Trigger Warning: car accident, depression
Tenacity and Persistence: The drive to never give up. Reminding yourself why you are doing what you are doing and not getting paid for it for several years. You have to be really strong to keep it up!
Being a founder, entrepreneur, or business owner can have many exciting and thrilling moments. But it is also punctuated with periods of doubt, slump, and anxiety. So how does one successfully and healthily ride the highs and lows of Entrepreneurship? In this series, called “How To Successfully Ride The Emotional Highs & Lows Of Being An Entrepreneur” we are talking to successful entrepreneurs who can share stories from their experience. I had the pleasure of interviewing Nicole Townend.
Nicole launched a successful children’s brand, Teddy Needs A Bath, and starred on ABC’s Shark Tank accepting a deal with the coveted shark, Marc Cuban.
After two years of research and development and over nine formulations carefully curated by a master perfumer in Los Angeles they finally landed our signature aroma! They found their ride or die, “the one” or in French “Celuí“!
Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dive in, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your ‘backstory’ and how you got started?
I’m an entrepreneur at heart, the kind of person who thinks of a new idea daily! I went to school in Los Angeles at FIDM, developed a brand Teddy Needs A Bath that aired on ABC’s Shark Tank, and eventually sold the brand. My latest venture incorporates my passion for fragrance with the help of my business partner, Veronica Hu called Celui Fragrance.
What was the “Aha Moment” that led to the idea for your current company? Can you share that story with us?
My dear friend from high school, Veronica Hu, and I would meet up for lunch in Los Angeles and dream about starting a business together. We were both working in Beverly Hills at the time and Veronica was living nearby with her husband. She was working at a notable plastic surgeon’s office and I was working as the head of social media for Nitro Circus, who was bought by the Raine Group headquartered in Beverly Hills.
We often spent our lunch hours discussing our passion for the beauty industry and in particular fragrance. We both decided to take a leap and dive full time into developing what is now known as Celui Fragrance!
In your opinion, were you a natural born entrepreneur or did you develop that aptitude later on? Can you explain what you mean?
I’m a natural entrepreneur through and through. I’ve been doing this for 10 years, starting with my company Teddy Needs a Bath that I pitched on Shark Tank Season 4 (2013) and sold a few years later. I love growing something from the ground up. I take all the past knowledge I have learned and apply it to the next!
Was there somebody in your life who inspired or helped you to start your journey with your business? Can you share a story with us?
My dad and mom were both white-collar marketing professionals and still are to this day. I could definitely say I get my creative energy from them. They also taught me a lot about hard work, dedication, and passion. They have always been extremely supportive of my dreams. I think I’ve always made them nervous, sorry mom and dad, but thank you for taking such great care of me and teaching me how to be a parent who is present and supportive.
I also can’t forget my fabulous business partner and co-founder of Celui — Veronica and her husband, Kevin.
What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
After 2 years of developing my business partner and I would get stopped on a daily from women and men asking what scent we had on. It was really at that moment that we knew we had something special.
You are a successful business leader. Which three character traits do you think were most instrumental to your success? Can you please share a story or example for each?
Don’t be afraid of failure: I think this is inherently part of who someone is, but if you can try and not let fear get in your way, you will be better off! No one is perfect all of the time, everybody loses. The pressure of feeling like you have to be perfect is exhausting and can hinder your growth in the long haul.
Trust your gut: As a founder, you will inevitably be approached by all kinds of opportunities. When I started my first company I was only 23 years old and I really was not a fully formed human yet. I was still so immature and I didn’t know how to listen to my gut. Looking back, I felt off about many things that were happening but I thought it was just nerves talking. In fact, it was my gut talking. Don’t partner with this person, don’t take that deal, and ALWAYS do your due diligence before paying anyone a cent! I learned that it’s better to pay someone to help you find the right people. Sadly, there are so many people out there who will try to steal from you.
Who you partner with or take money from is SO important: It’s easy to get caught up in a great offer. Something or someone shiny and important. But like I said earlier, you are marrying that person for the life of the brand. I know too many stories about bad partnerships that end up in court and it’s so sad. Because your idea came from a good place and it’s a shame if it ends up hurting you. Keep your idea, your passion, your life, safe with people who make you feel comfortable.
Often leaders are asked to share the best advice they received. But let’s reverse the question. Can you share a story about advice you’ve received that you now wish you never followed?
