Wouldn’t you love the idea of never having to cart around personal hygiene products to work, ever again? Enter The Lieu. It is a subscription box service dedicated to bringing everything that today’s female hopes their workplace restroom would have. Rebecca Lima is co-founder and CEO of The Lieu, and she is this week’s featured founder.
Wouldn’t you love the idea of never having to cart around personal hygiene products to work, ever again? Enter The Lieu. It is a subscription box service dedicated to bringing everything that today’s female hopes their workplace restroom would have. Rebecca Lima is co-founder and CEO of The Lieu, and she is this week’s featured founder.
The Lieu delivers beauty, grooming, and personal hygiene products to offices everywhere to improve the workplace environment for their female workers. Rebecca came up with this idea while she was working on her first startup. She was moving around New York City, from pitch presentation to pitch presentation, and often found herself in need of a little touchup before a meeting. It was not feasible to carry everything with her everywhere.
After talking to strangers on subways and sidewalks, she realized the need for personal hygiene and beauty products in workplace environments was something many women wanted and needed. While that might be the origin of The Lieu, Rebecca’s entrepreneurial roots began with private jets. Her journey then continued as an engineer in the oil and gas industry, and now she sells feminine health products. It sounds more glamourous than it is, but isn’t that also true of entrepreneurship? Here is Rebecca Lima’s startup story.
“You need to be able to get hit in the face THOUSANDS of times in order to endure entrepreneurship.” – Rebecca Lima, The Lieu
Resources from this episode
The Startup Story LIVE Dallas! May 7th in Dallas. Tickets on sale now → https://startupstorylive.com
Fuse Workspace: http://workatfuse.com
Vinetta Project: https://www.vinettaproject.com/
The Lieu: https://www.thelieu.com/
Rebecca Lima on Linkedin: https://www.linkedin.com/in/rebeccablima/
You can become part of The Lieu story, visit https://republic.co/the-lieu to learn more.
The Startup Story on LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/company/thestartupstory
The Startup Story is now on YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/jamesmckinney
The Startup Story on Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/thestartupstory
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Special Guest: Rebecca Lima.
The Startup Story -Rebecca Lima
Rebecca Lima: Hi. This is Rebecca Lima, CEO and cofounder of The Lieu, and this is MY startup story.
Every wildfire began with a spark. Every superhero has an origin story. And every single startup has a moment that they point to as their beginning. And every founder has a purpose that drove them in the midst of all obstacles. THAT is The Startup Story.
James McKinney: Welcome to another episode of The Startup Story. Before we jump into this week's episode, I have to ask. Have you purchased your tickets to Startup Story Live yet? If not, you'll want to get over to startupstorylive.com and get your tickets now. You will definitely want to hurry because in just three weeks, the early bird opportunity ends and what's the early bird opportunity you ask? Well, if you buy your ticket to Startup Story Live at any level, VIP or general admission, if you buy your ticket you can then purchase a three day pass to Sub Summit for just $100. Let me break down this down for you. Sub Summit is the premier event for all things related to the subscription industry. Did you hear the news about Nissan Cars now offering a subscription model for their business? The subscription industry is going to be massive and Sub Summit is the event to learn everything there is to know on how to bring this business model to your business.
So if you were to visit subsummit.com and buy your pass right now, it would cost you $500 but don't do that. Instead, go to startupstorylive.com, grab a ticket for only $150 for general admission or $225 for a VIP ticket, and if you do this before April 1st you can buy the $500 pass to Sub Summit for just $100. So for those that are bad with math, like myself, it's got to be a comma in it for me to be good at it, you can buy a $150 ticket to our event and get a three day pass to Sub Summit for only $100, so you'd be getting access to two unbelievable entrepreneurial events for just $250 which is half the price of the Sub Summit pass right now. It's a no brainer. Visit startupstorylive.com to get your ticket before it's too late. Act right now.
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Dang, hold on. I said lastly earlier but really I've got one more, I promise, and then we'll get to our show. I almost forgot. I want to say thank you to the team at Fuse Workspace for allowing me to use their podcast studio to record this episode. So checkout workatfuse.com to learn more about their various locations. They have one that's north of Dallas, and soon to be in Houston and Austin. All right, done with the intro. Now let's jump into this week's episode.
Our guest this week is Rebecca Lima, cofounder and CEO of The Lieu. The Lieu is a subscription box dedicated to bringing everything that today's female hopes for in their workplace restroom. The Lieu delivers beauty, grooming and personal hygiene products to offices every where to improve the workplace environment for their female workers. Rebecca came up with this idea while she was working on her first startup. She was hustling from meeting to meeting in New York, from pitch presentation to pitch presentation, and always found herself in need of a little touch up or refreshing before the meeting, but it just wouldn't be feasible to carry everything with her everywhere she went. Then, the need she had for herself sent her on a journey to determine if this was common for many women or just for her. Well, after talking to strangers on subways and sidewalks, she realized this was a need for many, many women. That became the origin of The Lieu. And while that might be the origin of The Lieu, Rebecca's entrepreneurial origins actually began with private jets, and I promise it sounds more glamorous than it really is, but isn't that also true of entrepreneurship?
Rebecca Lima: Entrepreneurship has been a part of my life since I was born. My dad sells private jets, which is really strange.
James McKinney: that's awesome.
Rebecca Lima: Yeah, but basically both of my parents are immigrants from Brazil, so I'm first generation American and I lived half of my life in Brazil and half my life here. So not only did my dad sell private jets for a living, but he also flew airplanes and aviation is a part of our blood too. It's crazy because when I was little, first of all I idolize my dad. I love him. He, to me, he can do no wrong in my eyes, and my dad, we would be at Disney World and he's on a call talking phone calls. I'm like that's what I want to do. I want to be on phone calls at Disney World because that means he's important, people want to talk to him. So yeah, from the very beginning I fell in love with entrepreneurship. The inconsistency kind of got us for a long time because it's feast or famine with private jets.
James McKinney: Oh yeah.
