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In this ongoing series, we are sharing advice, tips and insights from real entrepreneurs who are out there doing business battle on a daily basis. (Answers have been edited and condensed for clarity.)
Who are you and what’s your business?
I’m Anne Reilly and I’m the Founder/CEO of Mott50, the first anti-aging fashion collection with built-in sun protection. Six years ago, Mott50 started as a passion project. I wanted to create more wearable sun-protective apparel for myself and my family (who have a history of skin cancer). Since launch, I’ve discovered that the market is even bigger than I initially thought — and demand is growing exponentially, particularly driven by the direct correlation between sun protection and anti-aging.
What does the word “entrepreneur” mean to you?
To me, an “entrepreneur” is someone who sees a need in the market and does something about it, rather than just sitting on the sidelines and waiting for someone else to do it.
What was your toughest challenge and how did you overcome it?
For Mott50, the toughest challenge has been creating fabric that is lightweight, breathable, comfortable, stylish and sun-protective (UPF50+). A typical white t-shirt has a UPF of only 5, meaning almost all the harmful UVA (aging) and UVB (burning) rays get through. However, thanks to all of the time and hard work we’ve put in, our white t-shirt looks just like a “regular” shirt but has a UPF of 50+. Once a customer tries it, she is loyal for life!
What’s the problem you just solved or are attacking now?
When we launched in 2011, people didn’t “get” the need for sun protection but, today they do! We’ve worked hard to make UPF50 a part of everyone’s fashion vernacular so that staying sun-safe while still enjoying the outdoors would be easier to do. Sun protection is now the U.S. Surgeon General’s number 1 priority (the “new” anti-smoking). The Mott50 team is constantly working with related parties to educate consumers about the importance of sun-protective clothing. We are also rolling out a celebrity/influencer and dermatologist-focused campaign this fall that we are incredibly excited about — stay tuned!
How did you discover this problem?
As someone who has a family history of skin cancer and is a beauty aficionado (I worked at Conde Nast out of college), I know the importance of sun protection for both cancer prevention and anti-aging. It amazed me that my peers were not as aware of the direct correlations between sun exposure and aging as I was. Similarly, I was always shocked to see little kids at the beach who are burned and wearing nothing. But I get it. Slathering sunscreen on a fidgety toddler every two hours or getting them to sit still in the first place is rarely easy — but it’s so important because the damage is cumulative and long-lasting.
Is there a particular quote or saying that you use as personal motivation?
“Never, never, never give up.” — Winston Churchill. I think this should be every entrepreneur’s mantra.
What trait do you depend on most when making decisions?
I think it’s very important to be able to separate emotions from the decision-making process. I’m a very quantitative person, and I believe It is crucial to rely on the numbers versus personal opinions on what might or might not sell.
How has your leadership style evolved?
In my personal and professional life, I have learned that it takes a village (I have three kids under 4 years old!). I tried to do everything myself for years. Over the last year, I have made strategic team hires and made changes to the business that have really taken it to the next level. Acknowledging that I can’t do everything on my own, and surrounding myself with an “A grade” team, has made a world of difference to the business.
Anne Reilly (in black) with her Mott50 team following a photoshoot.