Leslie Newton is the CEO and lead designer of Newlie, a "Moms Owned Business" devoted to creating fresh, customizable products for modern moms by modern moms.
From crafts to comedy sketches, Leslie has been a creator since she was 7 years old. She began her career in the entertainment industry, performing with the Los Angeles Groundling's Improv Theater and writing skits for programs such as Saturday Night Live. In 1999, she transitioned from working with comedians to working with moms (perhaps the only group more skilled at entertaining a rowdy crowd!) founding timi & leslie, the company that introduced the "stylish diaper bag for moms" to the masses. Leslie's designs at timi & leslie were sold to over 500 stores throughout the US and internationally. She developed a celebrity clientele of women such as Jessica Alba, Annette Bening and Hillary Swank and was featured all over the media.
How has your life experience made you the leader you are today?
As a kid I always remember responding really positively to my teachers who were kind and inspiring - they made me want to work hard and do well for them. I didn't feel the same way with the teachers who took a more punitive, adversarial approach. So that is how I work as a leader of employees. I try to inspire and empower them. Not only are they then loyal and hard working, but it creates a much more positive working environment.
How has your previous employment experience aided your position at Newlie?
Well you see what works and what doesn't. Organization is a big thing. If you're not organized then things just don't get done well and you lose money.
What have the highlights and challenges been during your tenure at Newlie?
In the past when I had less experience there was a big learning curve. When I first got involved with manufacturing I didn't know anything about production and there were so many challenges with that. There is so much attention to detail and so many moving parts that you really have to understand what you're doing or it can be a big disaster. Once I really understood what I was doing, it was very rewarding seeing products I designed made well and sold to stores.
How has Newlie changed the beauty industry?
My biggest contribution has been creating stylish diaper bags for moms. Beforehand, all there was were bags covered in bunnies or Winnie the Pooh. I was able to give moms an option to look stylish while being a mom.
What advice can you offer women who are seeking to start their own business?
First off, make sure you have some knowledge and/or experience in the business you want to start. Don't be afraid to get advice. Whether you are looking for investors or just using your own money, it's good to create even an informal business plan so you have a road map and a reference point for your new business.
How do you maintain a work/life balance?
Ha! That is always the big question. And made even more complicated once you have children. I have had to learn that I can't do everything and I have to say no sometimes. I also have to put everything into my schedule - work, exercise, making dinner, special time with my daughter to make sure I make enough time for everything.
What do you think is the biggest issue for women in the workplace?
Well for me right now it's balancing family life, personal time and work. It really depends on the company. In many companies men are still paid more fthen women for the same jobs. Some employers look at a woman differently once she has kids. Not everyone does this of course, but it still exists.
How has mentorship made a difference in your professional and personal life?
I've had lots of mentors and for the most part it's been so positive - I learned so much about creating a positive work environment and just learning my industry.
Which other female leaders do you admire and why?
I admire my mom. She's very smart, funny, great with people and has always worked hard at whatever she wanted to focus on.
What do you want Newlie to accomplish in the next year?
Creating amazing, stylish products that parents love!