Women in Business: Q&A With Anna Urban - Co-Founder and Creative Director of Aviva

Anna is a brand strategist by day, beauty brand founder by night! While working to develop high-profile products for skincare, vitamin and hair care brands, she noticed there was a gap in the marketplace for scientifically advanced, performance-based hair supplements for women. She set out to create a brand that focused on results, advanced formulations that utilized all-natural, potent botanicals, and clean chemistry. Aviva was born out of a personal desire and need to achieve "Hair Happiness." After trying to grow out her pixie cut for her wedding, she turned to competitors' products with unsatisfactory results. In 2012, she assembled a super-team of experts and started laying down the blueprints for her own brand, beginning with one stellar supplement product. In 2013, after the birth of her son, her hair started to shed drastically, confirming her belief that "hair loss happens to all women at all ages," and she knew that she had to seize the opportunity to create a product that helps women like herself get the hair they have always wanted.

How has your life experience made you the leader you are today?
I want to say that it was not life experience that made me a leader, but my disposition. I am curious, ambitious, imaginative, fearless and VERY patient. A leader must see the light at the end of the very long tunnel and not waver in that vision. A good leader must lead by example. If my team is challenged I roll up my sleeves and get to work. I am a doer, and that makes me a natural leader. For me it's always what's next that drives me. I constantly ask myself what can be better, how can we change, am I giving it my all? Can I push myself harder?

How has your previous employment experience aided your position at Aviva?
Working in a creative agency with clients to realize their dreams daily makes you zone in on your own ambitions. It helps you learn from experience, hone your craft, and apply it. I have made so many useful contacts that Aviva would not be possible without that.

What have the highlights and challenges been during your tenure at Aviva?
Having a startup is so exciting--everything is possible--but all of the ingredients have not been put together yet. Building the right team is vital to success. The biggest challenge for me with launching a startup is using my funding wisely. Strategically thinking what will make a real impact, what is "nice to have" and what is essential. With focus on product quality, we are not willing to sacrifice a penny on that, so we make sacrifices in our marketing efforts. That is a daily challenge as a marketer first and brand owner second.

The rewards are seeing your brand grow! But when women share their stories with me, it's transformative. They tell me about their challenges with hair, how they lost it, are losing it, why it won't grow--their sharing about their lives and opening up to me is really touching. Knowing that your product is influential, that it is helping women transform their hair and restore their confidence is very rewarding for me.

Why did you want to start your own business?
I wanted to bring this product to the market for years. I am a natural entrepreneur. Risk doesn't scare me--in fact, it drives me. I am a brand strategist by day, beauty brand founder by night! While working to develop high-profile products in the beauty industry, I noticed there was a gap in the marketplace and instantly knew that was my opportunity. I set out to create a brand that was driven by results, not promises. Having struggled with thin, listless hair all of my life, I wanted to create a product with an advanced formulation that utilized all-natural, potent botanicals, and clean chemistry to change hair's DNA and empower women to be proud of their locks. "Never, never, never give up on your hair" is my new motto.

What advice can you offer women who are seeking to start their own business?
You must be full of grit and grace. Learn to pursue long-term goals with passion and perseverance. And stick with it! Don't just quit once things get a little hard. Believe in what you are doing and know that one day it will pay off. Learn to be graceful while making sacrifices and mistakes, and accepting that you don't know everything.

How do you maintain a work/life balance?
I am blessed to have a husband who believes in me. You have to work at achieving a balance and be really supportive of each other and prioritize what is important. I try to work my schedule around my toddler's schedule. You have to be hyper-organized to accomplish a certain number of things during a 24-hour period. Where you complete those tasks is beside the point; you just need to check them off the list in order to free up time for the things you want to do. So check your emails during naptime, and do spreadsheets while getting a much-deserved pedicure!

What do you think is the biggest issue for women in the workplace?
There are 8.6 million women-led businesses in America today, but I still feel that embracing a leadership role is the biggest issue for women. Women face certain challenges and obstacles; especially those who have children experience even more demands on time, energy and resources. But women are not less successful than men; in fact, statistics show that women are starting businesses at more than twice the rate of all other businesses.

How has mentorship made a difference in your professional and personal life?
I've been influenced by different people in different parts of my life, but one of my first influencers told me "life is not about finding yourself; it's about making yourself." This has always stayed with me. I have her to thank every day--she pushed me to expand and explore my career goals, thoughts, beliefs, motivations and limitations. Her influence initiated many conversations on subjects that I once thought were impossible.

Which other female leaders do you admire and why?
Everybody wants their life to be like Diana Vreeland's. Self-invented and always fascinating, she was continually reinventing herself. She had vision, and her keen eye transformed the pages of Harper's Bazaar and Vogue into the future. Some say she was the first blogger, too. Her mantra rings true for me: "There's only one very good life and that's the life you know you want and you make it yourself." And of course I love Sara Blakely, the founder of Spanx!

What do you want Aviva to accomplish in the next year?
Bringing Aviva to top retailers and e-tailers around the world, and expanding the product offerings. We are currently working on a new supplement formulation for Skin, Hair and Nails, a wet line of treatment products, and a men's hair growth formula that is showing some amazing results!