[00:00:01] Speaker A: Greetings scholars, and welcome to following the Gong, a podcast at the Schreyer Honors College at Penn State.
Following the Gong takes you inside conversations with our Scholar alumni to hear their story so you can gain career and life advice and expand your professional network. You can hear the true breadth of how Scholar alumni have gone on to shape the world old after they rind the gong and graduate with honors and learn from their experiences so you can use their insights in your own journey. This show is proudly sponsored by the Scholar Alumni Society, a constituent group of the Penn State Alumni Association. I'm your host, Sean Doheen, class of 2011 and college staff member. If this is your first time joining us, welcome. If you're a regular listener, welcome back.
In this debut episode, we chat with Asia Grant, class of 2017, the founder and Creative director of Redo, a cosmetics company based in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, where she oversees growing the brand. Prior to founding Redo, she worked as a user experience designer and researcher for IBM and then Capco in New York, New York. She earned a BS in Marketing with honors from Penn State's Smell College of Business in 2017. She's happy to connect with scholars to discuss branding, marketing, strategy, entrepreneurship, and design. Asia also served as the President of the Scholar Alumni Society from 2019 to 2021. In our conversation today, Asia shares great advice and insight on the Presidential Leadership Academy and making the most of the honors. College as a third year admitted scholar the importance of connecting with faculty and using your thesis post graduation transferring skills from a corporate role to a startup, including time management advice when taking the plunge of going full time on a side hustle and getting involved as an alumni volunteer. Now let's dive into our conversation with Asia Grant.
[00:02:02] Speaker B: Thank you for joining me today, Asia.
I'd love if we could just start out a little bit at what you currently are doing at Redo, if you can walk us through a little bit about your company and what exactly you're working on there.
[00:02:21] Speaker C: Sure, my pleasure to be here. It's funny because Redo has started with another scholar, Alum. So I was even contemplating, I was like, should I have him guest appear? And I was like, no, that'll be too complicated. But some context around redo. I started a passion project with my best friend back in 2019. I just graduated, it was like two years out of school and he had just graduated and was taking a gap year in between his PhD program and graduation. And we were both kind of like, we're living these corporate lives, we're going to live these corporate lives. Maybe let's just start a side project together so we have a reason to speak to each other every single week before we get way too busy. So we started Redo, which was very type A scholar of us, and we wanted to create a skincare company since something that we had a shared love for while we were at school was skincare. And we wanted to focus specifically on scent because of the emotional ties to how people relate to scent, interact with scent, and how it's really based around nostalgia. So we've just turned two this past July. I actually quit my full time job last October to pursue Redo full time because it was such an explosive year for us. So now that we are technically in our third year, a lot of the stuff that I do is the sales and marketing side, a lot of the creative direction, all of the partnerships, and just building out what the brand vision is overall. So it's been a lot of fun working on that full time.
[00:03:55] Speaker B: Definitely exciting. And for anybody listening, we recorded this in August of 2021. So helped you get the timeline right there. But I want to go back a little bit further. Asia. And was this something that was always something you wanted to do? Or as you talked about, was it something that's kind of crept up? What brought you to Penn State originally?
[00:04:21] Speaker C: Sure. So there's two questions there. The first one was, was this always something I wanted to do? I think from a very young age, I knew that I wanted something that I could call my own. When I was very little, I wanted my own hotel. I wanted my own art gallery. There were all of these different little projects that I wanted to be able to just do and own because I love seeing the creative process from beginning to end. And when I was at Penn State, when we were going to the career fairs and talking to potential employers, everything felt very overly structured for me. Not that the jobs or internships were bad, but I always wanted to do more.
So I felt like entrepreneurship was something I was always interested in. I just didn't know how that would manifest. But I was always looking for friends to start little projects with and say, like, oh, we should try this out, or we should go over here. We should talk to this person.
So I think it's always been something that I was eventually going to get to a corporate job was absolutely not for me. It's definitely purposeful and necessary, and I appreciate both of my corporate jobs to help me get to where I am now. But for the long term, it was not within my cards. How did I get to was? So I'm a Pennsylvania native. I grew up here in Westchester, Pennsylvania. Penn State was, to be honest, a fallback school of mine. I thought I was going to go to Harvard or Stanford. Got rejected from all of those schools, emotionally devastated. Got into Penn State and realized I was like, okay, if I'm looking at school as a means of an experience, what do I want to get out of this experience. I didn't really care for the party scene. I didn't really care for the social side, which now I realize, yes, you absolutely did. But I really wanted to see or go to a university that cared about who I was after I left, not just the four years while I was there. So Penn State became my top pick just because of the alumni network tied to the rigorous nature of the curriculum. I wasn't a scholar when I first came in, but those were the two reasons I was like, there's an alumni network here that wants to support me after I leave. I know the only way that I will be successful in life is based on the people who I am connected with, because at the end of the day, your network is your net worth. So that's why and how I ended up at Penn State.
[00:06:51] Speaker B: So when you were here, I know that one of the choices you made was to apply for and you were ultimately accepted into the Presidential Leadership Academy or the PLA. Could you tell us a little bit about your experience and for any maybe prospective or current first year scholars who are listening to this, why they should consider applying for that, and for maybe current PLA students, how they can make the most of their time in the PLA?
[00:07:18] Speaker C: Sure.
