We had the good fortune of connecting with Holly Eve and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Holly, what do you attribute your success to?
Resilience and kindness are two key factors behind my success and the success of Madame Lemy. I have overcome a lot of adversity in my life, including an addiction. Today, I am 10 years sober. Nothing could have prepared me for what was to come during my entrepreneurial journey: a heartbreaking divorce and severe accident that almost paralyzed me. Both occurred within the year I was launching my business. These experiences caused me panic, depression and extreme anxiety. Luckily, the grit I attained over years of surviving trauma and hardship helped me cope and build what I have today. Healing from trauma taught me two seemingly contradictory lessons, how to excel in chaos and when to slow down and be gentle. Today, Madame Lemy is thriving. In 2019, the Los Angeles Business Journal nominated my company for their Fashion & Beauty Awards Rising Brand category, which recognizes the top apparel and beauty companies driving economic growth in Southern California. Last year, we began selling at Urban Outfitters and Anthropologie this September. We were selected to be in the 2020 cohort of Macy’s exclusive retail vendor development program. Our products are now available on their website and a 2021 pop-up launch will take place at their NYC flagship store. If someone told me this is where I would be today when I was at my lowest two years ago, I wouldn’t have believed them. Only two months after launching, I fell into a profound depression after my marriage fell apart. I was in a dark place and I didn’t see a way out. Somehow, I knew I had to take care of myself, so I temporarily shut down my company and focused on my mental health. My life was far more important than my business. I checked into an in-patient facility to receive the help I needed. I believe there is no shame in seeking support. I could recover with professional intervention and care. I began seeing a therapist regularly who encouraged me to focus on self-care every single day. Activities as simple as taking a bath with candles, going for a walk in the park, or just cuddling my dog. The more I engaged in positive and self-loving acts, the better my outlook became, one day at a time. I also kept two journals while grieving the loss of my marriage: one for emotions and one for creativity. It helped me keep my thoughts separate. A year after my husband left, I was in a much better place mentally and Madame Lemy was growing. Urban Outfitters approached me about selling my products. Things were finally looking up. A few weeks after receiving the news, I was knee-deep preparing their order. I took a break to walk my dog and was struck by a distracted driver in a delivery van. The impact sent me flying 20 feet in the opposite direction. I woke up on the street with my body contorted in places it didn’t belong, terrified I would never walk again. Within minutes, paramedics rushed me to the nearby trauma ER. I had multiple broken bones, a displaced hip, and a mild traumatic brain injury. The doctors said it was a miracle I survived. I was hospitalized for weeks. To prevent my muscles from atrophying, I had to take one or two steps each day with the help of a physical therapist. There are no words to describe the excruciating pain and fear I was in. As I lay in my hospital bed, I had constant, lingering thoughts about making sure I didn’t lose my account with Urban Outfitters. I had to keep Madame Lemy moving forward even when I couldn’t walk. Instead of taking meetings, I made phone calls to my team, and we came up with a plan. I refused to let another setback prevent me ¬¬from growing my company. While I was physically and emotionally recovering from my accident, I asked for a lot of help from different people in my life. I didn’t take my suffering and self-pity out on anyone, remained optimistic, and expressed my gratitude. And let me tell you, kindness goes a long way. Everyone I asked for support — friends, colleagues, and family — were more than willing to pitch in. With my business, I put my pride aside and relied on my network of friends, mentors, and contractors to take over simple tasks for me. This simple but challenging move saved my company. I was learning how to walk again with the assistance of a wheelchair, then a walker and crutches until I could manage on my own again. I gave myself time to return to work incrementally and focused on physical therapy. This might sound counterintuitive, because they teach us that to succeed, we have to scale as quickly as possible, something I did when life was good. But to heal both physically and emotionally, I had to make healthy coping skills my top priority. I changed my mindset from scaling my business quickly to this is not a race and I’ll get there when I get there. It was not a simple decision. I faced financial hardship and fear of the unknown. Operational challenges combined with self-doubt made me wonder if I was on the right path as an entrepreneur. Despite my doubt, I kept going and continued to ask myself, “What is the next right action I need to take to move forward?” Then I took that action. It was almost a year before I was fully recovered, but within four months I could work more efficiently because I gave myself that time. Sometimes, when we slow down and reset, we can accelerate to the next level soon after. For several years, I’ve been a public speaker on entrepreneurship, but in the last 12 months, I’ve shared my personal experiences to bring suicide prevention and mental health resources into the conversation. In June, I became a Forbes contributing writer, focusing on entrepreneurship and mental health. I am proud to use my story and voice to inspire and tell people in crisis to hold on, because on the other side of misfortune and grief is a world of healing and joy. If you or someone you know is suicidal, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255. ***
Alright, so for those in our community who might not be familiar with your business, can you tell us more?
