ICYMI, the month of March kicks off Women’s History Month — and for a brand with three founding members (two of them being women), this is a super special time. To celebrate, we caught up with Sol de Janeiro’s co-founders, Heela Yang Tsuzuki and Camila Pierotti, to discuss their careers, importance of female mentorship, and balancing parenthood with running a business. Keep scrolling to read this insightful Q&A.
Pictured: Heela Yang , Sol de Janeiro CEO Co-Founder
Q: How did your upbringing influence where you are today?
Heela: [Growing up] there was never a conversation about gender roles or norms. I never heard, "well, you're a boy and you're a girl"... you know what I mean? I grew up like that. At the same time, that meant the expectations were already set. There was no permission that you needed. So in that sense, I've been incredibly lucky to have parents like [mine].
Camila: Growing up, I saw my mom lean into entrepreneurship and I was really inspired seeing her approach towards building a business. It's also what pushed me to take a risk, believe in myself, and also just do the work. That’s the really, really hard part. Also, when you're an entrepreneur, when you become successful, people think, "Oh wow. You did it." But there was so much blood, sweat, and tears that went behind the scenes that no one saw in the beginning. I remember Heela, when it was just us with Marc [Capra] when we first started Sol de Janeiro...we weren't in a big office setting, it was just the three of us looking at each other and seeing how hard we were working!
Q: How did a role model play a role in your success?
Heela: I've had such a phenomenal role model in my mother, and the most supportive father. So, I'm very, very lucky in that sense. I attribute where I am today to my parents. To that point, having a role model is incredibly important and motivating — especially as a young girl, because you don't know what you don't know, right? My mother is incredible, she's 76 now, jeez. She’s also an entrepreneur, best selling author in Korea, golfer, and raised three children plus, immigrated to the U.S.
Camila: A role model is key because if you don't grow up seeing that, you just don't know [what is possible]. Like Heela said, "You just don't know what you don't know." So, I grew up with my mom also working. She was an entrepreneur and creator. She built her dream for us to study at a very good school in Rio de Janeiro. She started her own restaurant — but she's not a chef or anything — she wanted to start a business. And it grew from one restaurant, to like 18 restaurants across the span of 23 or maybe 25 years.
Q: What would you like to see more of for women in 2021?
Heela: COVID-19 has amplified the inequality between women and men, and amplified many, many things, right? Including the gap in wealth between the haves and the have-nots, but in particular, the gap between women and men — and the roles that they play within the household. A lot of dual-income families with children suffered because there was no childcare. Unfortunately, it immediately fell upon the woman to quit the job and to “stay” at home. Maybe some of it is personal preference. That's up to the family, it is up to the mother and the father, but in general, there was less of a choice. Private companies, in addition to the government, can do a better job of providing meaningful support for employees, the dual-income families, who really, really rely on the daycare and the childcare system.
Camila: [Personally, I feel like] women are much better at balancing things and tend to land more so on women. If I were to pinpoint one thing to improve upon, like Heela, it would be companies helping with childcare because I think no matter what age [your children are, the responsibility] really does fall on the moms. So having that support is important, whether it’s daycare or someone that comes in the home to help out for a few hours. There are so many ways to creatively solve this issue and minimize the caregiving gap between men and women.
Pictured: Camila Pierotti, Sol de Janeiro Founding Partner
Q: Tell me what makes you grateful to be a woman?
Heela: I'm so happy I'm a woman. There are a few critical things I remind myself about now that I am running and growing a business. From building the team, to working with lawyers, banks, vendors, etc. I constantly remind myself who I am and to stick to my own style — not mirror someone else’s. As women, we go through different phases [within the workplace]. You'll see the stereotypical women of the seventies and eighties, working nine-to-five, who was that? [Editor’s Note: “Working Girls”] It was like that image. And then there's the corporate, aggressive, power suit version of a “woman in business.”
So, for many women, they don’t see multiple, multifaceted versions of various female role models. However, there were a lot of women who made history working behind the scenes. [For example] I'm fairly soft-spoken, I'm not too chatty. I'm not very aggressive. When I was younger, I thought, "Oh, do I need to be this and that?" But now I think it's, I'm mature. I think just like being who I am and working with people who are comfortable with that. One of the greatest things about running your own company is that you could pick who you work with. Unfortunately, the world at large isn’t as flexible, you have to still deal with people who are not maybe comfortable with who you are.
Camila: I also love being a woman. I just love balancing all those different aspects of my life. And I can tell you, women are much better at it than men, for sure, at balancing. Women can handle so much more. It's incredible. Whatever comes our way. And I see that not just in me and my friends — Heela is also a working mom. I think that women have a natural gift to balance it all. Obviously, we need to learn how to balance it in a healthy way, but just knowing the possibilities of what women can do and learning that from a young age is really what got me here.
Pictured: Sol de Janeiro's endcap in a Sephora store POV: Camila
In essence, women’s history is American history — as we forge ahead and continue to meld both together, consider how you can support a woman (or female-founded business) in your life.
Pictured: Camila Pierotti (2015), Sol de Janeiro Founding Partner