After a successful international modeling career, Lauren Maillian Bias stepped out on faith and launched her own company. She started a winery at the age of 19, sold it, and re-invented herself through Luxury Market Branding, a strategic marketing and branding consultancy. But she didn’t stop there. She went on to become a founding partner at Gen Y Capital, an early stage venture firm.
In her new book, “The Path Redefined: Getting to the Top on Your Own Terms” Bias shares her own blueprint to success complete with advice on how to embrace failure, learn from your mistakes and achieve goals by tapping “into the essence of what makes you unique.” Recognized at the White House by the Kauffman Foundation as an Empact100 Award Honoree, and with recognition from national publications including Essence Magazine, Forbes, American Express OPEN Forum, UPTOWN Magazine, and Black Enterprise it’s clear Bias’ career feats are nothing less than extraordinary.
At a glance, one may wonder how one woman could skyrocket to the top of three different industries before the age of 30. A mother of two, a former winery owner, marketing expert, venture capitalist, start-up advisor and now author, Lauren Maillian Bias’ career was truly an evolution. In our interview, she shares with us how she achieved her goals on her own terms while overcoming stereotypes, avoiding pigeon-holes, and embracing the lessons from her failures.
Her Agenda: You’re a mom of two, a startup advisor, an investor, etc. How did you find the time to write this book?
Lauren: I didn’t necessarily find the time; I literally made the time, and I cut back on doing a bunch of other things to make it happen.
Her Agenda: At the age of nineteen, you became a vineyard owner and then went on to create your own winery! How did you manage to pull that off in the United States?
Lauren: They can say that you’re not old enough to consume the product, but they can’t stop you from owning a facility. They can say you can’t consume the product. When I started Sugarleaf [Vineyards], I was 19 and at that point, it was a vineyard, and that was eventually turned into a winery. I was a vineyard owner and a grape grower for the first two years, and then, I was overseeing the construction project from year one to two, literally from the ground up- pouring concrete, building walls- everything. By the time it was finished, I was twenty-one, and we were licensed both federally and on the state level.
Her Agenda: What sparked your interest in that? What made you want to create your own winery?
Lauren: I talk about this in the book, but it was a real estate purchase that turned into an agricultural tax deduction, that then I turned into a great wine brand that people really liked. We were making different wines across seven varietals, and we had a 90% direct consumer business, which was how we were able to do really well. The tasting room did incredibly well, and we have a really strong wine club online.
Her Agenda: Did you always know that you wanted to be an entrepreneur?
Lauren: I always knew I wanted to carve my own niche, and I always knew that I wanted to own my own destiny. There was no other way for me to have that level of autonomy and gain that level of expertise so quickly and that experience so quickly to allow me to be able to command the sort of opportunities that I’ve been able to embrace and accept.
Her Agenda: In the book, you specifically share principles to define success on your own terms. Can you give us a taste as to what those principles are and how you came up with them?
Lauren: Some of them have to do with how you accept opportunities and what you do when they come to you. A lot of people have an amazing opportunity and they’re like, ‘I want it, but I just wish it wasn’t coming right now.’ I hear it all the time- maybe it’s because you’re in school, you have a personal issue, or you have too many things on your plate. That’s never been my response. I’ve always looked at them as, ‘Oh my god, this is amazing. I’m excited about it, and I can’t wait to get started. I don’t necessarily know when I’m going to make the time, but I’m certainly going to make it a priority to look at my calendar and figure out which things to decline or move around to make it work.’
There’s a mental endurance that you have to have in order to be comfortable with what you define for yourself. People often say, “What would you do if you weren’t afraid?” My twist on that is, “Is it worth it even if I fail?” If it’s a resounding yes, then I move forward very comfortably. There’s so much to learn.
When you aren’t afraid to fail and you know that you’re excited about what you’re going to learn, who you’re going work with, and the people you’re going to meet— all those things are invaluable, whether I succeed or not.
Her Agenda: One of my favorite quotes about success is by Robert Collier, that the definition of success is “the sum of small efforts repeated day in and day out” what’s one small effort you do each day to ensure your success?
Lauren: I maintain peace of mind. My emotional happiness and my mental sanity come first.
Her Agenda: What does that look like? What do you do to achieve it?
Lauren: I don’t think there’s one consistent thing that I do to achieve peace of mind. Every day is different, and we’re all humans so we wake up feeling different ways.
I’ve learned to deliver what I want and what I need in a way that I think is going to be best received by whoever my particular audience is. I try not to have a lot of frustration in my day. If that means that I have to take a different approach or reschedule something until I have a better approach or until the circumstances are different, then that’s what I do. Some of it’s just taking care of me, because I do believe that while there’s no such thing as work-life balance, there is work-life integration. Especially for myself and a lot of successful entrepreneurs and executives, it’s very difficult when you have such a large responsibility; it’s hard to separate your professional happiness from your personal happiness. I think it’s important that everyone maintains a certain level of equilibrium that allows them to be a good professional contributor everyday.
It could be meditating (which I don’t do everyday), prayer, or talking through something to better understand it, but it’s having an unshakeable approach to just about everything I do.
[Editor's note: This contest is now closed. This feature was published on May 19th, 2014]
Her Agenda: Why did you want to create your own path versus going down the beaten path?