396: How Alexis Barber Balances Being A Wharton MBA, Influencer, and Founder

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396: How Alexis Barber Balances Being A Wharton MBA, Influencer, and Founder

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This week in the guest chair we have Alexis Barber, a lifestyle influencer and founder of Too Collective, a modern wellness and loungewear brand. At just 25 years old, Alexis is the host of the top-rated Too Smart For This Podcast and has worked with brands like Lululemon, Rare Beauty, Microsoft, and Miss Dior as a content creator. 

In this episode she shares: 

  • How growing up low-income provided the foundation for having confidence and an ambitious mindset to overcome the limitations of her past
  • Her transformative experience as an MBA candidate at The Wharton School at UPenn
  • How she makes a living off of content creation and the opportunities being an influencer has provided

Highlights Include:

  • 00:00 Intro 
  • 03:00 Confidence and putting yourself out there
  • 09:55 Becoming a lifestyle influencer
  • 12:04 Navigating side hustling and a corporate role
  • 19:27 Collaboration with Rare Beauty 
  • 20:48 Launching a robe company 
  • 29:09 MBA program at Wharton
  • 39:20 Transparency in content creation
  • 44:07 The importance of building a team

Check out episode 396 of Side Hustle Pro podcast out now on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, and YouTube

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Guest Social Media Info

Too Collective Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/toocollective/ 

Alexis’ Tiktok: https://www.tiktok.com/@alexisbarber_ 

Alexis’ Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/alexisbarber/ 

Alexis’ YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/@alexis_barber 

Nicaila Matthews Okome 0:02

You're listening to side hustle Pro, the podcast that teaches you to build and grow your side hustle from passion project to profitable business. And I'm your host Nicaila Matthews Okome. So let's get started

Hey, Hey friends, welcome. Welcome back to the show. It's Nicaila here and today in the guest here I have Alexis Barber. Alexis is one of my newfound favorite lifestyle content creators as well as business founders. So Alexis is a lifestyle influencer. And she's also the founder of to collective, which is a modern wellness brand that helps to fill the gaps in self care for ambitious material girls through innovative loungewear. And on filtered wellness content. Alexis is also the host of the top rated to smart for this podcast. And it has worked with brands like Lululemon rare beauty, Microsoft and Mr. Your as a content creator. She's currently an MBA candidate at the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania, and splits her time between Philadelphia and New York City. In today's episode, we had a really robust conversation about all that Alexis is doing, where she came from how she came into this world of creating content and also starting her own business. And why you can do it too. And you are enough. So let's get right into it.

So guys, welcome Alexis to the cash chair. I'm so happy to have you here.

Alexis Barber 1:33

Thank you so much for having me. I'm so excited. This is my favorite topic. So I'm happy to be here.

Nicaila Matthews Okome 1:38

Oh, yes. Oh, yes, we have a lot to cover. But first of all, can I just say I am super proud of you. I am so proud of what you're doing. And you're only what 2526 25? Yes to 25 years old. And I think the way you're approaching even your MBA journey, having your business as well as continuing your lifestyle influence our career to continue to make money. I think that's just so smart. But of course, I'm not surprised. That's why your show is called too smart for this. Thank you. So we already read your bio, but I'm curious when you introduce yourself to people. How do you describe yourself these days?

Alexis Barber 2:16

Oh, my goodness, I have so much going on with you just like yeah, do a little bit here. So usually when I introduce myself, it's like with those three definitions, I'm a lifestyle influencer, a first year Wharton MBA candidate and the founder of to collective which is my modern wellness brand that's designed to help you self care smarter and fill the gaps and all of your self care journey, including through our podcast to smart for this, which provides like tangible and unfiltered wellness content through the lens of mostly my life, and then also with our incredible guests. And then through our innovative loungewear which is our bathrobes that are sort of becoming a little bit of a brand of their own.

Nicaila Matthews Okome 2:58

Oh, you so comfy looking? Now? Why are you so passionate about the whole self care genre? Is it because of your own life? Absolutely.

Alexis Barber 3:07

I would say the reason I'm so passionate about is because I'm kind of living through it all right now by myself, I think that there's a lot of things I'm passionate about, right? Like I'm passionate about clothes, or you know, skincare and like looking great and that type of thing. But I'm also someone who I think didn't have a lot of guidance or role models growing up, my mom had me when she was 16. And my family, it was super low income. And we really didn't have a ton of, you know, people to look up to. And also my mom was white. And I was raised by my white family for the most part. So I didn't have a ton of people who looked like me who could really give me guidance. And when I did find that later in life, I think that it was so impactful for me that it's just something that I've sort of been consistently like wanting to share with others is that like you can get out of these things like the world isn't always ending. And also, I've just seen the benefits of taking care of myself and what it looks like, because I'm a very ambitious person. And I used to be like kind of ashamed of that. But you can only really get to where you want to go long term. Where if you're taking care of yourself. And I think that I'm really passionate because I don't like feeling bad. And so I love self care because of that.

Nicaila Matthews Okome 4:21

Right. And I don't like feeling ugly. And I know you can agree with that. Yeah, absolutely. I don't like feeling ugly. Exactly. Interesting that you said you used to feel bad about. Was it feeling bad about being ambitious or feeling kind of bad about where you came from?

Alexis Barber 4:37

Well, I mean, it's both. I mean, I definitely felt a sense of insecurity about how I grew up low income and like having, I mean, I went to like, I was lucky enough to be able to get scholarships to go to great private schools and eventually boarding school for six years. And then I went to Northwestern, which is an elite school as well and so I was constantly so rounded by like the top 10 or the top 1%. So I did for a long time feel a sense of like shame about not coming from money. But as I sort of like got older, I realized like, the only thing that's embarrassing is when you're embarrassed. And so like if you can, like, if you're someone who's fun and has a great personality, you can like own the fact that you grew up poor and like, whatever you're doing something about it now, like, there's no need to feel a sense of shame about that. And in fact, I'm very proud of it now, because I'm in a space like Wharton where I am one of like, a few people I can count on my hand that actually did not grow up with anything, or doesn't have their parents support now. And now I feel so much like, I have such a sense of resilience from that. And so I'm so grateful for it. But in terms of feeling bad about ambition, I think like, we do kind of punish ambitious women. I mean, if you think about women in the media, like super famous pop stars or things like that, like there's no one who ever rises to the top, and we are supporting them the whole time.