Licensing is usually not the way to go! Especially if they want to pay you royalties to net sales. When I was offered a licensing deal from a large company, people told me it was, “a once and a lifetime offer”, “one in one million brands get offered a licensing deal” and other exciting words of advice. Really, it would have been better to keep on moving and take it all the way myself.
Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them create a work culture in which employees thrive and do not “burn out” or get overwhelmed?
Building a team is one of the most important aspects of building a successful brand. Find people who believe in your passion and individuals that you can learn from.
What would you advise other business leaders to do in order to build trust, credibility, and Authority in their industry?
I always treat others with kindness and respect and expect to be treated the same. As two women and mothers, we are always open to supporting other like-minded businesses or women-owned brands. We believe the more you give, the more you get back.
Can you help articulate why doing that is essential today?
The world simply needs to be more kind. I hope in the future everyone is more accepting and understanding. Don’t hold impossible standards for everyone in your life. We all need to be given a break once in a while. And if we’re not enjoying ourselves then what’s the point?
What are the most common mistakes you have seen CEOs & founders make when they start a business? What can be done to avoid those errors?
Make sure you love what you’re doing. I have consulted for a few companies where the founders were more focused on the financials than the actual service or product they were selling. This disconnect or lack of connection comes across to the consumer and can devastate a business before it even starts.
Ok fantastic. Thank you for those excellent insights, Let’s now shift to the main focus of our interview about How to Successfully Ride The Emotional Highs & Lows Of Being An Entrepreneur. The journey of an entrepreneur is never easy, and is filled with challenges, failures, setbacks, as well as joys, thrills and celebrations. This might be intuitive, but I think it will be very useful to specifically articulate it. Can you describe to our readers why no matter how successful you are as an entrepreneur, you will always have fairly dramatic highs and lows? Particularly, can you help explain why this is different from someone with a “regular job”?
I’ve had very stressful corporate jobs, but at the end of the day, it wasn’t my company and the responsibility did not end with me. When it’s your company…man are the days and weeks different. You can have weeks where you experience several wins and then just as quickly it was taken away with a difficult conversation with a colleague, investor, or a lost account.
Ultimately, if the passion is there and the product is great then you are left with making sure you have an amazing team. It’s finding talented people that are hard. And that is what I have now with Celuí. We created a beautiful product that never disappoints, we are incredibly passionate, and we both love, respect, and trust each other.
Do you feel comfortable sharing a story from your own experience about how you felt unusually high and excited as a result of your business? We would love to hear it.
Shark Tank, WOW! I emailed them one night at 2 am when I was doing what I do, being tenacious as all hell.
9 months later I got a call that they wanted me to shoot a home video to showcase to their producers and 3 months later I was pitching to the sharks.
Do you feel comfortable sharing a story from your own experience about how you felt unusually low, and vulnerable as a result of your business? We would love to hear it.
Shortly after appearing on Shark Tank, I was contacted by a company posing as a major home shopping network, which ended up being one of the biggest mistakes I have ever made.
We signed a lengthy contract with all the logos and letterhead of the real company. When we spoke on the phone they would transfer me to different departments to talk about the script and the specifics of the commercial. In reality, it was a group of con artists operating out of an apartment in Boca Raton, Florida. I paid them $10k to get started and never saw a dime back.
That was a major blow! I contacted the Florida Police Department and FBI and they told me that there was so much fraud coming out of Florida that they can’t even entertain any case under $4 Million. All I could do was file a complaint with the BBB and write about them online. I still get emails to this day thanking me for my posts about this scam company. Sadly they are still out there scamming small businesses and haven’t paid for their crimes! If there are any lawyers reading this, I would love to put together a case and stop these people.
Based on your experience can you tell us what you did to bounce back?
Teddy Needs a Bath was like getting a master’s degree in business. I dealt with buyers from all the biggest retailers, licensing interests and even worked with Mark Cuban who was a valuable advisor and mentor for the brand.
A few years later I decided to sell Teddy Needs A Bath and move into a different direction completely. I have since applied everything I learned and partnered with good people I can trust. Sometimes you just need to start over and try again!
Ok super. Here is the main question of our interview. What are your “Five Things You Need To Successfully Ride The Emotional Highs & Lows Of Being An Entrepreneur”? Please share a story or an example for each.
