If you happen to find yourself working with or for a woman, consider yourself lucky. One of the best ways a woman can grow, learn, and get ahead is by supporting other women. Understanding different leadership and management styles from various females can result in one thing, a path to success.
MASAMI, a female-founded brand, is committed to partnering with other small, female-founded businesses. Partnerships are a crucial part of our business, and we believe in supporting other female start-up companies. Partners that we have already collaborated with include Misaky Tokyo, Japanese seaweed based crystal sweets founded by Alissa Miky; The Sexiest Beauty, luscious lipsticks and lip care founded by Heather Fink; Veronique Gabai, sensual fragrances founded by Veronique Gabai; and The Clean Beauty Kit, a curated subscription box of indie clean beauty brands founded by Cassandra McClure. Each of these companies is successful due to many reasons, but one being the female lead.
We plan to highlight female founders and their amazing brands in dedicated blog posts. Welcome to the first one in our series: Hilary Fenet, the founder of She Gone and a firm believer in the power of female-owned companies. She Gone is a hospitality platform on a mission to change the way women travel. Hilary is an exceptional example of the way women in powerful positions can alter the hospitality world.
Earlier this year, we formed a partnership with She Gone to be included in their luxury amenity packages available in select hotels throughout the U.S. Our MASAMI travel-size Mekabu infused shampoo and conditioners provide an extra level of self-care for women travelers who want their best hair on the road. And, our full-size Mekabu Shampoo and Conditioners are available for purchase in the She Gone online shop, Mountain collection.
Hilary Fenet, founder of She Gone
We conducted an interview with Hilary to fully understand her brand and the hardships she has faced due to COVID-19.
How did you land on the concept for She Gone?
I used to travel frequently for work, which over time became a draining and lonely experience where I never felt like I had everything I needed. When I left the company I was working for, I had to sit out a 1-year non-compete, and spent the time traveling to 16 different countries across Europe, South America, Africa, Asia and Australia. The experience was incredible, but living out of hotels and Airbnb’s for a full year really exacerbated all of the pain points I had traveling for work and added a few more to the mix as a leisure traveler, especially when it came to safety.
Additionally, everywhere I went I saw a LOT of other women traveling, and we all had the same pain points. I thought wouldn’t it be nice if this were different? What if there was a way to find hotels that were pre-vetted for safety, design and the best locations, and then we could take over floors and create this lovely little sanctuary for women? A place where the rooms all have amazing hair dryers and clean beauty products that I’d be excited to try and even more excited because I could leave my huge toiletries bag at home; a place where there’s a dedicated lounge that’s comfortable and cozy where I could work or connect with other like-minded travelers, and a trusted host that’s on-site and organizing all the best things to do so I felt like I had a local friend in every city.
If this existed, would more women feel comfortable exploring places they’ve never been before? Would working moms be less likely to cut back on roles that required travel if work trips became something they look forward to instead of something they endure or dread? All of these questions led me to re-imagine what the hospitality experience could look like, but more importantly, the purpose and possibility behind it all has been the motivator for our small but amazing team to come together to bring She Gone to life in the midst of a pandemic.
Hilary Fenet surfing at Old Man's Beach in Canggu, Bali
How are you partnering with other female founders and brands?
The core of She Gone’s mission is really about empowerment, and while there are a lot of different ways in which we’re trying to achieve this, one way is through the small business owners we promote in our rooms and club lounges. Over 95% of the brands we work with are female or POC founded. When members and guests stay in our rooms, they are able to discover new beauty, health and wellness products in a relevant context (i.e. in the shower instead of on Facebook). We aim to create a deeper connection with potential customers for our brands that starts with not only elevating our guests’ travel experience, but we also hope to inspire guests through the stories of our extraordinary founders. I believe that freedom and empowerment come from individuals breaking away from the status quo and forging their own path, which is the theme of almost every entrepreneurial journey. This is a subtle message but again, it’s at the core of why She Gone exists and we’re trying to build this into everything we do.
Given that you launched during COVID, have you found any "silver linings"?
The darkest clouds almost always make for some beautiful silver linings. We were about a week away from our official launch when the borders shut down and everything I had been working towards completely crumbled overnight. I’ll admit the first few months were incredibly dark, but this year has pushed me to grow both personally and professionally in ways I never expected. COVID has taken away our ability to do all of the things we normally “should” be doing, which has forced me to live a more patient and balanced life because, well, there are some things you just cannot control when operating a hospitality startup during a pandemic.
I was living in NYC and working insane hours before COVID turned the world upside down, and while my work-life balance is still a work in progress, I’ve relocated to Colorado and have been much better about taking the evenings and weekends off to focus on things that really light me up (which can usually be boiled down to spending quality time with people or running/skiing in the mountains). I’ve discovered a much more circular and sustainable routine during COVID where I’m mindful about spending time to do things that bring me joy outside of work, which leads to more energy that I can bring back to She Gone, which I think is critical for the longevity of a solo founded startup.
As for travel specific silver linings, it’s obviously been a brutal time to launch a hospitality startup, but I think that after being unable to travel for so long, people are desperately craving a change of scenery, and once this is all said and done people are going to be traveling more than ever. And when they do start traveling again, She Gone will be waiting, because with hotel occupancy at all-time lows, it’s actually been a great time to roll out our platform. We now have a backlog of requests from some of the top hotels wanting to open up She Gone locations at their properties, which is an awesome problem to have!
The Refinery, New York City - a She Gone partner hotel
What is the most surprising thing about the business you've discovered so far?
Two stats that surprised me the most in some of my initial research: Two out of three solo leisure travelers are women (I saw this when I was traveling but seeing the actual number on paper surprised me) and 83% of female business travelers have experienced harassment or changed travel plans due to safety concerns. The latter stat was from a survey conducted in October 2019 by SAP Concur, the leading travel management platform (so it's not some obscure study). I just find it so surprising that it's such a prevalent issue and that employers and the hospitality industry do absolutely nothing to address it.
What is the most fulfilling part of your job?
So far it’s been interacting with the small business owners that we feature in our rooms and club lounges. It’s so inspiring to hear the different stories behind each of the brands we work with, and just knowing how hard the journey is for the people who choose the entrepreneurial path. I love to think that we can potentially help them along and give them a platform to interact with our guests in a unique way. Because of COVID, we haven’t really been able to activate the community and experiential elements of She Gone, but I think once that’s up and running it will be the most rewarding thing to see come to life.
What's your favorite travel destination?
Cape Town, South Africa is my idea of perfection. It’s this vibrant city at the tip of the world that’s nestled between these beautiful mountains that plunge into gorgeous white sand beaches and an icy blue ocean. It’s a really special place and somewhere you can expect to find a She Gone location sometime soon!
Hilary Fenet hiking Devil's Peak in Cape Town, South Africa
Where are you going to go first once travel opens up again?
Depends on the time of year, but I’m craving some culture, so either Europe or Africa. I’m running the Mont Blanc marathon in June, and given that may be when things open again, Chamonix, France will be my first destination, which is great because the Alps are my other happy place (besides Cape Town).
We can't wait to see what 2021 holds for Hilary, her adventures and the continued success of her company, She Gone!