The way I heard about PLA, I was actually nominated by my academic advisor. She said that it would be something that would be really suited for and funny enough, someone else actually applied whose name was also Asia. And through the application process, I think there was something that went wrong and our applications got switched. So I technically did not get a first interview with PLA, which was crazy to like. I also had another company that I started my freshman year, and I wrote about that during my application. They said, we're sorry, we're not interested at this time. And I met some other people in PLA, and they essentially went to bat for me. And they're like, Why didn't NASA get in? She should at least have an interview. So there's like this whole thing, and this is kind of one of my life mantras where it's like the squeaky wheel gets the oil. If there's something that you don't think is right, you speak up.
It's probably going to work in your favor. So I ended up getting an interview and then got into PLA and then realized that the people around me I was not a scholar at that point. I think about half of us weren't scholars and the other half were scholars. And I was just so impressed. I was like, this is the most diverse group of intellectuals I've ever met. And I kind of had a moment of dissonance because I was like, oh, I'm also here, so I guess I also fall into this category. But I think my favorite part of PLA was just hearing how passionate people were about the work that they did that was so different from mine. I'm still very close with a lot of the individuals that I went to that was part of my PLA graduation class, as well as the one below me and the one above me and two years above me as well. But I think the best thing to get out of it is just connecting with people on not an academic level, because it's just the way and I think that's what brought us together in PLA. It's just the way that we think so many different ways that people are able to kind of get to the places where they are. So I don't think I ever had truly academic conversations with my PLA cohort we talk about weird, esoteric things that we all enjoy or that we personally enjoy. I think one of the last conversations I had with someone from my PLA class was how they went on a trip through Chile and got tricked into doing this weird tour, that they then had to sleep in a tent, and then how that allowed them to reconnect with one of their fifth cousins. Like, very strange lives that we all live, but I think that's what made it special.
[00:10:10] Speaker B: And then I want to go back a minute into our conversation since we took a little bit of a detour to talk about the PLA.
You made a comment about the power of alumni, and that got me thinking about really networking. And I know that's a key part of your origin story as a scholar. I know because we go back a little bit. So I've heard this story, but if you could just kind of maybe rehash it for me on how you came to decide to apply and begin your journey in the Honors College.
[00:10:44] Speaker C: Sure, yes. And I will be 100% transparent to everyone here because I've been saying this more and more frequently just to give credit where credit is due. All of my success, yes, I work very hard and there's a lot of luck, but all of my success and all of the opportunities I've been fortunate enough to receive is because of my network and someone saying, hey, I think Asia would be good for this. So with that related to the Honors College, in high school, there was a girl who was I was a freshman and she was a senior, and she went to Penn State and was in Smeel similarly to me. And then when I came to Penn State as a freshman, she was a senior and she had gong through the process of entering the college or yes, entering the college as a third year. And everyone's like, you're going to follow in Marquis's footsteps? And I was like, no, I'm not. But she essentially paved the way for me to be able to get into the Honors College, kind of grooved me and coached me. I was originally accepted into the Finance major just because my GPA allowed for it. I thought I wanted to do finance. I thought I wanted to go to Goldman Sachs. Then I met with the honors advisor for Finance. And I remember one of my favorite classes my freshman year was Marketing 301. After my first class with my professor, who was Dr. Kupland, I went to her class. I gave her my business card, and I was like, I love this class so much. Marketing makes so much sense to me. And we just kept in touch from that point on. And I went to her when I was considering applying to Schreyer, and she was like, you should absolutely do it. I'm part of the committee that chooses who is accepted through Smeel. And let's just work on your thesis proposal together, because we will essentially most likely work on your thesis if you get into the Honors College. So she was the second person to groom me to help me get into Schreyer and then was ultimately my thesis advisor for when I actually went through the process of writing it.
[00:12:45] Speaker B: So I think that's a perfect tee up Asia if you can then dive into what that thesis was once, you know, accepted into the college and delved into the more academic side of marketing.
[00:13:01] Speaker C: Sure. So I'll be completely transparent again.
I was very intimidated by the thesis because I didn't really understand what it was. From the business side of writing a thesis, it looks very different than, say, the engineering side or the medical side because it's more of a nebulous thing where you can explore whatever you want. That's how Dr. Kublin explained it to me. She's like, you can either find something new or you can do, like, an amalgamation of existing research to then kind of define it under a new concept, which is what I did. So mine was the typology of cuteness. I wanted to see the different and explore the different dimensions around the concept of what cute actually is from a physical and emotional attribute standpoint. And I looked at that through the lens of packaging design and packaging design specifically within the cosmetic industry in Korea. So it's very different than how Western beauty standards are, where it's very chic and luxury and bright and, you know, your Hermes, your Chanel's, your Goyards, versus how it's done in Eastern beauty cultures, which is very cute. They do collaborations with Disney or even these animated television series, but it's still marketed towards adults and different ages. So I really wanted to get an understanding of why people emotionally invest and how the different categories of cute whether it's like baby cute or like whimsical cheeky cute or like more aesthetically clean and chic cute. These are all different types of communicating without actually using any words, just using visual cues to elicit a certain response in customers. So that's what my thesis was about. And I still use it to this day as it relates to my company. Because packaging design is something that affects a lot of people, which they don't realize, but a lot of people assign a lot of personal identity in the things that they purchase. If they took the time to kind of just look around and see all the things they buy and questions like, why did I buy that? What did it make me feel like when I saw it on the shelf? So it's a lot of fun.
