Women in Business Q&A: Loxa Beauty Co-founder & Managing Director, Janell Shaffer and Co-founder & Marketing Manager, Danielle McDowell

Janell is the cofounder and managing director of Loxa Beauty. She began her career as
a project manager at Alt & Witzig Engineering in Indianapolis and after more than four years with the leading engineering firm in the Midwest, Shaffer took on the role as marketing manager of Vision Builders, LLC. In 2011, Shaffer left the corporate world to focus on her own enterprise, My Best Friend's Hair, likened to Match.com. It wasn't long before Shaffer realized she had only scratched the surface of the beauty industry. In 2013 Shaffer and partner, Danielle McDowell, took their ideas to the next level and created the one-of-a-kind Loxa Beauty.

Danielle McDowell is the cofounder and marketing manager of Loxa Beauty. She began her career as a marketing communications manager for Cha Cha, the human guided search engine, and then served as a business development manager at BitWise Solutions, Inc. McDowell always had plans to explore the startup industry, and with her knowledge in marketing and website development, it only seemed natural for her to contribute to the creation and management of Loxa Beauty.

How has your life experience made you the leaders you are today?
Danielle McDowell - It is so crucial to be able to communicate how today's work fits into tomorrow's results. I learned this tactic during my time as a rower at Notre Dame. Day in and day out our teams worked both our bodies and our minds incredibly hard, but my coach was always able to encourage us to look at the level of effort and commitment you put into today's work would result in how we perform. For four years, we had a goal of going to the NCAA Championships for the first time in the programs history and I'm happy to say we met that goal my senior year.

Janell Shaffer- I have always been an entrepreneur at heart and competitive. If someone told me I couldn't do something, it just meant that I would try until I did it. At 10 years old I started selling homemade doughnuts in my neighborhood. I knew exactly how much it cost me to make one and how much I could sell one for and I became fascinated that I could make money doing something so fun. I'm very social and love being with people, so throughout life I've always gravitated to leading groups, activities, and being involved.

How has your previous employment experience aided your tenures at Loxa Beauty?
DM: My career has been rooted in the tech start-up world so managing teams and projects in a fast-paced environment has allowed me to see how to execute vision while always glancing at the horizon. I learned important lessons at these jobs about how to manage teams to deliver your vision and identify how and when strategy needs to take a pivot.

JS- Managing projects, teams, and budgets in a creative manor has helped me transition Loxa from just an idea to a full scale company. Having a vision and a plan is the first step. You have to be able to execute and drive a team of people toward the same end goal, which is both challenging and exciting. I've always been very driven and set goals for myself. At Loxa, I have the added responsibility for making sure my team has goals and the resources they need to execute those goals.

What have the highlights and challenges been during your tenures at Loxa Beauty?
DM: Having a technology background, I had very little understanding about the nuances about the Beauty Industry. While pillar concepts of business still rang true, there is a very unique language and cadence in the beauty world. This was made incredibly clear in my first event introducing Hair Stylists to our online marketing product. I began giving a pitch heavy with business buzz words. I learned then and there the beauty world is about engaging the heart, not just the intellectual mind.

JS: The biggest highlight with Loxa Beauty was the fact that within 3 weeks of launching our concept, we were contacted by Beauty Systems Group, the largest beauty distributor in the industry. This was validation that our concept and solution was where the industry was going and we were the first to market this concept.

What advice can you offer women who are looking to start their own business?
DM: Take the leap! Women so often are afraid of upsetting their current lifestyle or position. One of my favorite perspectives is to remember; when thinking about all of the scary aspects that come along with starting a business, also dream about what it looks like to succeed. Use those positive reinforcements to drive what you need to do to make those dreams happen.

JS: Get honest feedback from a diverse group of people. Just because your mom and best friend think your idea is great doesn't mean it will be a successful business. Do your homework and set goals for yourself before you take the plunge. If you're able to meet those goals and you're gaining momentum, you'll have the confidence you need for the next step.

How do you maintain a work/life balance?
DM: It takes commitment to your personal health and the health of your relationships outside work. It is so easy to get that one last thing complete and checked off the list at the expense of your life outside the office. Weigh the positives and negatives carefully, and make a commitment to yourself. Keep in mind that no one will put "Worked late hours" on your gravestone.

JS: It's always hard to have a balance. Setting priorities and eliminating unnecessary things helps me focus on what has to be done. Find tasks that you can delegate and use that "free time" to bring balance to the rest of your day.

What do you think is the biggest issue for women in the workplace?
DM: Giving into their own perception that women are unequal. Take ownership in what you want to do and where you want to be and voice those desires to people inside and outside of work. Not just hint at it. Say it out loud. In front of people.

JS: Balancing your career and family. I took several years off when my 4 kids were young to be at home with them and I wouldn't trade that for anything.

How has mentorship made a difference in your professional and personal lives?
DM: Mentorship has played an incredibly crucial role in my life. Both professionally and personally, I find it very valuable to see how others have approached issues, problems, and successes and understand their decisions. It helps to hear the different perspectives in how they shaped their life so I can use that information to work into my own decision making process.

JS: I can't relay how important mentorship has been for me professionally. In college I was able to do an internship with a very accomplished entrepreneur. He would not only give me tasks, but ask me provoking questions. Some of the ideas and concepts I learned from him years earlier were the foundation for starting Loxa Beauty. Additionally, I would add that it is important that you seek this out. Don't expect someone to automatically start mentoring you. Be proactive and find people with skills that you want to develop. Be prepared and have poignant questions that will make their time worthwhile as well.

Which other female leaders do you admire and why?
DM: Honestly, my mother is the most influential leader in my life. At an early age, my father sustained an injury that required a shift in the working dynamic of my parents. At that time, my mother went to work full time and worked her way up to an executive position. Her tenacity and drive to be the best she could be both for herself and her family is a model I hope to emulate. We speak on the phone everyday and we can't help but talk through work situations and brainstorm solutions and tactics. She's more than a best friend - she's a mentor for me.

JS: Angie Hicks, who started Angie's List. When I first started our website, it was based on finding a hairstylist based on reviews. I studied Angie's List and loved how she was able to take a basic need and fulfill it with technology.

What do you want Loxa Beauty to accomplish in the next year?
(both): Loxa Beauty was launched in March of this year. There are so many large and influential players in this space so we would love to ensure that the Loxa Beauty brand can quickly scale to compete with players in the space that do not incorporate the beauty professional into the transaction. We have been committed to the beauty professional from the inception of our company and we continue to research ways that we can further support the beauty professional in an ever changing technical landscape.