Meet Jenny Leung! She is the founder of BellaNove, a maternity wardrobe rental service for the modern mom who wants to still look chic and stylish during her pregnancy. With an interesting background in both corporate America and previously having her own women’s clothing line, she fell in love with the opportunity to help these amazing expectant mothers go confidently into motherhood by looking and feeling her best!
Where did you first get your inspiration for your business?
Having a lot of badass career women girl friends who experience the miracle of pregnancy! Just think of someone you’ve seen recently who was pregnant and you can imagine that she is literally growing out of her clothes. My friends struggled with wanting to still look great (as they always have… serious slay with these women) but seeing the high prices for more chic and sophisticated maternity wear that they would only need for a few months, not to mention the time required out of their already busy day to find stylish clothing – there just had to be a better way. Then, I had an aha! moment: “Why not rent your maternity wardrobe?” By renting, the selection and quality have already been vetted, it’s a much more sustainable way of consuming, and we can triple her product selection at half the cost of purchasing!
What motivated you to push your ideas and turn them into action?
Even as a little girl I had known that I wanted to be an entrepreneur because I was so inspired by how one person could make such a big difference in other people’s lives. At that time I didn’t know what that would be but I slowly but surely moved myself into a position (mentally, physically, and financially) where I could pursue this dream. I decided to go for an MBA and through a few entrepreneurship classes, BellaNove was born. We received a lot of positive responses from classmates who had family members or friends who were pregnant and wanted to use our service. I took this idea through my master’s thesis and interviewed over 200 women who were pregnant or previously pregnant and just fell in love with what BellaNove could accomplish for them. Pregnancy is one of those life moments where women should still feel beautiful. That’s exactly what we offer her without all the hassle and fuss. Every time I see a customer post about us and tell the world how great she looks and feels, I’m elated to see that difference I’m making in her life! This is what keeps pushing me to take action.
Was there anyone in your life who you feel helped you gain the confidence to chase your dreams, other than yourself?
Yes, plenty! I’ve always tried to surround myself with people who were better than me – both book smart and street smart. I definitely found this in the UCLA Anderson community with both faculty and peers. Not only did they make themselves available to me for brainstorming sessions or late night “Help! Something broke!” calls, they also had the network and expertise to point me to the right people. Without them, I would not be where I am today. It really takes a village to build a business! Don’t underestimate your network!
Would you say that there’s a difference in the way that men and women communicate in the business world? Or do you have experiences that you’ve noticed a difference?
In pursuing BellaNove, I’ve come to truly understand why it’s important to not only know your audience, but also how to talk to and resonate with them. Because we are in the maternity space, women naturally understand our products and services. That’s not to say that men I’ve talked to don’t because they’re sure to have had friends, sisters, cousins, or significant others who have been pregnant. My responsibility as an entrepreneur is to help my audience visualize and bring them along the journey that a pregnant woman experiences so that they, too, can see and understand why BellaNove exists.
What’s the most enjoyable part of your job?
Meeting amazing people in the entrepreneurial space! This community is so collaborative and I am constantly inspired by the things people are doing to solve problems in the world. I’ve had the good fortune of meeting some high-profile people such as the co-founder of Tinder (who is now BellaNove’s advisor) or have dinner with Snapchat’s first investor at his home. It’s also been very touching to see the wonderful support from communities of amazing women who want to help the next generation of females succeed.
With the responsibilities and stress of running your own business, how do you stay organized and keep yourself from becoming overwhelmed?
Honestly, everything can be overwhelming if you let it be. But because I know this is what I signed up for (#startuplife) and I truly care about what BellaNove is doing for expectant moms, that ‘overwhelmed’ feeling always gets shadowed by excitement. Know what your north star is because that will guide you through both the good and the tough times. And for the times when that does not suffice, try resetting at the gym (scientifically proven to help).. or give yourself permission to take a fun night out with friends or family!
To stay organized, my team uses Slack. It’s a project management tool that helps us centralize information and communication.
How do you maintain relationships and personal interests?
Here are a few things I’ve found: 1) People understand that when you’re in a startup and you go MIA, it’s not personal. 2) You’ll find creative times to catch up with friends and family by calling them while in between client meetings, while waiting at the airport, or right after that last epic Game of Thrones episode when you’re too much in shock to do any work. Or, they will make an extra effort to come out to West LA even though they live in Fullerton (yes, even in LA traffic. If that’s not love I don’t know what is). 3) Your significant other needs to be someone who wants to support you through your entrepreneurial dreams because if they don’t, it becomes draining when you should be using that energy on your startup. Trust me when I say find someone who wants you to succeed and wants to help you through it because your life will be so much easier! If they’re toxic, as hard as the decision might be in the moment, I think you know what you should do. We really don’t have time to waste!
What are a few of the most significant obstacles you’ve encountered during your journey through entrepreneurship?
Finding the hours of the day to do everything I want to do! It’s always been in my personality to take on a lot at once (I get anxious sitting around doing nothing) and this has been my most trying project thus far. There are so many moving pieces and sometimes they have to come together to move the company forward. Depending on what your company does, this could take some time to plan (get your ducks in a row) and implement. But this is also the fun part of it all—to chart your own course and create something amazing!
Even though you are becoming well established, do you ever feel discouraged? If so, what sorts of things keep you going?
It’s inevitable. Not every day is going to go as planned so it’s normal to feel discouraged (and I’d like to think that it’s a sign of how much this startup means to me). However, I think resilience is what makes an entrepreneur successful. You need to be able to take the “no’s” because 1. Sometimes you only need 1 yes to really jumpstart your company and 2. The reasons behind the “no’s” can only make you and your business better. Take the feedback, reiterate, improve, and try again!
What would you want to tell girls who are thinking about pursuing entrepreneurship?
Do it!!! I really believe that everyone has the potential of pursuing this even if it’s not within their immediate reach. I didn’t have much growing up but I had the conviction to find ways to put myself in a position where I would be able to pursue the startup life. And while you’ll run across people who may not believe in you, you will also meet people who do and will push you towards your dreams. There is a movement of successful women helping the next generation of successful women so just know that you are not alone. Be fearless, and know that you have an advocate in us all.
Check out this amazing business at www.bellanove.com/
Follow BellaNove @hellobellanove or via http://www.aquaint.us/user/bellanove/
Follow Jenny Leung on Linkedin @ linkedin.com/in/jenny-leung-bellanove