[00:15:21] Speaker B: Could you give maybe a little bit more of an in depth explanation on maybe some kind of standard item that maybe students who are listening to this might identify with?
[00:15:35] Speaker C: Let me think. Let's think about a very classic example would be Apple versus Samsung. So if you look at an Apple product versus Samsung product and how they present themselves to the world as a brand and who the person is that purchases those products, there's definitely very clear delineations, at least from the marketing standpoint. If you're purchasing an Apple product you're more inclined to design, you're more inclined to creative freedom. You're a little bit more rebellious, you're a little bit more freeform Silicon Valley type like open creative versus a Samsung product which is a little bit more direct, aggressive. You might have a little bit more technical knowledge. It's very funny because you'll see a lot of basketball references as relate to Android products. But that's essentially the delineation. The Samsung products are a little bit more rigid and structured and direct and aggressive and even if in their design it's a little bit darker versus the Apple products which are lighter, more open airy and creative leaning.
[00:16:51] Speaker B: Fantastic. I think that's definitely one that a lot of us know, especially as I sit here talking to you through an Apple MacBook.
And so I can relate to that and I hope our listeners can as well. So you wrote this thesis and we'll dive back a little bit into your undergrad experience later in our conversation. But I want to move forward so you graduate and can you share a little bit about your first couple of roles outside of graduating before you took the plunge into your own startup?
[00:17:30] Speaker C: Sure. So straight out of school and I'll go actually a little bit back into my senior year, I had no idea what I wanted to do. And when you're in the business school and you have no idea what you want to do, everyone tells you to be a consultant.
So I went the whole consulting route of let me study for my case studies. Let me put together all of this rigorous forming around, okay, this is how I need to interview, this is how I need to actually present my ideas. This is how I make a pitch deck as it relates to any type of business analysis work. And my first job was at IBM and I was placed in essentially what was an internal creative agency at IBM in their consulting arm. So we would have companies come to us and pitch to us like, okay, this is the issue around what's happening with my business, whether it's around the brand or whether around it was around business operations. And it was our job to essentially do very design intensive work and essentially pitch them a new way of doing business or solving their problems. So I was actually chosen for that program because there was only about like 30 or 40 of us because of my thesis research. So I was placed in the user experience design role, where it was my job to kind of get an understanding of how people interact with digital products and why they made the choices that they did when using it. So making sure that when for example, if you have an app, like if you need to place an order, what is the natural behavior around placing an order? Does it make sense to them? What's a way to make it easier? It's very niche and granular, but tied back to what my specialty was through my thesis and the research I did with marketing and consumer behavior. I was at IBM for about a year.
I was working on a lot of kind of operational and telecom company projects, which wasn't my favorite. I wanted to get into something that was a little bit more related to one of my other passions, which was finance, since I said I previously wanted to be a finance major. So I left IBM, went to a smaller consulting firm called Capco, and they specialize in financial consulting, so their clients are like Morgan Stanley and Goldman Sachs, JP morgan. So I thought it would be a great way to kind of combine my two interests there. I specialized even more so rather than the overall prospect of user experience design, where you're actually like building the apps. I was just in user experience research, so I would be conducting user interviews, getting an understanding of what people's pain points are, what their problems are, writing usability reports on products that were already developed and giving designers and developers directions of how they could better improve the product to make sure that it's more usable for the end user based on how they are already interacting and what other things they need to consider building out in terms of functionalities and user stories. So I was there for about two years, and while I was at the job is when I started Redo. But I was really only in corporate life for about three years before I took the plunge into my own business.
[00:20:49] Speaker B: So you're at these roles and you decide to take the plunge. How do you still use the skills that you developed in those corporate settings in I think you could probably use a startup or maybe even the term boutique as you're growing to describe your business, how do you leverage those learnings in your current role?
[00:21:13] Speaker C: Yeah, I would even say like micro business when people are like startup, blah blah. Just like we are like super tiny, super tiny. But there's very basic business skills that I think you learn from consulting and any entry level job that is transferable to whether it's a side project or a new job or an elevation in your own role. And those are basically running a meeting, organizing and running a meeting. Clearly being able to articulate an idea in a way that people are able to resonate with and build upon.
Managing a schedule, managing your own schedule. Because when you're running your own company, your day starts whenever and it also ends whenever. And then some more soft skills around just being able to communicate clearly.
Something that I learned that was really helpful through consulting is just the art of cold emailing and being able to receive no as an answer.
There's a lot of times that I've had to just reach out to people and this comes back to networking. And I think Penn State kind of supports this very much so because there's always the encouragement. It's like if you know someone went to Penn State, if you reach out to them, they will respond to you. So I've kind of taken that same energy with Redo, and I'm like, okay, if someone has a similar interest to me or they have done something that I want to do, if I just approach it in a way where I'm very clear of what I am asking for, very clear on the advice that I'm looking for. And I articulate that to them and show that I'm not going to waste their time. They will reply to me. So I cold email all of the time, like stores saying, hi, do you want to stock our product? Or people in business that I would love to have as quote unquote mentors or at least like advisors saying like, hey, I'm working on this thing, can we chat for 15 minutes about X, Y and Z? I read about you doing this thing and I want to know how you did and what your approach was. And that has been unbelievably helpful. And that's something that I learned from consulting because there's sometimes where you're just sitting on the bench and you need to ask someone to give you work so you don't get fired and then they give you work and then that's it.
