Women Of The C-Suite: Alexis Matthews of Sixela Skincare On The Five Things You Need To Succeed As A Senior Executive
Hard work is all mental — No one ever tells you that the hardest part of being an entrepreneur is being mentally equipped for the task you are about to take on.
As a part of our series about strong women leaders, we had the pleasure of interviewing Alexis Matthews.
Alexis Matthews, Chicago born and LA raised, is passionate about skincare. Alexis was raised in a health conscious household where “natural is always better”. Dissatisfied with the culture of L.A., where only celebs can afford to pay thousands for cosmetic surgeons to construct their clear and glowy skin, she decided to make an affordable all natural skincare line, so that everyone can look and feel like a reality TV star.
Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! 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?
Thank you so much for having me! Growing up my mother loved using natural homemade remedies for everything. A cut, a sore throat, a headache, you name it. From a very young age, I began making my own bath and body products and implemented my mothers home remedies. As I grew older, I took time to actually research each and every ingredient and how to tailor it to my specific skin needs. Over time, my skincare interest became a hobby and developed into a business. That’s how Sixela Skincare came to fruition.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company?
Everyday is interesting honestly. I have new things to overcome and troubleshoot daily, but I have to say the most interesting thing that’s happened to me was getting over “imposter syndrome”. Imposter syndrome refers to an internal experience of believing that you are not as competent as others perceive you to be. It sounds just as awful as it is. Like come on, I’ve started this company from scratch, and suddenly these intrusive thoughts come out of nowhere and they’re telling me I’m not capable of succeeding. I knew deep down it was BS, but it can affect how you view yourself and, ultimately, your work. I began second guessing myself and my abilities to lead Sixela Skincare. I’ve always been pretty confident and sure of myself, so this was all very new. After doing research, I’ve discovered that many *successful* people have gone through this same thing. I was not alone. I think it’s important to share my mental health journey because I’ve learned that not many people discuss how mentally taxing being an entrepreneur can be. Powering through it, in a healthy way conducive to my well being, has definitely been the most interesting thing I’ve experienced since Sixela Skincare’s inception.
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?
When I was just getting started, I was so excited to get my products out there I began selling them *without* labels. HAHA! I do not suggest doing that. Products absolutely need labels because customers need to know where to return in order to get more. DUH. Gaining a loyal customer base is definitely a goal of Sixela Skincare’s and by doing so we provide quality products with quality ingredients. Returning customers should be a priority for any business owner.
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?
You absolutely cannot achieve success without the help of someone along the way. I wholeheartedly believe that statement. My entire family is deserving of thanks. My mother, who coined SIXELA SKINCARE back when I was a kid, has been encouraging and supportive in every way imaginable. In the very beginning she and my sister have done research, physically put together bulk orders, and been therapists when things were getting to be overwhelming. My grandmother assisted with legal advice and my father helped me with the accounting portion. My entire family helped spread the word about Sixela Skincare to their friends, coworkers, neighbors, you name it. It takes a village. Especially in the beginning stages.
In my work, I often talk about how to release and relieve stress. As a busy leader, what do you do to prepare your mind and body before a stressful or high stakes meeting, talk, or decision? Can you share a story or some examples?
I used to have a fear of public speaking, so this is something that I *really* had to work on. I am a firm believer in setting the tone for the day. I’ll start with a list of affirmations for the day. Reassuring myself that I am more than capable to take on any task thrown at me. Secondly, if I know I have an important meeting or interview, where I know I’m expected to speak, I will prepare for it. I will ask the interviewer for the questions they plan on asking me or watch/read previous interviews. Another good tip is to prepare your own talking points at least a day in advance. I will practice my responses until I feel comfortable. Practice makes perfect.
As you know, the United States is currently facing a very important self-reckoning about race, diversity, equality and inclusion. This may be obvious to you, but it will be helpful to spell this out. Can you articulate to our readers a few reasons why it is so important for a business or organization to have a diverse executive team?
As a black woman I understand the plight of living in this country black all too well. I understand black struggles on a very real level — from first hand experience. Recent events, I understand, have been an eye opener for many who were not aware of the blatant racism toward different ethnic groups, specifically black people, in this country. However, what is shown online and in the media is only a small amount of all of the injustice black and people of color face daily. It is not only important, but it is absolutely necessary to have an executive team that is diverse because it is:
- Not representative of the country we live in today. People of color make up a huge percentage of the population. When executive teams and boards are not representative of the country’s population, it is not because there aren’t any qualified candidates, it is a deliberate attempt to keep people of color out of these spaces
- Acting as though people of color don’t exist hinders future business. Ignoring most of this country’s population causes a disconnect with consumers and usually manifests in limiting conversion of sales.