1. Grit and Passion: courage and resolve; strength of character. Not easily discouraged. You will fail, you will make mistakes, apply the lessons accordingly.
2. Tenacity and Persistence: The drive to never give up. Reminding yourself why you are doing what you are doing and not getting paid for it for several years. You have to be really strong to keep it up!
3. Energy: I’ve consulted brands where the founders were just tired and not willing to learn new things, to evolve. It’s time to sell!
4. Time: You definitely get out what you put in. It’s really hard to be an entrepreneur on the side if you have a full-time job (and kids!). So having enough time to focus on growing the brand is very important.
5. Backing/Support: In order to be able to have the free time to chase your dream, you will need someone (or multiple people) who believes in you and are willing to support you. In my case, it’s my husband. I’ve also had friends and family who backed my first company and I couldn’t have done it without them. My husband believes that I have million-dollar ideas and he invests in me!
We are living during challenging times and resilience is critical during times like these. How would you define resilience? What do you believe are the characteristics or traits of resilient people?
I would compare resilience to one of the laws of nature; survival of the fittest. How can you use the resources available to you to get what you want? There are so many resources available! Anyone can send an email. Send 20 and get one reply…that’s worth it! Keep it up! How can you take the power back? What are you good at? Once you identify what you’re good at, find people who can help you with the things you’re not good at. That is resilience to me, taking all the power back and not accepting total defeat. When I felt like I had exhausted all my resources for my first company, I sold and redirected.
Did you have any experiences growing up that have contributed to building your resiliency? Would you mind sharing a story?
When I was 18 I was driving to help my boyfriend’s mom at the baseball game snack shack one Saturday morning. It was a couple of weeks before my senior prom and I was nominated for prom queen and had just been voted best looking in my senior class (a weird tradition that I don’t think schools do anymore). You could say I was shallow and lost. I had no idea what I wanted. I was not focused in school and I was being defiant to my parents. I resented their rules and now I see all they were doing was protecting me from all the things that can go wrong when you are an 18-year old girl.
The last thing I remember was my face of horror in the rearview mirror. So that must mean I was looking at myself when my car clipped the curb and started to flip over. It flipped 4–5 times taking out several trees from the center median. I wasn’t wearing a seatbelt, which caused me to be ejected through my rolled-up window. This broke all the bones on the left side of my face. But I survived. Then the car pinned me to a tree and broke my femur, my pubic bone, my clavicle, and lacerated my entire body. Needless to say, I spent weeks in the hospital and months in a wheelchair with an eye patch. The worst for me to come to terms with was that my face was obliterated. I looked like a monster. My orbital floor (the socket that holds your eye in place) could not be repaired, as well as my cheekbone on the same side. So they cleaned out all those bones that I took for granted, and replaced them with metal and silicone. I don’t feel bad talking about it because I have such a renewed outlook on life and strangely am grateful because it was a very necessary wake-up call. It was a hard way to learn a lesson but at least I got a second chance. Turia Pitt really helped me through the other side of this trauma. Now I don’t take anything for granted!
In your opinion, do you tend to keep a positive attitude during difficult situations? What helps you to do so?
I’m obnoxiously optimistic!! I appreciate everything and everyone and I don’t freak out over little things. And what I consider to be little is mostly everything. I draw the line at disrespect or anyone trying to harm me or my family. But a money issue? We can always lose money. We can always make money. Money is a tool we use in life. Big things, like my daughter’s childhood, can never be made back again. My family and daughter are 100% my top priority.
Can you help articulate why a leader’s positive attitude can have a positive impact both on their clients and their team? Please share a story or example if you can.
It’s all about energy. Energy spreads and is contagious. If you have negative energy that is just going to infect your entire life. Including your team, and all your opportunities. I’m not a religious person but I’m a huge believer in the law of attraction as it has worked magic in my own life. I believe what we think, we become.
Ok. Super. We are nearly done. What is your favorite inspirational quote that motivates you to pursue greatness? Can you share a story about how it was relevant to you in your own life?
Whether you think you can or you think you can’t, you’re right.
*I'm adding this quote to the article*
“You do not need to leave your room. Remain sitting at your table and listen. Do not even listen, simply wait, be quiet, still and solitary. The world will freely offer itself to you to be unmasked, it has no choice, it will roll in ecstasy at your feet.”
This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for the time you spent with this. We wish you continued success and good health!