[00:23:34] Speaker B: So you talked about your schedule and time management and that's often a common refrain for all college students, but particularly for Shrier scholar who want to come in and they're taking 18 credits, 21 credits. They're leading organizations on campus, they're doing research, they're studying abroad. When that is permissible and that's a hard skill to develop. It sounds easy, but it's really hard. So are there any specific strategies that you found have worked for you that perhaps a student could see if that works for them.
[00:24:10] Speaker C: Yeah, it's something. You're absolutely right, Sean. It's wildly hard and sometimes I wish I was actually in a school setting because it's so nice to just have, in my opinion, have those times blocked off specifically for class. You're like, okay, I have class time from 08:00 A.m. To 12:00 p.m.. And then I can exercise for a little bit and then I can rest and then I can work. That for me works so well. So I still try to implement those boundaries around my week. So there will be days where I cannot take any external meetings. And I'm like, we can't talk on these days because I need undisturbed work for 8 hours just so my brain can kind of flow in and out of flow state and then designate time blocks during the week where I can actually take internal meetings and external meetings. Of course. I'm always accessible via slack.
But something that has really helped me that I've just started implementing in the last three months is at the beginning of the week is just setting out what your goals are for the end of the week and being like, okay, looking at them every day.
Mine are this week it's like I need to write four email campaigns and I need to cold email like six new stores. So I'm like every day I look at that and say, where am I on the progress of writing these campaigns? Have I reached out to these stores? Who do I need to talk to on my team? And then at the end of the week, just looking back and I'm like, okay, crossed all of these things off of my list to make sure that they're done. And then at the beginning of the month, I make an entire month's worth of goals. And then at the end of the month, I look back at how those goals were achieved and it's just built up from the week. So it sounds very stepping stone. It's like, have your monthly goals, have your quarterly goals, have your yearly goals, and breaking it down to the week and then to the day.
It kind of works like that, but it doesn't always work like that. So I give this advice with like a grain of salt where something might happen and you're not able to hit your goals. And that's okay as long as you're tracking what you're doing is the intention and will help you move things along and have a clear vision of why you're working on the things that you're working on.
[00:26:23] Speaker B: That makes sense.
I think I've used the expression as long as the car is in forward, maybe you're only moving a few miles an hour, but you're not in neutral, you're not in park, you're moving forward. So I think that is sage advice for students and for other folks that are listening. Now.
A moment ago, you mentioned that part of your cold calling or cold emailing that you undertake is making connections and specifically looking for mentors.
How do you approach that specifically, and whether now in your role or as a student, as a scholar, how did you approach that, and what tips would you have for a scholar trying to find a mentor, or more accurately, mentors?
[00:27:12] Speaker C: Mentors, yes. And I know we've discussed this a lot, Sean, around the concept of what is the word mentor, and what does a mentor actually do for a student or for anyone?
So I think it's evolved for me from when I was a student versus now when I'm a little bit more seasoned in my professional career. And I've even had to go through the mental growth of being like, okay, I'm no longer just trying to be like a vessel of like, I don't know anything. I still try to come with that level of open mindedness. But I've found now, as I'm more of a professional, that when I speak to my quote, unquote mentors, they're like, listen, I don't know that much more than you. We can just be here to collaborate and bounce ideas back and forth versus when I was a student where I was like, please tell me all of the answers. So my advice is, when you're looking for a mentor or you're looking for someone to give you advice, do a lot of research on that individual, first of, why you even want to speak with them. What is it about their career? What is it about their journey? What is it about their story that intrigues you and that you want to learn more about? So when you reach out to them, you have a very specific question that you want to ask and discuss. Don't go to a mentor or someone that you want to be your mentor and be like, hey, will you mentor me? Because the next question they're going to ask is on what and for what? Because that's a very big ask to just be like, here I am, a formless shape of clay. Please mold me into what you are, because hopefully a good mentor will be like, you don't want to be what I am because you are what you are, but I can share my experiences with you, so you can be the best version of you by learning from what I was able to achieve. So that's my biggest piece of advice. Don't go just asking for a mentor. Ask for specific advice based on what their experiences are and how that then ties back to what you're looking to do with your life. I've done this many times, and it's the best way to kind of form a relationship and then realize that there are some mentors that will stick, and you talk to them every single week, and there's some that you might only talk to every couple of months, which is also, okay. Because it's just a matter of getting the perspectives and insights from people that are doing the things that you want to do.
Did that answer your question? I want to make sure that that was clear.
[00:29:52] Speaker B: Yeah, that's great. And I think if you're listening to this and you want to follow up with Asia afterwards, definitely take her advice when you're reaching out, and we'll cover how to connect with her at the end of our conversation.
[00:30:04] Speaker C: But I was like, please ask me. There's too many times where people have reached out and be like, how do I be successful like you? And that'll be on a day where I don't feel successful. And I'm like, you just have to wake up every day and do your tasks and drink water and go to sleep. That's the advice I'm going to give you. And you're going to be very upset because you're like, that's not helpful. I want to know how you did. How did you win a glossier grant or how did you get into Vogue? I'm like, if you ask me those specific questions, we can talk about that, but not how to be successful or how to be like you.