Rebecca Lima: People don't need them, but they need them. And during major recessions and things like that, my dad has hit the wall many times, and there were days, months we were just eating rice and beans, and then there were months that we would go out to like Chuck's Steakhouse or something, and just have a ball of a life. But that inconsistency almost set the tone for my life, because now I'm going through it as an entrepreneur. It doesn't matter what industry you're in, it's that rollercoaster ride. So looking at my childhood now, I'm just like yeah, I was made for this, you know?
James McKinney: But it's interesting, right? What years were you in the states? When did you come to the states?
Rebecca Lima: I'm first generation American, so I was born in the states but at a very, very early age like I think my second or third… I was speaking Portuguese, by the way, until I went to school because hello, I didn't have any other reference. Both my parents spoke Portuguese in the household. So my mom would tell me that, because we have home videos and stuff, they're like, "It was so funny because one second you'd be speaking English and the next minute you'll be speaking Portuguese." Yeah, that's how I grew up. But I remember going to Brazil for the first time at two, and then since then it was just back and forth, back and forth. Secondly, I thought flying private was like normal. I thought that's what everyone did, because that's all I knew. That sounds very spoiled. I'm not a spoiled person.
James McKinney: A little bit bougie.
Rebecca Lima: Yeah, a little bit bougie, you know, but like… that was my life, and it was so weird. The first time I got on a commercial flight I was like, "Dad, what is happening?"
James McKinney: you're like this is disappointing.
Rebecca Lima: Who are all these people? I was like who are all these people and why are they going to the same place as us? So it was crazy. And life in Brazil, my entire extended family still lives in Brazil so it's us here in the states, and then them in Brazil. What's really interesting is the road from the airport to where my aunts live in Rio is all favela, which means it's all the ghetto, right? So when I was a kid I was like heartbroken because you would see kids running in the streets, barefoot, hitting a soccer ball, and I'm like I just flew in a private jet here. From an early age, I just realized my parents gave me the opportunity to grow up and to be born in a country with opportunities, and that's what my dad and my mom really set the tone really early on in our lives that you're blessed and we're going to bless you, but don't take this opportunity for granted because look at your cousins, look at your aunts, your uncles. It's not that it's a bad way of life, it's just a different way of life. It's a slower pace of life. It puts a lot of things into perspective for you as a kid growing up.
James McKinney: No, I think the immigrant story is a unique one because we've had a few first generation American born, or they were the first ones to move here to the states. I think there is a perspective that comes from the immigrant founder story because success isn't expected. It's not this inherent right that we often have, we believe when we're born here because we see it, we're surrounded by this narrative of do whatever you want, the sky is the limit. When really, when you're first here or you're first born here or your family are immigrants here it's about work ethic. It's about you've got to hustle, break your back. You've got to just keep going, going, going. Yes, there's opportunity but it's on you.
Rebecca Lima: Exactly, and that's what my dad taught me growing up. He never took a vacation, and when he was on vacation he was on his phone like I said. For me growing up, that's like I idolized that for some reason, like that's how business is supposed to be done.
James McKinney: So did you think you wanted to follow? Now I know you said it was attractive to you, but if I'm dating things correctly, you saw the impact of 2008.
Rebecca Lima: 100%, yeah.
James McKinney: And that was still appealing to you? For those listeners that are like 2008, what happened? The worst recession. September 29, 2008 the worst recession ever, and it was devastating. I lost everything. And so for you, seeing your dad traverse that, entrepreneurship was still appealing to you or you were like you know what maybe I want something a little bit more stable?
Rebecca Lima: Well, it's really interesting because I went to school for mechanical engineering. So my background is robotics. I was a nerd in high school. I did first robotics and I led the team and all that stuff. So in 2007 and 2008, I was already in college. I'm working this recession unfold and my dad, I think the only real saving grace is that my dad sells to international clients. And of course, everyone is going through the recession but there's still some rich guy living in Columbia that my dad is selling an airplane to.
James McKinney: I like the pause of "guy" and then you say Columbia, and me and all my listeners are filling in the blank. Wink, wink, we gotcha.
Rebecca Lima: Yeah, yeah. So thankfully my dad, his whole business is international. So a lot of his clients, they come from all over the world. I call him the godfather of private aviation because my dad's been doing this for 40 something years.
James McKinney: Wow, wow.
Rebecca Lima: He can look at an airplane in the sky and know exactly what year it was made, maybe even the tag number of the aircraft. It's crazy to me. So my dad built his reputation on just doing really good business and having international clients. So when the recession hit, of course it hit home for us. I was in college, that was my college tuition going down the drain, it was tough. But at the end of the day, it's like I knew entrepreneurship was a part of my story. I just felt that my dad stressed this to us a lot, he said, "I want you to go to college and I want you to get a degree, because I didn't get a degree." So for us, that was key. That was the first thing we should do. Then after that, he's like, "Go get a job and see how you like it. If you like it, then stay. If you don't, you can go on to something else." But he always said get a couple years under your belt, have that experience, and then see what you want to do because it is really hard. We're going through another hard time in his business right now, and so he's buckling in and stuff like that. It's cyclical. We're going through the motions and stuff like that. He just instilled in me at a very young age to have grit, be that resilient, tough Brazilian, and take as many experiences as I can under my belt. So that's what I'm doing in life.
James McKinney: Those are amazing lessons. Again, part of that immigrant story in itself is the experience side of it. So much of the American born narrative isn't surrounded by experience the world, vacation, travel, do the things. It is very much within the boundaries of the US, work hard, maybe go to college. That's becoming less of a narrative, but it was for a very long time like you have to go to college. So it's interesting to have that perspective. Coming to the end of high school, we know that you go to college, but what did you want to do at the end of high school?
Rebecca Lima: it was funny because I was a part of the robotics club. I'm a nerd at more core, and I legit want… I think my dream life scenario would be the female Tony Stark. That's what I want. I want to build a robotic suit and I want to fly, and I want to have all of those things. So when I was in high school, I was a part of the robotics club for four years. I loved building robots, but at the same time going into college I was like well do I really want to do mechanical engineering? What is mechanical engineering? I just know I like to work with my hands and I love robots. So I interviewed with this bougie school called Embry Riddle Aeronautical University.
James McKinney: That is a big deal school, for those that aren't aware. That is a big deal school.
