Lara, thinking back to who connected us?
What a connected world.
We really appreciate you taking the time to share your story with us.
Lara, you’ve created a successful clothing brand Lusome, and it was designed by personal circumstances. Can you tell us more?
After a 20-year career as a senior exec for a couple of Canada’s largest retailers, I was craving more purpose. When my sister was diagnosed with breast cancer and spoke about the side effects of her treatment, in particular night sweats, this was the call to action. All my background was in sourcing and buying and I had built relationships with premier textile mills. I partnered with a mill who was especially innovative, and we took 2 years to create and trademark our technology, proven to eliminate the perspiration caused by night sweats. We spoke to doctors and hundreds of women suffering in silence and created a beautifully simple line of sleepwear called Lusomé (an ancient Scottish term that means desirable).
Where can we buy Lusome? Perhaps in time for Mother’s Day?
These days we can buy online lusome.com
So, you are an entrepreneur, where did you learn how to start a company, and what have you learned since starting?
Oh yes, it is in my blood… For me, it starts with solving a problem. Through my career in fashion, I loved solving problems in a beautiful way using technology, fabric innovation, or garment engineering. Building a brand that resonates with a woman on an emotional level is incredibly rewarding. Successful brands boil down to the product and the people. Build a better mousetrap, listen to the customer, and surround myself with people different and smarter than I am. This has proven to be the formula that works.
What would your advice be to other entrepreneurs? Would you encourage others to pursue this path? Why or why not?
It isn’t for everyone, thank god. You need to be brave and have the ability to make the tough decisions. There are a million ideas out there, but it comes down to your ability to execute. Relentless execution matters, especially now.
You are a mother to two young men. How do you do that? Run a company, be a mom… and look after you?
Oh, this is good. The short answer is that being a working mom, and entrepreneur is my way of looking after me. These are choices and gifts. There was plenty of guilt when my kids were young, especially when I was travelling a lot. Having boys, I always felt a responsibility to show them strength and equality. Teaching my kids respect for women was doing and showing not telling. When my oldest started business school is when the questions started pouring in, “Mom, how did you do it?”
Loved the comment at your photoshoot – you are known as the Ice Queen. What’s that about?
This goes way back sadly, but through my career in business, I have leveraged this strength. I was so shy as a little girl, which came off as being a snob or indifferent. My natural tendencies lean towards being a goof and quirky but when you are in a foreign country across the table from a factory owner negotiating multi-million-dollar production contracts, being icy served me well.
Lara you published a very personal story called - Harnessing my Brave Moment Helped Me Realize My Self-Worth, which needed to be told, but how did you have the courage to do this Lara? How did this affect you? What was the response?
My entire career I have woken up every day in service of women. The customers I serve, or the women on my team or through mentoring… I have felt this responsibility to help make the world better. Sharing my personal story of being in an abusive relationship brought this level of service to a new and more important level. My story is millions of women’s story. The response has been overwhelming. Typically, people can’t believe it could happen to me, like I should know better, but that sentiment helps women deal with their own shame and gives greater understanding to this issue. If it could happen to me, it can happen to almost everyone. I want to share my story of how I got out, healed, and now thriving. Women want and need role models, and I wanted to share my path to thriving.
From here you created another venture – another personal circumstance led you to start SheWorth. What is the premise of SheWorth and where is it in the business lifecycle? Has it been launched, are you seeking partners, funding, championship? What is your ask to our community?
SheWorth was born from my personal story and in partnership with my partner and brilliant psychologist Kim Mueller. We want to help women understand the impact of self-worth on our relationships, careers, choices, and overall happiness and purpose. Women are craving more, but it starts with us and our internal value system on ourselves. Mental health stats are worsening – in the wrong direction. We have evidence-based resources and tools to help women live a better life.
Our ask? We need all of the above; partnership, championship, and capital. We need funding in particular right now as we have an ambitious 5-year strategic plan to change the world. We are launching a research project, building technology, and writing a book. It comes down to the precious resources all businesses face; time and money.