[00:30:37] Speaker B: Yeah, hydration and sleep are definitely two key components for success in any industry, not just in marketing, not just in the startup entrepreneurial space. But if you do research Asia and you Google, some of the things that will come up are some successes that you've had, like, you just referenced. You won a glossier grant, you were featured in Vogue, you were featured in The New York Times, and you received a shout out from Cheryl Sandberg, I believe, right, on a Facebook quarterly earnings call. Is that correct?
How do you handle that at such a young age? Kind of this glow. I don't know if I want to use the word fame, but sudden attention. Know you said your firm is a micro business, but you've gotten the attention that a lot larger brands get.
[00:31:27] Speaker A: How do you handle that?
[00:31:29] Speaker C: How do I personally handle that, or how does the business handle it?
[00:31:33] Speaker A: Both.
[00:31:34] Speaker C: The business handles it by having a fulfillment center that handles all of the orders so I don't have to pack anything anymore. So the business is handling it just fine, thank goodness. From my perspective of how I handle it, we look at each of those opportunities where people are kind enough to share our story or feel motivated to share our story as indirect ways of them saying, you're going to make it, and you're doing the right thing. So it's just a reinforcement of encouragement of what we're already doing.
What I've heard from other founders and what I've also experienced is that it's very lonely to be working on something that is your own because you're kind of in this micro vacuum of like, okay, am I doing the right thing? Do people like what I'm doing? Is it even useful? Is this worth my time because it is a lot of hard work and most of the time it's very quiet and just you and yourself and your thoughts. So every time we get any type of external recognition, it's just like, oh, look, people are resonating and people do like it and we should just keep doing what we're doing and we should trust our gut. With that being said, when more people talk about you, a lot of people, everyone has an opinion. So people will be like, oh, you should do this. I can't tell you how many times people have said we need to come out with a perfume or we need to come out with a soap dish just because of the things that we have. And it's super encouraging. But you get to a point also where you're like, okay, I know what I needed to do to be able to get to this point and I can still trust my gut of what I need to do to get us to the next point. But just fostering that positive energy is how we handle know it's. Sometimes people don't talk and that's fine also. And then when Cheryl wants to say something nice, we're just like thank you, Cheryl. We write thank you cards all of the time, but yeah, that's how we handle it. We just take it as a verbal pat on the know.
[00:33:39] Speaker B: It's interesting you mentioned thank you cards because that is a bit of a lost art. So editorial interjection here. Make sure you write thank you cards as often as possible. Sometimes email is the only way you can get a hold of somebody, but if you can send a physical thank you card and have the time and the stamps to do so, highly recommend.
[00:33:58] Speaker C: I start planning our holiday cards. So actually all year, this is something I learned from Smell and this is also something I learned from one of my favorite books, how to Win Friends and Influence People.
Cards are unbelievably impactful. I do my own personal thank you cards and then I do any business relationship that we had with Redo throughout the entire year. I save everyone's addresses in this massive Excel spreadsheet and I track it by year. So there's like a 2019 one, a 2021, and then there's a 2021 and I start looking at it in November. Order all of our stationery, write in all of them. It's like it's own project at the end of the year that I have to manage and then buy so many stamps ahead of time. I even bought like a label maker for each of the mailing labels. And I send two to 300 holiday cards at the end of the year. Just saying thank you for being a part of Reedy's success this year. Like, we couldn't have done it without you because you, meaning I or whoever is working on their project, you might be the one putting in the hours every day. But the reason that your business or your project is successful is, again, because of those that believe in it. So you want to properly thank them for just spending the time and energy to support you because they don't have to.
[00:35:16] Speaker B: Yeah, you talked about honoring the success and that it's a team effort and you have team members, you have vendors and partners and mentors and I know we go back a little bit and so I would definitely describe you as a bit of a realist. And so I have to know that you made a very calculated decision when you took the leap to go from side Hustle to a full time venture with Redo. But I have to imagine that there was some unexpected challenges that know the most planning, calculating person may not have anticipated. So could you walk us through a.
[00:35:58] Speaker C: Couple of sure, for sure. And Sean, that's so funny that you say I'm a realist because I still deathfully identify as an idealist with a realist twist. I don't think anything is out of reach if you speak it into existence.
I was like, we're going to win the Glossier Grant and people are like, okay, 10,000 people applied. I was like, we're going to win. Which in my mind was like a real reality and then we did win. But it took a lot of work to get there some things that happened that I didn't consider, let me think this year. So like I said, I'm very strong on the sales and marketing side and an area where I was still in the process of learning proactively was around the finance. Small business finance is very different than corporate finance or the finance that you're looking at when you're an investment banker because you're looking at companies with hundreds of millions of dollars, sometimes billions of dollars that also have all of this debt to be able to function and grow their business.
Very different from a small team of one full time person and a whole bunch of contractors. So looking at a balance sheet and looking at a profit and loss statement and being like, okay, am profitable, what do we need to plan for demand next year? All of my business acumen from Smeel was super, super helpful. Just partially irrelevant when it comes to small business because I can't demand planned. I don't have historic data on what we've been able to sell through because last year was crazy for us and then this year there's like supply chain shortages and whatnot. So it's just balancing like the price of glass has gone up 60%. What does that mean for our cost of goods sold? And then what does that mean when we have to hand things over to pricing over to our customers? So to be clear and honest, there's been a plethora of things that have gone terribly right and terribly wrong.