Rebecca Lima: They call it the Harvard of the skies. If you are catching my drift, I'm doing air quotes. The only reason why my dad was like you're definitely going to that school… I got accepted, and he's like you're going there, and I was like, "Well, what if I want to do PR or something else?" I don't know. I got accepted to UCF and a bunch of other Florida state schools and stuff like that. I don't know. There was like a draw for me for engineering, so I decided I was going to go to Embry Riddle. I said well I'm going to get as many scholarships as I can, but you know you're going to have to pay for this, because I could have gone to state school for like practically free, and so he's like, "No, I want you to go to aviation school. That will turn everything full circle," and so I went. I went to Daytona Beach, good old Daytona, and that's where I spent five years.
James McKinney: What was your plan though? Most people going to a school like that, they're going to Harvard, they're going to Stanford, the higher echelon schools they go in with a plan. They know what it is they want to do. Randy Zuckerberg, a past guest, she went into Harvard and was surrounded by people who knew what they wanted to do. She wasn't one of them. What did you want to do?
Rebecca Lima: I knew that I had a passion for robotics so when I found out that Embry Riddle had a robotics program or an engineering program, I knew that's what I wanted to do. So I spent all my years focused on mechanical engineering. I ended up graduating with a robotics degree in mechanical engineering. Yeah, it was crazy because Pam if you're listening to this, Pam was my first year advisor but she ended up being like my second mom because this lady I swear it's the only reason why I graduated college in the first place, because I was a train wreck. I did good in school and stuff like that, but when it came to engineering I don't know if it was imposter syndrome or something like that, but I just… I'll give you an example. My school was one girl, at the time, one girl to every eight guys. So I'm maybe one or two of the only females in the class at the time, and I'm sitting there like no one wants to work on projects with me, am I stupid, what am I doing here.
James McKinney: That's because they don't know how to talk to girls.
Rebecca Lima: Yeah, and I found that out in my later years of school. But it was so crazy because I look back on my degree and I'm like dang, I have a mechanical engineering degree, that's not to be taken lightly, you know?
James McKinney: When you finished and you got your degree, what were you thinking your next step was going to be? Because you're east coast, you love robotics. I think everyone has seen those viral videos from I think it's Boston Robotics with the dog. They're doing some amazing things in robotics on the east coast. So you're kind of in a prime position, but that wasn't your next step.
Rebecca Lima: No, it was funny because there were a few different factors. I do have Brazilian citizenship and I desperately wanted to work for Raytheon or Boeing or Lockheed, and I actually had interviews and all my friends had gotten in and stuff like that. But a lot of them require security clearances, like top security clearances and what not. I have Brazilian citizenship. I'm like I'm not giving up my citizenship because I may be working for this company for two years, that's my identity. I'm sorry, I love the US but I'm not letting the government takeaway my ability to have my citizenship. It was funny because I applied to oil and gas companies and I was like let's try that, I like working with my hands. Schlumberger, which is an oil and gas service company, came to do-
James McKinney: That's how you say it?
Rebecca Lima: Yeah, that's how you say it.
James McKinney: I lived down the street from the facility and for my whole life I thought it was "Shlumburger."
Rebecca Lima: Yeah. I mean a lot of people call it "Shlumburger" but it's I think a French and German company, so Schlumberger.
James McKinney: I had no idea. Learn something every day.
Rebecca Lima: Yeah, trust me it's something you want to know. But yeah, they did a tour on our campus or something like that, and I did the interview. I flopped the interview so I thought, and then they called me back and they're like, "Do you want to come for a group interview in Texas?" I was like all right, sure, I need a job after college or my dad's going to lose his mind. So I go to the group interview and after the two day interview, I get the job. I don't know if anyone else is familiar with this, especially Schlumberger or some of the other oil and gas services companies, it's almost like military. You can pick what you want to do from all of their different services, but at the end of the day they pick for you. So I had gotten my top three, and I was like okay all of these are in the middle of nowhere, I don't want to move to Oklahoma, I don't want to go to Alaska or Canada or something like that, I want to go to California. So I picked Garden Grove, California. That's the closest I'm going to get to a beach and I'm going to be super happy about it. And I ended up getting my first choice. I did all the trainings in Texas and then Oklahoma, and then I get shipped off to Garden Grove, California.
First of all, if anyone's from California, it's a huge place especially Orange County and like LA and stuff like that. You know when you're moving to a new place you're like oh, that's the only place I can live." I thought I had to live in Garden Grove and work in Garden Grove and all that stuff. But it was crazy. I lived in a hotel for three months until I was like deemed appropriate after all my trainings to work there.
James McKinney: What was your job there?
Rebecca Lima: So I worked on ESPs. They're called electric submersible pumps. So basically on the down hole side, if you've ever seen those jack pumps that go up and down, those old… so we basically worked on the pumps that would do that but at higher speeds, and would produce more oil. They were all underground. I was a field engineer. I thought I was the coolest thing on planet earth. I got my coveralls, my hardhat, my steel toed boots. I was like I'm a working girl now. And it's so funny because I look back on it now like I used to work in some dangerous situations. But as a 21 or 22 year old kid, I didn't know what I was getting myself into. I had literally thought this was the best thing ever.
James McKinney: So you went from Embry Riddle that you said was one girl for every eight guys, so obviously heavily male dominated. What was that industry like at Schlumberger?
Rebecca Lima: That's so funny. This is like the entirety of my life. I basically worked with all men. I worked with fifty year olds in the field that have seen literally everything. The electricians would take me under their belt, because they're like, "Little girl, you need to know how this runs around here." It was so crazy because I remember I think it was like five months into the job, and I always have to go on the job with another crew member. It was always a duded obviously, and they were a field tech. So I was an engineer and they were the field tech and we would go to these either offshore or onshore rigs and we would work the whole day, sometimes have to stay the night if the job didn't get done. But I was literally surrounded by dudes 24/7. It was crazy.
There was one day in particular, it was five months in or something like that, one of my tech guys that was with me, we were working on a job super, super late and the rig hand, one of the roughnecks was getting antsy, and he was hitting on me the whole day. I was like dude, stop, it's not happening, it's not going to happen, whatever. So we're splicing this like cable at the end of the night. We're trying to get everything connected so that we can get the heck out of there. He's like, "Girl, can I get your number? Girl," blah, blah, blah. I was like, "If you ask me for my number one more time, I'm going to take this 18 inch pipe wrench and shove it up your…" and he lost it. And I swung the pipe wrench around, and I was like, "I will deck you."
