is so impactful.”

“I think that's part of an entrepreneurial journey, which is, you spot opportunities by seeing the ridiculousness of why certain things are the way they are.”

“It continued to hit me that they are buying into my passion, my confidence, my ability to execute. What I had was, very fortunately, a decade of experience in the tech world and fast-growing companies to be able to point to to show that I did have a track record of getting shit done.”

“We were very intentional about spending the two years prior to launching and building community. And often products and companies will say, ‘well you can't do that until you have a product on the market.’ And for us, it wasn't just about the product, it was about shaking the stigma, having the conversation.” 

“When we went to market, we had hundreds of moms who were dying to share that we had just launched. I believe that is kind of the secret sauce of what allowed the business to take off.”

“It was an education of the industry that we are about to walk into. We are walking into an industry that is heavily regulated with massive companies watching your every move.”

“The people that you find that are completely irreplaceable for you, you give them the world because they are worth the world. Your entire company goes around because of the people that you hire and how you recognize them, reward them, support them.” 

“There are hands down people that give me the sweats at night if I thought about losing them...because they truly are founders, owners, developers of this business more than myself. They are incredible.”

“As a CEO, your job is to build the machine that runs, and every component of that machine is its people.”

“How you support the exit of an individual in the business will say everything about your leadership.”

Lee: [00:00:03] Welcome to Episode 68 of the Stairway to CEO podcast. I'm your host, Lee Greene, and today I spoke with Laura Modi, the Co-Founder and CEO of Bobbie. Bobbie is the only female-founded and mom-led infant formula company in the US. With 83 percent of parents turning to formula within the first year of their infant's life, Bobbie is the first European style organic formula that meets FDA standards. In this episode, Laura shares with us her journey from growing up in Ireland as the oldest of five with dreams of becoming a dietician, to moving to San Francisco and landing a job at Google, to working for Airbnb, where she also became a mother for the first time and found herself struggling to breastfeed and find a great formula. She talks with us about what it was like to raise a 15 million dollar Series A from investors and over 200 moms using the crowdfunding platform Republic, how she spent four years on product development to create the perfect baby formula and the challenges she faced with obtaining FDA approval. If you like what you hear, don't forget to subscribe to get updates on our new episode releases happening every Tuesday morning. Until then, we hope you enjoy this episode.

Lee: [00:02:05] Laura, thank you so much for being on the show today. I'm so excited to hear your story in building, Bobbie. Thanks for joining us.

Laura: [00:02:14] Of course. Thanks for having me, Lee.

Lee: [00:02:15] I'm really excited to chat with you because I have a three month old and it's my first baby boy. And, you know, having trying to figure out a formula situation has been quite a challenge. So I'm really excited to hear, you know, your journey in building this company and how things have been going.

Laura: [00:02:35] Congratulations. Honestly, there's nothing better than speaking to someone who's like, you're in it. You are so in it.

Lee: [00:02:42] Yes, yes, yes. Like literally importing from Germany formula.

Laura: [00:02:49] You went the illegal route. Look at you.

Lee: [00:02:54] I know. I'm afraid to hear your take on this.

Laura: [00:02:57] Oh, my God. I know. I love it. I mean, like, obviously, it was the genesis in many ways of even getting Bobbie off the ground.

Lee: [00:02:57] Yeah.

Laura: [00:03:03] Well congratulations. That's great.

Lee: [00:03:04] Thank you. I know you have three kids of your own, so I'm excited to figure out where in the process this real, the light bulb went off. But I guess to take it all the way back to your background, where are you from originally and what was childhood like growing up?

Laura: [00:03:19] So originally from the west of Ireland. And I always thought I would stay in the country but decided to make my way to the states and I haven't turned back now, in the last 15 years.

Laura: [00:03:34] Yeah, I grew up in the west of Ireland. I was the eldest. I am the eldest of five. Large Irish Catholic family. And my dad is an entrepreneur. We grew up in a family of entrepreneurs. We are the third generation of a large family business, largest construction clothing manufacturer in Europe, which is you know, it's funny... I mean, the biggest way to describe it is that they manufacture PPE clothing. And before 2020, I would say "PPE" and no one would have any idea what I was talking about.

Lee: [00:04:09] Right.

Laura: [00:04:11] .Yeah. You know, manufacturing wasn't... Manufacturing construction clothing wasn't exactly the sexiest thing to stay in.

Lee: [00:04:18] Not really the fashion industry you think of... {laughter}

Laura: [00:04:23] Not exactly. When you're leaving college, the idea of jumping into that wasn't immediately appealing. So I found myself moving into the tech space.

Lee: [00:04:34] And so when you were a kid, though, what did you want to be when you grew up? When you were like, "You know, maybe I'm not going to go into that very glamorous industry of construction clothing. I want to try to do something else," was there something else that you were aspiring to be?

Laura: [00:04:49] Yeah, actually, I'll never forget saying to my dad, I really wanted to be a dietician.

Lee: [00:04:54] Really?

Laura: [00:04:55] And a very, very random. Wasn't like I thoroughly enjoyed science, to be honest. I don't think I was even good at it. And it wasn't like I was so into my health or anything that it was so clear. And I kept talking about it. I kept talking about it to my dad and my friends, "I want to be a dietician." And when my dad really pressed me on it, "Where is this coming from? Why do you want to do it?" I kept going back to the society we live in. There was a huge kind of growth in health and wellness. And, you know, even diets were a big topic. Obesity was on the rise. And as I was getting into it he was like, "You don't want to be a dietitian. You're an investor. You're looking at an opportunity and you're seeing where the market's going. And you're saying this is the thing I should be jumping on because it's there was momentum around it. But you're not into this. You don't want to be a dietician. You want to jump on the momentum and the speed of it." And I mean, I look back now and at the time I remember thinking, "Oh, you're so wrong. This is fo course what I want to do." {laughter} And I think about how wise he was to notice that. And it hit me as well after kind of hammering me on this topic of don't go study dietetics, why don't you get into business? Study business. Study marketing. Study accounting. And I guarantee at the end of it, if you still love the momentum and where dietetics is going, you'll find your way into that world. But please just go in and study business.

Lee: [00:06:30] And so did you?

Laura: [00:06:32] I did. I did. Yeah. Actually I got accepted to go to the University of Edinburgh to study dietetics. Bags were packed. I had full intentions in going, and then I did get into just study general business in Dublin. And I listened to my dad's wise advice and I took that direction instead.

Lee: [00:06:55] All right, and so what happened from there? You took your dad's advice and what happened?