And the only way that we've really been able to address them is just acknowledging that it is something that has happened and looking at what our next best steps are, which I guess kind of plays into what you're saying about me being a realist. It's like we can't expect everything to go right. And that's something we had to learn that a business does not run as smoothly as one talks about a business running. So just dealing with problems head on and addressing what needs to be addressed on that day and being firm in our decisions, but also forgiving enough in ourselves if we do make a mistake, because mistakes do happen, and just pivoting from there if necessary. I hope that answered your question.
[00:38:49] Speaker B: No, that's a great answer. And if you end up following or connecting with Asia on Instagram, one of the things you'll see is Asia actually you make all of the soaps that you create. You actually have a lab in Philadelphia and you have kind of the odds and ends that you pack up, or the misfits, I think you call them, which I think is a great example of turning the lemons into lemonade. In that sense. That actually brings up something I wanted to chat about real quick before we kind of pivot, is you were in New York and then you suddenly are in Philly. How did that change come about?
[00:39:31] Speaker C: Sure. And this is so fun because I get to reference one of my favorite podcast episodes. It was from Second Life, this woman named Aurora James who started this beautiful company called Brothers Bellies, which is a shoe brand, and Beyonce has worn it, but all of that information is relevant. I was in New York. I was working my corporate job, making close to six figures, living in my studio apartment in Brooklyn in 2020. Then the pandemic hit. I'm an only child. My family freaked out.
They were like, Please come home. Because I was living on one of the busiest streets in Brooklyn and everyone was freaking out. Didn't know if the coronavirus was transmissible on surfaces, grocery stores were stocked out, everything was pandemonium. So they're like, please come back to Pennsylvania, to the suburbs, stay in your childhood, like, and you can go back to New York when all of this is handled at the end of summer. We all know that the coronavirus was not handled by the end of summer. I was paying some absorbent amount of rent just to have my things fester and sit in my New York apartment.
And this is also when Rita was picking up throughout the summer, like in June is when we really started hitting significant growth. And by August I was like, there's no way I can continue making this soap when I'm in New York, because I needed the help of my family and my friends that were around me here. So I decided to break my lease last October and officially move home. Still had my full time job at that point and then was just kind of managing that, working from like eight to six in my full time job and then six to eleven with Redo. Very unhealthy, very bad, very much burning the stick on both ends. And then two or three things happened, actually at the end of last year where we got a purchase order from the Reformation. They wanted to do a third party buy to have as their holiday season product on their website. We won the Glossier Grant and then we were reached out to by the New York Times to be in the Holiday Gift Guide. And I was like, all of those things show me that I am going to burn to a crisp during Q Four if I don't quit my full time job. So I quit my full time job because I had the flexibility of being at home with my parents, which I still am. Here something that I don't think a lot of founders talk about is like the sacrifices that they have to make in order to make their business work. You just see all of the beautiful glamorous side, like a lot of money, a lot of press, and I try to keep the realist side alive so people don't have this unrealistic expectation on themselves and put all this pressure on themselves to do something that they don't technically need to do. But I do live at home with my family still. They don't make me pay rent, bless them. So I can really just focus my energy on Redo and reinvest the money back into the business because that's what I want the business to thrive on and have its success around. And then later on I'll be able to do all of the fun things.
[00:42:35] Speaker B: That's fantastic and I appreciate that.
Nobody operates in a vacuum, right? So you've got this community, you've got your family supporting you, which is absolutely fantastic.
And no business is successful without, as you mentioned earlier, a simple face value but very difficult skill, just like time management of running a meeting. And I know you had plenty of experience firsthand learning how to do that. This is something that, if you're listening, that you can take to your club or your business or your side hustle or your startup.
That Asia. You've had serving as the most recent president of the Scholar Alumni Society, which is the constituent group for the Schreyer Honors College and the University Scholars Program under the Penn State Alumni Association. So I wonder if you could just talk a little bit about your other career, which is your volunteer career and some of the successes that you had and reflect on your tenure a little bit.
[00:43:42] Speaker C: Sure, yes. So I applied to be a part of the board pretty much straight out of school. So back in 2018, I felt very indebted to the college because there was just so many opportunities and so many doors were opened and the staff was just unfathomably supportive and just gracious with their time and efforts to help me be successful. So when I left, I felt like I was given a lot but wasn't able to reciprocate what I was given. So I looked to the board as a means of like, okay, I can give back my time because right now I don't have the financial means to be able to give back in a scholarship in a meaningful way. So the thing that I have is my time. So that was back in 2018. I was just a general board member. That's when Aaron and Dave and Todd was president at the time.