- People of color offer perspective that their white counterparts cannot simply due to heritage, culture, and experience. Any business owner can agree that It’s important to make informed and impartial decisions. Only way to make that happen is by being knowledgeable on certain issues in various communities.
- Having people of color in your team allows every voice to be heard.
Ok, thank you for that. Let’s now jump to the primary focus of our interview. Most of our readers — in fact, most people — think they have a pretty good idea of what a CEO or executive does. But in just a few words can you explain what an executive does that is different from the responsibilities of the other leaders?
As CEO of a small business I am in charge of literally everything. From web design, social media, marketing, packaging, shipping, production, accounting, legal, etc. Anything you can possibly think of, I oversee it all. It can be overwhelming, but ultimately any sliver of success is *extra* rewarding because I’m doing it all on my own.
What are the “myths” that you would like to dispel about being a CEO or executive. Can you explain what you mean?
“Being CEO is an easy job, you just have to show up and sign paperwork while the little guys do all of the work”
While the little guys do a lot of work, I cannot imagine this statement being true for even the biggest of companies. Everything falls on the big guy at the end of the day. Every decision must be for the betterment of the company. So even if it is as simple as signing a sheet of paper, the burden of the pen is heavy.
In your opinion, what are the biggest challenges faced by women executives that aren’t typically faced by their male counterparts?
Being heard. Let’s face it — Sexism is real. As previously discussed, diversity is something that a lot of businesses need to implement, but so is having more women in these same spaces. I’ve been brushed off and dismissed, just to have the guy next to me say the same thing and get a pat on the back. It’s ridiculous! My advice to all women out there is to keep fighting to be heard. Ignore the comments about being mouthy, difficult, aggressive, etc. Do not dim your light for anyone. Make them listen.
What is the most striking difference between your actual job and how you thought the job would be?
Honestly, I don’t think I knew what I was signing up for. Haha. I had no idea what to expect, but I never thought it would consume so much of my time and mental capacity. Every little detail of SIXELA SKINCARE requires so much attention and thought. For example: before anyone has seen anything, it’s been planned out months in advance. I have many sleepless nights and too many calendars to count, but seeing the finished product is always well worth it.
Certainly, not everyone is cut out to be an executive. In your opinion, which specific traits increase the likelihood that a person will be a successful executive and what type of person should avoid aspiring to be an executive? Can you explain what you mean?
Many traits come to mind, but one who has willpower and perseverance to see a project through will make for a successful executive. If someone has willpower, they can do anything. Teach themselves how to run a business, how to design a website, create a training course etc. That’s half of it. Second is perseverance to overcome obstacles that businesses executives face. Making tough decisions, meeting deadlines, seeing the business through.
What advice would you give to other women leaders to help their team to thrive?
Be open to new ideas. As leaders, we tend to think we can do it all on our own, but it’s good to remember that sometimes someone else can be more knowledgeable than you are. It’s okay to allow someone else to share their idea and roll with it. Remember you can accept help from others.
How have you used your success to make the world a better place?
Sixela Skincare has two main focus points: health and the environment. Health encapsulates mental and physical health. Promoting overall wellness and wellbeing using Sixela Skincare products as a method of selfcare. Not only are we caring for ourselves, but using natural ingredients is great for the environment. Organic skincare products limit the amount of chemicals being washed into our lakes, rivers, and public water systems. One product at a time, we are working on saving our planet and promoting self care.
What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started” and why? (Please share a story or example for each.)
- Hard work is all mental — No one ever tells you that the hardest part of being an entrepreneur is being mentally equipped for the task you are about to take on.
- Loving what you do, makes the job easier — This job can be demanding, so loving what you do allows you to show up even on the hardest days.
- And yes, It does get easier — don’t get me wrong, the job presents its challenges, but the more you know your company’s ins and outs, it gets easier with time.
- Branding is most important — Buckling down on your company’s brand and marketing strategy is what will allow you to connect with your audience and create brand longevity.
- Have Fun! — don’t be afraid to try new things, get creative, and be innovative.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
My dad always said “80% of success is just showing up”. Previously having a fear of public speaking, I used to talk myself out of doing a lot of things. Whenever I start to doubt myself, I remember that most of my success has come from just showing up and being present.
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
Gabrielle Union. She is successful at any task she decides to take on — whether it be motherhood, an acting role, or entrepreneurship. I admire her and look forward to meeting her soon *wink, wink*
Thank you for these fantastic insights. We greatly appreciate the time you spent on this.