Nicaila Matthews Okome 6:01

You just reminded me of what's going on with the whole tic tock sensation, Risa Tisa, and as soon as she finds a CA, everyone's just like, No, she's not know.

Alexis Barber 6:12

Exactly. And it's like, so we do once a woman is like, Yeah, this is what I want. And I want to have it all were like, Oh, hold on, I don't know if you can have all that, like, I actually don't know. Exactly, or we're like, Oh, you got successful, well, you're kind of ugly. And then it's like, you can never, you can never have it all you know. So I think that's like something I try to I call my audience like ambitious material girls, because we want to have it all. We also like having nice things. But also like, it's I want to take that word back. And it's just kind of like something that I've always wanted to be proud of. And enjoy. Because like life is so fun, when like you are creating it and building your dreams from scratch.

Nicaila Matthews Okome 6:58

One thing like I really enjoy about your content and about you is so you are making content right now. And you sound so self assured which I love, right? Probably when you're like 40, you might look back and say hey, to some of the things, what was I talking about, but for a lot of it, you might be like, Wow, I'm really proud of who I was then. But even if you feel that way, you are comfortable putting your opinions out there, which a lot of people are not at this age where, like insecure or self conscious. But you own that you say, Oh, I had an insecure night last night, or you know what I realized my first quarter of work, and I was being really insecure. And I was just like, letting people get over on me. So what makes you so comfortable? putting yourself out there like that? Oh,

Alexis Barber 7:40

I really don't I really don't know, to be honest, I do think that it's like a underlying sense of confidence that I've developed, I think, so I have two best friends. One of them her name is also Alexis, and one of them her name is Zara. And the two of the three of us have sort of gone on this confidence journey together. And the last time we hung out, we were trying to figure out, like, Where did our delusional confidence come from? Because we, the three of us will be like, Oh my god, like we are just the shit, excuse me for girls are like the girls were like, where did this come from. And we sort of tracked it back to like, after we graduated and like becoming friends and like building our own careers and stuff like that, that we've gotten to this place now where we are very like comfortable with who we are. And that that is sort of where I think I get a lot of like my confidence from because also, what I think one of my favorite things about myself is that I am never afraid to admit when I was wrong, and apologize and just do better. And I think I used to be so afraid I used to be such a perfectionist, and be so afraid of messing up are so afraid of getting it wrong. And then once you realize that you can get it wrong and you can fail and life is gonna be okay. It's way easier to put yourself out there, it's way easier to try new things to, you know, say say the wrong thing. Because it's so much better to be in the fight. It's so much better to be experiencing new emotions or doing new things than like sitting on the sidelines and not really like putting yourself out there. And it's like, I would rather fail and be brave and learn something from it. I just think I'm not really afraid of failure anymore. And I think that so that confidence also comes from the fact that like, I have nothing to lose, I could go back to the like, the trailer park the projects I grew up in like I've been there like I don't need like I can go back so it's fine. You know, I love having money and listen, I will always choose in healthy and you know, lifestyle and money over that but like, I'll be okay if I go back so I think I'm okay with exactly. So I think that's where that confidence is coming from. I

Nicaila Matthews Okome 9:46

love that about you. And I think that's why I just gravitated to your content. You know, we are you know, generations apart but I just really was like this girl is fierce. I like her. So now let's get into some of the brands that you have started. So when did you start lifestyle influencing how did that come about?

Alexis Barber 10:01

Oh, absolutely. So I was I graduated college in 2020. So during the pandemic, which sucked, so I was home alone. And I created like a little wellness Instagram account that like, blew up from some like wellness drama at the time. And then when I moved to New York, in that January, I had seen all the like day in my life in New York, like tiktoks, and stuff like that. And I was like, I want to make that when I get to New York. So I started content creation around that time. And then at that time, I was working full time at Google, where I was doing marketing. And I was sharing my life about like living in New York working at Google. And that's sort of where that sort of like popped off. But I think the reason it's become like lifestyle is because I've tried a lot of different niches, I tried fashion, I tried, you know, the wellness stuff. And as different parts of my life have evolved, I have just like gravitated towards different things. And right now, a lot of my content is about warten. And what it's like to go here and that type of thing. And I think I see, my social media is just sort of that like evolving of my life. And I try not to like hold it to like needing to be in a certain niche. But that really all started for me in 2020 2021. And I've been doing it since and I've been unlucky enough that it is a career for me now, which I'm super grateful for rice.

Nicaila Matthews Okome 11:16

Nice. And so you mentioned that you're not trying to be too much of a stickler like, I have to be this niche. I started out saying I'm this. But would you say that your content has kind of always gravitated lifestyle, at least like flogging or showing what you're doing?

Alexis Barber 11:32

Totally, I think that's my favorite thing to make is my vlogs. And like sharing my life, I mean, I love to give the girls a good tip. Because one thing about me, I hate inefficiencies, and I hate wasting my money on stuff. So I'm great with time management. I'm great. I love a good product recommendation. So I'm not going to try every single product out there. But like when I'm looking for something, I want to share it so I do sort of like it would gravitate towards lifestyle. Absolutely. Right.

Nicaila Matthews Okome 12:04

And for those looking to start that, how did you manage to do that? And not have it be a conflict of interest with your employer? As far as how do you know what's too much to share? How do you know what you can show inside of the office?

