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Women Of The C-Suite: Jaimee Lupton of MONDAY On The Five Things You Need To Succeed As A Senior Executive

Do your research! It’s one thing I learnt very early on working in PR: don’t show up with without being prepared. If you have a meeting, know about the person you’re meeting with (what makes them tick, their achievements) and have talking points in your head. People want to do business with people they can relate to, so be authentic.

As a part of our series about strong women leaders, we had the pleasure of interviewing Jaimee Lupton.

Fed up with paying exorbitant prices for premium quality haircare, New Zealand entrepreneur Jaimee Lupton spent 2019 putting together the blueprint for what would become a sellout success. Her brainchild, MONDAY Haircare, provides premium quality formulations at everyday prices; offering active ingredients, paraben and SLS free formulations, that don’t break the bank. Entering the US by way of Target, Ulta and Amazon, MONDAY is here to change the state of play in the hair industry.

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?

I worked in luxury PR, for a small company called Black Communications based in Sydney. I worked with some of the biggest luxury brands in the world — they rep the likes of Celine, Veuve Clicquot, Christian Louboutin and Max Mara. I loved the luxury aspect of that, plus bringing new products to market and the people side of it all. After I moved home to New Zealand I wanted to do my own thing and I had quite a few ideas but none really stuck, until one day when I was in the supermarket with my partner. Everything seemed to be “screaming” in such an already overcluttered space. I started to see a big gap in the market for modern haircare with a luxury look and feel, but available in a supermarket setting and at a reasonable price point. We conceived MONDAY with the intention of bringing that to people — all the while being a brand that is vegan, cruelty-free and whose products don’t contain things you typically find in supermarket haircare, such as SLS and parabens.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company?

MONDAY had been in the works for a while of course, but the week we launched (in March 2020) in New Zealand and Australia, COVID took hold and both countries were facing pretty severe lockdowns. Thankfully we were able to be agile and bring forward the NZ launch. But it was also partly good fortune, as our retail model was based around supermarkets which were allowed to remain open and so were largely unaffected. We went on to sell six months’ of stock in six weeks and had to hustle to get more product on shelves. As you can imagine, it wasn’t an easy feat to manage when we were based in New Zealand and producing offshore but we did it… somehow. It meant some long 12-hour days but I’m so proud of the team and what they were able to achieve working remotely.

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?

During my first retail pitch — to the major Australian supermarket chain, Coles — I went completely mute and my team had to step in for me. I didn’t think I was nervous, but for some reason I completely froze and couldn’t get the words out. For someone who talks non-stop even under pressure it was totally out of character. Thankfully the buyer who was in the room is now the biggest cheerleader for MONDAY. She backs the brand 100% and her support and guidance has been a huge reason MONDAY has been the success it is. Surround yourself with people who support you in all faculties of the business.

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?

My partner Nick Mowbray. I’m not being biased when I say he’s a business visionary! Along with his sister and brother, he runs a company called Zuru which is one of the fastest-growing toy companies in the world. He’s completely immersed in the business world, so I lean on him a lot for that side of things. His strengths are my weaknesses — and vice versa, I suppose. I often joke I’ve been in the University of Nick Mowbray for almost four years and it far surpasses my traditional University education.

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?

Talking to someone I trust and who knows me really well helps here. Even if it’s just to keep talking about work (which let’s face it, we often do), calling up my partner Nick before or after a big meeting/talk/decision helps. There’s a kind of flow that comes from bouncing off someone who knows me so well that puts me at ease and helps me relax a little. My 2IC in marketing, Juliana, is also one of my best friends, so there’s an understanding there. There’s no need for chit-chat so we move fast, and the amount of work the team gets through under her direction is evident. Having a team you trust intrinsically really does lift the pressure of running a business. I owe a lot to her and the weight she takes on. We end up having to schedule in time for personal chats so that it’s not all business.

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?

When building out the MONDAY team it was important for me to bring people from all walks of life and experiences to the table. For a global brand, perspective is a currency that can’t be bought. You need to invest in the right people to help shape the brand’s narrative and position on cultural issues, and for that perspective is key. I’m also of Maori descent (New Zealand’s indigenous people) and know all too well the importance of equality and opportunity for all.

As a business leader, can you please share a few steps we must take to truly create an inclusive, representative, and equitable society? Kindly share a story or example for each.

Great question. I think this goes beyond brand optics or what you see on an Instagram feed to truly being inclusive, representative and equitable in other areas of your business, too. MONDAY does a lot to partner with charities and NFPs through our ‘Community Care’ initiatives in each market: in Australia and New Zealand we work with around a dozen groups that offer assistance to women in marginalized groups or from disadvantaged backgrounds, and in the US we’ve partnered with Glam4Good as we really loved their approach. When it comes to inclusivity and representation, I think brands have a responsibility to make sure people feel seen in their brand — in everything from advertising and marketing collateral, brand faces and spokespeople, product ranges, and the team working behind the scenes. For us, launching in the US meant that we had to re-think our formulas slightly, so that they really worked to include hair types that aren’t as common in our Australian and New Zealand markets. We try to work with a really diverse group of people — both in our teams and with regard to who you see represented on our digital channels — but all that wouldn’t mean much if our product didn’t cater to as many people as possible, too. For us it means that when someone goes to the store, or takes a MONDAY product home, they don’t feel excluded by such an everyday thing as shampoo and conditioner. I think that applies to almost any business or brand, whatever their area of expertise or offering may be.