Laura: [00:07:00] I realized he was right. I do. I love the adrenaline of learning, kind of the skill set of what it takes to be able to get something off the ground and then knowing that you have the confidence, because obviously what comes with confidence is having the skills and ability to do so, to say, you know, I could take on any industry, jump into it and I know I could be successful. And so my dad, after college, tried to get me to come back to the family business. And again, it wasn't like construction clothing became any sexier and still it still wasn't about appealing for me to jump into, so I decided to jump into tech. It was on the rise. And I moved out to California, where I first found myself at Google. And I mean, what an amazing first start to be able to join a company like Google. And it teaches you the ins and outs of all things operations, product, growth... Truly one of the best starts.

Lee: [00:08:06] That's a big jump. I mean, you moved from Ireland to California. I think it was San Francisco. Right? For Google. I mean, what inspired you to say I want to be in the States?

Laura: [00:08:16] The weather was the first thing. {laughter} Desperate to get out of the gray skies of Dublin.

Lee: [00:08:24] Did you visit California before?

Laura: [00:08:27] No, I had never been to California before. It was definitely, I mean, the concept of, you know, being in California and what all outsiders know of California, I mean, truly a dream.

Lee: [00:08:39] Right. Were you disappointed when you arrived? {laughter}

Laura: [00:08:42] I mean, no. The adrenaline for what I knew of California, I mean, it hung on for such a long time. The first thing I did was took all my savings and I bought myself... When I think back now... I bought myself a Mustang convertible, Mustang McLaren.

Lee: [00:08:59] So American.

Laura: [00:09:00] It was. I just decided I was going all in on this American thing.

Lee: [00:09:04] Yeah.

Laura: [00:09:05] Well, I'll never forget the drive down the 101 and just even just the concept of it. It was so novel at the time, top down on the car and then just realizing, you know, you can't take a girl out of Ireland. I was burning. I mean, I was being fractalized every few miles. Did not enjoy the top being down.

Lee: [00:09:27] Right. Getting a little sunburned.

Laura: [00:09:31] Exactly. Acclimating to the California life took a little bit longer.

Lee: [00:09:34] Yeah. It's a lot of sun. It is a lot of sun out here. You got to wear SPF like every day.

Laura: [00:09:41] It's true.

Lee: [00:09:42] Yeah. So you worked at Google. I know that you also worked at Airbnb following that. How did you jump from Google to Airbnb?

Laura: [00:09:51] And it was a beautiful accident, actually. I was doing some work travel for Google. And one of the trips I just couldn't find a hotel in New York. I really struggled. Someone turned to me and they said, "Well, why don't you just book an air bed and breakfast? I was like, "What the hell is this?" Going on the website, it's like I'm able to book an apartment in New York City with two bedrooms at the same price as a hotel, if not cheaper. I mean, it blew my mind, and it was an immediate reaction. I think kind of just even the Irish hospitality and me, I just to see this idea in action, it it was so compelling. So I went to New York. I even called my friends in Dublin. I said, look, you should come meet me here. I'm going to be working for the week, but I have a spare room in my apartment. You could stay here, too, And they couldn't believe it either. So they flew over. We spent the week together and at the end of the week on this work trip, I was there for Google, I said, "I'm going to work for this company. I need to apply. I need to figure out how I can get involved. They are really onto something." And I did reach out to the Founders and found myself at Airbnb a few weeks later.

Lee: [00:11:08] So how did you pitch yourself to the Founders? You reached out to them via email and then you're like, "Hey, I'm interested in working for you?" I mean, how many employees did they have at the time?

Laura: [00:11:17] They I mean, yeah they had less than one hundred. They were still trying to figure out their own kind of growth moments. I mean, at the time I felt like I was joining very late [00:11:29]. But only becoming an entrepreneur myself now, have I realized that the currency to join a startup is really energy. It's passion. [00:11:37]

Lee: [00:11:38] Yeah.

Laura: [00:11:38]  [00:11:38]It's your connection to what's being built. [00:11:40] And I feel that now when I receive LinkedIn emails from people who write the longest love letters around all of the reasons why they need to work at the company, that currency is so much greater than anything else.

Lee: [00:11:52] Right.

Laura: [00:11:52] And I knew, you know, coming in as an ops leader put me anywhere. What do  you need?

Lee: [00:12:01] Yeah.

Laura: [00:12:01] My passion for what they were building was so much greater than than any specific job. And even when they said, yes, we'll take you anywhere you want, you know, what's the role? And we couldn't really figure out, like what was the title I turned to hand in my resignation at Google. And I remember saying it to my boss at Google. And he was all, he was just scratching his head. He was like, "So you don't really know what you're going to do? You don't really have a title?" He just couldn't quite grasp what it was I was seeing and I had to question myself as well at the time, but obviously you got to make leaps and that one was. It was a good risk.

Lee: [00:12:41] It sounds like for anybody listening who might want to work at Bobbie that they should contact you and try to confess their love for the brand to get hired. It sounds like a great in.

Laura: [00:12:53] {laughter} That's exactly it. I will just plug that as much as possible because, yeah, you can't beat it. If someone else is going to bed tonight dreaming about this company, they own it, love it and will build it as good as I will.

Lee: [00:13:06] Yes. And put in the extra work necessary.

Laura: [00:13:10] One hundred percent. You just can't beat it.

Lee: [00:13:11] Yeah, that's awesome. So you were at Airbnb for a little over five years. What was your experience like working there and what are some of the takeaways you have from that experience that has helped you in being a Founder?

Laura: [00:13:25] The experience is not like anything else I think I will ever experience in life. One, from a personal standpoint, I made friendships and got an understanding of culture in a way that would probably take decades in any other setting. You know, we were hiring people at such a fast growth rate and again, everyone became family. And on a personal side, I grew and built friendships that will last for life. On the professional side, it was again a fast growth professional experience. And the biggest learning was you have to roll with the punches. The company was not the same as it was the week before, the month before, you know, obviously it started to slow, but every week was different. And you either are on board with that change and you're able to run with it and roll with it and do it with a smile on your face or you're not. And in which case you're not set up to be able to be part of a startup. [00:14:28] And it was during this I realized I love fast growth companies. I love being in the middle of it. I loved not sleeping. I loved dreaming about the company 24/7. I loved being on call at random hours because that kind of adrenaline to be building something that wasn't just a massive revenue driver, but it was a culture changer is so impactful. [00:14:55] And I knew it, I knew it at the time that this was special and it really was. So to now be in a position where you're trying to replicate that type of experience is, you know, hopefully maybe we can do it again.

Lee: [00:15:10] What are some of the things you're doing to try to replicate that experience or build that type of culture?

Laura: [00:15:16] Hiring is probably one of the biggest. It was one of the biggest learnings at Airbnb, that the talent and the people you bring on board are everything, absolutely everything. The balance of certain personalities, how people work together. It's not just bringing on people who know exactly how to get the job done. You are building a family. And how does that family all engage with each other so everyone's moving forward, everyone wants to be there for as long as possible? It's a really important learning. As fast as we are growing, it's more important that we bring the right people on board and we have to keep checking in on ourself that you don't just hire for the sake of hiring.

