Interview with Janvi Shah, Co-Founder & CEO of Hue
Tell Us About Your Journey
My journey as an entrepreneur started when I was growing up. I was in a family of entrepreneurs. My dad started his small business when I was only three years old, so I grew up around that. And I got to see how starting a business allows you to have a lot of independence, but also allows you to have such a great impact in your community and in your company. I always knew I wanted to potentially start my own thing one day, and previously I was actually in tech at Google and then I came out here to get my MBA at Harvard Business School, which is where I started Hue.
What Is The History of Hue?
I met my co-founders, Nicole and Sylvan, in our first year at Harvard Business School. I mentioned I came from a tech background. Nicole actually came from the beauty industry, she was at L’Oreal and Sylvan was at Airbnb and Tubi which are also tech startups. We came together around our shared frustration of the process of shopping online for beauty. And this was peak COVID so we realized everything was shifting online -but the technology to shop was not really there yet to figure out what products would actually work for your skin tone, your skin type, and your personal preferences. We saw an opportunity to combine forces with our backgrounds in tech and beauty to solve that problem.
What Are Some Inspirations That Motivate You?
I have a lot of inspirations. I talked about my dad, and I think as an entrepreneur, especially as a female founder, a lot of other female founders have been an inspiration to me such as the founders of Rent the Runway and the founders of Stitch Fix. They actually came from HBS (Harvard Business School) as well and were able to take their companies all the way through to IPO and solving problems in industries like fashion that are female dominated. Seeing women really succeeding in those spaces has been a huge inspiration for me.
I admire many attributes from those entrepreneurs. One is resilience. As a female founder, and as an underrepresented founder, you come across a lot of obstacles and challenges. And the fact that they were able to still stay true to themselves and their vision as they go forward, that resilience, I think is really inspiring.
And then I think the other thing that we as a team resonate with is a value of inclusivity and how you create more room for others who are traditionally underrepresented? Rihanna with Fenty has done an amazing job with her brand in bringing people along in that way.
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What Advice Can You Offer To Other Entrepreneurs?
What advice will I offer other entrepreneurs is a big question because entrepreneurship is such a difficult journey. I think the most important thing is finding the right partners. I was very fortunate to meet my co-founders, Nicole and Sylvan, and to have a strong co-founding team who you all truly believe in the mission and are also all committed to actually taking this forward and going through those ups and downs together. Having someone there when you might have some self-doubt, who are going to kind of pick you up and say, “hey, actually we’re on the right track,” just having the right partners is so important.
Where Do You See Hue in 3-5 Years?
In three to five years we have really big ambitions for Hue. On our team we always like to say we wish for Hue to be ubiquitous around every single beauty brand, every retailer. We want to help every customer to find the right products for them, for their skin tone, skin type, and preferences. We started within the complexion space, but we’re rapidly expanding to skin care, hair care, fragrance, and more. We’re really excited to bring Hue everywhere.
What Value Has Gesmer Updegrove Provided To Hue?
Gesmer has been with us since the beginning of our company, pretty much since before our pre-seed financing round and they’ve really helped us with setting that great legal foundation for our company, from the fundraise to trademarks to hiring to contracts. What’s been really great is that they have expertise with startups, which was a big reason why we chose to partner with Gesmer. Any issue that we are facing as we grow our company, they have usually seen that problem before. They’re able to bring that expertise in with us and connect us to other folks within the firm who can help us with anything specific that we have and that we’re encountering and just also help us to see around the corner. For new issues that we might not actually anticipate, since we are starting this business from the beginning, they’re able to help us flag those things and get us the right resources at the right time.
Why Go With Gesmer?
So why go with Gesmer? They are experts in startups, which is the number one thing for us because from a legal perspective, there are so many different issues that you as a company could face. But the issues that a big corporation are going to face and how they would tackle them would be so different from how an early-stage startup would tackle them. The fact that Gesmer’s whole expertise with startups appealed to us because we knew that they would be looking out for the issues that were most pertinent and important to us at the stage that we are at and not the issues that weren’t relevant or important to us.
The other reason for us was the personal touch that the Gesmer team provided. Being here locally in Boston it was important to us that we had someone that we could easily call up and we knew that they would be able to help us if we were in a difficult situation. So having that deep personal connection was so important.
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