James McKinney: Oh wow.
Rebecca Lima: So leave me the hell alone, this is not going to happen. All of the guys are laughing, they're like look at this little girl. Then he said some choice words, I'm not going to repeat them. And it was crazy because the next day I get called into a meeting with my female boss, and she's like, "Hey Becca, I heard you sexually harassed one of the rough necks-
James McKinney: What?
Rebecca Lima: "… on the job yesterday." I was like, "What? What did this guy say to you? What did the crew say to you?" Yeah, they said something about the pipe wrench going up, something. I was like, "No, this is what you need to know. He basically came onto me the entire time, and I felt unsafe but I didn't want to stop the job," because stopping a job is detrimental to the business. People hate stopping jobs. "I did what I needed to do to put my foot down." She's like, "In these situations, you have to act like a lady and this is not what ladies do."
James McKinney: Oh my gosh…
Rebecca Lima: I was like, "We work in the oil and gas industry. This is ridiculous." I stormed out of her office and I was like this is so messed up. I go up to her manager and I was like, "Listen, you have to talk to this guy because this is ridiculous. I'm not going to get in trouble for sexual harassment because this guy was harassing me. I come to find out two weeks later he was fired. Then every single person, all the guys were like, "Don't mess with her. She'll get you fired." So it was crazy because after that situation, everyone respected me. It was crazy. Don't mess with Becca, she's the real deal, she's out here to work, she's not here to mess around and stuff. I don't know, the oil field is crazy. I could tell you five other stories.
James McKinney: Let me pause there because I want to keep that story fresh in the listener's mind, because from there you transition out of that and you end up in New York, and you have a startup. You launch Ment, correct
Rebecca Lima: Yeah.
James McKinney: For those that have listened to The Startup Story for some time, they've heard me say time and time again about how little representation there is in female founded companies within a venture portfolio. There's just not a lot, and I've had female founders on where they talk about some of the sexist comments that take place in pitching and what have you. There's something to be said that here we are in 2020 that this is still heavily relevant, and every single founder needs to be aware of it, and we need to be advocates for elevating the female founder story.
But this seems to be a thread in your life were you can find yourself being in the underrepresented area. Embry Riddle, the oil and gas industry, now startups. So let's talk about while that story of the rough neck is still fresh in our listeners mind. Let's jump to that next chapter of Ment when you're in this space. So how did, one again and just for the listeners, Ment is not her current venture. That ship has sailed but it is a chapter in her story so we want to cover it. What was Ment and how did you come up with it?
James McKinney: Before we continue on with Rebecca's incredible startup story, I want to say thank you to the team at Vinetta Project. The Vinetta Project helps female founders find capital for their startups. In fact, it was the team at the Vinetta Project that put Rebecca and I together for this episode. So if you are a female founder, make sure to visit venettaproject.com to learn more. And like always, we'll have a link in our show notes.
And lastly, at the top of the episode I mentioned a huge reason for you to hurry and visit startupstorylive.com to get your tickets to our first ever Startup Story Live event. Look, our founder lineup is pure fire as we're going to hear from Luke Fox of Fox Defense Technologies. Their drone threat defense systems are crazy and he's under 30 years old. We'll hear from Baron Davis, two time NBA all-star and serial investor entrepreneur. Jamie Schmidt is going to join us, the founder of Schmidt Naturals, who built and sold her business to Unilever in just seven years for hundreds of millions of dollars. It's going to be amazing.
But that isn't what I want to draw your attention to right now. What I want to highlight is the fact that we're going to be showcasing 15 to 20 startups at this event, and we want you to apply to be one of them. So if you are a startup and want to showcase your startup at the event, then visit startupstorylive.com. Just scroll down a little bit until you see Showcase Your Startup on the right hand side. Click that link, fill out the form, and submit. It's that easy. There's no fee to apply and if selected, there's no fee to showcase or attend the event. It's absolutely free. We want to showcase you. We want to highlight great startups, so make sure you apply and tell your other startup founder friends about this great opportunity to showcase. There's going to be 1,500 people. Your startup in front of these people, it's going to be amazing. Again, just visit startupstorylive.com to apply. All right, enough of the announcements. Now let's get back to our episode.
James McKinney: What was Ment and how did you come up with it?
Rebecca Lima: So Ment was an airport app to help travelers navigate the airport terminal in real time. Again, coming from the aviation space, I knew a lot about the inefficiencies of airports. I had a bunch of friends that worked in the industry because I went to an aeronautical school. To me, it would be like the obvious step to walk into. Oh, I'm going to start a startup in the aviation or the airport space, this is a space that I know, it's a space that I'm comfortable with. And yeah, it was weird because after oil and gas I moved back to Florida, and then in Florida had a stint working with my dad back in private aviation before I started Ment and then moved up to New York.
So moving to New York was an interesting step in my life because in oil and gas, and I'm going to correlate these two because I've talked about this many times. In oil and gas, men will say exactly what they want to say. They're like they'll call you all the names. They'll be like… I've literally heard every name under the sun. The C word, the B word, all of it, you know. I was like well at least they're being honest about it, that's how they really feel. This is a whole new beast that I'm still trying to navigate, because it's all of that subliminal stuff or that underhanded type of comments and things like that. Or the awkward touches and things like that.
James McKinney: In the startup scene you're talking about?
Rebecca Lima: Yeah, in the startup scene. That really messes me up. I think that's the thing that is worse, because I can literally say you need to shut the … up and go about my way, and that's respected in the oil and gas industry. In this industry on the other hand, that could be your company getting funded or not. And they wave that in your face a lot. So it's been a weird transition because my off the cuff reaction to a lot of these comments is like you need to shut the F up, and you need to do whatever, but now I have to gracefully tell them to maybe you shouldn't say that comment to me, I would appreciate it if we could take this meeting elsewhere, or if we can whatever it is.
James McKinney: Does it blow your mind? You're on your second startup now, and we'll get to that and some of the stories, but does it blow your mind with the amount of news that the Harvey Weinstein's and the head of Fox News, and the movie that came out, all the people that are finally getting nailed for this stuff. Does it blow your mind that this is still something that men out there find appropriate behavior?
