Women in Business: Lisa Rowe, Co-Founder and CEO, UpSpring

03/17/2015 05:45 am ET | Updated May 17, 2015

Lisa Rowe is Co-Founder and Chief Executive Officer of UpSpring, Ltd. UpSpring is a premiere mom and baby consumer brand that creates innovative health and wellness products including Milkscreen, Milkflow Fenugreek Blessed Thistle, Milkmulti Postnatal Vitamin, C-Panty, Shrinkx Belly, Shrinkx Hips and Walking Wings.

Founded by mompreneurs in 2005 and based in Austin, Texas, UpSpring has grown to be one of the most trusted brands for health, wellness, and safety products in the baby care industry. UpSpring's innovative products are developed by moms for moms and backed by science to help improve the lives of today's modern family.

Lisa has over 20 years of Marketing, Sales, Finance and Accounting experience.
Prior to co-founding UpSpring, Lisa served as a financial and marketing executive with leading consumer product companies including PepsiCo, Frito Lay and American Achievement Corporation. She also worked for two startup companies: one in the International Trade industry and the other in the Home Improvement Services industry.

Lisa and her husband, John, have three children. Lisa is a member of the Entrepreneurs Organization's Austin chapter and has a B.A. and CPA from Indiana University.

How has your life experience made you the leader you are today?
I started my first job at 11 years old as a paper girl because I wanted designer jeans and my parents wouldn't buy them for me. I have always had to work hard to earn things. Starting your career at 11 helps you develop a strong work ethic. UpSpring is growing quickly and I know I push our team, but I wouldn't ask an employee to do something I wasn't willing to do myself. I try to lead by example. I also understand, as a working mom how difficult it can be to juggle family and work life commitments. I do my best to help my employees find work/life balance that works for them. If someone doesn't want to work full time but they are a great fit for UpSpring, we structure roles to enable employees to have the flexibility they desire. Each our part time employees make a tremendous impact on the company.

How has your previous employment experience aided your tenure at UpSpring?
I worked for Pepsico and for two start-ups prior to starting UpSpring. The blend of experience in Corporate America and smaller companies prepared me to be scrappy while still employing world class standards. Pepsico gives their employees at a lot of responsibility at a young age. As a result, I was able to gain a broad perspective on the consumer products business by serving in roles in finance, accounting, marketing, and sales. Having the opportunity to gain experience in so many different functions in a Fortune 100 company enabled me to better understand all facets of a consumer products company. This experience has proven invaluable in my role leading Upspring.

What have the highlights and challenges been during your tenure at UpSpring?
By far, the biggest highlight is having the opportunity to partner with so many amazing moms (and dads) with the same mission of improving new moms and children's health and wellness. All of our products have been invented or developed by amazing women. It's such an inspiration to witness first hand, the creativity and passion these women have for developing new products that help improve the lives of other moms.

Any company that is innovating and launching first-of-a kind products will experience numerous obstacles. These obstacles are magnified in a small company with limited resources. As a CEO, I end up wearing a lot of hats and some days it can be overwhelming. I am blessed to have a great team as well as supportive investors and advisors who are key partners in helping me drive the company forward. In addition, knowing that we are making a difference in moms' lives is a huge motivator.

What advice can you offer to women who want to start their own business?
Clearly define your goal for starting your business and seek out others with experience starting a business. How large or small do you want the business to be? How much time and money do you want to invest getting the business off the ground? Do you want to self-fund the business or get outside capital? You may be wildly successful quickly, however plan for the company to grow slower than you expected and require more capital than planned. Seek advice from those who have experience in relevant areas (e.g. similar industries, have started their own business, etc.). Your journey will be unique. However learning from others' successes and failures is invaluable. Do what you are best at within the company, and play to your strengths. Hire people who have the core competencies you need for the business and who are aligned with your vision. Every individual's contribution is critical in a small company. Hire the most talented (and scrappy) people you can afford.

What is the most important lesson you've learned in your career to date?
Building a successful consumer products company from scratch is much harder than most people think. Assuming you have a great idea, it takes a lot of capital and cross-functional know-how to successfully scale manufacturing, marketing, and sales. These functions all have to scale in a synchronized manner and all require substantial capital. We frequently see entrepreneurs with amazing products struggle to gain traction in the marketplace because they lack access to capital and/or don't know how to scale their operations.

How do you maintain a work/life balance?
Maintaining work/life balance is an ongoing challenge. I do believe "having it all" is a myth, however I also believe we should pursue a work/life balance with realistic expectations of trade-offs. Having a support system helps. I have a supportive spouse who carries more than his fair share of the load at home when things are busy at UpSpring (and it seems things are always busy). We are both 100% invested and make sacrifices for UpSpring. We have to be mindful about our personal lives. We schedule date nights and adventures with our kids to ensure there is scheduled focused time for the most important things in life. The business is also an integral part of our family. We try to sit down as a family for dinner every night and UpSpring is often a topic of discussion around the table. By involving our children in the daily challenges and successes of the business helps everyone feel they are making an impact.

What do you think is the biggest issue for women in the workplace?
Women have made major strides in the workplace during my career. However, there is still much room for improvement. One of the largest challenges that still exists for women is how to achieve work-life balance. Women's careers continue to stall as family demands increase. Because women bring such unique skill sets to business (e.g. they make 80% of the purchase decisions for the family), companies need to continue to find creative solutions so women can continue to contribute without it being an "all or nothing" proposition. Too many women leave the workplace not because they have lost interest or their drive, they simply can't find a way to have a meaningful career without working crazy hours.

How has mentorship made a difference in your professional and personal life?
Mentorship has made a tremendous impact on my career and personal life. I have been so blessed with several amazing mentors throughout my career. Mike Rayden (CEO of Tween Brands-Justice and Brother) is my current mentor. He has been an amazing advisor helping me navigate UpSpring's accelerated growth, while always keeping me 'in check' about what really matters in life.

Which other female leaders do you admire and why?
Sheryl Sandberg and Marissa Meyer of Google are great example of smart capable women who have figured how to lead large organizations and also be a mom. They have demonstrated that being a great business leader and being a great mom don't have to be mutually exclusive.

What do you want UpSpring to accomplish in the next year?
I want UpSpring to continue to bring innovative products to help improve health and wellness for mom and baby. The company is growing and entering new categories so it is a very exciting time for UpSpring. Our team is highly motivated to continue this growth by knowing how we are supporting new moms by helping them recover faster after having a baby, making breastfeeding a little easier, and providing solutions to keep her and baby healthier. We want to keep doing more of what we are passionate about.