Lee: [00:15:59] Right. And how do you balance these personalities? I mean, it's you know, especially as you grow, you get more and more employees. How are you kind of making sure that there's enough balance there and that they stay engaged? What are some of the tips you have for people that are trying to build culture?

Laura: [00:16:15] Within the recruiting process, having someone who's really dedicated to measure someone's values. At Airbnb we had a group called the Core Values Team. So, you know, you had everyone interviewing for skill sets and then you met with someone who was purely interviewing you for culture. Really important that someone's going in with that lens and that lens alone.

Lee: [00:16:41] So after Airbnb, I know that you're a board member for TaskRabbit, Eat Real. How did you stumble upon the idea for Bobbie? What was that aha moment?

Laura: [00:16:53] It's so funny when people ask what's your background, you know, how does this make sense? And obviously you just heard my background. There is no connection to creating powdered milk and working at Airbnb. Zero. And I had my first daughter while I was at Airbnb. I was the Director of Hospitality at the time. Obviously, we just spoke about this. I loved my job, loved my career, everything about it. I went into having Mary, and I just assumed that breastfeeding would be easy, beautiful, all of that, you know, beauty that you see in the movies and on Instagram. Breastfeeding was just going to be easy. Irish Catholic woman. Of course, I'm going to be able to do this. And I felt lied to by the world. That feeling when you realize that your body is not able to nourish this child, that you've just grown, it's just heartbreaking.

Lee: [00:17:54] Mm hmm.

Laura: [00:17:54] And it was in that moment I was on maternity leave. I was five days into having her, and I was there with a lactation consultant who was trying to educate me on God knows what, you know.

Lee: [00:18:08] They all have something different to say, by the way, like, I don't know how many you saw, but I saw like three. And it's like they all have something different. I don't understand why there's always different opinions on everything.

Laura: [00:18:21] Take your multiple hands you have available and just squeeze your boobs in these directions and then hold your child in this direction. I'm like, this is nuts. There's nothing easy about this at all.

Lee: [00:18:33] There's nothing natural about it. It feels like there's not. Like I think a lot of women, including myself, you think, oh, this is more of like nature. The baby is going to latch on. It's going to just happen. And then you're like, wait a minute, this is like a whole schooling. I have to now, like, understand what is happening right now. Why is this not as easy as I feel like it should be?

Laura: [00:18:52] And Lee, it's exactly what you're saying that really took me back, which [00:18:56] was a [00:18:56] And to be in a moment where I mean, my entire life is about planning. That's how I operate. I'm sitting there going, who the hell lied to me? How did nobody sit me down and tell me this is going to be the worst nightmare you've ever had.

Lee: [00:19:27] And the most time consuming thing you could possibly do, which is like every two hours around the clock, morning, day, night throughout for weeks. It's like who has time for that?

Laura: [00:19:38] Thirty five hours a week. You were breastfeeding a child. Yeah, it's a full time job.

Lee: [00:19:44] Yeah. It's like a 24/7 job. Yeah, it's insane.

Laura: [00:19:48] And oh God. I mean, just like and then at the same time you want to act like, you know, you got this mom, women are amazing. This is natural and you're putting a smile in your face and powering through the pain.

Lee: [00:19:59] Right. Everyone's like, "Yeah, it hurt for me too, but I powered through." And it's like, oh, we're giving awards for like who can tolerate the most pain. I just don't plan to be a hero in that department. Thanks. You know...

Laura: [00:20:12] Here, here. It's I mean, you are having this dialog here. I like I mean, my daughter's five years old now. I feel like five years ago I couldn't have that conversation. The idea of complaining about breastfeeding, the idea of openly talking about having to turn to another solution was unheard of. I mean, you shouldn't because that means you're not doing what's best for your child.

Lee: [00:20:35] Yes. Oh, my gosh. The amount of shame on not breastfeeding, it just sounds like, "You don't want to breastfeed? Are you sure you don't want to breastfeed?" You're like, what is is it really that big of a deal? And you know more than I do. You've probably done a ton more research and science on this. Is breastfeeding that much better?

Laura: [00:20:52] No, absolutely not. I could not say that with more confidence.

Lee: [00:20:56] Because you imagine all the other stuff we're eating. And even just from a diet alone, if you're not eating super, super healthy, I mean, is it really that good? You know, and I want to hear your take. Why? Why is it really not what it's cracked up to be?

Laura: [00:21:12] So, I mean, look, breast milk is the most dynamic personal food in the world, I mean, truly, it is magic. It is. When you truly think about it, we are developing food in our body for another human to grow, thrive, and live. It is incredible that science allows this to happen and we should be in awe of that. We should celebrate that and those that it's easy for, absolutely, you should be doing that. And even if it's not easy and you're putting in the work and you really want to do it, and you can get the supply, you know, go for it. You should be able to do what works for you. But the reality is it doesn't work for everyone. And it's not just because maybe it takes too much time. It's because we live in a world where modern parenting looks so much different. Like 40 years ago, we did not have the same rate of surrogacies, adoption, gay couples having babies, double mastectomies, and women having kids older. They're on medication. I mean, the laundry list goes on for all of the reasons why breastfeeding may not be the best option. And for us to be in a position where we're going, oh, but breast milk is best just not for those. That's not it. That's what a good narrative. It's not a good narrative at all.

Lee: [00:22:37] Right. I mean, there's so much to talk about the immunity that your kid gets from breast milk and it just seems a little hyper kind of like glamorized breast milk being this magic formula, which I understand it can be, but I don't think it always is. What's the real science behind breast milk?

Laura: [00:22:59] The real science? When addressing it goes back to what I was saying, which is it's personal and dynamic. So what you get from is the immunity in the vitamins and minerals that come from breast milk, build an immune system for that baby. Those are mimicked in formula. So formula has exactly the same nutritional makeup as breast milk. Exactly the same, the same carbs, proteins and fats, so that your baby is still getting all of the nutritional value that one would get from breast milk. There's nuances that come with the baby's system and a mom's system that creates some of the personalization in the breast milk that can make it a better match. But that does not mean that it's the same for everyone, and it does not mean that it's better for everyone. I mean, you just highlighted it. If your diet's a certain way, if your own immune system is bad, if your own environment doesn't support it, then actually maybe it isn't better off and it's not giving the immune system that your child needs.

Lee: [00:24:04] Yeah. Yeah, what are some of the things? Bad diet, like toxic environment and toxic creams, things that you're putting on your skin... Like it's a whole slew of stuff. I mean, we live in a very toxic world. I mean, from our house, to the furniture, the cleaning products, to the beauty products, the makeup products, the hair, the everything, the food that's full of pesticides, to the water that's contaminated. I mean, it's like a whole laundry list of shit. I know I'm a really healthy person and I don't even know what could be passing through me that would be great.

