Women in Business Q&A: Tricia Andrews, Founder, Sole Serum

Tricia Andrews is an ex-ad exec who spent twelve years dressing professionally every day. For Tricia, that meant wearing high heels from day to night–from giving presentations and walking to meetings, to client dinners and airport travel.

For Tricia, the confidence and empowerment her heels gave her outweighed the physical pain she was in, but her sore feet were hard to ignore. Tricia and her investors teamed up with a chemist to create Sole Serum and the rest is history.

How has your life experience made you the leader you are today?
I grew up in North Dakota and both of my parents were extremely hard working who taught me what it was to have a strong work ethic. My mom was a college librarian and she would take me to work with her. I remember vividly that she had to punch a clock every day when she came in and left. She was never late. And because of it, neither am I. It’s a pet peeve of mine – if you’re not early, you’re late!

I was never simply handed anything. I went to the U of Minnesota and I didn’t have a car, which meant I was either walking or riding my bike to class while braving the elements…and remember this is Minnesota! I see college students now who think they have it tough and I laugh because I was literally the person walking to and from school in the snow. Maybe it had a lot to do with the sub-zero weather, but growing up and going to school where I did, really made me tough. I also paid for my own education. I had received some small scholarships, but the only way I was going to pay for school was to work my way through it. At the time, I thought paying my own way through school was a disadvantage but now I see it as the key to ambition and independence. If you want something, you’ve got to get it.

How has your previous employment experience aided your tenure at Sole Serum?
My background is in Advertising Sales with the majority of my tenure (9 years) being spent at Turner Broadcasting. It taught me immensely because of their extremely high standards and competitiveness. When I was starting out as a Sales Assistant, my Account Executive sat me down and laid out some fundamentals. Always be prepared! You should never walk into a client meeting without having read as much information as you can and formulating three questions. If you don’t have good points to address in the meeting, then you aren’t adding value to the meeting. He never treated me like an assistant in the sense that I should be there to simply take notes. He wanted me to learn and begin to cultivate my own relationships. At Turner, my SVP at the time had the motto of “just get it done”. He didn’t care if you couldn’t figure something out – you were never to come to him with a question that you didn’t at least have a partial answer for. I probably thought he was a jerk at the time, but it has never left me. There is always a way to figure something out. Please don’t tell me that you can’t, as that is not an option.

It also taught me that there is always something more that you can be doing. You can never have enough information. That still rings true with me today. Gone are the days of fully stepping away from work. I’m never far from my computer or phone where there’s always just one more blogger I can find, article I can read or account that I can contact to pitch Sole Serum. The best experience in my Ad Sales career was all of it – as it was my days of pounding the pavement that inspired me to start Sole Serum.

What have the highlights and challenges been during your tenure at Sole Serum?
We are just over a year old and the highlights have been plentiful. Not only have we created a new product, but we’ve created a new product category. When looking back at all of our highlights, so many big wins come to mind. We have had so much support and press attention that I truly can’t pin it down to a single win. I will say, however, that one of the most fun public appearances was getting to showcase Sole Serum on QVC. I grew up watching that show as a kid and never in my wildest dreams imagined that I’d be on the show with my own product one day.

But all of our successes haven’t come without their set of challenges. Since this is such a new product, we’re building our audience from scratch. We’re also discovering that this product isn’t just for one demographic. Both athletes and fashionistas have endured painful shoes so it’s even stretching beyond the most obvious of customers and really demanding us to think about the way we creatively market this product and the various ways to make sure we reach the biggest consumer base possible.