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?

If you own a business (or you’re an executive) you have to own all of it, so to speak. Every issue becomes your issue, and so other people’s mistakes become your mistakes, too.

What are the “myths” that you would like to dispel about being a CEO or executive. Can you explain what you mean?

Despite what Dolly Parton might say, there’s no such thing as 9-to-5! It’s more like 5-to-9, and even then, you’re answering emails into the early hours, doing Zoom calls with suppliers who might be in an entirely opposite time zone, and basically having to be answerable to everyone at all times. It’s almost impossible to switch off. I haven’t figured it out yet, anyway.

In your opinion, what are the biggest challenges faced by women executives that aren’t typically faced by their male counterparts?

It’s often said that women are more “emotional” in the workplace, which of course isn’t always true (and is a pretty sexist statement). But even when people are emotional at work, it’s spun in a really negative way. I think leading with emotion in this climate is so important — EQ is just as important as IQ. All managers regardless of their gender actually have the opportunity to be more compassionate and better leaders. I pride myself on taking care of my team like a mother hen. Their happiness is my happiness, and I want everyone to feel valued and like they are adding value. I spend a lot of time making sure the team feels valued and knows the bigger vision and direction: feeling like you have purpose within an organization is so important.

What is the most striking difference between your actual job and how you thought the job would be?

It’s relentless! They say you’ll never works as hard as you do when you have your own business, and that couldn’t be truer for me. But I’ve quickly discovered that your stress often becomes your team’s stress (sorry guys), so that needs to be managed. I’m working on 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?

I think you have to have hustle and drive, a strong vision and decision-making ability, as well as being consistent in your ideas and actions. Making yourself available and agile certainly doesn’t hurt. As for things to avoid, I’d say to avoid judging people too harshly: remember your staff are human, and that no one gets out of bed in the morning thinking, “I’m going to do a bad job today.” Everyone is trying their best, even if it might not be your version of “the best”. And remember that people’s lives don’t begin and end with work. In the workplace you see 10 per cent of someone. True leaders understand that there’s a 90 per cent you don’t see.

What advice would you give to other women leaders to help their team to thrive?

Building a strong team doesn’t mean simply surrounding yourself with “yes” people (it’s so important to have pragmatic people on board who can flag when there are issues or concerns), but more so people who can prop you up where needed and add skills and value where you’re lacking. Mine are my cheerleading team, and I lean on them so much. I’m actually a little obsessed with my team. I call us the well-oiled machine because I think everyone has such a unique superpower that they bring to the table and the MONDAY brand. We only thrive as a team. If it was just me I’d probably me walking around in circles!

How have you used your success to make the world a better place?

Sustainability is key to what we do at MONDAY, everything from being cruelty-free, to our packaging and transport has been conceived with the planet in mind. As a brand you’re always going to have a footprint, but we try to make ours minimal where we can. Since day one we have had philanthropy at the forefront of our brand with MONDAY Gives Back, which is personally very important to me. Our Community Care initiative is a way for us to give back to the communities where MONDAY is sold. In each market we’ve partnered with a charity or organization that benefits marginalized groups, such as women and children experiencing domestic violence, living in poverty, or facing serious health issues.

What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started” and why? (Please share a story or example for each.)

I could list 50! But here we go:

  1. Do your research! It’s one thing I learnt very early on working in PR: don’t show up with without being prepared. If you have a meeting, know about the person you’re meeting with (what makes them tick, their achievements) and have talking points in your head. People want to do business with people they can relate to, so be authentic.
  2. Know there will be haters. You can’t set out to achieve greatness without ruffling a few feathers. Don’t look beside you — focus what’s ahead of you
  3. Don’t expect to have everything figured out on day one. Everyone always imagines they’ll have everything worked out by the time they launch, but that’s never really the case (and if you wait until you have things “perfect”, you’ll never launch). Even now I’m constantly sending ideas and inspiration to my team so we can learn and do better. A campaign we launched in the first quarter of MONDAY’s existence would never get a ‘pass’ mark now. We always need to improve, do better and set our sights higher.
  4. You learn more from your mistakes than you do your successes. Mistakes aren’t just things that might happen — they will happen, so you have to learn really quickly not to be averse to them, otherwise you’ll be paralyzed by fear and doubt. What matters is how you address when things go wrong and move forward quickly without feeling too sorry for yourself.
  5. Build your cheerleading support system and mentors. No one gets anywhere without the support of others, and I can’t stress enough how open you should be to help. I constantly stress to my team that if we don’t know how to do something, then let’s go find someone who’s done it 20 times and is the expert. Surround yourself with the best, learn from the best, become the best. I am so incredibly lucky with the people I have in my corner.

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.

Anything to do with mental health. Hopefully one day it will be prioritized just as much as physical wellbeing.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson” quote? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”

Basically, everyone will have an opinion on the thing, but very few will do the thing. I’d much rather be the latter.

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

I know she’s not short of fans, but I would love to have been able to sit down with Princess Di. In retrospect, the pressures she was under were huge. How she handled those pressures and the life lessons she learnt from them would be so invaluable.

Thank you for these fantastic insights. We greatly appreciate the time you spent on this.

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In-depth Interviews with Authorities in Business, Pop Culture, Wellness, Social Impact, and Tech. We use interviews to draw out stories that are both empowering and actionable.

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Candice Georgiadis

Candice Georgiadis

Candice Georgiadis is an active mother of three as well as a designer, founder, social media expert, and philanthropist.

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