I dont think that luck happens. I think you create luck Tina Sharkey, co-founder and co-chair of Brandless, on how to make sh*t happen for your business. - Episode 063


One of the things I try teach kids, and I try and teach everybody is to do what I call make the advance and making the advance can mean just ask the next question, because I don't think that luck happens. I think you create luck. I'm Carly's Aken. I'm Danielle Weisberg. Welcomed the skin from the couch. This podcast is where we go deep on career advice from women who have lifted from the good stuff like hiring and growing team to the rough stuff like negotiating your salary, and giving or getting hard feedback. We started the skin from a couch. So what better place to talk it all out than where it began on a couch? So please welcome. Tina Sharkey to the couch, Tina is a serial entrepreneur and an investor and she spent her career building communities online, working for major companies like AOL and Johnson and Johnson in twenty fifteen. She left to start brand list with her co founder, and since then they've been working to build direct relationships between suppliers and customers. We are so excited about brand less, we're gonna let Tina get into that soon Tina. We have known you for such a long time. You have been such a great supporter of the skim an investor in the scam. And we're so excited to have you here today. Welcome to the couch. Thank you for just for the record for those who don't see they are on the couch nominee chair, but I'm okay yes, it's actually it's good that no one can see because we both look really tired today. So let's start our. We're going to ease into it. Tina skim your resume for us. Well, let's see I'll go forward backwards. So right now, I am the chairman and co-founder brand Lois and before that I was venture partner at sherpa and started something called sherpa foundry and before that I was the global president and chairperson of baby center, which is a, a division of Johnson and Johnson largest platform for noon expecting moms around the world. And before that I was running networks and community and messaging and platforms before that Sesame Street. Yes. Yes. I heard, I know so cool and, and before that I co founded a company called issue, which was the, at the time it was the largest community for women online. And we took it public and then sold it to NBC and before that I was at QVC started when Barry Diller was running QVC. They started a new network called Q two, and so we built that in New York. And so it was online shopping, but for a new generation who didn't think online shopping was for them. And so there's a theme there. So building things for people to connect them to their passions and their interest, and other people like them and curious when you go through your as may what is something that we looked at your linked in that would not be on your Lincoln. I don't think that like the thread like you know, you can never reverse engineer your resume because that's not I wasn't intentional about it. I was just trying to follow my passions. And go to places where I thought I could have an outsized impact. And so, but if I was to see my linked in, I'd say building communities with Seoul, it doesn't reflect that, but that's been a filter for everything that I've done, I left FASt. So obviously, as we just heard your resume is just a laundry list of incredible companies in positions. You are incredibly to nations. And we were reached doing research for, for this interview, which is always kind of fun to do research, or someone you know, personally and you think, you know, but there is something that we didn't know which is a loved the story at eleven years old. You wanted to be a model and you convince someone at Bloomingdales to let you do just that. Can you please tell us the story? Oh, totally. So, well, I it's, it's worth noting that. I'm a third generation my, my parents and my grandparents were in the fashion business. So I always loved fashion and I still do. And so my mom and I were shopping on a Saturday and I was very tall for my age. And so. Like I was saying above all boys. And so what was I going to do with that height at that time? And so my mom, and I went to Bloomingdale's, and we had a thing where she said, you know, meet you in an hour because I like wanted to shop alone. And so I snuck away, I went to the fifth floor where the executive offices were, and I asked to apply for a job to be a model and I met this woman, Cathy, I think, Kathy raked in, I have to. I wanna just like break this up for a second. Does your mom know? The no she knew I was meeting her back in an hour. And did you go into Bloomingdale's a day of going to go get a job today? Well, I admit there were these, like, really cool women walking around, and they like every fifteen minutes, we're in a different outfit fully accessorize, don't you love like photos in magazines and it's like the bad is the belt. And you're like who does that? But these women were like doing it because clearly they were models. And so, I said, you know how do you where do you get? How do you do this? And I went up and she said, oh, well, you