And I really just spent the first, I think, couple of months actually operating kind of from, like, a place of fear, because it was, like, only a few months beforehand where I was like, all of these people were people I saw at Connect or that I would see at these recruiting events. And they just seem like these big, scary adults that are so knowledgeable. And then I was sitting next to them as their peer and also sitting next to them as someone with answers because we were all trying to get young alumni involved at that point. And I was the youngest alum, and it was like, how do we speak to your demographic? So that's essentially where I was able to find my voice and able to find where I was able to actually deliver value, which changed how my relationship was with the other board members. And again, operating from a place of fear and kind of imposter syndrome, where I was like, oh, I'm young, and I don't want to seem like I don't know anything. I just put in so much work that everyone was like, wow, Asia, thank you so much for contributing all of this time and energy. And I was like, I just don't want to seem like I'm not actually contributing. So just reflecting on that is still very funny for me. And then after Erin Talbert was set to leave the board, she pretty much set me up to be the Scholar Alumni Engagement Committee Chair. And then I led that and had the experience of like, okay, now I'm not just like, someone that's doing the work. Now I'm leading the meetings and help facilitating discussion and kind of empowering people to follow what they wanted to be able to do through their experience on the board. So doing that for a year, working with AIP and kind of expanding that and working with the other committee chairs. Then Todd's term was coming up, and he was like, Asia, you've put in all of this work, I think you'd be great as President because you have a very clear view of how to kind of expand what we've built here. So still operating from a place of mild imposter syndrome a little less, I think this is only maybe like two years in, I was like, you know what, maybe I can do this. And I think that's when I had already switched my other job. So I'm still working a consulting career and I was like, you know what, I'm just going to be president of the board and we're going to see how that works out.
And it was a great experience. I'm hesitating now because I'm just trying to remember what those early months were like because I was like, okay, how has this board historically worked and where is there room for improvement and what are my personal strengths that I'm actually able to bring here to help those things come to fruition? And what that really landed on was I'm great at bringing people together, I'm great at empowering people and giving them a voice in the work that they do.
All of that kind of falling under the umbrella of networking and something that's very important to me is just being the voice for people that can't be present in a room. So specifically around deni efforts and underrepresented minorities and their representation at Shrier, since now I was in a position of very visible power working with the staff. I was very young, I think at that time. I was 24 when I was elected to be president. I was only a couple of years out of school. So that responsibility I saw as something very important and took that very seriously. So making sure that that was a part of the strategy from the get go. But my leadership style is very collaborative, so I wanted everyone in the board since again, it's time and volunteering time rather than money. You want to make sure that the individuals that are involved feel like they are actually contributing. So my reflections on the board is that it was a great learning experience and very rewarding in terms of being able to see people do work that they're passionate about and see the college be so receptive to working. Collaboratively with their alumni base to grow in areas where they know they need to experience growth and take criticism and constructive feedback on what can be done better in a more collaborative way with the existing alumni group.
[00:48:55] Speaker B: And I just want to say thank you Asia. So in my role I work with the alumni society and the board and Asia and I worked very closely together, first, as she mentioned, as a committee chair after she succeeded Aaron Talbert and then as president after she succeeded Todd Bacchusell. And also you mentioned I want to give a shout out to David Horowitz who helped inspire Connect, which is our annual alumni and student career networking day that we typically host at the end of March.
So depending on when you're listening to this, it may be coming up, it may have just happened, but certainly want to have a shameless plug for that event. But I want to say thank you Asia, for all your work. I think you took the great things that Todd and David and Aaron had been doing in their predecessors and took it to a new level, including the formation of a committee focused on diversity, equity and inclusion in the college and how we engage alumni in that way.
And our partnership with the Assistant Dean for equity inclusion, dr. Lynette Jarger. Bringing her into the fold with the board. So just want to say thank you for that. And I know we're coming up kind of on the end of our conversation and I think you talked about your leadership style and I think that's something students should certainly look into and try to define, but I don't think we have time to dive in today. But I do want to ask if you have a final piece of advice for students or alumni that are listening to this that you think is really important for a scholar to succeed in their classes and their leadership in their career.
[00:50:33] Speaker C: Yes, this is something that I try to practice every day. I kind of switch between mantras here and there, but this is the one that has been really relevant to the work I've been doing, how I interact with my team and also, as I mentioned before, addressing some of those fears. And insecurities as being a young black woman in a predominantly male dominated world and kind of startups are very white and startups are very venture backed, there's a lot of opportunity to feel small.
And also I remember as a student feeling like I needed to over inflate the work that I've done or overstate what I am and just kind of like puff out my chest and be more than I sometimes felt. So something that I've been living by and that I've been telling people to kind of practice is the concept of being clear is an act of kindness both to yourself and to others. Being clear on what you're able to deliver, what knowledge, you know, what you're actually able to commit to rather than overcommitting yourself and burning out or lying about something you don't know and then trying to scramble and make it work and delivering something that actually isn't good.
When you're clear and you are respectful and very honest about the work that you're doing and have integrity with the work that you're doing, people receive that very well and are more willing to work with you. And the type of people that you want to work with will be more willing to work with you.
The people that you don't want to work with will be self selecting out if you are clear, because they're the ones that will take advantage of you or degrade your work or not actually give you constructive feedback, which I've 100% learned the hard way by overextending myself and not being clear on my intentions or clear of what I wanted. So that's my one piece of advice. Clear is kind practice clarity, practice intention.
Be clear with your boundaries, be clear on what you're able to deliver and hold that same level of expectations for others. And the last piece is something that Schreyer instills all the time but want to reinforce is knowledge is always, always be in the process of learning because you are never done learning.
[00:53:19] Speaker B: So that's all absolutely fantastic advice for anybody who you're listening. So appreciate that. Just to wrap up with some fun quick questions, are there any faults in addition to the ones you've already mentioned that you would like to give a quick shout out to from your scholar days or from your time as the SASB president?
[00:53:43] Speaker C: Oh, sure.
I feel like I'm at the Grammys now or whatever, like the Oscars.
[00:53:49] Speaker B: Don't forget to thank the Academy.
