Growing a brand. Building support networks. Navigating financing challenges. Preparing for the unexpected and learning from the inevitable pitfalls. Baird gathered a panel of women who founded their own businesses to discuss the secrets to their success. While their journeys were unique, the common themes were striking.

Moderator Candace Nelson, who co-founded the business idea incubator and investment firm CN2 Ventures and founded cupcake and cookie company Sprinkles and Neo-Neapolitan pizza restaurant Pizzana, asked each panelist to share her story around founding her company. “I enjoy asking this question of entrepreneurs and founders,” said Candace, “because there is always a great story with a lot of passion in the answer.”

As Candace predicted, each of the founders recounted the story of how they established their respective businesses. Their passion was evident, not only in the telling, but as a common primary motivator for the founders.

Amanda Chantal Bacon noted how her ongoing quest for wellness, driven by personal health challenges and discoveries, continues to fuel Moon Juice.

Brook Harvey-Taylor pointed to her upbringing and experiences as a young adult that shaped her views and values around beauty and ultimately led her to found Pacifica Beauty, one of the first vegan and cruelty-free beauty brands.

Playing the Long Game

Tapping into a passion to start a company but sustaining that passion over time as you then run the business is another matter, Candace remarked.

That is the trick – converting personal passion into sustainable energy around a brand is essential to long-term success. It’s what keeps a business relevant and fresh.

Candace Nelson

Brook agreed. “It’s about playing the long game. Thinking about what’s next but staying true to your core values. I also like thinking about the future. I’m a consumer of the future. I love thinking about how we advance ourselves; how we redefine what beauty means.”

Nicci Levy, Founder & CEO of aesthetics brand Alchemy 43, noted that operating a brick and mortar business requires continual innovation, including being strategic and opportunistic about where they establish new locations, “We are at the intersection of healthcare and beauty. So how do we want to meet the consumer? How do we want them to see us? Do we want to be in a shopping center? A doctor’s office?”

Where Personal and Business Brands Intersect

As founders of women-focused businesses, the panelists commented on the interconnection between their personal brands as entrepreneurs the brands of their businesses.

When I started my company, there was no social media, and being mission-driven, the business’ brand and mine were synonymous. People really want to see the founder. Whether you like it or not, as a founder, people will want to hear from you.

Amanda Chantal Bacon

Nicci noted similar demand from customers to hear from her as the founder. “They want to hear the story. They want to know the person behind the brand. They want to root for that person. People want to connect to something, especially in this world of technology.”

Brook added: “women are on this journey with me. I think about all of the things that I’ve been through since I started the business and where I am now. The conversation that you get to have with your customer is a privilege.”

Pursuing Balance

The need for balance between professional and personal passions was a common theme – and not always easy to maintain for panelists.

“Finding that balance is tricky,” said Nicci, who welcomed a daughter 18 months ago. “But having my daughter has made me a better CEO. It’s allowed me to come to better perspectives, made me appreciate everything more. And there is beauty in having to prioritize.”

Amanda further emphasized the concept of choosing where to spend your time: “You cannot have it all in a day, week, month, quarter – maybe within a year. So, the best thing you can do is get right with yourself and why you’re doing what you’re doing.”

There is no such thing as work-life balance. It’s a long path to no regrets. That’s the key for me – that there’s no regrets. I’m conscious around the decisions that I make.

Brook Harvey-Taylor

Resonating with panelists’ comments, Candace noted how she and her husband bring their work to the dinner table and make it a part of the family’s conversation. “It’s really about work life integration,” she said.

Lessons Learned

As a bookend to the discussion, panelists reflected on some of their highs, lows and lessons learned along the way. There was consensus around the need to trust your intuition as a founder but also knowing when you can – and should – rely on others.

“Surrounding myself with good people who are smarter than me, who can see around the corner in ways that I can’t, has been transformative,” said Brook.

Amanda agreed, though noted that the people that you surround yourself with need to know your vision and voice as a founder. “All of those people who are around me now – they blow me away. They are angels to me. They remind me: What does your gut tell you?”

Nicci added the importance of trusting yourself but continuing to learn and asking questions. “Ask questions and continue to ask questions. You don’t sound stupid. There’s no shame in that. No one knows your business better than you. Your vision is your vision.”


These insights were originally shared at Thrive, a first-of-its kind event where Baird brought together extraordinary women, including some of our most successful clients, in an energizing forum for networking and exploration of topics spanning business, leadership, wealth creation and wellness.