Rebecca Lima: It's funny because it blows my mind, but at the same time it's like this is the world we're living in. I take the approach with every movement that we've seen come up in the last few years, my take on this and I'm not here to offend anyone, this is the cards that we were dealt. You need to play the game correctly. You need to play the game that you were put there for. It's the little changes, it's those little moves that you make in chess that actually help you win the game, right? It's not flipping the entire table over, it's not saying this is not fair. No, this is the way that society has run for thousands of years.
James McKinney: So when you think of the small moves, for those, let's talk about the female founders that are listening that can truly relate to what you're saying. Or even the males in my audience that maybe have said those things. If that is you, hit me up because we're going to have some chit chat, let me just say that right now. But for the females that are listening that have kind of been in your spot, they understand very clearly and personally what you're talking about, what are those little moves and how you win that game?
Rebecca Lima: There's a ton of things that you can do.
James McKinney: The reason I'm asking this question is that I know very clearly as a white male I am never going to have to deal with those things. And so there is an ignorance to it from that perspective to truly understand how can you navigate that without flipping the table over and hitting them with a pipe wrench, whatever the case may be. That's the case for every white male that is listening. How do you handle those small moves to win that game, to make change?
Rebecca Lima: There's a few things that I do that I don't put myself in situations that that needs to happen. I'm very protective of myself, just because I've seen this tape a thousand times. I've seen the replay. I'm very careful for how I set up meetings, for how I initiate the conversation, for how I even just set the precedent in the meeting. Oh my gosh, there was one time I remember I thought I was so cool when I did this. I didn't say a single thing before I started the meeting. I walk into the meeting room and I sit down, and I don't say a word, and I take off my watch and I set it on the table. That messed everyone up. The guy sitting on the other side, he was like what is she doing? Is she timing us? And it's not even to own the… Yes, we should own the room with our presence and things like that, but setting the precedent that my time is also valuable. The same meeting that we're sitting in, you're a person, I'm a person. Let's be real. Positions and stuff like that, to me I check that at the door. I'm talking to you as a person. I expect the same respect that I'm giving you, and I set that in my meetings. I set the tone for that in my meetings.
So there are certain tactics that I put in place. It's things like if someone ran 30 minutes late to a meeting and it's an hour long meeting, I go, "I have a hard stop at 1 o'clock. I have a hard stop in 30 minutes," or whatever it may be. It's so that they understand that you need to respect me as much as I'm respecting your time. And at the end of the day, I think that's all really what people want is for them to be taken seriously and stuff. So that's why lawyers use crazy jargons, and realtors think that they need to be there when they're making the sale. Those are the kind of things that I do, and I also speak to women a lot about body language and movement like that. I have a fiance. I don't take dinner meeting. I don't do that. I do coffee, daylight, in somewhere that is very public. I have respect for him and I want to set that tone for everyone else. I de-risk the situation for myself significantly when I make moves like that. Those are my chess moves. I'm not saying that they're right.
James McKinney: But they're smart and they're intentional, and I think that is… When I think of that phrase you use, these chess moves will change and win the game, they're very intentional and very smart, and I love that, and I hope that is something one that I can teach my daughter, two that our listeners, our female founders that are listening, maybe it's something that they can execute into their game. And for those men that are listening, again encourage our female founders, our sisters in entrepreneurship and help elevate that story.
Rebecca Lima: Yeah. You can't walk around with a pipe wrench in New York City or you're going to jail, so…
James McKinney: You want to talk about a power shift. You walk into a pitch and you just put an 18 inch pipe wrench on the desk.
Rebecca Lima: Just sitting there.
James McKinney: Say we're about to do work, everybody. Oh man, that would actually be pretty spectacular now that I'm thinking about it. But even just that watch move, that is so subtle. Again, it is a subtle power shift that distracts from anything else in the narrative. Just from a presentation perspective, a sales strategy, there's so much wisdom in that small subtle move. I love that. So with Ment, you're obviously I assume you're part of the pitch circuit when it comes to the startup. What was the timeline for Ment? Because that's not what we want to talk about for the rest of our time. We want to get to The Lieu. What was the timeline for Ment? You started it, you pitched, you raised some money, maybe you didn't. You had a successful exit, so walk us through from you moving to New York to the exit?
Rebecca Lima: So I moved to New York. I worked on the business for a little three years. So yeah, the three year mark. So we launched the company in JFK, LaGuardia, and Newark. We had gotten the opportunity to bid for Atlanta, Hartfield Airport. We were doing a lot of things. So this was a consumer facing app I should just preface that. So we kind of took the Waze model and we applied it to airports. So we were trying to gamify the whole experience of waiting in security, noting down that time, and we built an algorithm around that security wait time to help other travelers that were going to the airport have better times. And also we would reward people through different discounts in the airport, because you know how expensive it is to buy a bottle of water at the airport.
So with Ment, we're now, in 2020 and 2019, we're finally starting to see a more integrated travel experience. With everything. Google came out with Google Voice and now we have Alexa and different things. I started the company in 2015, yeah, so it's five years. So five years is a long and short time for things to happen. It's crazy how things change so rapidly today, but we were way too early for the market to really have impact, and l guess we built a consumer facing app which it should have been some consumer but also like an integration between different types of services around the travel and day of travel experience. But again, we were too early.
So we raised a little bit of money from friends and family. We were a part of one incubator and one accelerator. We were going out for bids for other airports and things like that, but i don't know what it was. I think it was because I wasn't flying personally anymore. It was something that at the time when I started the company, it was such a part of my life that I resonated so strongly, and then at the end of it I was so burnt out that I was like this is so not worth me doing this anymore. So we were approached by an airline to potentially sell the assets out of it, some of the assets of it. Things that were actually sellable. And we took the little bite out of it, and from there I still have a lot of the business.
I put it on the backburner. I don't foresee myself working on it anymore because I don't have the passion for it. But everything comes down to you're too early for the market. It's that whole founder story slash businesses that win. The market has to be primed, you have to have willing buyers. So all of that stuff and we had a few, and then I just lost steam. I asked my cofounder if she wanted to take it. She was like nah, I'm good.