Alexis Barber 12:17

Oh, for sure. I think this is a great topic. I was working at Google at the time. And there were sort of two situations that arose when I started my content creation. First was in my first role at Google, which was never really right. For me, I had a manager that was a bit of a micromanager. And like, once they found out that I was creating content. They didn't love that. And I could tell there was like a visible shift in the way that they were like acting. And so what I did in that situation was one I've always been very meticulous about something I call a brag book, which is keeping track of all the feedback positive and negative that you get. So when I got this like random bout of negative feedback, which was around the time, they found out that I was a creator, I was able to counter it with proof that I had actually been doing my job and things like that so that it didn't interfere with my performance reviews. And then I quickly started looking for a different role because I could tell that something that was very passionate, although it wasn't actually interfering with my work whatsoever, as I said before, and that proved that I was doing well. I knew that that I wasn't being supported or learning in that role. And the perfect role fell into my lap because I was a content creator. So Oh, tell us more about that. Absolutely. So my I was Mutual's with a girl on Tik Tok named Maddie Dewey. She's a Star Sports Illustrated swim model and a founder herself. She's really cool. We were Mutual's on Tik Tok. And she reached out to me because she was like, I work at YouTube, I'm leaving my role, you'd be perfect for it. And if you don't know, Google owns YouTube, so it was sort of an indifferent old transfer role. And so I applied to that role. And it was the shorts content strategy role. So as YouTube was rolling out their short form video arm, I would basically be doing strategy for external creators who wanted to come onto the platform for our top creators at YouTube, and advising our product team about the way to build a short form video ecosystem, which how I think we knew how to do because I was already a Tiktok creator. So it was the perfect role for me, my manager was incredibly supportive. He was like, this is the reason you are helpful to us is because you're a creator. So he was always extremely supportive of my, you know, outside of work role. And he was just an incredible manager who knew how to, you know, mold talent in a great way that wasn't going to be you know, interfering with what they wanted long term. So I was really lucky in that way. I've experienced both parts of like the corporate world, not really appreciating your external work as well as the corporate world appreciating it. And I think I was really lucky to find that in the end, and I cannot say enough good things about my team at YouTube. It was the best time

Nicaila Matthews Okome 14:53

Oh, I love this story. I love everything about this. And you bring up some important points that I just want to highlight for a second. So So, the brag book, Love the brag book, and anyone who is doing side hustles start that. Alright, if you're not already starting that do that, because I don't think that anyone should feel bad about anything they're doing on the side, I don't think that you should let a boss who might not understand it or might feel threatened by it make you start to feel like oh, no, I can't do this, keep records, do your job, first of all, and then keep records of what you're doing, and the feedback. And then also, there are two sides to it, you might have someone who totally doesn't get it. And then you might have a boss who does get it. So stay strong, and try to get yourself into a better position with someone who appreciates and understands that you are a whole person outside of your role. And because of what you experience outside of the role, you can actually bring new things to the role. Absolutely. And

Alexis Barber 15:49

I think both situations are very common. And I think it's just about like, making sure that you are doing your job and doing it effectively and not letting in because if your content does start to interact interfere with your job, then like that's when you have a real problem at your hands. But most of us are smart enough to know when that line is to be drawn. Know

Nicaila Matthews Okome 16:08

that line. Yeah. And when did you decide you wanted to be a founder? Oh,

Alexis Barber 16:12

I mean, I have always known that I was an entrepreneur at heart. I minored in entrepreneurship at Northwestern during my undergrad. And during that time, it was I was in school from 2016 to 2020. So there was a big like, boom of female founders that I was always looking at to. And I think at that time, I was like, this is like a lifestyle that I would really love. And so I think it's because like, like I said before, I hate inefficiencies. And as much as I loved my role at YouTube, the reason I ultimately left was because I could not make change happen quickly. And it was so hard to get anything done because of how big of a company it was. And so I love to make impact and do things now. And it's impatience, it's from being young. And I think a lot of us who are ambitious young people feel that way. And so I've always wanted to start something. And I had been doing content creation and influencing for like about a year ish. And I got the idea when I was home sick or COVID to redesign the conventional bathroom. And that was something that like just came out of like, pure selfish necessity. And I worked on it for about a year before I eventually launched the products. And I've learned so much in that process. And I can oh my gosh, it's been crazy and in the year so that they've been live we have so many incredible customers and we did recently did a collaboration with rare beauty where you'll be able to purchase a collaboration we did on rare beauties website. So look out for that. Paws.

Nicaila Matthews Okome 17:50

Paws rare beauty, which is

Alexis Barber 17:52

Selena Selena Gomez brands,

Nicaila Matthews Okome 17:53

this is casual, very casual.

Alexis Barber 17:57

I mean, I mean, yeah, like, the thing is, I think, I mean, I've always wanted to be a founder. And I was like, wow, like, I'm going to start this company and like just out of pure naivete. Because I did not know anything. I was like, I'm an influencer, I have a business bank account. Like, I can figure this out. Girl, it was so much work. I like cried so much like entrepreneurship is not for the weak. But um, I will say that, like, so much. Because I bet on myself, people saw that, and I got so many great opportunities from deciding to do that. And from, again, also making a high quality product that people love. Yeah. And as I've always sort of seen my business as something small or something that like, oh, whatever, like, I don't want to talk too much about it, or it's not that good yet or whatever. And to have someone like rare beauty and Selena Gomez, like the leaving in my company was like, I think that was the first wake up call where it was like, wow, okay, you're doing this.

Nicaila Matthews Okome 18:53

Yeah. And how does that come about? Like, do you know her PR people? Because that is obviously no girl, please. So does she just find you online? Like I did, like, oh, literally. So I

Alexis Barber 19:07

like thankfully from content creation. I cannot express the amount of connections that I've been able to build it I'm still technically like a micro influencer. And I feel like people are always like, how did this and it's like, when you are well, who you are you attract who you're meant to attract. And so I have become friends with some of my favorite influencers and I ever loved and the CMO of rare beauty, Katy. Well, she found me on Tik Tok from my Google Calendar videos. And she loves my content. And I think that she put me in touch with another woman at the company who are I guess she I don't know. They called me one day and they were like, well, they email me one day, they were like, sign an NDA. I said, Here you go. They said, let's hop on a call and there's a black woman who works internally in that department and she was like, let's do something together with you as a creator. bandwidth to collective and the I was just like whoa, like, you know, you post a video, it's not doing well or it's not going viral or you're not growing or you're not getting sales for a couple of days. And you're like, or you're running into this huge issue with a manufacturer, which I did so many times last year. And it's like you're running into all these setbacks. And meanwhile, someone random is like rooting for you in a room that could change your business. And so that's why you got to keep going.

