7 Questions with Laura McCann
Name: Laura McCann
Current title: Chief Mood Booster
Current organisation: Adoratherapy
At Adoratherapy, Laura is the "Chief Mood Booster". A manufacturer who is making the pivot to a Direct to Consumer brand, Adoratherapy is disrupting the aromatherapy category with essential oil blends designed to shift mood.
A Tory Burch Fellow and a past winner of the Western Woman Small Business award, Laura is a seasoned consumer product veteran who goes beyond business to make an impact.
A well-rounded entrepreneur with a proven record of success in Beauty, Fashion and Technology, she graduated from Parsons’ School of Design in the late 80’s. Laura started her journey as a serial entrepreneur in New York City, where as a fashion designer, at the age of 28, she founded Fashion Express and International Product Options, global apparel buying agencies. In 2000 she founded Zweave, the first SaaS PLM platform for fashion, and later her consulting agency WYSIWYG llc.
A mother of two adult children, a pet lover and an advocate for learning to love oneself, Laura is active in mentoring and investing.
1. What have you found most challenging as a leader of a small or medium enterprise?
The most challenging aspect of leading an SMB is capitalizing it.
2. How did you become a leader of an SME? Can you please briefly tell the story?
I started my first business at 28 with two business partners and scaled it to 50 people and over $40M in sales in 8 years. Everything about this in retrospect was designed to provide me with a way to know myself and tap into my talents and skills, become confident and ultimately to chart my course as a leader. My current leadership role came about from mentoring a CEO, which turned into being hired to run the company after investing in the business.
3. How do you structure your work days from waking up to going to sleep?
Before getting out of bed, I do some praying and gratitude affirmations. My first words are: I love you to my boyfriend Jim. I work all the time. My phone is my office and I start my day around 7AM in bed with a cup of tea reading the trades and blogs that interest me, and catching up on social media and emails. Around 8:00 I get ready. I like to take a long bath with my phone and post on instagram and catch up on all my notifications. I get ready pretty quickly so this is my indulgence. I listen to NPR while I get dressed.
These days I head to my store around 10:30, my commute is 10mns. This is a life changer. In my past life in NY I commuted from NJ 1 hour each way. in Asheville everything is close by. Sometimes I stop by my storage space where we stock our inventory of bottles and boxes and pick up what I need for the week. I open our new store at the Grove Arcade and start with making sure everything looks good and then I check what needs to be shipped. You never know when someone will come in so mornings are spent making product to restock (we manufacture in our store), tweaking displays. A light lunch, which I bring with me, and always a hot cup of tea. I drink 4 cups a day at least. After lunch I check email and social channels again and depending on how busy or slow it is I tackle projects. Lately my projects are marketing driven from writing and editing blogs, creating graphics for social and email, and packaging and store collateral. I always have at least a dozen creative projects going on and its my sweet spot, as I love design.
I keep a cash flow report, and I update daily every expense and receivable so that I can make decisions quickly when I need to even when my accounting is not up to date. My book keeper handles that a few times a month so I need to be on top of things.
I work with a virtual admin, and freelancers and we check in as needed and keep them flowing. I keep a laptop at the back cash wrap and work when it's slow. When it's busy I provide my expertise on essential oils, chakra balancing and support people looking for alternative ways to smell and feel good. I say that I am a life coach in a bottle as I am part therapist and part aromatherapist.
I scaled the business down a few years ago and took on most of the day to day. It was a function of cash flow and since I was still investing in the business I had to choose to wear as many hats as I could so that I could afford to move ahead after finding raising capital to be a challenge. Old news really, but women get very little venture investment and being in the CPG/ Beauty field even less so. I suck it up and it requires huge sacrifices and courage but it's starting to pay off.
I close the store at 6PM most days. I get one day off, Tuesday, and I use this time to sit at my desk or run errands. Friday's and weekends, My boyfriend Jim provides Aura readings at the store. We recently created a business for him, preparing him for when he leaves his corporate job. He was interested in being a healer, and we found a way to integrate that with what I was doing and it's been a wonderful addition. He's driving customers into the store warmed up to buy aromatherapy.
On the nights we are both at the store we usually take advantage of Asheville's downtown dining scene and grab food out or take out. If not we have easy dinners. I love to cook and can prepare a meal in 30mns or less, and we try to eat healthy. We both unwind with our Ipads and get into our "cozy clothes". We eat at the table and Jim always lights candles and we bless our food and each other. Whoever cooks doesn't clean.
We put our phones away around 7:30 and head to our TV room. We have a big projector screen and speakers and we watch the news. We then catch a show or movie. We binge on series and documentaries. Around 10PM we head upstairs and get ready for bed. We check phones one last time to make sure our grown kids are all okay, nobody is chasing us down or needing anything. Lights out by 10:30 after reading or chatting in bed.
It's truly simple at this stage as we have kids in their late twenties and thirties, our families live far away and so it's just us. Sometimes its us and Comet, my dog, who I share with me ex and comes for sleepovers a few nights a week. He used to come to our factory every day but the store isn't dog friendly so I am getting used to not having anyone to take care of. It wasn't always this way, I raised two kids and had a business when I myself was a kid. I empathize with all the mothers/ entrepreneurs out there. All I can say is you eventually have nothing but time.
4. What's the most recent significant leadership lesson you've learned?
Never stop loving yourself. Everything stems from this primary relationship. It doesn't mean you are selfish or selfless. It means you are kind to yourself, and make sure you do the work on you as you are the energetic force behind your business. It's all a reflection of how you are doing.
It's not a coincidence my business is called ADORAtherapy and that my slogan is Adore Yourself!
5. What's one book that has had a profound impact on your leadership so far? Can you please briefly tell the story of how that book impacted your leadership?
I read Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand when I was in my twenties and identified with the message.
6. How do you build leadership capacity in an SME?
Most entrepreneurs are first timers and this is an area they are weak in, as they may not have had much management experience or leadership experience. At this stage in my career, this is about knowing exactly what you need someone to do, making it extremely clear and in absence of that specificity making sure they are the right type for that particular job. I have had the opportunity to work with tools like Meyers Brigg and these types of assessments are extremely helpful. Leaders can't help but be leaders. In small companies that have flat org charts with fewer management roles, you might not be looking for leadership first. either way you cultivate the right person for the right job and you empower people to be their best selves.
7. What is one meaningful story that comes to mind from your time as a leader of an SME so far?
My biggest pride is having had the opportunity to work with my daughter out of college. I was able to be involved in her early skill development and gave her access to parts of the business that would have otherwise taken her years to get insights into. Once she left the company she was able to develop her career path and I continue to be impressed by her talent and natural leadership skills. I do the same thing with interns and employees. My goal is to provide the greatest opportunity for self actualization.