Female Founders: Melissa Rogne of Chapter Aesthetic Studio On The Five Things You Need To Thrive and Succeed as a Woman Founder
An Interview With Candice Georgiadis
Everything you say or do will be analyzed. Pause before you speak, send the email or text. Your words will have a significant impact on those around you. I remember one team meeting after one very long night up with a teething baby. I expressed my frustration with lack of performance in a less than empathetic way; it took me months to rebuild the trust from that one meeting where I was not on my game.
As a part of our series about “Why We Need More Women Founders”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Melissa Rogne.
Melissa Rogne is the founder and president of Chapter Aesthetic Studio. Fueled by her passion for helping others, Melissa has transformed the modern narrative around medical aesthetics by giving more people access to high quality, trusted non-surgical cosmetic treatments. She is a graduate of North Dakota State University with more than 20 years in the aesthetics industry.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would like to get to know you a bit more. Can you tell us a bit about your “backstory”? What led you to this particular career path?
I would love to! My story is a bit unique for someone in the beauty industry. I grew up on a family farm in rural North Dakota. As a child, I was obsessed with creating skin care products using whatever my mom had in the kitchen: eggs, yogurt, oatmeal, honey — I was always experimenting! I also had subscriptions to EVERY beauty magazine and would spend countless hours poring through each and every page. In high school, I remember doing a demonstration speech on applying makeup. My teacher gave me a perfect score and commented that I would be a great Mary Kay salesperson. As I began college, my passion for beauty took second place to my passion for people when I majored in Psychology and Communications. My dream job was to be a beauty editor at Allure or Glamour. I met my husband right out of college and put aside my dream of moving to New York to become a beauty editor. Instead, I decided to go back to school for my esthetics license as a weekend hobby while I continued my full-time position working at a counseling agency. I never dreamed esthetics would become my career — but it truly was always a passion for me!
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company?
There are so many interesting stories — but I will tell you one that is important for others to hear. When my company was just four years old, I was pregnant with my first child. During that time, I lost my brother to suicide. Just 18 months later, I was pregnant with my second child, and I unexpectedly lost my father. During this crazy personal time, my business was growing and needed so much love and attention to flourish. One day, shortly after I returned from my second maternity leave, I pulled over on the side of the road on my way to work. I just couldn’t do it anymore. I went back home and told my husband that I needed to sell the business. I just didn’t have what the business needed me to give anymore. I was heartbroken over my losses but powering through each day for my new babies. What my husband did at that time was nothing short of remarkable. He walked away from his career and stepped in to help me run my business. He carried me when I couldn’t carry the load by myself. The business continued to flourish and slowly I healed and was able to once again give the business what it needed. I share this story, so others know that it is okay to be vulnerable, even as founders. We are all only human!
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
I have a very big sense of humor so feel like I am always laughing at myself! I can think of many antics — I have fallen off my treatment room stool trying to sit down, have walked into the office with a tissue stuck in the corner of my sunglasses, and more than once have forgotten to zip the back of my dress. I joke that my mind is so busy sometimes my body can’t keep up. The best lesson in all of that — do NOT take yourself so seriously. You need to learn to laugh at yourself and know that letting others see your human side is not a flaw.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
I think my most interesting story can clue you in on who that may be for me. Without a doubt, my husband, Cory. He was a franchisee for Quizno’s Subs when we met and really introduced me to the world of business. I will never forget the first business book I read — “The E Myth” — was his. It transformed how I thought about business ownership. He was the one who encouraged me to get my esthetics license. Honestly, I never dreamed I could be a female founder. He believed I could, though, and supported me from the very beginning and in the critical moments that have defined my business success.
Ok, thank you for that. Let’s now jump to the primary focus of our interview. According to this EY report, only about 20 percent of funded companies have women founders. This reflects great historical progress, but it also shows that more work still has to be done to empower women to create companies. In your opinion and experience what is currently holding back women from founding companies?
I think it is perfectly summed up in this quote, “She believed she could, so she did.” I know that I did not believe that I could do it, and it was only the strong encouragement of my husband that convinced me otherwise. The message I received as a teenager was that I could aspire to sell makeup door-to -door. Nothing more.
Girls need to be taught at a young age that they are capable of anything. This needs to be encouraged by parents, teachers, business leaders and those who are able to influence. They need to be encouraged to fail. Yes, fail. The only way to gain true success is to remove the fear of failure. I like to ask my daughter, “What would you try if you knew you could not fail?” and then encourage her to try it anyway. Founding a business is a bold move. It takes unwavering confidence and a willingness to fail. We need to let our girls know that it is okay to be bold. It is okay to stand out instead of fitting it. It is okay to try and fail. It is okay to choose a non-traditional academic setting. There isn’t a cookie-cutter formula to success so let’s encourage exploration, creativity, and innovation!
Can you help articulate a few things that can be done as individuals, as a society, or by the government, to help overcome those obstacles?
I believe it starts at a very young age with the messages we are sending our daughters. Are we forcing them to fit into a box? Or are we encouraging them to think OUTSIDE the box? Do they feel empowered to make choices? Are we building their self-esteem by letting them prove to us they are capable, or are we hovering over them removing all obstacles and disappointment? Building future female founders means we need to create healthy, confident, grounded girls who can weather the highs and lows of entrepreneurship.
