“Don’t Spend Too Much Time Worrying About Things That Won’t Matter A Few Years Later” 5 Startup Tips With Emily Lyons CEO Of Femme Fatale Media Group
“Whether it’s a comment from a prospect, something someone says about you on social media, or you lose an account — whatever it is, if it’s not going to matter years down the road, it doesn’t make much sense wasting hours and hours, agonizing over might-have-beens.”
I had the pleasure of interviewing Emily Lyons, founder and CEO of Femme Fatale Media Group — an award-winning event staffing and experiential marketing agency headquartered in Toronto. She’s also the founder (and yes, the CEO, too) of three other companies: Lyons Elite, an upscale, boutique matchmaking consultancy; True Glue, a creator and purveyor of organic makeup products; and JWLS, a watch brand which contributes to medical research on cystic fibrosis. Ever the consummate entrepreneur, Emily had already achieved a startling degree of business success before she turned 30 — and now, she’s agreed to an interview here, unveiling a panoply of entrepreneurial insights and experience.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! What is your “backstory”?
One of the most defining moments in my life was when my sister Julia gave me a book — Career Renegade: How to Make a Great Living Doing What You Love. This was in my early 20s. I was a highschool dropout, without even a whiff of a college education — so I’m what a lot of people would have described as “least likely to succeed.” Reading that book, as well as several other life events — such as the passing of my sister due to cystic fibrosis — really sparked a flame in me to go for what I wanted in life.
I knew I didn’t have much capital — I was living paycheck to paycheck in a basement apartment in Toronto, barely getting by — so I’d have to bootstrap my company. And that’s exactly what I did: I assembled a team of promotional models I worked with — who I trusted and who I knew were dedicated to delivering the best service possible — and forged my first company, Femme Fatale Media Group. It’s an event staffing agency which has a strong, creative focus on experiential marketing.
I put in a lot of work, a lot of hours, a lot of sleepless nights into making this company a success. But it all paid off; Femme Fatale Media Group has now reached a stratospheric height in the event marketing industry, and has won prestigious clients like Dior, GUESS, and Audi — as well as celebrity accounts like Drake and Justin Bieber. It’s only continuing to expand, too.
I used this initial business experience as the foundation on which I built my three other companies, which are likewise seeing an impressive amount of growth and gaining greater publicity.
Can you share the funniest or most interesting story that happened to you since you started your company?
Where do I even begin? There are so many — I’d have to answer this in a book!
What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
Femme Fatale Media Group stands out because of the spirit of the people who make up the organization. A company can have all the latest tech, it can even have extremely competent people on a technical level (as Femme Fatale Media does) — but if that company’s team doesn’t have a winning attitude, an energetic spirit which always seeks to create more value, then it’s not a meaningful enterprise. B.C. Forbes — who founded the business magazine of the same name — said, “Business was originated to produce happiness.”
I agree with that. Ultimately, the individuals behind Femme Fatale Media Group share the common vision of creating more happiness for the people we serve, and that’s what makes the company stand out and stand tall. Because when you’re driven with that kind of ethos, you’re also absolutely obsessed with getting the maximum ROI possible for your clients.
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?
My sister Julia, in every way possible. She gave me the book that gave me the idea to launch my first company — and she got me my first laptop. Her constant health struggles with cystic fibrosis — and how she dealt with them — showed me that life is all about how you approach its challenges. Her passing away is a constant reminder to me that life is short — shorter than we realize — and you should always just go for it.
How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?
It’s very important to me that there’s an underlying purpose to my business-creation activities — something beyond merely adding more digits to my financial accounts. Some of my companies are specifically geared towards bringing more social goodness to the world at large. True Glue, for instance, has created (and sells) all-natural, organic makeup products. Current big-brand makeup products are chock-full of toxic chemicals (like formaldehyde and parabens), which are really harmful to the skin and body. In the past, women didn’t have many cosmetic options — so they were kind of boxed into the corner of either piling on toxic makeup or going makeup-free.
But True Glue is changing all of that; it started off with a line of all-natural eyelash adhesives, and has now expanded its cosmetic repertoire to eyeliners, mascaras, and lip glosses.
Another company of mine — JWLS, which I named after my sister Julia — is aptly described by the line “timepieces with a purpose.” That’s because JWLS is much more than just another watch brand; it donates a portion of all profits to Cystic Fibrosis Canada, an organization committed to finding a cure for cystic fibrosis.
What are your “5 things I wish someone told me before I launched my Start-Up” and why. Please share a story or example for each.
(1) You can make mistakes. Failure isn’t fatal. Sometimes, I’d beat myself up over some mistake I made, thinking it was the end of the world — well, at least the end of my business ambitions. But mistakes and failure — these are opportunities for learning, for growth, if you allow them to be. And, if you’re sufficiently driven by your purpose, any failure will prove to just be a flesh wound in the whole scheme of things.
(2) Don’t underestimate the importance of mentors. Luckily, early in the “game” of entrepreneurship, I recognized the importance of surrounding myself with mentors; but sometimes I’d underestimate just how valuable they can, and wouldn’t leverage that resource to the maximum extent possible.
(3) Don’t be afraid to carve out an authentic brand. Initially, I didn’t seek to boldly differentiate my company with a brand that was indisputably unique. A lot of people in business make the same mistake; they’re afraid to put themselves out there with an authentic brand. So if you’re just starting out in business, you should absolutely carve out a distinctive brand — something’s that real, that’s coming from who you are and what you stand for.
(4) Don’t spend too much time worrying about things that won’t matter a few years later. Whether it’s a comment from a prospect, something someone says about you on social media, or you lose an account — whatever it is, if it’s not going to matter years down the road, it doesn’t make much sense wasting hours and hours, agonizing over might-have-beens.
(5) Age is just a number, and it doesn’t matter in business. One time, almost a decade ago, I was at a meeting I had with a major financial institution — with the aim of securing a substantial staffing contract — and the VP looked at me incredulously and asked how old I was. You can’t let comments like these get to you — because in business, the only thing that actually matters is the value you deliver, and not something arbitrary like age or degrees.
Some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might see this. :-)
Warren Buffett and Elon Musk. Both of the individuals are extremely focused on what they want to accomplish, and don’t let anything stop them. I think I could learn a lot from either of them. I’ve heard Elon tends to skip breakfast, so a lunch with him would be great.