know, there's an office on the fifth floor. So I just knocked on the door and the woman who was the boss was sitting there. She said, I can't believe I'm never here on a weekend. You know, you're lucky you're very lucky, and then she said, sell me this pencil, and she handed me at pencil, and I like sold her. The pen, AD say, well, I said, well, this is fabulous pencil. I said, you know, it's, it's pre- sharpened to you might need this, if you're taking. You know, a test. It's very comfortable on the hand. The collar is very nice have been. I don't remember what I said. But like those things I might say, and so she said, great go into the back in try this on because she wants to my size was, so, and I tried it on. And like all the excess is we're like on the table. And I totally accessorize. I was like, oh, this is so awesome. I came back out. And she said, you know turnaround, you know, tell me this outfit, whatever. So I sold her the outfit, and then she said, okay. Well, what do you what when can you start? I said, what do you mean? And she said, well, you know, going to need to get your parental approval. I said, oh, we can handle that. I'll be right back. And she said, excuse me. Can you get back into your clothes? Like looking so. Yeah. Heels beret, there's going to be like the best. Buy, put my clothes back on, and then marched my mom up there to get approval to get the job. I love this to you. Mentioned your family was in fashion. Your mom with the president Perry. Ellis, also did not know research, what I loved is that your mom. Let you go to meetings with her. Yeah. Talked to us a little bit about what that experience, how that shaped you and how that when you think about your mama cat that shape. Also, your parenting, so I was super fortunate because I went to Stuyvesant high school in New York City and after school, I lived alone with my mom, I have two older sisters, but they were already out of the house. And so I took the subway up to her office to do my homework and she said, look, as soon as you're homework's done, you can sit in any meeting as long as the person running the meeting is okay with it, and only speak when spoken to. And so I was. Like a got it. So I was like very keen to get my homework all done, and there were certain people like I really wanted to be in their meetings 'cause they were like the creative meetings. They were showing the lie in and that gnhs. This is amazing. And so that really shaped me because I never knew that, like women didn't have a seat at the table like a lot of the leaders of my mom's team were women, the merchandisers the designer, so a lot of the salespeople are women. So she had had this community of people. Always I never dawned on me that it wasn't like that everywhere as I just saw a strong woman who was my mom. I saw the people. She worked with who were many women. A lot of the people they met with were women because the fashion industry tends to over index on that, especially on the creative side. Whatever, and so it was only later that I realized, oh my God. I got to like, get busy here, but really just sort of assume that's the way it was. Did you do that with your? Oh, always, yeah. I mean, well, the table for us. Us is just like the kitchen table. So, you know, their dad, and I are both entrepreneurs and so they hear about fundraising. They hear about hiring. They hear about pivots. They hear about all that stuff all the time. And so it's not even like it's just a never knock your. In fact, you know, when I was contemplating ITO Leffler, Mike founder, and I were incubating Brown list, but neither of us had taken an operating role because we were just incubating it and we had other jobs. And so one day I came home for dinner and Jacob and Charlie were like. Oh, share your day. And they were sharing their day what you do. I'll I interviewed a couple of CEO's today. They said oh for which companies because, you know as investor, I was interviewing for a lot of times, they said, well, I met someone for brand lists and literally, it was like a fork drop were Jacob was like, what, why would you be intervening someone for brand less? It's like having someone else raise us. You know, like you're on the head of the freshman PA for you. Charlie and Jakup you're applying to college next year. And I really wanna make sure I'm available and they're like, okay, like, first of all you're more engaged the most of the non working moms. We know so down. Number two, you can't do that. And then Jacobs said and this is what I knew that they'd spend a lotta time at the table. He said, look, just get it to a good top line gets scaled higher global operator Homer. God. Oh my gosh. I don't know whether to, like, thank you for to say, like I'm so sorry, why need to start a therapy account for you find area and the best way it was, like, what are they gonna be? Yeah. I think it's interesting what we're talking about scrappy us and growing up with this model that you had. Do you think of scrapping us as a trait or as a skill? I think it's, it's a trait and a skill and I think it can be learned, but I do think that it can be done in a way that's really