Founder Friday: Building a Minimalist Business, with ADAY Founders
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!
For yoga instructors and competitive gymnasts, athleisure was less about comfort and more about convenience (but plenty of both!). After living in technical apparel, Nina Faulhaber and Meg He knew there had to be a sustainable option that worked for athletes as well as dog walkers and students. And so, ADAY was born. The fast-growing direct-to-consumer brand created a wardrobe of technical essentials that do more with less. These women are setting a new standard for clothing by fusing minimal, seasonless shapes with technical fabrics, all made with a huge focus on simplifying wardrobes and sustainability. We caught up with Nina and Meg to learn more about how they built a sustainable DTC brand.
Why did you start your company?
We started exploring the idea for ADAY because we needed it in our lives. Nina had grown up as a competitive gymnast in Germany and wore a lot of active clothing, so her wardrobe always felt simple. As an adult, it didn’t feel simple anymore at all...we had a lot of stuff in our wardrobes and nothing we wanted to wear. As minimalists at heart, that didn’t feel right.
Meg discovered the comfort of technical clothing in California, where she completed her MBA at Stanford and also took up yoga teacher training. It was the first time she’d explored the connection between mind and body, and suddenly had all of these questions around active fabrics, movement and living (this was the first time she had worn activewear regularly or actually sweated).
Tell us about yourself.
Nina: I’m an optimist living in NYC and I believe in minimalism and abundance.
I'm super passionate about a more minimal way of life and investing in quality over quantity, from an essentialist attitude of planning my time to the more minimal, better wardrobe ADAY.
The abundance part manifests itself in a belief that life is about increasing the pie rather than competing for it. Every micro-action can have a positive impact and I strive to leave every person I touch feeling more positive than before our encounter. When I fail (and there are plenty of days I do), I will try again tomorrow.
So I’ve developed my own kind of minimalism where it’s not about minimizing completely, but instead about increasing the pie and choosing wisely. With that, I deeply care about making a contribution to a beautiful future in which we’re happy and live in symbiosis with planet Earth.
I grew up in Germany, with stints in Montreal and Singapore, before I moved to London, then New York. My mum is a lawyer and my dad an engineer, growing up I loved writing, philosophy and art — and math, I loved numbers and I excelled in sciences. I’m equal left brain and right brain and love to stimulate the visual sense as much as numbers. With ADAY I'm doing what I'm here to do as an ex-gymnast with a passion for creating a brand with the mission to create a better future.
Meg: I was born in Beijing and raised between UK and China. I’ve been interested in technology for a long time. My father has a PhD in Computational Mechanics and had a lot of books on obscure computer languages lying around the house. As a kid, I read these, built my own computers and my first friends were all ones I had met online (we’re still friends today). I was always interested in fashion — in high school, I made a triple-lined corset boned in sixteen places and also spent a lot of time on eBay as a PowerSeller focusing on 1930s to 80s vintage cocktail dresses.
After a stint at Goldman Sachs post-College, I was headhunted to join a venture capital firm focusing on early-stage technology investments. All of my prior geekdom came out and it was exciting to be somewhere to recognized my secret geek status. This led to deciding to move to the Bay Area, where I completed my MBA at Stanford, alongside interning at Cowboy Ventures, a seed stage venture firm and then joined Poshmark, a mobile fashion marketplace, as a Product Manager. These experiences, along with discovering how to be active, firmly married my interests in fashion, design, technology...which later led me to start ADAY with Nina.
Now, I run with my German Shepherd mix pup Helix, rock climb and practice Brazilian jiu-jitsu and find flow in playing the piano and the doumbek.
Was there anyone who helped pave the way for your business or your path as an entrepreneur?
Meg:Both of us previously worked with amazing people and bosses who always trusted us. Our first investment was a blank check from Nina’s former boss at Index Ventures. We are also eternally grateful for our first freelance designer Charlie Cohen whom we found on Instagram and who helped us get the first capsule off the ground, together with our first Production Manager Kelsey Pearson. We would be without them. Equally our early team including Jess, Millie and Alexis were really such a big part of what ADAY is today.
