Nina Ojeda, CEO & Founder of Prête
Before starting Prête, a membership service for blowouts in cities’ top salons, Nina Ojeda had already started and sold her first company, and did so all before the age of 30. (The Avenue West, Nina’s first venture, was a public relations, marketing and brand development agency.) Nina launched the Prête app in 2017, and the service has since expanded to ten cities in the U.S., with three more on the way. It’s no wonder that an idea aimed at making the lives of busy, female professionals a lot easier and little bit more glamorous, was founded by one such woman herself. However, as Nina explains, being the boss isn’t always isn’t always as fabulous as it looks from the outside, even when you’re the founder of a beauty company.
Miroux: What are the unique challenges, if any of being a female CEO?
Nina: I think I’ve been fortunate to have a pretty typical experience. I don’t think that my gender has much to do with it. I do think that just naturally, being female, it is going to be a little bit more difficult especially because I’m in beauty… it can come off as kind of “fluffy.”
Miroux: Are there any professional situations where you the odds are stacked against women?
Nina: There are problems I have noticed hiring people or meeting with partners. A lot of women up-talk.*
(*Up-talk is a manner of speaking, where declarative sentences are spoken to sound like questions.)
Nina: Why would anyone believe in you if you don’t sound confident yourself?
Miroux: Right. Speaking of confidence, do you find that your personal style changes when you’re on and off the clock? As a woman in a position of authority, do you feel pressure to dress a certain way?
Nina: I grew up in the fashion industry–my mom is in the fashion. I have two settings: I’m in leggings and a t-shirt and barely tried, and I’m not wearing makeup, and then when I’m dressed. It’s actually a personal goal to dress [every day] like it’s the day of a big pitch meeting. If you feel good on the outside and you’ve made the effort to try, it changes the course of your day.
Miroux: Have you always been your own boss?
Nina: Only for the last 7 years.
Miroux: No big deal or anything. Are you even 30?
Nina: [Laughs] Almost. I was at two PR firms before that.
Miroux: If there’s could diff about career you could do differently, what would it be?
Nina: If i could back, when starting The Avenue West, I would have asked more questions. When you’re 23, you think “I shouldn’t ask anyone for help, I should just know what I’m doing,” but the best business people and strongest entrepreneurs ask for help. Number two, with starting Prête, I would have taken more thought and time for how to transition myself away from The Avenue West. I think I really did the company a disservice, because we were running so fast towards the initial success or Prête. I would have invested in hiring an assistant. It would have taken longer, but I could have saved myself from a partial aneurysm, no to mention some sleep.
Miroux: Do you feel like your business interferes with your personal life and intimate relationships?
Nina: 100 percent. If [my fiancé] wasn’t also a startup founder, I would still be single for sure. It’s very difficult to talk to people about it, because no one understands what you’re going through. If you want to build something significant, there’s no such thing as a work-life balance. If you want to build something truly huge, you don’t have that luxury. [My fiancé and I] forget things like anniversaries and birthdays.”
Miroux: So how do you manage to make it all work?
Nina: [My fiancé and I] had to make rules for ourselves to make sure we spend time with each other. Last year, we were both fundraising and we maybe saw each other twice a week, and we were living together. Now, we cook dinner together twice a week. We show up to it the way we show up for a meeting.
Miroux: What’s one piece of advice you would give aspiring business owners?
Nina: Pick the five people that your going to spend most of your time with, and think about those people wisely. Your time is important; if your spending time with people that are taking away from it, you’re wasting it.
Miroux: How do you pick your five?
Nina: I like to think my 5 people are smarter than me in different areas than me. [My fiancé] is one of my five people—brilliant, but in a very logical way. He’s a person who will think through every scenario, whereas I’m the exact opposite.