Leah Kay built her business through perseverance, innovation, and a steadfast belief in herself. Learn more about her story and the steps other women entrepreneurs can take to empower their own business success.
Entrepreneurs who discover their companies through an unexpected pivot from a different industry are fascinating. Rather than focusing on increasing profits, these innovators focus on testing their potential and reaching their full capabilities. Leah Kay, founder of Soulvation Society, an e-commerce brand specializing in quality, comfortable hair accessories, started as an aspiring food chemist and professor. She eventually pivoted into e-commerce by first identifying a gap in the marketplace and then asking how she could empower herself to fill it.
Kay recently discussed her best advice for empowering herself and others to create a successful brand.
Start with curiosity and self-reflection
“I had zero experience in business and zero people in my life that knew business,” Kay said. “I had no idea how to do it, but I was relentless to learn.” Kay’s tenacity led her to ask herself several key questions that served as a springboard to creating her future company. The questions included, “Am I pursuing the right dream? Am I meant to be an entrepreneur? Should I be selling something else? Can I make a difference?”
Kay was captivated by entrepreneurs that took their self-funded brand into the millions territory. To her, that tenacity takes so much personal growth and overcoming fear. She listened to Sara Blakely (founder of Spanx) and Ben Francis’s (founder of Gymshark) stories on how they grew their brands from their home into what they are today.
“I was fascinated by how these entrepreneurs thought differently, and I wanted to follow in their footsteps,” Kay said. “Also, I had no money in the bank, so I had nothing left to lose.”
Identify a gap in the marketplace
While earning her master’s in food chemistry, Kay focused on staying comfortable while still looking put together. Wearing a headband as part of her personal “uniform” helped her keep her hair up while not looking like, in her words, “a total disaster.” She couldn’t find any quality, functional headbands to wear. The ones at the department store were generic and boring. She tried ordering from brands online that just left her disappointed. Most had awful, cotton-based fabric or tacky prints and always slid off her head.
According to Kay, “It was almost like the universe was telling me to take them off. Finally, putting the matter into my own hands, I pulled out my mom’s sewing machine and started making headbands for myself.” The rest fell into place quickly. Kay discovered, “I decided to build a headband brand. But not just any headband brand. The best headband brand.”
Develop and empower a team
When her business first launched, Kay said the most significant obstacle was learning how to hand off tasks.
“When you start your brand all by yourself, doing every little job takes its toll, but it can be hard to let it go,” Kay said. “Once you find your key players who do these tasks better than you can, and you can start to focus on growing, that’s where the magic happens.”
Kay also shared that she experienced internal friction when initially trying to build out her team. “I held onto all the hats for longer than I needed to, and it hindered our growth,” Kay said. “I’m happy to say we now have a solid, hard-working team that crushes it better than I could have imagined.”
Today, Soulvation Society has grown to a 100% self-funded, women-owned and operated brand with over $2 million in sales and zero debt.
“The funny part is, it was never about the sales, but rather finding out what my potential is,” Kay said.
When asked what advice she has for entrepreneurs wanting to launch their brands, Kay said it’s critical to develop positivity informed by the perseverance of others.
“I would find myself listening to podcasts from other entrepreneurs while I’m sewing away making headbands in my tiny room. I’d read books on brand building. I’d stalk other founders on social media. My sources of inspiration and positivity were always other entrepreneurs. I didn’t let any other noise get in the way.”
Kay could remember countless times when people close to her said she was wasting time trying to build a brand. “They told me I dreamed too big. But I saw what I wanted to become, and I didn’t let the small opinions of others stop me.”
Readers should consult their own attorneys or other tax advisors regarding any financial or tax strategies mentioned in this article. These materials are for informational purposes only and do not necessarily reflect the views or endorsement of Santander Bank.
Equal Housing Lender. Santander Bank, N.A. is a Member FDIC and a wholly owned subsidiary of Banco Santander, S.A. ©2021 Santander Bank, N.A. All rights reserved. Santander, Santander Bank, and the Flame Logo are trademarks of Banco Santander, S.A. or its subsidiaries in the United States or other countries. All other trademarks are the property of their respective owners.