Additionally — I would love to see our education system focus more on building entrepreneurial habits. As someone who self admittedly “marches to the beat of my own drum” it can be difficult for me to see how our education system stifles creativity and innovation. I still see such a focus on memorization and following the rules. We reward those who follow directions and don’t question authority. While those may make great students, they don’t make great founders. Let’s nurture those innate abilities to look for a better, faster, more creative, or innovative way to solve a problem!
This might be intuitive to you as a woman founder but I think it will be helpful to spell this out. Can you share a few reasons why more women should become founders?
The most perfect reason for a woman to become a founder: because you CAN! We live in this amazing country where we have countless opportunities. Take advantage of those opportunities and let your light shine. The world needs your thought leadership! If you have an idea — don’t let fear or self-doubt get in your way. You don’t want to always wonder — “what if?”
And remember — our daughters are watching us. I don’t know any more powerful reason than setting the example for our next generation that women can do anything we choose to do!
What are the “myths” that you would like to dispel about being a founder? Can you explain what you mean?
One of the myths of being a founder is that it is a very glamorous role. If you are looking for power, recognition, and glory — I’m not sure if being a founder is the right role for you. As a founder, you need to be able to roll up your sleeves and do the work. You need to be able to work with little to no recognition or credit. You need to be able to take care of your people first and yourself last. I remember working for two years before I even took my first paycheck. Whether you call it servant leadership or some other name, founders are the found-ation (see what I did there?!) to a successful company. We are the drumbeat that others follow. We must always get up, show up and dress up!
Is everyone cut out to be a founder? In your opinion, which specific traits increase the likelihood that a person will be a successful founder and what type of person should perhaps seek a “regular job” as an employee? Can you explain what you mean?
I believe that anyone who wants to be a founder can choose that path, but that there are some traits that will make that path easier. I believe the important traits for a founder are risk tolerance, innovative, visionary, strategic, humble, committed, ability to inspire, a high conceptual ability, resourcefulness and above all else: have confidence — because you must be willing to bet on yourself! There are many wonderful women out there who love following a vision, using their talents and abilities to connect the dots, create processes, collaborate, and execute. I’ve sometimes heard the term “integrator” used for these individuals. Every great founder has a person like this by their side. I believe the best teams are a result of bringing in a variety of individuals with different strengths to accomplish a shared vision.
Ok super. Here is the main question of our interview. What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started” and why? (Please share a story or example for each.)
- Everything you say or do will be analyzed. Pause before you speak, send the email or text. Your words will have a significant impact on those around you. I remember one team meeting after one very long night up with a teething baby. I expressed my frustration with lack of performance in a less than empathetic way; it took me months to rebuild the trust from that one meeting where I was not on my game.
- Being a founder is the most humbling experience. If you are not willing to do the work of every single person in your company, think about your career choice. We do laundry in our studios so that we can have the softest, best smelling linens. I have spent countless hours folding sheets after hours so we could have what we needed for the team the next day. Because I was willing to do that, our managers modeled that behavior. And our team modeled their behavior. You must be humble and willing to do anything the business requires.
- You will experience a roller coaster of emotions. You will experience your highest high and lowest low. Hang on. You can make it through. I remember having an extraordinary month and thinking I had finally figured out this game of business; the next month, three of my top performers left and I had no idea how I was going to pay the bills. Remember: this too, shall pass.
- Leaders are readers. Read anything and everything you can about leadership and personal growth. Your business will never be more successful than your capability to lead. Recognize that learning is a journey. I started reading and never stopped. Always consider yourself a work in progress. Be willing to share that with your team. Your authenticity will speak volumes.
- Don’t compare. Your journey is your journey. Comparing yourself to other founders is a waste of your precious resources. I remember being obsessed with every competitor in my early days. I would spend a ridiculous amount of time on their website and social media. I was constantly comparing. One day, I decided to stop. I asked someone on my team to keep me informed of any major strategic changes I should know about but didn’t need to track their every move. It was one of the most freeing moments. You are on your own journey. And guess what? There is plenty of room for us ALL to be successful!
How have you used your success to make the world a better place?
My personal mission has been to have the greatest impact I possibly can by empowering as many women as possible to discover their best versions of themselves. While I see this daily in the guests we serve, the area I feel I have had the largest impact is on our team members. To see the transformation in these women from the day they begin their journey with us to learning how to become a strong, empowered female leader is truly my “why.” I believe by creating opportunities for these women to grow professionally and personally has made my corner of the world a better place!
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good for the greatest number of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger.
I would love to start the Compliment Challenge! I love giving compliments and seeing someone’s face light up when you recognize something beautiful and amazing about them. This is a small building block to establishing a healthy self-concept. What if we challenged ourselves to genuinely complement each person we interact with daily? I’ve seen so many women struggle to give and receive compliments because of low self-esteem. We know that high self-esteem helps lower the rates of depression, domestic violence, poverty and more. Let’s do it!
We are very blessed that some very prominent names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them.
SARA BLAKELY — She is such an inspiration. She has remained authentic, humble and focused on putting her team first throughout all her success. She also is passionate about helping women feel like the very best version of themselves. I would love to have a glass of wine, share stories and LAUGH with her! She isn’t afraid to make fun of herself either — which I find so refreshing. Just a real woman out there making a difference in the world by being the best version of herself!
Thank you for these fantastic insights. We greatly appreciate the time you spent on this.