Nicaila Matthews Okome 20:31

That's why you have to keep going. And like, that's me to write. I'm rooting for you. And I don't even know you. Like, my sister went to her Wharton reunion the other day, and I was like, Oh, my God, have you heard of this girl? She goes there. And I love that. But I love this for so many reasons. Because I do remember you talking about the manufacturing issue. So that's also why I wanted to talk to you on the show, because I remember I think it was was it Chinese New Year, or there was something that happened, whether your prototype didn't look great, or something and you're like, oh my god, I thought I was gonna be able to start selling these. But they look like tell us about oh my gosh,

Alexis Barber 21:06

yes. So we launched with our first product, which is the to cozy robe, which is a super soft, plush material that's manufactured in China. That one is incredible. And we ran into shipping issues with it because like the people love to say that the rope is like basically a weighted blanket like it's so heavy, which is so nice for you. For ups for USPS shipping, it's not so it's very expensive. Shipping was almost twice as and obvious I bootstrapped this whole thing myself. And so it was expensive. And that's difficult. But when it came to launching our second robe, which is the two classic, which is a terry cloth material that's made of 100%, organic cotton sourced in India, I decided I wanted to make it look a little bit more, you know, chic. So I added a black lining. And I had had the sample for a couple of weeks. And I washed it one day and the black lining exploded over the entire robe. And it came out of the wash, green. And this is literally like they are finishing production of the robes I'm about to ship. And I think this was about a year ago because I was set to launch that product in April of 2022, which was about like four months after we'd originally launched. And I wanted to have that second product for like the spring summer season, because it's like, it's better for that. And basically, we had to completely change that line and do a new wash test. We like take off the lining from all of the existing robes and then redo it, basically. And that pushed our launch out until August. And we launched it literally the week I started at Wharton, which was just like, what's it like it was crazy. And luckily, like that one has performed super well. It's already sold out. We're done another purchase order. So hopefully we'll be able to restock it in April of this year. And that's the one that will also be available at rare beauty if anyone is interested in that. But like at that same time when I was feeling like, Oh my God, I don't even know if I'm going to be able to run this business while I'm in school. I don't know why this is happening to me like it's the summertime I can't push my cozy robes over the summer. Like I don't have a product to push. I was feeling so defeated over last summer. And then I got an email from my friend and fellow creator Blake Newby who is a huge fan of the robes. And she was like I'm going on GMA three, I would love to like feature the robes like I'll let you know if it happens. And that seemed like week that we launched is when she was on GMA three and like she was able to like highlight the ropes. And so it's again, like people are rooting for you in the background, even on those days where you don't feel like you're enough. Yes.

Nicaila Matthews Okome 23:43

I think a lot of us need to be reminded of that. And I just love this story so much because there was a time to when I was following your journey. And I'm like, How was she afford it? Because I know what it takes to bootstrap a business. And I'm like, Well, how much money does lifestyle influencing give you?

Alexis Barber 24:00

It makes a lot? A lot more than anything? It does. Oh, yeah. Oh,

Nicaila Matthews Okome 24:04

trust and believe I know that. But I was wondering, as far as the business and the margins for robes. I don't know anything about what it costs to make a robe and ship a robe? So are you discontinuing the heavy robes? Are you only doing the light robes? And like what have you learned about the margins on making these ropes? Oh,

Alexis Barber 24:23

for sure. So the apparel business in the fashion business is super interesting because the margins you have to think about two types of margins. The first is your direct to consumer, which is where we are with to collective now. And the second is with your wholesale. And so wholesale typically is going to cost about half as much as your DTC. So you need to be able to make a healthy profit margin on both of those things. So basically, whatever your item costs to produce, you need to be pricing it about five times as much as that and then you will be able to have like a healthy profit margin. That's not going to include your marketing costs, your shipping costs or things like that. So that's what I I've sort of learned about it. And I never wanted to price my robes too high, because I wanted to maintain the ability to like, stay connected with my audience. But when I learned about it, because I got a ton of backlash about the price of the robe in the beginning, which was $149, which is on par with every other robe in its caliber on the market. And for us to be creating a robe that for as a small business, to be able to be at that price range was already sort of cutting it close. But I would say that, like, for me, it was about quality. And I'm not going to sacrifice quality. For a lower price point. There's people who can put their, you know, who will white label a robe that you could get at Walgreens and sell it. And that's not something that like I was wanting to do. This is a custom material, a custom design, it has an attached belt and adjustable sleeves, and it goes up to size 5x. So we have quality and ethics standards that are very important to us. And I was never going to sacrifice that. And that is what the price of a quality robe is these days. So that's what I've learned so much about it. I mean, I came in wanting to make something that was a different price range altogether. But I found that like, sticking to that quality is what matters most. And that's the audience that we're trying to reach.

Nicaila Matthews Okome 26:15

So did you change the price, so you kept it at that 149

Alexis Barber 26:18

I kept it at that 149. And then our terrycloth bathroom costs a little bit less to produce. So it's priced at $125. And our Rose probably stay in that range of 100 to $200. Long term,

Nicaila Matthews Okome 26:30

right, because as you heard it, it sounds very expensive to ship produce. And it's it is very quality. So that makes a lot of sense. And I love that you've done that research. If you're a small business owner, this is for you. Running a business is just plain hard, endless to do lists employees to take care of and you're ever present bottom line. So first of all, kudos to you for staying on top of it. And now I want to tell you about gusto. Gusto builds an easier and more affordable way to manage payroll benefits and more. They help over 300,000 businesses by taking the pain out of tasks like automated payroll tax filing, direct deposit, health insurance administration, 401k, onboarding tools, you name it. gussto makes it easy. And they really care about the small business owners they work with. Their support team is attentive and helpful. And since money can be tight, sometimes you'll even get three months free. Just go to gusto.com/shp and start setting up your business today. You'll see what I mean when I say easy. Again, that's three months of free payroll@gusto.com slash SHP. Now is the business. I know it's still early, but is it profitable yet? Or are you reinvesting everything you earn back into production,

Alexis Barber 28:00

I reinvest everything we earn back into production. So I mean, I'd love to reach profitability one day, but I have such big dreams for what to collective can be outside of just products and outside of just podcasts. And so I see us reinvesting every bit of revenue back into the business for at least a couple more years now. And I'm also exploring the idea of raising an angel round, so that we can expand the colorways. And the patterns as options. I have so many DMS and so many people asking for a black robe or a blue robe or a pink one. And I would love to do all of that. But another tidbit is about minimum order quantities. And the reason our robes are white is because the minimum order quantities are lower for white robes. Whereas if you are doing a color, I don't know how many people want a pink robe. But I would have to order 1000 If I wanted that. And I don't know that I have 1000 people who are ready to purchase it. So until we can grow that community and you know, have all those things on deck so we can test things out. That takes more resources than what I have currently for myself. So I'm exploring raising an angel round over the summer so that we can expand in the ways that I really want to. So

Nicaila Matthews Okome 29:09

you always knew you were gonna go back to get your MBA, right, I understand you applied via program and undergrad that you get to defer. So how does that work? Absolutely.