elegant. And so one of the things I try and teach my kids, and I try and teach everybody is to do what I call make the advance and making the advance can mean just ask the next question, because I don't think that luck happens. I think you create luck. And one of the reasons that I've been advising you to extraordinary women is because you have this, like in spades, you're not afraid to make the advance and it's not it's not pushier anything, it's just like you ask the question, you, you sorta say to somebody. Oh, I'm thinking about this. What do you think and you create luck that way because there's a door there. If. Anyone here is like a Harry Potter person. I am so the room of requirements is waiting for you. You just have to like know that really just gets up. That is great wouldn't you talk about mentoring people that are on your own teams. How do you encourage them to ask? So what I do with my teams is, I don't believe that mentor ship is, as successful, if you take it out of context, I think it's really, I don't think there's some big off site where you have some big like aha moment. I think mentor ship are moments. And so what I like to think about with my team is that very close to an experience, that I've witnessed to pull someone aside and say, hey, can I give you some feedback in that meeting where you said XYZ and so, and so said, XYZ, I think you might have approached that in a different way. And had you said this, or had you come prepared with that we might have had a different outcome, and no harm. No foul. Like you have an opportunity like I try not to pick things that are, oh, my gosh. That's off a cliff and like you can't get it back. But were an object lesson where you like, no, the situation, you know, the dynamics and you can give someone like spot feedback and spot coaching and get them back in or coaching them before something or the best is, when I can model that behavior for them. What's the last really scrappy thing you show your team, you can do texting one of our celebrity investors, who's become a friend and showing that I don't have to have all the information that I'm seeing her as a peer which is like weird to think that I would think of Serena Williams as a peer but Jeffries? Yeah, I know. 'cause it's like she's not actually appear. She's a goat. And I don't know what I am. But maybe I guess it visit the farm now. Like all rise. But she's I'm not like I see her as like she's a mom, and she's a wife and she's notch manure, and she's an investor and she's the best fr- contenders player on the planet. So in that capacity. No. But in these other capacities I can share something with her. And I can be of service to her in the same way that she's of service to us. And so that's not something I'm afraid of because I don't I like I don't like when people put me on a pedestal, and I don't like to put other people there because I think it creates distance and yet false familiarity is also inappropriate, so you have to find the right balance. We are on a ten city tour right now, meeting, lots of skimmers and talking to amazing moderators about how to skim your life. That's right. Our book is finally out, and we cannot wait for you to read it, it covers all the most important parts of being an adult, like negotiating your salary, saving for retirement, and the most important thing reading a wine list. It's the perfect gift for recent grad or anyone who could use a crash course in adulting. It's the kind of buck. You're going to want to have on your coffee table so you can keep coming back to it. So what are you waiting for go? Get your copy at the skim dot com slash book. That's the skim dot com slash book. Such gears a little bit. You are a serial entrepreneur, and I wanted to talk about your latest, venture brand lists. Give us the elevator pitch. What is brand less the elevator pitch? Well, Brandis is a, an extraordinary community of people who are making stuff, that is better for you better for your family. Better for your home and better for the world at much more accessible prices to try and better life for all. How does that work is there's a lot of science to that art? It works, first and foremost by bringing together amazing talented inter and multidisciplinary people with extraordinary experience in lots of different areas, because it's not digital media. It is. It's community building. It is content building. It is art direction and photography. It is product development and long ROY. Maps with vendors around the world, it is product, safety, quality, and integrity, it is shipping and packing, and all the rest and in his getting boxes with perfect delivery to your door, which is our objective. Whoa. Is the need. You're trying to, to fulfil in creating brand less. So what I really thought about. And I think we could do this exercise because none of us are driving like if you close your eyes and you think about like the pantries, the bathrooms, the, the, the home you grow up in, and then you think about your home today and what's in your cupboard you're cabinets what's, what's on your tables? It's likely so many different things and in so many different things not