This month we are so excited to introduce Pam, co-founder of the Lifefactory glass water bottle company, a product we're sure you're all familiar with. As a self-proclaimed "accidental entrepreneur", Pam shares a variety of lessons learned from her experiences negotiating as a woman in the boardrooms of Silicon Valley, to the fulfillment she gets from her other career as a "Baby Whisperer", working as a nurse in infant care units around the San Francisco Bay Area. So grab your Lifefactory water bottle, take a sip, and enjoy getting to know this month's Woman in Control.
Can you tell us a little bit about yourself and your background?
I would say I am a curious person, full of ideas, always stretching myself to see where I can go and what I can learn. I discovered this later in my life, in my mid-40’s when I started Lifefactory, so I’m here to tell you it’s never too late to change careers, find your passions and evolve as a person. Starting off as a physical therapist, then becoming a founder, CEO and serial entrepreneur were never things I dreamed of doing. That experience has given me a platform to do what I love: mentoring others, speaking about environmental and health issues and actively doing what I can to make this a better world.
What inspired you to chose your career? And what continues to drive you?
My mom was a nurse and I was always interested in health care. She discouraged me from becoming a nurse because “you have to take doctor’s orders and the hours are bad”. She encouraged me to volunteer in the physical therapy department at her hospital. It was then that I decided I wanted to be a physical therapist. I have since specialized in working with premature infants in Neonatal Intensive Care Units. What drives me is the knowledge that I am making a difference in the outcome of these special babies at the earliest and most crucial time in their lives.
How did you come up with Lifefactory and what motivated you to build the concept?
I’m an accidental entrepreneur. I never set out to become a businesswoman. I was bottle-feeding babies in the NICU at Kaiser Oakland. I was disturbed we were feeding these vulnerable babies with undeveloped brains from plastic bottles. News about BPA and toxic chemicals leaching from plastics was coming out at that time. I wanted to do something about it. I felt glass was the best solution and that designing a silicone sleeve to protect them from breaking would encourage mothers to use glass.
What would you say are some challenges that women entrepreneurs face today? And how did you face them?
There are many challenges that female entrepreneurs face and I encourage you to read Elephant in the Valley. This is a survey of what it is like to be a women working in Silicon Valley. I too have experienced being excluded from social opportunities because of gender and being told I was too “aggressive”. As an only female on a board, it was often difficult getting a word in edgewise and being taken seriously. I also think that there are too many men making decisions that are not based on the target audience of the female consumer. Look, women are only 7% of VC investors and only 10% of venture dollars globally between 2010 and 2015 went to startups with at least one woman founder. I guess I was lucky, but this is a huge problem. As far as facing these problems, I had a lot to learn. This inequality needs to change, but with our culture, it may take a while.
Tell us about your dog Jet and how he brings joy to your life
Jet is a real people dog; he would rather hang and be with me (or someone he is close to), than anything else. Dogs like this bond easily and are good at reading body language and knowing how you feel. Jet is my special buddy. His dog walker said that he is not like any of the other dogs that she takes care of. She said Jet is more like “a colleague” because he just wants to be with her doing some kind of job rather than playing with the other dogs. She thinks he looks wise and said she would ask for his advice if she could.
What does being a woman in control mean to you?
It means being true to you. Listening to your intuition because that is probably one of your biggest assets. A woman in control is someone who has done her research. She is someone who foresees the problems and questions and has answers for them. She is not afraid to take calculated risks because she knows that is how change is made. And even if she doesn’t always make the right decisions, she recognizes her failures and learns from them. She is diplomatic with others and isn’t afraid to tackle difficult situations. She is confident, trusting her instincts.
If you could say one thing to a young girl encouraging her to be a woman in control, what would you say?
I came from an Asian family and had somewhat of a Tiger mom, where there was always more criticism than compliments. Therefore, I didn’t have a great role model in that regard. Hopefully young girls have had nurturing parents and if not, I would tell them to seek good mentors around them. Listen to those with experience because they don’t want you making the same mistakes they did. Develop confidence and good self-esteem. Tending to this helps with good decision making in both your professional and personal lives.
What are some of your favorite aspects of the LIA LARREA brand and why would you wear it?
What I like the most about the Lia Larrea brand is that it is multifunctional, classic and can be worn well by women of any age. I look at those three attributes and see the similar Lifefactory pillars which were function, design and being eco-friendly. Keeping these principals with each piece is not an easy thing to do. Lia does not compromise fit, quality and attention to detail in being true to her mission. In fact, it makes her line stand out from the competition.
Photography - Quincy Stamper