THE BLOG

Women in Business: Q&A with Michelle Lam, Founder & CEO of True&Co.

03/05/2014 05:32 am ET | Updated May 05, 2014

Michelle Lam is the Founder and CEO of True&Co., the most intimate online shopping experience, fitting women into the perfect bra online with no fitting rooms and no measuring tape. Prior to founding True, Michelle was the first female investor at Bain Capital Ventures, where she invested in and worked with multiple start-ups including RentThe Runway and EdgarOnline. An experienced investor and operator, Michelle previously worked at Parthenon Capital, Microsoft and the Boston Consulting Group. Michelle holds a BA and a MAcc from the University of Waterloo, Canada. She started her career at PricewaterhouseCoopers.

How has your life experience made you the leader you are today?
In life, I've learned to look for the energy givers, the people whose enthusiasm and readiness to take on life with both hands is infectious. At work, I endeavor to provide that same support to my team - enabling success, unblocking paths, cheering them on. True&Co. wouldn't have introduced the first ever algorithm to fit women into bras online if it weren't for an energized team who is willing to say "let's try."

How has your previous employment experience aided your position as the CEO of True&Co.?
I worked at PricewaterhouseCoopers, Boston Consulting Group, Microsoft and Bain Capital Ventures. Not only did these experiences provide valuable skills, but they also taught me how to jump feetfirst into uncharted waters and to break down challenges for easier problem solving.

How do you maintain a work/life balance?
Lingerie is the best conversation starter no matter where you go. I've had the most interesting conversations of my life and met the most amazing women simply by sharing what I do for a living.

What have the highlights and challenges been during your tenure at True&Co.?
Every day is a challenge and that's part of the fun. One of our biggest highlights: we used the fit data from over 200,000 women to create an entirely new line of "data driven lingerie" - fitted for a woman's unique body shape because our lingerie was designed by women just like you. It's beautiful and modern. We named the line "She Walks in Beauty (+ Light)", in reference to both the Lord Byron poem and to the moment of illumination when a woman looks at herself in the mirror and loves what she sees.

What advice can you offer individuals who are seeking to start their own business?
Just do. You'll never get the answer right the first time. Revealing your baby to the world is risky - what if the world rejects your idea and by extension, you? If you take the plunge as early as possible, you start on the journey to bigger and better things as you learn what your customer is looking for.

What do you think is the biggest issue for women in the workplace?
Proactively building bridges instead of dwelling on differences takes real confidence. It can be especially difficult where women in the top ranks are few and far between - consulting, technology, venture capital. It can feel like a boys club if you let it get to you. Stay strong and remember that you can find common ground and connect to your colleagues in many ways without adding a Y chromosome.

What are your thoughts on Sheryl Sandberg's Lean In book and movement?
Sheryl gave me a succinct but oh-so-effective pep talk before I walked onstage to launch True&Co. at a major technology conference. I feel like her pep talk came out of the pages of her book - she really stands by what she believes in. Her TED talk and her book were eye openers as she challenges all of us to take responsibility for our own destiny.

How has mentorship made a difference in your professional and personal life?
I'm thankful for my first mentor, my dad, who took me to the office with him from the time I was little. Coincidentally, he also dealt in algorithms (for traffic lights instead of bras!). Great mentors don't tell us what to do - they show us how to respond humanely and productively to situations that are never by the book.

Which other female leaders do you admire and why?
I look to indomitable female founder-entrepreneurs who are on the same journey, making waves! Deena at Wanelo for her singleness of purpose and her strong internal compass, Jenn at RentTheRunway for her intense focus on delivering the ultimate customer experience. Debbie at GoldieBlox - I haven't met Debbie yet but I'm blown away by her authenticity and what she's doing to shape the future of engineering.

What are your hopes for the future of True&Co.?
I truly believe we are changing an industry. Lingerie is a deeply emotional space - it's about your body, your inner confidence. We are building a different kind of lingerie company for women by women. I remember starting True&Co. in my living room and seeing the look of absolute joy on women's faces as they looked themselves in the mirror. I want to bring that joy to women around the world.