James McKinney: One of the things that I love about the Ment story is it's one you don't hear a lot in entrepreneurship. The idea that just because you started this business doesn't mean that you're going to maintain passion and purpose forever. And yet you found the freedom. I don't know for you but for me, friends and family was the heaviest money I ever took because I cared so deeply about these people. I care about all the investors, but friends and family, that was some heavy money. So the idea of leaving the company or dissolving it… I guess you sold some assets so that maybe there was some recovery for friends and family.
Rebecca Lima: Still in the works.
James McKinney: Yeah. There's some boldness and self awareness that takes place in that. And you know what? The reality is it's 100% okay, but we just don't hear that a lot.
Rebecca Lima: Yeah. It's so funny that you say that because I was so depressed. I was so depressed after that whole thing went down.
James McKinney: Why?
Rebecca Lima: Because I felt like I…. it wasn't that I was letting myself down as that I was letting everyone else down that was like I'm in with Rebecca. We are with her, we stand with her, and all that stuff. And man, I'm letting a whole lot of people down. It took a lot out of me. And again, it's your first company. Your first company literally becomes your identity. You think that the world is going to end because the company ends and stuff like that. And I hear that from so many of my other friends, like I had to go on a hiatus, I didn't know what to do afterwards. I'm like no, you've got to pick yourself up and you've got to keep on moving. And now, I love failure. To me, I don't even consider it failure. It's just like that's life. Like hi.
People automatically in the world's eyes see it as a failure, and to me I'm like whatever, it's a learning curve that I learned and I took the good out of it into my new startup, and I took the bag, and I was like okay, Rebecca you need to focus on yourself and change the way that you think about yourself and your identity and who you are. You're not your company. Yes, this is your baby and you pour all your time, energy, money, resources, night's sleep, tears, all that stuff. But at the end of the day, you need to know who you are and it's not the company that defines you. It's sad because you see a lot of people not do well after that.
James McKinney: Some people just never recover. One of the things that's interesting is, and I wanted the listeners to catch this right, here we're talking to a founder who was able to exit her first startup selling assets and IP from the startup. So really it wasn't fully dissolving it for nothing, there was some recovery there. In the pitch space for your next venture, you had a successful exit. You sold to so and so. There's so many ways to wordsmith it and yet as you retell it, part of what you wrestled with was that I failed or I didn't fail. And so many people listening, I mean I had a mobile startup that I tried shopping the assets. When I knew I couldn't get anywhere with it, I tried shopping the technology and I could not get a buyer to bite at all. So I hear your story and think man, that's a huge win.
Rebecca Lima: Well it's funny because you say it like that and I'm like well, I literally all of those funds went directly back to paying off everything that I…
James McKinney: Yeah. Again, from a wordsmith perspective you had a successful exit.
Rebecca Lima: I know, I know. In my mind it's like never like that.
James McKinney: I know, I know. We wear it so heavily. So that said, that brings us to The Lieu. What was the time between the closing of Ment to the starting of The Lieu?
Rebecca Lima: You're going to think I'm nuts. I did all the paperwork in January for Ment. Yeah, January of 2018 and I incorporated The Lieu in February 2018, so I'm a psycho.
James McKinney: No way, I love it. I love it. So let's talk about The Lieu then. Before we even jump into The Lieu, explain to the listeners what The Lieu is.
Rebecca Lima: Yeah. So The Lieu is a B to B subscription service for offices. We deliver purpose driven grooming and hygiene products to support the needs of women in the workplace. So I like to say that we're like the Sephora for the office bathroom. All of the products that we have are haircare, body, skin, and fem care products so we really focus on the essentials of what a woman needs to get through her work day, and yeah that's what we do. It's so funny because from oil field engineer to selling products for women. It's just…
James McKinney: The journey is amazing. That's why I love unpacking it in a full episode because when you connect the dots so quickly, you're like holy smokes, how'd I even get here? So what was the catalyst for the idea of The Lieu?
Rebecca Lima: Living in New York is a logistical nightmare for women. We're just talking about me here. I'm used to Florida, I'm used to California. My car was my second home. It was my dumping ground. It was my closet. It was every single thing that I needed I would have on hand. Moving to New York and I live in Queens so a borough of New York, and I travel every day to Manhattan, I was like this is ridiculous. The viewers can't see me now, but I have short hair. At the time I had very, very long Brazilian, thick hair. So going to meetings was a logistical nightmare because if it rained I would have to bring my straightener. For me, I'm like I want to be very presentable. If I look good, I feel good. I'm going to crush it, right?
So I carry, I still carry to this day if you saw my backpack right now, lotions, deodorant, all that stuff. So I was like dang, there's not one place that I can go to, to like use the straightener or put in some dry shampoo before my next thing? I used to use, I still use Sephora and Ulta and all these beauty stores to go in, put dry shampoo in my hair, spray some perfume, and maybe blot my face and I walk out. And I saw so many women doing exactly the same thing. I was like okay, there's something here because I'm not the only person that's doing this. I'm not the only person that's mooching off of Sephora, mooching off of Ulta, and all these other counters to do this.
So I started talking to more women. I would see the woman on the train doing her makeup. I was like, "Why are you doing your makeup on the train?" I would literally talk to everyone. I talked to so many people. They're like why is this girl talking to me. In New York, no one talks to each other. Literally you could be dead on the subway, no one's even going to look twice. So a stranger walking up to you, asking you why you're doing your makeup on the train or fixing her hair or whatever, I was like there's a market here. Women want this.
So I started testing the idea. Got into WeWork Labs which is WeWork's incubator at the time. They allowed me to test this out in different WeWork spaces. It was interesting because I would setup shop essentially in the different locations around New York in conference rooms. I would just blast it out to women, like, "The Lieu is here. We have straighteners, lighted mirrors, hair products, skin products, come check us out." I kid you not, we would have hundreds of women in different locations just pouring in. it was cray. I took this girl from working to gala ready. She did everything, her hair, she like put on lotion. Even at the end of it she put on her dress. I was like, "Oh my God, I'm going to cry." It was amazing. And all I was doing was collecting feedback.