Laura: [00:24:44] All of those things. And it's all of those things. I mean, you you often hear there are there traces of X, Y and Z found in breast milk. So if you are in any way consuming chemicals, whether it's from physical products or you're actually consuming them, then you better believe the traces of those could show up in your breast milk.

Lee: [00:25:07] Right. Yeah. So you went five days, which is way longer than me. I think I tried breastfeeding for like two days and I was like, I'm good, I'm good. Let's get that formula in here. So what was that experience like when you're trying to breastfeed, you're going through these challenges and what what else happened kind of through the journey that developed the idea for Bobbie?

Laura: [00:25:30] So once I realized that my body was failing me and my daughter, not being able to feed her, I had to obviously you're in survival mode.

Lee: [00:25:40] And by failing just real quick, by failing, you mean it was hurting too much?

Laura: [00:25:45] So actually a great question. No, I got mastitis. So it was a journey that started from pain, which is my daughter couldn't latch very well, and that latch led to a bad bite. That bite led to a lot of blistering. And I mean, it essentially led to an infection. And infection is called mastitis. Very, very common, which is the other thing that I wasn't aware of at the time. I felt like I was the only one in the world who had this infection.

Lee: [00:26:17] Of course.

Laura: [00:26:18] Bleeding nipples. And, you know, all of these things like this is crazy. I have more blood coming out than I do milk. Like, why is this normal? And it was the mastitis and the blocking that I wasn't able to keep powering through. The milk was being blocked, and I couldn't get it out. And I had a fabulous lactation consultant who I mean, first off, the idea that we call people a lactation consultant is one problem as well, which is, you know, it makes you believe there's only support to help you lactate.

Lee: [00:26:52] Which is true, isn't it? Because there isn't much support about how to help you stop breastfeeding. That's for sure. I mean, honestly. Where is the lactation stop consultant? You know, like, really. Where are they?

Laura: [00:27:05] I've joked about this before, which is I bet if you, we need to look into this. More people who are probably searching on Google like how to stop making breast milk, how to stop breastfeeding, more so than the conversation we're hearing on the outside. It's done quietly, privately, usually at two a.m. on their phone, trying to figure out how do I stop breastfeeding.

Lee: [00:27:33] Honestly, I saw maybe three consultants at the hospital, decided not for me, cold turkey... Don't do cold turkey, especially on day two, when day three is when your milk comes plowing through. So like it's like revving up an engine and then slamming on the brakes. And it is not fun, but no one told me. There was no one who could tell me what to expect if you decide to quit cold turkey breast feeding, which is insane that no one could tell me, not even a doula knew how to stop breastfeeding. I mean, it's insane. There needs to be like a formula consultant here that can help you get off one train and onto the next, because like you said, it's a shit show.

Laura: [00:28:19] I mean, you know, it kind of it goes back to you're saying there should be a formula consultant. There should really we should just package all this all together and call them a feeding consultant.

Lee: [00:28:30] {laughter} And there we go.

Laura: [00:28:31] I need someone to holistically help me no matter what my goals are. Maybe I do have goals to recover from mastitis and then go back to breastfeeding and then do some supplementing and then change over when I go back to work. But like, it's they call it a journey for a reason. Like it's not like, oh, chapter one, chapter two chapter. And they all look the same. Everyone, it's all entirely different.

Lee: [00:28:54] Yeah.

Laura: [00:28:54] And obviously what I've come to learn during this research phase is 83 percent of parents will turn to formula at some point in that first year. So the silent majority, are turning to formula.

Lee: [00:29:12] Silent majority. I like how you said silent because it is so hard to speak up about this. And I'm pretty I feel like strong just based on my experience. And I hopefully am not offending too much, too many people listening. But I do feel very strongly that this is like we've created a culture against formula feeding. And I look at myself, my husband, a lot of people in my life that are formula fed, they turned out just fine. I have a very strong immune system, like I just don't understand where this pressure is coming from and why.

Laura: [00:29:44] Oh, I mean, that's another podcast.

Lee: [00:29:48] We don't have to dive into it. We can stay on product, but it's the silent majority. That's 83 percent there. So where do you go? You know, you're like, ok, this isn't for me anymore. I mean, I like I said, I'm shipping product from Germany. We're using German formula. It's got better standards than the US. So I'm sure you maybe had a similar journey when you decided, ok, let's go to formula. What did you do from there?

Laura: [00:30:15] Yeah. So I run into a pharmacy at like a silly hour at night needing to find something to feed her. And I'm in the pharmacy and it like hit me. Why am I buying food between diapers and baby bottles, you know, in the middle aisle of a pharmacy? Like not only do I feel guilty not being able to sit there and lounge on a couch and pull out my boob, I'm now stuck in a pharmacy. And even worse, I had to ring the shame bell. You know, the shame bell is like, hey, you know, can you come unlock this product and let me in?

Lee: [00:30:51] {laughter} I need food for my child, please.

Laura: [00:30:53] I need to feed my child. And you can feel the judgment. It's like it reminded me, you know, rewind ten months earlier when I was buying a pregnancy test. Why do I feel so bad? Why do I want the bag not to be transparent? And that guilt, the shame, the embarrassment. And to be fair, most of it is internal. You know, it wasn't as if I had all these voices saying, "Don't formula feed," or "It's not good." It was something about society that had made me believe personally and inside that I was doing second best for my child.

Lee: [00:31:29] Yes.

Laura: [00:31:31] That guilt played on me for the next year. Even when I returned to work at that I just found myself in my spare time researching the formula marketplace, how to manufacture infant formula. Why is it... This is the big question, why is it that the same formula in the US that we ourselves would have had as kids? Now I was on something different in Ireland, but the same products over the last 40 years are the same ones that we're feeding our own children. That seems nuts.

Lee: [00:32:02] Right.

Laura: [00:32:03] What industry hasn't changed in 40 years, especially in the CPG space, especially in food? Organic and infant formula to me was one of the remaining industries, the remaining products that we have not seen any change on in the guts of 40 years. So what were moms doing? They were doing exactly what you do, which is turning to an illegal black market to buy their babies powdered milk. They just weren't proud of US formulas.

Lee: [00:32:38] Right. Yes. Because you look at the labels of these US formulas, you're like what is wrong with people? Why is that in there?

Laura: [00:32:49] Yeah. Like corn syrup.

Lee: [00:32:49] Why are the standards for the US so low that we as Americans have to buy from another country? That's insane.

Laura: [00:32:57] It is insane. We're all going to look back when we're all wiser and go, "Did people really pack suitcases full of milk?" This is the 21st century.

Lee: [00:33:09] There's not even English on the label. Thank God I have a German husband. He can read the formula box, but I swear to God otherwise you can't read it. It's in German.

Laura: [00:33:17] If Google translate knew that their biggest claim to fame would be translation European...

