Feb. 22, 2019
As a #ByWomenForWomen company, we love celebrating brands that are led by fellow female founders. Our new series, Founder Friday, is a chance to get to know some of these standout women, including our very own Heidi Zak!
In 2009, Alana Rivera was in her Haight Ashbury apartment struggling to decide what she actually wanted to do with her life. Although many millennials can relate, Alana felt her purpose in life was to bring people together, and she wanted to find a way to do that professionally. Inspired by her grandmothers, she launched Etta & Billie, a line of natural body care inspired by food and drink. She was drawn by the connection and community most people feel around a table enjoying a classic cocktail and has brought the sense of ease and comfort to San Franscicans’ daily routines. We caught up with her to hear what’s next for her brand.
Why did you start your company?
I started my company because I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do with my life but I loved creating scents and soaps so I thought, why not do that? As the company and I have evolved, so has the ‘why’. I want Etta + Billie to bring more warmth, joy, connection, and yumminess to women’s everyday routines – which is why all our items are inspired by food + drink. There is nothing that brings people together like a good meal or a nice cocktail or taking a stab at baking your grandma’s famous cookie recipe. I want women to be reminded of those times whenever they step into the shower, slather on lotion before bed, or spritz themselves after a particularly heinous commute.
What was one challenge you overcame during the early days of your company?
Trying to do everything! It was part stubbornness and part frugalness but I definitely hit a wall really quickly. I realized that I needed to get help with various parts of my business or I would never be able to grow. I knew I’d procrastinate on doing data entry and reconciling my books so I hired someone. I knew that my graphic design skills were subpar at best, so I found someone to help. This allowed me to focus on things that I was much better at which kept me energized!
Was there anyone who helped pave the way for your business or your path as an entrepreneur?
There are many, many people that have helped me along the way — friends, family, my husband — but I know I wouldn’t be where I am today without my business group, The Creative Business League. We’ve been meeting for 7+ years on a monthly basis to talk about business highs and lows, strategy and commiserate over a good meal and a glass of wine. It’s their support and advice that has made a big impact on Etta + Billie.
How would you describe yourself in three words?
Warm, Funny, + Stubborn
If you could give your younger self advice, what would you tell her?
Don’t let fear and insecurity stop you from doing the things you want to do. I remember being so panicked about the future in my younger days that I felt frozen so I’d take the less challenging path. It affected my pre-entrepreneur career in so many ways but at the same time, it was being stuck in that not-knowing place and feeling lost that brought me to soapmaking!
What’s the top song on your playlist right now?
“Sing” from Sesame Street…haha can you tell I’m a new mom?
What are the advantages or benefits of being a founder that many people may not realize or know about?
One of the major benefits is being in a position where you are constantly learning, growing, and evolving. Following my dream has forced me to learn so much about myself and what I’m capable of (as well as what my limits are). I can’t imagine doing anything else that would have gotten me where I am today.
Do you think founders should take time to reflect on the pros, even if they’re constantly putting out fires?
Yes, though I am guilty of falling into a constant problem-solving mode more than taking a moment to appreciate the good things about owning a business. When I force myself to stop and think about it, it really fuels me to keep going, even when things are tough (and there are a LOT of tough days as an entrepreneur).
Thinking about your time as an entrepreneur, what do you believe is one of the most challenging hurdles women entrepreneurs have to overcome?
I think one of the biggest hurdles to overcome is the societal expectations of women. I can remember as a child being called bossy a lot, which always made me feel bad because of the negative connotations, especially as a female. But now, I realize I was meant to be a business owner from the start and I let other peoples ideas of how women ought to get in my way. Now I say, F*%k that sh*t! You’ve got to be bossy to be a boss!
What does your morning routine look like?
I wake up when my baby wakes up so anytime between 5 am and 6 am, feed him, play with him and then put him back down for a nap, shower, make coffee and give myself about 5-10 minutes to read a non-business-related book before I check emails or social media (if my little one doesn’t wake up beforehand). I used to meditate every morning and I’m working to add that back into my routine because it helped so much!
What are your favorite ways to practice self-care?
A bath when I can get access to a good bathtub, tragically mine is terrible! Since I don’t get to take a bath often, I try to read or cook daily. I find both activities to be great escapes that also nourish my mind and body.
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever received?
Be present in whatever it is that you are doing. We are constantly pulled in so many directions these days that it’s easy to start thinking about a meeting or a new customer instead of focusing on eating dinner with my husband or playing with my son. I am working hard to be present more in all parts of my life.
What’s the most fulfilling part of your job?
The most fulfilling part is connecting with people. Building relationships, hearing from customers, and working with other business owners brings me joy on a daily basis.