What’s something most people might not assume about you at first glance?
Nina: I played Basketball for 7 years (I’m 5”2’).
Meg: I really like to sleep.
What quality do you love most about yourself?
Nina: I’d say knowing what I want most of the time, natural curiosity and ability to pause and stand in awe (Einstein would approve), and ability to project optimism and a feeling that nothing is impossible onto others.
If you could give your younger self advice, what would you tell her?
Nina: Life is flow, don’t force it, just go with it.
What's the top song on your playlist right now?
Nina: Kerala Dust’s version of Leonard Cohen’s “Dance Me to the End of Love,” Oceavns Orientials (everything), Satori (everything), Leonard Cohen’s “I’m Your Man.”
What is your motto?
Meg: My personal mottos are “don’t be bored / be your best self / remember to teach” — and it’s focused on having the greatest amount of utility impact in this world (can you tell I was an economist?) On a personal level for our team, this might be having the opportunity to work with cutting-edge and technical fabrics, creating brand awareness that really speaks to our customers, or just being a part of team who wants to build the same dream — a life you don’t need to take a vacation from. But it’s clear to all of us that ADAY is driven by something bigger than ourselves. It’s difficult to put this inspiration into something tangible, but I think it comes down to a desire to create something meaningful and impactful, that puts a smile on faces and also has a positive impact. There’s so much to do to increase happiness and move humanity forward. We always ask, “does this make your heart beat faster?” If the answer is yes, that’s our drive.
Do you think founders should take time to reflect on the pros, even if they're constantly putting out fires?
Nina: Of course. I find it super key to pause, reflect, and encourage the team (and myself) to look back to all the successes and wonderful opportunities we’ve realized to shape the world we want to live in. Reflection is key to motivation and becoming greater and better.
Looking back, what would you have done differently?
Nina: We would have raised more capital earlier, in order to invest more into Marketing early on. We spent a lot of time validating product market fit which intuitively we knew we had from the get-go. But there’s no one answer ever, and with each “what would I have done differently” I try to turn it upside down and ask myself: What did a particular mistake or situation teach me? How do I apply it in the future? How do grow from here? How do I help the team grow from here?
What does your morning routine look like?
Meg: I wake up between 6am and 7am — I don’t use curtains, but instead an oversized Bird of Paradise, Pachira + Monstera plant to block the window. So usually the light streaming in past the greenery wakes me up. I do set an alarm, but it’s a fail sale “uh oh you’re mega late” alarm rather than a “wake up” alarm.
I sit up and meditate for ~20 minutes. This movement usually wakes up Helix, my German Shepherd mix. Then I either go for a run or cycle to work — I’m lucky to live next to Prospect Park. My beauty routine is super simple. I used to suffer from terrible adult acne
I’ll eat a bowl of oatmeal with fruit at work, along with some hot water with lemon. I’ve been caffeine free since 2013 :) It gives me the jitters and frazzles my brain — not worth it for me!
What motivates you to keep going in the toughest of times?
Nina: There’s so much innovation and positive energy all around us that constantly gives me hope! Being part of change in an industry that is antiquated and dangerous to our planet; hearing our customers talk about how ADAY has changed their lives; learning about the amazing innovations in fiber technology, conscious production and product innovation that will help us achieve our dream all motivate us to keep going through the toughest times that we face along the way.
What are your favorite ways to practice self-care?
Nina: Being fully in my body and in my mind. I try to achieve this by working out, traveling, meditating, eating healthy and writing.
What’s the most fulfilling part of your job?
Nina: It all goes back to the bigger picture for me. When I see the eyes of our team lit because they’re so passionate about sustainability in fashion. When our customers write to us that we’re more than a brand, we’re a life philosophy (real quote!). I’m so passionate about all of us individuals and companies making a contribution to preserving our beautiful planet and increasing happiness and quality of life for humans. When I get to co-create every day a product that feeds into my core philosophies of more thoughtful consumption, essentialism and abundance, that’s what makes my heart beat faster :-)