THE BLOG

Women in Business: Amy Errett, CEO, Madison Reed

05/05/2015 09:44 am ET | Updated May 05, 2016

Amy Errett is a horseback riding, fly-fishing, black-diamond snowboarding, wine collecting, SF Giants-loving Californian. She founded Madison Reed with years of business and operating expertise as a leading entrepreneur, senior executive, venture capitalist and social-mission visionary.

Madison Reed launched in 2014 with the goal of disrupting the $50 billion hair care industry by offering a personal, convenient and affordable process that utilizes licensed professional colorists, the latest technologies, and salon quality hair care products that are better for you - free of ammonia, PPD and resorcinol. Under Amy's leadership, the product, brand and experience are setting a higher standard for the integrity of hair care products by scaling back the harsh ingredients in hair color and hair care, and replacing them with gentler, more natural alternatives without sacrificing superior quality. With a mission to empower women to look and feel their best, the company is reinventing both the hair coloring experience and hair care itself with its healthier professional grade formulas, immediate, personalized hair assessment, and at-home delivery via the company's ecommerce site and mobile application.

Amy's multifaceted career has ranged from investing and operating in consumer marketplaces, both online and offline, and has stretched as far as volunteer nonprofit leadership. Amy is former General Partner at venture capital firm Maveron with a proven track record of transforming industries that are ripe for disruption; hence her move into personal care. She was previously Chief Asset Gathering Officer at E*Trade where she diversified the company's business beyond brokerage and ran a $200 million business.

Among Amy's citations is the Israel Fellows Award, presented by the San Francisco-based Jewish Community Federation. A passionate humanitarian, Amy is chair of the board of Glide Foundation, San Francisco's largest nongovernmental, direct social services organization. Amy is also a member of San Francisco's Barbary Coast chapter of YPO, and serves on the boards of Madison Reed, Wharton West, Common Sense Media, and Vacatia.

A New York native, Amy earned an MBA in finance from the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania and a BA in liberal arts from the University of Connecticut. She is a fanatical UCONN Huskies fan where she was a student athlete. She and her partner live in San Francisco with their daughter, Madison Reed.

How has your life experience made you the leader you are today?
Everything I have done to date in my life has prepared me to be the CEO and co-founder of Madison Reed. My leadership style is a blend of receiving great advice from my mentors and channeling the lessons I have learned from playing team sports, successfully running three companies, investing in some of the hottest consumer tech startups, and chairing the board of a large non profit that feeds the homeless. Through all of these life experiences, I have also managed to have a healthy and loving relationship with my spouse and most importantly, being a present parent for my daughter.

Probably the greatest experience have been the lessons I have learned when things have not gone well - I am convinced great leaders have a resilience and an internal quest for self-improvement. Everyday a startup presents more opportunities for self-awareness and improvement - the key for me has been to infuse that spirit into our Madison Reed culture.

How has your previous employment experience aided your tenure at Madison Reed?
My career prior to Madison Reed has ranged from investing and operating in consumer marketplaces, both online and offline, and has stretched as far as volunteer non profit leadership. I am a former General Partner at venture capital firm Maveron and was previously Chief Asset Gathering Officer at E*Trade where I diversified the company's business beyond brokerage and ran a $200 million business that disrupted an old traditional financial services business. In addition, I started my first company after business school and sold that to a public company.

In a nutshell, my time at Maveron was spent investing in businesses that looked to transform industries that were ripe for disruption. This ultimately led me into founding Madison Reed, as I saw a huge opportunity to completely reinvent the way women are coloring and caring for their hair at home by using technology and a better for you product to deliver a superior result directly to consumers. Think of it almost as receiving quality hair care from your private stylist without having to leave the comfort of your own home.

What have the highlights and challenges been during your tenure at Madison Reed?
The biggest highlight since the inception of the company include being able to make women feel and look beautiful by using our better for you hair care products. The numerous customers who have shared their stories about how we are making a real difference in their lives is so humbling and a huge testament to what we are building. Of course for any startup the momentum and growth of your business is another great highlight, and with it comes the challenges of scaling.

Our challenges are the normal challenges that every startup faces. One of the toughest is keeping up with customer demand while maintaining a high level of customer service and color advice. We uphold the mentality that all challenges we face can be overcome. The one constant in a startup is how to ensure you are seeing around the corner before you need to be around the corner.

What advice can you offer to women who want a career in your industry?
Come up with a great idea and be relentless about executing and raising money to grow your business.

Recruit the best team - you can have the best idea but without a group of rock star people who are smarter than you, the business will not succeed.

Have a positive attitude and see every challenge as an opportunity to up your game- the only constant is change, so you better embrace it.

What is the most important lesson you've learned in your career to date?
It is all about the people - fostering a culture where your mission and values are real and tangible for every team member to experience is absolutely critical to any company's success especially as you scale.

How do you maintain a work/life balance?
The reality is the minute you start your own company there is no such thing as a complete work/life balance - you are on 24/7. But I understand that it was my choice to create a company and take my life in that direction.

Madison Reed is my fourth company so I have a better idea of how to maintain the boundaries of work and life. I have a great home life, a great spouse and daughter (named Madison Reed!). I don't have 'this is my day off' mentality, but I do set boundaries. At night, I never set my phone next to my bed; I am the type of person that would be up all night reading emails. The phone goes to a separate room during these hours so that I can get more sleep and be more effective the next day. I also make sure that I exercise regularly and recently started to meditate - creating a conscious focus on my physical and spiritual health.

What do you think is the biggest issue for women in the workplace?
Women are often criticized for being too emotional in the corporate world. Many see this as a huge issue and disadvantage - I want women to embrace it. Women carry intrinsic characteristics, like kindness, empathy and understanding that make them become strong leaders. They can balance hard decisions while still maintaining employee's dignity, and help drive personal and professional growth for team members.

How has mentorship made a difference in your professional and personal life?
I have had a number of incredible mentors in my career - many of whom I've had the pleasure of working for. But, I also discovered mentors from my past employees. All of these mentors have led me to the leadership model I currently use at Madison Reed: 'leading from love not fear.' One of my biggest mentors is Reverend Cecil Williams one of the founders of Glide - a non profit with the largest set of social service programs that assist the most needy in San Francisco - many of whom experience deep poverty. He taught me the leadership style of embracing authenticity; by speaking the truth and helping your teammates become the best they can be helps the business s but also achieves personal empowerment.

Which other female leaders do you admire and why?
I admire so many different amazing women that it is too hard to list them all but I am so honored to know that they are changing the traditional dialogue in business from a story of 'women cannot have it all' to a story of 'women have it all and deserve it all.'

What do you want Madison Reed to accomplish in the next year?
As Madison Reed continues to grow and flourish, we will maintain our mission to delight and empower customers to feel beautiful every day inside and out. The most rewarding part for us is receiving touching stories from customers who had been searching for healthier hair care products due to sensitivities but also wanted to feel good about the products they were using daily. We're proud to offer this experience to our customers.