What advice can you offer to women who are seeking a career in your industry?
This is hard because I haven’t been in my current industry that long. But, I can speak to young women trying to break into (and succeed in!) their career field in general. When it comes to interviewing, please let’s always remember the basics. Come prepared with research – I interviewed with Turner SEVEN times (yes, 7) and each time, I would come in being more and more prepared. There is so much information at our disposal – put a Google alert on your desired company – it’s easy! Anyone who is interested in getting a job with Sole Serum should know that we are very active on social media and have done a lot of blogger outreach. Take the initiative to find a few that we may not know about and share those ideas with us. Please always send a hand written thank you note. And make it meaningful. This has somehow gotten lost along the way, but I think it’s important. Yes, you can send an email, too, but call me old fashioned – I think that a hand written note is the way to go. And when you get that job you’ve been eyeing, master it. Once you have, master the one ahead of you. My former boss at Turner had the rule that until you are doing the job ahead of yours, you don’t deserve the job ahead of yours. I didn’t realize at the time just how valuable it was to have that instilled in me (thanks Joe Hogan!).

How do you maintain a work/life balance?
This is a terrible question for me because I’m just not great at it. I’m a work-a-holic and I really kind of love it. I’m sure once I feel balanced, I’ll want to take on more.

What do you think is the biggest issue for women in the workplace?
While I can’t speak for all women, my personal biggest issue is finding the perfect work/life balance (hence my answer above!). I’m passionate about my business, but I also acknowledge the importance of taking some time for myself and my family. Keeping my mind and body healthy keeps me fueled and energized to stay positive and creative but it’s also easy to get lost in the hustle, so I like to give myself tiny reminders to tune out of work and take a breather every once in a while. I just don’t always listen to myself!

How has mentorship made a difference in your professional and personal life?
I’ve had some great mentors throughout my career. I have learned a lot from Kim McQuilken, who is the former EVP of Cartoon Network (a part of Turner Broadcasting). Whereas our paths didn’t cross for long at Turner Broadcasting, he was instrumental in helping my career grow throughout Turner and as I sought new opportunities at Fox Sports. The same goes for Randy Weiss, the first Account Executive that I worked with at Turner. He was a ball-buster, but he truly made me feel like part of a team that encouraged growth. He said it was his best and worst day when I got promoted and left his team. Personally, my husband and I also have a couple that we look up to for their parenting skills. We’re about to start a family and it’s interesting how we’re drawn to those people who have a parenting style that we admire. I don’t think we’re ever done learning.

Which other female leaders do you admire and why?
I just love Tory Burch. Not only is she self-made, she also has The Tory Burch Foundation, which focuses on empowering women through entrepreneurial education. At the root of it, it is designed to help early-stage entrepreneurs with savvy business advice and a network of like-minded women. To take it a step further, it takes those entrepreneurs who have successfully launched a company and allows them to take a 10,000-foot view of business in general. It’s amazing what she’s doing for these women and it’s a program that I know I would benefit immensely from. In fact, this is a platform that I would love Sole Serum be able to launch in the future. I was lucky to have fantastic mentors through my career and want to be a sounding board for young women who are looking for some advice and direction.

Sophia Amoruso rocks! There are many things that I admire about her, but in particular I love how one of the tips she gives of being a #girlboss is to “leave your entitled ‘tude at the door”. Yes please! It has become lost on so many younger people that you actually have to work your way up. You do. And when you find yourself at the top, you need to remember that nothing (and no one!) is beneath you.

What do you want Sole Serum to accomplish in the next year?
On a very small scale, I want to successfully air on QVC…hopefully multiple times. I am in awe of the business that they run and love being a part of it. Also, we’ve been able to partner with luxury spas/hotel chains, but we have yet to partner with the larger retailers. I’m constantly trying to convince them that “yes, there is a place for Sole Serum in your store!”

As mentioned with Tory Burch, I want Sole Serum to continue to grow, so I can also launch a program similar to hers. I don’t know if we will be able to do this on a grand-scale within the year, but I truly value collaboration and mentorship and would love to pair up with a young woman who may have a great idea, but just needs a little help and advice with getting it off the ground. To anyone who is reading this, please reach out! I know that you can learn from me and more importantly, that I can learn from you.

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