Alexis Barber 29:18

So these programs are still relatively new. But essentially the, quote value of an MBA or people getting MBAs has sort of dwindled in recent years. And so yeah, a lot of these big business schools introduced to these programs that are deferred enrollment. So you apply when you are a senior in college, and then you get two to four years in the workforce, and then you come back to school. The reason you need those years in the workforce is because business school is not really effective for you unless you've worked already, which is different from law school where like you're just learning so you can go straight through. I was always gonna go to law school and then I was like, I don't want to do all that reading So I so that's why you need those times. So the average age of someone who's getting their MBA is actually 27 to 28. So I was in this program in undergrad called MLT management leadership for tomorrow's an MOT. Yes, we love them. And they push MBAs very heavily. I had never heard of it. Until then no one in my family has ever done that. So I did this program at Harvard Business School for a week called the summer venture and management program where you live like an MBA for a week, in the summer between your junior and senior year, that's when I decided I really wanted one. And then I just did deferred enrollment in the spring of my senior year. And I got into Wharton, among other schools. And I chose Wharton because it was a better fit for me, personality wise. And I love the curriculum focus on quant because I'm not very strong, well, getting strong. I've been here for almost a year with numbers and I wanted that to be I wanted to close that gap and like my business education. And I mean, the black community here, there's nothing like it. It's absolutely incredible. And so I was super excited to come and I took three years in the workforce, two and a half of those years, I was at Google, and then I quit last February to recover from burnout. And started.

Nicaila Matthews Okome 31:20

Got it as a founder. Did you at any point think like, you know what, I'm already starting this entrepreneurial journey. Maybe I don't need to go back to business school anymore. Like what Absolutely.

Alexis Barber 31:30

I mean, even when I was applying to school, this was like tech heyday, 2019, there was people in my program that I knew personally, who now are all applying to get their MBAs who were like, you're going to work in Google, you don't need an MBA, Nobody here has one, you don't need to get an MBA. Then I looked at every director at Google on LinkedIn. And they are all as in like, people who are executives, they all had MBA, so I was like, Okay, I'm gonna do that. Then when it came to entrepreneurship, I knew I wanted to be an entrepreneur, when I was 21. I didn't have an idea. I didn't have a company yet. But I knew that if I wanted to have one long term, like, I could spend those few years in business school learning, finding a co founder building a business before, you know, really doing it in the real world where there's way more stakes. And I got that idea from I think it was the founder of Stitch Fix who she had a similar thing, she didn't have an idea. But she went to Harvard Business School. And at the end, it's like at the end, you either have a successful business you can take with you or you have a failed business and access to every employer in the world. So I knew that like it was like a risk taking thing. But I didn't expect to have a revenue generating business at the time that I was starting school. So or last year, when I was deciding whether or not I was going to matriculate, I did have that feeling of like, what if I took the quarter of a million dollars, I'm going to invest in this education and put it towards my business, or what if I like stay in New York and do this here. And that was definitely something I thought about. But honestly, like, as a black woman, you can never be too educated. And a lot of times get into the rooms that we want to get into. You need those like gatekeeper esque things on your resume to be taken seriously. And I also didn't have all of the business acumen that I felt I needed to take my business to where I wanted it to go. And where else was I going, I was either going to find that by falling on my face, or I was going to find that by in a new community where I could learn more, get a wider breadth of like education, and get out of my comfort zone. And from the day I got here, I have been pushed out of my comfort zone. And I've learned so much and met so many people that have changed the trajectory of my life, to the point where I could not imagine like not making this change, because it was so impactful and helpful for me. And I think that we discount the idea of going back to school because we see it as Oh, like you're copping out of life sometimes. But if you really take advantage of the resources that are like, this is not the best business school in the country for no reason. And it's like, if I have the opportunity to go there, as someone who grew up like in the projects, I'm going to take it you know what I mean? Like I just like if that opportunity is there, God wants me there. So I'm here,

Nicaila Matthews Okome 34:15

God wants you there. And it's different, what you said about the money, right? The investment piece, so like, like, this is not an advertisement for MBA programs or nothing, but if you are going to go, right, you have to be strategic, and just making sure that this is going to be have a return on investment for you. And so Alexis, I love that you do have a business because it focuses you in a way that not everyone is when they go into school sometimes, you know, someone who went to get my MBA as well. Like sometimes people go in there and they're like, Okay, great. Now you're gonna tell me what to do with the rest of my life. You know, like you just go in there and you're expecting like to just have an aha moment. And you realize, no, I still have to be the driver. Like, oh, yes, I still have to be A driver of my life. And so how do you feel having a business? Do you notice that as you're navigating classes in this experience that you're a bit more focused than some of your peers who are still trying to figure out what they're interested in?