only because you've decided you want different things, but because we are more informed today, because brands have a responsibility to play a role in your life beyond just the functionality of the product itself. And you think about those things as you are purchasing. You're much more conscious so we were seeing this, like rejection, rejection of government institutions. Media brands all these things like I had this rejection visual, and then, you know, occupy this occupy that all of it, and then I thought, wow, like they're all occupying and they're rejecting, but where's everybody going and I had this visual like all these people running away, but I know what they were running towards. And so there was this moment where I felt like brands themselves were losing trust. Brands are trust marks really. I mean, a government is a brand a away, like a flag, and a physical product is a brand and the skin is a brand. And so the question is how you regain trust. And so might we re imagine what it means to be a brand one. That's based on truth, and trust and transparency the other thing. I noticed because I'm a big sort of cultural, anthropologist type, and so I was watching, how people were shopping. And if you go to the market, what you'll see is that people are picking up packages turning them, over turning them, sideways, turning them. Upside down putting them back on the shelf, and then taking a step back, and then they're surveying all the various things in that paradox of choice. Sound familiar? Yes. And they're like frozen at the shelf, because it's just like a rainbow of color. But they're not sure like, where's it manufactured is this sustainable, is it gluten free, is this organic. Do I wanna pay more? Do not wanna pay more. The prices aren't even on the products anymore. They're on the tape on the shelf. Can I talk someone about this? I not is there someone to help me. No. And so, and then I saw this over and over again and eat. Oh. And I said, wait a second people shouldn't have to pay to have quality because they should be able to find things that are better for them things that are better for the world at much more accessible prices to make better everything for everyone. And then I said, nobody's doing 'cause I built so many digital products. There's no you. I knew exa like it would be weird. If every time I texted, you guys, it was on a different platform, like everything rolls up into I message or into Snapchat or into one or two things. Maybe it's DeAnne but it's not more than than even that's confusing. So I said, what if we were to build like a you, I knew X? Across all physical goods. And what if we were to put the attributes that everyone's looking for all over the place like all in the same place? No matter where it is. And what if we were to create a concept, where to be branchless it becomes an attribute this idea that it's truthful? It's transparent its intention is to scale, kindness and community. And it's, it's exactly what you think it is. And it's not it's all very upfront and indirect conversation with you. How did you decide to do this with your co founder? Well eat. And I, we both lived in the same neighborhood, I was friends, not only with him with his wife, and we had been introduced similar to how I met you to buy like a million people were like you've gotta meet them gotta meet him on. So one day, we just met, and we said, wow. How did it take so long? We should totally do something together. And he was doing a few other things. He's a serial see PG entrepreneur, and I was doing a few other things. And we said, well, let's just start. And so we just started to meet, and I my first question to him was what problems? Are you trying to Saul like what's bothering you? And he said, Nacho people really knew what things cost versus what they paid for them, they'd be like rioting in the streets, sort of in that occupy way. And he said, what's bothering you? And I said the fact that there's no community that the there's no you I it's hard to navigate all these things. But if direct consumer is the intention, that's on a channel that's a relationship. So why don't we build a relationship with people? And help them find and create extraordinary things to help them in their families, and better life for all you start a brand less while you were in the venture world, you are at sherpa capital, were you invested in lots of companies including the skin. Thank you for that. Would you have invested in brand lists? Absolutely. What would have made you get to? Yes. Well, if I could separate myself at the very early stage of company, the first thing you look at is the people, and I think that, you know, and I have backgrounds that give us a lot of sort of muscle memory of the different things that we've done well, and the and, and the multitude of things that we've learned along are littered path of failure. And, and so that's a lot of learning. That's first and foremost, second of all, there was a really big what we call a Tam total addressable market third, the market condition. Fans were such that we were seeing a massive shift in consumer behavior and consumer choice, and that it was