All I wanted to do from this was to collect feedback. Because the original idea for The Lieu was having small micro locations, 500 square feet, built out. Like vanities, changing rooms, the whole nine. I was like I don't have the capital for that, I just bombed my first company so that's not going to happen. I don't have credit anymore, no one's going to give me any loans. I'm fresh out of ideas, right? So I was like okay, let me scrounge a couple hundred books, buy a couple products, and see what people do. The feedback that we got from it was insane. Insane. I think to date, we've serviced over 13,000 women, something like that. It makes me so happy. Because when you find a market and it fits and it works, and your people are buying this, it's so cool. So we did all of these popups. We started doing events. We started getting paid for it. And then we got a couple suggestions. We got a lot of suggestions to make it a more permanent fixture n an office. I explored the idea. We went back and forth to the drawing board, like is it going to be a shared cabinet, like what is it going to be? How are we going to put these products in the bathroom without any supervision?
Went back and forth, back and forth, and we just realized we sold one into WeWork HQ, like just give it a try, see how you like it. I just need to see how long these products are going to last there. And what's crazy is the products lasted all month, and then the next month they're like okay, so we need to buy this because women are starting to come up to us and pitchfork us like you can't take this away from us. The girl, the community manager sent me the Slack feed of all the comments from The Lieu and I was like oh my gosh, they love it. They love the dry shampoo, they love the lotion, great. So we package it up. We got an acrylic display. We, oh my gosh my cofounder and I literally went to town on getting brands. We were like let's call every indeed brand that's out there. They're going to want to be a part of this. I think we have like 70 brand partners now, something crazy like that. We worked with legacy brands and indie brands. We have clients now like we still have WeWork and Rent the Runway. We have the female quotient as a partnership. We do all of their major events. We're going to be at South By. We did the NBA All Star Game lounge. And yeah, it's nuts.
James McKinney: So let's talk about the starting of it and the capitalization of it, and again just really kind of refine the business model a bit of the listeners. From a visual perspective, because my listeners are about 55 male, 45% female. So for the 55% that think we understand what this looks like because there's some high end restrooms we've been in where there's like mouth rinse and things like that. So The Lieu is a box in a female restroom that has a lot of the essentials. You're talking about blotting cloths and a straightener. I can't even imagine you have hardware, equipment, in this box which is amazing. And in my mind I'm thinking how is this not stole, but we can figure that out tool. You have this box that gets replenished I'm assuming monthly via subscription with whoever the business brand is. If I were to break this down this is much like a kit. Like Snack Nation.
Rebecca Lima: Yeah, ,so like Snack Nation but for grooming and hygiene products.
James McKinney: In the women's restroom, yeah, absolutely. So now for our listeners we can totally frame ourselves, this is where it's at. So that has potential to be a capital intensive business because you have to have inventory to fulfill boxes you sell. So how did you capitalize it? And this is February 2018 when you incorporated your business, so we're two years in, so did you boot strap it? Did you get to revenue and it's self-funding at this point? Or did you go through a raise at some point?
Rebecca Lima: All the things. So we strapped credit cards, love me some credit cards. Loans. And thankfully I got to rebuild my credit. That's another thing too. I just need to make a statement here. As a new founder or someone that's wanting to become a founder, grow a business, don't mess up your credit. Be very intentional with what you do with your credit, because if you're on startup number two, you don't have anywhere to pull from. You literally, and that's another thing too. Thanks Schlumberger for giving me I lived off of my savings for a long time, because I got that oil money and saved it up, and then I had stocks and all that stuff too. I feel like I knew that something was going to happen that I wasn't going to be there forever. It was a little bit boot strapped. We took on a loan and then we now have strategic investors.
So we had the opportunity to be a part of a property tech accelerator here in the city called MediProp VC. They are awesome. I highly recommend them if you are in the real estate space or property technology. They saw the vision in bathrooms like we did, and one of their associates believed in me and told that to the partners, and the partners were like, "I guess we're going to give her a shot." So yeah, they were amazing investors. Now, we've been raising on Republic which is an equity crowdfunding site. So for all my female founders out there and minority run founders, quietly crowd funding is it's like the up and coming thing. People were telling me, "Don't take that money, it's not worth it." I'm like yo, it runs itself and we're getting some traction on it, okay? So it's been great so far because it basically runs in the background, and I think we're almost up to $70,000 so we're almost 280% over subscribed or something like that in 50 days left or something.
James McKinney: That's awesome.
Rebecca Lima: And then again, it's like private money. Angel investors, micro VC's, all that stuff. But yeah inventory is something that we do not take lightly. Inventory can kill a business as fast as it's growing. We do a really good job about it. My business partner, Dominique, she's an angel sent from heaven I swear. She used to work for a bed in the box company based out of New York and she knows operations. She knows supply chains, she's like girl we're not going to be in debt, this is not how this is going to go, we're selling best sellers. So we do a really, really good job at identifying what those key products are that do really well in our boxes, and that's what we sell.
I was listening to Andy's story and I know Snack Nation, they have like all the snacks. They have all the snacks, they have all the fruit now, and they have all the coffee. So keeping all these products on hand is not what we're doing. We don't have a warehouse that has products up the wazoo and stuff like that. We sell our best seller box. We make the recommendation to companies and first of all, companies have no idea what women want in the bathrooms. So we're like we got you, boo. So yeah, we make recommendations and we did a lot of testing around what products do really well. So like I said dry shampoo, hair spray, lotions, we have deodorant wipes, we have feminine care wipes, we have tampons. And so it's all the products that women actually need in the workplace and yeah, we provide it for them.
James McKinney: When you think about your business though, and I ask this question having had a B to B business model in a mobile startup, having talked to Andy from Snack Nation, B to B in this space is challenging. How do you see navigating the challenge of B to B in this space?
Rebecca Lima: Let's call a spade a spade. Its been super challenging, right? We have such a unique offering and it's an untapped market. First of all, no one's doing bathrooms. No shade on Snack Nation, a lot of people are doing catering and snacks and things like that, so these are things that in his category, HR teams understand food, understand snacks, drinks, all that stuff. We have something that they're like, "Well, i don't know what to put in the bathroom." So their interest is piqued so we get them there in that sense. But it has been challenging. Something that we're playing off of the times here, right? Let's be real. We're living in the tightest labor market since the 1960s. Employment rates especially with women are the lowest they've ever been. It's already challenging enough to retain top talent.