Lee: [00:33:22] Formula boxes. {laughter}

Laura: [00:33:25] Yeah. It was crazy. And, you know, [00:33:28] I think that's part of an entrepreneurial journey, which is you spot opportunities by seeing the ridiculousness of why certain things are the way they are.  [00:33:37]When you start questioning this is odd. Like someone needs to call this out. This is a really unusual position to be in that we are turning to in a legal system to feed our baby. So, I mean, it was that to me that was more validation.

Lee: [00:33:53] And it's illegal, just to clarify, because it's a European product that doesn't have the ability to sell? Like why can't they just sell it in the US? Why?

Laura: [00:34:02] {laughter} Good question. OK, so. Imagine the spectrum that the FDA operates on. One end of the spectrum, they are responsible for allowing drugs onto the marketplace.. Massive safety requirements for any new drugs. They're curing people. On the other end of the spectrum is food to nourish people. Food often isn't the sole nutrition for anyone. You're consuming food with many other things, so the regulation for food and is not as high as on the other spectrum where drugs is. Infant formula is right in the middle, it's not considered a food and it's not considered a straight up drug. But infant formula is, however, the sole nutrition for a child, the most vulnerable audience that exists. So in many ways, you need to have heavy regulation. If we didn't have regulation on infant formula, who knows what would be on the marketplace? And actually far scarier. So, you know, I keep saying, you kind of have to nurture the tension in this industry because there's a reason for everything being the way it is. But you can also look at it with the lens and say, but we could be doing better. Of course we could be doing better. However, regulation exists and that regulation is you need to meet a certain nutritional profile. But it's also how you manufacture it. The quality, the safety, the testing, the security of the supply chain. There's so much more that goes into it to make sure that the product that gets into the hands of those parents is safe. Now, in another country or another continent, obviously they're making a world class product. I mean, we look at it, the nutritional values that come from the European formula, they're fabulous and parents are flocking to it. But as a country, we don't know what those manufacturing standards are. Where in the supply chain did it go to get into your hands? That system has not been an approved set up. It's not monitored. So there is a level of risk.

Lee: [00:36:17] Yeah, it's weird that it's illegal because if I can just go to, like Organic Start dot com and buy, you know, European formulas online, it feels like it's not illegal. Like are they going to get in trouble? Am I going to get in trouble? Like, how does this work if it's available online to just purchase, like at the normal website? You know, just it doesn't feel like it's illegal in any way.

Laura: [00:36:40] I know, I know, and I mean, look, that's why it's called a black market, because the market continues and there's many other products out there in the world that kind of fall into this category, too. And I'm also, I think, like one of the biggest positions I've put myself into being a CEO of an infant formula company is it's not my position to point fingers at one type of an industry that works or doesn't work. To be honest, even the large infant formula companies here in the US. I mean, they have hundreds of scientists on their team that have put decades of work into developing amazing products that we see today. And again, while there is opportunity to improve, there is reason why everyone is approaching it the way they're approaching it. And the other reason as well, that I kind of put myself in the position of saying, like, we shouldn't be pointing fingers at what might be considered good or bad is unlike a granola bar, if someone said to you, "Oh, you ate that granola bar, that's not good for you," you'd be like, "Ok, whatever. I won't eat another one." No big deal. It doesn't really bother you. You could have a brand tell you that other brand isn't good. And you're like, ok, that brand has highlighted reasons I shouldn't have this product. In the world of infant formula, if Bobbie, if I came out and started speaking badly about another infant formula, another brand, I am essentially pointing a finger to a mother's choice. And sometimes it might have been their only choice, their only option. And it's such a sensitive product, extraordinarily sensitive. The last thing you want to feel is, wow, the product, the brand that I have fed my child, who maybe is now six years of age, is apparently bad. That leaves a massive amount of guilt. So there's something about this industry. I think if we, I personally believe this, which is we have to level up and get outside of the product side of it, and it's by changing the culture, changing the conversation. We need to be open about the fact that overall we all need to be doing better. And if you turn to formula at whatever point, for whatever brand, for whatever price, your child still has an opportunity to go to Harvard, too. It's not about pointing fingers at people's choices. It's about giving them more choices,

Lee: [00:39:11] But hopefully also not confusing them, because I think when there's so many choices and we're not really, there's so much misinformation in this country especially, it's really hard to figure out what to choose.

Laura: [00:39:25] Here, here. We agree.

Lee: [00:39:25] You know, you have so many different points of view. So many different people believe different things. I mean, what is the source of truth?

Laura: [00:39:31] Bobbie.

Lee: [00:39:34] {laughter} And we'll end there. No, I'm just kidding. {laughter}.

Laura: [00:39:36] I had to plug.

Lee: [00:39:37] Yeah. Yeah, so you guys have... Bobbie has only been in market for six months. That's pretty incredible. Well, talk to me about it. First off, you had four years of product development, so maybe we can talk a little bit about those four years of going through FDA approval regulation. And this is a highly, like you said, regulated industry. What was that like going through that for years?

Laura: [00:40:03] Well, a So that was a big wake up call. I'm coming in, you know, where there's a few moms and we're working in a basement and we raised a little bit of money. But the other competitors in the market are large pharma companies. They've been doing this for decades. And that kind of trust building that's required now to get to a place where you can be on the market is almost like a fee in time and approvals that sit there. Entering the world of infant formula because it is so heavily regulated means that you have to get it manufactured in a particular place in a particular way. And we realized very early on that it's going to cost us a fortune to get to market and it's going to take a few years to get FDA approval.

Lee: [00:41:07] So did you know this early on? When did you realize this?

Laura: [00:41:09] Of course I didn't. I started the company when I was two weeks pregnant with my second child. And I turned to my husband and I was like, "Ok, look, we'll use this pregnancy as a ticker. I will move some personal money into this account, and I will totally be able to sell from this and get this off the ground." Very, very naive. I have a product on the market in nine months and it will only cost so much. About first trimester goes down, I was like, "Yeah that's not going to work." Enough research went into like I need to raise a lot of money and it's going to take multiple years. This is not just going to be done when this child comes out. And actually, in fact, I ended up having another child after that, even before FDA approval. So second and third child during this research phase or development phase. And once I realized that self funding this wasn't going to be an option, it was turning to venture capital. How are we going to raise the money to get to a place where we can put this on the market? And early on, again, you're going in, you're pitching a load of VCs on a concept that you have zero background in. There's never been kind of a new player entering the market. There's no one out there that really looks like Bobbie, and I was eight months pregnant, and I won't say the exact number of how many people I pitched. But it was a lot of people.

Lee: [00:42:41] Yeah.

Laura: [00:42:42] And there is definitely a point of like, ok, if I don't close this round, it's not going to happen. I'm about to have this baby. I need the money. We need to be able to advance forward. And yeah, two weeks before Colin arrived, I closed two and a half million dollars from several VCs. And, you know, the ones who came in, they got it. They saw the industry, they saw the opportunity, and they were all in. And, you know, so and I look back now, I'm so grateful for those early believers...

