Lara Avsar - Founder & CEO @ Her Little Story
“Think about what type of founder you want to be. Make sure it’s something you really care about because you are going to become the brand and the brand is going to become you. It has to be your gospel.”
We had the pleasure of chatting with Lara Avsar, founder of Her Little Story. Each Her Little StoryBook tells a personal story from the childhood of an incredible real woman. Our chat explores Lara’s motivation to build a publishing company, how we can change the age at which self-confidence peaks, and lessons learned as a female founder.
Her Little Story is such a unique business and stems from many personal experiences of yours. How did you come up with the idea?
Growing up in Alabama I didn't have access to female role models. This changed suddenly when I went to Barnard.
I was shocked by how different I felt and how much of my self-esteem grew when I had female mentors around me.
It was at Barnard where the first woman turned to me and said I think you're great and are going to do great things. She was the first person to ever believe in me in that way. You know Anna Quindlen talks about her time at Barnard and says “that’s where I majored in unafraid,” and I totally feel that. That was probably the starting point of Her Little Story.
Tell us more. You had the idea for Her Little Story and then what happened?
I started with research and discovered that self-esteem in young girls peaks at age nine. It was that stat that really pushed me to leave HBS and focus on Her Little Story full time.
I realized that if my self-esteem was peaking at nine but at nineteen I had access to incredible women through Barnard and New York, even for me it was a decade too late.
So when I'm listening to Sheryl Sandberg and Anne-Marie Slaughter in my twenty's, it's great, I'm glad we're having the conversation, but now it's almost twenty years too late. We need to start reaching girls at a younger age. And in my mind, the best way to do that was to introduce them to real stories from real women.
Doing research, I came across seven key character traits that are critical to success in kids and I've seen through the interviews of the women that we profile that these character traits tend to stay with our subjects throughout their lives. So if you read a story about Deb and one of her key character traits is self-control and she has been in academia her entire life like maybe if you really do identify with Deb, academia is a root for you because your personalities are similar and she found her place in that field.
What was one of the toughest situations you faced as a first time founder?
The nugget of an idea for Her Little Story started off with four other founders. I came up with the idea during a school class we started working together. When I came up with the concept I didn’t know that I was going to fall so madly in love with it or want to leave school and work on it and have it be this bigger, badder, newer brand. I just didn't know. I now no longer have any of those friends. You manage things as best you can, but it was tough, it's been tough.
I'll take seventy percent of the blame for the fact that the experience kind of blew up. I went out and launched Her Little Story as its own entity and was able to take full creative control and really work at a super fast pace. I took the idea that I had in my mind at the get go to fruition in a way that I am super proud of.
Why do you think there aren’t more female founders? What would your lessons be for those who want to be a female founder?
By the time that women realize they can be a founder, they're in their late twenty's or early thirties and are thinking about other parts of life too, because their biological clock is ticking. So I think that we have to figure out one of two things, either accelerate the self-confidence issue, so your confidence isn’t peaking at nine, or, we have to solve for biology. I think there are not a lot of female founders because by the time their confidence is high enough to say I got this, other parts of life have come into play and it makes it more difficult. It’s a timeline issue.
What lessons would you have for becoming a female entrepreneur?
Think about what type of founder you want to be. Make sure it’s something you really care about because you are going to become the brand and the brand is going to become you. It has to be your gospel. And if you have something in your mind that is your gospel, just start it, test it, just put it out there.
The only thing standing in most people's way of starting something is fear.
Have you ever thought about sharing your own story?
I gave a TedX in my hometown of Birmingham, AL about feminism for young girls and it's kind of everything that I want to say about Her Little Story and the movement. TedX was really a labor of love I had had a really interesting moment when they asked me to do the TedX. I said yes, but I'm not talking about feminism, which in hindsight is so silly. At the time, I thought, “why would I add my voice to this conversation,” not recognizing that I actually have research and know a lot of the statistics around self-esteem and young girls, and what female empowerment can do to help them. I didn’t want to put my hat in the ring as a thought leader, so I said I won’t talk about feminism. Then I went to the Women’s March in January, and I said okay screw it, I'm talking about feminism. And then it became a real labor of love, and now it's something that I'm really proud of.
Trend that you are most excited about
The move back towards analog.
People are moving more towards experiences and the freedom that comes with a minimal life. I think women especially are moving into a place where they are making a statement with what they're purchasing and they're recognizing that their purchasing power is actually quite large. I think that that's the most exciting form of uprising right now. I think some of the bigger brands are afraid, makes it exciting for a small brand.
What is an article that stuck with you from the past year
The former global head of Chanel, Maureen Chiquet, was featured in The New York Times. She talks about her new book. She talks about being fired and how her life has been transformed since. I am all about sharing real stories, that's why I am so real talk and how I share. I think that young girls want to see us as we are, not who we should be. So hearing more women share these real stories, is exciting.
Who is a female entrepreneur / investor that you would most like to meet and chat with
What is your spirit animal
A Bond Girl.
The best compliment I have ever received from anyone was when a roommate of mine in my early twenties in New York looked at me and said your spirit animal is a Bond Girl. It still to this day is the best compliment I have ever received.
What is the best piece of advice you have received
“Just hit the deer”
I was chatting with a friend in Alabama last weekend and we were chatting about advice that our parents gave us. She said one of the things was “Just hit the deer”- when you grow up in the country, you either hit the deer or you swerve. And I was thinking that was a good metaphor for life. When it throws you challenges in the middle of the road, don't swerve. You're going to hurt yourself too much. Just hit the deer. If you swerve too much in life, you're going to fall off the road.