Episode 136: Laura Schubert, CEO and Co-Founder of Fur

Launching her business, Fur, at about the same time she was having a baby, Laura Schubert harnessed her background as a strategic management consultant to figure out how she could do it all. She developed a system she calls “ruthless prioritization” which involves constantly asking herself if what she is working on is the most pressing thing she should be working on. It sounds simple but it’s not—when you’re wearing all the hats, distraction is everywhere. She became fierce at focusing, whether it was on her strategic plan for Fur or her babysitter’s schedule. A couple of things her experience has shown her: working mothers make amazing leaders and it’s possible to create the culture you want with work/life balance for yourself and your team.

Listen in to hear lots more wisdom from this remarkable mom-preneur.

Dan Hodgdon
AnnouncerWelcome to WHERE BRAINS MEET BEAUTY® Podcast hosted by Jodi Katz, founder and creative director of Base Beauty Creative Agency.
Rachel MalkinHey you, WHERE BRAINS MEET BEAUTY® Podcast, this is Rachel Malkin. I'm a makeup artist, a yoga teacher and the executive assistant to the CEO of Dame Products and I'm so excited to be here at Base Beauty. I am @rachymal on Instagram and I hope you have an amazing holiday. Bye.
Elora PindellHey, WBMB fans at Elora Pindell here and I'm the executive assistant at on-campus marketing. We are the premier on campus market for the student who's starting for the first time to the student who is getting ready to graduate next week. For more information, find us on Instagram @OCMcollegelife. Happy holidays.
Jodi KatzHey everybody, it's Jodi Katz, your host of WHERE BRAINS MEET BEAUTY® Podcast. Thank you so much for tuning in, happy 2020. This week's episode features Laura Schubert. She is the CEO and co-founder of Fur, and if you missed last week's episode, it featured Kirsten Kjaer Weiss. She's the founder of Kjaer Weis. I hope you enjoy the shows.