not only millennials didn't wanna buy the products they go up with. It was just a massive consumer shift and a mindset at people were becoming much, much more informed are round not just the food that they eat. But also the things that they put on their body and in their homes. So it was like this inflection point in this moment in time where we said, wow. Everything is changing. This is just really, really big opportunity. And we were able to recruit a great team on the team had instructed the expertise having gone from being an operator to then working at as a venture capitalist in obviously a very male dominated industry, which has been reported about a lot in, especially talked about here. How has that changed you as an operator when you went back to an operating role? Do you have a different perspective? Now, I think. As I said earlier, because of how I grew up, I was used to seeing like, female operators. So I just kind of, you know, I air on the side of inclusion, but I think diversity inclusion is not just about, like gender or skin, or ethnicity, or choices, personal choices you make, I think ever seen. Inclusion is about finding a way to bring people with different voices and engagement styles to the table. And so I think it's really important to teach people, how to make that advance had to be heard in a meeting had to be get their opinions known, and that's not always allowed as person in the room. It's not the person who necessarily was raised and comfortable with interrupting or engaging with a different model. And so the confidence factor, I think is something that needs to be developed early, and it needs to be kind of validated, and the culture has to support that. So it's a it's a no brainer for me to build an inclusive culture and diverse culture. But then the question is, how do you unlock that? And that's the challenge that I think, is like that next step in two thousand seventeen one of the sherpa co-founders was accused of sexual sexual misconduct. How did you react? And at this point, you are doing brand lists. So what was that like for you having obviously complement environment, where you worked really closely with somebody and now being you've always been a role model for women and leading now a very inclusive, Tina community is the forefront of that inclusion is the forefront of that. What was your personal reaction? Well, I wasn't there anymore and I wasn't involved with the firm. And so it was just very, very sad for all parties. And you know, I really wasn't engaged or involved. But just very sad. On the hottest game. Your life book tour. We are taking a ton of pictures, and we are so excited to meet all of you guys and for all of the memories like in ten years, when we look back at this, we are going to have the best pictures, except for right now. They are all on our phone, so it's time for brain bridge, all you have to do is go to frame bridge dot com. Upload your photo, or you can send like a poster or physical peace in the mail to them. You can preview item online in any frame style. You can get wrecks from their team. It honestly could not be easier. Just get started today, frame, your photos or sun, the perfect gift to each other for weddings birthday special events. Just go to framework dot com use promo code skim, and you'll get an additional fifteen percent off your first order. Again, that's frame bridge dot com, promo code skim. I cannot wait for Danielle to see all the pictures of the two of us. I'm going to frame from the tour. Going back to branchless. You've built this company in spent almost two years as it CEO, and you decided to step down as the CEO in March of this year, you're now co founder and co chair of the board. How did you make that decision? Also, what is chair of the board, actually meet? So so co chair of the board, the re-, I'm co-founder because when I founded the company together and co chair because ITO and our coaches together, and that means that, you know, we like the coast, too. I love that. So, yeah. So that means that, you know, in theory, you know, you're you, you oversee the board. And so we're very young company. So I would say that, that doesn't fully manifest at this stage as the way it might in the more like mature company, but that is the that is what that means and we do play that role and I stepped down was less about stepping down and more about sort of scaling. And so I wanted to be able to scale myself, and so as a as a co founder and as the founding CEO you know, I was wearing like every single hat. You know, chief cook bottle washer hiring scaling ops logistics, and building a team to do all of those things, every aspect of the business from nothing to something to something great and part of your role, and you guys know this so well, is you are the chief of. Vangelis as well. And so not only doing your day jobs, but you're also out there, telling the story engaging with the communities engaging with all the people who, who love the skim making sure that the birthdays are in the mail and, and everything in between meaning with advertisers marketers future. Investors, other investors, I mean everything. And so that