[00:53:51] Speaker C: Yeah, I know. I'm like, well, one thank you to Schreyer overall, for one, putting this together and just having this opportunity to allow alumni speak. I think this is a great way to people to be able to share their stories and again, practice clarity and kindness through clarity.
Shout out to Melissa Doberstein, the director of PLA, and just keeping that program together because I know it's crazy. Shout out to my co founder, Alejandro Cuevas, who is from the class of 2018. I'm like, there's so many people. Shout out to Dean Brady, who is my original dean, I don't even know if he's going to hear this, but he was the dean of the Honors College while I was there and he dealt with a lot of my personality, we'll call it, while I was there.
Shout out to Natalie Keller, who's my successor for the SESB as president. She's doing a phenomenal job. She was my VP while I was president. She's already killing the game, so I'm very proud of her. Also, Dean Johnson, sorry, always I was like I knew I was going to get like, I'm so glad, Sean, you're not playing the Exit music. But Dean Johnson because she was the dean while I was president. And she was so receptive and the entire staff was just so receptive to working collaboratively with the board. And without her actually being receptive and engaging us in conversation, we couldn't have gotten done half the things that we got done, like expanding the board and focusing on de I efforts. So big. Shout out to Dean Johnson. Shout out to literally anyone who's listening to this. You're doing a great job. You're trying to better yourself. I'm proud of you. I'm sure Sean's proud of you. I'm sure all of your professors are proud of you. And you should also be proud of yourself because you're taking the time to improve yourself. You're taking the time to get out of your comfort zone and just explore what's available to you. So great job. Shout out to you. Keep doing what you're doing. Feel free to reach out to me. I don't know when you're listening to this. I might be 30 by the time you're listening to it, but I'm here for you, and I'm rooting you on, and I want to see you succeed too. So good job.
[00:55:59] Speaker B: Perfect. So if they do want to connect with you, what are the best platforms that they can hit you up on?
[00:56:05] Speaker C: The way people can reach out to me is through LinkedIn.
As everyone says. I'm Asia Grant. There's a whole bunch of Asia grants, but I'm the one that has Redo as their job title.
You can also just send me an email, which is a hit or miss sometimes because I have like twelve email inboxes. You can reach out to me on Instagram. We'll see how that plays out, if anyone actually does that. But on instagram, I am Shmasia, which is my colloquial name in term, which is S-H-M-A-S-I-A. Or you can just reach out to me on Redo. NYC. I still am on the social media platform there, but I warn if you're reaching out on any of the casual networks that you have to bring your A game in terms of networking, I will be a little bit more skeptical of why you're reaching out to me there. So I'll open that as a challenge. That's my chaotic side from running a business. But you're going to find me anyways, so if you want to reach out there, you can reach out there as well.
[00:57:07] Speaker B: Fantastic. And I'd love to close with a really fun question. If you were a flavor of Berkeley creamery ice cream, which would you be? And as a scholar, most importantly, why that flavor?
[00:57:23] Speaker C: Okay.
My gosh. Always at the PLA dinners, they would have alumni swirl. Sean, is that the one with is it like mint chip and blueberries or something? What's in it?
[00:57:39] Speaker B: Alumni swirl. I apologize to my colleagues at the Perky Creamery if I don't get this exactly correct, but I think in layman's terms, it is vanilla ice cream with chocolate chunks or chocolate chips and a blueberry type of swirl, which, if you've never had it, highly recommend trying. It sounds like it shouldn't work, but it is a beautiful collaboration of flavors.
[00:58:03] Speaker C: And that is why I am that you just gave my why I'm looking at it now. Of course, searching on my phone. Vanilla ice cream, swiss mocha chip. See, not even chocolate. That's the unexpected nice part. And then blueberry swirl. Yes. I like it because it sounds like it shouldn't work. It's a little bit chaotic, but there's also some forms of normalcy through the vanilla. The mocha chip is definitely a form of caffeine, which is what I need to be able to power my life.
And then the blueberry swirl again, I think, is that chaotic agent where it shouldn't work. But you tried something crazy and it did work, which is essentially the structure of my entire. Life. Let's just try something crazy. And somehow it worked. And now we're living this beautiful dream. So alumni swirl. I stick by it.
[00:58:53] Speaker B: Perfect. That's always a great choice. Asia, thank you for joining me today. You heard how to connect with her. If you want to follow up, ask any specific questions, perhaps even approach her about being your mentor know, remember, come with a specific asked a specific problem as Asia shared. So thank you for joining me today, and we'll catch you on the next one.
[00:59:15] Speaker C: Thank you so much, Sean. And thank you to everyone who's listening. Have a great day.
[00:59:27] Speaker A: Thank you scholars for listening and learning with us today. We hope you will take something with you that will contribute to how you shape the world. This show proudly supports the Shrier honors College emergency fund benefiting scholars experiencing unexpected financial hardship. You can make a difference at raise. psu.edu forward slash schreyer. Please be sure to hit the relevant subscribe like or follow button on whichever platform you are engaging with us on today. You can follow the college on Facebook, twitter, instagram and LinkedIn to stay up to date on news, events and deadlines. If you have questions out the show.
[01:00:00] Speaker B: Or a scholar alum who'd like to.
[01:00:02] Speaker A: Join us as a guest here on following the gone, please connect with me at scholar alumni at psu.edu. Until next time, please stay well. And we are.