Hey everybody welcome back to the show. I am super excited to be sitting with Laura Schubert. She is the CEO and co-founder of Fur. Welcome to WHERE BRAINS MEET BEAUTY®.
Laura SchubertThank you so much for having me. It's great to be here.
Jodi KatzI'm so excited to be sitting with you and when I just met you out in the hallway, my first thought is you're so young.
Laura SchubertWell thank you. I'm old enough that that's a big compliment.
Jodi KatzYour skin is so beautiful.
Laura SchubertThank you.
Jodi KatzYou have such a great glow. So we're going to talk and dive into your career and background and your inspiration in starting Fur, but I wanted to start with one of my favorite questions, which is how will you be spending your day today?
Laura SchubertOh yes. So today, well, when I get back to the office, it's all about 2020 strategy. Because we're right, this is the first week back in the new year and so it's really about deep diving into each of my channels and figuring out, where do we want to take the brand this year?
Jodi KatzAnd where do you want to take the brand this year?
Laura SchubertEverywhere. So it's always about prioritization. And that was also something, my background was strategy consulting and so we didn't in a way think a lot about, I guess I'm always the kind of person where I know where I want to be in a long time or like down the road or where I want to end up. But really, okay, what do we do today towards that goal? What do we do tomorrow? And so that real just execution, which is really what building a business is about. I don't know, it's just so important.
Jodi KatzSo you're talking about a topic goal making, which my sixth grader is actually setting in health class and actually just helped him with his homework and preparing for tests and they have to learn about like short term goals. What does that mean? Longterm goals, what does that mean? I'm like, wow, this is like real world stuff.
Laura SchubertThat's really real world. And I don't know, I hope I've made some progress towards figuring that out even if he can figure that out now, he's a head of the game I think.
Jodi KatzBut isn't that cool they teach that in sixth grade health?
Laura SchubertYeah.
Jodi KatzOkay, let's talk about you. Let's talk about all about you. You graduated from a school called Harvard?
Laura SchubertYes.
Jodi KatzWith a degree in French literature?
Laura SchubertYeah. History and literature.
Jodi KatzHistory and literature.
Laura SchubertI wrote a thesis on the French Revolution.
Jodi KatzGive me the high points of it.
Laura SchubertWell, the high point of it was I actually worked with the professor of French history at Harvard and so I actually had a one on one tutorial with him every week and that was the process to write the piece. And so, I just had an amazing experience doing that.
Jodi KatzAnd why French literature?
Laura SchubertI studied French growing up and I always was just really fascinated by French language and culture and basically my major was French culture.
Jodi KatzAnd did you have goals for what to do with that degree after school?
Laura SchubertNot at all, no. I just really enjoyed the study of French culture and so that was sort of a rude awakening for me I think when I was probably a sophomore or junior in college when, well actually my now husband and we've actually been together forever. We're college sweethearts. He was on the job search and I remember being a sophomore in college and saying to myself, "Oh wow, this degree isn't going to get me a job. I better get some good internships." So I actually interned for Goldman Sachs both of my summers during school.
Jodi KatzAnd what's your biggest takeaway from those internships?
Laura SchubertWell, so I didn't work at Goldman very long. I only worked for them for a year after graduation. But I think you learn a lot from working for big corporations and even now so. Well I guess when you start your own business, a lot of those lessons aren't that applicable to day one. But as I progress in my journey at Fur, they definitely become more relevant. And also just to see how the biggest, most successful companies in the world do things I think is an amazing education and amazing opportunity. And so I'm really grateful for that time I spent there.
Jodi KatzI had an internship and then my first job out of college was with BBDO, which is just a giant advertising agency. And while as like [inaudible 00:05:20] to it after like a year, when I started my agency, all of a sudden all those lessons I learned there when I was like 19, 20 years old, applied like you just have to get the job done you can't say no, you'll have to find a way. Even if it's not the ideal most best way, you're going to find a path forward. And I was like, wow, I was a child and I learned these lessons and now I use these lessons that I learned as a child in my business every day which is so crazy to me.
Laura SchubertAbsolutely. We learn lessons in professionalism I think as you saying getting the job done, and client service I think especially at huge firms like BBDO and Goldman and you learn, it's amazing to watch and I think it's hard to get that experience in other way.
Jodi KatzI do recall like really awful pant suits that I wore. I was so excited to have a job. I was so excited to leave college and like go in the real world and this ... I wish I had pictures of lime green suits it's advertising so it could be like funky but like bizarro. I wished I had pictures of this, but that's sort of-
Laura SchubertI had my brother's suits, sweater sets and pearls.
Jodi KatzWe were opposite. We were both wearing like the same forms but very differently. Well, I think it's hopefully uplifting for people who are younger who are listening to these episodes that like the things you're doing now, even if you don't love that first job, they matter, they're going to impact you later.
Laura SchubertOh, for sure. And again, I think that was sort of, I wish I could say I plan it that way, but I didn't because I was in my 20s and again, hats off to people who have these grand plans when they're in their 20s but I worked at Goldman and I worked in strategy consulting. And so I had these sort of very blue chip business experiences that when I started Fur, when I launched Fur, I in a way put on the back burner, but I'm really glad I did that one I did.
Jodi KatzBut yeah, they seep in. So you talked about Goldman, you talked about management consulting. Why become an entrepreneur after all of this?
Laura SchubertSo, yeah, I've thought a bit about that. I think a couple things led me to entrepreneurship. One was I was always miserable on those jobs. So my last job was at Bain Consulting and I can't speak more highly of them. Again, I learned a ton, but I found the more you were learning about a brand and a process and how a business runs, even if it's a really well run business, sort of the more miserable I was because I like to figure things out. And so I think that's something I really learned in those experiences too, is that what I really like is problem solving and figuring out things that no one's had to figure out before. And when that's your own business, that's every day.

And I think I discovered that that could be a path and sort of my interest was sparked when I was in business school, actually at Columbia. I took a class in entrepreneurship and I thought a lot about starting my own business. I'm really glad I didn't start a business at that time because I didn't have the right idea, I didn't have the right team. I didn't have the thing, it wasn't the time, and so I went back to Bain, I went back to strategy consulting.

