It Girl | ALICE LIU
In June I had the opportunity to be apart of StartingBloc's Raleigh-Durham cohort, an as a result, was introduced to a huge community of likeminded people who are committed to working towards an equitable, collaborative, thriving world. (If this sounds like your kinda people, I am happy to share more details -- hit me on twitter @alovely_dae and I would be happy to share my experience. That said, the fellowship is what connected me to Alice and a ton of other remarkable women who you will be hearing from over the next couple weeks and I am so pumped! Get ready, these ladies are killing it!
Name: Alice S. Liu
Job Title/Company: Founder, THESIS
Education Background: New York University - Stern School of Business (B.S. in Marketing)
1. Tell us a little about who you are.
I’ve done a lot of different things: I helped build a National Geographic TV series called Bridge The Gap, I was a consultant for major fashion brands in New York, I managed marketing for an award-winning homelessness nonprofit, and I was the chief of staff for a social impact investment firm. For a long time, I felt like I didn’t have a path that was specific enough; I wasn’t a tax accountant or a front end developer, the kind of person that could easily plug into a job description. It wasn’t until I founded THESIS that I realized that all my explorations could be brought together into the perfect job.
2. What sparked your interest in starting THESIS?
My best friend and cofounder is a former professional cyclist, designed bicycles for Specialized (possibly the biggest brand in the industry), started several bicycle technology companies, and worked as a professional mechanic. In other words, he knows more about bicycles than almost anyone in the world. We started THESIS to tackle a lot of the challenges in the industry through our approach of integrity, transparency, lean supply chain, and obsessive curation. That’s how we’re able to offer a traditionally $6000 high-end bike for $2999.
3. Who are you most influenced by?
I love reading the memoirs of strong, adventurous, joyful women who pursue lives of purpose and passion. Maya Angelou, Lynsey Addario, Jacqueline Novogratz, and Beryl Markham come to mind.
4. What was your first job and how long did you hold that position?
I worked at a Hallmark greeting card store for a year in high school. I got a lot of paper cuts.
5. Can you share one of your proudest achievements with us?
Honestly, it boggles my mind that complete strangers believe in our mission so much that they’re willing to get one of our bicycles without ever having seen or used one before. The internet is a wonderful and strange thing.
6. What were your initial goals with your work? How have they evolved?
In the beginning, I wanted to help my cofounder Randall tell the story of THESIS through marketing, photography, content, and events. He’s a brilliant strategist and product developer, and I wanted to help him bring it to life. The deeper we’ve gotten into this journey, the more it feels like our vision rather than his vision. It’s been amazing to get to co-create with your favorite person in the world.
7. What do you think is the most important life skill you learned through starting your company?
You always hear entrepreneurs talking about how hard it is to balance work and the rest of your life, but until you experience it in person, it’s difficult to understand how hard that is. The work can consume you, and the financial pressures are intense, and you have to find moments to unplug, meditate, exercise, and see friends. It’s harder than it sounds.
8. Where do you hope to be in 5 years?
Honestly, I have no idea where I’ll be, and that’s a joyful thing. I’m always looking for the next adventure. Randall and I would love to get to a point in the business where we can take long road trips, join group rides across the country, maybe live in Europe for a period.
9. What is a typical day like for you?
Wake up, meditate, stretch, make a generous breakfast. We work out of a cafe some days and at home other days. Sometimes we go for a midday bike ride. We’re often working until midnight, especially with our evening calls with our vendors in Asia, so we take our breaks during the day.
10. What was the biggest obstacle you’ve faced so far in the process of pursuing your goals?
Honestly, I’m my own worst enemy. I want to be better about taking breaks and feeling balanced, healthy, and rested.
11. What is the best piece of advice you have received?
“Don’t let fear hold you back.”
12. When do you get your best ideas?
Usually when I’m not working. My ideas always arrive when I’m taking a walk, riding my bike, or cooking breakfast -- any time when my brain is completely at rest and has the white space for random associations. When I do creative work, I’ll often walk to a cafe that’s a bit farther away by the water so I can take lots of breaks and look out at the bay.
13. Can you share with us one time that you failed and what you learned from that failure?
Failure is a funny word. Randall’s and my philosophy is that it’s not about success or failure, it’s about running experiments. Scientists don’t say that their lab test has failed because it didn’t do what they expected; every result is a learning that gets you closer to a goal. For example, if we were to run an event and it totally flopped because no one showed up, we would learn that we need to partner with more organizations to spread the word, we should hold it on a weekday instead of a weekend, and we should start promoting it earlier.
14. How do you unwind?
I love hosting group dinners with friends. It’s one of the best things about California: instead of going to bars or restaurants, everyone comes over to your house with bottles of wine and cheese and you hang out for hours. I’m a big part of the Burning Man community in San Francisco too.
15. What would you tell someone else who is interested in entering your field?
Ask lots of questions. Use first-principles thinking. Treat people with integrity and empathy. Make cycling less about pain, suffering, winning, and being alpha; and more about joy, exploration, and a love of your body and the environment.
16. What do you hope people take away from your story?
I was so afraid before I started this journey. I didn’t think I had it in me. The truth is, anyone has it in them to do this -- but you have to want it so much that you’re willing to change, learn, sacrifice, put in endless hours, give up a comfortable paycheck, and constantly do things you’re uncomfortable with. No one is born ready. You rise to the occasion when you’re thrown in. And even if your company doesn’t succeed, you’ll have gained an incredible experience.