Lee: [00:43:14] Yeah.

Laura: [00:43:15] ...who wrote those first checks.

Lee: [00:43:16] What metrics did you have that early because if you're pre product? I mean, what were you telling, what were you selling? I mean, obviously you're selling them the dream, but what did you have traction wise to get VC investors?

Laura: [00:43:30] They're buying into you, I think is the first thing. And people will keep saying that to me. There's no way. I mean, like, you know, I have to give them something tangible. They have to be able to see it. But at the same time, you can't just whip up infant formula, you know, go to a farmer's market, get some metrics like it doesn't work in this industry. It's not going to happen. And after multiple pitches, it did [00:43:51]. It continued to hit me that they are buying into my passion, my confidence, my ability to execute. What I had was, very fortunately, a decade of experience in the tech world and fast growing companies to be able to point to to show that I did have a track record of getting shit done.  [00:44:11]

Lee: [00:44:11] Yeah.

Laura: [00:44:12] Having those referrals. I don't think when you're in the moment of growing your career and in these companies, do you often pause and go, "The work that I'm doing today, the relationships I'm building today, how I'm getting shit done is going to pay off one day." You don't know that in the in the moment. But it did. And I didn't have much. I walked into those pitches with a vision and a spreadsheet, which was this is the recipe, and that was it.

Lee: [00:44:40] I like that you said investors invest in your confidence because there's a difference. They're investing in you, but they're definitely investing and looking for a very high confidence level. And it's interesting because confidence is kind of like, what does that really mean? What does that really look like? And it can come from experience. But really, the way you speak about the product, the way your vision and all these things, it really develops this picture of confidence of like, do I want to back this person? Do I think they can pull this off? Do I believe that they can push through walls to make this happen? And that's really hard to convey sometimes for a lot of Founders, even if they have an amazing idea and a huge opportunity that lies ahead of them.

Laura: [00:45:22] Absolutely right, and sometimes you're meeting people where you only have a very short window to get to know them, and it's you're right, it's hard to see the tenacity and the grit, which is why sometimes it's your decade before that that will play a role in someone being able to turn. I mean, obviously, I don't think there was one investor who invested, there wasn't any investor who invested that didn't call someone up from my past. So every move you make in life plays into that. And then I was able to speak to my past with a massive amount of confidence. In those moments, too, I think you're also in a position where people will want to see you in the middle of a debate. Why have you made this decision? Why do you think going to market this way is the right approach? How do you think you're going to acquire customers at a low price if the traditional companies are doing it this way? It's not about saying yes to whatever their ideas are. It's like, what is that healthy debate that truly shows you know what you're talking about?

Lee: [00:46:26] Mm hmm. Yeah. And so you also raised on Republic, you closed your Series A, which is 15 million, two months ago. Can you talk about your experience and any advice you have for Founders that are thinking of raising on a platform like Republic? I know that you had like over two hundred moms invest, and that's amazing. So what was it like fundraising on a crowdfunding type platform?

Laura: [00:46:51] Oh, I'm so excited we did it. It was first off, we didn't have any issues raising VC money. We were very fortunate. We saw fabulous growth and very clear product market fit. We weren't reinventing the wheel. We're putting out a product people wanted and needed. It was pandemic proof. This was a product that was growing. So we were able to raise money. And I think the biggest reality check that we had in speaking to traditional VCs was why is it that the people who are creating value for our business, which were parents, our customers, especially moms, were not the ones that were returning that value because as we were growing our business, they weren't investors. So it was a pretty clear I mean, yeah, it was a pretty clear reason to say, let's create this new vehicle on a crowdfunding platform and let's allow moms, our customers, to invest in the business. And you ask the question like, what was it like? Was it easy or how was it to set up? It wasn't easy. It's not easy to raise large sums of money in a crowdfunding way. And, you know, there's a lot of disclosures and it takes a lot of legal work, a lot of investor alignment. You have to manage a lot of relationships, a lot of questions that come through. So I think the reality for me was in going through this process like I get it now. I get why people just turned like two investors and that's all they raise from. And that makes sense. It's a much easier, cleaner process, but it doesn't reinvent your business. It doesn't you know, how you build a company is almost more important than what it is you're building. And I mean, the fact that we get to go to bed tonight knowing that we have two hundred new investors who are parents most likely using our product today is such a dream. They're walking ambassadors for the company in a way that no other raise would be able to accomplish.

Lee: [00:48:59] Yeah, and from a product perspective, I just keep going back to this hip Germany formula that I've been using with my kid. I'm wondering, what is the clear difference in your product, in the Bobbie product? I know it's inspired by breast milk, but you know what else about what is in Bobbie is so great?

Laura: [00:49:21] So first off, I mean, it has to mirror breast milk in the same way that every other infant formula does, but it's not just about the macro nutritionals, it's about the ingredients that you choose to put in, and it's about the nuances of the recipe that we believe are kind of get to the optimal results. So with Bobbie, we did two things. We said, first, how can we develop a product that could mirror and like inspired by EU nutritional standards, which are different? You know, there's a minimum and a maximum requirement of that of each ingredient, each nutritional requirement that you see in infant formula. We designed ours to mirror nutritional standards. There's not one US formula that would be able to pass the bar in Europe for meeting Eu nutritional standards, except Bobbie. On the ingredient side, we chose ingredients that we would feel proud of, like leaving out palm oil, one of the leading indicators to constipation. You know, one of the only signs you have is, you know, does this product work for my baby, is you can tell, when they're uncomfortable. And usually it's got to do with constipation. So by leaving out palm oil it has made baby stools better. And I'm going to be very grotesque for a moment and say that we have received so many love letters from parents about their babies poop. It's like the only validation we ever like. Oh, it works. That's great. Their babies are pooping better. They're happy as parents because their babies are happy. And we use pasture raised dairy, organic milk. I mean, ultimately, this product is milk. You should be sourcing the best milk. So we went out and we worked with an amazing supplier, Organic Valley, and their cows graze on grass 40 percent more than traditional organic. So it's again, it's the nuances. It's the details of the ingredients and the recipe that ultimately make it better.

Lee: [00:51:32] That's awesome. I can't wait to dive in more of the product because I think it's super interesting, but tell us about how you went to market. What was your go to market strategy?

Laura: [00:51:45] So I led community at Airbnb and it was a very fortunate experience because I realized that for certain brands, it's not your marketing team driving it, it's the people, it's your customers. And for us, there was no more powerful group of people than moms. And it hit us very early on that the biggest driver of our success is going to be the word of mouth. It's going to be the social proof. It's going to be that crazy researcher, mom friend who says to her other mom friend, "Hey, by the way, I spent seven hours researching infant formula and you should go with this one." I mean, that's ultimately how we all make decisions, right? You contact your friend, they give you a spreadsheet, you just follow the spreadsheet.