I think that was the right move then, but that had sort of, there was a chrono in my mind. Also when I was at Goldman, I actually worked with a lot of private clients and some of them were entrepreneurs. And so when I look back, my father is a doctor, but he has his own practice. My mother's family also we're small business owners. Then when I was at Goldman I worked with entrepreneurs, then when I was in business school, what I was interested in was entrepreneurship. And so I think it's even though I didn't honestly pinpoint it, it's always been getting me where I am today.
Jodi KatzSo I want to hear how being miserable at a job manifest itself in you. Like where you waking up in the morning dreading going to work? Were you not eating? What did that look like at that time where you realize like this is not my forever?
Laura SchubertI think for me again, it was really, yeah, when I woke up I wasn't especially excited and I always want to do a really good job and wanting to be someone that my teammates could rely upon. So I always did my work, always did it on time and always did it to the best of my abilities, because that's my brand and that's why I want to be. But again, I knew because that was my primary motivation at that time, that that wasn't enough for me. So that's sort of baseline, you never let people down, you never let your clients down, you never let your team down. But I knew that in order to be fulfilled myself, I would need to be doing something that I was also passionate about.
Jodi KatzAnd how long did it take you to figure out that you needed more passion in your career? Was it like, oh, after a week or how long did it take when you're at that job?
Laura SchubertNo, I mean I was in strategy consulting for four or five years and I was at my last job almost two years. And again, which was great because I think in those two years I learned an incredible number of things. And also management consulting is a little different pre MBA and post MBA. And so pre MBA was a lot of sort of analytics and Excel and sort of how do you make analytical decisions. And then after my MBA it was a lot more about leadership and how to help clients change, how to turn big ships. And so I think it was, they were different lessons and I'm glad that I stuck around for all of it.
Jodi KatzHave you ever been someone who would just like quit a job? Have you ever been impulsive that way?
Laura SchubertNo. Well because again, I don't like to let people down so I don't think that would be my choice. Unless there were like a really bad reason. But again, thankfully I've only had jobs where people treated me with respect.
Jodi KatzWere you on team sports as a kid?
Laura SchubertNo, I was actually a gymnast and a runner and a sailor. So individual sports but always on a team. And actually, yeah, it's true athletics has always been my biggest passion outside of school I guess.
Jodi KatzOn my team we have a former gymnast and the gymnastique things come out in so many ways through our work. So about like getting criticism, it comes out that way, it comes out in teamwork. Like in her response and reaction to things. My son's a wrestler, so I think it's probably the same way. There's a team score, but like all eyes are on you in that one moment. I would imagine it probably forms some of this wanting to be relied on and feeling like part of a team is so important.
Laura SchubertYes. I think so. Well, and you'll see with wrestling too, it's like did you choose it? You know what I mean? Was it always there? But I definitely think there are definitely aspects of gymnastics that my training in gymnastics I was pretty competitive as a kid that, yeah, it definitely informed me to this day. Actually, fun fact, Lillian, my business partner, co-founder and I were co-captains of the high school gymnastics team.
Jodi KatzCool.
Laura SchubertSo that's sort of, that was our first big project together I guess.
Jodi KatzYou mentioned, does it find you or do you find it. So my son is super competitive, always has been. And I never thought about this until you just mentioned it. But yeah, maybe there's something about this kind of sport, like in tennis or gymnastics or wrestling where you're relied upon in that moment but if you win, it's like such a high. And the validation of knowing you did it yourself in that moment versus like I kicked the soccer ball to someone else who kicked the soccer ball to someone else who eventually got a goal. Maybe there's something in his brain that says, I need this.
Laura SchubertYeah. Different lessons. Right. My husband comes much more from team sports I guess I've seen that too. I just think different lessons. So that's also where I think maybe personality comes into it.
Jodi KatzWell thank you for making me think through what my son's doing. We also just needed him to do something to get his hands off his sister which is like wrestling is a really good thing for that. Like go wrestle with somebody else, not her. So let's talk about-
Laura SchubertThat's very strategic. That's a real strategy sport.
Jodi KatzOh my God. They have like 30 seconds, 60 seconds. Some of the matches last 10 seconds or less. But the small movements they do as they're like crawls up on top of each other on mat, it's really phenomenal. Like literally like unpeeling fingers off and move hands away and squeezing on an arm to make the other arm release, it's crazy. It's cool. He's small now so it's easy to watch, like high school's tough to watch. They literally pick each other up and throw them down. But okay, let's talk about your best friend from seventh grade.
Laura SchubertYes.
Jodi KatzLillian. And why call Lillian and start a business with her?
Laura SchubertAgain. That's another thing where I think looking back, it's like the markers were there whether I realized it or not. So we met in seventh grade orientation, we just were at the same school.
Jodi KatzAnd so cute.
Laura SchubertAnd both were gymnast. So we did gymnastics all through middle school and high school together. We're captains of the high school team by senior year. Always overlapped in terms of classes and then both got into Harvard, which again you can't really plan.
Jodi KatzThat's amazing. You actually remember meeting her at orientation?
Laura SchubertOh yeah. Well we were fast friends for sure. And so yeah, so we were friends sort of again, all through high school. Both got into the same school. I actually ended up transferring into her dorm, which with another group. So that's the other thing is we all ... yeah so I ended up in her dorm and then we both did, she actually went to finance and then marketing. So she's always been in marketing pretty much. And then I was in consulting and then we both applied to business school around the same time and both ended up at Columbia. That was where our paths let us.