Everyone has their why – the mission that you are personally on. We saw this great post by Simon Sinek the other day - and Simon says Why + How + What = Who you are? Do you think this is true? If so, what is your why, how, and what?
This is a very simplistic formula and there is great value in boiling this down to help people focus and prioritize. My why is: Powering worthiness through science, education, and community. The how shows up every day. Some days I have to remind myself that I am worthy of escaping to a virtual yoga class. Being there for a friend who needs reminding just how insanely smart she is. The what and how will come through the SheWorth platform on a global scale.
I am mid-way through Empowered – Finding your truth by Dr Roshni Daya. Conscious Business by Fred Kofman is next.
And we just started to watch Mrs. America – a look back at the feminism movement of the early 70s. Harkened us back to those days, when Mary Tyler Moore was the rage… and heroes like Gloria Steinman. The styles, the everything… reminded us of our Moms. And now it’s back… the feminism movement is here again, stronger than ever. And it’s hard to argue with what 51% of the population has to afford us in economic power.
We agree, the fourth and arguably most important feminist wave is here. One tangible outcome of this movement is that feminism won’t have any negative connotation.
To that, who is your feminist alter ego? What would your march sign say?
Hmmmm this may be controversial, but I don’t see the value of marches, I am not a pedantic angry feminist. When women stick up for themselves with their choices the world will be different. We promote what we permit, we hold the power we always have. Leveraging the unique feminine characteristics in a productive way will bring about change.
What responsibility do women like us, with full freedom of choice, power, to be the voices of women that cannot do just that? Let alone speak out loud?
We owe it to ourselves and all women to champion the issues, and that starts with being open and brave with our own stories. Many women I speak to who have endured abuse in an intimate relationship or at work feel shame on going public with their personal story. I felt an obligation to share given my platform. We can’t hold it in, be angry and resentful yet not be open and vulnerable or transformation won’t happen.
How do you intend on changing the world Lara?
By teaching women that the greatest love story of our lives is the one we have with ourself.
Can you tell us where you were born, where did you grow up, your family… who and why were they biggest influences?
I was born and raised in Edmonton, but much of my career was spent in Toronto. My parents were my greatest influence. While my mom did give up her career to raise me and my 2 sisters, she taught us the value of learning and independence. My parents were equals and made us feel like we could do anything. My dad worshipped my mom and her opinions, and we saw first-hand a beautiful partnership, rooted in respect and love.
Lara, women talking about money isn’t always encouraged, but how have you dealt with this? Do you speak openly about making a ‘shit ton of money’? what is your relationship with money? How do you think women will reshape the economy? what is the opportunity?
This has changed over time, and I value success now in the quality of my relationships, the ability to experience new things, and making an impact on people. I think whether it’s a man or woman there is an elegance about being humble around wealth. Women are unique as they think about investing, in that they are more likely to invest in causes that concern them and benefit society as a whole.
What makes you stay in Calgary? Will you stay? Is this your home?
Home is where my children and my partner are, and for now, this is Calgary. I am so lucky that I can work anywhere. I won’t abandon Calgary anytime soon, as it has taken a shit-kicking and needs the community, us, to invest in bringing it back to life.
What do you want for your sons? What do you think your influence is on them?
I want my sons to wake up every day with excitement as they are doing something that gives them joy and being loved for who they are.
We talked about this right? Living and working at home… through this time. Does it work for you? Are you a closet introvert so it’s pretty much perfect?
You nailed it. I am an introvert and a homebody, so this works for me.
What do you want for the post-COVID world? In terms of systemic changes?
I hope people are realizing the only 2 things that truly matter are our health and our family relationships. Prioritizing our health, both mental and physical, and the value of family needs to reshape how we live now and always.
What are your fav HK items, and why?
It is hard to choose, truly, as they are all so perfect in style and versatility. As someone who has spent 26 years in fashion at the highest levels including Gucci and Ralph Lauren, I know quality in fabric and construction. So, the quality is mind-blowing! I would have to say the Taylor shirt*, as it is so damn easy yet sophisticated. I can wear it with my white poplin shorts and flip flops or leather leggings and heels. It is the one piece that will be in my suitcase forever.