Lee: [00:52:30] And I've never seen anything like it in my life after being a mom. I mean, honestly, it's like it's a cult. It's like, oh, my God. All of a sudden there's all these groups, all these people. They're like friends that you don't really talk to before, but, oh, you have a kid question or baby something. And they're like responding right away. It's insane. It's like they're like, yes, motherhood is kind of a cult. And I feel like everybody talks. It's in anything can spread like wildfire.

Laura: [00:53:01] Wildfire. It makes you feel like not only is it a cult, But it makes it it makes the world feel smaller with your mom because you just realize how quickly something can spread. And it is. It took off, and we knew it took off because [00:53:14] we were very, very, very intentional about spending the two years prior to launching building community. And often products and companies will say, well you can't do that until you have a product on the market. And for us, it wasn't just about the product, it was about shaking the stigma, having the conversation. We would invite moms to these behind the scenes working sessions every week. We would have these hour long sessions with moms just talking about removing the stigma, not feeling guilty. What are you looking for in a product? And building these beautiful ambassadors and I mean, change makers. They were the ones driving many of the decisions and the ideas and the approaches. And then when we went to market, we had hundreds of moms who were dying to share that we had just launched. And while today it does not seem like it was that many people for a brand to just like come out the gate and have hundreds of people say, "Hey, this company exists, but I also got to have a seat at the table. I also got to meet with the Founders. I told them these ideas. I played a role in the development." Hundreds of them is, I believe, kind of the secret sauce of what allowed the business to take off. [00:54:33]

Lee: [00:54:34] That's really interesting. So you were taking feedback from a ton of moms kind of on the way towards preparing to launch to kind of get them to be ambassadors essentially.

Laura: [00:54:45] For about two years. And I mean, everything from content development, like what is the education you want to see? Feedback around like articles like how to supplement, how to go back to work, how to tell my mother in law I don't want to breastfeed. And, you know, when you're a small business and you only have so many people in the company, you don't just rely on that one content writer you have or the one doula you are working with as an advisor. You have to turn to who are the people that are in it today, all day, every day. And it's the moms who are in it. And to have them come to the table and be able to share very openly, it meant that they were playing a role in building this company.

Lee: [00:55:27] So tell us about one of the most challenging moments you've had in building the business and how did you overcome it?

Laura: [00:55:35] {laughter} I'm laughing because it's a moment that would probably be the death of the company. It should have been the death of a company. And I still count my blessings every day that we recovered from it. So it's been many years to get to market with the FDA approved product, but throughout that journey and it was about a year and a half in, we decided to pilot one product onto the market, an early product, to start seeing where people how they would gravitate towards it. But because we didn't yet have the FDA green light, we were marketing it as like not the sole nutrition for an infant. Essentially like to a toddler. You have to be very careful about how you market the product. I thought we were very clever. I thought this was genius. You know, we get to get a sense of if people like it, at least we can get it out in the market. You know, you hear from investors all the time. All the time. You know, you need some early traction.

Lee: [00:56:35] Right.

Laura: [00:56:36] You need to have early traction. There's certain like playbooks for figuring out if this works. And it's like, you know, how are you going to get that early traction before you go to market? How are you going to get an early pulse? I just look back now and I think how wrong. We didn't have to do this. So we took a product to market and the FDA showed up at our warehouse 10 days into launching. And they shut us down. They asked us to do a recall of our product, and I say recall slowly and multiple times here because when it happened, I couldn't say it at all. It is a word that could stop a company from ever being in existence again. Especially in the food space and especially in the baby food space. You have a recall, that could be it.

Lee: [00:57:30] Yeah.

Laura: [00:57:31] We had a recall because of a labeling issue, a marketing issue. But I'll never forget how early on that happened and thinking we may never recover from this. And instead, what we ended up doing was and we weren't defiant, we weren't playing the martyr. We handled the recall quickly and with grace. And then we immediately got back on the saddle and we were open about it. We told our story. It was mis marketing. We shouldn't have put that product on the market. And we immediately started marching towards getting the FDA green light. And [00:58:10] I think about what kind of that moment did for us as a business, not just kind of the education of how to be able to handle a recall, but it was an education of the industry that we are about to walk into. We are walking into an industry that is heavily regulated with massive companies watching your every move.  [00:58:32]There's no... The word that we use here all the time, like disruption.

Lee: [00:58:37] Go and break things.

Laura: [00:58:39] You can't do that.

Lee: [00:58:39] Yeah. It's like this whole tech dude culture of like, oh, go and break things and beg for forgiveness later, and like it just doesn't apply to every industry.

Laura: [00:58:51] One hundred percent, especially not in this industry and disruption in infant formula is like do you want to be very, very, very carefully. It goes back to some of the safety requirements. That is like number one. So piloting a product, even though it was a great product, you have to follow the rules and it's very, very important. And it was a huge challenge. It was a big wake up call, a massive learning. I believe we are the smallest company now in this category or in the food space that has ever had a recall and recovered from it in the country. So, yeah, you know, you got to tell the story. You got to own your history. And we now refer to it as part of our heroine journey.

Lee: [00:59:34] Well, wow, you guys survived it. So and it sounds like transparency is key to kind of recovering from something like that, especially with your customers, which sounds like you're very transparent about what happened and why, and just quickly went back to bat. So being a Founder obviously involves an incredible amount of persistence. You've really got to work hard every day. What's a routine, activity, or thought process that helps you stay on track and positive every day?

Laura: [01:00:03] So I do this thing every day, which it's my personal and professional check-in. And personal and professional check-in is as simple as it's a spreadsheet with every day. You put your date down and I rate myself on how I'm feeling personally and professionally on a scale of one to five. And it's almost like a cleansing at the end of the day. And usually it happens around the routine of me just about to get into bed. I brush my teeth, I get in bed. You always kind of scan your phone for a second , and I pull up my spreadsheet, and I rate myself, like, just take a second and I check in and like personally, today was a four. Professionally. today was a two. And it's like a closure for the day because sometimes and oftentimes when you're building a company as early as you are, it can be a professional roller coaster. I mean, absolute roller coaster. I would leave days after speaking with the Founder of a major company who finally took my 20th email begging to talk. And I would leave after having a 15 minute conversation on such a high I mean, such a high. And it was the energy and boost I needed to be able to, like, get up and do this again the next day. And then the next day I had some issue in the company that cost us twenty thousand dollars. And now I had to go like report this to the board. And it was like oh crap like how do I find myself here? And the next day you have another high. And it's that roller coaster of emotions is sometimes hard to see those highs or see those lows when you're in it. So usually the end of a month I like to kind of nerd out and chart where I'm at and you get to see how much of a roller coaster it is. And what I have noticed in charting this now over the last three years is the personal side usually has a bit more consistency to it. The professional side can truly be like a five one day and one the next. Five. One. On the personal side, I could have like a week where I'm just a solid two. Next week, a solid five. Anyway. That has become my routine and it's a really nice way to cleanse at the end of the day.

