Founder Friday: Building a Business on Radical Transparency, with Ritual Founder Katerina Schneider
As a #ByWomenForWomen company, we love celebrating brands that are led by fellow female founders. Our new series, Founder Friday, is a chance to get to know some of these standout women, including our very own Heidi Zak!
What actually goes into a prenatal vitamin? Only things healthy for women and their babies, you would think. But when Katerina Schneider was pregnant with her first child, she read the label and was shocked to see many of the ingredients in her vitamins were ones she was avoiding around the house! A self-proclaimed skeptic, Katerina set out shortly after to build a company that was openly transparent about the ingredients they were using, and Ritual was born. We sat down with Katerina to hear about how she built a cult-favorite and what she’s learned along the way.
Why did you start your company?
The idea for Ritual came from a personal need. I was an investor in LA running a venture capital fund, and I got pregnant for the first time. I started caring a lot more about what I was putting in, and on, my body because the stakes were higher. I was shocked to find out that the prenatal vitamins I was taking for my pregnancy contained the same potentially harmful ingredients I was trying hard to avoid throughout my house. I did more research and called up a bunch of friends to ask what vitamins they were taking. I got things like “nature something,” or “yellow bottle with a brown cap.” There was zero brand affinity. It seemed crazy that no one was building a brand for our generation that was clean, effective, and transparent. That’s where my journey began, as a skeptic of vitamins building a brand for other skeptics.
What was one challenge you overcame during the early days of your company?
I quickly learned that hiring is one of the most important and challenging jobs you have as a CEO. I made the mistake early on of hiring for experience over culture. I hired people with crazy pedigrees and years of experience and overlooked cultural values. Nothing can replace culture. Reid Hoffman said it best in his podcast. The first 50 employees you hire are the cultural co-founders and really shape the DNA of your business.
Was there anyone who helped pave the way for your business or your path as an entrepreneur?
My mother has always been a big inspiration in my life. We moved from Ukraine when I was 4 years old with just a few suitcases and $50. She spoke no English but ended up going to business school while raising two kids and landed a job on Wall Street. She showed me early on that women are capable of so much. It is possible to raise a family and have a successful career.
How would you describe yourself in three words?
Misfit, skeptic, and wannabe-scientist.
When and where are you happiest?
I’m happiest when I’m at home surrounded by my family or at work digging into the science behind our product.
If you could give your younger self advice, what would you tell her?
I would tell her to prioritize self-care more and to feel guilty less.
What is your motto?
Less is more. We even trademarked it (for the vitamin category).
Thinking about your time as an entrepreneur, what do you believe is one of the most challenging hurdles women entrepreneurs have to overcome?
The assumption that women must choose between family and career. You can have both.
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever received?
The best piece of advice I ever received was from my husband. When I first set out to start Ritual I was told time and time again that I needed a co-founder. My husband told me that instead of bringing on a co-founder I could hire people to fill the gaps in my experience. He was right. We formed an incredible team of scientists, e-commerce experts, technologists, and creatives who all feel like partners to me.