Thai-Anh Hoang on the life-changing accidental discovery that inspired the launch of EmBeba

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Describe EmBeba in a few words?

Our mission is to modernize generation-tested remedies worldwide and make them clean, effective, easy, safe, and fun for the entire family.

What made you take the leap to start your own business?

It was more of an accidental discovery. On a family trip to the Bosnian countryside in 2018, my baby had a severe diaper rash and eczema breakout. We brought along the usual diapers and skin creams from the big box stores, but those “tried and true” products couldn’t help soothe the flare-up. My husband’s relative gifted me with a homemade balm straight from nature. The balm contained skin nourishing, anti-inflammatory, and soothing herbs and flowers from the family garden that helped protect the baby’s sensitive skin from moisture while wearing a diaper. This magical mixture has been used by Bosnian locals for generations and worked wonders for my baby. It was this moment I felt I needed to share this formula with other families struggling with skin sensitivities, rashes, and eczema like mine. So we modernized the recipe and created a Generation-Tested, Family Approved™ remedy.

What was your background prior to starting your own business?

I led an international team for a Fortune 500 company, implementing data analytics software and services for CPG companies. I helped established brands optimize their data for strategic decision-making. I am also the co-founder of Orphans’ Future Alliance, a Southeast Asia non-profit organization dedicated to lifting orphans out of poverty through scholarship and activity-based mentoring.

Did you always know you wanted to be an entrepreneur?

I think it’s in my blood. I grew up in a family of entrepreneurs and definitely thought about starting my own business, but never found the reason to start something of my own, until that trip to Bosnia where I was given the homemade balm that changed my baby’s life and skin. That experience was when I knew I wanted to pursue something of my own because it had greatly changed my life and my child’s, and I knew it would help so many other families struggling with skin sensitivities.

Take us back to when you first launched your business, what was your marketing strategy to get the word out and did it go as planned?

Our strategy was to go heavy on influencer marketing in the beginning. It worked to some extent, but we found that it was taking longer to reach the right type of audience, especially for a new brand. We learned a lot from the experience and fine tuned our outreach to better target the right influencers who’s audience aligned more with EmBeba’s target customer, but we also made sure to not rely heavily on them for exposure and focus on other marketing channels to help us with awareness.

We always learn the most from our mistakes, share a time with us that you made a mistake or had a challenging time in business and what you learned from it?

I recall having an incredibly challenging time explaining EmBeba’s mission to investors, partners and suppliers. There were doubts about how we were going to make an impact in the baby category with our mission to be clean, effective, easy, mess-free and fun. We didn’t want to compromise on our quality and product development to fit any mold.  In the end, it took us 2 years to launch our first product, the Don’t Be Rash Diaper + All Over Balm to rave reviews. We are now seeing competitors using the same language that we have been using since 2019! 

What is the accomplishment you are the most proud of to date?

I am really proud of how effective our diaper balm is. The best feeling in the world is when parents tell me how our formula has been a game changer for their babies and children. They are pleasantly surprised that a clean, all-natural formula helped soothe and provide such great relief. I created EmBeba to help families like mine, who suffer from skin sensitivity and eczema. To hear this means a lot to me.

When hiring for your team, what is your go-to interview question? Please share any hiring tips you can share from your experience?

I don’t typically come with a list of hard-hitting questions, instead, I really try to get to know the person on a more personal level while I also learn about their experience. It’s really important to me that a person connects with our brand’s mission. I like to hear their thoughts on how they can add value to EmBeba. We have 4 traits that we look for in a team member during the interview process:

  • Relentlessly resourceful
  • Industry awareness
  • Comfortable with ambiguity and bias for action
  • Selfless

How has your business or industry been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic?

We were supposed to launch our first product in early 2020, but that was put on hold due to supply chain disruption from COVID. We spent that time refining our message and go-to market strategy instead. Fundamentally, COVID has changed consumer purchasing behavior for CPG companies and we are now working through the best way to reach our consumers as ecommerce is becoming increasingly crowded.

What’s next for your business? What can we expect to see over the next few years?

It’s an exciting time for us — we are expanding our distribution channels and launching more innovative products. In fact, we are launching 3 more products in our Don’t Be Rash Balm Series later this year.

What is the biggest lesson you have learned in 2020?

Great question. I learned a lot, but the most important thing is to go with the flow and you can’t control everything. You just have to tackle each problem as they come.

What do you know now that you wish you knew when you were first starting your business?

I wish I was able to start fundraising much earlier. In this environment, it’s hard for a new brand to enter the market without an adequate cash reserve to compete. To gain exposure, you need organic and paid advertising, press exposures and a team to bring your vision to life. This will require capital that you might not have adequately planned for.

How have you managed to stay grounded this year?

I have a very supportive husband and a toddler to take care of. I was also pregnant with my second child while building EmBeba, so there wasn’t much time to devote to anything else. My mother always reminds me to focus on the journey and less on the upside. It can be taken away at any minute. My mother was referring to her experience during and after the Vietnam War.

Do you believe in work/life balance? What are some of your best tips?

I do believe in it, but it’s different for everyone. I don’t believe in a one size fits all model. As the CEO of EmBeba, a wife and mom to 2 young children, I try to balance it as best as I can. I do this by never taking meetings before 10am and never after 5pm to take care of my family.  I also implemented SLACK, Monday.com, etc. to help my team collaborate and be more productive. I also expect my team to have the same flexibility and put their family commitments first. 

What’s something our audience would be surprised to learn about you?

I’m an avid gardener. I started to garden as a stress management therapy for postpartum depression with my first born and just love spending time nurturing and caring for my flowers and vegetable garden. In the summer, I love to sit with a cup of coffee in my flower garden early in the morning to meditate.

What are your top 3 tips to stay productive each day?

  • Have only 1 thing you need to finish for the day.
  • Do all the critical thinking tasks in the morning.
  • Block time to have a proper lunch break and a good way for you to mentally refresh.

What does being an Entreprenista mean to you?

Entreprenista are badass females breaking down barriers and pursuing their dreams. They never take “no” for an answer and use that as an opportunity to prove others wrong. They know their “why” and relentlessly pursue their passion. They are role models for other female entrepreneurs and help give back by supporting fellow entrepreneurs.

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