And so then we were classmates there again, which again, it's just kismet. And then when I left I went back to consulting she went back to marketing, but of course she was at L'Oreal. And then in 2014 when I started thinking about Fur and how to make it a reality because it was just an idea at that time who's my only friend in beauty marketing? It's Lillian. So of course I got her feedback on it from the very beginning and we were in similar places in our career and I said, "Look, I think you should, I think you should leave L'Oreal and do this thing with me."

So it just came together. That being said, I think the trust that we have built over these decades of friendship is incredibly helpful for founding a business because it's really hard. It's really hard to be business partners, it's really hard to start a business and to have this underlying trust with your business partner is something I'm really grateful for.
Jodi KatzSo you said leave your well paying job and come start a business with me?
Laura SchubertYeah. Yes I did.
Jodi KatzAnd when did she say?
Laura SchubertWell, she thought about it. Actually originally she was not a fan of the idea for Fur, so I pushed it through formulation and I had a vial, it was in like an unmarked blue bottle. And she was at my holiday party in 2014 and I put it in her bag and I said, "Take this home, try it, play with it, think about it I really think you're going to come around." Which is funny because that's actually pretty true to our dynamic in general where I have crazy ideas and Lillian is always asking the right questions. And I know when we come to a decision together, when we have alignment that it's all for the right reasons. So yeah, so by 2015 she left her job.
Jodi KatzAnd where did the money comes to start this business?
Laura SchubertSavings. And then we are still bootstrapped. Yeah, we've been lean and mean since the beginning.
Jodi KatzAnd it's four years?
Laura SchubertWe launched in 2016 so we are sort of formulating in 2014, 2015 Lillian left L'Oreal and we were putting the brand world together because when she left we didn't even have a finalized name yet for the company. So again, naming, logo, brand world and then early 2016 launched.
Jodi KatzHow is it possible that a very common three letter word was not already taken for the company name?
Laura SchubertWell, pubic hair care is a completely new category and I also think when you think about cosmetics, again I feel like we've re-imagined so many things in creating our brand that I'm not that surprised.
Jodi KatzLike every word. Naming is so challenging it's one of the hardest things that we do because everything is taken. So kudos to you for snagging it before someone else did. So let's talk a little bit about life as an entrepreneur, but also how to support your team and make sure that your team feels like they're living a full life as they work for you. So you told me that you have a two year old daughter?
Laura SchubertI do, yes.
Jodi KatzAnd I think Lillian just had a baby. Is that right?
Laura SchubertShe just had her second baby.
Jodi KatzHer second baby.
Laura SchubertShe has a three year old and a seven month old and I have a two and a half year old.
Jodi KatzSo what is maternity time post baby coming look like for two entrepreneurs these days?
Laura SchubertWell, the nice thing about running a small business is that we get to create the policies we want, all the while trying to set a good example also for the rest of the team. And so with each maternity leave it's been a very frank conversation with what do you need as a mom? How can we support? So I think it always starts with the mother. And again, we're small enough that we don't have to have these sort of wide ranging cookie cutter policies. And so for instance for me when I had my daughter, I didn't want to take that much time off, but I needed a lot of flexibility.