And so how we position ourselves is we're cost effective, plug and play solution that has an immediate impact on the workplace. I tell people, "Just try us out. Just put it in your bathroom and see how you do." Literally, not even two weeks later they're like, "Okay, we're going to have to sign up now because we can't take this away from people." Yes, B to B is very challenging and you have to work on people's timelines and stuff like that, especially because it's seasonal. No one's going to buy at the end of the year. It's all those things. We've got to work with people's existing budgets. Thankfully we can work in different types of buckets or categories, so we work with HR teams, we work with facilities teams. So we can kind of fit into any corporate structure in that sense.
James McKinney: As our time comes to an end, there's a couple questions that I ask every founder.
Rebecca Lima: Okay great.
James McKinney: The first one is, especially with your journey I'm anxious to hear what you think about this, can anybody be an entrepreneur?
Rebecca Lima: Yes.
James McKinney: Why do you think that?
Rebecca Lima: You have to have that grit. I feel like grit is probably the key to entrepreneurship. You need to be able to get hit in the face thousands of times. I box, so for me it's like you take a hit and you're like I want more, you know?
James McKinney: You think anyone can do that?
Rebecca Lima: Anyone that has the grit and tenacity to do it can do it, yes.
James McKinney: Okay. All right. Next question, when you look back across your entire life and all the steps and all the people that have poured into you at various stages and chapters, who do you look to and point to with such immense gratitude for their contribution to your entire journey? And the reason I ask that question is because if we forget those people, if we forget all the shoulders that we've stood upon to get to where we are today, even if it is just the beginning of The Lieu, if we forget those things we begin to isolate ourselves because we think we did it ourselves, and it's that isolation that will lead to our failure. So when you look back on your journey, who are all the people you point to with immense gratitude?
Rebecca Lima: Wow, there's so many people. I don't want to get too spiritual, but like God for sure. Literally. I would not be here breathing if it wasn't for Him. But also, my entire family. My mom and dad, probably the biggest support system. My dad would literally do anything for me, do you know what I mean? And his support means so much to me. Literally every single person I come into contact with. I'm a highly sensitive person, so for me it's like I give gratitude when I see it. I'll call people, I'm like thank you so much for being my support system throughout this time. Whether it's my roommate, whether it's my fiance, whether it's my friends that have been there through all of my tears and my counselors, my mentors, everyone's a part of this. First of all, this is not me. I'm a product of everyone else's encouragement.
James McKinney: Oh my goodness, I love that. That last line there, "I'm a product of everyone else's encouragement," that is incredibly powerful because we cannot do this alone. The stories we hear of founders who were solo- preneurs who did it fully isolated and alone, it is so rare and such an anomaly, but it gets the headlines and people tend to think that's how it's supposed to be. You need community, you need people. You need to be around people that are like you.
Rebecca Lima: You need to be surrounded by the right people, and I only take advice from people who are in it like me, or have done it. That's something that people love to give their two cents, love it, right?
James McKinney: They do, they do.
Rebecca Lima: And I let people give their advice. I'm like give it to me, you know? But I only adhere to the ones that actually they have stuck it out and done it.
James McKinney: Awesome. So on that note, we've been talking to tens of thousands of listeners, and we've been talking at a high level, just unpacking your story. I believe The Startup Story is a digital mentor for a lot of people, and I believe it because I get hit up all the time on LinkedIn and Instagram from listeners talking about what the episode has meant to them, and how it has encouraged them, and what they've learned from it. What I want to do as our time does end, is I want to take that conversation from the tens of thousands down to the one.
And you're in New York, so let's picture a New York cafe in daylight with lots of light and coffee, and you're sitting with one of my listeners. Maybe they're the entrepreneur that is frustrated with the lack of traction they're getting and they're just super discouraged, or maybe it's the entrepreneur that has been punched in the face time and time again, and they just think they aren't cut out for it, and they're thinking about quitting because everything they touch ends up folding. Or maybe it's the want-repreneur, the one who's got a 9 to 5 and a book full of dreams and ideas, and just something that's holding them back from moving on. Maybe it's the narrative they think they're too old or that they have all these responsibilities and they just need to provide. Whatever the case is, whatever of those personas you resonate most with, I want to give this time for you to just give them a little mentoring minute, just you and that person. What do you say to that person?
Rebecca Lima: Well, if you are the person that has been hit in the face so many times and feel like giving up and at your last, last end of it, I've cried so many times. I've been in that pit of despair like the doom is impending, it's literally closing in on you and suffocating you. Something that I heard from someone that I really, really respect is this, and it changed my life so I hope it will change your life as well. This situation that you're going through is not unique to you. And that sounds really messed up. That sounds like that's very disrespectful. But every situation that you're going through, another founder has gone through that same situation. The same no's that you're getting, the same feelings that you're getting, the same pit of despair that you're sitting in, I've been through that. James has been through that. Every single person interviewed on this podcast has gone through that same feeling. It's your turn. It's your chance. And it's your opportunity to change the narrative for yourself. This is not unique to you so don't let it own you, don't let it identify who you are. You made this choice, you made the choice, you have the choice to change that narrative around for you.
James McKinney: Once you've had a few minutes to process all the value Rebecca brought to us in this week's episode, please hit me up on LinkedIn, Facebook, or Instagram and share with me your thoughts on the episode. And lastly, if you've been around The Startup Story for any length of time, then you know how much emphasis I put on the idea that entrepreneurs support other entrepreneurs. This time, we have an opportunity to invest in Rebecca's startup directly. Yep, The Lieu is running a campaign on republic which is a micro investing platform. So just an investment as low as $500 you can become part of The Lieu's story. Just visit republic.co/the-Lieu, and Lieu is L-I-E-U. So again, just visit republic.co/the-lieu to learn more, and we'll have a link in our show notes like always for easy access for you. Remember, entrepreneurs support other entrepreneurs so let's show up for Rebecca Lima and The Lieu in a huge way. This is the first startup story where we get to invest in our feature founder and their startup. How cool is that? All right, now for my personal ask.
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