just was really hard to scale and actually get deep into the logistics and the ops of a very complicated supply chain and a very complicated global network. And, and we have an office in Minneapolis in an office in San Francisco being in both places like all of those things. I just couldn't do all of that. Well, how do you give up that control? And I know you've obviously and start and transition, different businesses and for us I look at this, and I'm like, this is something that you need a started together, you grew it mazing point. What is that like interview question like where you at the end of? Processor, like, okay, this person is going to lead the company. I think the, you know, the interview process is really about I getting to know the person I do I like this person, do I want to go, you know, in the bunker with this person, like how is this person gonna be in? It's really easy to have a collaboration and funding. Good times. What's this person going to be like in challenges? What's this person going to be like, how much frontline has this person seen what are all their reference points? And then how do they think about those reference points? And you have to look at the whole person. How do you know I think one of the things we talk a lot about is like learning how to fire yourself on, on whatever your task is whatever your job is so that you can elevate in your position? How do you, you know, for those who are they're building teams or for the first time, managing someone more junior than them? How do you fire, quote unquote? Fire yourself without micromanaging and feeling that need that like the way to manages to micromanage. Yes. So that's a great question. And one that I really I'm working on. And I think the first thing is that I wanna make it really clear to my former direct reports that I'm their coach and I am their cheerleader, and I'm there to help them solve problems, but they don't report to me. And so I'm not a shortcut on things. And so, I really need to anytime that they come to me for something I make sure to reroute them. And I make it really, really clear that I don't own that decision and I might not agree with that decision. But I'm certainly not going to say that to the person to the to the leader. I'm going to say it more offline if it's important Ryan, but they're not going to do things the way, I do things they're not going to operate the way operate, and they're gonna bring a different set of skills, and experience to the table. And I welcome that having said that I'm still like super involved in the culture, super involved. In, in, in scaling, all the things that I just shared. And so you have to figure out like what lane am I gonna run in and you can't be in every single lane and you have to make space? And so, I think initially I tried to make a lot of space like oh that. Like, for example, there's like an offsite. I think today and I'm not at it intentionally because if I'm in the room out of respect and deference, like, I can't just say, oh, I'm just here to listen, whatever. So you really can't be in the room, right? We are going to go char, very last segment, which is our favorite. It's a lightning round, we are going to ask you questions. Okay. You're going to do it as fast as he can already. What did you think you're going to be when you grew up? Mom college major international relations and language first job. First job. Let's see while I was a model at Bloomingdale's, but I think before that I worked at the tennis shack filling the soda machine in Marynich where stab that could also shop worst professional mistake. You've made worst professional mistake. I've made kosh the worst weather, so many or a notable a notable one. I actually I'd say that I turned a couple of really great jobs down, because they were big reload. And, and I just wasn't up for it, and that I think was a mistake, I phone call. When you get good news. It's probably a joint text Jacob and Charlie your son, first phone call. When you get bad news live with it for a bit. When's the last time you negotiated for yourself? Last week. What's your go-to interview question when you're hiring someone? Tell me about your family, I do a lot to what drives you. Impact? How do people know when you're stressed? How do people know? And I'm stress I usually tell them good. That seems healthy finally, what's your shameless. Plug shameless. Plug is please good Brownless dot com. Follow us at Brownless life on Instagram or Facebook and spread the word to all your friends. We have a referral code, and so we would love for you to join because when your friends join you win. And they win often Tina, thank you so much for everything done talking to you. Congratulations. And never in checkout. Brand list. Thank you. Thanks for hanging out with us. Join us next week for another episode of skin from the couch. And if you can't wait until then subscribe to our daily Email newsletter that gives you all the important news and information you need to start your day sign about the skim dot com. That's the S K I M, M dot com to M'S for a little something extra.

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