So I didn't take very much time off at all. Just completely, again, not answering email. But then coming back, I think it really takes like six months to a year to really come back to work. For Lillian it was very important to her to really try to take two, three months off, especially for her second baby. And so we really tried to make that happen. We didn't quite succeed because it is hard in a small business to have anyone out for extended periods of time but we did our best to make that happen. And again, I think it's just always about being a mom. It's about flexibility, it's about understanding and it's about being able to leave when you need to leave.

And so we've never been about face time. Everyone's a self starter and I think everyone feels just a high level of accountability. And so I think building that culture is really important also to supporting moms because they're the most efficient.
Jodi KatzI agree completely, and I also think that there's a lot of judgment than other people put on entrepreneurs or other people about how much time they do or do not want or need, whether it's a lot or a little. And I remember feeling, well my friend's 12 and my daughter's nine now. So nine years ago, right after I had my second child, one of my clients clinic calls, like literally the day I think when I was leaving the hospital. And I took the call because I wanted to take the call and I did the work because I wanted to do the work. But I also felt this like weird feeling of like shame or stigma for doing it.

And I actually, when they called me, I didn't tell them I just had the baby because I felt like, well if I tell them I have the baby then they're going to judge me. And so they were sweet because they're lovely people. They were worried that something happened because I never told them when the baby came. They saw me, they knew the baby was imminent.

But anyway, I was feeling so much sort of like internal shame that like I shouldn't be doing this but I want to be doing this and now I'm different but that was nine years ago. And whether I have a lot of people on my team who work when they can work because they want to work, but maybe they can't work between the hours of, I don't know, 3:00 and 6:00 or whatever. And I just feel like washing away the shame. Like you want to work, you don't want to work, you want to be with the baby at this time, you don't want to be with the baby this time. It's so important to like let people just do what's right for them.
Laura SchubertRight. Yes. And again, I think that's why also the lack of face time is the most important piece of that equation. If people are getting their work done and they're hitting the results sort of who cares. Especially today because we do have cell phones and iPads and all these things. It's like who you can do work anywhere. And so I think that's an incredibly empowering for working moms too.
Jodi KatzThis is so hard for so many companies still. You talk about it because it's your normal and that's our normal too. But like it is so hard for companies I think because they're maybe not hiring self-starters, they're not hiring people that they really trust.
Laura SchubertRight. Well also I was going to say, we're 12 people so I've a very good sense personally of what people are doing and what they should be doing. And I'm sure as things get bigger and more complicated that's when you probably do need more standardized policies. So it's all hard.
Jodi KatzSo you said something to me on our intake call that I thought was so interesting I put it in quotes. You said, "Energizing opportunities is not draining ones." And I thought, wow, that's such a cool thing to think about. What's coming at me? Is it an energy energizing opportunity, not a draining one. What does that mean when you talk about leadership and growing the business?
Laura SchubertWell, again, this sort of gets back to why I started the business in general as you want to be excited about what you're doing every day. And I think again, especially as a mom, I want to know that when I'm away from my child that I'm doing things that are meaningful to me and meaningful to others and spreading our mission of de-stigmatizing pubic hair and body positivity are extremely important.

We're a mission-based brand and so that really energizes me every day. And so, yeah, I guess I just see challenges in general of what we're trying to build and just business challenges in general as energizing. And that's the thing also when you're trying to prioritize being a working mom and running a business and everything seems like a lot. And having a home life and I'm married too but this is such a privilege and I'm so grateful to have these opportunities to have to balance.
Jodi KatzSo there's something else that you said that I'm putting quotes because I loved it. So about the idea of growing in this [seduction 00:23:34] growth, you said your goal is what you call ruthless prioritization. And I just like loved the combination of those two words together. What is ruthless prioritization?
Laura SchubertI will again, I think that's working motherhood. It's probably all motherhood to be honest. But I guess I can only speak to my experience, but yes, I think when you're a working mom, you must ruthlessly prioritize and you can only be working on the most important thing at that particular moment. I actually think that's made me a better leader and manager than maybe I was before or before I became a mother. Because again, I can't have face time, I can't sit there all night. I literally can't.