There is nothing on the market like Madame Lemy natural deodorant. Powder formula deodorants were common in the early to mid-1900’s. That nostalgia is everlasting. I didn’t invent the concept; I just reintroduced it, and women are embracing it. Our packaging includes a luxurious sustainable box and a fluffy puff for application. As a former celebrity makeup artist, I hadn’t seen an all-natural brand with luxury packaging at a premium price. I wanted women to feel pampered when applying an everyday product. Deodorant is a product hidden in a medicine cabinet. So, I created something attractive enough to sit on a vanity next to a woman’s perfume bottles and jewelry. Until recently, natural products were equated with crunchy or earthy packaging. My brand stands out for its quality ingredients and beautifully designed packaging. I didn’t have a business or chemistry background prior to starting my company, so I had to be resourceful in figuring out the next steps. Luckily, I discovered most experienced people are more than willing to help, if you just ask. I’m glad I didn’t know what starting a business involved when I did it. Building and running a startup has been one of the hardest things I have done in my life. In the beginning, I broke down at least twice a week dealing with problems and overcoming obstacles. I felt overwhelmed and alone. Having no one above me to turn to was overwhelming and isolating. I couldn’t call in sick or take time off; I had to figure it out. Now, I only get flustered once every month or so and it’s because both me and my company are growing. I still get stressed, but things don’t affect me like they used to. The biggest lessons I have learned are to keep going, don’t give up, and a good cry can be helpful and healing. Sometimes, pressing on can be a real challenge, especially when you don’t have control over the outcome. But the rewarding feeling of accomplishing what I have in such a short time is worth the stress and anxiety. Being able to employ and give others an opportunity to do their best work is priceless.
Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
They would experience a bougie, zen vegan week of pampering and a hike or two. I love taking friends to Mount Echo on the East Side and Temescal Canyon which has breathtaking views of the ocean. Fancy places are my weakness, and I believe California was designed for staycations. The state has amazing boutique and resort hotels I love visiting for special occasions. If I could only choose a few, Carmel Valley Ranch is a favorite. It is a beautiful, peaceful resort overlooking their vast vineyard and lavender fields. At night, we’d make s’mores by the fire pit and lay underneath the stars. It’s magical. Some rooms include large private balconies with a bathtub on the deck, and I enjoy the adult-only pool/hot tub area, which is super nice for relaxing and catching up on some reading. I’d also plan a spa day at Chuan Spa located in Pasadena’s hidden hotel, The Langham. The former Ritz-Carlton gem has so much history and stunning architecture. It’s quintessential California at its finest. I always spend time in the dream room after a treatment and by the palm tree-lined pool. On their last night, we’d check into the iconic Casa Del Mar overlooking the Pacific Ocean and Santa Monica Pier. It feels like a beach oasis, and they have the best Sunday morning brunch.
Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
I attribute much of Madame Lemy’s initial success to the Small Business Development Center, specifically their Pasadena, CA location. I had a good idea for a company but had little business experience. They taught me the language of business and gave me invaluable advice and guidance until I was confident to continue on my own. My mentor, business owner and professor at USC Business School of Marshall, Albert Napoli has made a profound impact in my life, both professionally and personally. He’s given me practical advice and saved me from making many poor decisions. All founders know the extreme emotional ups and downs that come with it. I can’t count how many times he encouraged me to keep going when I was on the brink of falling apart or wanting to quit. My fantastic team has enabled Madame Lemy to scale to where it is today. I firmly believe that to grow your business, you must acknowledge your weaknesses and hire those who excel in those areas. This allows you to work within your skill set and focus on what you are most passionate about. At the moment my employees are all women, and I am inspired by every one of them.
Amanda Lopez, Damon Hall Booth