Leslie Newton is literally ready for anything. After all, the mom of one and CEO/lead designer of baby-gear company Newlie has performed improv at Los Angeles' famed Groundlings Theater, as well as written for "Saturday Night Live."
Those improv skills came in handy when she entered the business of baby in 2000 as the co-founder of diaper bag company Timi & Leslie.
"When I first started in this industry, I had no idea what I was doing and didn't know any of the industry terms," Newton tells Mom.me via email. "One of the first buyers I worked with asked me if I had line sheets—I had no idea what these were, but I used the rule of improv, which is to never say 'no' but instead say 'yes and ....' So I said, 'Yes and I ran out, so I'll get you more once I'm back in my office.' I then made some calls to figure out what they were."
That attitude has paid off! She's now a pro in the field, having successfully launched Newlie in November 2015.
In addition to her business, Newton also talks to us about when she first felt successful, what she prioritizes before anything else, and how she's teaching her 8-year-old daughter about girl power.
Describe the moment when you were inspired to create Newlie.
I was inspired to create Newlie after leaving my first company. I wanted to continue to create amazing products for moms that were high end, stylish and functional but at an affordable price.
When did you first feel successful?
There have been a lot of moments when I have felt successful. When I sold to my first store, and then later when I sold to my first chain store, and then later when I could start hiring employees. All those times felt successful.
As a successful female entrepreneur, what are some ways that you want to teach your daughter about "girl power"?
Well, I always encourage my daughter to do anything she's interested in. She loves robotics and engineering, so I really support her with this stuff. She is starting her own cookie business, too, so we developed a logo for her new little company. I always talk to her about how she's a natural leader (because she is!). And the responsibility that comes with treating others kindly and making sure to be fair.
Has there been anything about starting Newlie that surprised you or inspired you in a way you didn't expect?
Nothing really surprised me since I've been in this business so long, but I didn't realize how much social media was going to be so influential now compared to several years ago. That has been a lot of fun, and I've enjoyed connecting with other moms that way.
What's your advice for moms who are looking to start their own business?
I always say you just have to go for it and be prepared to make mistakes, and be open to advice from others who are more experienced. But then you really just have to follow your instincts.
What sacrifices have you made as a mom and a business owner to keep everything in balance?
I just never have enough time for anything. I prioritize my time with my daughter and family. That comes before anything. Then my business and me. I've had to learn that my house will be messy, and there's no way I can get everything done. But I'm more used to this now.
What would you say are the most important skills and experiences you've brought from previous positions to Newlie?
I've learned how to keep things simple, how to designate responsibilities and how to focus on what's really important and know what I can pass on.
If you could have lunch with any business person/mogul/entrepreneur/nonprofit founder living or dead, who would it be and why?
Mary Edwards. She was the first U.S. Army surgeon in the Civil War. No one would take her seriously until the war, when they were desperate for doctors and finally hired her. She is the only woman to have ever been awarded the medal of honor. Her name was then later deleted from the list of those awarded that honor, but she kept the medal. Her name was later put back on the list 1977. After the war, she supported the women's suffrage movement.