Alexis Barber 35:15

Totally, I think I said this on my podcast when I first got to Wharton, that I think a lot of people like what they say about getting an MBA is that you'll have time to reflect. And I want to counter that by saying, you won't even have time to like clean your apartment, you don't have time to reflect Right? Like, you have to know what you want out of this. And I mean, I'm not to say that I like wasn't privy to that as well, like, I thought, like, Oh, I'll have time to think about my business and say, unless you're making time and being really strategic about your priorities, you aren't going to get something done. So you have to be way more strategic than you would realize. And that means in the summer, before you go to business school, or while you're researching business schools, you understand the curriculum, you know, what the club scene is like, and what clubs Aren't most interesting to you, you feel like you understand what like the parties and the time, like the way that you're going to decide how to spend your time, you have to be very strategic about all of that. And I personally, like, I'm not going to sit here and be like, I'm strategic all the time. Because I went through a breakup at the beginning of school, and I was in a party girl era for a while and like, did I pay attention, then get everything done on time? No, I didn't. So like, I'm not gonna say I was perfect at it. But I can say from experience that you should be more focused on that. But I do find that having a business, it allows me to have stronger priorities than I think my peers do. Because when I am making a decision about what I'm going to do with my afternoon, or what I'm going to do with my morning, it's about oh, what felt like I have like my lifestyle influencing, which is generating the most revenue for me. So if I need to do that, instead of like, submit a random, like participation thing on time, then that's what I need to do. And then it's like, when what classes am I going to take like, what is actually going to help me with my business, that's important to me. But I also want to say, I am not majoring in like entrepreneurship here. And I think that's because I have a business already. And like, I don't need to take a class on like, how to come up with a business idea. I'm using my time here to fill my gaps so that when I am running, hopefully a multimillion dollar business one day like I will have the skills to do that. So that's one thing I would tell people who do want to come for entrepreneurship to like, do it so that you can feel your personal skills gaps, not just so that you can like say you have a business. And

Nicaila Matthews Okome 37:30

one thing I found too, is that life and business is moving so fast. And these MBA curriculums are, the professors are often awesome, right? But life is moving faster than the marketing curriculum, for example, oh,

Alexis Barber 37:46

don't get me started when?

Nicaila Matthews Okome 37:49

I was like, Is anyone gonna talk about this? No. Okay, got it.

Alexis Barber 37:52

Literally Girl, please.

Nicaila Matthews Okome 37:56

So, you know, I had a social media marketing background, your lifestyle influencer? Like, you need to, yeah, there's a different gap that you need to focus on. So

Alexis Barber 38:04

totally. And I mean, in my marketing classes, the core marketing class, one of the lectures was like, influencer, marketing doesn't work. They were using like data from 2012 2012 data. And I said, Sir, this isn't gonna work. I was like, this isn't gonna work for me. So there are gaps for sure. Because, I mean, in terms of marketing, like these people are still very, I also think it's a female dominated industry, that it's not taken very seriously. But money talks. So when they see.

Nicaila Matthews Okome 38:40

Let's pivot into that now. So lifestyle influencing is paying the bills, oftentimes, like having a job is discouraged, right? You're supposed to unplug coming to these school, these graduate programs and just completely focused. And they're like, you can't juggle both. But okay, bills need to be paid. So yes, you could take out a tremendous loan, which is what most people do. But, you know, it seems like your approach has also been like, I'm going to work still and pay my bills and have less debt. Is that your approach?

Alexis Barber 39:09

I mean, yeah, it is. I mean, it would be stupid for me to give up this opportunity. Like you can't just like become an influencer again, in a couple years, you know, and I'm passionate about about it. So for me, I also find that this content and like being here is fascinating. So there's other reasons that I do this. But of course, like the fact that it is paying for things and I can have less debt and I can enjoy business school because the difference between a good business school experience and a great business school experience is about $50,000 to spend on whatever you want. And they used to say it was $10,000. But girl, the way these trips are going, it's not so for me to be able to keep up, do all the things I want to do and I really enjoy it. I like have to have a job. And some people their parents help them some people were in great jobs before this and they kept and they saved a lot of money. Some people are taking out too Mendez loans, I personally enjoy my work a lot. And I've been given such great opportunities that God has just shown up in ways that I could never have imagined for myself right now. And so I am continuing to do this so that I can like one, enjoy this experience to the fullest in terms of travel and stuff like that, and you want to buy whatever clothes I want and order dinner when I don't feel like cooking, because I have too much work. And also, you know, just so that I can like, hopefully be able to, like buy a house one day, you know, but I will lie to you. It has been the most challenging last like seven months. I mean, of course, my breakup had a lot to do with that I broke up with my boyfriend of six years before coming to school. And so that combined with working full time, basically as an influencer, building to collective which we that was when our real beauty partnership was happening behind the scenes, which was so much work. And then of course, managing the academics at this illustrious school has it, as well as like, you know, partying, it's been, I mean, I cry a lot where

Nicaila Matthews Okome 41:10

it's, it makes time for the parties it sorry, you cry a lot. But yeah, but you're transparent about that, too. And your content, like, Look, I am going through it.

Alexis Barber 41:19

I mean, I don't want to like ever, I do think like there was a time where influencers would like only post the good stuff in their lives. And there was also a time when like, if you were complaining as an influencer, you'd be seen as, like, out of touch. And so I never want to complain that like, I don't have the I'm not the luckiest girl in the world, because I do believe I am. But to continue to make that look happen and continue to, you know, make the most of every opportunity that I've been given. It takes a toll on you. And I think that like, it's important to be transparent about that. Because when you look at everything I do, I don't want someone to think oh, I can, I should be comparing myself to that. Or I should totally do that, without knowing that, like, I didn't get to go on spring break, because I had too many projects and so much going on. And I also like sometimes I don't have the best grades because I will forget to turn something in because I will be focused on a deadline for something else in one of my businesses. So there's trade offs you have to make, but that's the reality of being an entrepreneur, right?

Nicaila Matthews Okome 42:21

And are you planning to do the traditional MBA internship or work on your business,

Alexis Barber 42:28

I'll be working on my business over the summer, I considered doing the traditional MBA internship because there's two companies that I would work for outside of Google I want I was I'd be interested in American Express or working at LVMH. And so I went to both of their like info sessions in the beginning of the year. Yeah. And the site of like a corporate email, it made me sick. I said, I have to go. So I gotta get out of here. I can't do it. I just realized like, I'm not a corporate girl. I maybe one day when I'm like, older, like I'm never gonna say no to it. But I

Nicaila Matthews Okome 43:04

happen. Right, right, right to the entrepreneurship journey can be crazy. Like, you might have to go back and re stack up some of that money. Right? Totally. Right. Now while you have the chance, you want to just press the gas and go, go go, I get it. Totally.