And so when I get to work, I have these eight hours, I hope eight hours unless my child gets sick. So I've eight hours to do the most important things that need to get done that day. And those are the things I do and that's all I do and then I'm gone. So that's actually why I think working mothers can make amazing leaders and amazing managers because we have to think that way to survive. And so I think it's really empowering.
Jodi KatzHas your team learned that technique for themselves?
Laura SchubertYes. I think that's definitely, that's again also back to self-starters, results-driven, who we hire. Because the other thing is I can't sit there all night and they don't either. Honestly people do, like we work really hard when we're there and then we leave. And I think when you have that attitude that it's not face time, it's results driven and there are really important things to get done, it does trickle down. And I don't have to constantly be checking on people.
Jodi KatzI love hearing you say ruthless prioritization. I love hearing those words come out of your mouth. So the last thing I want to talk about is growth and you've mentioned a little bit about this, like how do you maintain your leadership style? Your kind of personal goals for yourself and managing your time, your team's time. How are you planning for the future? So you're going to double in size, right?
Laura SchubertI hope so, at least.
Jodi KatzHere's the pixie [dose 00:25:39] to double in size. What kind of steps can you take now to make sure that the values of an organization and the way that you value people you're putting into place for whatever that looks like when you double?
Laura SchubertI always try and it's probably to varying effects of success, but to think really hard about what are the things that I need to do. And well, what are the things that are taking up a lot of my time and what are the things that I am best suited to do? And so just making sure that I'm always sort of keeping on top of that and thinking about how I can build my team in a way that if something's taking 70% of my time and it's honestly not something that I'm the best at any way, we should hire somebody new.

And so I always think about how can I structure my day and structure my work such that again, the three things that I can physically get done today are the right things that I should be doing. So I think it's more again, about the right things and how you're spending your time and grow the team that way and try to think hard about that.
Jodi KatzAnd my real last question, you seem like a really optimistic person. What does drag you down? Does anything ever make you feel like that [inaudible 00:26:49].
Laura SchubertIt's funny you say that because I got, I don't know that I always call myself up optimistic but ...
Jodi KatzLike there's times where I'm just like I'm in a client service business where I'm like, clients are killing me, this is my business. So like obviously I come around, I take a break and we realize like this is really fun I get to work with clients. But sometimes I get really overwhelmed by criticism and complaints and things like that. And I go to chocolate chips and I go to crying sometimes. So is there anything about growing a business or in particular or your business where you just sometimes you just get dragged down, you need to take a break and get out of that hole?
Laura SchubertOh, for sure. And I make mistakes all the time and I make calls that I wish I didn't make. I think that's definitely part of the path. And I think definitely something about my personality is that I try not to dwell on it, but I do try to take the lessons. And so yes, sometimes that's really rough. Like when you really felt like you've made the wrong call. And for instance, that client, maybe they're really angry, maybe they could have expressed it differently. But is there anything there that I can take back and that I can use to make myself better, to make my business better?

And I've definitely I've had definitely rough feedback from people and again, things I would've done differently. But I think if you can really try to take the emotion out of it and at least get the kernel of learning out of it. But yeah, sure there are hard nights. I think that's where the personal support comes in, that's where my business partner comes in and my family comes in and a bottle of wine comes in now and again. No, it's really hard and it feels like a slog and that's where I think the support is essential.
Jodi KatzWell, thank you so much for sharing your wisdom with us today and I love all your advice. I'm going to use it. And for our listeners, I hope you enjoy this interview with Laura. Please subscribe to our series on iTunes and for updates about the show, follow us on Instagram @wherebrainsmeetbeautypodcast.
AnnouncerThanks for listening to WHERE BRAINS MEET BEAUTY® with Jodi Katz. Tune in again for more authentic conversations with beauty leaders.

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