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10 Questions With Leslie Newton

Creating products for the masses is nothing new for Leslie Newton. Whether it was handmade goods or writing sketches, the Newlie CEO has always been a creator. She began her career as an entertainer/writer and was a member of the famed Groundlings comedy improv group in Los Angeles, while also writing skits for a variety of TV shows including "Saturday Night Live." In 1999, Newton transitioned from the entertainment business to the manufacturing business when she co-founded timi & leslie which was soon sold in over 500 stores across the country and became the go-to name for a stylish diaper bag (which were virtually impossible to find at the time).

If you’ve ever perused diaper bags while pregnant (or not!), chances are you’ve run into some of those gorgeous timi & leslie bags. Now Newton has decided to branch out on her own with a new endeavor called Newlie, a “moms-based business” which creates customizable products for modern moms. Real moms make the decision on next season's styles and what customized options they want to see—how cool is that?!

So exactly how did a former comedian turn into a successful CEO? Let's find out!

How did you come up with the concept for your business and at what point did you decide to make it a reality?

Well, I’m the founder of the diaper bag company timi & leslie. However, I left that company a little over a year ago. I wanted to do something new that included both my design talent, my past comedy/improv acting talent and, most importantly, I wanted to create a company with a strong mom community where the moms are actually involved with helping me make decisions—like which bag styles I’ll sell, or what the bag names will be. So I came up with Newlie. I worked hard for a year putting the business plan together so I’d have a roadmap guiding me as I began my new adventure. Then I created a lot of funny videos, including a rap video about being a new mom. After I put all the pieces together, it was time to go for it! And now I’m launching Newlie!

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Inquiring future business owners want to know: How do you make the leap from a secure paid job to starting your own business?

Ha! It’s very scary. I started out small but my product kept selling and that was my sign that I should really commit full time and start a company. Put together some kind of business plan—either formal or informal—so you have a roadmap and strategy and aren’t totally winging it. Also don’t be afraid to reach out to people with experience in what you want to do to get advice.

How much money should someone have saved before starting their own business?

It really depends on the type of business you start. For instance a business like mine, manufacturing, you need a lot of money up front. But for many businesses, if you don’t need to make things or purchase product to sell, I imagine not a lot. It just depends. But make sure you have something to live on for at least a year, a year and a half, depending on what type of business you are launching.

How long did it take for you to be profitable?

I’d say 1.5 to 2 years.

Was there a moment when you wanted to give up but pushed on through anyway?

Ha! Many moments. I’d be going to a trade show and be just so exhausted from the constant hard work (manufacturing is sooo hard), and say to myself, OK, if I don’t sell X amount then I’m going to quit. But of course, I’d then sell X amount! I did that all the time and ended up always making my goal.

At what point did you consider yourself successful?

That’s a tough question. I mean, really, there’s success in just going for it and trying to have your own business, whether it works out or not. But I guess for me, once I started seeing strangers wearing my bags and then first time I got into a major department store, I was pretty excited.

How do you balance your work/home life, or is there even such a thing?

Ugh, if there was only such a thing. It was hard enough before I had a daughter but once a child is in the mix things really get nutty. I just get as much work done as I can every day without sacrificing also spending quality time with my family. I put everything in my schedule—family time, work, exercise—it’s the only way I can manage. I’m a Girl Scout leader and so that really mixes things up, but I have so much fun with my daughter and her Daisy Girl Scout troop. All the time I spend with her is priceless and I don’t take it for granted.

What was the best advice you ever received? Worst advice?

Best advice: Keeping things as simple as possible. Worst advice? I had an employee that wasn’t doing a good job and an advisor kept telling me to give that person a chance again and again. Big mistake!

It takes a village for any mom, but for a mom starting her own business, it must take a huge village. So who are your go-to people/services?

Amazon Prime for sure. My mom. My husband. Some friends. A few take-out restaurants for those days I can’t get it together for dinner. A house cleaner (never have time to clean but hate a messy house)! A foot massage place nearby—not too expensive but oh-so-good. An online guided meditation through UCLA—great for moments when I need to get grounded. My dogs to take on walks when I need to clear my head. My daughter for snuggle breaks!

What do you do to unwind and recharge?

I take walks, do cardio barre, watch some of my favorite shows, hang out with my family, meditate, get massages, coffee with friends …

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Finally, take me through a day in your life.

Wake up at 7 a.m. with my husband and daughter. My husband makes her breakfast and I make her school lunch and help her get ready. Either my husband or I take her to school. If he takes her to school, then I take a power walk with my dogs. Then have coffee and almond yogurt with granola, yum! Start working—either designing, dealing with production or sales or whatever the day might bring. At lunch, I go to the grocery store and buy lunch and stuff to make for dinner. Then back to work. I always have a huge herbal iced tea with crushed ice and a little juice in it to sweeten it a bit by my desk. Depending on whose turn it is, either I or my husband pick my daughter up from school. It might be my turn to spend with her after school or my husbands. If it’s my turn, we go to the park, or go on a playdate. Then home, make dinner, eat. Make sure homework gets done, get her into her bath, brush teeth, play a bit, read in bed, snuggle, sleep … for her. I either then hang out with my husband for a bit before I pass out or work more if I had a lot that day. That’s it.

All images courtesy of Leslie Newton

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