Alexis Barber 43:17

I mean, I also didn't, I took the first semester off from working on, like, marketing and product development for to collective because I was like, I don't have time for this. And that's when the GMA feature happened. That's when the rare beauty collaboration happened. And I was like, Girl, can I have a minute? And they were like, No, ma'am. I was like, God wants me to have this business, I guess. So I really do think like I've gotten very blessed and like lucky with my opportunities, so I'm gonna make the most of them while I have the time.

Nicaila Matthews Okome 43:50

Yeah. And that's how you have to do it in life because like you said, the opportunity doesn't come twice. Like if you're like, No, I'm not influencing right now. Check me in two years. They're like, alright, leader, leader.

I heard you say that. Someone recently came on to do social for you. And it made me curious about how you're managing the business outside of yourself, like who else is on your team as contractors or what have you? Absolutely.

Alexis Barber 44:18

So the way that it looks forward to collective for that business is that we have someone who does social media, so that runs the Instagram, and then someone I have a contractor who helps connect me with factories so that I can order like product and things like that. And then it's actually my family that runs our fulfillment in St. Louis. So my wife Rebecca, she's the best. She runs fulfillment for us. So if you are ever getting a package from to collect if it was, it was a packed by my family by my siblings or my cousins, if you will. I don't know if I mentioned this. I'm the oldest of eight kids and 30 grandchildren. So Oh, yeah, my mom's one of five. So I have a really big family. And what's the point of having a big family if you don't put them to work? So

Nicaila Matthews Okome 45:09

exactly amazing, especially being the big sister, like my husband always jokes, like whatever my big sisters, when they say jump, like it's time to happen. 100% Yeah, there was so much, you know,

Alexis Barber 45:22

oh, and then in terms of like influencing business, I also have a great team there. So I have my editor who does video and audio for the podcast. And then I recently, this past semester, or this first best half of the semester was so hard for me, I was seeking six classes. So I outsource editing for like Tiktok and Instagram to her as well, which was hard for me to do. But if I, it's another trade off, you've got to make. And then I have a manager as well, who manages my brand deals. So I have a team, it was hard for me to allow that to happen as much as, but it is so necessary. And I truly believe that like the difference between, you know, good entrepreneurs and great entrepreneurs are the people who know how to delegate and know how to build a team around them that helps them your

Nicaila Matthews Okome 46:07

mission. Yes. And you also were earning money once you started to hire your team, right? Absolutely.

Alexis Barber 46:14

I mean, 100%. And I, it's the best investment I ever make. Now I think of money. And when I get like a brand deal, I think of it and like how many people I can pay to help me.

Nicaila Matthews Okome 46:28

So with your manager, how did you find that person?

Alexis Barber 46:30

So my manager reached out to me in 2021, when I was like starting as an influencer, I was with that agency for a while. And while I was at that agency, she got an assistant and her assistant, became like the junior manager on my team. And then late last year, both of them left the agency I had been at due to like a controversy. And once I learned to that controversy, I no longer felt aligned with that agency anymore, either. So I followed the junior talent manager to her new agency, after looking around for a little bit because it was a smaller agency. And I wasn't sure if I wanted to go smaller. But when I asked myself who I felt most supported with when I was like working in the past, it was her. So I continued working with her. And so I managed my own content for a year before starting before I got a manager. And then I also managed it for two months on my own before I like went back to my old manager. And that's it's hard. It's like a contracts that like invoicing, all of it like a lot of work. Right?

Nicaila Matthews Okome 47:38

And just protecting yourself like so you don't miss a clause or anything. And next thing you know, they can like use your image in China.

Alexis Barber 47:45

No, for real. It's out of control. Yeah. Right.

Nicaila Matthews Okome 47:48

So I want to get you do so many things. But I just want you to share some nuggets of wisdom about each for a little bit. So for lifestyle influencing, for example, if someone starting out today creating content, how can they stand out? It's so much harder. It's so much harder these days. Yeah. What's your advice there? I

Alexis Barber 48:07

think that the truth, its core, when it comes to influencing is that it's about authenticity, which is super annoying. But when you see a video and you try to recreate it, it's not going to pop off because it wasn't original. So for me what I like to do when I'm feeling and I'm in one of those phases now where I feel stuck, or where I don't know what to create, I go on like a low walk and like a meditative state and see what pops into my head, what is exciting for me to create that's different than from other people. And you have to just practice, I think what makes people stand out is consistency. And being themselves. The only thing that really will pop off is when you bring something new to the table. And usually it's just you and being yourself. But if you're too afraid to do that, you'll sort of stay stagnant. And I've seen that with my own content for a long time. And so I think that's where I would start is thinking about what you can bring that's unique and valuable to your audience. And to be doing two types of content. The first is going to be what's valuable to your audience and what like can help them and the second has to be something that makes you really happy. So my Worten vlogs are my favorite thing to make when I watched them back. I'm like what, like, this is like my life like I love watching that. But you do they get millions of views? No, but like, I enjoy making it and that's what makes content like fun for me. Yeah.

Nicaila Matthews Okome 49:26

And then as far as creating a product. So that's a dream of many folks, even you know people who are super successful with content creation, either they might overthink it and never create something, or they might be too quick to create something just because everyone else is doing it. So how should someone think about which product to launch?

Alexis Barber 49:47

Oh my goodness. So first of all, you can make an excellent living as a content creator just being a content creator and maybe angel investing in products that you are really passionate about or right through licensing deals or through major deals with, you don't have to launch a business just because entrepreneur, other creators are doing it. As I said before, I've always been interested in this space. So this was always something I wanted to do. And I had a unique idea for a product that was unique, and there was nothing else like it on the market. And that's when it made sense for me to you know, invest a ton of money and do that on my own. That is what I would say, is the differentiating factor. As I've learned in business school. So far, your competitive advantage cannot just be your follower count. It has to be something way more important than that, like, how many times are you like tired of seeing another beauty brand from another celebrity, they don't have a competitive advantage. So think of like, what would make your product different. And also know that running a product based business is very difficult. And it takes a lot of money, a lot of time and a lot of energy. And so if you're not willing to do that, and you're already overwhelmed with being a creator, it's not going to be worth it for you.