Lee: [01:02:21] That's interesting. I feel like if I did that, I might be just up all night thinking about why the day was a two and how I would change it the next day to be a five or six. You know, it might keep me up my head spinning, but I also am a light sleeper and kind of don't sleep very well anyway. So that's... But what's the biggest thing you've learned about becoming a leader and CEO?

Laura: [01:02:42] All about your people. And it feels cliche in many ways to say that because I feel like I was always told that myself and. I'll take you to the next level by saying [01:02:55] the people that you find that are completely irreplaceable for you, you give them the world because they are worth the world. There's nothing that can be done. Your entire company goes around because of the people that you hire and how you recognize them, reward them, support them. And there are hands down people that give me the sweats at night if I thought about losing them. I think the idea of some of these people walking out is some of my worst nightmares because they truly are founders, owners, developers of this business more than myself. They are incredible. [01:03:35]

Lee: [01:03:36] That's awesome. Yeah, I mean, because everybody talks about team, team, team, culture, culture, but yeah, to really kind of put it that way, it's just comes across different. I think it's like it is how it should be that you have a team that you're so connected to, passionate about and has done so well. It's hard to find good talent.

Laura: [01:03:58] It's really hard to find the talent. And early on, there's a tipping point if you get it wrong. And it can be very hard to recover from it and making sure when you know you've nailed it, it's the most magical thing, but if you find you're in a position, someone said this to me recently, if you find you're in a team meeting, and you're sitting in that meeting and you're looking at a few of these hires, you're going, why are they here? Whether it's they're lacking passion or their skill set. You've got to correct this. You got to correct it quickly and to correct it, like going back to your recruiting process, thinking about the talent that you're bringing on, putting more time and attention into it. It's a hard thing to say that you could have people in your company that are not the right fit, but you're not doing this just to please everyone. You have to, you are building a machine and that machine is run by people who contribute their passion and their talent. And you have to build that machine. [01:05:00] As a CEO, your job is to build the machine that runs, and every component of that machine, its people. [01:05:07] And it is such a wake up call when you realize that it's these individuals that are running it. It's not the infrastructure or the back end that you're building. It is 100 percent the people.

Lee: [01:05:21] And what do you think that tipping point is? I agree. I think there's like a lot of Founders, it's just so easy to kind of keep people instead of fire them. Firing them is no fun for anyone. So, you know, the Founders tend to hold on to the wrong people and keep them in the wrong seats for too long. What is this tipping point that you're talking about? Is it five employees? Is it like, you know what do you mean by that tipping point?

Laura: [01:05:48] I think at ten employees, you need to be able to check in and you need to be able to question do we have the solid foundation to quickly be scaling on top of this? Are these first ten people setting the culture, the tone, the work ethic, and also checking in on like lack of toxicity and gossiping. And you have to make sure that those first ten are going to set the stage for the next twenty, the next forty, and the doubling that happens after that. It starts with these first ten. You mentioned something that's another topic I feel strongly about is having to change a culture on, which is this concept of firing. Feels like a dirty word. It feels like talking about politics or money. It's like people don't want to talk about it. And I think we have to rebrand it as well. In many ways it's not saying that like you were doing a bad job. We need you to leave. It's that for any point of a company at a certain phase and it's there's a certain culture, not everyone fits the mold. There's a lot of pieces to make sure that that one individual fits in at this time of the business.

Lee: [01:07:01] Yeah.

Laura: [01:07:02] And yeah, we just need to be open about folks that aren't the right fit. It's not about firing. It's a question of bit.

Lee: [01:07:09] I agree with that completely. And I also think that there needs to be, you know, an off boarding process in place. And I think that early stage companies don't think about what that process should look like. And I think it's really important because otherwise you risk burning bridges, you risk not giving that person the confidence needed for their next gig or whatever it is. Like you said, a lot of times, it's not because the person did anything wrong. It's they're just not a good fit for that next phase of growth, which is understandable from both sides. But communicating that and allowing there to be some sort of off boarding process in place, so that they both know what to expect instead of an "Ok you're done today," which know which can happen with Founders who have never managed people before, which is very common.

Laura: [01:08:08] That's right. [01:08:08] How you support the exit of an individual in the business will say everything about your leadership. [01:08:13]

Lee: [01:08:14]  [01:08:14]Yes.

Laura: [01:08:15]  [01:08:15]And you want that person to be able to walk away, still being able to look back at your business, look back at you as a leader with high regard. And you also don't want to be in a position where you feel uncomfortable and you're not equipped to be able to off board successfully because then you just don't do it. And that is then what begins the process of the long journey of bringing on the wrong talent and unfortunately, hindering your long term business. And we all it's definitely part of running a company that we are, as I think is a culture we don't talk about enough. [01:08:51]

Lee: [01:08:52] I agree. I couldn't agree more. We are running out of time. Unfortunately. I've been having such a blast in this conversation. But I want to hear what is next for Bobbie?

Laura: [01:09:03] What is next for Bobbie? Well, I'd love to say we're going to be developing all of these new products, but we don't want to. We want to nail infant formula. We have put out a world class product and now we just need to get it into the hands of as many people as possible. And honestly, shifting our focus to spending more time changing the culture and conversation around what it means to feed your child. In five years, I want to look back and be able to see a completely different culture on how we feed our babies. If we do that, I think we've done our job.

Lee: [01:09:39] That's awesome. And in terms of final advice you have for aspiring entrepreneurs or, you know, business operators tuning in, what other advice do you have?

Laura: [01:09:49] I'll underscore something I said earlier, which is every move you make plays into your future. And I am so grateful for my history and my past and my experience, but it's also about how I engaged in those relationships and those learnings. Just remember, your history plays in, and you got to own your mistakes. You got to wear them proudly. You got to recover. But there's no such thing as I'm just starting from scratch.

Lee: [01:10:24] Yeah. Well, Laura, thank you so much for your time and sharing your inspiring story. Really appreciate you being on the show today.

Laura: [01:10:31] Absolutely. And congrats on your little one.

Lee: [01:10:34] Thank you very much.

Laura: [01:10:36] Thanks, Lee.

Lee: [01:10:39] Thank you so much for listening to the Stairway to CEO podcast. Once again, I'm your host, Lee Greene, and if you have any burning business questions, please feel free to reach us at StairwaytoCEO.com. We'd love to hear from you. And if you like what you hear, be sure to subscribe to the show, tell your friends, leave us a review, and follow us on Instagram @StairwaytoCEO. Until next time, guys, keep on climbing.

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