Nicaila Matthews Okome 51:03

All right, quick lightning round. I love it. So Okay, number one, what is a resource non Google that has helped you with to collective that you can share with the site hospital audience,

Alexis Barber 51:14

I would say it has been like listening to other podcasts like this, when I was getting started, it was like piatra and looking through that. And also connecting with all of my different female founder like friends. That was what was most helpful for me was actually using my community and not being afraid to reach out and ask for help. But in terms of the current resource that I would like to suggest to at the moment, oh, my God, I need to get back on my resource that I because I love, I hate to do this. But I would say, if you're looking to start a product based business, I would start by looking at piatra to like start with your sourcing and things like that. I want to think of a better answer than that, though. So the number one one would be like not being afraid to reach out and ask for help from your friends,

Nicaila Matthews Okome 52:01

right? And even podcast guests. All right, number two, who is a non celebrity black woman entrepreneur, who you would want to trade places with for a day and why I

Alexis Barber 52:10

have two. So the first one is kind of a celebrity. So I will let that one slide. But

Nicaila Matthews Okome 52:16

who isn't? I'm curious, curious. Mara Brock, Akil,

Alexis Barber 52:18

because she wrote, oh, I wouldn't expect it. Now. She wrote girlfriends and she went to Northwestern. So like, that's why I've always felt like connected to her. And she also wrote being Mary Jane, like, love her. So the next one is KJ Miller. She's

Nicaila Matthews Okome 52:33

the founder. She's been on the show. Yes.

Alexis Barber 52:37

And she's the founder of mented cosmetics. And when I had her on my show, it was like the best conversations I think we've ever had, because she's just so herself. And she also built the company and like such a different age. And I find it so fascinating. Like the way she's done it. So I would totally switch because also she's like living her life now too. So I would love to see what that's like. Yes.

Nicaila Matthews Okome 52:59

All right. Number three, what is a non negotiable part of your day these days? If there is anything because your days feels so hectic, right? Oh, my gosh,

Alexis Barber 53:07

they're so hectic. non negotiable is my morning meditation walk. So I guess the resource that like first came to mind when you asked that first question was my walking meditation app, which is called superhuman, where like, oh, yeah, for me to feel okay. Like I need to go on like a 30 minute to 60 minute walk in the morning, outside, I cannot be on a treadmill. Rain or shine, listening to these like without checking my phone so that I can get back to myself because I find that when your life is so busy, you lose connection with yourself. And then it's like, what's the point of all this? So that's my non negotiable Morning Coffee walk with my walking meditation.

Nicaila Matthews Okome 53:45

Oh, I love that. I'm still in the walking meditation. So thank you for that. Yes, before you do, but I needed that reminder. And because I stopped her life, you guys I'm also gonna say protein, you make sure you get your 100%

Alexis Barber 53:56

get that protein and girl because with so much, so much, so

Nicaila Matthews Okome 54:01

much. Okay, number four, what's a personal trait that you think has helped you be so successful?

Alexis Barber 54:07

Oh, optimism, I think as much as I can. Like, I think I tried to be honest about the negative parts of life just so that people feel less alone. But in reality, like to get from where I came from, to where I am now, I had to have like this blind like belief that everything would be okay. And it always has been so that like optimism and trusting in the universe and trusting God, it came a lot from my grandmother who was very delusional with me growing up and which I appreciate oldest grandchild syndrome, you know. So I would say that optimism and like trusting has been, I think, the reason for a lot of my success.

Nicaila Matthews Okome 54:45

Amazing. And then finally, what is your parting advice for fellow Black woman entrepreneurs who want to start their own business but are scared of taking that leap?

Alexis Barber 54:55

Oh my gosh, my advice is that we need you And I say that because there's never going to be a day where you feel like you've made it or you feel like you have figured everything out, there's always going to be more to do. But on those days when I've just kept going, the opportunities that I only dreamed about that I never felt like I was ready for would show up in front of me. There had been podcast guests I've had that I've been like, I've been obsessed with you like you reached out to be on my show. Or there would be like this rare beauty deal or the GMA situation or any of my brand deals like I've worked with Lululemon for almost a year now when I couldn't afford Lululemon growing up, and all I wanted was like a pair of those leggings and now they pay my bills. And it's like, I never felt ready or like big enough to partner with Lululemon or ready or big enough to interview the founder of topicals on my show, but they happened because what you want wants you back, that's my biggest thing is like the people you want to serve. They're waiting to be served the people who you want to, you know, connect with, they're waiting to connect with you. So even though you don't always feel ready, like keep going and show up and take that leap. Because if you have that small desire, the other part of the universe has it too.

Nicaila Matthews Okome 56:10

Yes. All right, y'all. I hope you are left so inspired by Alexis As am I? Where can people connect with you after this episode? Absolutely.

Alexis Barber 56:18

Instagram is where my community is at. I'm always in the DMS if you have questions, DM me, I like love a voice response to come back. And then I'm on Tik Tok sharing my daily life usually like a week late. Follow me, it's just my name on everything at Alexis Farber. And then if you want to shop to collective and give yourself a lovely self care gift, you can go to to collective.com That's T IO. And then follow us on Instagram to there's lots of fun, you know, content on there from my amazing social media manager. Right?

Nicaila Matthews Okome 56:50

And YouTube is just Alexis Barber, right? Yes, it is. Alright guys, we will link to all of that. So there you have it. Hey guys, thanks for listening to side hustle Pro. If you like the show, be sure to subscribe rate and review on Apple podcasts. It helps other side hustlers just like you to find the show. And if you want to hear more from me, you can follow me on Instagram at side hustle Pro. Plus sign up for my six bullet Saturday newsletter at side hustle Pro, that CO slash newsletter. When you sign up, you will receive weekly nuggets from me, including what I'm up to personal lessons and my business tip of the week. Again, that side hustle pro.co/newsletter to sign up. Talk to you soon.

Transcribed by https://otter.ai

Meet the host:

Nicaila Matthews-Okome

Hi! I’m Nicaila, the Creator and Host of the Side Hustle Pro Podcast. I started Side Hustle Pro when I was a side hustler myself. I was a digital marketer at NPR by day, side hustler by night. Through the powerful stories shared on this show and the courage to launch my own initiatives, I was able to quit my own job and go full time with Side Hustle Pro.

201: I QUIT my Job! (REWIND)

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